A reader contacted me the other day with a twin pregnancy question. I’ll post it below with a few thoughts of my own.
Question From a Reader:
I recently found out we’re expecting twins, and you’re one of the very few people I know who has also had twins. So if you have ANY advice/tips for a twin pregnancy, the newborn stage, or managing multiple kids that are close in age, I would love to hear it!
First of all, dear reader, congratulations on your twin pregnancy! What a blessing. I put together a list of a few things that were helpful for us in raising our twinboys. (Click HERE for the birth story of those twins. Whoa. What a ride!)
Advice For Surviving a Twin Pregnancy and Newborn Stage
Prayer. You need to pray with your husband, as a couple, every single day. Never skip it. Seriously, God will help the two of you to keep it together when things get rough, and they will get rough when both babies get sick at the same time or decide to scream and cry at the same time or…
Move next door to your mother or some other helpful person. 😉 If you can’t do that, then think about hiring someone to come in for a few hours a day those first few months so that you can…nap, shower, get out of the house, etc. Even if you can only afford one day a week for a total of 3 hours, you won’t regret it. (In our case, I had a saintly mother-in-law who helped out every Friday.)
If you plan to nurse, learn to nurse both at the same time right away. You’ll save yourself precious time. In other words, if one baby wakes up at night and wants to nurse, get the other one up too. Nurse both at the same time. I read a *very helpful book* about that when I was pregnant with our twins 12 years ago.
You don’t need a ton of extra stuff. Just say no! In fact, your babies can share a crib until they’re too big and need extra room. When that happens, don’t buy another crib. Just pull out the pack ‘n play and put the other baby there. That’s what we did. Rotating nights, so that each baby gets used to sleeping in either place.
Go for a walk every day, once your body has healed anyway. Truly, get at least 20 minutes of fresh air.
Lastly, do you pray the rosary every day? No? You’re gonna need it.
Does anyone else have any practical advice for raising multiples? Or having all Littles? We’d love to hear about it.
We are home from Paul’s latest surgery–his fifteenth, I believe, in less than two years.
Lately Paul’s doctor has been attempting to find just the right valve for his spinal shunt to allow for a maximum flow of fluid to release from his brain without causing other problems elsewhere. It’s a tricky thing. You’ll remember that Paul’s initial problem is an arachnoid cyst that sits on top of his brain, under his skull. He has a second shunt embedded there that is no longer functioning and which they cannot remove without damaging his brain. This surgery, however, was for the spinal shunt. In particular, it was to replace the valve located in his side.
Oh, it’s complicated. So complicated in fact that Paul’s doctor knows of no other case anywhere that even comes close to Paul’s. And as it is, this is the last known valve to exist that we can try. In other words, we are desperately hoping that this will work. There’s nothing left.
We know of course that we’re in God’s hands, though. He has willed all of this suffering, and so we rest in His care. Now this is an easy thing to know, but less easy to feel, especially when Paul is suffering. Instead of crying about it–of which I’ve done plenty–there’s only one thing to do, however, and that’s to live! We trust in Jesus, no matter what happens.
Right now Paul is doing and feeling well, in spite of the dreaded swelling in his spine, but pray for us, dear Readers. Pray for Paul; pray for a miracle.
Shortly after posting the last note about our miscarriage, we discovered that our baby had a twin.
How did I not discover the second baby immediately?
You may remember that my husband was not at home when I miscarried–he and the children were in South Dakota–so I chose to wait before opening the baby’s sac. When I did open it, however, I found two precious babies.
Ah, my heart!
They were tiny, in their little, kidney bean-like shapes. It appeared that one had died perhaps around week 5 or 6 and the other a week later. I had the information and the pictures sent to my doctor, who in turn had a pathologist look at them. Both doctors unofficially concluded what I observed–the twin babies had died very early.
And how does one react to such a bittersweet discovery?
With praise and thanksgiving to our Lord who saw fit to give me two sets of twins. (My 12-year-old boys are twins.)
But then, I could hardly be human if I didn’t admit with a choking cry the ache that such a loss causes. For the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.
I am currently reading St. Teresa of Avila’s The Book of Her Life and The Way of Perfection. Both books are pertinent reminders of the fleetingness of life and of the great importance to remain close to our Lord in prayer. Truly all of our sufferings can bring us closer to Him, if we only seek Him.
