We're having...

2 Boys!! 

Well, Dave was pretty off. While I didn't have a gut feeling, since he was so sure it was 2 girls, it just led me to believe that it definitely wouldn't be 2 girls. Not to mention that we had 2 girls names picked out, that sounded good together.  That would be too easy, so I knew it would be boys because while we have a group of names that we like, we don't have 2 that sound good together. But I think it's been a pleasant surprise for Dave and we're thrilled that the McDowell name will be carried on.

For me, it's been a bit strange to adjust to knowing who is growing inside of me. I think I wanted to know, but right before we found out, it was such an overwhelming feeling of what a big deal it was, and how my life would be different if it was boys or girls (one of each is so rare with 'spontaneous' twins so I don't think either of us were expecting that). I think with what we've gone through so far, and all the worries out there with twin pregnancy, plus the fact that these are our first kids, we really didn't have a preference and are just elated to hear that they're healthy, but still, it made it so real to find out so I think it took me a little while to process. We're so excited, although I can't believe that my parents will have 6 grandsons and a sole granddaughter and for Dave's parents, that will make 3 boys and 1 girl.

I'm really glad we did the reveal the way we did, as it was such an intimate moment and that way we got to choose exactly when we would do it, which we ended up pushing off almost a week because of the complication/surgery. We had the ultrasound technician write down the sexes and she put them in 2 separate envelopes, one labeled 'A' and one 'B'.  We took the envelopes to Nordstrom and Dave picked out 2 baby boy outfits and I picked out 2 for baby girls. We handed everything over to the saleswoman, and while I wish I could say that we got someone who was thrilled to help with this fun project, it took multiple explanations, a 20-minute wait and Dave doing a final confirmation with her that she only chose 2 outfits -- the outfits we needed based on what was inside the envelopes -- that she included the envelopes in the boxes (I still didn't trust her) and that she didn't add a gender-specific bow on top of either box. I'm pretty disappointed in the experience from Nordstrom, especially since they're usually so good, but in the end, at least she got it right. We each opened up an adorable Ralph Lauren sleeper and the notes in the envelopes confirmed, 2 boys!

Latest Update

So our appointment yesterday went pretty much as well as it could have. Everything looks good after the surgery; my cervix is now at 3cm and I show no signs of an infection which was one of the bigger risks (even though it's still just a small risk). Luckily I think I had managed my expectations and by no means thought my doctor would give me the go ahead to return to life as normal. So I was wondering how easy I'd have to take it. The good news is that I'm not officially on bedrest, however, I need to lay down as much of the day as I can. I need to keep working from home, ideally at a 45 degree angle. I can get up to make myself a snack, but even if I make dinner, I can't be up for more than 30 minutes. I even asked if sitting down to do stuff like chop vegetables, make a salad, etc, would be okay, but apparently sitting really isn't better than standing. It's all about the pressure on the cervix. No exercise allowed for now, but I am allowed to go out 1-2 times per week, for something like dinner. I need to avoid things like shopping where I'd be standing the whole time. So these are doctor's orders until my next appointment on January 25. This next month is the critical period when the babies aren't yet viable if they did come early so it's imperative that they stay in. Not that we want them coming at 25 weeks or shortly after, but at least then they'd have a chance. So it sounds like there's a chance that things will ease up next month and I'll get to do a bit more, but overall, I need to take it as easy as possible in order to keep these babies in, ideally for another 15 weeks.

So how am I feeling about all of this? Like I said, I think I prepared myself enough that this could be a possibility, and with some people having to go on hospital bedrest, sometimes for half or more of their pregnancy, I'm always reminded that things can be worse. But I won't sugarcoat it. I know this will not be easy. Having a few days to read books, plan the nursery online and watch shows isn't bad at all, but it's getting old fast. While Dave has been amazing, taking over all aspects of the household enthusiastically, that's sometimes hard to deal with as well. I like cooking, I like getting things done and I prefer to at least share these responsibilities. I can give that up for now, but it's also hard for me, the ultimate planner, to not have anything on the calendar for coming weeks and knowing that there's really not much I can do about it. I'm someone who always needs to be looking forward to something and I feel like that's going to be my biggest struggle in keeping my spirits up in the coming weeks. Glad I just started receiving my Us Weeklys but I'd love to live vicariously through everyone else's exciting lives, so keep me posted! :)

Week 21: Merry Christmas!

