Thursday, February 26, 2009

The one thing we can do without help...

There's a lot of things most women have been able to do for centuries. Millennia, actually. Maybe even millions of years. Most women take all those things for granted. They "just happen".

One of those things is conceiving a child. It happens all the time, everywhere in the world. All that's needed is a willing bloke (and aren't they all?) at the right moment, a little hanky panky, and done! So incredibly easy. That's all it takes. For most women.

Not for me. Oh no. For me, years and years of hanky panky just wouldn't do the trick. We needed help. lots of help. Hormones and needles and lab coats and petri-dishes didn't even do the trick at first. Not until that second IVF. That cycle where everything seemed to go wrong right from the start, but that ended up giving us that one thing we had longed for and dreamed of for so long.

Another of those things is staying pregnant. Carrying that baby (or in my case: those babies) to term. So many women manage to do that, without even thinking about it. Without realising what a beautiful miracle it is to be with child for a full 9 months. The way it's supposed to be. Millions of women manage to do it.

Not me. Oh no. My water broke at 7 months. I wasn't ready to have those babies yet. They weren't ready to be born yet. We went to the hospital for help. We needed help to get pregnant, maybe with a little help I could also STAY pregnant? Nope. They tried, but those babies were coming out. Today!

Yet another thing that's so natural, so normal, for so many millions of women: childbirth. So many just go through the motions and end up with an empty belly, a blissfull smile and a pink wriggling baby in their arms. Without help. They just do it.

Not this woman. I tried. And even though my two miracle babies were still too tiny for this big world, they just wouldn't come out. They thought they wanted to. After all, they were the ones that started the whole labour fiasco. They were the ones that poked a hole in one of their sacks and let the water out. They wanted to come out, but at the last moment, they chickened out. And so I needed help. Again.

And when there was suddenly four of us, where first there were just two, we again couldn't do what so many people do without thinking about it. Our children were whisked away to the NICU and we couldn't hold them. We had to ask permission to even touch them. We couldn't feed our children without the help of nurses and IV's and feeding tubes. We needed help. THEY needed help. They needed help breathing, they needed help staying warm, they needed help eating. They needed help LIVING.

That was 14 months ago. And sometimes I still wonder... Two little babies who needed so much help to become, so much help to stick around, so much help to just BE. Two little miracles that would never have entered this world, never have been able to stay here, if it weren't for all these helping hands. How on earth did they ever manage to turn out so complete? So beautiful? So healthy? So PERFECT!?!


Then the moment came in which we finally got to bring them home. After so many years of needing help to become pregnant, and after so many weeks of needing help to touch them, hold them, feed them, they were finally all ours. It was suddenly just the four of us. We could just walk towards them and pick them up if we wanted to. Cuddle them whenever we felt like it. No glass cages, no "May I?", no alarms. No help. For the very first time.

It was heaven. And it was scary. So scary!

But we managed. We cuddled and we carried. We laughed when they were happy and we cried when they felt sad. We got to know them and they got to know us. We changed them and bathed them and fed them. All by ourselves. And I pumped and they drank their bottles. And she slept and he puked and they cried and drank more bottles. And I pumped and they drank and I pumped and they grew. And when we had gotten used to each other, when things were quiet, when it was just the four of us, or just the three of us, we tried. I tried. And he tried. And she tried. And we did!

And then one day I could put the pump away. Because they COULD! He could. And she could. THEY could.

I nursed them. Me. Without help! Here was something I could do by myself. On my own. Finally. We could do it together, the two of us, or even the three of us. Without help! It was something so natural. So normal. And so unexpected. Here was something I alone could do. For my children. Something noone else could do for them. They were mine! I was theirs! We belonged...

I was told it might never happen, told it would never work. Most preemies have difficulties. Some preemies never learn. And twins? That would be too much for me to handle. I wouldn't have enough. They wouldn't drink enough. They wouldn't have the strength. It just would never work. Or so they said. But here they were, nursing, and growing. My two miracle babies!

They shouldn't have been here. They shouldn't have lived. But they are, they do.