If you’ve never picked up St. Teresa of Avila, I strongly encourage you to do so. Don’t be intimidated by her lofty, contemplative prayer life. One need not be very advanced at all in one’s prayer life–thankfully!–to gather much of what she’s saying, for she has a very clear way of writing and can be quite funny at times, especially in The Way of Perfection, which she wrote for her sisters as a summation of her first autobiographical book, The Book of Her Life.
Dear Readers, I realize that this subject matter might be either too heavy or uninteresting to some of you, for I intend on writing about the actual miscarriage of our baby. I am also posting a picture below, which some of you may find unsettling. If this is not for you, I understand, and I’ll see you next time.
For the rest of you…
Four Weeks of Waiting
As I mentioned earlier on my blog, I learned about four weeks ago that our little baby had died in my womb. I was about 8 weeks pregnant at the time when we weren’t able to detect a heartbeat, and I chose to wait and let the miscarriage happen naturally, rather than seek a D&C or take medication to speed the process up. My doctor was comfortable with this, but she gave me a 4 week window for my body to figure it out. (Apparently after 4 weeks the risk of complications increases dramatically.)
In any case, I waited and waited in a silent agony for the miscarriage to happen. It was a queer sensation to knowingly carry a precious, but dead baby in my womb for so long. How could I be ok during this time? And yet, how could I not go on? I had a family to care for; life would go on. And I will be perfectly honest, it was tremendously difficult on many levels.
Perhaps one of the most burdensome things to endure was my body’s inability to recognize it’s situation. For you see, I kept producing normal levels of HCG, which is a hormone that maintains a pregnancy. In other words, I still felt all the symptoms of being pregnant–especially persistent nausea and sheer exhaustion–all up until a few days ago.
Let me break the numbers down for you. Here are my exact HCG levels taken at three different times:
Here are the standard HCG levels for these same weeks. You’ll notice there is a wide range of what is considered normal. This is because each woman is unique.
Standard Chart of HCL Levels: 5 Weeks Pregnant: 18-7,340 mIU/mL 6 Weeks Pregnant: 1,080-56,500 mIU/mL 10 Weeks Pregnant: 25,700-288,000 mIU/mL
As I said, during each week, I fell within what was considered “normal.” The interesting thing is, however, that I had two ultrasounds that indicated that my baby had died somewhere around 7 and 1/2 weeks. That would be the point where one would expect HCG levels to drop dramatically. But mine didn’t. Why? I’ll likely never know.
A few days ago, at about 12 weeks “pregnant,” I began bleeding. It was the day before our family was to travel to South Dakota to visit family. The children were wild with excitement to see Grandma and Grandpa and all their cousins. They had their bags packed days ago and could speak of nothing but drinking Mountain Dew with Uncle Rodney in the combine, eating candy bars with Grandpa in the semi-truck, and cooking in the kitchen with Grandma. What were we to do? For surely I would be miscarrying any moment.
In the end, my husband took the children and went to South Dakota, and I stayed home.
After packing their lunches and seeing them off, I decided to drive to the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe and spend an hour with our Lord in front of the Blessed Sacrament. I wasn’t bleeding very much, after all, and I thought it was worth the risk.
While I was praying my rosary, however, I noticed a dull aching-feeling spread across my abdomen, and I sensed that I had better finish up and drive home. Now, if any of you have been to Our Lady’s shrine in Wisconsin, you know that one has a ten minute walk through the woods to get there. As I started walking down the hill, a thunderstorm, complete with pea-sized hail, broke loose and poured forth from the heavens. It was majestic and strangely beautiful. Thankfully I had an umbrella.
Once I reached my car, though, I sat down and started having contractions. I drove as quickly as I could to my home, while experiencing these contractions almost continually. I pulled into the garage, turned the engine off, and stood up. As I did so, I felt a gush of blood and ran into the house, stripping off boots and coat along the way. I made for the bathtub, leaving a trail of blood behind me.
Then I carefully held my little baby in my hands and wept.
Now this may sound cold or flippant, which is certainly not my intent, but I was tremendously relieved. And thankful. For you see, my little baby was easily identifiable in his perfect little sac, which I’ll post below.
