Saturday, November 19, 2016

30 Weeks--Time for Thank Yous!

We made it to 30 weeks!  Hooray!  I've said all along that 30 weeks was my goal because it gave the babies the best chance of survival and a healthy life.  From here on out, every day is a bonus.  We are so thankful.  In honor of 30 weeks, I thought it was time to extend some thank yous to some of the people who have helped us get to where we are today.

  1. Mama and Papa Bolton:  For those of you who have met my mother, you know she is one of the most caring, nurturing women on the planet.  She's been out to Arizona three times to visit us (and this lady hates to fly).  Every time she comes, she makes us delicious home cooked meals (homemade spaghetti, steaks, brownie your mouth watering yet?).   Mama cleans our apartment top to bottom, does grocery runs, and everything in between.  She's been such a source of support and joy for me.  Daddy Bolton has given so much of his time and talent to us.  He's added a closet to the nursery, added medicine cabinets to the bathroom and much more. As you can tell, my parents are rock stars.  Seriously.
  2. Mom and Dad Baudinet:  These folks are the taskmasters.  They have been so generous with their time in helping set up the nursery, clean our Virginia home, and anything in between.  I know they are going to be such fantastic grandparents.
  3. Aunt Margie:  Aunt Margie is Michael's mother's sister.  She lives here in the Scottsdale/Phoenix area.  Aunt Margie and her family have been such a support system for us.  They bring dinner, visit me on lonely days, and just keep us company in general.  We've been so lucky to have family in this area.
  4. Carla:  Carla is such a good friend to me.  We've been in the Junior League together for several years, but our friendship goes so much further.  Carla has been my "sister" for years
    now.  She knows all my struggles and has been there for me at my most vulnerable of times.  She even came to visit me here in Arizona.  We literally laid around and watched TV together while enjoying In and Out burgers.  It was blissful. 
  5. Claire:  This woman is such a safety net for me. 
    She checks my mail for me.  Takes care of our Virginia home and much more.  She helped tremendously in the set up of the nursery.  I can't imagine getting through this without her (AND her husband Pete). 
There are SO many more people to thank.  My friend Mairi and her mom were instrumental in setting up the nursery.  My friend Camille from Charlotte who's been such a source of emotional support (and found us a place to live in AZ!).  Carla's husband Nick and his friend James who put together furniture for the nursery.  Our friends Cade and Karen have also been helpful in preparing our home for the little ones.   Michael's best friend Eric and his wife Lynne have donated so many of their baby items for us to use.   We really can't thank them enough. It truly takes a village!

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Gestation Time

The risks involved with having quints are plentiful--we've talked about that.

Still, the biggest challenge is pre-term labor.  Nationally, American quints are born on average around 27-28 weeks gestation.  At 26 weeks gestation, a preemie has about an 80% chance of survival, but an almost 50% chance of some sort of significant long-term physical or mental disability. At 28 weeks, these numbers improve to 90-95% survival with a 25% chance of long-term disability.  (The stats vary somewhat depending on the study, but they're all in the same ballpark.) These numbers continue to improve the further you go in pregnancy.

As a result, it is our goal to make it to 30 weeks - when the chances approach 90% that a preemie will be reasonably healthy long-term.  Dr. Elliott would love for us to make it to 34 weeks, but in my mind, I've told myself 30 weeks is a must. Anything else is bonus points.  Classic overachiever mindset--bonus points.  Maybe I'll even get a "good job" sticker and a sucker at the end of this?  Here's hoping.

So, here were are, present day of 29 weeks and 5 days.  So close to 30 weeks I can feel it; however, my blood pressure is not cooperating as much as we'd like for it to.  Just today at my appointment, my BP fluctuated between 150/90 and 140/85.  I was sent to the hospital for observation.  My BP is terrific as long as I'm lying down, but as soon as I sit or stand, it shoots back up. The doctors released me to go back to the apartment, but I doubt I be here much longer.  I'll go back to Labor and Delivery on Saturday for a check up, so we'll see if they admit me at that point.

Fingers crossed!

Yes, there are definitely five babies in there!

Child Care/Au Pair Service

Once we reached 12 weeks, we realized we needed to start thinking about childcare. We both have jobs that we love, so it was clear we were going to need support as we enter this next stage of life. And both our families are a full day's drive away, so we just can't call them up to help on a moment's notice.

