Monthly Archives: April 2013

Creating Community Online – {Or, How I Was Addicted To Facebook}

It’s ironic that in this day and age of insta-communication, we crazy human beings are lonelier than ever. And nothing is lonelier than being a new mom, at home with your new bundle(s) of joy. I know this isn’t a popular thing to say, but being home with babes can be kind of mind-numbing. Feed, change, gaze into your babies eyes. Rinse and repeat.  I was blessed to have three months at home with the boys before I went back to work. The last month of my maternity leave,  Steph went back to work and I stayed home with the boys.

Here’s me, trying my best to look lonely and pensive:

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What did I do during that last month, in between spending meaningful time with my boys? I organized my pantry and watched all of Game of Thrones.

Oh yeah, and I became unceremoniously addicted to Facebook. As in, it was embarrassing. I would press refresh again and again to see if any of my friends had posted a new status update, and would throw the phone down dramatically if it didn’t have anything new for me. I commented on hundreds of photos, sent lots of personal messages, and forged fast friendships with perfect strangers. My friend list may or may not have grown to 500+. It’s a good thing, too, because I know for certain that I was unfriended, demoted, broken up with, and otherwise got eyes rolled at me for my voluminous presence on Facebook. I’m sorry, I was lonely! (Refer to picture above)

Addictions are usually a stand-in for something you’re missing. What was I missing? Authentic communication with others. Though I very much loved the time I spent at home with the boys, that shit was hard. I’m an off-the-charts introvert, but I need to have meaningful interactions with others. Social media became my lifeline.

So, how to use social media for good and not for evil?

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(Hint the one on the right is a BAD BAD man-child.)

Here are some things you can do to create meaningful connections online:

1. Search and join Facebook groups based on your interests. Labels are often tiresome. But when creating community, it’s time to make them work. The totality of humanity is a bit tiresome to connect with, so break it down. Are you a young professional, stay-at-home mom, gay/lesbian, special needs parent, military family?  Do a search on Facebook with those key words and your city.

I’ve joined a half dozen Facebook groups. When we got the diagnosis of Down syndrome for August, I immediately connected with a Facebook group for DS families. Within minutes, I was connected to hundreds of other families who were able to tell me that it would all be ok….I also am a member of groups for Lesbian mommas, cloth diapering mommas, and moms of multiples groups. (Dude, cloth diapering mommas are PASSIONATE!) One of my favorites is the October 2012 Moms of Twins and Multiples group. It’s a wonderful group of extremely tired women!

2. Can’t find anything that you like? Create your own group! It’s not that hard. I’ve created a good handful. Some have failed and some have just not taken off yet 😉 You have nothing to lose. Starting a group on Facebook is free and easy! Promote to your network and ask others to share to theirs. Look for other social communities that already exist to reach others. I’ve started a Down syndrome group for babies born in 2012 called Designer Genes, a group for gay and lesbian parents in Jacksonville, and a Jacksonville mom group.

3. Be diligent about responding to posts. People love comments. We are hard-wired to want to be understood and heard. Take a second to respond to someone’s question, photo, or update, and you’re a step ahead in connecting online.

4. When joining online groups, make a point to ask where people are from. Organize an event/gathering for those who live close. Meet in a public place, and don’t feel obligated to meet someone again who you don’t feel a connection with. No hard feelings. Life’s too short! We’ve met a great couple with triplet boys who live an hour away. We have plans this year in our travels to meet several other Facebook friends.

Facebook friends turned real-life friends! Spring, Donna and the cutest set of triplet boys, Caden, Garren and Kellan
Facebook friends turned real-life friends! Spring, Donna and the cutest set of triplet boys, Caden, Garren and Kellan

 

5. Here’s a specific recommendation for parents. Start a monthly clothes and toy swap. Kids are money pits!  Post on Facebook what you’re doing and start a group. Ask your friends to invite other moms to the group. I started a group for this and we’ve met twice now. In addition to free clothes, we get to drink mimosas and hang out with other mommas. Sign me up!