I marveled that he could have been dead for at least four weeks, but was still obviously there. For I had worried and worried that after so much time, he would perhaps have disintegrated or gone away somehow. I felt extraordinarily blessed that he did not. (In my first miscarriage, I did not have a recognizable baby, which was a cause of deep suffering for me at the time.)
And so my story comes to an end. We are contacting the Shrine to see what should be done with our baby’s tiny body. He will be laid to rest there in the Memorial to the Unborn.
And now, I hope to begin to heal.
Incidentally, today is the traditional feast day of St. Raphael the archangel, patron of healing and marriages.
St. Raphael the Archangel, pray for us.
P.S. Some of you may be curious about the name we chose, for after all, it’s a masculine name, even though we aren’t certain of the baby’s sex. In the end, we figured God could sort it out. If little Raphael is really Raphaella, He’ll take care of it, and we’ll be glad either way.
“How many pregnancies have you had?” asked the ultrasound technician, as she guided the transvaginal wand and clicked away. I couldn’t see the screen.
“Including this one? Eight. But I miscarried one of those babies a year and a half ago, and one pregnancy was twins, ” I offered, wanting to see this baby on the hidden screen, but not daring to ask.
“Hmm…do you have an appointment with your doctor today?”
“No, my doctor only needed a lab to verify progesterone levels and an ultrasound to verify a heartbeat.” My heart raced. A heartbeat. Is there a heartbeat? There should be at 8 weeks. But I couldn’t ask.
The tech finished up and said, “Go ahead and get dressed. I’ll set that appointment up for you right now. I’ll be right back.”
The door shut. I changed and sat still. Either this was bad news, that I must see my doctor, or it was wildly good news. Perhaps the tech found twins, and she wasn’t able to say so? But if that was the case, surely she would have shown me the screen. No, this was bad news.
I was then directed to another room. My doctor came in and quietly sat down and said, “I’m afraid the ultrasound indicates that your baby died. I’m awfully sorry.”
I nodded, feeling suddenly hot.
She continued, “You may quit taking the progesterone now. You’ll likely start bleeding and cramping in a few days, or maybe not for a few weeks. This is sometimes called a Missed Miscarriage…”
She went on, but I couldn’t register it. A silent sob choked in my throat. It’s happening again? Oh, my dear baby. I am so sorry.
I blinked back my tears and forced myself to listen, as my doctor kindly went on with other instructions.
And then, numb and dazed, I walked out to my van and sat down. I thought of everything I still had to do that afternoon. Drive home. Switch out the laundry. Make supper. Help the children with their homework. Fold laundry. Eat dinner…
And my little one died. Oh, Jesus! Not again. How can I do this a second time? And a flood of tears overtook me as I sobbed and sobbed. But I submit myself to your holy will, O Lord. Only hold me and my little one, for I cannot do this without You.
And what could I do? After a time, I had to pull myself together and drive home.
That was Monday.
Now it’s been a few days, and I still haven’t miscarried the baby’s tiny body yet, for my body still thinks it’s pregnant, as I continue to be exhausted and nauseous. These days have been full of a Silent Agony, as I wait for my body to figure it out and for the baby to completely pass away from me.
And then, we must somehow tell the children–the children who speak of nothing but the tiny baby growing in mommy’s tummy and all the wonderful plans they have for him.
Plans that will never happen.
I am sick, as I hold this silent sorrow in my heart and in my womb. And I wait. Wait.
I’m not one to hoard things. I’m not one to have an over-stuffed pantry. I’m not one to buy extra food or supplies of anything, mostly because I hate clutter.
But I’ve been forced to rethink this, as I do my weekly grocery shopping and notice that certain items have been sold out week after week. Not only is rice and Cream of Chicken Soup almost always sold out, but there have been other things missing at times too–toilet paper, peanut butter, spaghetti noodles, chicken, bread, tampons…goodness, the list goes on.
I suspect it’s likely different from place-to-place. Those cities where rioting, looting, shooting, and burning aren’t happening, perhaps aren’t seeing a shortage of supplies. I don’t know. Here in Minnesota and Wisconsin, however, the supply chain seems to have been shaken a bit. I suppose because people have been shaken a bit.