After talking to several moms and child care professionals, we settled on hiring an au pair (or two).  A good friend of mine's brother used a company called Cultural Care and they simply raved about this company.
I called Cultural Care and was amazed by the expertise and support available just on the introductory call.  After a few follow up calls with regional contacts, I knew this was the company for us.  These people understand how to match an au pair with a family; they help manage your expectations regarding the service; and they help you establish a timeline so that you can get the help you need in the time that you need it.  I only have one word regarding Cultural Care.  WOW.

We began to complete our "matching profile" and thus began the search for an au pair. The process of creating a matching profile was actually quite satisfying.  Parents write a letter to the potential new au pair and tell their "story."   This was cathartic for me, a way to express my fear/excitement during this stressful time.

In talking with our regional rep, we agreed that the quints would need two au pairs to really make this work.  While it is financially daunting, we all agreed that it made the most sense given our employment situation (and the idea of five infants at one time).

Thus began the "matching" process which includes Skype interviews and follow up emails/questions.  Several au pairs were a bit overwhelmed by the idea of quintuplets and quickly turned us down.  This was tough.  It felt a bit like asking someone to the prom and promptly getting turned down.  Granted, it wasn't like that (and Cultural Care warned us some au pairs wouldn't be prepared for this sort of challenge), but rejection is hard--anytime at any age.

After several interviews, we found our two angels--Merle and Jessica.  Merle is from Germany and Jessica is from Sweden. They both have such caring dispositions combined with love for Harry Potter and laughter.  We absolutely adore them.

The Cultural Care au pairs attend "au pair school" in New York before they arrive at our home.  We will provide a bedroom for each one of them along with a bathroom for them to share.  We also provide access to education (community college or four-year college) in which we will support them taking one class per semester.  The best thing about Cultural Care is that the au pairs are part of a local cohort.  They have gatherings with other au pairs in the area as they get to know their new city and family.  It seems like such a fulfilling experience for everyone involved.

If you are interested in au pair childcare, I recommend you contact our Childcare Consultant, Emily, directly. She will give you the exceptional service that our family received. Here is her website:

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

The Nursery

I've dreamt of decorating a nursery for so long.  In the past, I had kept my distance from baby stores because it hurt too badly to look at nursery items.  But, come 26 weeks, I realized it was time.

My parents and Michael's parents (along with some of my best friends in the world) offered to drive to our home in Virginia and decorate the nursery for us.  Remember, we're still in Arizona, so we have no way of decorating a nursery.  Probably should've thought of that before I left...whoopsie.  I blame Hepatitis A.  

So, I needed to decide how this would work.  Which room would we use?  Did we have a room that could hold all of the cribs? How many cribs would we start with?  What about bassinets? Did we want to repaint?  What about storage for all of this baby stuff?  

I started with a theme.  I wanted our nursery to be a lamb theme. We've always felt comforted by the idea that the Lord was our shepherd and he would lead us to a safe place.  We wanted our children to feel the same way.  The Lord is indeed our shepherd and we wanted to honor that in the nursery.  They are also associated with restfulness and sleep, so we hoped the babies might pick up on the hint (we can always hope). Not to mention, sheep/lambs are really, really cute. 

My fabulously creative (and world-class shopper) of a sister helped me pick out the items for the nursery.  Cribs, bedding, gliders, chests, changing tables, mobiles, you name it--we picked it.  I shipped it all to Virginia so that "the crew" would have it at their disposal when they arrived.

My favorite part of the nursery is the art.  My sister is a budding artist, and wow is she talented.  She painted angels to go over the beds of the children.  Each angel has its own color and personality.  We imagine our children will be just as distinctive as these paintings are.  I am so grateful to have the family that I do.  

A few nursery photos:

Grandmothers with the angel paintings
Angel paintings
Cute little lamb sheets

This gal, my sister in law, probably worked harder than anyone that weekend.  Bridget, we can't thank you enough!

And a few photos of the amazing friends who made all of this possible.  

Baby Registry

Once we reached 24 weeks (yay for viability!),  I decided we needed to get on this whole baby registry idea.  Mom and Dad came for a visit at 24 weeks to celebrate (and clean our apartment).  We had a great visit and Mom took me to Babies R Us to look around.  Granted, at this point, I'm in a wheelchair, but browsing was fun nonetheless.

It was then that it started to dawn on me.  We need FIVE cribs, FIVE car seats, FIVE spots in a stroller, diapers times a MILLION, wipes times TWO MILLION, and what about clothes? Or bottles?  Or that booger sucker thing?  Holy cow.  What have we gotten ourselves into?

