Thursday, April 27, 2017

Adam and I Took My Cervix Out To Dinner

It's been a week since my specialist put in a pessary.  Along with the pessary, I've been taking progesterone.  The hope is the pessary/progesterone combination, along with taking it easy, will prevent my cervix from shortening any more.  

After my last appointment with my specialist, I'm very happy to report that my cervix has actually lengthened.  Yipee!  That's right, my cervix's shortest measurement is up from 1.5cm to 2.0cm!  Who knew a half of a centimeter could bring me so much joy?! 

My appointment wrapped up around 5, so Adam and I decided to take my cervix out for dinner to celebrate.  We were pretty darn thrilled with the news.  Adam asked the ultrasound technician if there were any good restaurants around and she recommended Trezo Mare.  If you are in the Kansas City area, we now highly recommend it ourselves.  It was delicious and the service was excellent.  We even got free dessert since it was our first time visiting.  The babies definitely enjoyed the chocolate concoction we ordered!  Adam and I decided not to let our server in on why we were celebrating.  Though I don't think the server would have batted an eye.  He was the perfect server and earned a good tip.

So I will continue doing what I've done the last week to keep my cervix as happy as possible.  I will continue to take it easy and relax.  I've got some reading material to catch up on, some Netflix to watch and some weight to gain!  

  


     

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

House Arrest

So "house arrest" might be a bit too dramatic for this post title, but it is somewhat fitting.  After learning that my cervix was shortening from my specialist, my ob decided that I should do everything in my power to keep these babies in my belly for as long as possible.  So she surprised me by saying I couldn't go back to work.  She wanted me to take it easy and eliminate as much stress from my life as possible.  I was shocked and was not expecting her to say this at our appointment.  

Things got very real at that moment.  To be honest, it scared me.  It scared me more than the previous day's appointment with the specialist.  It made me feel like she knew something my specialist didn't know and she seemed way more concerned about me going into preterm labor.  

And I wasn't ready to give up my job and especially not without saying goodbye to my students.  Thinking about all the things I still wanted to/needed to accomplish before the end of the school year started to stress me out.  I still needed to do end of the year reading assessments for most of my kids.  I needed to do progress reports.  I needed to clear out my room.  I needed to make summer reading suggestion videos and bookmarks for the kids.  I started to mentally look through my to do list and felt like it was too important to just ignore.  

I walked out of the office in tears.  I was scared for my babies and I was upset about not being able to go back to work.  I called my principal that night and managed to tell him the news without crying.  Of course he was incredibly understanding and told me not to worry about anything on the school side of things.  Needless to say, it was hard to sleep that night.  

I spent the next day trying to wrap my head around my new reality.  I realized it wasn't all that bad.  I reminded myself that all my students had moms and that I needed to be a mom to my own babies right now.  I knew my students, their parents and my fellow teachers would all understand.  

I emailed the staff at my school and was so touched by everyone's kind words and well wishes.  I asked another teacher to get a letter to each of my students explaining what was going on.  Several of my kiddos emailed me, letting me know how much they would miss me.  (I might have cried reading those.)  And I asked one of our secretaries to mail home letters to my students' parents.  Many of the parents responded with messages of understanding and thanks for what I'd done for their kids.  I was so overwhelmed with everyone's kindness and caring.  I cried some more, but happy tears this time.  

I should clarify that I am not on bed rest.  My doctor still wants me to walk around my house and do light housework.  I can do laundry, I can walk Jazzy for a short distance, I can go up and down the stairs.  I can even go on short shopping trips to the grocery store.  She just wants me to take it easy.  She felt that me being at home would encourage me to take better care of myself and the babies.  I can eat when I'm hungry.  I can take naps when I'm tired.  I can lay down if I'm uncomfortable.  

And it has been nice to be able to do all those things.  Jazzy has certainly been enjoying the extra time we get to spend together.  We sleep in each morning and hang out together all day.           



This has also helped me realize that once our babies are with us, I'm going to have to be more flexible. Things aren't always going to go my way.  But I'm super happy that our lives are going to change in this way!  I very excited to meet my new little ones...but I can wait until they are full grown before they make their appearance!   

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

NIAW

This week marks National Infertility Awareness Week.  Even though I am happily pregnant with twins, all the feelings that surround infertility are still very clear in my mind.  Having lived with infertility for so many years, it's hard to shake those feelings.  

