Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The Q & A

Here are some questions that keep coming up. Living in this situation every day, Andy and I barely think of some of them anymore, but as family and friends ask I realize how much I haven't covered.

What is your due date? 

This is not as straightforward a question as you might think. The due date listed on all my doctor related paperwork says November 22, which would be 40 weeks. This would be accurate for a singleton pregnancy, however with each additional baby comes a shortened due date. The average time for twins is around 37 weeks, triplets 32 week, and quads just 30 weeks. My doctor would be thrilled if I could get to 32 weeks, as each additional day and week past 30 gives the babies more time to grow and develop and generally leads to shorter time in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

30-32 weeks would give us a delivery of late September or early October.

How big will the babies be?

Our doctor explained this to us in depth a few weeks ago. He told us that with all the advances in medicine, one thing that has not changed is the capacity of a woman's uterus. Any given woman, Doc J. says, maxes out at about twelve pounds of babies. If you look up average weights online, you would find that twins average six pounds each, triplets average four pounds each and quads average three pounds each. Yes, all add up to twelve. So if everything goes well and everybody stays healthy, we would hope to have babies very close to or at three pounds each. It has been hard for me to wrap my mind around what a tiny bundle that is! 

To give you an easy reference, our itty-bitty monster chihuahua Lillian is 3.1 pounds. 
See how tiny she is in Andy's hand?

Can you breast feed four babies?

Technically, yes. However, preemies can take a very long time to eat, especially at the beginning. I have spoken with people who say it is not uncommon for each baby to take 30-45 minutes to finish just a few ounces of milk. With four to feed two at a time and a feeding schedule of every three hours, feeding would become a nearly around the clock task. The solution for many seems to be pumping. This allows the babies to still receive breast milk, but all four can be fed at one time, cutting down significantly on the total feeding time. For various reasons, many women aren't able to pump for four very long, but I met one amazing mom who kept it up for ten months!

Are you buying a minivan?

Yes. *hangs head in despair* I never thought this day would come, but here we are. Andy will be selling his beloved Honda Civic and taking my Mazda (the Mazda is five years newer with 100,000 fewer miles), so that I can load the wee ones safely into a van. As Andy and I were coming to terms with the change, I got this great email from his Aunt Cathy. "Yes, a minivan will be necessary. There is no way around it. But you will be the coolest mom in a minivan that I know."

So there you go. Yes, we will buy a van. But I'm going to rock that mom-mobile!

Will you sell your house?

As mentioned in a previous post, we had pretty well set our lives up for an only child. With that child in mind, we instructed our Realtor that we would look at no houses larger than 1,500 square feet. What we fell in love with and ultimately purchased is a 1910 Craftsman with just 1,400 square feet. The house is lovely and cozy and covered in original woodwork which we love, but is not ideal for a family of six (plus four dogs). It has only one full bath, no dishwasher, no air conditioning, and is currently set up as a two bedroom. The good news is, we have very little clutter. Our dining room is nearly empty and will be a great space for Baby Central when they arrive. The spare bedroom is small, but will accommodate four mini-cribs. These cribs are common in areas where space is at a premium, like small apartments, and generally last full-term babies at least two years. We are hoping to be able to stay in this house for around five years before we find ourselves bursting at the seams!

Are they natural?

This is one of the few questions that really gets under my skin. Though the question is almost always well-intentioned, it is also incredibly personal, and undeniably invasive. Most people would never dream of asking a woman what sexual position she used to get pregnant, yet people don't seem to hesitate in asking how one conceived where multiples are involved.

I intensely dislike the word "natural" in this context. Have you ever seen an unnatural child walking around? Are there fake babies in this world? Andy's favorite response to this question is "no, there're not natural, we went with silicone."

Since the beginning of time, I am aware of just one way to get pregnant: sperm meets egg. Whether this was accomplished in the bedroom, in a lab, on top of the clothes dryer or in the back of a station wagon is simply no one's business but the couple involved. *steps off soapbox*

Well, I hope that answers some questions. If you have more, feel free to ask!

The View from Up Top

So here we are at fourteen weeks. I can't get used to this view! I have had my body for a really long time, and it is very strange looking down at what looks like a total stranger's body to me.

Here's the top view. See my feet? Neither do I.

And the side.

The oh-so-wise-hubs had these little pearls of wisdom for me.