I wonder if the cultural situation will get better or worse as we move nearer to the election? I think worse, especially if Trump wins. (Please God, let him win, though.) Those who are opposed to Trump seem to be very angry, and I mean, angry to the point of destruction.
First of all, it’s important to keep a few things in mind:
Don’t hyperventilate about gathering food, water, or supplies. Honestly, it does cause me some anxiety, as I’ve got a family of 9 to feed, but God knows. He’s in charge. I think of Matthew 6:26, “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?”
That said, Noah spent how long building an ark and gathering supplies while onlookers scoffed and partied? Or how about Joseph in the Old Testament spending 7 years gathering grain for Pharaoh to feed his people during the subsequent famine? This may be one of those times.
As far as what to stockpile, I would suggest buying only those items that you currently eat or use. Don’t buy a bunch of rice if you’ll never eat it. (What if one doesn’t need the extra food after all?) Rather, purchase those items you will use. For example, we love oatmeal, noodles, and peanut butter. It wouldn’t hurt us to have an abundance of those items around.
How about water? We’re not buying water, but rather filling each empty milk jug we consume with water and putting them in our garage loft. (We drink about four gallons of milk a week.) I will continue to do this until the cultural situation looks better.
Don’t break the budget. Only spend what money you can without putting your family in a tight spot.
Lastly, do you live in a major city where rioting has already occurred or might occur? Do as Fr. Z always recommends, have an escape route. Where are you going to go, should mobs truly begin destroying everything around you and the city is burning? It wouldn’t hurt to talk about it, even if it’s a scary thing. Remember, God gave us brains to use, but in the end, He is in charge. He loves you so much and will only allow that which is good for your soul.
Lastly, lastly…Go To Confession! The Sacraments matter. You know this.
I’d be curious to know your thoughts on these things? Or any ideas, questions, or concerns you might have? For, it’s all new to me.
*Mother Miriam just gave a talk at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe last weekend wherein she told everybody to, “Wakeup!” We had better note what’s going on around us. It’s madness, and one ought to be prepared for a 3 month disruption of food supply.
Paul’s surgery went very well. He’s got a new valve installed in his side to regulate the flow of spinal fluid. We’re hoping this does the trick, and we need not visit another ER for a long, long time.
Paul is awfully sore where his two incisions are located, but otherwise, he’s happy and itching to go home.
Thank you for the prayers. Indeed, we feel very blessed.
Only a Year Ago…
It was only a year ago that we were here…where Paul was experiencing all kinds of heartbreaking problems. God has taken us a long way on this mysterious journey, and we are so thankful. It has been nothing but a blessing for our family.
If you have a spare moment, would you consider a prayer for Paul? The area surrounding his spinal catheter has filled with fluid, again. He’s undergoing surgery right now to test a new pressure valve, which sits near his rib cage to regulate the flow of spinal fluid.
Paul’s doctor just came into the pre-op room and prayed with him and my husband. He asked Jesus to heal Paul and to bless the endeavors of his surgical team. What a blessing–to have such a doctor. May the Holy Angels guide the hands of Dr. Ahn and the entire medical staff.
Paul is praying for his twin brother and his older sister, as they will begin school tomorrow without him. His twin brother is taking it especially hard to be in a new school without him, but if all goes well, Paul will join him on Monday.
I hope to offer an update later tonight or tomorrow.
I received two more questions the other day, which I’ll post below, as they’re good questions and interesting, too.
Question 1: Age of Confirmandi?
Hi Kim! Thank you for blogging!
It looks like some of your new confirmandi are pretty young. How did you determine their readiness, and did you experience any resistance from the church because of age?
Thank you for the question.
Yes, it would appear that my children are young according to many bishops’ later age requirements for Confirmation. (My children were confirmed at ages 13, 11, 11, 9, and 7.) The Roman Rite, however, clearly states in both the Catechism of the Catholic Church (see paragraph 1319) and theCatechism of the Council of Trent(look under heading “Confirmation” and flip to the paragraph on “Proper Age”) that one need only reach the age of reason, which is stated at 7, prior to receiving Confirmation. And that’s it.
Any bishop worth his salt will not deny anyone Confirmation, so long as he or she has reached the aforesaid age of reason.
