Sunday, June 23, 2013

Keep Your Head Up!

     May 2013 was a month of ups and downs.  To start off the month, I had my next appointment May 2nd.  I was 24 weeks at this point, so as per the routine for women having multiple children in a pregnancy, it was time to check the length of my cervix (lots of fun!) as well as a fetal fibronectin swab.  Normally, at about 20 weeks into a pregnancy, the cervix measures 40mm.  At 24 weeks, my cervix measured just 27mm.  The significance of this is that the shorter the cervix, the higher risk of pre-term labor.  Therefore, my OB was definitely a little concerned.  She said as long as it is >25mm there is not too much to worry about, but I would need to be monitored closer from now now I was up to every 2 week appointments.  The fetal fibronectin swab checks for the presence of the protein, fibronectin, in the cervix.  This protein helps attach the amniotic sac to the lining of the uterus.  If the test comes back positive, there is an increased risk of pre-term labor.  This test result takes longer to get back, so we would have to wait until later that day to know if it was positive or negative, and whether there would be restrictions placed on my activities.  I also learned at this appointment that my blood count was getting lower and lower. My hemoglobin was down below 10 so I was to be referred to a hematologist for further blood work.  I really tried to remain positive and not get worried too much about these results, but it seemed like my check up was all negative.  Finally, late that afternoon, we got a call that the FFN (fetal fibronectin) was negative!  Whew!  At least one good result that day!
     To help ease our minds a little, we decided to start working more on the details of the nursery and playroom.  I had ordered a stick on phrase for the wall inside the changing table station that had just come in the mail.  So, one Saturday, my mom came over and helped me attach it to the wall and make a curtain for the nursery to match the bed skirts on the crib.  The curtain turned out a perfect fit for the calm nursery.  The phrase on the wall was exactly what I wanted.  It said "Sometimes miracles come in pairs."  This was very fitting for our situation. 

     Next, Brad and I made a "swing shelf" modeled after one I found at pottery barn that I loved.  However, instead of paying $170 we made a shelf with products from Lowes for $20!!  I think it was just the perfect accent for the room.  Lastly, we went to Brad's grandparents' farm one day and got some wood from an old barn that had started to collapse a while back.  The original section of the barn was built in the late 19th century.  There had been a couple of additions to the barn as the years went on.  We took the wood home to my parents' house.  My dad cut out two oars from the barn wood and sanded them down fairly smooth.  Brad and I then painted the oars to match the nursery.  Each one had one of the boys' name on them to hang over their cribs.  These oars will have special meaning to us and the boys as time goes on.


     Next, I went to see the hematologist at Tennessee Oncology at Baptist Hospital.  He was very nice and easy to get along with.  He confirmed the results of my hemoglobin and iron studies were not good.  Basically, I didn't appear to be absorbing iron at the appropriate level despite taking an iron supplement religiously every day.  So, he had me stay at the office and receive an IV iron infusion called Venofer.  This infusion truly was not as bad as I imagined, but it was quite uncomfortable and awkward sitting in the treatment room with many cancer patients receiving chemo at the same time.  There was an air of sadness about the room that you couldn't ignore.  But, at least the infusion was only 30 minutes long and the only side effect I experienced from it was a bad taste in my mouth.  I was to come back in one week and receive one more Venofer infusion. 
     Mother's Day came and I was feeling excited that I actually got to celebrate it this year.  The year before I was so worried that I would never get to experience Mother's Day as a mom, but here I was 25 weeks along celebrating these two little lives inside me.  My mom took my sister and me out for a relaxing pedicure and we took her to lunch at The Chocolate Covered Strawberry, one of our favorite local cafes.  Brad was so excited for me to be able to celebrate Mother's Day he bought me a beautiful Pandora bracelet with 3 charms on it.  One said MOM on it and the other two were cute teddy bears with blue ribbons symbolizing the two boys.  I absolutely loved this bracelet and am excited about adding to it in the future as the boys grow!