Is that why it's hard to let it go? Why I keep nursing them even though people are starting to look at me in a funny way? Even though people start pointing fingers, asking questions? Even though sometimes even my husband, their father, thinks they've had enough? They are getting too big. They could do without. It's just not right.

This one thing that I have been able to do for them without help, this one thing that truly made me feel like we belonged together, like all was well. This one thing that is so natural, so the way it should be. How could I just stop that?

It's a fine line between doing something for your children, and doing it for yourself. I know that. I know there will come a day when they really won't need it anymore. When they might not want it anymore. A day when they will go without.

It won't be long before that day arrives. Just a couple more months, maybe. Time flies by so quickly. Children grow up so fast.

But for now, please let me enjoy those quiet moments we have together. Those moments when it's just the two of us. Or sometimes the three of us. Those times in the middle of the night when the whole world is asleep. Or those moments during the day when life just overwhelms them, when the world suddenly seems too big for them to handle and they just need to be with me. Not with anyone else. Not with nurses or doctors but with me. Just me...

Please let me treasure those moments a little longer. The world is so big, and they are still so small. For all their 14 months, they are still babies. Let me hold them and nurse them and treasure them. Untill my whole heart is filled with it. With them. With love. Let those precious moments take my fears away, let it take those bad memories away, let it leave just us. The way it should be. The way it IS.

Don't point fingers, don't whisper bad words, don't judge. Know it helps them grow. Know it helps us heal. And know it won't last forever. It might only be a few more months, a few more weeks even.

For the short time it will still last, just let us be. You don't have to look away like it's something bad. Something sickening. Something not quite right. You don't have to think I'm weird. You don't have to think at all.

Just look at us, and smile...

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Is it a flower? Is it a princess? No, it's a...

I think I have to clarify something. Something I thought of when reading some of your comments. Something minor, really. Not important. At all.

Here goes: Only ONE of them is actually a BOY... For the other, it's completely okay to be dressed in flowery outfits!

That said, yesterday I did something even worse: It was still Carnaval, and I was supposed to drop them off at daycare in funny and/or cute outfits. I only had those flowers, which are for, you know, outdoor activities. Like sitting in the double stroller in the middle of winter watching a two-hour parade of other flowery people dancing around with clowns and animals and other weird creatures. They would have died from a heat stroke if I'd let them wear those things at daycare, where the thermostat is always set to "Gee, are we supposed to drop off our children here and take all of their clothes back home with us?"

So what did this WORST MOTHER EVER do?


I dressed them up as EACH OTHER!

If he didn't already hate me for the flowers, he will for dressing him up like a GIRL. Worse, for actually thinking he looked kind of cute in that purple dress...

I think his sister got the good end of THAT deal. And the better end of the flower deal as well. Hmm, I'll have to make up for it at next year's Carnaval. And the year after that. And maybe every year untill he goes to college. Where he will finally seek his revenge by crossdressing voluntarily, freaking out his dad who will then take it out on ME.

"See? I TOLD you it wasn't a good idea to let him wear that purple dress when he was still a baby!"

I'm screwed...

But at least I'm not posting any pictures this time. That must count for something, right?

Sunday, February 22, 2009


Okay, this ICLW thing... It seems I didn't quite understand what I was getting myself into...

Reading new blogs and meeting new people: check!
Listening to their stories: check!
Leaving a comment: check!

Okay, I'm not up to full speed yet, it being weekend and carnival and all. But I'm working on it. I read the "rulebook", but it seems there's some little things that are not in there yet but have become common courtesy or something. Like leaving "ICLW" somewhere in the comment, so people will know how the hell you've ended up on their blog in the first place. Good point! Without it, I kind of felt like an intruder, but now at least people will know why I dropped in. It's because, well, they've asked for it!

Second little thing I forgot was introducing myself to all the other ICLW'ers. But fortunately Cathy took care of that one, at least partly, by interviewing me for my first English blog post.

And to explain the baby-pictures on this blog: those two miracle-babies are the result of 4 yrs TTC, 6 IUI's, 2 IVF/ICSI attempts and a 5 week NICU stay. The road to motherhood was long, painful, emotional and at times very hard, like it still is for most of you. But the endresult was worth EVERY SINGLE MINUTE!!! I honestly hope your own road will eventually bring you as much joy (and as many nighttime feedings) as mine did!