How far along? 21 weeks
Total weight gain:+18 lbs
Maternity clothes? I haven't left the house in 4 days so luckily can get away with loungewear which still fits great. I did purchase a few things online today, the after Christmas sales have already started and I doubt braving the crowds will be on my agenda for the next few weeks.
Best moment this week: Finding out that our babies look perfect, are growing well and are the same size. Actually, seeing the babies on the ultrasound after surgery was definitely the best moment I can remember for a while. I wish they would have been able to print a photo of that.
Feeling: A bit up and down here, see previous post. Physically I'm feeling better and hopefully the doctor will confirm there aren't any bigger problems. Emotionally, trying to be positive, but honestly have lost some of the excitement as I worry about what's to come.
Movement: So grateful for all the kicks I'm feeling.
Food cravings: Still no cravings, eating pretty much the same as usual, but Dave has been doing the cooking while I rest up. So far, so good!
Symptoms:  Nothing new here besides the side affects/recovery from the surgery.
Belly button: Same as last week.
Gender Prediction: Still don't know, but we have 2 Nordstrom boxes waiting under the tree that will reveal the secrets. It's weird, at this point, I'm less and less interested to find out. I mean, of course I'm still curious, but I'm not in any big hurry. I feel like there are much more important things that I wish I could get an answer to instead.
Looking forward to: Hmmm, have to admit, this is a tough one. The week ahead doesn't look too promising. I guess I'm anxious to see what the doctor will say tomorrow and based on that, I may or may not have some more exciting plans coming up :)

Blessings in Disguise

Well, it's been quite a week, or at least quite a few days since our Thursday morning doctors appointment. I wasn't necessarily nervous about the appointment like I had been for the previous ones, or overly excited that we'd be able to find out the sexes, but since they're literally measuring the babies for over an hour, it was hard to let my guard down and fully enjoy seeing our 2 little babies.

We immediately saw both babies and heartbeats so that was reassuring, but the measuring takes so long so it was hard for me to relax and enjoy seeing my two babies as I was just waiting for the final verdict at the end that everything was as it should be, and luckily it was. The babies are both measuring the same exact size, which is awesome as a problem with twin pregnancies is often that one baby is growing faster than the other, which can lead to having to deliver both babies early in order to take care of the smaller one. It was a huge sigh of relief when we got the stats that they're on track (actually showing one week ahead of schedule) and of equal size. Blessing #1.

We also had a vaginal ultrasound, which is fairly routine at this stage, to measure the length of the cervix. A shortened cervix can be an indicator of pre-term labor. The ultrasound technician does all the measuring for both the babies and me, then the doctor comes in after reviewing everything and takes another look. He said he was thrilled with how the babies are looking, but was not happy about what the vaginal ultrasound showed. He started talking more, then said, 'well, why don't you get dressed and we'll talk more outside'. Great, now he had us worried. I quickly got dressed, but they didn't have another room ready for what felt like at least 10 minutes. Finally we got to speak to him more and he explained that my cervix was shorter than they'd like to see at this stage of pregnancy. Dave asked some good questions to get us to understand how bad it was and what we were looking at. It wasn't terrible, but at 2.1cm, it was below the 2.5 mark. Most at my stage of pregnancy would be at 3-4cm, sometimes even more. But as I knew from my twin pregnancy books, this was just yet another problem that often came along with carrying multiples -- it doesn't happen to everyone, but the pressure of carrying 2 babies often leads to pressure against the cervix which leads it to opening earlier than it should. Our doctor wanted us to meet with Dr. Katz, another Doctor at SF Perinatal, who specialists in the treatment of a shortened cervix. Luckily, he was able to fit us in later that day. Blessing #2.

