Our twins are almost 2 years old, less than a month to go. Chris is out of town and this is my last week at home with them before I start back to work. I can't help but soak up every single minute I have with them. Today was a gift. No time-outs, lots of giggles, lots of chasing each other, and (my personal favorite) lots of running hugs. You know what I mean, the kind that they start from across the house yelling "Mommy" with their arms open wide as they collide into me and wrap themselves around me - is there anything better as a mom? Not in my mind.
With all this joy today I think about the experience we had in getting pregnant with these cuddlebugs. We were unable to get pregnant naturally, and the doctors said our only option would be in vitro fertilization. I had one of my closest friends go through it so I thought I had an idea of what it involved, but I found out quickly that I was wrong. Several daily injections in my belly, daily injections in my rear, pills that drop my bloodsugar, ultrasounds every other day, hormones flying off in all different directions (none of which was the normal direction), surgery to remove sperm, surgery to remove eggs, procedures to implant embryos.
Not the normal fun way to make a baby, but it was OUR way. It was the path we took, we had to take to have our own babies. And we knew that it would be blessed by God even if we didn't end up pregnant because we felt He gave us the green light to try it.
In our first attempt, we had 4 embryos that formed, by the time the day came to implant them, only 3 were left. All 3 were implanted but we did not get pregnant. It was a very hard time because Chris had also been having severe problems with his bladder in which his blood pressure would spike (it's called autonomic dysreflexia and happens with quadriplegia). Even on the day of the implant we left my appointment and almost headed to the ER of the same hospital to treat him. But he never complained about his pain levels, he was just calm and loving toward me and only told me right before we left that he needed a doctor immediately. So not only did we not get pregnant, but it was preceded and followed by many months of pain, illness, and no answers regarding Chris' health.
I had a really hard time with all of this. I had really prayed hard and felt God even ask me what I wanted as far as children go. Initially I said I wanted one healthy baby, but I felt something inside me say, "Really, are you sure you don't want more?" And for the first time in my life I asked specifically for boy and girl twins. I prayed for the charateristics that I wanted, the talents, the names, I didn't miss anything. So you can imagine my disappointment when the results were negative. I so wanted to learn whatever it was that God wanted to teach me through this experience but it also hurt so badly. There is a pain that went so deep inside of me to know that I wasn't pregnant and to not know if I ever would be pregnant, if I ever would have the children that I've always wanted. The unknown can seem so scary and deep when you want something so badly. But I knew that God was still God, Jesus was still the Son of God, whether I got pregnant or not. And so I did my best to press on, move forward one foot in front of the other. One of the best pieces of advice that I received as I dealt with the disappointment was to write a letter to the embryos and make it as personal as I needed in order to say good-bye to them. I did that and it was very freeing. Chris was wonderful through it all. He strongly encouraged me to seek counseling to work through all the emotions and thoughts, which helped a lot. He encouraged my friends to call me and to check in on me since he knew my inclination would be to draw inward and not talk about it until I felt I had it all figured out. And most of all he just held me as I cried. He was wonderful.
As time went on, I felt that I had fully processed the experience and had moved forward in life. We decided after 7 months to try again. Going into it Chris told me that if it didn't work we would adopt. That helped lift the stress from me a lot. This time we had 23 eggs resulting in 10 fertilized eggs initially, 7 by the day of implant, they implanted the 3 strongest ones, and froze the other 3 strongest ones a few days later. During this cycle Chris felt like he truly knew deep down inside that we were going to be pregnant with a boy and a girl. It's funny because the two of us didn't talk about those expectations too much from the first cycle. During this cycle my prayers were much more about God doing whatever He wanted to do in our lives and with this process. I just wanted to feel free, I didn't want to hold on too tight to the "need" to get pregnant. And so I continually tried to "let go" so to speak.....let go of my dreams and give them to God's plan. We conceived Caleb and Alethia Skinner or August 8, 2006 at approximately 11:00 am (that's the joy of in vitro......you know the time and place and you even have witnesses - an embryologist, an obstetrician, and a nurse!) AAhh, how funny life can be! The pregnancy was smooth, my boss was wonderful, she even let me take naps when my patients would cancel their appointments!! I worked until 35 1/2 weeks and then had a scheduled C-section at 37 weeks. The kids were strong and healthy and we all went home from the hospital together. What an amazing experience. It seems so long ago now that we have 2 walking/running, talking, giggling children who have such wonderful personalities and are so different, yet so loving in their own ways. What a true gift......I DO consider this pure joy!