If you are not satisfied with this introduction, tough luck!

No really, I'm not actually that rude... If you have any more questions, please just ask them!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Parents do stupid things... (warning: babypictures ahead)

Sometimes, mothers do stupid things. Little things, like forgetting to bring extra diapers when leaving the house. Bigger things, like stepping on small hands or feet. Huge things, like not using a car seat while driving*.

Most of those things go unnoticed. Most of them are forgiven easily. Babies are resilient. And they have short-term memories. And they will love you no matter what. Or will they?

Sometimes, mothers do stupid things. And some of those things will never be forgiven.

I did something stupid yesterday. And I knew it was stupid but went ahead and did it anyway. You guys will hate me for it. Forever. And ever. And ever...

Here's what I did**:

* See? It could've been worse. I ALWAYS use carseats...
** In my defense: it's Carnaval in the Netherlands. You guys would've looked even more silly had I NOT dressed you up funny. Yes, I COULD have dressed you in something that would've made all your little friends jealous, like Pirate costumes, or SuperBaby suits. But no, of course I had to go ahead and get the cutest and most flowery outfits ever made. I'm sorry. I really DO love you guys. But sometimes, mothers just do something stupid...

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Oh boy...

...have I just set myself up for disaster?

I just signed up for IComLeavWe. And it starts on a Saturday... So with us trying to keep computer-time to a minimum over the weekends so we can spend the precious time we have together as a family doing the things we love most, that means triple the comments on Monday...

Sometimes, I need a big kick in the butt though, and participating is a great way to make myself think about some new blog entries for this new blog that is not even a week old yet. And to maybe meet more of those wonderful women. Women like Julie or Alexa, who write about their struggles with infertility and their fears and feelings surrounding the premature birth of their children. Stories that have helped me cope with my own infertility. Helped me to keep going cycle after cycle, treatment after treatment. Helped me keep my hopes up in dark times and let me know I was not alone.

And when finally all my hopes and dreams came together in our last IVF-cycle and resulted in a healthy (twin)pregnancy, having read Julie's blog might just have prepared me a little bit for the premature birth of our twins. Nothing can really prepare you for an event like that, but I probably wasn't as freaked out as I might have been without her. After our twins came home from the hospital, Alexa's entries about her son Ames and daughter Simone made me go back to our own NICU experience, which had only just ended. Reading them made me more aware of feelings I'd already hidden deep inside myself, and helped me come to terms with maybe not all, but certainly some of the events surrounding the birth of our son and daughter.

My own story is already somewhere on the Internet, in Dutch, for friends, family and other interested people to go to if they want to know how we are doing. When they have had questions about our struggles with infertility, about our fears surrounding the pregnancy and birth, about how the kids were doing, it was sometimes just easier to refer them to that website than to try and explain it right then and there. Most of them have known about our struggles from very early on, but they could not always understand our pain. Not because they didn't want to, but because they hadn't been there themselves. So more often than not it was those wonderful women, those complete strangers on the Internet, that made me feel understood. Just by reading their stories, by listening to what they had to say, I felt more whole. More like a person instead of just a tiny bundle of raging hormones and streaming tears.

Those women kept me sane! And although I am not one to comment a lot, espescially when a lot of other people have already said what I would want to say, I am still listening to their story. I am there, where they can't always see me, rooting them on with every little step they take!

It is time for me to step out of the shadows and let them know I care...

Monday, February 9, 2009

Yes, Cathy, they do!

And when they do, they STILL look cute... *grin*

Pictures? Here?

Are you really sure you want to know what we look like? The kids are cute and all, but my own face might not be a pretty sight on an empty stomach (or a full one, really). Maybe just a couple of tiny feet to get you started?

Or maybe, just maybe, some hands that just started to discover one another 8 months ago?