Me: I can't get used to looking at this stomach on me.

The Wise Sage: Hate to tell you...it's only getting bigger from here.

The Heart of the Giver

The heart of the giver makes the gift dear and precious. 
-Martin Luther

I love this Martin Luther quote. I have been blessed to be surrounded by such good hearts during my lifetime. I continue to be so grateful for all the prayers that pour in for our family. They are a gift I cannot measure.

I also wanted to share with you some of the other sweet gifts we've been given recently, which have found a home on Grandma Mouse's 1950's GE turntable cabinet. Note the dog sniffing to the left of the photo. It is VERY difficult to take a picture in this house that doesn't include a dog nose.

I already told you about Becky's generous stroller donation, but forgot to mention the other gift she gave me. Becky's sister makes this amazing Shea butter lotion right here in town. I have been slathering it on my belly morning and night. When I put on my evening application my skin is still dewey from the morning dose! I don't know that anything can prevent stretch marks with four babies, but folks, I'm going to try!

After much research on the needs and desires of pregnant ladies, my beautiful sister The Bug put together these wonderful gifts. I put them on the cabinet just long enough to snap a picture before putting them to use. The green foot roller is massaging my toes as we speak.

I should note also that I was badly in need of slippers. My old ones look paper-thin next to my new Bug slippers. 

This last gift I wanted to share continues to touch me. Earlier on I mentioned Joni here on the blog. She is my former small group leader who I met with the night the doctor spoke to us about reduction. Last week over coffee she told me that she had really wanted to get something for the babies but hadn't known what that gift should be. Joni, always wise, decided to pray about it and wait for an answer. What came to her was a individual verse for each of the babies. So each baby now has their own special verse! The verse for Baby A happens to be one of my very favorites. I stop by the cabinet almost daily and pray these verses. Isn't this an amazing gift? I can't wait to see what special meaning these takes on in each Baby's life!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

My name is Jen and I'm a control freak.

For most of you, it will not come as a surprise to hear me acknowledge that I am a bit of a control freak. The bulk of my career has been in sales, thus I am very comfortable taking control of a situation to achieve a desired result. I am also very organized and thrive on rules. I tend towards the black and white, which does not always serve me well. 

With this pregnancy, however, I was fully anticipating my control, organization, and rule drivenness (I had no idea that "drivenness" was a word, but spell check seems to like it) would all serve to work in my favor.

Since I knew early on that we were going through with this pregnancy, the next step was just how to do it successfully. Armed with pen and notebook, I set out to learn all I could, making note of some of the issues others seemed to encounter along the way and strategizing how they would not be a part of my pregnancy. As I researched, I wrote down all my questions for the doctor.

Here's a sampling of what I covered with him.

- What diet should I be following for optimal birth weight?

- Is there anything about me physically that presents risks or leads you to believe I may be unsuccessful in carrying these babies?

- Anything that works in my favor?

- Is there a ratio of activity to rest that I should aim for to prevent preterm labor?

- What can I do to keep the babies from suffering birth defects?

- What can I do to insure that I don't deliver before 30 weeks?

You guys, it went on and on. Questions about the hospital, the doctor's experience with multiples, bed rest; you name it, I had it covered! I couldn't wait to hear the regimen that he would prescribe, and which I would follow to the letter.

And after all my research and carefully crafted questions, his answer was deeply unsatisfying to put it mildly.

"There is no magic formula. Listen to your body. When you are tired, rest. When you are hungry, eat. Pray. Ask for prayer. Know that the result is out of our hands." - Dr. J

So as usual, after much kicking and screaming and internal tantrums, I am learning again to surrender.

Repeat after me.

Exodus 14:14 (NIV)
The LORD will fight for you. You need only be still.


I have had countless amazing encounters over the past couple months, but I wanted to tell you just one little story today.

A few weeks ago, while I was still feeling pretty alone and afraid,  I made my very first quad mom contact. This woman thought that she had heard of a quad mom in Michigan, but couldn't remember her name or location. With all that was on my mind I didn't pay much attention to the comment. After all, she didn't even know this woman's name, right?

So the next week I'm sitting in the doctor's office waiting for the doc to come in and my phone vibrates. Since the doc isn't in yet I take a peek and see that I have an email from a woman named Becky who I have never met before. Curious, I open the email and find that she is the very woman my first quad mom friend had told me about. She had taken the time to do some digging to put me in touch with Becky!