It was a nerve-wracking day to sit around and wait to hear what Dr. Katz would prescribe, but we went back in at 4pm, he did an exam and had reviewed all the ultrasound images from earlier that day. He recommended we go with a cerclage, which is basically a stitch that keeps the cervix closed until it's safe to deliver the babies. He's an excellent doctor and my research from earlier in the day revealed that he's the guru in this area; literally he's written most of the research out there on the topic. My obgyn had called me earlier, after hearing about my appointment and when I asked her her opinion, she said whatever Dr. Katz recommended, she would 100% support -- he was the expert. Dr. Katz was great about explaining the pros and cons, the risks (rupturing of the sacs, miscarriage, infection, which combined for about a 1% risk at my stage of the pregnancy). Basically if we didn't choose to go with the surgery, I could expect to be on bedrest for the remainder of the pregnancy. He also explained the difference between other studies out there and what he had personally experienced. He put it in perspective by saying that top doctors at Stanford and UCSF perform 2-5 of these surgeries per year, whereas he performs 2-5 per week. I felt so lucky that he was my doctor, and that he had one slot available before the holidays, at 6pm the next day. Blessing #3 and #4.

Friday was a tough day. First of all, I had to wait all day long for the surgery, plus I couldn't eat or drink anything for 8 hours before the surgery. Try doing this when for the last 7 weeks you've been eating at least every 2 hours, drinking as much water as possible, all to get the babies what they need. It actually wasn't as bad as I thought it would be, but while I wasn't particularly nervous about the surgery, I was still really down with the idea that things may not work out with this pregnancy. I felt like Dave and I had finally let our guard down in the last few weeks as we shared the news with our family and friends. The excitement is contagious, which is one of the reasons we waited so long to tell people in the first place. Despite how well things had been going, once again it was a reminder that we had a long way to go. The thing with twin pregnancy is that while you're thrilled to get through the first trimester when the risk of miscarriage seriously drops, it doesn't get easier from there. I knew from my books that the third trimester is really the toughest for those carrying multiples. The risk of pre-term labor is so much greater that it's not just 'we need to get through week 13', it was now 'we need to keep these babies in as long as possible'. I have to say, I'm so grateful I didn't have any morning sickness and had an 'easy' first 20 weeks. I can't imagine how tough it is for those who are sick for the first trimester and then have to deal with all the worries/bedrest for the third. Blessing #5.

After our appointment on Thursday, regardless of whether we went through with the surgery or not, we knew that traveling to Florida for Christmas (which we were scheduled to do on the Friday red-eye), was not an option. I was heartbroken. There's nothing like having your bag packed for a trip, ready to leave all the rain we've been having in SF, for sunshine and 75 degrees in Florida. I was so looking forward to spending time with Dave's family and carrying on a now 5-year tradition of Christmas by the beach. Not to mention that in the back of my mind, I was preparing myself that this could very well be our last trip before the babies came. We were going to drive down to Key West and spend 4 days over New Years there. Let me clarify that while I was so bummed out, I agreed with Dave that our trip to Florida was irrelevant. We would do anything and everything we had to to take care of these babies. While in the scheme of things, I'm also in agreement that money doesn't matter in this situation, but nothing annoys me more than wasting money. We are so lucky that this trip was booked on airline miles, our hotel in Key West was booked with points and our car rental was refundable. As sad as it made me, everything was canceled within minutes. Blessing #6.

While it's so easy to think, ugh, 'why couldn't we have gone on the trip and then had this happen?' Why did the timing have to be over Christmas, and not when a week at home on bedrest would have made no difference? I then found out that this surgery cannot be done after 24 weeks. I was at 20.5 weeks and wouldn't have had my next appointment at the Perinatal office until after 24 weeks. They had caught this just in time. Blessing #7.

While 2.1cm isn't horrible (I read about other cases where people are transported by ambulance from the Perinatal office to the hospital because the cervix is 1-point-something or sometimes even less. It can change quickly and once it gets to a certain length, the procedure gets a lot more complicated. I am also really lucky that I didn't have what they call 'funneling', where the sac is actually protruding into the cervix. This makes for a much riskier procedure where they need to push the sac back into the uterus before closing the cervix. The risk of rupturing the sac is obviously much higher here. Blessing #8.

So the surgery itself. All in all, it went fine. I got a spinal tap, which wasn't as bad as I had expected. I was awake for the 30-minute procedure which was definitely a bit strange, but I imagine it was similar to what a c-section would be like. I was a bit dizzy and hot for the first few minutes, but then was okay. I couldn't feel anything from the waist down, except for some pressure in the area where they were operating. I was entertained by an interesting anesthesiologist throughout. Dr. Katz said everything went perfectly and he felt very confident that we made the right decision. Blessing #9.

