Tuesday, April 29, 2008
So whenever a flat surface is brought into the house, at least one of the cats is assigned to try it out as a potential nap spot. Edward, the senior resident, was first to try out the new Pack-N-Play. He must have given it a satisfactory review because now we're constantly chasing indignant cats out of there whenever the twinlets are napping elsewhere.
While Edward is our senior reviewer, it's Ivan who tests our limits most often. Today, while Shepard was having his lunch (or second or third lunch or whatever you call it when someone eats every two hours), it occurred to Ivan that although Kennedy was using half of the Pack-N-Play, the other half of that prime nap real estate was going to waste. So he hopped in -- you know, just to see if that would be okay.
It wasn't okay with me, but I thought it deserved a picture. So I set off running around the house to find where the camera had been hidden this time (answer: Grace's room). By the time I gave up and just used the crappy camera on my phone Ivan was getting ready to move on.
Clearly he found the arrangement satisfactory because we had to chase him out of the other Pack-N-Play (yes we have two - why?) with Shepard tonight. While I don't subscribe to the "old wives tale" that cats will suck the breath from babies, I do figure that if it's dangerous for a baby to sleep with a pillow or stuffed animal it must be downright perilous for them to sleep with an aggressively friendly 15lb cat.
Sorry Ivan. Pack-N-Plays (both of them) are for kids.
Monday, April 28, 2008
After missing Monday of work last week, I worked half days Wednesday and Thursday and then a full day Friday. I did my usual day today. Sarah has been home with the twinlets, Grace, and Harrison (when he's not in school) and she's . . . well . . . let's just say it's a good thing I'm the one who stays home most of the time. If this went on much longer than a month I think Sarah would end up addicted to something (anything, really - whatever I could get her).
Also the kids would be unionized. I'm pretty sure I saw Harrison distributing some kind of leaflets to the twins.
Things have been very busy, but not overwhelmingly so. Really, the twins by themselves are not too much for experienced parents. It's taking care of the twins while making sure the Senior Children are loved, fed, and prevented from killing each other that's the real challenge. I don't expect that challenge to go away.
Below is the little bit of video I took of Kennedy and Shepard in the hospital in Ohio. They're only two days old, so the video is of them sleeping, laying down, and . . . well, really just sleeping. For hardcore baby fans, only:
Saturday, April 26, 2008
So far I would say having twin newborn babies is about 50% harder than having just one. After all, most of the work at this age is in logistics and getting started. Once you're up for a late night feeding, staying up a little later to stick a bottle in another one isn't such a big deal. Diapers are easy at this stage, it's getting all the peices together in the right place for a change that's difficult.
One thing that's undeniably harder is getting them from place to place. You can't safely carry two newborns, so you end up having to go back and forth like a mother cat moving her litter. Actually, if we could just figure out how to carry the babies in our mouths, it would make moving the diaper materials easier. For obvious reasons, carrying the diaper materials in our mouths is not an option we're willing to consider.
By the way, I don't know if I ever mentioned on the blog that the first doctor (actually nurse practitioner) appointment went well. The NP thought the twins color looked okay and didn't think a blood test was necessary. We would have preferred to know for sure, but we didn't push the issue.
Another validating tidbit from the appoitment: Ours was the second "Shepard" she had seen this week. The other one spelled his name "Shepherd," but I think that counts. Maybe we're not as innovative as we thought.
Friday, April 25, 2008
I got some actual questions from real people on the blog today so I'm going to answer them.
So what happens when the surrogate doesn't give the kids up?
Fortunately this almost never happens now. Surrogates are screened very carefully. Also, almost all organized surrogacies now are "gestational" rather than "traditional". In a traditional surrogacy, the surrogate is also the biological mother. The infamous "Baby M" case, which is responsible for much of the anxiety about this, was a traditional surrogacy.
Nowadays even if the intended parents use an egg donor, agencies will not allow the surrogate to be that egg donor. It's much easier if the surrogate is not the mother of the baby.
If the surrogate should try to keep the baby, in an organized surrogacy there is a binding contract and records that show the surrogate is not the mother. So the intended parents are in a strong legal position.
What happens when the adoptive parents don't take the kids?
That would suck. I have heard of it happening, but there is so much work in getting a surrogate pregnancy started there would be plenty of time to chicken out before the point of no return. If the parents did try to walk away (say after a death of one of them, or a divorce) the same legal documents that protects the bio parents would, I suppose, make them responsible as parents. I expect it would be much like a pregnant mother deciding she didn't want her baby, or a father trying to walk away.
What happens when something goes wrong with the kids - who pays for all of this? In general, the surrogate's insurance pays for prenatal care, and the parents (or parents' insurance) is responsible the moment the baby is born. Geri has excellent health insurance, but it did not pay 100% of the treatment for pre-term labor so we had some out-of-pocket costs.
In some cases a surrogacy agreement includes the parents paying for a special policy for the surrogate. Most insurance is not at all friendly to reproductive health.
Make no mistake: Having a baby with a surrogate is very expensive. You have the costs of in-vitro fertilization (IVF), plus all the (often high-risk) prenatal care, plus travel, before you even get to the fees for the surrogate.
How do you truly know the kids are yours? Are they genetically tested at some point?
Some people have them tested. In some cases a judge will require testing before signing an order for the birth certificate. In most cases, though, the very careful "chain of custody" of the egg, sperm, and resulting embryos is enough. None of those things change hands without signatures and identification. The IVF doctor provides an affidavit to that effect.
In our case there is no doubt the kids are ours. Shepard came out looking exactly like Harrison and Grace when they were born. Kennedy has the Orwig nose (ask an Orwig to show you theirs), and the rest of her looks like Sarah's father.
Why do you think Michigan doesn't make this legal?
Surrogacy is actually legal in Michigan. Paying a surrogate is not, but I know people do it and the intended parents just make "gifts" or pay very high "daily living expenses." We aren't people to push the envelope like that, so we did ours in more surrogacy-friendly states (which is just about anywhere).