As it turns out, not only did my current doctor deliver Becky's beautiful quads two and a half years ago, we attend the same church and she lives only twenty minutes from me. We immediately made plans to meet the next week during the quads afternoon nap. 

When I pulled up to Becky's house, I noticed these right away. For those not well educated in the quad world, I'll tell you what you're looking at. On the left is the Runabout quad stroller, which is a very manueverable and lightweight jogging stroller, great for getting through tight spaces like doorways or aisles, or cutting through crowds. It does not fold down though, so it requires a special hitch-mounted carried on the back of a van. On the right is the Foundations quad stroller. It is much clumsier to maneuver, but it folds down for travel and also fits into elevators, which the Runabout will not. Because of their very different uses, most quad families will need both, unless they can count on both parents being available 100% of the time for doctor's appointments and such, in which case two double strollers could be used. The Runabout alone has a price tag of around $1,500.00 which does not include the hitch.

I hadn't even finished hugging Becky before she told me that both strollers would be mine. She explained to me that both had been gifts to her at a time when she and her husband really needed them, and she wanted to pass them on to our family. I was blown away by her generosity, both in the gift, and of her willingness to sit down and spend her afternoon with a frightened and overwhelmed stranger who really needed a shoulder. I can't express to you how much good that afternoon did me, especially when, at 3pm, four beautiful and healthy babies woke up from their afternoon naps to greet me with sleepy smiles.

You learn something new every day...or so the saying goes!

But it turned out to be true in my case today.

First, apparently people like to steal quad ultrasound photos. It sounds strange, but I now know two people who caught someone creating a for-profit blog with their stolen photos. So, going forward, you will see a (hopefully unobtrusive) watermark on the baby pics.

We got a great surprise in the mail yesterday, from the storied land of Mundelien, IL, courtesy of Grandma Mary. The babies very first gifts! Aren't they adorable sitting on Great Grandma Mouse's chair?

Today's appointment went great. This may be one of the last group shots we get, because everybody is getting so big!

You can see Baby C and D's heads in this pic, but everybody else is pretty hazy. All four are measuring between 13 + 5 and 14 + 1, which is awesome. The doc would always rather see them measuring big than small since we need to get them as close to three pounds each as possible before delivery. Heartbeats are hovering around 155BPM, which is also perfect.

Baby A has been our biggest at every measurement, however someone else is suddenly making a run for 1st Place! Isn't it amazing to see so much visible this early? The spine is very clear in this picture. What an amazing design God had for us!

Apparently 13 weeks is the dreaded Alien-Baby phase, as evidenced by Baby B this morning! Don't be afraid, B comes in peace.

And Baby C, who the doctor guessed may have not survived to this week has overtaken Baby A for the coveted Biggest Baby Award! My favorite ultrasound tech, Emily, has a soft spot for this little one, but mostly because of the cooperative poses during picture time that make Emily look like a pro photographer.

And last but not least, Baby D, also having a very photogenic day. This little one was squirmy right up until picture time, then settled down beautifully for this shot.

Starting in two weeks, the ultrasounds will be a bit different. To this point they have been taking only crown to rump measurements to determine size. Going forward, there will be measurements of the heads, arms, legs, etc. I can't imagine these appointments going any longer, but I guess they will!

The bump is progressing nicely. I am afraid that I'll have about three weeks of "cute bump" before I move on to "holy-crap-lady-do-you-have-an-army-in-there?!".

The next ultrasound is scheduled for June 1, which will also be our two year wedding anniversary! What a ride it's been already!

Monday, May 11, 2015

The Big Reveal!

This is the day we have been waiting for. We are feeling like the whole world knows about the pregnancy...except our mom's! Why the delay? Well, Andy's mom was coming to town that weekend from Illinois and my mom was throwing her annual Cinco de Mayo bash with all her oldest and dearest friends. Add to that the fact that it was Mother's Day weekend and we figured it would be worth the wait.

I went to a local cake shop and ordered our announcement cake. We didn't want it to be immediately obvious that the cake was a baby cake, so we had the bakery disguise it as a brightly colored Cinco de Mayo cake. On the top of the cake we had them write "we're having a baby" in Spanish. Yes, I know the "baby/bebe" part is inaccurate, but since neither speaks Spanish I didn't get hung up on the plural vs. singular. The cake turned out great!