     At 26 weeks, I was back at the OB for another check on my cervix.  My mom came with me to this appointment, as Brad had to work.  I went into the appointment thinking negative thoughts that I would be told it was 23-24 and I would have to quit work and all activities at this time. But, good news!  The result was 30mm this time.  What a relief!!  Another swab was done as well to check for the presence of FFN.  Again, we would have to wait until the late afternoon/evening for that result.  I think my mom thoroughly enjoyed going to this appointment with me.  She got to see her future grandsons for the first time on ultrasound.  They looked beautiful up on the screen and checked out completely normal in growth and development again.  Baby A weighed 2lb 2oz and Baby B weighed 1lb 15oz.  So, on to Tennessee Oncology again to get the last IV infusion (woohoo!).  Again, the infusion was not bad and the only problem was the awful taste again:(  I will never forget that nasty metallic taste.  Later that afternoon, I got a call from my nurse that the FFN was yet again negative.  Another good result!


     My last OB check for the month was May 30th, 28 weeks.  Again, the FFN swab test was done and the cervical length check was done as well.  The week or so before this appointment I had noticed that I was feeling more and more pressure and having a harder time being on my feet all day at work even though I was only working 2 days/week at this point.  At our meeting with my OB, she notified us that the cervical length had decreased drastically to 22mm.  Yikes!  As a result of this, she decided to send me over to the Women's Hospital to be observed overnight.  She also informed me that from this point on I could no longer work and would be put on strict bed rest for the time being.  What!?!  This was not supposed to happen!  Over we went to the hospital and got checked in and put on the monitor to see if I was having any contractions.  In the span of the 4 hours I was on the monitor, I had maybe a total of 2 tiny contractions that I never even knew happened.  Although that was good news, I was really struggling to keep my head up and remain positive.  All I could think about was that these boys were going to be coming soon and they weren't done developing yet.  I had visions in my head of them being born then and struggling to survive in the NICU.  I was so afraid that my worst nightmare was going to come to life.  Brad stayed with me overnight which was a huge help physically and emotionally.  Again, he is always my biggest supporter and always looking out for me.  I don't think I would have survived the night emotionally without him!  One more time that night I was put on the monitor with a result of no contractions. 
     The next morning came and my OB rounded to see how I was doing.  She said the monitor strips looked great and that the boys' heart rates were perfect.  She wanted me to have an ultrasound to check my cervix before I could go home.  She explained again that I was to go home on strict bed rest, only to get up to go to the bathroom every 2 hours and one shower a day.  Luckily, though, she did confirm it was ok for me to attend my baby shower the next weekend as long as my follow up appointment with her the next week went well.  Whew! This was a big worry for me!  The baby shower meant so much to me and I knew my mom, mother-in-law, and sister had all been working so hard to make it special for me:)  So, we waited and waited and finally about 1pm that afternoon, the sonographer came to do the ultrasound.  Ok, I'm not one to complain about people in the medical field since I am one myself, but this woman did nothing to calm my nerves about the test.  She lacked so much personality and complained about her day the whole time.  Luckily, she was only in the room a few minutes and it was back to waiting for the results to be read by the doctor.  Finally, the nurse came around and said the result was 21-22mm so we were ok to be discharged.  I was so happy to go home even though I knew it would be only to lay in my bed for the next week at least.  So began the wonderful experience of bed rest...


Thursday, June 20, 2013

What's in a Name?

     The month of April was full of fun new things for us.  As an early celebration for Brad's birthday in June, we got tickets to see Elton John in concert April 5th.  We splurged and bought excellent floor seats for the concert.  We were 12 rows back from the stage, giving Brad the perfect view of Elton John playing the piano.  I was so glad we were able to go downtown for a night and have a delicious dinner, watch one of Brad's favorite piano entertainers, and stay in the luxurious Hermitage Hotel.  With our due date for the twins only 1 month
after his actual birthday, I think this was a smart decision!