We were told there was a Michigan doctor (or was it lawyer?) who served as one of the first surrogacy intermediaries. This was in the days of traditional surrogacy, which led to the charge of "selling babies." Michigan reacted by outlawing paid surrogacy.
Are you allowed to have surrogates from other countries and do they have to pay taxes?
I hear people are actually starting to out-source to Indian surrogates. Seriously. I can't imagine the legal hurdles involved.
I don't know about the taxes. Domestic surrogates would have to report the income like anything else.
How do you take care of 4 children and blog?
I pick one child to neglect each day. That frees up enough time for blogging.
How will you take care of 4 kids and critique shower products?
I think I'm done with reviewing shower products and ready to move on to automated litter boxes. Less danger of eye injury (I hope).
Now that you have 4 will you plan for another pregnancy?
No. And trust me, these things don't happen without planning. It's not like we're going to get drunk one night and accidental choose a surrogate, sign the paperwork, start a month-long regimen of shots, and fly to California. That would require being drunk much more than one night.
This Orwig family is definitely in a "No Vacancy" situation.
What last name do the kids have?
Mine. Poor kids. Do you know how many ways people misspell "Orwig"?
The birth certificate doesn't have a line for "surrogate" so Geri doesn't appear at all. Sarah and I are listed as parents. That's exactly the way Geri and her husband want it.
When are you planning to tell the kids they came from another woman?
We've already started telling Grace. She knows these babies grew in Geri's belly and she grew in someone else's belly. Nothing about that strikes her as unusual. Less shocking than being dropped by a stork, I suppose. The whole thing would be very difficult to keep secret from HJ and Grace, and once they know, a few years from now we'd be only one petty argument away from the cat being let out of the bag.
And just as a matter of semantics, I would say that these kids "came from" Sarah and I, but they grew inside Geri until they were ready to be born.
How are you going to tell the kids about the surrogacy?
So far we've stuck to the terminology we got from Ann Nelson: Babies grow from seeds. Harrison grew inside of Mommy like most babies, but now Mommy's belly is broken. A baby seed can't grow in there. So Julie (our first surrogate) and Geri grew the seeds for us.
The explanation of how the "seed" came to be is something I'm not looking forward to. For Sarah it's a surgical description. For me . . . "When a Daddy and a plastic cup love each other very much . . .".
Will you go on a talk show?
That is the accepted way to reveal deep family secrets, but I don't know if we're unique enough for a talk show.
Someday maybe Amy and Jo Anne will use a surrogate. That might be more interesting.
Have you seen the new surrogate movie?
It actually comes out today. With four kids, we have no expectation of seeing a movie in the theatre for the next decade or so. We're looking forward to the DVD.
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
How did Geri do?
Geri did great! She was brave throughout the whole thing, stayed calm, asked questions and was appropriately assertive. We knew she was nervous about the c-section and the epidural (her first ever) but you never would have known.
How did Jeremy do?
He loved the c-section and was very patient about everything else. Yes, you read that right: He loved the c-section. They gave Jeremy a seat at Geri's head but he didn't sit in it long. He quickly stood up to watch the surgery, leaning over the curtain that was put up to protect him from exactly that. Jeremy later said he wished they could put the twins back in and take them back out just so he could watch it again.
What would be one of the worst possible things a husband could say to his wife while watching her undergo a c-section?
"It looks like they're gutting a deer"
But he didn't . . .
Oh, yes. If you know Jeremy, you know he said it. In his defense, one of the hospital staff said her husband said exactly the same thing during her c-section. And Geri is used to that kind of thing so it didn't seem to bother her at all. Jeremy really is a great guy and a supportive husband, but he masks it with his sense of humor to maintain his macho image.
Did you watch (i.e. did you pass out)?
Actually I did see parts of it, although I stood back. When they broke the first sac (for Kennedy) it created a nice little fountain of fluid, and I wondered if that was the boy already taking a shot at peeing on the doctor. Turned out it wasn't. When Shepard finally had his turn the bag didn't so much break as "pop". There was a splash as if someone had just oversqueezed a water balloon.
Who got to go into the room during the c-section?
Geri, Jeremy, Sarah, me, and (by the look of it) much of the town of Hillsboro. It was a pretty big room, and when I tried to count people once I got as high as twelve before I got distracted again. With the masks it was impossible to tell who anyone was.
What did you wear in the operating room?
Our regular street clothes, right down to our shoes.
Oh, and over those we wore a zip-up white jumpsuit that added at least 30 pounds to everyone who wore it, little footies over our shoes, and a dork cap over our hair.
So how did the whole twinectomy actually happen?
As I said in an earlier post: Like clockwork. We showed up at 7AM and walked past the maternity department to the elevators and then to outpatient surgery. There, Geri was taken back to get into her gown (not the elegant kind of gown - the "flash your butt to the world" kind) and after a little while we were all called back to stand around her bed uncomfortably. After a while the anesthesiologist showed up, and rather than stand around he got right to work talking Geri out of a spinal (the one thing she was sure of) and into an epidural. This raised her anxiety somewhat, as Geri obviously shares my view that a needle in the spine is never anything to sneeze at (actual tip: while they are inserting the needle DO NOT SNEEZE). As if to emphasize that this was serious business, Geri's blood pressure dropped alarmingly as the anesthetic caused her blood vessels to relax. Still, she was a trooper.
The doctor was late due to a woman having a baby the old fashioned way (which is much harder to schedule). Finally, he showed up and they wheeled Geri away to get her "prepped" (which I suspect meant warning her how stupid we were going to look in our outfits so she wouldn't laugh herself off the table). We stayed behind and put on our dork suits. We were still taking pictures of each other when they called us back, which seemed to annoy the guy who called us (although it was hard to tell since he was wearing a dork mask).