Despite my gigantic belly, there are moments when I forget that I am pregnant.  When I see a pregnancy announcement on Facebook, I still get that gut-wrenching jealous reaction until I remember that I am lucky enough to be pregnant too.  It's weird.  I thought that would all go away as soon as we got a positive pregnancy test.  But it's still ingrained in me.

Losing my baby and the infertility that came afterwards broke me.  It's been the most difficult thing I've had to deal with in my life.  It manages to surround your every thought and takes control of your life.  I know I was depressed.  I know I wasn't the best wife or daughter or friend or co-worker during those years. I avoided spending time with the people I loved because they were pregnant or had kids.  I couldn't go to baby showers.  I avoided happy hours, work parties and going to Target during the day.  It was all just too hard.   

And it affects the other people in your life too.  Adam was deeply affected by it as well.  I thank my lucky stars that our marriage was strong enough to survive infertility; some aren't.  I can't begin to tell you how incredibly fortunate I feel to have Adam as my husband.  He had an idea of what I was feeling (though I think it's different for women and men) and cut me lots of slack.  He knew when to hug me and when to let me be by myself and when to get mad and when to try to make a joke.  One of my favorite moments was when someone was telling us that someone was pregnant with twins.  Adam's response was, "Well, are they giving one away?  If not, I'm not sure why you're telling us this."  I just love him so very much.   

I know it was hard for my mom too.  It hurt her to hear about other people getting to have grandchildren. It was hard for our friends and family who didn't know what to say to us or how to treat us.       

My heart goes out to all the people who continue to struggle with infertility.  1 in 8 couples struggle to build a family.*  That is a lot of people and it's so not fair.  It's such a difficult thing to struggle with and it's not something that people can fully understand if they haven't lived that struggle.

My hope for those struggling is that they don't give up.  I hope they can pick themselves up and find a way to continue toward their goal.  It's hard and it sucks and it's not fair.  I'm pulling for you and am here for anyone who might need a shoulder to cry on or a person to vent to or a cheerleader.


I promise you're not alone. 

Here are some posts about infertility that you might find helpful:
Things to Consider When Visiting an Infertility Specialist 
Advice to Infertile Couples
It's Okay... 
What Not To Say To Someone Who's Lost a Baby 

*According to infertilityawareness.org  

Monday, April 24, 2017

DIY Pinwheel Mobile

The nursery is coming together and it's time to put on the finishing touches.  I decided that I could make the mobiles to hang above the cribs.  This would save us some money and be something handmade I could do for my babies.  

Before I decided on what kind of mobile to make, I did a little research.  To be honest, I wasn't really sure if mobiles even had a purpose beyond looking cute.  It turns out, they actually can serve a function.  Not only do they give babies something to look at, but they help visually stimulate them.  When babies are born, they can only recognize black and white colors, along with shapes.

So I decided to whip up some cute black and white pinwheels to hang above the babies' cribs.  The black and white color scheme will help their eyesight develop and the fact that they are pinwheels will hopefully invite some movement.  

The first thing I did was gather my supplies.  You don't need a whole lot of materials.  Here's what you need: 

  
-embroidery hoop (I just used the inner circle of a 9" one.)
-6 inch squares of scrapbook paper (You can find two sided scrapbook paper or just glue two squares back to back, like I did.  I ended up using 6 squares per mobile, 12 total.)
-brads (I ended up using 12.)
-clear string or fishing line
-scissors
-hole punch

The first thing you'll want to do is make your pinwheels.  You want to cut from each corner of the square towards the center, but don't cut all the way.  You want to leave the center of the square in tact.  


Use a hole punch to punch a circle in one of the corners of each of the triangle shapes you just made. Since my brads were smaller, I used a small hole punch.  You could use a regular size hole punch, too. Just make sure you buy bigger brads.

 

You also need to punch a hole in the center of your square.  I just used the point of my scissors to make a tiny hole.  

  

From there, fold the corner with a hole towards the center of the square. 


Once all the corners line up with the center hole, place a brad in the hole and flip up the ends of the brad to secure it.  


Once all your pinwheels are made, you can start tying them to your embroidery hoop.  I decided to put six on each hoop.  I just tied one end of the string around the ends of the brad and the other end to the hoop. I opted to use clear string so the pinwheels would be the only thing visible.  You could definitely use ribbon or yarn if you want the strings to stand out.  You can choose to make all your pinwheels the same distance from the hoop or you can vary the distances.  I decided to vary the distances.  