     At this point, we were finally able to start deciding on names for the babies.  We had agreed long ago that if we ever had a boy we wanted to name him Carson Wade.  So, that was a given now that we knew we would have a boy.  Wade is a family name on Brad's is Brad's middle name as well as his dad's middle name (Jeffrey Wade).  So, for sure we would have the first born son named Carson Wade Alsup.  Now was the hard part.  We researched and practiced saying names over and over again to find another "C" first name for the other son.  Eventually, we decided on Cole.  Since, we used a family name for Carson's middle name, we wanted to carry on this tradition.  After talking with my dad about his family tree we learned that his grandfather's middle name was Warner.  This fit perfectly!  So we agreed the second son's name would be Cole Warner Alsup.  We are excited to explain to the boys one day that their names each have meaning to our families.
     Now that we had names, it was time to really get down to work on the nursery and playroom!  This was a fun process.  I think putting the nursery together made the whole pregnancy seem even more real to me.  I decided we should do a nautical theme in the nursery with a calm, relaxing feel.  So, we went shopping for nautical themed sheets and decorations.  We had the walls painted a soft blue/gray color to create the calming effect I was looking for.  My mom made some curtains to match the bed skirts we bought for the cribs.  Brad and I made a "swing shelf" modeled after one I fell in love with in Pottery Barn's magazine.  We found sailboat figurines and various other cute decorations for the room.

     The playroom I decided to make bright and fun to inspire a learning yet fun environment for the boys.  My favorite part was having the walls painted "spinach" green:)  We bought some great storage bins for the playroom to store the many toys that will accumulate in this room!  I purchased a map of the US off the internet to teach the boys about the 50 states.  I also plan to use this to mark all the states we have each been to.  This will be a cheery, happy room for them to play in in the future.

     Our appointments this month all had good outcomes.  The boys were both growing at excellent rates and had good, strong hearts.  I was doing well physically progressing along despite it becoming harder and harder to work my 10 hour shifts 3-4 days/week.  So, I started gradually cutting back to 2-3 days/week.  This helped a lot not to be on my feet so much every day!  I started feeling small "fluttering" in my belly from the boys moving around about this time:)  Then, finally, the evening of April 22nd, Brad and I both were able to feel swift kicks from the boys.  This was an amazing experience!  Each little kick brought tears to my eyes.  Every month God sent us little reminders of how much He loves us by giving us these two sweet miracles growing inside me. 

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Two of a Kind

     Our next appointment came on January 31st (11 weeks along).  This appointment was special to us...we got to hear 2 sweet heartbeats for the first time.  The sound of their hearts beating brought me to tears.  After being convinced that I would never experience this moment, I was overwhelmed with God's love for me and my husband.  As any parent can tell you, hearing the beat of your baby's heart is such a comforting and exciting sound.  If they would have let me, I think I would have laid on that bed listening to the heartbeats of my two miracle babies all day long!  But, of course our time was up in the ultrasound room and it was on to meeting with the doctor.  Her report was good.  Both babies were growing at a normal rate, their heart rates were at a normal rate, and I was looking good.  So, we left this appointment feeling confident and excited.
     We continued meeting with my doctor every 4 weeks. The next appointment checked in with good results again:)  Then, March 29th came around for our next appointment.  I was 19 weeks at this point.  This was a big appointment and big day for us as it would be revealed to us the genders of our babies.  I know Brad was really hoping for 2 boys.  I was hoping for one of each.  The anticipation was building as the sonographer checked the growth and development of Baby A.  Of course I wanted to hear that everything was progressing as expected, but I was so ready to hear boy or girl!  Finally, she got to the reproductive anatomy scan and she was able to tell's a BOY!!  Yay! Brad was going to at least have one son to carry on the Alsup name. 

     Next, was the scan on Baby B.  Again development was within normal limits.  And the reproductive anatomy scan's a BOY!!  Wow! Two boys!  I looked over at Brad and he was all smiles and tears of happiness.  Then, we were told not only were we going to have twin boys, we were going to have IDENTICAL twin boys.  This means that one egg split in two, the twins share one placenta, but they each have their own sac in the placenta. 
This is a good thing, as twins who share the same sac can have a higher risk of growth restrictions-one twin could take more nutrients than the other twin.  So although having twins is higher risk than a singleton pregnancy, we were in the safer situation.



     We had another dinner planned with our parents to reveal the genders.  I wanted to be creative and present the results in a creative way.  So, we went to our favorite gourmet popcorn store in Franklin and ordered two bags of blueberry popcorn to symbolize the two boys.  I wrapped them in red bags with silver paper so as to not give away the secret.  We fixed a delicious homemade lasagna dinner with a wonderful dessert.  Our parents were getting more and more anxious to find out what their grandchildren were going to be, so we finally let them open up the bags.  All four of them were extremely happy to learn that we were going to be having two boys!  I know the two grandfathers were especially excited to know they would have two future farm helpers (for Brad's dad) and two future hunting buddies (for my dad).  So, Brad's parents would be Pa and Nana Alsup and my parents would be Grandpa and Nana Herndon.  We talked and talked about the future of these Alsup twins and made sure to share with everyone else we loved the good news.  What a great way to start the weekend!