So, yes, I was addicted to Facebook, but lots of good has come out of it! These days, I’m back at work, and my Facebook antics are down to a dull roar. But, I still find time to keep connecting in my groups, and continue to share way too many photos of the cutest pair of 7-month-old twins you ever did see.

What have I missed? Tell me about how you’ve found community online.

PS. Are you a lonely momma? The smart peeps at UCLA can tell you now with this short quiz. I’m a sucker for a quiz.

A Birth Story

7 Days Old
7 Days Old

 

This blog actually starts seven months ago….when Steph and I fulfilled a dream that was long in the making. On September 12, 2012, our beautiful boys, Liam and August, came into the world. BAM. Overnight, we were parents to four children – 2 adults, and two infant boys. Our life was suddenly so full I barely had time to think. I knew I wanted to start a blog about our family, but I didn’t have enough brain power to figure out a blog name. So, I jotted down what I knew would become my first post one day – the story of August and Liam, and how they came to complete our messy, joyous family.

Before I share their story, I wanted to explain my whimsical little blog name, Mommy Loves Martinis.

Mommy does love martinis. A great lot of them. Even more than the tasty little beverage itself, I love what martinis symbolize!

*** Fun. Light-heartedness. Adventure. Subversion. Daring. A grand ole time. ***

Because even though this world is complicated and there is much to fathom, in the end it’s all about embracing those you love, being passionate about your life, and having fun along the way.

I just read a story about a little boy, Mitchell, who had muscular dystrophy. After struggling for many years, he came home from the hospital to die at home, surrounded by his family. He had been sick for years, but was so at peace at home in hospice. His dad asked Mitchell what advice he would give people about life. Mitchell’s response? “Be nice to each other and be glad you’re alive. Nothing else matters.”

I don’t take advice from a dying child lightly. They know what is important, and what is not. My hope for this blog, then, is to celebrate life, and have a little bit of fun doing it.

So, here’s the story of August and Liam, written 7 months ago, when the boys were 8 days old.  It’s a little painful, but to me it’s full of joy and passion, and ends just perfectly.

9/20/12 Thursday – 8 days old

Stephanie and I tried to conceive for almost two years, which honestly was a bit of a shocker to me, because I had gotten pregnant at the blink of an eye with my first two, who are 20 and 19 years old. I was 36 at the time we first visited the fertility clinic –  “on the cusp” for advanced maternal age, so we moved quickly from less-invasive procedures to IVF – in vitro fertilization.

After two weeks of stomach and butt-shots (for real!), our first IVF in October of 2010 resulted in a positive! At 8 weeks, we were released from the fertility doctor, and had our first appointment with our obstetrician. We met with the nurse and got a large congratulatory bag of pregnancy goodies. The doctor decided at the last minute to do an ultrasound. He showed us the heartbeat, and then paused. “I’m so sorry. What I thought was the heartbeat was something else. There is no heartbeat.” I was confused and in disbelief.

We asked for a second opinion and went up to the top floor of Baptist Medical Center to the high-risk practice ROC – where they had super-duper machines that showed blood flow. The doctor was very gentle, and showed me where the blood flow should have been. We had miscarried at 8 1/2 weeks. I distinctly remember throwing the congratulatory bag of goodies in the trash as we walked out the door. I had several martinis that night!

We were devastated, but regrouped and did our second IVF in March of 2011. Again, it was positive. Hallelujah! Only a handful of people knew, because of what we had gone through before. I made my fertility doctor keep us on until 10 weeks, at which point he released me to the obstetrician. By then, my pants were starting to get pretty tight and knew I had to share the news at work before people figured it out! Stephanie left for a work trip right before my 12 week appointment. The morning of my appointment, I couldn’t feel anything. My morning sickness had stopped. I called Steph and told her to prepare for bad news.

At the doctors office, I saw the ultrasound tech and asked her “If you don’t see a heartbeat, will you please tell me right away and not wait to make me see the doctor?” It was very important that I know right away if something was wrong. Something was wrong. There was no heartbeat. We had miscarried at 11 weeks. When we went in the hospital for the D&C, I asked the doctor to bring in the ultrasound machine and show me our baby one last time, just to make sure. I just couldn’t believe I had had two miscarriages in a row. I’ll never forget the last image of my little girl- her little hands clasped gently in front of her,  her head bowed down towards her body.