Then you will want to tie some string on the top of the hoop in order to hang it up.  After a little trial and error, I ended up tying 3 pieces to the hoop.  I tied each end of the string, so there were 6 connections in the end.  I followed the pattern on the little diagram below, putting a pinwheel in between each of the connection knots to help balance everything out.  


I'm going to get Adam's help to hang them up since I probably shouldn't be climbing up on ladders at this moment.  We're going to use a hook that is screwed directly into the ceiling.  Even though the mobiles are super lightweight, we didn't want them to fall down on the babies, so we are opting for hanging hardware that attaches directly into the wood ceiling.  But I wrapped it around the ceiling fan pulls so you can get an idea of what it will look like all hung up.    

 

(How do you like that little sneak peak of the nursery?  Aren't the walls gorgeous?!  The full reveal will be coming soon.  Also, I promise I won't keep the blanket hanging on the back of the crib when the babies are in there.  I just stuck it there in the meantime.)


We plan to hang it up high enough that it wouldn't be in the way when we are putting the babies in and out of the cribs, but still low enough that the babies will be able to see it.  As the babies get older and start pulling themselves up in their cribs, we might have to raise the mobiles so they can't grab onto it.  

  
This was a very simple, inexpensive project!  It would be super easy for you to recreate it if you are in the market for a mobile.  I could also see this being a cute decoration for a party or even a fun addition to an older kid's room that they could make themselves.  Happy crafting!   

Sunday, April 23, 2017

I'm Not Very Happy With My Cervix At The Moment

I will warn you right now, I'm going to reveal details about my cervix that not everyone may wish to read about.  So there, you've been warned!

This all came about two weeks ago when I visited my maternal fetal medicine specialist.  Part of the appointment was doing a detailed scan of the babies and taking all kinds of measurements.  The other part of the appointment was doing a vaginal ultrasound to measure my cervix.  

I'll start with the good news:  the babies look fantastic!  They each measured 11 ounces, which is exactly how much they should measure at this point in the pregnancy.  They both had good, strong heartbeats.  They are both moving around.  All of their other measurements were within the normal limits.  Basically, they looked pretty darn perfect.  

Now for the not so good news: the vaginal ultrasound revealed that my cervix is starting to shorten.  This is not what you want to happen at this point in the pregnancy.  The fact that my cervix is shortening now means I could go into preterm labor.  It doesn't mean that I definitely will, but it means that I could.   

Needless to say, this freaked Adam and I out a bit.  My doctor said we aren't looking at numbers that are super scary yet and there were a few things that could be done to hopefully stop my cervix from shortening more.  One of the things was to start taking progesterone, which is taken vaginally.  So I got a prescription filled and started that right away.  

Since my doctor didn't have a baseline measurement, we all agreed to have me come back the following week and see how things were going before moving onto other options.  So the following week I returned and after looking over the ultrasound results, my doctor said some of the measurements were looking better, but some looked slightly worse.  He reccommended putting a pessary around my cervix.  When he was describing what a pessary was, he said it was a ring that he would put around my cervix.  The idea is that the pessary will hold the cervix tightly closed.  And the more weight and pressure that is put on it, the tighter it would cinch up around my cervix.  He did let me know that it's not FDA approved, but is widely used in England.  He said there are mixed results about the effectiveness of it in twin pregnancies, but that it certainly wouldn't harm me or the babies.  So I decided to go ahead with it.  

So he put it in that day.  (This part might also be more information than you want to know about me, so read on with caution.)  I asked it if would hurt during or after and he said it wouldn't feel much different than a pap smear and that I might have some cramping afterwards.  I am a big ninny, so I started to get a bit nervous about the whole ordeal.  

My doctor pulled out the pessary and handed it to the nurse so she could take it out of the plastic wrap.  She pulled out this giant blue thing and I assumed that it was some sort of packaging that the pessary came in.  But, no.  That giant blue thing was the pessary!  From his description, I had envisioned a tiny ring.  But this thing was the size of a very thick donut!  Yikes!  

So he put it in me and it wasn't as terrible as I expected.  I would say it was more uncomfortable than a pap smear, but not exactly painful.  Just unpleasant.  After it was in there, I surprisingly couldn't feel it at all.  