SuperHubs did an amazing job distracting the mom's while I snuck up with the cake. He pretended to be getting them together for a picture, but as they were posing for the picture, I was putting the cake down in front of them, ready with the cards showing our 11 week ultrasounds.

The surprise went off without a hitch. I think you can see by the video that the mommas were thrilled! I am really beginning to enjoy the delayed reactions when people understand that we are having quads. My favorite so far was a friend who looked at me with a blank expression, pointed to my stomach with dawning realization and asked, "they're in there? Right now?" Yes, right now!

Anyway, the night was a blast. It was such a tough secret to keep, especially from our mom's, so we love that it's out in the open now!

One more thing. The bloat has finally become bump! Wooohoo!

Week 11.5 - The secret is almost out!

11 Week Stats

Pre-pregnancy weight: 124#
Eleven week weight: 131#
Morning sickness: check
Killer fatigue: check
New to the party: Blinding headaches
Baby count: Four!

Baby C is amazing! By the 11 week ultrasound, the little trooper had not only caught up to the others, but surpassed Baby D for good measure! 

As of week 11, they are all perfect angels and not causing us any worry. All four are measuring within a day of 12 weeks, and all four have heartbeats between 166 and 168 which is great!

It was amazing telling my dad and stepmom about the pregnancy and the quads this weekend. I think my poor parents had given up hope of me ever giving them grandchildren, so it was quite a fun surprise! I didn't know my dad was capable of smiling as big as he did.

I'll save the ultrasound pics for the next post. We are finally about to be done with the secret!

9 Weeks...How small is too small?

Nine week stats:

Pre-pregnancy weight: 124#
Nine week weight: 127#
Morning sickness: check
Killer fatigue: check
Baby count: Four?

At the nine week ultrasound, we found out that Baby C was measuring behind the others, only by five days or so, but apparently this is significant when you're only the size of a grape. The doc said that there was a good chance that we would lose this baby within the next month. It was hard to hear, but at least we knew that the outcome was not in our hands.

On a lighter note, this was also the week that my darling hubs and I noted that the babies looked quite a bit like gummy bears, which immediately made me crave gummy bears. I think the term "pregnancy cravings" may be a misnomer in my case. I just seem to be highly susceptible to suggestion. Nothing sounds good to me until I hear someone talk about it, see a food in a magazine or billboard, or drive by a restaurant. I am an advertiser's dream these days! I have been eating the Original Chicken Sandwich from Burger King several times a week, though it must have been years since I had been there previously.

And yes, Mr. Incredible took me out for gummy bears.

Isn't God Amazing? Part 2

When we got home I texted my small group leader and asked her whether she had time to meet that night. We made plans immediately and a couple hours later I sat in front of her, tearfully pouring out my heart. She asked whether I wanted her only to listen or if I wanted to know what she thought. I told her that I absolutely wanted to know what she thought. She said to me simply "God alone is the author of life and death". What a powerful and true statement.

I didn't believe it was an accident that a Christian doctor had been placed in our lives at such a challenging time. And now my friend's lovely and true words brought me home the rest of the way.

God continued to place kind and life-affirming people in my path. One pointed me to a verse I have read regularly since.

Psalm 139:13-16 (This translation is from The Message, 
which my friend Jeff lovingly refers to as the "Hey Dude" translation)

Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out. 
You formed me in my mother's womb. I thank you God; you're breathtaking! 
Body and soul, I'm marvelously made! I worship in adoration- what a creation! 
You know me inside and out, you know every bone in my body. 
You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit, how I was sculpted from nothing into something. 
Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth; all the stages of my life were spread out before you, the days of my life all prepared before I lived even one day!

What a lovely reminder that I am not in control, that I am only here to play my part, that God has it all in His loving hands.

Deuteronomy 33:27 (ESV)
The eternal god is your dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms.

Isn't God amazing?

Isn't God Amazing?

We waited anxiously for the next appointment, the first with our new high-risk doc. I had read up on him, and I particularly remember one review that stuck with me, where a woman wrote that she had felt pressured to have an abortion. I was ready to be pressured, right up until the ultrasound.