I took Michael back to Babies R Us the following week to start a registry.  It's odd..when you start a registry at one of these stores, they ask you the baby's gender.  In doing so, Michael and I looked at each other.  Given that we have four girls and one boy, we said "both" in response to the gender question.  That began one of MANY strange looks the dear customer service agent gave us.  Given that their registry only goes up to four children at a time, there wasn't a way for us to register the "normal" way, but we gave it our best shot. 

We walked around the store, totally bleary-eyed.  Michael held the registry gun awkwardly as we wandered the store, hoping someone would magically appear and tell us what/how many we needed.  They didn't.  We registered for a Diaper Genie and went to dinner at Outback.

So much for my big plans.

I put on my big girl panties the following weekend and started researching/reading.  We finally established complete registries at Amazon and Babies R Us.  I still have no idea if I registered for the right/wrong things.  For all of you moms out there, take a look.  Let me know if I'm doing this all wrong!

The Ever-Elusive Hope

Hope.  It seems like a simple enough feeling.  Most people experience hope as soon as they see that little plus sign. Or, hope may be "born," so to speak, when a mother first hears her baby's heart beat on an ultrasound.  As difficult as this entry is for me to write, it's essential to your understanding of how we approached this pregnancy.

Hope is elusive to us, especially to me.  We can't seem to find it, no matter how hard we try.  We are afraid of hope.  We are afraid to hope.  Hope, to us, seems like we're setting ourselves up to be let down in a cataclysmic kind of way.

You see, we hoped in our first pregnancy...only to collapse in each other's arms after the loss.  We hoped in the second pregnancy, only to cry, mourn, and question our fate and our marriage.

Hope seems to breed grief in our circumstances.  Anytime we get "high" on hope, we experience a terrifying fall into the pits of grief.  We don't want to hope.  It's almost as if hoping is some sort of curse.  In some subconscious way, I think "if I don't hope, it won't hurt as much when I fall."  It's like I'm roller skating for the first time.  If I strap on the knee pads of realism and perhaps even pessimism, it won't hurt when I fall.  On the other hand, hope makes me feel as if I'm roller skating at 20 miles per hour with no pads towards a brick wall.  In short, hope makes me feel vulnerable.  I'll say that again, hope makes me feel vulnerable.

I'll take a break here and say that if you haven't watched Brene Brown's Ted Talk on vulnerability, you need to.  Right now.  She's my guru.

Ok, we're back.  So many of you may wonder...

Why the secrecy?
Don't they trust us?
Wouldn't they want to shout this news from the rooftops?

Well, given that you now understand my fears and my struggle with being vulnerable, hopefully you understand why we did what we did.  The doctors told us we may never make it to 24 weeks, much less any further.  There were doubts and threats everywhere.

We really wanted to cleave to each other, hope for the best, and pray that God blessed us with a family.  We trusted that our friends would be able to celebrate with us as soon as we were ready and able.

We hope you understand and now that we are celebrating 29 weeks this week, perhaps maybe some of that ever-elusive hope will start creeping into our world.


We made it to Arizona!  Hooray?

Michael, Ellie, and I first drove to Alabama (a cool 12-hour drive) to see my family before heading out west.  From Alabama, we drove to Dallas, Texas where we spent the night.  From Dallas, we drove to El Paso where we again spent the night.  From El Paso, we drove into Phoenix to our rental in neighboring Scottsdale.

Let's just say that whoever designed the interstates and associated rest stops in Texas did not have pregnant women in mind.  I've never had to use the restroom so bad in my life.  If any Texans are reading this, you should really petition for more rest stops.  It's quite insufficient.  
Pregnant lady coming through!

We arrived at our tiny apartment and I immediately felt overwhelmed.  To go from our beautiful home in Virginia to an 800 square foot apartment was going to be an adjustment.  Not to mention this place was furnished (which was nice), but it's never quite decorated to your taste, is it?  I missed my towels from home, my throw pillows (yes, I'm pregnant and hormonal), the smell of my dryer.  I missed it all.  I missed my friends.  My rocking chair on the porch.  I just wanted to go home.  I probably cried at least twice a day every day the first week.