Next, we did two cycles of the frozen embryos that were left from the first two IVFs while we recuperated financially and emotionally. More shots and estrogen patches and waiting. The cycles were negative. We finally did one last IVF with my own eggs in January of 2012. Our plan was to move on to donor embryos if that didn’t work, or if I miscarried again. When we met with Dr. Winslow after my egg retrieval, and right before the transfer, I talked to him about how many to transfer. I had a plan. “Dr. Winslow”, I started. “I know we normally transfer two embryos. But, I’ve had two miscarriages. I’m 38. I don’t think we have to worry about high-order multiples here. Would it be reasonable to transfer three?” He agreed. So, I went home with three little embryos vying for a chance….

For those who do fertility treatment, you know you’re not supposed to test at home. It’s a carousel of emotion, and it’s best to stay away! I cheated, and used pregnancy tests immediately.  4 days past my transfer, I got a faint positive on the little stick. (I may or may not have sheepishly purchased multiple  3-packs of pregnancy tests at Target in the following weeks) Our first ultrasound 2 weeks later confirmed IT WAS TWINS!!! It had taken us a total of 2 years, 8 fertility procedures and 13 embryos transferred to get there, but we did it! I’m not sure who was more excited – our fertility specialist Dr. Winslow or Steph and I!!

Twins!!For the record, Ophelia and Dakota in the picture above are actually uber-excited!

Because of my age at the time (38), we went through all of the non-invasive testing – Nuchal Fold, the quad screen, and the new test – MaterniT21 – that has a 99% accuracy rate in detecting Down syndrome, and other chromosomal disorders. Both boys passed all tests with flying colors. I breathed with ease and focused for the rest of my pregnancy on having the experience I was never able to have with my first two, since I was a teenage mom when I had them. My twin pregnancy was hard to enjoy because I was so uncomfortable, and I was full of anxiety that I would miscarry again, but we finally made it to my scheduled C-section date of September 12, 2012. Eviction notice for the boys, since they were 37 weeks and considered full-term!

Here I am the night before the C-section. I had already been in the hospital for a week with pre-eclampsia. I was ready!

Taken the night before my C-section!
Taken the night before my C-section!

 

Steph is ready for business.

Ready for action.
Ready for action.

 

Once on the table and prepped, they brought Stephanie in and turned on a Bob Marley CD – “One Love” was the song that was playing. I remember joking with the nurses about the music, and took some deep breaths. I was ready to meet my boys.

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Baby A came out crying and I remember crying that I had made it to birth and hadn’t miscarried. He was here! Out came Baby B, and baby B was crying, too! I was so relieved! I hadn’t realized out traumatized I was from the miscarriages, and how convinced I had been that something would go horribly wrong. I had spent 9 months living in a state of if.. “If I get to see these babies.” “If I carry them full term.” “If I get to be a mom again.”

As they sewed me up, I got to meet Baby B – Liam Bruce. He was perfect! Small to me at 6 pounds 9 ounces (my first children had each been over 9 pounds!) but perfect. He looked at me with his dark eyes and I laughed at how intense the little bug was.

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Suddenly, the neonatologist was holding Baby A – August John – up for me to look at.  She told us his weight – 5 pounds 14 ounces, and then paused. I’ll never forget her words, though I’ve forgotten most of what she said after she got her initial thoughts out. “This is Baby A. He has soft markers that lead us to believe he has Down syndrome.” She went on to talk some more about his belly being distended and that they would need to send him to NICU for immediate testing, but I cut her off. “No”, I told her, “We had all the tests and he was negative.” I’ll never forget the dead silence in the room and how they all looked around at each other. I swear the silence lasted 5 minutes, although I know it was only a few moments. “Amnio?”, she asked, and I told her no – but that we had done MaterniT21, which had the same accuracy rates for detection as amnio. She tried to steer me back towards the issue at hand and told me “OK. I’m actually more concerned about his belly. Kiss him, and you’ll see him soon.” They sent him immediately to the NICU.

