BAM Family

BAM Family

Friday, January 30, 2015

The BIGGEST surprise of my life!

I meet so many people who tell me, "Oh, I always wanted twins!"

Growing up, I never had this thought. Don't get me wrong: having twins is great (crazy...but great!) but I never wanted twins, basically because I never thought I could  have twins.

"Twins don't run in our family." I remember my  mom saying.

And that was it. The end. There had never been...so there never would be twins in our family. Right? (see "Scientific Note" at the end if you are curious about the types of twins that run in families).

WRONG!!

The day I found out I was having twins was the biggest surprise of my life. Want to hear the story? It's a good one. :)

Aaron and I were newlyweds and had just had the "when do we want to have kids" talk. We happily decided that waiting 3 years would be just right.

And God shook his head and laughed.

BOOM! I was pregnant the next month.

We were not happy. There were tears, terse conversations, hurt feelings, overwhelming worry.
We were only 22 and had been married eight months. I was still in college.

Aaron had an especially hard time adjusting to this life-altering news. The "plan" was that I would finish school and then he would be able to finish his degree. Now, that wouldn't happen.

But, like it or not, we were going to have a baby. My first ultrasound was scheduled at 11 weeks.

"I don't want to go." Aaron told me. "The baby will just look like a peanut right now. I'll go to the next one."

I was pretty miffed that he didn't want to go but I wanted to avoid another fight.  So, I sighed and went to the appointment by myself.

For anyone who hasn't had a baby, first ultrasounds are awkward. I expected it to be like all the pretty ultrasounds on “A Baby Story:” a subtle hand-held monitor gliding gently over the mother’s belly. I certainly didn’t expect a curling iron shaped condom-covered stick invading my private sanctuary.

But the real shocker came when I looked at the screen.

The doctor was so calm. “I thought your uterus felt kind of big. You're having twins."

And then my brain exploded. 
April 20 2007: The biggest surprise of my life.
Not really. 

But I went into shock. I broke out in hot flashes and hives laying there on that cold table, covered only in a paper gown.

“I’m having twins?!” I choked.

"Yep. You're having twins." Serene doctor said serenely.

(How could she be so serene?!?!?!? How was everyone not FREAKING OUT? I felt like someone should be shaking me by the shoulders and screaming, "HOLY CRAP, GIRLFRIEND!! YOU ARE ABOUT TO BE A MOM OF TWOOOOO BABIES!!!! BECAUSE YOU'RE HAVING TWINS!!!)

And I was. There they were: two little gummy bears floating and waving and punching at each other through the hair-line membrane that separated them. Twins.

Twins!

After the ultrasound, I slowly got dressed, my heart racing and my hands shaking.

"Well, you just got the surprise of your life, didn't you?" A nurse said when I came out of the dressing room.

I nodded vaguely. I was in a  haze.

Then I started smiling. I was having twins.

Then the smile turned a little twisted. Because Aaron wasn't with me.
 Heh heh heh. Payback, baby.

I called him, inwardly cackling.

Aaron: Hey! How'd it go?
Me: Great! Guess what?
Aaron: What?
Me: We're having TWINS!
Aaron: oh, haha! Good one. No we're not.
Me: Yes. We are.
Aaron: (laughing) You're kidding me!
Me: I'm not kidding you.
Aaron: (pause. not laughing now) You're freakin' kidding me....!
Me: Nope. We're having twins, babe. I've got pictures.
Aaron: (laughing hysterically) [I heard a co-worker in the background asking him what he is laughing about] We're havin' TWINS!

I spent the rest of the day in a happy twin-haze. I smiled so much my face hurt. My ears also hurt from the number of people who screamed in the phone after I told them the good news.

It was one of the happiest, most surprising days of my life. 
This picture never ceases to amaze me.
And that, dear friends, is how I found out I was going to be a mother...times two.

So yes, even if twins don't run in your family, they could still HAPPEN TO YOU. 

Scientific Note (for those who are curious): Fraternal twins run in families, which occurs when the mother releases two eggs.
Identical twins --where the fertilized egg splits--are spontaneous and can happen to ANYONE, although it is rare (4/1000 births are spontaneous identical twins).

And wouldn't you know? We were lucky enough to get identical twins.

Monday, January 26, 2015

My Christmas Miracle: Eli's Birth Story

This is a birth story. Therefore, it is long. Also, may contain gory birth details. Read and enjoy at your own risk.  
 Eli's birth was simply miraculous.