Keep in mind, hardly anyone knew we had moved to Arizona. We told our very closest friends, pastors, and bosses. Otherwise, no one else knew we were here, so it wasn't like I could post some sappy message on Facebook and get a hundred supportive comments.  Nope.  Now was the time to buck up and make the best of this.  I didn't have the luxury of feeling sorry for myself.

Our first appointment with Dr. Elliott was the next day.  He was just as supportive and knowledgeable in person as he was over the phone.  We took a good look at the babes and he gave me some pointers for getting through the next few weeks.  Keep in mind that 24 weeks is "viability," as doctors call it.  That means if the babies are born before then, they will not survive.  Moreover, if the babies are born before then, doctors are under no obligation to save them.  No pressure on the mom carrying these bundles of joy.  Just keep your legs crossed, ok?  Sure.

Here are the kiddos at 18 weeks:

Baby A
Baby A in 3D
Baby B
Baby C
Baby D
Group Photo
Baby E

Smoothie Gate

We approached week 18 with trepidation.  Given that we suffered so much loss in the year prior, we honestly believed that we would lose the babies any day.  Every week seemed surreal, and we finally started to think maybe we would make it to 18 weeks and the move to Arizona would become reality.

That was until the Hepatitis A scare. Also known as Smoothie Gate.

One evening before bed, I was skimming Facebook and saw a notice for all Tropical Smoothie customers.  It seemed that their strawberries had been infected with Hep A and any and all customers were at risk of contracting the disease.  

As a neurotic pregnant woman, I immediately googled everything I could think of.  This didn't look good.  Given that it was a weekend, I called my maternal fetal medicine specialist at UVA. She had me come into Labor and Delivery to do some blood work to check my liver.  Hepatitis A indeed affects the liver and a malfunctioning liver can trigger pre-term labor which would, in essence, kill the babies.  

I went in for the blood work.  It came back with "troubling" results, as the doctor called it.  My liver levels were indeed elevated. That pointed to Hep A.  She immediately scheduled an appointment for me with an infectious disease specialist on Monday (granted, this is a Saturday).  

I was told to watch for the yellowing of my eyes, fever, upset stomach, and a list of other symptoms.  As you can imagine, that was the longest weekend of my life.  We were supposed to leave for Arizona on Monday. But instead, we were going to see an infectious disease doctor.  The doctor recommended that I go ahead and get the Hep A vaccine ASAP, as the vaccine can often fight off the disease in the early stages.  Michael called around to all of the pharmacies in town until he found one that would administer it on a Saturday night. 

As a precaution, my doctor suggested I stop taking some of the vitamins I had been taking in case those were causing a spike in my liver functions.

We re-did the blood work on Monday morning and had our meeting with ID doctor on Monday afternoon.  If you're any sort of a germaphobe, going to the infectious disease doctor will make you twitch--guaranteed.  Take an extra gallon of Purrell with you.  I did.  A mom has to do what a mom has to do.

There was good news!  My liver levels were lower and I showed no signs of Hep A.  WHEW.  I remember walking out of the doctor and asking Michael to just hold me.  I was wrapped in such a tight knot I didn't realize how afraid I was.  But, no Hep A and thus the conclusion of Smoothie Gate.

On to Arizona we go!

Weight Gain

So, when one is pregnant with quintuplets, nutrition is of the essence, especially in the first 20 weeks.  This is mostly because after that point, the babies start to press on the stomach so much that eating solid food proves difficult.

As a result, Dr. Elliott told me I needed to eat at least 4,500 calories PER DAY.  That's right, folks--4,500 calories per day. Which meant that just about any food was on the table. Everyone I share this with looks at me with bitter envy.  I wish I could tell you that it was fun.  It wasn't.  (Also, as it turns out, the best foods for packing on calories are actually kind of healthy - nuts, olive oil, avocado, eggs, milk.) The first trimester I felt HORRIBLE.   Like dirt.   I felt like dirt--every day.  Crackers were all I could bear eating and even that felt taxing (and nauseating). The idea of eating 4,500 calories felt as feasible as climbing Mount Everest.  

My co-workers would laugh at me because every time I participated in a meeting, I brought a snack.  And by snack, I mean a jar of peanut butter with two apples. Or a pint of strawberries with a jar of nutella.  These were the snacks of heavy weight champions, not some yogi from small town Alabama.  Oh well, if I wanted this pregnancy to succeed, I was going to have to tough it out.