They rolled me out into recovery, with my legs already waking up. All the nurses around me were so excited to hear I was having twins. I could not relax, I needed to know that my twins were still alive in there before I could share in any of their enthusiasm. Dr. Katz brought in an ultrasound machine and pulled them up on the screen. Immediately I felt so much better when I saw both of them on the screen together, moving around, a clear arm with 5 fingers reaching up and 4 distinct feet kicking each other. He said they looked great; they had no idea anything had happened. Incredible. I told him that was a better picture than I had seen the previous day at the Perinatal office. He said, 'don't say that, this machine is about 50-grand, versus the ones at the office that are about $300,000!' I was just thrilled to see that they were not only okay but moving around very actively. Blessing #10.

In general, the babies have been moving around a lot more, or I guess I'm just feeling them more. It's been such a great reassurance to feel them all day long. I can't guarantee that everything is okay, but feeling the movement definitely helps. Blessing #11.

I left the hospital about an hour and half after the surgery was done, still with a lot of pressure and discomfort, but nothing unbearable. Despite the other girl recovering from a different surgery next me throwing up, I luckily didn't have any nausea and was able to eat crackers and juice before leaving. I had to stay up a few more hours to take my first dose of anti-contraction and antibiotics and was still pretty uncomfortable, but wanted to avoid taking the pain medication if I could and luckily I was able to. Blessing #12.

I didn't sleep very well that night, waking up every few hours, but by about 9am the next morning, the discomfort and pressure was totally gone. Dr. Katz called to check up on me. He would be on-call over Christmas and then he'd come in at the start of his vacation just to see me on Wednesday morning. I can't say enough about how great Dr. Katz has been. Blessings #13 and #14.

It's now Christmas Day and I've pretty much stayed in bed since the surgery. Saturday and Sunday were fine, by yesterday I had a slight headache and backache, which seem to come from the spinal tap, although my headache was far from a spinal headache. I read that a heavy dose of caffeine is supposed to help with the headache, but I really don't drink any caffeine. Then I remembered the Angelina's hot chocolate I had made for dessert with my dinner party a week ago -- it took me forever to fall asleep after a glass of that stuff, so this morning I made Dave and I a big mug and it has definitely helped. Luckily, there doesn't seem to be any sign of infection, which was one of my biggest worries. Blessing #15.

I'm so lucky to have Dave be a part of this whole process. I know a lot of husbands come along to appointments, but Dave and I have learned first hand at what seems like every appointment the importance of this. It's seems we're always in for another surprise. Sometimes good ones, sometimes not. It was so nice to have him there for the recent ones, where he was able to ask the right questions to help us make a decision. While I'm sure he was just as disappointed as I was not to go to Florida, he was the first to admit with certainty that it wasn't an option and he was fine with that. Not to mention that he's waited on me hand and foot for the past 4 days. I know how I am, I like things a certain way and do things a certain way. It doesn't help that I have to eat constantly too! I'm still trying to eat very healthy and get all the different nutrients I need, so a frozen pizza isn't an option. I coached Dave through making pea soup with leftover ham on Saturday, pork chili on Sunday, he managed sausage and peppers on his own last night, our traditional Big Baby/Dutch pancake this morning and prime rib tonight. Everything has been great and he's been so patient with my very specific and often repetitive instructions. He even set up facetime on my phone so I can instruct him from bed and watch what he's doing ;) It's not easy to truly take it this easy, especially for someone like me who's constantly doing multiple things at once, but I know it will be worth it. I'm one lucky girl to have Dave's support. Blessing #16.  

At least as I'm shacked up in our apartment, I'm surrounded by plenty of Christmas decorations. This is the first year we've really decorated, mostly because we hosted a party for Dave's work colleagues so there could be worse places to be stuck over the holidays. Blessing #17.

Now it's just waiting to see what Dr. Katz says tomorrow morning. Basically it sounds like the rest of my pregnancy will be evaluated in 2-week increments. At each appointment, the Dr. will give me my activity level until my next appointment. While I'm praying bedrest won't be a necessity, at least not for the duration, again, I will do anything to keep these babies in as long as possible. For those of you dying to hear the genders, we lost some of the excitement after the news on Thursday and are really more concerned that everything will be okay. We're excited to hear as well, but as neither of us really have a  preference, I guess we're more curious just to hear what they are, but still want the assurance of one more doctors appointment before we get even more invested.