So I am now walking around with a giant blue donut inside of me, in case anyone would care to know.  I have high hopes that it will do its job, along with the progesterone.  I go back this coming week to see how things with my cervix are going.  

Needless to say, it's been a bit of a damper on my pregnancy.  Adam and I tend to worry about things, given our last pregnancy experience.  But we are both trying to be really hopeful and focus on the positive parts of the pregnancy.  

For example, I am now 21 weeks along!  That is more than halfway through the pregnancy.  


And our babies are healthy and adorable.  Here's a shot of the two of them together.  


Here's our little girl.


And here's our little boy. 


I'm still holding out hope that my cervix makes it to 38 weeks!  As Adam reminded me, it's pretty darn miraculous that we are pregnant with twins in the first place.  Why not hold out for a 38 week miracle?   
    

Thursday, April 13, 2017

School Year Reflections

As I wrap up my second year as a middle school reading teacher, it's a bittersweet time for me.  I have absolutely loved getting to work with my students over the past year and some of my students have been with me for two years now!  They've continued to teach me how to be a better teacher (I shared some of the lessons they've taught me in this post) and I hope I've been able to help them become better readers. Next year I will be embarking on a new profession: Stay At Home Mom.  While I'm heartbroken about leaving my school "kids,"  I am over the moon about the fact that I will get to stay home with my babies.  

Before I focus all my attention on being a mom, I thought I would reflect on some things I've learned this school year in the hopes that it might help out some of my fellow teachers.   

Be Their Person. 

Since I work with my middle school students in a one-on-one setting, I have the luxury of giving them all my time and attention while they are with me.  That means I get to know them really, really well.  The more I get to know my students, the more comfortable they feel around me and the more they open up to me.  I have found that I have become many of my students' "person."  When they do really well on a social studies test, they come tell me about it.  When their brother gets cancer and has to have his leg amputated, they share it with me.  When they have a problem with another teacher, they talk to me about it.  When they don't understand the directions for an assignment, they come ask me for help.  I feel honored to be their "person."  

I know it's hard to be each kids' "person" when you have a classroom full of 25 elementary students or you are a middle school teacher who sees 100 kids a day.  But finding a minute here or there to check in with the kids who really need a "person"  is something that can and should be done.  If I ever go back to being a classroom teacher, you better believe that I will find the time to give each of my students some individual time and attention.  They will give you so much more effort and respect if you do.     

Show Them Their Reading Data.

I feel like there is this big stigma when it comes to showing kids their reading performance scores.  I understand not wanting to embarrass kids or make them feel defeated, but I think it's important for them to know where they are performing.  Part of my job requires me to be evaluated by my administrators.  If they come into my room to evaluate me, I want to know how they thought I did.  I think kids are no different.  

I've found that kids often don't realize just how low they are performing.  And sometimes it's simply because they aren't trying their best.  I do try to focus on how much growth they are making.  I like to show kids their scores from the beginning of the year and then compare it to where they are now.  It can be either a wake up call to try their best on future tests, or it can serve as proof that they are making progress.  


However, it's important how you share the reading data and the conversations that happen around that data.  You have to take the time to explain what it all means and give them an opportunity to ask questions and share their thoughts about it.  Doing so helps empower kids and gives them more control over their performance.  

Just Shut Up.

I know this sounds kind of rude, but it's so true!  When I ask kids to try something or respond to a question I ask of them, it's really easy to jump in and rescue them if they struggle with it.  But what is that really doing for them?  It's teaching them that if they don't respond, someone will do it for them.  I see this learned helplessness so often.  As teachers, we need to give students the opportunities to think critically and solve problems on their own.  Giving them the chance to wrestle with productive struggle will help them grow and push them to do more thinking on their own.  That's our job.  We want students to leave us feeling confident in themselves and have the skills needed to think for themselves.  

So sometimes, as teachers, we need to just shut up.  We have to be okay with those silences and we have to be okay with repeating our questions.  I'm not going to lie, that was hard for me to do at first.  But now that my kids realize I am not going to give them the answer when they don't know it, they rarely sit there and stare at me like they used to.  They try to answer my questions, even if they aren't entirely sure their answers are correct.  A lot of the time, they end up surprising me.  All students really are capable of some pretty incredible insights if we just give them the opportunity to share.  

Use Fun Pens. 