Michael became a whiz at finding more calories for me.  Real butter?  Yep.  Avocado on my cheeseburger?  You bet.  Any calorie he could think of, he put on my food.  Sometimes it worked and sometimes I got sick.  I ate more ice cream in that beginning stage than I care to recall.  I even used an app to track my calories. To maintain a pace that would secure my goal, I had to eat every two hours.  Smoothies, trail mix, peanut butter, tacos..whatever I could think of! 

Typically by dinner time I would have made it to 3,700 calories at which point Michael would hand me a pint of Haagen Daaz and let me eat as much as I could handle.  Again, please don't think this was fun--it really wasn't.

Week 14 photo.  At this point, I was gaining 4-6 pounds per week, which still wasn't good enough for me to reach the goal of gaining 75-100 pounds before 28 weeks.

So....Now What?

Dr. Elliott recommended that we be in Arizona full time by my 18th week of pregnancy.  Given that we were just at our 11th week when we talked to him, we thought we had some time. And given our track record, who knew if we'd even make it to 18 weeks.  We never had before.

Given that we had only shared our news with our pastors, we realized it was time to tell our families.  We waited until week 12 just to protect our parents from getting too excited.  Michael and I now have a love/hate relationship with hope (more on that later), and we wanted to protect our parents from getting hurt.

 Michael and his parents, Ginny and Charlie
 My parents, Tom and Kaye

I remember we told our parents on a Sunday.  We went to our church supper club, and on the way home, we knew it was time. We called Michael's parents first.  Ginny and Charlie were out on the deck when we called.  As Michael walked them through the situation, they took it in stride.  Michael comes from a family of five, so his parents were ready to jump in and help.  Ginny and Charlie are some of the most competent parents I've ever met.  I immediately felt calmed, knowing that they could help us manage the details of parenthood.

My parents were next.  Mom answered the phone. 
"Mom, is Dad there?"
"Yes, honey, do you need to talk to him?"
"No, I need to talk to both of you."

I heard feet thumping through the living room as Mom yelled, "TOM, pick up the phone!!"

As we began to tell them the whole story, Mom immediately began to weep (happy tears).  It was quite the moment.  Mom and Dad knew about our struggles getting pregnant, so they shared our joy in the purest sense.  My mom is the classic "doer," so she was ready to jump into action.  What comes first?  How should we organize this?  How could they help?  My parents have always been the first to offer a helping hand and this circumstance was no exception.  They both, especially Mom, have been such a support system for me.  Dad suggested we name one of them "Buddy Wayne."  Yes, I'm from Alabama and we tease each other about our southern roots.  For the record, my child will not be named Buddy Wayne.

We explained to both of our parents about Dr. Elliott's track record.  How the national average gestational age for quintuplets is 27 or 28 weeks.  How Dr. Elliott's patients usually average 32 or 33 weeks.  How this additional gestation time can lower the risks for post birth complications.

With our parents on board, we started to make plans.  Michael and I shared the news with our bosses and God bless them, they were very supportive.  Michael would work remotely from Arizona, using leave as needed, and I would take an early maternity leave and let my co-workers counsel the students in my absence.

12 week photo
With the help of a very dear friend in Charlotte, we found a place to live (that would accept our sweet dog Ellie) and things began to take shape.

Our sweet Ellie

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Fear Tactics

The doctor's visit confirmed that there were indeed FIVE little Baudinet bundles of joy in my tummy. Not four--five.  So now we have a basketball team?  Oh boy.  I only thought my husband was pale before.

The tough part was that as soon as the doctors confirmed the fifth baby, they began to immediately talk about the risks involved in a high order multiple pregnancy (pre-term labor, preeclampsia, cerebral palsy, blindness, deafness, infant mortality, mother mortality, etc).  As a result, this doctor (and the other doctors in her practice) recommended we "reduce" the pregnancy to twins. For those of you who don't know, "reduction" means that the doctor would take a needle and inject potassium chloride into the baby's heart to make it stop beating (in other words, reduction means aborting several babies to increase the chances of a positive outcome for the other children).

As you can imagine, this is terrifying to hear, especially after you've heard that if you don't reduce, your kids may have severe disabilities if they are lucky enough to even survive (much less you, the mother...oh yeah, almost forgot about you!).

Michael and I sought a second opinion.  This doctor did not make a recommendation but was clear that reduction provided the best chance for at least some of the babies to make it.  He told us that the last set of quints he delivered came at 27 weeks--one died, one was blind, two had cerebral palsy and one was "normal" (don't you hate that word--normal?  Grrrr--end of rant). He said there was nothing we could do to improve our odds if we chose to keep them all. We walked out afraid that we would be sentencing all five to certain death if we did not reduce.