Think of the Eastern Church, which does Confirmation immediately after Baptism because they wish to emphasize these Sacraments of Initiation and not to delay in distributing sanctifying grace. Remember, Baptism gives one sanctifying grace and opens the doors to Salvation, while Confirmation pours out more sanctifying grace with the additional 7 Gifts of the Holy Spirit. And both leave an indelible mark on the soul.
The question is then, why would anyone want to wait on this? Either you have that grace and that beautiful mark on your soul or not. And does it matter? Yes.
The problem is that many Catholics in the Church see Confirmation as some sort of “graduation,” and so we have Catholics wrongly asking, “How do you know if your child is ready for Confirmation?” Are we ever “ready” for any Sacrament? Look, we do not ask our babies if they are ready for Baptism, and we do not ask them if they’re ready for Confirmation. Naturally we prepare them as best as we can, but this is not some test. Rather, we desire an outpouring of the Holy Spirit, and we’ll do everything we can to continue their education then and afterwards, forever and ever. Amen.
Shoot, I’m still learning about Confirmation now at the ripe old age of 38.
Secondly, dear reader, you asked if our family received any opposition to receiving this Sacrament because of age? Not in this diocese–the diocese of La Crosse, WI. (May it please God to preserve our bishop for a long time.) But I’m fairly certain I would have met with a silent storm of opposition in my prior diocese. In the latter case, one can only politely ask and pray. Or seek the Sacraments elsewhere.
In the end, either these things matter, or they don’t, though. If it were me–and it does pertain to our family too–I’d get these things done. Now. I’d ask myself, What did our bishop and priests do during all this Corona Madness Shutdown? Did they close your Churches and quit administering Sacraments? If so, what makes you think they won’t do it again, come Corona Version 2.0 this Fall or Winter?
As my father, an eminently sensible farmer, says, “Make hay while the sun shines, Honey.”
Question 2: Advice for a Fearful Mother About to Give Birth?
Kim, do you have any advice for fear of childbirth? As a bit of background, I’m due any day with Baby #6. I’ve had 5 amazing natural births, and yet I’m here and TERRIFIED to give birth again myself. (Needless to say, I feel rather silly…) I’m trying to approach it from a spiritual standpoint, and yet a terrible anxiety remains. Have you ever experienced this, and do you have any advice?
First of all, congratulations on Baby #6!
Now to the question and a full disclosure: I personally have not experienced fear or anxiety for an impending labor and delivery. This is likely because I emphatically dislike being pregnant, and so when labor and delivery come around, I couldn’t be happier. In fact, I love it.
But you are not silly for struggling with these thoughts. There are mothers–good mothers too–who do fear childbirth and for all kinds of reasons. I think it’s natural to anxious about the whole thing. I mean, it is rather a painful experience after all.
The question I’d ask myself is, what is the cause of my anxiety? Am I afraid of death? Am I afraid of the baby dying? Am I afraid of the pain? Or is it something else? If you can pinpoint where the anxiety is coming from, then it might be possible to come up with a few ideas.
If it’s death, perhaps one could find a few pertinent scripture verses on the fleetingness of life or on the glory of heaven? Or, if it’s pain, consider an epidural or some medication to take the edge off. You mentioned that you’ve done all natural births, but perhaps this time God wishes otherwise? (I had a dose of Nubain during the last labor and delivery. See HERE for those details.)
In any case, the Divine Mercy Chaplet might be a good option for you to pray daily. Or if you enjoy reading, check out St. Faustina’s Diary, which is all about trusting in Jesus and doing His will amidst pain and suffering.
Lastly, I’ll ask a question to the readers. Are there any mothers out there who have experience with anxiety in childbirth? If so, please consider sharing any ideas in the Comments Box below.
Some of you may have heard that we were in the hospital again for Paul? Alas, yes.
A few months ago we noticed his back, where his catheter enters his spine, was terribly swollen. We knew something was up then, and that it would only be a matter of time before his spinal shunt slipped out and failed, which is exactly what happened.
Last Friday Paul began having migraines–the kind where one can’t move from the couch. The kind where one trembles in pain. The kind where one eventually vomits, and in Paul’s case, will not cease vomiting–if not anything worse–until surgery. When this happens, we call the ER in Rochester, pack for an extended stay, and get on the road–all of which we did.