After the twins were extracted we got to take pictures with them, and they were put together in a wheeled bassinet (which always sounded to me like musical instrument played by a fish, but is actually a small starter crib), hidden under a pile of blankets, and wheeled out to the elevator for a trip down to Maternity. This required them to pass the waiting room, which was filled with relatives of the babies and of Geri.
Down in maternity they did the things you expect: Weighed them, measured them, smeared stuff in their eyes, and let them sit in little tanning beds to try to get some color after all that time indoors. Sarah and I got to be there the whole time while everyone else (except Geri, who was still upstairs being stapled shut) watched through the large window.
After a while they wheeled Geri into a small maternity room, where the babies were eventually taken, too.
Did the c-section turn out to be the right way to go?
It's arguable which is easier for the mother/surrogate in most cases. The birth is certainly easier and more controlled with a c-section. But clearly there is more recovery after a c-section.
The baby goes through a lot less with a c-section (imagine leaving a house by a newly-cut door instead of being flushed down the toilet) but it turns out some of the violent squeezing of vaginal delivery actually wrings prenatal fluids out of the baby's lungs and stomach, and generally wakes the kid up to the fact that the good days are over and it's time to start gathering his/her own oxygen and nourishment. A baby pulled out through an incision is ticked off about the light and the noise and the cold and has an overall attitude of "PUT ME BACK!". A baby born vaginally, however, just had an experience comparable to an adult leaving an airplane through a running jet engine, and, despite the paradise he or she had experienced in the womb for the last nine months, has a sadder but wiser attitude of "I am NOT going back in THERE!".
If all college students were put through a similar ordeal to leave their parents' house, it would be interesting to see how many came back to live in the basement. I'm guessing not many.
In any event, Dr. Slater had a HUGE I-told-you-so that made it clear he was right about recommending the c-section. He didn't rule out trying vaginal birth, but warned that after the first twin was born vaginally, the second can sometimes flip in such a way that an emergency c-section is necessary anyway. So he would have had to knock Geri out completely and use whatever surgical team was available at the time rather than doing an epidural and having his wife assist. Dr. Banias still didn't rule out a second vaginal birth after a flip, but it would have required he stick his arm (not hand, ARM) in there to a depth usually associated with large animal veterinary procedures to try to turn the second twin.
As it happened, after Kennedy was extracted, Shepard began defensive maneuvers that left him in a breach and face-up position somewhere up in Geri's ribcage. Getting him out was a bit like extracting one of our cats from the cat carrier in the vet's office. So since Dr. Slater was in charge, if Geri had started with a vaginal birth Dr. Slater still would have had to hit her over the head or something and call the custodial staff to assist with a c-section anyway. She was much better off starting with the c-section.
What was Geri's reaction to Shepard's extraction?
She commented that it felt like someone was reaching into her ribcage. At that point Dr. Slater, who had his arm in the incision up to his elbow, said, "Oh, that's just me."
Four is your limit on kids?
No, three was our limit. One got in under the wire.
Will you recommend Geri as a surrogate to others?
Sure, if there was a chance she would ever do this again. But she's done, too.
Why did she do it the first time?
Partly out of generosity and a desire to help another couple have a child. And partly out of another kind of generosity, using the money from this procedure to help a relative with another procedure. It wouldn't be my place to tell that story here, but suffice it to say that other story seems on track for a happy ending (or two), too.
Did she have any trouble giving up her babies?
[sigh] They actually weren't her babies. We get this question a lot (so did Geri). Sarah is biologically the twins' mother, and I am the father. Geri was very protective and took very good care of them, but she never considered them hers. She's got three great kids of her own. No matter how many times we explain that, some people still come back with "Well, I could never give up my baby like that." Which means they would be a very poor candidate to be a surrogate.
How did Harrison and Grace react?
Well, first of all, they didn't know there was anything unusual about this arrangement. It's actually the second time Harrison has been a part of it. They both know that "Mommy's tummy is broken and a baby can't grow in there."
They are both (still) thrilled to have babies in the house and to have another sister and (especially to Harrison) brother. Harrison is eager for Shepard to be old enough to begin his training as a ninja.
What does Harrison call the umbilical cord?
"The extension cord"
Monday, April 21, 2008
Geri is fine and was released as expected. The paperwork got done through Sarah's big city bullying and a daring small-town-only maneuver by Jeremy's sister (more on that tomorrow). The biliruben levels were such that both twins need to be rechecked on Wednesday morning (already scheduled the appointment) but they didn't need treatment.
I'll do a more complete update in the morning. It's time to go
We're eager to get these babies home, but our hold-ups are:
- Geri has to be released. Even if the babies are ready to go, my understanding is they won't be released without Geri. Geri's doing fine, though, so that isn't likely to slow us down.
- Kennedy and Shepard both have jaundice. That happens in more than half of newborns, particularly when they are born a little early. They are checking biliruben levels, and if the levels are too high the babies will be treated with light therapy. We're waiting for the results.
- Sarah doesn't want to go (and she might be right) until the birth certificate paperwork is done. The judge signed the order Friday afternoon and it was sent here to our Hillboro motel. Unfortunately Saturday delivery isn't available to Hillsboro, so it isn't scheduled to arrive until sometime before 4:30PM today. If it were to arrive in the morning we could still get out of here today (although that would be best case). At most hospitals a signed order from a judge would be enough. This hospital, however, will fax the order to the county health department and won't fix the birth certificate until the health department signs off. We're told that can happen in hours, but then we were also told we would have the judge's order by Saturday. In fact, we were told months ago that none of this would be a problem . . . but don't get me started.
So there's a chance we could all start home today. There's also a chance the babies will be released today and we'll live at a motel with them waiting for the paperwork to be done. Or they could be held at the hospital while they're treated for jaundice.
I've been lingering here at the motel so I could hear the results and post an update, but I've got to go. I'm about to head for the hospital, where I can't get online. Sarahjane will probably be back here soon to shower and check her email.
More to come.