We had to decide what to do before 11 weeks gestation, so we had about 2 weeks left.  Each week that I went in for an ultrasound, the doctor would say, "I'm so sorry, but your babies are healthy."  Doesn't that sound odd?  These doctors were hoping that one, two, three of my children wouldn't make it?  I couldn't take it anymore.  We switched doctors.

We began working with the University of Virginia Maternal Fetal Medicine practice.  I can't say enough good things about these folks.  Although the still believed reduction was our best option, they didn't push it on us. They told us if we wanted to keep the quints, they would do everything they could to help.

Michael and I weren't convinced reduction could be the answer. We just didn't think we could bear murdering our children and then continuing to live a life devoted to our God and His kingdom.  

Luckily, being the prolific reader that he is, Michael came across a Newsweek story about Dr. John Elliott of Phoenix, Arizona.
This is a doctor that specializes in saving high order multiples. He celebrates getting moms to longer-than-average gestation times and reducing the risk of physical/mental handicaps. From everything we could find, no doctor had more experience with high order multiples. And every one of his patients seemed to rave about him. In fact, Michael's aunt lives in Phoenix and has a friend who was a neonatal nurse. She, too, said that Dr. Elliott was the best (and had actually delivered her daughter years earlier).

Needless to say, we were very interested, but had no idea how this would work.  After we left a message with his office explaining our situation, Dr. Elliott called us on a Thursday night and spent an hour with us on the phone, explaining the risks and rewards of keeping all five babies. Most importantly for us, Dr. Elliott was the first doctor who didn't tell us that keeping the quints meant that we would "hope for the best." Instead, he had the attitude that "this can be done." While he did not sugarcoat the risks, he explained that he could help the pregnancy succeed. It would not be easy, but it could be done.

We agreed to take the weekend to think it over.  Michael went to meet with his priest and I met with the pastor at my church.  We both spent time in prayer and meditation.  We were both, of course, terrified that we wouldn't be able to agree.  As Michael talked to his priest, the priest reminded Michael to "honor his wife."  To think of this as an opportunity to honor his wife and his God.  I thought that was such a beautiful sentiment.

On my drive to work the next day, I felt as if God was asking me to do one thing.  He wasn't asking me to be brave or to know all the answers or to please everyone in this process.  No.  God asked me to surrender.  Surrender.  Physically, mentally, spiritually.  God asked me to surrender.  

To me, this meant that we would keep all five babies and let God determine their fate.  Michael agreed and thus began our Bundle of Baudinets journey.

Marvel In Maine

Well, of course, the test was positive.  I literally rolled my eyes when I got the results.  What was the use in hoping for anything? I told Michael and he agreed.

It was too early to do an ultrasound, so I did a few more blood tests that confirmed the pregnancy.  Still, I barely told anyone and remained focused on my life and the things I knew to be true and stable.

Michael and I had planned a trip to Maine the following week.  I was so looking forward to a vacation with my sweet husband. Even with no kids, we keep busy.  His work schedule is demanding.  He's a dedicated athlete.  My work is demanding.  I try to maintain my volunteer work along with my yoga commitments and all the rest.  

So, off to Maine we went.  Unfortunately, my hormones started to make themselves known.  I didn't want to eat.  I was sick to my stomach.  I was weak.  I ached.  I was in no shape to hike and kayak Acadia as we'd hoped.  So, Michael saw much of Acadia by himself.  

I saw the inside of our bedroom.  And a lot of rerun Fixer Upper episodes.  

On the next to the last day of our visit, at seven and a half weeks pregnant, I started spotting.  Here we go again, I thought.  We called the doctor and she recommended going to the ER. Off we went, expecting the worst.  

As much as I love Bar Harbor, I can't say they have the most cutting-edge emergency room I've ever seen.  After we checked in, the ultrasound technician introduced herself and said she would do a sonogram to check for a heartbeat.  Same song, different verse, I thought.  As she began the ultrasound, the technician began to giggle.


She giggled, that's correct.

I looked at my husband, thinking that there would be heck to pay if she was looking at our deceased baby.  

She wasn't.  She smiled a bright, toothy smile at me and said, "Well, aren't you going to be a busy lady?"