Monday, June 10, 2013

Alsup babies?!?!

     After leaving the doctor's office, Brad and I headed out to get some lunch downtown, which has become a "tradition" for us. We were not intending to spread the news of our pregnancy yet, but after talking and talking about it at lunch we decided to go ahead and let our parents in on the secret. So, we planned out a dinner at our house with both sets of parents. To surprise them, we ordered a cake from Publix announcing the babies were coming in the summer.  At this time, our due date was August 24, 2013.  We called up our parents and invited them over for a dinner at our house.  We pretty frequently did this anyway, so we were sure they would think nothing of it.  Upon arriving back at home, we scurried around cleaning and grocery shopping, making sure everything would be perfect for this special dinner.  Dinner time rolled around and our parents were arriving. Brad and I were so giddy and anxious, I'm surprised none of them were curious what was going on.  We all socialized during dinner about work and the dogs and everyday ordeals.  I don't think I really paid much attention to the conversation to be honest with you.  I just kept thinking about the cake in the fridge and seeing their reactions once they saw it.  
     Once dinner was complete, Brad announced we had a dessert for them, but unlike other dinners we just didn't have time to make it ourselves.  He pulled the cake out of the fridge and placed it on the table.  I sat nervously in my chair waiting to see who noticed first that the cake said "ALSUP BABIES" on it.  Someone asked at first, "Who's birthday is it??"  Then, both our moms let out screams of joy at the same time.  They were crying and laughing and jumping up and down all at the same time.  I think they felt as much relief as we did about finding out about this pregnancy, as they walked each step with us in the grueling process of trying to get pregnant.  They prayed every day and cried each tear with us along the way.  This was the moment I had waited see the smiles and tears of happiness instead of sadness on our mothers' faces.  Finally, we could give something back to them after all the love and support they had given us. 
     While all the cheering was going on, my father, ever the perfectionist (hmmm...maybe that's where I get that from) was quietly heard in the background saying "Alsup babies?!?!?"  Bingo! He was who I had figured would pick up on that first :)  Our moms turned around in complete surprise.  Everyone had to read the cake again.  "Is that a mess up on the cake maker's part?"  "No, It's true.  We are going to have TWINS!!" Brad and I announced.  Again, there was much crying and cheering for joy.  Of course the ultrasound pictures came out next and we all rejoiced over those two tiny little babies in the pictures.  The challenge for our parents was that they had to keep quiet about this for a few more weeks, as we weren't planning to tell others until 12 weeks or so.  Of course they didn't like this...they were ready to go out and scream it to the whole world!
     Finally, we knew we had to end this great night, but not without a few more hugs all around.  After our family left, Brad and I knew we would never get to sleep that night.  So, we sat up and talked and talked about these two little babies we were going to be responsible for the rest of our lives.   I so enjoy nights like this when we can talk and talk for hours about what we think they will be like or what we want them to experience in life.  This has created an even deeper connection between the two of us in our marriage. 
     My ultimate goals in raising these two precious babies is to let them know each and every day how much they were wanted and how much they were fought for.  I want them to know that God has big plans for them and brought them into this world for a purpose.  Lastly, I want them to know without a doubt that they have so many people in this world who prayed for their existence and most importantly, that these people love them dearly.    
                    This is a picture we took of our surprise cake we had made for our parents:)