Saturday, April 19, 2008
I simply can not get the pictures we have taken so far from our digital camera to any computer here. I've tried this machine (a tablet with Vista), a laptop (with XP) and they simply would not recognize the SD card from the camera. So tonight I went out and bought a USB cable so I could use the camera itself as a hard drive and transfer the pictures. For some reason: No go. I can see the pictures on the card when I use the camera, and I have every reason to think they will eventually transfer (except my own irrational anxiety about pictures so important) but sadly I now think that will have to wait until we get home and put the camera in its cradle.
So tomorrow I'll take more pictures with both my phone and the video camera and one of those ways will HAVE to work.
Until then, picture this:
Shepard: Traditional Orwig baby with chubbier cheeks. He looks like HJ and Grace when they were born, but with fewer chins than Grace and more hair than either of them.
Kennedy: Orwig nose. Otherwise, a thin Jame Burke. That's right, our daughter looks like an Irish man. But I'm telling you, she makes it WORK.
So here are the names . . .
Actually, before I reveal the names, I should point out that I spend much of my professional life with my nose in student databases, so believe me I know about current names. I also know there's no way we could pick names as bad as some of the poor children in the state of Michigan right now. So that takes some of the pressure off.
So the names are . . . well, quickly, one more thing. I should tell you about our approach to names.
Sarah and I tend to agree that we want our children's names to be unique but not strange, dignified but not pretentious. A girl's name should be feminine and strong. We would also like everyone we know to like the name immediately, but after our experience with "Harrison" (which we loved and still love, but got some strange looks from family at first) we know that we're never going to please everyone.
So here they are -- oh wait . . . did I mention that much of the feedback we've had in southern Ohio is quite positive? That's right, these names are a HIT here in Hillsboro.
OK, here goes:
When we found out our second child was a girl, we knew we had to call her Grace. Sarah had always wanted a Grace. To the name-naysayers, let me point out that we got a lot of negative feedback about "Grace," mostly along the lines that it was an old lady's name. As it turned out we weren't the only ones with the idea and elementary schools are practically crawling with Graces right now. Grace is now most definately a little girl's name, and within a few years will be young woman's name.
Sarah's other favorite girl name was Kennedy. I think the idea started with an MTV host and it grew on us. Serendipitously, our first surrogate's last name was Kennedy. So that made the decision easy. We figured she would be our last child and therefore our last chance to use the name, so Grace is Grace Kennedy Orwig.
Fast forward to now, and we have another girl. Sarah really wanted a girl named Kennedy. Yes, we're aware we already used it, but not as a first name. Grace seems to like the idea. So our youngest girl's first name is Kennedy. I'm sure it will be the subject of dramatic girl fights in later years, but really, what won't?
As for the other parts of the name:
- We like the sound of "Kennedy Lynn" (you don't have to) and Lynn is also Geri's middle name. Perfect.
- We also like the name Ann and wanted to get it in there somewhere. Not only do we like the sound of it, but it is also the first name of Ann Nelson, who has been instrumental and very generous in helping us navigate the waters of surrogacy, and is also the middle name ("Mary Ann") of Grandma Labuta. We considered "Kennedy Ann," which had a certain ring, but also sounded a lot like "Raggedy Ann."
- Orwig seemed like a good choice. It would be confusing otherwise.
I happen to know there are over 1000 "Kennedy"s of school age in Michigan but I've never met one.
First of all, as with all these names, we just liked it. It seemed to fit.
Also, Shepard was my maternal Grandfather's last name. Donald Shepard was known as "Shep" to his friends from the time he was in school (I've seen the yearbooks) until he died in the late 90's.
Shepard was also the (first) last name of Grandma Labuta, and is the current last name of Great Grandma Wealthie Shepard. So it seemed like a nice way to include that part of the family tree, which did not produce any boys to carry on the name.
By the way, when we first told Harrison of our choice of Shepard, he cried. He said people would call him "Shep," which he hated. We have assured him that won't happen, so please don't. You don't want to make Harrison cry, do you?
On the other hand, we were adament that Harrison would not become "Harry," but now that he's into Harry Potter, Harrison kind of likes the name "Harry." He is actually jealous of Grace's glasses because he says glasses would make him look more like The Boy Who Lived (I assume -- we haven't finished the series yet -- maybe Harry doesn't live or he has Lasik or something). So who knows, we may someday end up with Harry and Shep Orwig. That's ultimately up to them. Their mother and I, however, will always call the Harrison and Shepard, particuarly when they are in trouble.
I'm told that there is a news anchor named "Shepard Smith" (which I didn't know) who is on Fox News (which is why I didn't). Our Shepard isn't named after this person, but he does offer a little cover, doesn't he? The same way people who questioned our choice of "Harrison" could at least console themselves that there was a Harrison Ford.
You may remember that Harrison was gestating during the 2000 elections, so, threatening to name him Scott W. Orwig, we referred to him as Dubya until he was born. Given the currently impending Presidential election, I considered announcing this boy as Shepard Hussein Orwig, but decided that would be too cruel. His Grandfather would probably have expired and/or disowned us before I had a chance to convince him it was a joke.
"Alan" is my middle name and I've always liked it. I've always thought that if I needed to disguise my identity for some reason I could go by S. Alan Orwig and that would sound good. Now Shepard can do the same.
So, if you would like to complain about the names or otherwise attempt to change our minds, please feel free to do so in the comments section. We'll read them, and the birth certificates won't be done until probably Tuesday (topic of another post). But you'll probably have a better chance waiting until Kennedy and Shepard turn 18 (conveniently, on the same day, April 18, 2026) and talking them into having their names legally changed.
Friday, April 18, 2008
The c-section started a little late today but once it started it was like clockwork. Our girl was extracted first at 6 pounds, 11 ounces (that's big for a 37-week twin). The boy took some pulling but came out a few minutes later at 7 pounds, 7 ounces (that's big, big, big for a 37-week twin). She started out strong, he took a little while to get started, but they are both fine. His glucose was a little low, which could have explained his original sluggishness. He definitely isn't sluggish now. He's filled thee diapers (as of 9PM)!