I gave her a puzzled look.  As I did, she showed me one....two.....three....four heartbeats.  Four heartbeats.  Wait, what?  That's right, she told us we were going to have quadruplets.  There might be a fifth, but she couldn't really tell. But, at the very least, we were having four babies in the next year.

I've never seen my husband go as pale as he did that night.  We returned to the hotel in complete silence.  Grateful not to receive bad news, but totally shocked by this revelation.

One of Michael's superpowers is that he can sleep anywhere, so of course, we walked back into the hotel room, and he fell in the bed and slept.

I, however, stay up all night reading quad mom blogs, researching cars, car seats, risks of a high order multiple pregnancy, and everything in between.

We wake up the next morning and walk down to breakfast, again in silence.  I can't tell if my husband is excited, terrified, all of the above?  None of the above?  

For the remainder of our trip, my sweet husband seemed to be in a trance.  He wasn't angry, but he was indeed overwhelmed.  As we drove home, I don't think either one of knew what to make of this situation.  We spent most of the trip listening to audiobooks because we didn't know what to say. We made an appointment with our doctor for the day after our return and hoped for clarity.

A Little Help

As we rounded the corner on spring of 2016, we decided that perhaps it was time to return to the doctor.  The reproductive endocrinologist suggested that we try fertility medication to improve our odds of getting pregnant.

We agreed (to the detriment of our bank account--yeesh!), thinking that when/if this failed, we would feel as if God was directing us to pursue adoption with our whole hearts.

After one failed cycle of hormones, we decided to try once more, though given the previous failed attempt, we didn't hold out much hope. Then, about 12 days after ovulation, I started to feel awful. I mean, really awful.  As in, I could barely go the grocery store because of all the mixed up smells.  

I called the doctor and said something like "I'm pretty sure the medications messed up my hormones because I feel awful."  She laughed and said to come in to do a test to be sure.  I told her there was no need.  I'd start my period any day now and it would clear.  She insisted I come in.  

Quitters Never Win

As my dad always says, "Quitters never win."  So, as I got "closer to fine," I decided that life must go on.  My niece would have birthdays, Christmas time would come, and friends would continue to grow their families.  Instead of trying to shield myself from the potential pain, I decided to choose joy.  I wanted to celebrate birthdays and new babies and everything in between.  I wanted to choose joy.

Of course there were hard days.  There still are.  I slowly grew out of my anger with God as I realized that He didn't want the miscarriage to happen, and as I lay there in that hospital, He was holding me the whole time.  I decided to let go of that white-knuckle anger in hopes of acceptance.  

Michael and I considered adoption.  We were both open to the idea and we even went down to Texas to meet with an adoption agency. Still, the timing didn't feel quite right, so we decided not to pursue it for the moment.

Christmas of 2015 was especially tough.  I envisioned having a stocking for our unborn baby.  Every decoration, every song seemed to drown my heart into unspeakable sadness.  

We agreed we would take a break from trying to get pregnant and just focus on work and each other.

Closer to Fine

As with all grief comes anger.  I was especially angry at God. How could He do this to us?  To me?  I felt utterly broken and defenseless.  I couldn't defend myself against the "when are you having kids" questions.  I couldn't defend myself against the images of mothers pushing their gleeful children in strollers.  I couldn't defend myself against the happy news that my best friend was still pregnant and due very soon.  I felt vulnerable, and ultimately, I felt broken.  I was a broken woman that couldn't be repaired.  Work couldn't fix me.  My husband couldn't fix me. And for sure, God couldn't fix me.  He let this happen.  I wandered through day after day, thinking that I was going to be this broken woman for the rest of my life.  That made me angry.  I wanted more for myself.

Amidst the emotional turmoil, I returned to my beloved practice of yoga.  I shared my story with my instructor.  She knew that yoga could be a part of my healing process.  I remember my first class back after surgery, she played the Indigo Girls' song "Closer to Fine."  At the end of class, she reminded me that with each practice, with each day, I could get "closer to fine." That resonated with me.  I couldn't imagine being "fine" ever again, but I liked the idea of trying to get "closer to fine."

Every day, in hot yoga, I learned how to "hold myself up" and to "be ok with being uncomfortable."  I can't tell you how many times I cried through the poses simply because I could.  This was a release and a support structure I'd never dreamed of.  In many ways, yoga helped me erase this "broken" label from my forehead.  I was strong.  I was closer to fine.

