I just opened the baby box that I packed up about 6 months ago, after the hubbub of the holidays died down. In the box, I had carefully placed their holiday outfits – Santa suits, Halloween onesies – ridiculous My First Thanksgiving suits, with turkeys on the butt. I’d also tossed in some of their first onesies that I was attached to. The others had long ago been passed on to other new babies. But the special yellow one was there, that Hopper had worn with his new fair hair. And the blue and white striped one, that the Lion had worn in his first months, when he was so intense, with his fists clenched.
As I opened the box, I wasn’t prepared for what happened. The new baby smell – that curious mix of expectation, excitement, freshness, and buzzy sleeplessness came rushing into me. I broke down into tears. I’m not an overly sentimental type, so it really caught me off guard. We just didn’t know what was ahead of us. It was all a blank slate.
Almost a year ago, we were brand new again at this parent thing. Entrusted with two beautiful baby boys. Perfect, new, fragile, trusting, pure. That smell evokes all of that. And reminds me of my first two children, grown now. All the excitement of newness long gone for them, replaced with a bustling of their new adulthood.
Babies just bewilder me with their pureness. That scent is just pure and ripe with possibilities. What will these boys become? I didn’t know their personalities when I packed those boxes. Not really – they were only 3 months old. I had no idea how much I would grow to love these boys. I thought I loved them as much as I could when I packed that box, trapping in all those smells. I was wrong! The love just keeps growing.
I know that smell won’t stay around forever. I probably just released most of it when I opened the lid. But I really hope that I can remember that overwhelming sense of newness and possibility when I come back to read these words years from now.
I read a quote once – As long as you’re still living, there is time for change. As we walk through life, day after day picking up experiences, locking in our personalities, I hope that a reminder of babies who are new and precious and un-invested in how they are in the world, helps to move us to be willing to be open to possibilities.
This is what August and Liam have reminded me of this morning, when I opened that box and smelled their newborn baby scent.
Now, it’s time to go downstairs and play with them. They’re so fun, and they demand me to experience their cuteness!
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!!
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!
Steph is ready for business.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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