While at times it feels like we just can't catch a break and be worry-free (but maybe no parents-to-be are anyway?), and I'll admit at points the worrying is all-consuming, I've had to show myself the at least 17 blessings we've had in just the past few days. No, it's not an ideal situation. But it's out of my hands. I've done what I can do so far to take care of these babies and luckily my books have prepared me, without necessarily scaring me, for all the risks that come along with twin pregnancy, so while I was hoping I wouldn't have to deal with any of them, I've been very realistic about what may happen. I know things can always be worse, but all the blessings in disguise are great reassurance. We'll hope for the best tomorrow and with the rest of the pregnancy.

Week 20: What Will They Be??

How far along? 20 weeks
Total weight gain: +16 lbs
Maternity clothes? Still wearing yoga clothes most days when working from home, but the jeans are getting snug. Hoping to make it through the holidays and then do some maternity shopping in early January.
Best moment this week: Getting the girls together at our place on Friday night, we don't do it enough. Was also great to give all the gifts to the adopt-a-family.
Feeling: Still feeling really good.
Movement: Felt a lot more movement this week. I still wouldn't say I felt a serious kick, but I'm feeling more and more to know that something is definitely going on in there. I woke Dave up laughing on Saturday because it was the first time I felt them both at the same time. There have now been plenty of times where I can literally feel them pushed up against me - I'm not sure what part of their body it is, but it's really hard for maybe 30 seconds or so and then I guess they change positions. It was strange to feel that on either side this time though.
Food cravings: Nothing new to report here. Weekdays are great because I have a good routine of an egg scramble (with a waffle, toast or as a breakfast burrito) when I wake up, then melon around 9:30, Greek yogurt with berries and granola around 11, lunch which is usually leftovers, around 1:30, a snack of carrots and hummus or a peanut butter sandwich around 4:30 or 5, then dinner around 8. Weekends are harder, but I'm still trying to eat as frequently. Still no cravings or food aversions though.
Symptoms:  Still had a bit of a stuffy nose, but luckily it doesn't seem to be a cold. Had my first episode of acid reflux after a delicious crab sandwich from Fish. Hopefully that doesn't become more regular.
Belly button: Just like last week, the top part is already coming out and shows through tight shirts which I'm not particularly thrilled about.
Gender Prediction: No 'gut' feeling, and at this point, just waiting until Thursday to find out.
Looking forward to: Obviously finding out if they're boys, girls or one of each. But then it's off to Florida and Key West! Can't wait to relax in the Sunshine State with Dave's family.

Week 19: At Least Halfway There!

How far along? 19 weeks
Total weight gain: +14 lbs
Maternity clothes? Not yet, but working from home for the month of December means I've been exclusively in yoga clothes, perfect timing!
Best moment this week: Spending time with friends on Saturday and a relaxing Sunday with Dave, especially since we got to try a brunch spot that had been on my list.
Feeling: Really good, no complaints.
Movement: Still have yet to feel an actual kick, but do feel the 'pop' of a bubble fairly often which must be something.
Food cravings: Still no cravings or aversions. I have a pretty good food plan I follow each day that's keeping me eating every few hours.
Symptoms:  Stuffy nose this week, which I'm hoping is not a sign of a cold, but just another pregnancy symptom with all the extra fluids I have going on now. Belly is definitely growing, officially can't suck it in; it is where it is.
Belly button: Still in, but I think it's guaranteed that it will be an outtie before this pregnancy is over, it's already starting to creep out.
Gender Prediction: We have a handful of names we really like, but with twins you have to consider what sounds good together. We have 2 girls names and a boy and girl name, but we haven't settled on a second boy name if it's two boys, which leads me to assume that it will be two boys. Just over a week until we find out!
Looking forward to: Hosting my girl friends for dinner on Friday night and sharing the news with those who I haven't seen/haven't been able to tell yet. Also, can't wait to meet our adopt-a-family on Saturday and give them all the gifts we picked out.

The Big Reveal!