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I honestly don’t remember much of anything after that, except for looking at my partner Stephanie and asking her “Is everything going to be ok?” She assured me it would and that we would love him no matter what. I was terrified. I don’t think I said anything else the entire time I was in the operating room, but I can’t be sure because it was a blur. I do know that I was devastated.

The night was very long and quiet. I sobbed that night and the next morning in the hospital, having moment after moment where I couldn’t believe it was true. After all that we had been through – the IVF’s, the miscarriages, the tens of thousands of dollars we had spent – the emotions that would peak and valley with each failed try. But it was true. Even before they drew his blood and sent it off to genetics, I knew it was true. And I knew we would be ok. None of this could have been a mistake. It had unfolded exactly as planned. By the next afternoon my tears had stopped for the time being, and I knew I needed to jump full force into loving and caring for these babies. That I couldn’t sit there in shock another moment.

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There’s a simple blood test that confirms Down syndrome – the presence of a third copy of the 21st chromosome in each cell. We got the call on Wednesday from our pediatrician, Dr. Sanchez,  with the results from the genetics testing. He called us personally to tell us the news. I already knew in the bottom of my heart, but I didn’t know how relieved and peaceful I would feel when I got off the phone. I looked at Stephanie, told her “It’s positive” and gave her a kiss. Then I took a new breath that would start our new future. I picked up August, smothered him in kisses and thanked him for choosing us to be his parents. I couldn’t imagine having a different baby. I honestly couldn’t. Liam and August are ours, and we will do everything we can to be the best mommies we can be.

August is perfect to me. I’m scared to death about the medical issues that come along with Down syndrome, but right now he just seems like the sweetest, most gentle baby I have ever met. And, so far, he’s healthy. We are so blessed.

He seems wise beyond his years. His twin brother Liam will be next to him crying, and August will just gaze at him as if to say “Listen little dude, it’s not worth the fuss. Don’t get yourself worked up. It’s ok.”

His expressions are priceless. His blinks are long and slow, which melts your heart and brings tears to your eyes. Who would have thought that little blinks could be so quietly and perfectly sweet? Liam’s personality is super-intense, and we enjoy so much spending hours looking back and forth at them, watching how different they are.

The boys are 9 days old now – and our life is already a flurry of doctors appointments that are lined up over the next few weeks. Every time I pick up the phone it’s someone from the pediatrician’s office, apologetically calling to give us more info on yet another appointment – for the geneticist, for the opthamologist, for a repeat echo, for the pediatric cardiologist. We have more questions than we do answers, but that will come in time. For now, I’ve done little things, like ordering some books about Down syndrome, liking some Facebook pages. But I am driven to get involved. Steph and I both are. That’s what August wants. I know it.

The outpouring of support has been amazing. Everyone has celebrated the birth of our boys with us – not once have we been told “I’m sorry”, which makes me smile 🙂 Right now, I’m in the phase where it helps for me to say the words “My son has Down syndrome” out loud – whether into the air, or typed on the computer. I know that he is much, much more than his diagnosis, but it helps us now to accept fully and move on.  After all, it’s only been 9 days since these boys were born and our whole world changed in the blink of an eye. Our journey was not what we expected, but it was a perfect journey, and we have two perfect little boys.

*****

April 13, 2-13

So, that’s our story. As I sit here today, the boys are 7 months old. Ophelia is their “Sistah-Nanny”, watching them during the day while Steph and I work. By night, she’s a nursing school student, studying her way towards being a kick-ass nurse. Older brother Dakota is out spreading his wings in Vietnam – literally climbing mountains and experiencing new cultures. I think often of the miscarriages – my two little bubbas who didn’t make it this earth. Or, maybe they did, and wanted to wait until they could be born together, as twins! I don’t know, but I have a sense of deep peace about it all. This is our family, and we invite you to share in our love and adventures.  We worked so hard to complete our little family, and here we are, making our way through life. Thank you for reading! XOXOXOXOXO

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