Harrison and Grace are both fascinated. It is so important that they are there, so we are very lucky that Grandma and Grandpa Joe came down and took care of them most of the day. The logistics of having the twins at the hospital and HJ and Grace only able to tolerate the hospital for short spurts would have made this impossible.
This is a small town, but I think most of it has been in Geri's small maternity room today. There is a bed, a love seat, and one chair, but we have had between six and twelve people, plus various children, plus two newborns in there most of the day. Very friendly people and we've been very happy to meet them, but I expect poor Geri was happy when visiting hours were over.
Not that it matters. A lot of them work there.
Tonight I'm with the original two kids at the motel while Sarahjane tends to the new ones at the hospital. They are in Geri's room but she's in no condition to care for them and it isn't her job, anyway. We looking forward to having everyone home soon.
And no, she's been as interested in them as anyone else, but she is absolutely not attached to them and wants us to take them home probably more than we do.
I'm sorry the pictures are so conspicuously absent from this post. We took lots of pictures, but a memory error with the camera is preventing me from posting them. By memory, I mean mine. I left the camera at the hospital.
I PROMISE I'll post pictures as soon as I can tomorrow.
Goodnight, from a father of four.
Thursday, April 17, 2008
Geri checks in tomorrow at 7am, and the c-section is scheduled for 9am. We should have bit of a crowd at the hospital between the two families. In the room will be Geri (of course), Jeremy (tending to Geri), Sarah and I (stationed at the baby warmers, with me being as careful as possible not to see anything surgical), the doctor (second most important after Geri), a nurse (possibly his wife -- seriously -- this is a small town), and two nursing students (to distract me from the surgery).
Sarah and I have opposite worries. Our girl moves much more than the boy. She always has. So Geri and I are both a little worried about the boy. Sarah, on the other hand, points out that neither Harrison or Grace moved very much. So she is worried that the girl is moving too much.
Either way, we've got less than 12 hours left to worry.
Another stressor is the birth certificate. All of the bureaucratic steps have to go according to schedule or, ultimately, the hospital will produce the birth certificate with Geri and Jeremy listed as parents. None of us want that for lots of reasons. It could be undone but that would be time consuming and expensive. That's not our primary concern right now but it is hanging out there.
So, off to bed for our (hopefully) last night as a family of four.
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
- Geri's blood pressure is a little high. Sarah's was just before Harrison was born, so we're not too worried. Heck, mine is high now and I'm not even pregnant.
- In the magical fairy-land in which everything goes according to plan, we'll check in by 7am Friday morning, the c-section will be done at 9am, and Geri and the twins will be released Sunday or (at the latest) Monday. We'll see.
- Geri will have plenty of family there, which is great. Some of them were concerned we would have a problem with them holding the babies. Sarah told Geri not only can they hold the babies right after they're born, but they're welcome to come back to Michigan with us, too, and hold them as much as they like.
- Geri's iron levels are still low, which probably means the twins are literally sucking the life out of her at this point. She's already on iron supplements. They want to watch that, of course, not just for the health of the twins but also to keep Geri healthy during the c-section.
- Geri is measuring at 46 weeks, so she's back to about 10 weeks ahead of the twins.
- Geri's doctor, who you'd think (as an experienced OB) would be wiser about relying on the the reasonable sense of humor of a highly hormoned, very uncomfortable pregnant woman, actually referred to her as the "Little Hindenburg" today. Even I know better than to do that! I guess he figures Geri knows he's the one who is actually going to extract the little darlings so he can get away with anything.
I served eight years as a school administrator in two districts. At the start of that time I had no kids, and since my wife worked long hours, and I had been working as a School Psychologist (i.e. school hours with my summers off), I felt like I had time to devote to work. Sure enough, as soon as I accepted the first job I could feel it spilling over my previous time boundaries, filling my calendar with meetings at all hours and at all times of year. It was like The Blob had taken over my life. But that was okay. I had the time.
Besides the time boundaries, the usual social boundaries didn't apply either. Suddenly a spent a lot of time with people who didn't understand boundaries or purposely crossed them to get what they wanted. On evenings and weekends I made frequent trips to the computer to "check my hate mail." But that was okay. I grew up a a lot in those first years.
Then Harrison was born. Babies don't do boundaries. They demand unreasonable things at unreasonable times and in unreasonable ways. That's a baby's job. As Harrison grew, Sarah and I tried to keep our parenting within boundaries so our unbounded professional lives could continue. We parented at certain times of the day, and at other times Grandma and day care took over. It didn't feel right, but it pretty much worked. I didn't see that we had any alternative.
Then Grace was born. If one (well behaved, low maintenance) child was difficult to keep within boundaries, two were impossible. And I changed jobs, much closer to home but spending more time dealing with behavior that crossed boundaries. I was dropping off the most important things in the world at day care in the morning, trying to keep them manageable, so I could go to a job that was consuming me. Something had to give.
It's a long story, but things did give, and now life is good. I spend a finite amount of time doing a job I enjoy, and the rest of my time is available to two wonderful, appropriately unreasonable children. In a few days things will get even more out of control. I welcome that, and it never would have been possible when my job was unbounded.
Which is what makes what I'll be doing tomorrow so ironic. A family has charged my former district with Civil Rights violations, and I am one of the many people named to be interviewed about it. I said I would make myself available, but asked that it not be a work day and not too close to this Friday. Response: it will be tomorrow, my last work day before the twins are born. Okay, I said, then please schedule me at the beginning of the day so at least I won't miss too much work. Yesterday I learned I'm scheduled for 11:00AM.
So less than 48 hours before one of the most important days in my life, in the middle of the job that I enjoy, The Blob comes back to haunt me. Just a reminder, I guess, of why I should be thankful for the life I have now.