We got settled in the ultrasound room and found that a lot had changed. Our little group was not only growing, but today we could actually see the heartbeats flickering away like mad on the screen. I remember laying there thinking that these were not theoretical life and wondering how I could decide which of those tiny hearts to stop. It was devastating.

The doctor saw us quickly and the experience was not what either of us had expected. First, many reviews had indicated that though he was very talented and an expert in his field, he tended to be short, distant, and unwilling to explain. We found exactly the opposite to be true. He answered our questions at great length, at times even over explaining. He was kind and sympathetic. We trusted and felt comfortable with him from the start.

Okay, back to the "R" word. I don't remember his words exactly, but the tone of the conversation was the exact opposite of what we expected. He told us that whatever decision we made, we needed to be sure of both mentally and spiritually. Yes, the doctor said spiritually. He asked whether we were part of a church family, and when we told him that we were, he asked that we consider talking to our Pastor about everything before making any decisions. Last, as we were getting ready to leave the appointment, the doctor asked whether we would be open to him praying for us. We told him that would be appreciated and right there in the office he prayed for us, for strength, wisdom, and peace. I began to feel all three at once.

The "R" Word (but it's really the "A" word)

So we found this word creeping into our days. Reduction. It sounded so safe, so clinical. Abortion. That darn word kept creeping in too. No matter how I willed it away, it kept popping back up. Abortion.

I found it interesting to know that something very black and white to me became covered in grey once I found myself in a high risk pregnancy. Weeks before I would have told you that there was no situation in which I would have considered abortion, yet over these days, I found myself almost daydreaming about it.

A syringe is injected through the abdomen, guided by ultrasound, into the baby's heart. If all babies are equal from a medical standpoint, they choose the baby or babies that are closest to the surface to "reduce".  So it's really just the luck of the draw, who lives who dies.

It was an emotionally devastating option to consider. Every time I told myself it was wrong and I could never do it, the thought of four severely handicapped babies came into my mind. Or worse, preterm labor, delivering too early and losing all four.

Wouldn't it be better to sacrifice one for the good of the rest? I nearly had myself convinced, but as He often does, God had other plans.

It can't be Four...Except that it's Four.

April 3, 2015 darling hubs and I are sitting in the waiting room at the docs office, waiting for the ultrasound tech. Our conversation sounds like the hundred we've had over the previous ten days. "It can't be four, it can't be four, it can't be..."

But it is. As soon as the screen comes alive, we see a prefect cluster of four sacs, and it's obvious that none are empty.

To say we were stunned would be an understatement. There are no words. Quads are a fun novelty to hear about, to read about, to look in from the outside at someone else's life, but this can't be our life. Can't be our story. We have a small three bedroom, one bath house, chosen in part for it's perfect size for us and our beautiful only child. Our small hatchback car is perfect for the much anticipated and longed for only child. It was all too much to process.

Our doctor tells us that the road ends here for her. She will be referring us to a doctor in the practice who deals only with high risk pregnancy. We get an appointment for April 14, 2015 and go home.

Over the next eleven days we try to live in a world which seems to have been tipped on its side. Our new mantra becomes "We can't do this, we can't do this, we can't do..."

And then, I hear a word I've never heard before in this context. Reduction.


We had our first ever ultrasound on March 24, 2015 at 5 weeks. Having never been pregnant before I wasn't entirely sure what I was seeing on the screen, but it was quickly explained to us.

What looked suspiciously like the mask from Scream was actually three individual egg sacs. And waaaaaaaaaay off the screen to the right was another spot. The ultrasound tech thought that this spot was likely a bleed, which she said was pretty common. Of the three sacs, yolks were visible in only two.

We left the office with an appointment set for April 3, and the oh-so-comforting diagnosis of "2-4" babies.

For the next ten days our conversations went something like this. "Four? Can't be four." "It's two". "I bet it's two". "I can handle two". "It CAN'T be four".

The First Clue...

Our first clue that there may be more than one in there came quickly. I called the doctor and was sent to the lab to check my HCG levels. At my first blood draw on March 17, the HCG came back as 3,295 which we suspected was high, but being first timers, weren't really sure. The doc sent us back two days later to be sure it had doubled and it came back at 6,353!

March 13, 2015

People say, "just start at the beginning". It's a tough thing to pinpoint, just exactly where a thing began. Well, for my purposes here, this was the beginning, March 13, 2015.