Yeah, yeah. I know. That is such a cliche. Every birth is miraculous, right? Right.

No, but REALLY! My little boy, born on December 23, 2014, had such a beautiful, wonderful, miraculous beginning. Here's Eli's birth story....

I was wracked with worry in the months, weeks, and days leading up to Eli's birth. Being due at Christmas is not fun...at all.

I was worried about who would take care of my kids, the weather, which midwife would be on call at the hospital, and most of all....the unpredictability of natural labor.

WHEN WOULD IT HAPPEN???? (GAHHH!!!!)

"I just hope I can be home for Christmas," I would tell people after confessing that his due date was December 25.

I really did not want to have a baby on Christmas day.
1. that would make for a sucky Christmas for my 3 older boys.
2. That would make for a sucky birthday for Eli for the rest of his life.

"You know," Aaron teased me. "This is why people schedule inductions."

But he knew that I wanted to go into labor on my own. So, all I could do was wait and pray...

...while scrambling to decorate, shop, sew Christmas presents, mail boxes, make and freeze meals, schedule a babysitter every day in the 3 week "labor window"....

...and wait and pray.

So in the middle of all this waiting, praying and gestating, everyone in my family gets the throw-up GI bug. Sweet!!

So my prayers changed to, "Please God! Do not let me get sick!!! That would be the worst thing ever."

Well, on December 22nd, the day before I went into labor, "the worst thing ever" happened. Yep, mama got the bug. Thankfully, compared to the rest of my family, I didn't get that sick. Just felt terrible and was in bed all day.

Since I was convinced that I was going to deliver after my due date, my hope and prayer now became, "Please let me get my strength back before I go into labor. " I mean, all I ate all day on December 22 was 10 salteen crackers and some ginger ale. Not a great foundation for the marathon that is labor.

Well....no such luck. At 2am on December 23, I woke up with a twingy contraction. Since I had been having twingy contractions off and on for about a week, I didn't think a lot of it. But 6 minutes later, another twingy contraction. Then another.

"Aww, crap." I thought. Then I took a moment to marvel in the irony of  being two days from my due date and SO OVER BEING PREGNANT, and how I was now not glad that I was in labor.

From 2am-6am, I alternately timed the contractions (about 6-10 minutes apart) and slept--which totally messed up the pattern on my contraction calculator app.

A little before 6, I was getting too uncomfortable to lay in bed anymore. Things were picking up. Aaron came in to say goodbye to me before work (dear, sweet husband was sleeping on the couch to give more room in the bed to me and my 6 pillows).

"Uhh...I'm in labor." I told him.

"Are you sure?"

"Yep."

"Ok if I go into work for a while to get everyone settled?"

"Sure."

Yes, dear readers. My husband went to work. After all, my last labor was 60 hours. For all we knew, this could be the tip of the iceburg.

I decided to take a shower at 6:45. Fifteen minutes and 4 contractions later, I called Aaron: "I need you to come home."

I texted my doula, Debborah, and let her know that today was the day! She said she was on her way over to my house.

The contractions were getting closer and stronger: 3-5 minutes apart. At 8am, I looked at my babysitting schedule chart to see who agreed to be "on call" for the day. It was my friend Kimberley from church.

Miracle #1: This was a miracle because Kim is my ONLY friend who is not married and doesn't have any kids. Because my boys had all had the stomach bug in the past few days, I was SO GLAD that we didn't have to take them over to someone else's house and potentially expose other kids to our GI nastiness.

Kim and Debbie got to the house a little before 9am.  Kim took Micah, Benji, and Silas to the bedroom and they watched PBS kids and played with toys.

I discovered that if I sat down, I could get a 5-6 minute break in between contractions. If I was walking around, I was having them every 2-3 minutes. And since I had not packed my bag yet (I know, I know! But seriously, I was convinced that I was going to go late!), I was not getting many breaks.

I was handling the contractions well and talking and joking in between but at 10:45, we decided that we should probably go to the hospital if we were going to (try to) avoid the car ride from hell.

I remember having 2-3 contractions from the front door to the car, standing with my hand on the door handle and  saying, "I do NOT want to get in the car." I remember with my labor with Silas, the car rides were 100% horrible.

Miracle #2: The 15 minute car ride was bearable. I had 4 contractions on the way over but they were not as intense as they had been at the house. Thank God.

I got the royal treatment at the hospital. ie. they wheeled me up in a wheel chair. Why? Basically my contractions told my legs to stop working.