Friday, June 7, 2013

The Best Christmas Present Ever

     God revealed His plan for our future to us a few days before Christmas 2012.  Saturday, December 22, 2012 to be exact.  My period was late, which was nothing new for me at this point, but we talked it over and decided I should just go ahead and take a test just to see if anything by chance happened. To my complete surprise, the test came back positive...WHAT?!?! I was in such shock at seeing the positive reading that I just sat there for probably 5 minutes or so.  I just could not comprehend how this could be. After all the tests and procedures and still nothing, how in the world could I truly be pregnant??  Finally, I got myself together and called Brad to come in and look at something with me. I will never forget the look on his face when he put it all together and realized the miracle that had happened. I think this is one of my most favorite moments spent with my husband.  We held each other, tears streaming down our faces, and tried to take the moment in and all that this would mean for our future.  After all my husband had done for me in the last year and a half, it was such a relief to know I would be providing a child for him that we had so longed for.  And it was such a relief to see his beautiful smile (and dimples) on his face.
     Although I was sure the test was correct, I must admit that over that weekend I took literally 4 pregnancy tests to make sure I got the same result on each. At this point I finally fully accepted that this was really going to happen. It's funny how we Christians know that God will meet our needs and desires and provide even more than we deserve, yet sometimes it just seems too hard to believe that He would be that good to us.  This is where the lesson of true faith comes in.  I know I prayed and prayed that God would provide us with children, but I wanted it to happen on my time and on my terms.  He taught me to be faithful and patient and reminded me of the Bible verse Psalm 37:4-"Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart."  I gave the situation over to God and yet again He provided this desire I longed for.  What an amazing God we serve!!
     So, this was the best Christmas present I think I could ever imagine.  The only bad thing was I was already starting to feel the early waves of nausea.  I tried very hard to mask this at our Christmas celebrations as Brad and I agreed we should wait to share the good news with anyone until we were further along.  When you have been through as much disappointment as we had, you don't want to rush and get everyone excited in case the pregnancy didn't work out for some reason.  This was a constant fear of mine during the first part of my pregnancy.  Yet again, the faith issue :)  I think at times I felt that I didn't deserve this amazing gift. As the days and weeks went on, though, I learned to accept it as truth and that God had big plans for us as a family.
     January 10,2013 was our first appointment with my OB.  I was almost 8 weeks at this point.  We were both giddy about seeing this baby for the first time.  I remember going into the ultrasound room with sweaty palms and shaking hands.  I don't think I've ever felt so nervous in my life. All kinds of questions were running through my head.  What if there really isn't a baby in there??  What if they find something wrong with it??  And on, and on. I know I'm a silly female sometimes:)  So up on the table I went and anxiously waited for the screen to reflect my little miracle baby, Brad supportively holding onto my hand.  The sonographer looked around for a minute and got a funny look on her face.  (I think I was about to squeeze Brad's hand off ).  Then she asked, "Were you using any fertility treatments?"  "Not this month. We decided to take November and December off."  She gave a small laugh and said, "Well, you're going to have twins.  There are two babies."  Again, WHAT?!?!?  How can that be??  This was another moment that will be permanently imprinted in my brain.  We are going to have TWINS!!!  The rest of the appointment with my OB was a blur.  I had a hard time concentrating on what she had to tell us. All I could think about was I have two babies growing in me!!  God is so good!  It was a relief to know, too, that these little "beanie babies," as the sonographer called them, were completely healthy and growing normally.We left the appointment in complete shock, but with huge smiles on our faces.
     We are going to have TWINS! We are going to have TWINS! :)

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Let Me Introduce Myself...

     My name is Emily. I am a 28 year old female living in Tennessee. I am married to an amazing man, Brad. I am a nurse, while he is a pharmacist. We have been married now for almost 8 years. We met in high school and have been together ever since. We stuck it out together through the end of high school, being separated by distance in college not once, but twice, and both studying ALL the time! He is truly my best friend. Through the years our family has grown...we now have 4 dogs (yes I said 4) and identical twin boys on the way. Our dogs have been our children and good practice for these boys about to make their entrance into this world.

     I love the life we have created and the future that is almost upon us. However, the road to this point has not been easy.  These little boys, you see, are truly miracles from God. We spent 1 1/2 long, frustrating years trying to get to this point of starting a family.  We learned so many lessons during this time: most importantly, that God has a time for everything and His plan will always supersede any plans we have for our life or future.  It is not easy to have faith, however, when you want something so bad for so long.  Although this was a time of immense pain and frustration, God showed His love for the two of us by bringing us even closer together in love and friendship. Let me share some of our journey over the last 2 years with you...