I absolutely love surprises, but even more than being surprised myself, is actually being the one to surprise others. I can get cagey just when making dinner if people start coming in and asking too many questions -- I prefer a big reveal once everything is done, even for a simple Tuesday night dinner. I'm really good at keeping secrets (as you can probably tell at this point), but I could hardly wait to share the big surprise with family and friends and it was just as fun as I had hoped it would be.

Dave and I had some fun ideas for telling our families, but I also got to share the news with a few friends separately. As expected, no one necessarily seems 'surprised' when I announced 'I'm pregnant!'. Sure, they're excited and so happy, but not surprised... we've been married 4.5 years, people definitely start to expect it. Anyway, with my friends, after the initial announcement, I would proceed to show them my sonogram photo -- one that to me at least, clearly shows 2 babies. It definitely takes people a minute, or at least they ask, 'so this is the baby?' as I think they notice the other blob but can't really put their finger on it. That's when I say, 'here's baby A and here's baby B'. That's when people are shocked... I just love it! :)

We definitely got the same shock out of our families as well, but were able to capture it all on video. Dave did a great job of staging a photo with his parents while I brought out the turkey -- which later turned into 2 turkeys.

It was so amazing that we got to share this news with Dave's parents in person. We don't usually spend Thanksgiving with them and it was a fairly last minute trip planned to Palm Springs and San Francisco. We knew we couldn't wait until we saw them at Christmas so it was really meant to be that they decided to come out.

For my family, we went to my sister's house in Fresno on Saturday to celebrate Thanksgiving with my parents, my siblings and their families and my sister-in-law's family. My older sister figured it out first. I had her getting me some Lululemon tops as her friend gets a discount and when I ordered a loose-fitting top in a bigger size, she definitely questioned me. She may have guessed part of the news, but I left her in the dark on the bigger news until the big reveal. I waited until the end of the night, right before dessert, as my little sister had recently gotten engaged and I didn't want my news to overshadow the rest of the day. So Dave asked if he could get a family photo of everyone together and revealed the big news instead of telling people to say 'cheese!'

It cuts off a bit at the end, but everyone just sort of laughed -- they totally thought we were kidding. I had to say several times, 'We're not kidding, it's true, we're 100% having twins.' I think it takes people a while to process the news, as the next morning we came back for breakfast and people still couldn't believe it.

So much fun to reveal!! I still have some friends to share the news with, but I like doing it in person whenever possible, so hoping to see everyone soon.

Week 18: Les Deux are the Size of Sweet Potatoes

Disclaimer: This photo is taken after the massive steak dinner as shown below. I swear I don't look this big yet!

How far along? 18 weeks
Total weight gain: +12.5lbs
Maternity clothes? Not yet, but I feel like my belly has definitely grown since last week. Looser/stretch clothing is much easier to wear. I just barely fit into a dress for Dave's holiday party; it was on the brink of cutting off circulation to my rib section...
Best moment this week: It's a 'winter wonderland' as Dave said as he emerged from the bedroom Saturday morning. I had a blast crafting and decorating the place, hosting people before Dave's holiday party and then the party itself.
Feeling: Really good. My tailbone pain has gone away, I'm sleeping really well and I finally 'feel' pregnant. My belly is getting bigger and starting to feel like something(s) is in there.
Movement: Still haven't felt a full-on kick, but I'm definitely feeling something and there were several instances where there was a very hard part of my stomach, but only for a minute or two. Wondering if it was baby A or baby B.
Food cravings: Still no cravings, but my appetite has seriously increased. While I've tried to be diligent to eat every 2 hours, now I'm hungry just about that often. I had practically 3 bowls of my favorite pastalaya last night and when we went out to dinner on Friday night, I had to eat more when I got home as I still wasn't full. Here was tonight's dinner, trying to load up on iron and protein, not to mention vegetables and starch!
Symptoms:  Luckily nothing bad-new, just the increased appetite, more of a bump (although I think outside of yoga clothes, you still really can't see much) and starting to feel movement.
Gender Prediction: Could be anything so we'll have to wait a couple more weeks.
Looking forward to: Seeing the proof for our Christmas cards -- everyone else will see soon enough! Also holiday festivities like a Junior League volunteer event and a pinterest party on Sunday with Annie!