We got to L&D and in between contractions, met the nurse, Katie. I knew I was going to have to be checked soon and I was dreading it.

1. Cervical checks are extremely painful for me.
2. With Silas, I was in labor for 16 hours before we went to the hospital and was only dilated to 2 centimeters.

Well, we got some good news (despite the horrific pain of the check).

Miracle #3: I was dilated to 7 centimeters. WOO HOO!

Also:

Miracle #4: My favorite midwife, Katie (yes, Katie-Nurse and Katie-Midwife) was on call!! Double WOO HOO!

My plan was to labor in the tub so while I did the required 20 minutes on the monitor (while rolling around on the birth ball), Debbie started filling the bathtub (which had jets!) and the nurses started filling the AquaDoula--which is just fancy birth-talk for a big blow up tub.
 
By this time, I was starting to lose my sense of humor. "Are we almost done with this STUPID MONITORING?" I said.

Finally, I was able to rip off those stupid, plastic monitors and that stupid hospital gown ("One size chokes all!") and get in the bathtub.

The jets felt amazing on my back, which is where the majority of my pain was during each contraction. The only annoying thing about the bathtub was that, because they were filling the AquaDoula from the shower nozzle, the connection from the nozzle to the hose was loose and  spraying cold water all over my head. I was in THE ZONE though and was only mildly annoyed by this--and also mildly amused by Aaron, Debbie and nurses who were frantically trying to control the icy spray (they did).

By this time in my labor, I lost all concept of time. I stayed in the bathtub for a "while," until they told me that the AquaDoula was full enough for me to get in.

Out of the water, the contractions were intense. I think I had 2-3 big ones just walking from the bathroom back into the room (like 12 feet).

I really enjoyed the Aqua Doula experience. I had heard that laboring in a big tub was an "amazing" experience. It was a great experience but different than I thought it would be.

Laboring in the water didn't take away the pain of the contractions (somehow I thought it would?? Dumb. It's not drugs) but it definitely carried the "weight" of each contraction. This made the labor so much easier to bear.

Also, being in the water gave me a break (3-5 minutes?) in between each contraction, whereas out of the water they were coming one on top of the other. So, in those breaks, I was able to relax.

My midwife, Katie, also came into the room during this time and stayed with me until I gave birth. She was so soothing and encouraging. During each contraction, I reached out for Aaron's hand and Debbie's hand and clung, moaned, and breathed (and hollered!) through them. I could hear Debbie murmuring prayers over me, Aaron encouraging me to breathe, and Katie soothing me through each one. In between contractions, Debbie massaged my shoulders, back, and feet with peppermint and lavender essential oils (in fact, I have a very distinct "scent memory" of those oils combined with the tangy smell of the rubber from the pool).

The contractions were getting really strong and I started to feel "pushy." Then, all of a sudden, WOOSH!

"My water just broke!" I cried. (It was nice that it broke in pool, right?)

Two-three contractions later, I was starting to "OHHHHHH" really loudly and Katie suggested we move from the pool to the bed (since water births aren't allowed at this hospital).

Oh my word. The worst part of labor was getting out of the pool. I think it was the only time I actually screamed a bit. I had to swing my leg over the pool (it was about 3 feet high) and then a contraction came crashing down on me.

"Ahh! Ok! I am just going to sit here." I said, straddling the side of the pool. "This feels good."

The contraction ended and Katie and Aaron practically carried me to the bed. It was propped up and I laid on my right side.

About this time, random-male-resident John enters the room!!! Hi John! I did not expect you nor was I very aware of you but here you are to observe me in all my birthing glory!!

It was gettin' real, folks.

I was really hollering and really praying: "Jesus! Jesus, help me! Help me!"

I think I must have prayed this a lot because about this point, Katie really sweetly said, "He's here! He is helping you!"

Aaron told me later that my praying was really cute. He also told me that even though I swore a few times too, no one would have doubted my testimony while giving birth.

"Ok, Brittany! This is where we are going to have to work together." Katie said with her hot cloths and encouraging words.

"Breathe, Brittany! Breathe!" Aaron said urgently. (He later told me that I was turning a bit purple and he was kind of worried).

I clung to Debbie's hand as I pushed, hollered, and prayed.

Four, intense, firey pushes and....

"His head is out!"

A pause...one more...and my squalling baby was in my arms, very clean and very slippery.