Oh well, what the heck. Here they are:

Friday, February 6, 2009


Hello blogosphere,

It doesn't seem fair that I have been reading some of your (English) blogs for, like, forever, and commented on some of them as well. Not while the only things I throw on the Internet myself are written in Dutch and thus nothing more than complete and utter Gibberish to most of you. Okay, there's the pictures. And since my kids are obviously the most wonderful and special kids in the whole wide world, that should be enough. But I'm pretty sure you all think the same about your own kids, so I guess it's time for me to reveal a little bit about myself in my second language, English. You're welcome to read, comment, gaze at all the pretty pictures I might post here in the future, or just avoid the whole thing altogether...

For my opening post, here's the answers to 5 questions Cathy asked me:

1) How did you come to be bilingual? You obviously read and write English fluently, but you also speak Dutch. What's the story?

I was born and raised in the Netherlands where all television shows and movies, unlike in a lot of other European countries, are broad casted in their original language (with Dutch subtitles). And since Hollywood spits out a lot more crap movies and series than possibly all European studios combined, English kind of sneaks it's way into our brains from a very young age. Spooky, isn't it? Moreover, English is taught as an obligatory foreign language to all children in Middle/High School. Those two things combined ensure that by the time we leave school, everyone here has a basic understanding of the English language.

Okay, that was the boring part. Now for the fun part:

When I was 17, fresh out of High School, I left my family, friends and country behind and went on my biggest adventure so far. I hopped on a plane and flew to Australia to live on a huge big cattle-farm with a family of complete strangers, sharing their home, their traditions, their language and their school (well, basically their whole lives). After a few weeks of "OMG, I thought I was going to a country where they speak English, not Gibberish" and "Wow, 2 hours of English a week in High School didn't in ANY way prepare me for this!" I started living, breathing and even dreaming in English. When I flew back home 12 months later I was another person in more ways than one. And English Australian came to me easier than my native language.

More fun? Here goes:

Having found some random bloke who was willing to share his life and sperm with me the love of my life, I wasn't going to let him slip through my fingers. So when he found his dream job and had to go to the USA for training, we got married (ever tried to plan a wedding with only 6 weeks notice? It's possible!) and went to live in Madison (WI) for 18 months. There my (by that time already somewhat faded) Aussie slang got mixed with some genuine American babble. Great fun, because now most English speaking people have NO IDEA what strange country I've sprung from. It's not English. It's not quite Australian. It's not American either. Could it be South African? No, not really. WTF?

Will/are you teaching the kids English too?

Not right now. They will grow up hearing a lot of English around them though. And if we have our way, in about 3 years (before they have to start school) my husband will take a sabbatical from work and we will go travel the world (or at least parts of it) with them for 6-12 months. They will pick up a lot of valuable things along the way, one of which might just be English.

Or, maybe, he will find a new dream job in (or his current one will send him to) some other beautiful part of the world and we will just pack up our kids and leave. Or hey, maybe I will find a dream job and HE will follow ME this time. You'll never know what adventures life will throw at you...

2) Do you think you'll try to have more kids, or are you done?

Er... Well... Hmm...

It took a lot of hard work (understatement of the year) to get to the point where we are now. We've hoped and dreamed and yelled and screamed and cried our way through 4 years of infertility, 6 IUI's and 2 IVF/ICSI's in two different continents before we got pregnant with Ivo and Robin. And when they arrived after "just" 32 weeks gestation (and believe me if I tell you I feel we are the luckiest people in the world to have even gotten that far) we practically lived in the NICU for 5 weeks before we finally got to take them home. Right now I feel so very lucky to have them around me every day, growing and playing and thriving. Somehow trying for a 3rd feels like tempting fate. How could we presume to be this lucky TWICE?

And this time it's not just us two we have to worry about. There's the kids, too. Will they suffer the consequences if we start treatments again? If my hormone-riddled self is crying over another failed cycle, will they feel my pain? And if my ob/gyn puts me on bed rest to prevent another premature birth, who will take care of them? Who will love them and cuddle them and play with them? And if the next pregnancy ends as soon or god forbid even sooner than the last, and we are stuck with weeks or maybe even months of NICU visits again, who will do all of the above with Ivo and Robin when we sit next to the isolette willing this new child to hold on, to breathe, to LIVE? Or will we choose to spend most of our time with the children already here? Because they are older and more aware? But if we do, will we damage our new child? Will it feel lonely without us sitting next to it's little glass home? Will it miss being touched and held by us? Will it not know who it's parents are?