Sunday, April 13, 2008
- No news from Ohio. Every day of no news is good news, although I'm sure Geri is eager for news that the recent ordeal is nearing an end.
- I added a counter to the blog (on the right). So any time we feel a little too relaxed, or maybe forget what big event is coming up ("Is it a holiday? No, that's not it . . .") all we have to do is load up the blog and WHAM we're back in reality.
- The lawyers report that if things go according to plan, the judge may be able to sign the papers the same day as the birth, officially declaring Sarah and I the parents and freeing Geri and her husband from any responsibility. With Grace, we were able to get this done in advance but it required that we all appear before an incredulous judge in Charlotte, NC. This time it is after the fact but is all paperwork.
- We know the names. I'll do that in another post because if I don't set them up just right everyone will hate them. Actually, a fair number of people will hate them (the names) anyway. But we like them.
- Jerry and Kathy sold their house! Can you believe it? No foreclosures, no bridge loans, no Free First Born With Purchase -- people actually came and gave them money for the place. That's uncommon nowadays. It is a nice house in a nice neighborhood and they had put a lot of work into it, so that must have helped.
- Jerry and Kathy bought a house in Portage, MI. I won't give away their address on the Internet, but according to Google it is a 1 hour, 53 minute drive from our house (that's not giving too much away, is it?). So that's farther away than Livonia, but in today's Michigan economy we're lucky to keep them in the same time zone, so we'll take it. It's just a straight shot down 94. They're in a golf community, literally a stone's throw from the course. I haven't seen it yet but according to Google Maps the driveway and roof look very nice.
- Jerry is enjoying his new job. That's great news.
- Claire is continuing to improve (poor Claire has been doing so well I've hardly mentioned her here). Emily reports that her (Claire's) blood counts are in the normal or near-normal range and they keep improving. The chemo makes her tired, but she has returned to school on a limited basis and has even done some full days. Emily also says Claire is improving her strength by lifting weights and she is still taking steroids. I expect she'll start speaking with an Austrian accent and running for Governor soon.
- Grace has completely adapted to her new glasses. I reminded her to put them in their case (Grace calls it their "suitcase") the other day before her nap, and she actually started looking around for them, forgetting they were on her face. Bespectacled and absent minded, she has become an Orwig.
Saturday, April 12, 2008
Like his youngest sister Sarahjane, Matt has made the choice to tie his fortunes to the auto industry, and has demonstrated enough skill and agility to actually remain employed over the past few years. He has raised two promising young men, and somehow managed to earn a degree in the middle of it all.
Happy Birthday to Matthew from sister Sarah, Scott, Harrison, and Grace.
Thursday, April 10, 2008
Uh oh. Item for Sarah's to-do list: Write a birth plan.
I'm sure she'll have it done before others are done reading this post. I'm finding myself anxious about the birth (and, with that not available at the moment, everything else in my life), but Sarah is about to teeter over the edge. When Sarah is anxious she goes into Productive Mode. The rest of us stand back and wait for her to return to us. We might need to start sedating her sometime early next week. Anyone know of a good mild sedative? I can't guarantee she's going to eat anything, so the sedative would probably have to be administered by some sort of dart as she runs by.
Poor Geri must be counting the minutes. She has had some bad nights of sleep, getting up every 30 minutes to answer natures call. That must be particularly torturous because dreaming is her only chance at a change in scenery. She's in bed the rest of the time. We found out that Sunday Geri had enough contractions she actually packed a bag, but as she got up to go to the hospital they slowed down again. Wishful thinking perhaps.
The c-section is scheduled for 9:ooam on April 18th. We'll see . . .
You can see the YouTube trailer of Baby Mama below, or if you're a video purist you can view a higher resolution version.
Monday, April 7, 2008
How is Geri?
She's uncomfortable but hanging in there. She has at least a few contractions an hour, sometimes more, but never more than the eight she is "allowed" and never the kind of contractions that appear to mean "cervical adjustments".
How are the twins?
They're probably all hyped up on Terbutaline, but otherwise appear to be fine. The girl moves a lot more than the boy, but both of their heart rates are within normal limits last we heard.
How "old" are they now?
They "turned" 35 weeks over the weekend. That was a big milestone, because the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at Geri's hometown hospital can handle newborns over 35 weeks (assuming all else is well, of course).
So they won't be born at one of the Dayton hospitals or Cincinnati?
They would only be born there if the actual delivery was deemed to be very high risk for some reason. If one or both of them needed a particularly high level of care they could be transported to the NICU in Dayton, or, more likely, Cincinnati.
Are you nervous/excited/ready?
We're pretty jumpy and distracted, yes. We are excited and eager. Sarah, as I've said before, is in power nesting mode. She deals with anxiety by becoming a taskmaster, so she's plowing through her imposing pre-baby to-do list with ruthless determination. I'm taking things a day at a time, with a bag packed and my phone nearby. Grace is looking forward to the event, but I don't think she understands the permanence of this change. Harrison is more apprehensive than excited. He knows these babies are going to be a drain on our time and won't be any fun to play with for at least a couple of years.
As for being ready, we'll be ready for twins after we've raised the twins, just as we were ready for having our first child after he was a few years old, and we are just now ready for a second child. We've studied up all we can but we know this will be "learn by doing."
You know, you're not going to get much . . .
. . . sleep. Yes. We know. Harrison and Grace were both good sleepers, so statistically we're due. Also, if one twin wakes up, the other is likely to wake up, too. With our last two we were both working full time. At least this time that pressure will be reduced.
How is Sarah feeling?
Her drugs seem to have worked and her bronchitis is much better.
How are you feeling?
I have a very bad case of bronchitis. I would call it "bronchitis on steroids," but the effectiveness of that figure of speech would be reduced by the fact that I am, in fact, on steroids. I've been on Albuterol since last week, but then my fever came back, I became seriously short of breath, and (most significantly) my mother insisted, so I went back in yesterday and the doctor prescribed an inhaled steroid as well as a potent antibiotic.