He was perfect, precious, and loud, all 7 pounds and 10 oz and 20.5 inches of pure glory.
Miracle #5: Elijah Jefferson Meng was born at 1:38, after less than 12 hours of labor. Now THAT was a miracle.

Miracle #6: The side-lying pushing worked. I only had a minor tear...after having a 3rd degree tear with Silas.

(Side Note: Moms everywhere: Don't you wish that all the discomfort of having a baby was over the minute the baby is born?? Oh my word...the belly "massaging," stitching, and after-birth contractions are THE WORST!!! Ok, "side note" over).

Katie was great with the after-care. We waited a good-long-time to cut the cord (it was nice and white!) and I nursed Eli while she stitched me up--while John observed! Hi John!!!

Miracle #7:  I got everything on my labor "wish list." I didn't even get an IV. The labor went so quickly and so well and so naturally that we had to fill out the check-in paper work after he was born.

Aaron left around 3:30 to go relieve Kim and bring the boys to the hospital to meet their baby brother. It was amazing to get this picture:
I have FOUR SONS!

Miracle #8: I got to go home the next day, on Christmas Eve. So, I got my deepest wish, my Christmas Miracle: To have Eli before Christmas and be home with all my boys on Christmas morning.

Christmas was perfect. The birth was perfect. And Eli Jefferson? Well, he's pretty perfect too.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

If you're heartbroken on New Years Day...hold on.

I wonder if God peers into our man-made New Years traditions, and in his omniscience says to himself, "Oh, dear child, this year...this year you will grow so much. I only wish I could spare you the pain of such growth. Hold on...I am with you."

On January 1st 2014, I spent the day in the bathroom, praying and crying and telling myself that this was not happening, that I was not having a miscarriage.

Happy New Year, right? All my hopes, expectations, and plans for the year were shattered. All I could think was, "No new baby in August. No new baby. No baby."

The only verse that brought me any sense of comfort during this time was this:

"Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me..."

You are with me. 
You are with me.
You are with me. 

THAT was the only guarantee I had for 2014.

Now it is January 1st 2015. As I look back at last year, I am amazed at how my miscarriage shaped my whole year, overwhelmed with the good that was directly related to my miscarriage. In fact, this heartbreaking experience even fulfilled desires of my heart in three specific areas: Counseling, Volunteering, and Writing.

Interestingly, at one time, I was going to pursue a Masters Degree in counseling (I even took a Statistics class in preparation for grad school. eek!). My own grief allowed me to help others grow and heal by becoming a peer counselor to women who were walking through the grief of miscarriage, still birth, and infertility. I have grown so much in knowledge, compassion, empathy, and sympathy by being a co-leader of this group.

The grief group is under the umbrella of The Motherhood Collective, a non-profit organization in Lynchburg whose purpose is to "Nurture the Mother to Grow the Child." I had secretly wanted to be a part of the leadership of this organization in a "that'd be really cool" kind of way, but had no idea what I could/would do. The miscarriage opened this door too. I feel very privileged to serve with the amazing women in this organization.

Looking back at 2014, I see how God was able to marry my life experience and clarified beliefs with my desire to develop professionally as a writer. As I blogged about my miscarriage throughout this past year, I was not only able to work through my own grief, but I was also about to develop my theology about  God's providence and sovereignty when it comes to pregnancy and the gift of children.

At the end of November, I wrote "Say 'Congratulations'--It's the Christian thing to do" and it got over 500 views overnight! To date, it is my 2nd "most-viewed" post on my blog, with over 7800 views (in reality, this is not a lot of views in the "blog world" but is a LOT for my little blog!). Even more exciting though, is that this blog open the door for me to be a guest writer for Christianity Today's blog, Her.Menutics. My article was published on December 10 and has received over 3000 shares on social media. These publications have been huge for me as a writer. I hope it is just the beginning. But I know that without the heartbreak at the beginning of the year, the victory at the end most likely would not have happened.

So what is the point of this post? I guess it is this: If you are heart-broken today, on New Years Day 2015, and your life is taking a completely different, unwanted, horrible path than you would have ever chosen...I pray you can find hope in my story.

God had plans for my 2014, ones I never would have chosen but plans that ultimately helped me to grow, learn, love others, and even brought me the desires of my heart.

And even though I was never promised the gift of another baby, He gave me that too. I sit here typing with my 10 day old baby boy sleeping on my chest. What a gift of grace, complete unmerited favor. 


So, hold on, friend. He is with you.

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