But... Well... Yes... Another child would be welcome. We have enough cuddles, enough kisses, enough love to give to help another child grow and learn and find it's way. We would love for Ivo and Robin to experience being a big brother/sister as well as a twin. And, more selfishly, I myself would love to experience another pregnancy, another birth. Would love to feel those first kicks again, to know there is this new life inside of me, living, growing, waiting to come out. Would love to again meet my child for the very first time, get to know him/her, watch him/her grow and learn and live...

So when Ivo and Robin celebrated their first birthday, we chucked our condoms and our caution out the window. We opted to let nature take it's course. HAHAbigfuckingHa! As if that simple action would ever do the trick for us! But there's just too many fears, too many "what if's" (and too little sleep) to do more than that right now.

From our last IVF we have 3 leftover popsicles. 3 potential children waiting patiently for us to make up our minds. Waiting for us to decide whether we'll say "What the heck, people think we're crazy already anyway, we might as well give it a shot!" or "Who are we kidding? We should count our blessings! Let's give them to some science nerd who might just be able to cure cancer or Alzheimer's or some other horrible thing using those tiny clumps of yet undifferentiated cells..."

So... Um... So far... Undecided on that one...

3) Do you like to travel? Where have you been? Where would you like to go?

Yes, I do! I love to close the front door from the outside, knowing it will be a while until I see the other side again. To go places I've never gone before, see things I've never seen before, meet people I wouldn't otherwise meet. I love to be outdoors, be somewhere where it takes some searching to find the nearest person, the nearest road, the nearest house. People in the Netherlands live very close to one another: there's always someone else in view, some house nearby, some road you can hear in the distance. It's great to leave all that behind for a while and pretend you're the only people in the whole wide world. You and all the other people around you pretending the same thing, that is...

I've lived and traveled in Australia and in the USA. We also traveled through western Canada together for two months, working on farms along the way. I've seen most (okay, I'll rephrase: some bits of most countries) of Europe and parts of Africa, some with my husband and some with my (grand)parents. Even some on my own.

I would love to travel to Australia again, or to Africa. Actually, most of the places I've been are wonderful enough to warrant another visit. I would love to show most of those places to our kids, to tell them about what it was like for me the first time, and to let them experience their own "first time". To see those places through their eyes as well as my own.
I would also love to discover new countries, new worlds with them (Iceland is high on my list, as is South Africa). To let them take me by the hand and show me all the wonders they see. Right now we don't even need to travel far for that: around the corner are just as many wonders to discover if you are one year old and just learning to crawl or walk...

4) If you had to eat one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Oh boy. And I thought the first 3 questions were hard to answer... Let's see... Yes! The little legs and cheeks of my children! They are so cute I could eat them all day long... But wait, they are tiny. Really tiny. Even them being twins and all and therefor having twice as many, they still probably won't last that long! Hmm, back to the drawing board...

Steak! Outback Steakhouse's Rib eye Steak, Medium-well, seared to perfection on a red hot grill, to be precise. Man, do I miss Outback Steakhouse... Any chance they'll be opening one up in the Netherlands soon?

5) If you were to be granted 3 wishes (and no wishing for more wishes!) what would they be?

- For Ivo en Robin to stay healthy and grow up into happy and confident people.

Wait, did that count as one wish? Or two? Or even three? Doesn't matter, right now it's the only thing that's really important to me anyway. But just in case it only counts as one, here's the other two:

- Another healthy and this time much LONGER pregnancy: to be able to experience it all once more, the way it SHOULD be. (wow, guess there's your final answer to question NR 2)

- Since I'm all healthy and happy already, and so are my family and close friends, my last wish is for Daniel. And since he is still too young to wish for anything but toys and cuddles and to be left in peace, I appoint you, Cathy, as its guardian. Use it as you see fit, or give it to Daniel when you think he's old enough to make his own wishes!