Now, unfortunately, we’ve got this Down to a Science. When Paul starts vomiting, I go for the medical binder, containing all the important phone numbers, and as I said, call the ER. But it is best if I not only warn the ER that we’re coming, but also insist on speaking to Paul’s neurosurgeon’s Resident Doctor, who will in turn beginning looking over Paul’s thick file and speak directly to his neurosurgeon and get a plan going. (One is not able to speak directly to Paul’s neurosurgeon, regrettably! Apparently they’re very busy, which is why they all have at least one attending resident doctor.)
Once this is finished, and while my husband is caring for Paul, I glance at my trusty Packing List, which I keep taped to the front of Paul’s binder, and begin throwing things together that one might not normally think of. For example, we’ve relied heavily upon a few unusual items like a Traveling Lego Box, which contains Legos that are used exclusively at the hospital, not at home, and are especially detailed and take forever to put together, in an attempt to pass time away once surgery is finished. We also cherish the joys of Perplexis Balls and Monopoly Deal. Then, there’s the laptop for audio books, and a few slices of bread for me to toast in the nurse’s station for breakfast, as I never have time to run down to the Cafeteria in the morning because generally we’re prepping for surgery or visiting with doctors and nurses, who are perpetually doing their rounds at outlandish hours.
Anyway, this trip to the ER was no different. As we live so close to Rochester, however, we need not fret so very much–or at least we tell ourselves this–because the drive is literally a tiny fraction of what it was prior to our move to eastern Minnesota. Now, we need not spend hours and hours watching Paul decline on an agonizingly long drive while worrying about truly disturbing things like seizures or bradycardia–both of which have happened in the past and are terribly frightening.
This time, we got into the ER at about 11:30pm, got the vomiting under control at about 12:30am, were wheeled into surgery by 8am, and done 3 hours later.
And Paul is well again. The timing couldn’t be more perfect, too, as he and four of his brothers and sisters are slated to be confirmed this Sunday by none other than His Eminence Raymond Cardinal Burke. (Awesome. Just awesome.)
If you think of it, remember them all in your prayers. And especially pray for Paul’s continued healing. Twelve surgeries is a lot for one boy, in 15 months.
Our family has great news: Miss Severed Fingers is whole again! It’s been a little over two weeks since her calamitous encounter with a folding chair wherein one finger was dangling by the skin and another was sliced through the bone. These fingers, however, haven taken nicely. A couple of days ago she had all sixteen stitches removed.
It was quite the ordeal, though, having those sixteen stitches yanked out. Miss Severed Fingers screamed bloody murder during the entire clipping and tugging, especially when the doctor had to forcefully wrestle with the ones stuck in her nail beds.
We had a very sympathetic nurse, whose job it was to hold sharp-looking implements for the doctor. She kept smiling and crooning, “Oh, Honey, you’re doing such a good job! Just a few more!” Whereupon Miss Severed Fingers wailed even louder, and I snickered and interiorly rolled my eyes. Doing a good job? Humph. Four-year-olds. Everyone in this hospital is wondering what kind of hellish operation is happening in this back room.
But I did my part to console The Poor, Afflicted Thing too. I said, “Honey Babydoll, calm down! I’ll buy you a lovely coffee afterwards!”
The Little Dear quickly turned her teary, blue eyes towards me, and whimpered, “Really?”
“Of course, Honey. Coffee fixes nearly everything, you know.”
And so that’s what we did. After her little fingers were re-bandaged, we drove straight to Moka Coffee. Miss Severed Fingers ordered an iced vanilla latte; I had a hot cappuccino with a much deserved extra shot of espresso.
Notice the delectable donut? The Coffee Check-Out Lady was so impressed with Miss Severed Fingers that she even threw in the donut for free, along with a tootsie roll. For you see, Miss Severed Fingers rolled her window down from the backseat and stuck her damaged digits out for the Coffee Lady to admire. She even graciously wiggled them too.
Then we drove to the Post Office. She showed her bandaged extremities to the Post Office Lady, and you guessed it, the Post Office Lady was mighty impressed with her cuteness and gave her two suckers–one for each afflicted hand.