Having been a very straight high school and college student, I had never really inhaled anything until this particular illness. Between the Albuterol and the steroid, suddenly I'm Cheech and/or Chong (never watched those movies, either). If I don't get better soon, I fully expect the pharmacist to give me instructions to grind up my antibiotic tablets and snort them off a mirror.
The good news is that things seem to be working. I'm already much better today.
Did you ever find a solution to the problem with the stuck User Account Control in Windows Vista?
Yes. Reinstall Vista. I [kid] you not.
I searched the Knowledge Base, TechNet, and the web in general. I tried multiple Windows Restores and several command line utilities. I wasn't allowed to do anything because Windows couldn't ask for permission. Finally I tried to save my documents to a CD and wasn't even allowed to do that. So I ended up re-typing an important document from the tablet screen to my desktop (again, not kidding here) and reinstalling Vista. You can bet I turned off the UAC immediately this time, and OneCare (which seemed to be near the center of this problem) won't come near the tablet this time.
In an earlier post, you warned about the dangers of attempting to peek at a Scrubbing Bubbles Automatic Shower Cleaner while it worked. Are there other dangers to my corneas that I should avoid?
Yes. Let's say you made the mistake of grocery shopping while hungry, and therefore made the unwise choice of purchasing Chef Boyardee Spaghetti & Meatballs (because in your weakened state the meatballs looked kinda good), and then in a later moment of weakness you decided to actually eat this product. Well, you can't eat that stuff cold, so when you heat it (in the microwave, of course - if you had time for the stove you'd be eating real food), be sure to remove it slowly and stir while holding the bowl away from you. Attempting to examine the product immediately out of the microwave could allow it to eject a superheated blob of sauce-like product directly into your eye. This will cause you to scream in pain once, then again when you realize you are still holding the hot bowl, all the while backing uselessly around the kitchen to the great enjoyment of your giggling three year-old.
Note that this is exactly the sort of warning on a product label that might cause you to say, "Stupid lawyers. Nobody is dumb enough to actually get sauce-like product in their eye." I might have said exactly the same thing, before this past week. Now I think there should be a big 'ole warning label on the can.
If you must endanger yourself by looking at the Scrubbing Bubbles Shower Cleaner and Chef Boyardee Spaghetti & Meatballs, then at least do the sauce first. That way the scrubbing bubbles can wash the residual tomato molecules out of your eye.
Where are you getting the questions for these Q&As?
Some of them are real questions people have asked. For example, that question ("Where are you getting these questions?") was asked by my mother. Some are questions that I expect people are checking the blog to learn about but just haven't asked. And in some cases, because there are things about which I know nobody will ask, I simply make up the questions.
Wait a minute, you make up the questions? That can't be right. I ask the questions, and you can't know what I'm thinking. Here, I'll show you: I'm thinking of a number between 1 and . . .
Whoa . . .
That's right, Keanu, there is no spoon.
Sunday, April 6, 2008
On April 6 in a year less than 40 years ago (very slightly less than 40 years ago) a cry emerged that announced the birth of Amy Orwig (or Willey or whatever she calls herself nowadays). A single cry was insufficient to announce such a wondrous creature, and so the cries continued day and night, foreshadowing with this unexpectedly powerful voice the unexpectedly powerful effects this person would have on all those around her. And now, so many years later, Amy continues to veil her amazing combination of intellect and compassion with her blonde flower-child personality, demonstrating bewilderment at electronic devices, choosing dangerous places to pull hooded sweatshirts over her head, and setting fire to medical buildings with popcorn so that she may conceal her identity as a resourceful crusader, working tirelessly to improve the lives of others.
In recent years, of course, Amy has taken on the near-mythical role of Aunt Amy (originally Aunt Mimi), a mysterious person with connections to both Mom and Dad but somehow more fun and more glamorous than either.
Saturday, April 5, 2008
When Harrison's First Grade Class announced it would be performing the musical "Punxsutawney Phil - The Story of a Groundhog," Harrison secretly hoped for the titular role of Phil. He was disappointed, at first, when given instead the role of Raccoon #1, but that was before he realized the pivotal role that Racoon #1 has in key points of the Punxsutawney narrative.
Raccoon #1 has 4 lines:
At a point early in the play, when the characters are starting to lose their focus, Raccoon #1 brings them back to the story with the line: "You know, it's really Phil's day."
When the plot is in danger of stagnating, Raccoon #1 kicks off the action with the line: "We have to do something!".
Later, Raccoon #1 sums up the feelings of us all when he says "That was great!"
And finally, his agreeable nature moves things along again with "You bet!"
In short, without Raccoon #1 "Punxsutawney Phil - The Story of a Groundhog" wouldn't have been nearly as action-packed or suspenseful. Also we probably wouldn't have gone to see it.
Harrison spent weeks practicing at home. Cast members were provided with a CD of the music, which we played nightly. Harrison learned his lines (and so did Grace) by repeated read-throughs with Mom. In fact, during the performance Harrison revealed (by subtly mouthing the words) that he knew everyone's lines. I expect we could have dropped him into any role and he would have done fine (unless it required makeup or a girlish costume, which Harrison simply Will Not Do).
There was real-life drama on the day of the performance. Two cast members fell ill with severe digestive distress (first grade translation: They barfed on Mrs. Caldwell). There were no understudies, so Mrs. Caldwell's second-grade son filled in as Phil at the last minute, and Mrs. Caldwell herself fed the cast the lines of the other missing character.
As I mentioned, "Punxsutawney Phil - The Story of a Groundhog" is a musical, and the very first lines of the stirring opener declared the question that would provide much of the dramatic tension for the whole 20-minute play:
Will he see his shadow
in the morning chill?