     Summer 2011 Brad and I decided we were finally comfortable and confident in trying to start a family. At this point we were both accomplished and secure in our careers, had a modest home almost completely furnished, family surrounding us, and a love for each other stronger than ever.  We both have always been healthy individuals with no major medical problems of any kind. So, we knew we wouldn't have any difficulty getting pregnant and starting a family...boy were we wrong! After 7 months of trying (now we are at February 2012), hoping and praying and being let down each time, I thought I might finally be pregnant. So I called my doctor and went in to see if my prayers had come true...

     Well, as I'm sure you guessed, I was not :(  My doctor had me go through the motions and do a test in the office as well as some lab work.  The lab work came back showing that I was not even ovulating. So, I went back to the doctor for an ultrasound. This showed that I have PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome). Basically, there is an imbalance in the sex hormones produced, causing irregular periods and making it much more difficult to get pregnant.  I was put on Progesterone to try and regulate my periods and help figure out when I would be ovulating. After 2 months, my periods started being predictable. So, my doctor gave us the option of trying Clomid. Clomid is an oral medication used to stimulate hormones needed for ovulation and the release of eggs. We wanted to be proactive, so we decided to try it. After 3 months of taking the Clomid, we were still disappointed from not getting pregnant. (Now we are in June 2012). At this point, I was sent for a hysterosalpingogram or HSG.  This lovely procedure is performed to check for blockages, growths, etc. on the fallopian tubes.  Basically,  radiography dye is injected into the uterine cavity. If the tubes are open, they fill up with the dye, which the radiologist can see on the screen. If they are closed, however, the dye will go into the abdominal cavity. Although this was a very unpleasant experience, the test turned out completely normal.
     So, it was nice to know that there were no problems with my fallopian tubes, but it was as equally frustrating that we still weren't pregnant. Emotionally, this was a very hard time for me. I don't think I would have been able to continue through this grueling process if I didn't have my husband.  He is such a good man to me. He was always there to wipe my tears and just hold and comfort me when we got the negative news month after month after month. And he always made a point to go with me and hold my hand for each appointment and procedure. 
     Since my procedure was normal, it was Brad's turn to be tested. His procedure was equally as uncomfortable and nerve-racking as mine, but he is such a strong person that he held his head high and got through it.  So, his results were all normal as well. Now what do we do?? My doctor had us try 3 more months with the Clomid. (Apparently, there is a higher chance of the woman getting pregnant after the HSG "cleans out the tubes".)  Well, now we were in August 2012, one year of trying to get pregnant. The only option we had left before being completely referred to a specialist was an IUI (Intrauterine Insemination).  For this procedure, I had to monitor strictly for the day I ovulated. The day after that happened was crucial. We had to go and have a "sperm wash" on Brad's sample and take it to my doctor who placed this directly into my uterus. The hope is that pregnancy will occur by being directly in contact with the uterus.  So, we said a prayer and went through yet another procedure.  As usual, this was negative :(  This was one of the hardest times, because we were so hopeful and just knew that this procedure would be the one to get me pregnant. 
     One more round of this procedure was done with yet again another negative. I was an emotional wreck, I know, but my husband was so good to me and happily offered a kiss or a shoulder for me to cry on. He is truly an amazing person to me. I don't know if he will ever understand what his constant presence and love meant to me during this journey.  
     Well, now we were in October 2012. At this point, we were both so tired of the procedures, following the days of my period to the tee, and being told when we could have sex and when we couldn't. So, we decided to just take the rest of the year off of the pressure and just enjoy the holidays together. The new year would be a time of major decisions of adoption vs. being happy without children for a while.  Of course during this whole process we would find out month after month that someone else we knew was pregnant or having a baby.  Although I was happy for each couple to get to experience the joy and gift of children, my heart broke each time I heard this announcement.  I continued on and helped my mom and a friend of my sister plan and host a baby shower for my sister. She was due to have a little girl in January. I actually enjoyed myself at her shower and was genuinely happy for her on that day in November, despite being disappointed with my period showing up that morning before the shower.
     Thanksgiving came and it was helpful to spend time with family and friends. On we moved to December. Brad and I were still convinced that it just wasn't meant for us to get pregnant at this time.  Little did we know that God had a special plan for us that was just getting started...