I am big on annotations.  I want my students to not just read, but I want them to think about what they are reading.  Having my students annotate while they read is one way of encouraging them to think as they read.  I teach my students to write down their thoughts, questions, opinions and connections as they read.  
Believe it or not, but the single easiest way to get them to write more is to let them use fun pens.  This seems ridiculous and unimportant, but I'm telling you.  They will write away if they get to use fun pens.  



When In Doubt, Throw In Some Treats. 

One of my biggest goals as a reading teacher is to get my students to enjoy reading.  This involves getting books that my students will actually enjoy into their hands.  This year I tried out a book tasting with the help of my school's librarian.  (Thanks, Karen!)  We worked together to gather books that we love and thought our kids would love.  From there, we set up a book tasting, much like you would a wine tasting.  


The kids loved it!  We set up tables with different book genres.  From there, students had the opportunity to "taste" the books to see if they looked interesting.  We also gave them some treats to taste along with the books, which always ups the interest level in whichever activity is going on.  The students rotated to the different tables and were pretty full of books by the end of the tasting.  It was a hit!


    

Let Them Know You Think About Them Over The Summer. 

At the end of the year last year, I gave each kiddo a note with some personalized book recommendations. Whether or not they actually tried out the recommendations, they understood that I knew enough about them to pick books they might like.  And that says a lot to a kid.  It tells them that I value them.  

I also sent each kiddo a postcard over the summer.  It was just a simple little note that reinforced the idea that I value them.  I plan to do the same this summer.  


I hope some of these ideas can help out my fellow teachers!  I hope the end of the school year goes well and hope my fellow teachers have a wonderful summer!  

Monday, April 10, 2017

Nursery Progress

I'm so excited about all the progress happening in the nursery!  I think my nesting phase has definitely hit me.  My sweet husband has been hard at work painting the plank ceiling, crown molding, closet doors and baseboards.  He bought a paint sprayer, and after working out some kinks, has decided it was worth it.  I can't believe how much cleaner and brighter all the white makes that room feel.  I must admit, I was getting slightly nervous that painting dark green on the walls might make it feel too cave-like in there. But after seeing how the white brightened things up, I'm convinced again that a dark green is the way to go! Just look at how good the bold greens look with the bright white closet doors, crown molding and plank ceiling.  

  

We've narrowed the wall color down to two different greens.  Behr's Solitary Tree is on top and Behr's Exquisite Emerald is the bottom color in the picture below.  Solitary Tree has a bit more yellow in it, while Exquisite Emerald has a bit more blue.  I honestly love them both and we're having some difficulty deciding.  Adam painted the samples Saturday night, so we're going to check in on the room throughout the day on Sunday to see how the different light throughout the day works with the colors.    


Since there's painting going on in the nursery, we've put all the baby stuff we've collected so far down the upstairs hallway and in one of the guest bedrooms.  Things are looking a little crazy around here, as evidenced by the photo below.  


I love the cribs we ended up getting!  I like the simple shape and the gray finish.  My parents ordered them through Kohls.com, so we wanted to make sure none of the pieces were damaged when they arrived on our doorstep.  Adam and I got the bright idea to assemble them in the guest bedrooms to make sure all the pieces were in good shape.  We also thought we could just move them into the nursery once the painting was done.  Well, we didn't think to measure the opening of the door before we put one the cribs together.  Turns out, they are wider than the door.  So we now have a crib assembled that we will have to un-assemble in order to get it into the nursery.  Oops.  At least we got some practice putting it together.  

I have been collecting artwork to hang in the nursery for awhile now and I'm pretty excited about what we'll eventually hang up in the nursery.  The gray giraffe cutout and the "Let Them Be Little" piece came from Hobby Lobby.  They were birthday purchases from my mom.  (Thanks, Mom!)  The "You Are My Sunshine" canvas came from the clearance aisle at TJ Maxx a long time ago, even before I was pregnant. And the Noah's ark crosstitch was actually made by my grandma and given to my parents when I was a baby.  How sweet is it that it will now hang in my babies' nursery?  I also plan to get baby pictures of both Adam and me to hang up there.   


We also found a dresser on Craigslist that we are going to use as our changing table.  It is solid wood and in really good shape.  There are a few scratches on the top, but since we plan to put the changing pad on top, it's not really a big deal.  We're going to keep the wood tone it has, which I think will give the nursery some warmth.


Things are coming together!  I'll keep you posted on the progress!