Would he, indeed. Also, would the young cast make it through the challenging work without their regular lead? Would anyone barf on the audience? Would the parents be able to suppress the urge to sing along with the songs they had been hearing every night for the past several weeks? Could Grace suppress the urge to repeat Harrison's lines aloud (answer to that one: no)? Could Sarah and I keep from running up and squeezing Harrison silly, he was so CUTE in that costume?
In the end, the cast did very well, nobody barfed (that I could detect), the parents sang quietly, as mentioned, Grace did join the cast (from her seat) at one point, and Sarah and I managed to remain seated, too, but it wasn't easy.
As for Phil's shadow, I must admit I didn't catch if he saw it or not. I was too busy paying attention to Raccoon #1.
DVDs of the whole show are available, but below are some brief excerpts demonstrating the talents of the true star of the night: Harrison Orwig as Raccoon #1:
Thursday, April 3, 2008
Clearly Newsweek has heard of the impending birth of the Orwig Twins and is trying to capitalize on the inevitable media buzz. My Mom brought over a copy of Newsweek which features a cover story on surrogacy. It's called "The Curious Lives of Surrogates."
I braced myself for another cautionary tale of Baby M, overbearing intended parents, and exploitation. It was actually a pretty good article, though. The authors didn't go for the easy scare or outrage, but did explain some possible pitfalls and controversy. I made the brief mistake of reading the comments section, but quickly got over that. You're just not likely to see thoughtful, informed opinions on a Newsweek comment section.
By the way, the article talks a lot about military wives. Geri is actually a full-time working mom of three with a Masters (MBA?) and a management position in a well known national company. The surrogate who carried Grace, however, was formerly in the Air Force as was her husband. So Grace was born at a military hospital and I believe the surrogate's military insurance covered that. All the other expenses, though (IVF, tests, etc) were out-of-pocket. So the military insurance doesn't really cover the surrogacy medical expenses and didn't cover anything not covered by a typical health insurance plan.
Wednesday, April 2, 2008
- She is having 3 to 4 contractions an hour, and actually had 7 in one hour the other night. Eight is her maximum before they increase her Terbulatine dose.
- The babies turn 35 weeks this Saturday. If Geri starts labor after then, her doctor will increase the Terbulatine but won't do the "mag wash" (i.e. put her back on magnesium sulfate). He'll deliver them if the Terbulatine doesn't work. Geri's local hospital can handle babies at 35 weeks.
- The twins are growing about a quarter to a third of a pound per week (just like their Dad). Although they are 34 weeks along now, Geri is measuring at 45 weeks. So it appears Geri got an eleven-week head start.
- We had held open the possibility of delivering "naturally" (vs c-section), but the doctor finally talked Geri and Sarah into a definite c-section. At this point I expect Geri would agree to a nasal delivery (ouch!) just to get those restless Orwigs out of her.
- Geri, who is obviously quite uncomfortable at this point, understandably wanted to move up the c-section a week to April 11th (just shy of 36 weeks). Sarah wanted to keep it on the 18th. So they negotiated. It will be on the 18th. Also Geri gave up GEN, which was a bit of a surprise.
The next appointment is Tuesday. Hopefully no news until then!
Tuesday, April 1, 2008
[Editor's Note: Gracie refers to each of her body parts with the prefix "little", as in "I hurt my little finger!" We shall observe this convention here.]
Today was the appointment. They gave me a pile of new patient forms, and I didn't even bother filling them all out, so sure was I that we would never be back.
Well, let's just say the parental instincts were way off this time. The poor girl is not only farsighted, but one of her little eyes is significantly more farsighted than the other and has astigmatism (gesundheit). So both of her little eyes have been compensating, and her little brain would slowly begin ignoring the confusing input it gets from the more impaired little eye unless something was done.
In short, not only did this girl need glasses, but she needed them pronto!
The worst part of the appointment for Gracie, by the way, was the eye drops. She seemed mostly just annoyed at first, wiping her eyes indignantly. But then after a few minutes, when she noticed she could no longer see the little cut on her little hand ("I can't see my boo-boo!") she became alarmed and wanted to go home. The appointment was over as far as she was concerned and she participated in the rest of it reluctantly.
The doctor said the farsightedness, the astigmatism (gesundheit), and the early onset are all inherited characteristics. He was surprised I didn't know of any close relatives who had them. I explained that Sarah has astigmatism (etc) but she only needed glasses near adulthood. My mother (before her cataract surgery) was nearsighted as Mrs. Magoo, and she passed that on to Aunt Amy and me (we have both since had our eyes zapped back to near-normalcy). So if you are the offending relative, or care to report one, please speak up.
Our plan was to go get the glasses later in the week. We soon realized, though, that to do it during the day meant I would have to select the frames without Sarah's supervision, which would surely doom the poor girl to fashion disaster every minute of her little life. So we decided to do go during an evening when Sarah was home, and eventually realized that this evening was as good as any other, particularly since we never know from hour to hour how many evenings at home we have before we get The Call from Ohio.
So tonight, mere hours after hearing that Grace's little eyes were not quite as functionally perfect as we assumed (although, aesthetically, they are still top notch), we went to the mall to select her glasses at Lenscrafters ("Glasses in about an hour"). She loved the whole process. The Frames Lady would try out new frames on her, and she would look in the mirror and do that little sly, demure princess thing she does which might be annoying with any lesser child but with Grace is just adorable. She finally picked out a red pair. We liked the silver ones better (due to the fact that they could literally be twisted around and spring back into shape) but clearly what was most important here was the SHE like them. We went to dinner and she asked every five minutes if her glasses were ready yet. She loves them.
She is supposed to wear them all the time except for sleeping and bathing. We want to make sure both eyes are participating all times.
We didn't think it was possible for Grace to be any cuter, but the glasses may just have done it. To her Phyllis Diller little curly hair and big, round little brown eyes, she has now added a bit of precocious intellectualism which actually matches her personality and pre-academic interests quite well.
So it all ended well. We just want to know who is responsible. Please leave confessions or report the guilty in the comments section.