The Great Sadness

Michael came to pick me up in Alabama and we cried all the way home.  That night, while I was grateful to be home, I didn't want to go to sleep for fear that I would have to wake up to the sadness all over again.  But this sadness was indeed my life now.  Waking, sleeping, working, traveling...this was my world. 

The doctors recommended the D&C surgery.  While the idea of surgery was scary, I wanted this process to be done.  I wanted to move forward.  The idea that my dead baby was still in my womb is a thought that still haunts me today.  I needed to move forward.  I wanted to be free.  I wanted to get as far away from doctors as I could.

Unfortunately, the night before the surgery, the miscarriage started to happen naturally and I began to bleed uncontrollably. I called the on-call doctor who told me to come in right away. So at 1:00 am, Michael drove me to the emergency room.  I remember thinking I may faint because of all of the blood loss.  I couldn't imagine what would happen to me.  As I checked into the ER, the nurses put me in a room with a big absorbent pad. Then, for the next 3 hours, I was left there to bleed.  They did administer pain medication for the cramping (gee, thanks), but as I lay there in my own blood - not knowing whether the baby had already miscarried - I realized that I would never be able to erase this experience from my memory.  

The doctors told me that surgery was a success (as much as you can call it that) and I was sent home later that day to recover. Physically, I felt relieved.  The baby was no longer part of my body and I was ready to be "me" again--whoever that was. Later, the doctor told us they were able to determine that the baby had Turner's Syndrome. This condition (where the baby has only one X chromosome, rather than XX or XY) was among the leading causes of miscarriage. Turner's is not inherited, but spontaneous. Once again, nothing that could be fixed.

My friends (who are the best in the world, by the way) brought cards and flowers and meals.  However, the funny thing about miscarriage is that only those that are really close to you know what happened.  It's not like I wanted to go on Facebook and say, "Hello world!  I'm going to take a break from reality because I lost something that can never be returned.  I feel like a failure and want to hide away in a dark hole for the rest of my life."  Unfortunately, that doesn't happen, so the rest of the world thinks you are "fine," if not shirking some responsibilities given your change in emotional well-being.

It's a silent suffering and now when I meet a woman who has experienced a miscarriage, we all agree that it is a horrible club that we wish we weren't a part of.  Still, there is a bond among women in this club.  It's a sisterhood.

A Baguette Baby?

We returned home from France refreshed and renewed.  We looked forward to God bringing us a baby at the right time and sincerely hoped that time would be soon.  

One night, Michael was traveling for work and it was just our dog Ellie and me home for a girls night.  As we sat there watching "Because I Said So" (fun chick flick, if you need one), I realized I was a day late on my period.  I shrugged it off as jet lag from France, but as I tested the next morning, I saw it.  It was positive.  How could it be positive?  We hadn't even thought about getting pregnant while in France?  How could it be?  This was the best miracle ever!  I hustled over to the baby store, bought an adorable baby blanket and had it wrapped up for Michael.

When he came home, I gave him the wrapped present with the information that my hormone levels looked great and we were officially pregnant.  Glee doesn't begin to describe all the feelings we began to feel as we reveled in this blessing.  

The first doctors appointments went well.  I even bumped into my best friend and college roomie at the doctor's office.  She was pregnant, too!  Our babies could be best friends--oh how God's timing was glorious.  I could barely contain my joy.

In each doctors visit, our baby had a heartbeat and everything looked great. We joked that Michael would have to take me to a new European country each time we wanted to get pregnant.  What a life!   We patiently waited for week 12 to arrive so we could share this amazing news with our families.

As we approached the end of 11 weeks, Michael and I went on vacation with my family.  Before we left, we mailed a sonogram photo to Michael's parents as their anniversary present.  They were overjoyed!  We shared the news with my parents at the beach and we all began to share in the joy.   I was trepidatious, given our previous bad luck, but lightening wouldn't strike twice, right?

Well, it did.  On my last night with my family at the beach, I went to the bathroom to find that I was spotting.  I immediately called my doctor and she said it was probably nothing, but it couldn't hurt to head to the ER just to hear the heartbeat and confirm the false alarm.

Given that Michael has already returned to Virginia for a work obligation, Mom took me to the hospital.  As we sat in that cold ultrasound room, the technician was silent.  Whenever the technician is quiet, it usually means bad news. My legs began to tremble uncontrollably.  As they wheeled me back to the hospital room, I hoped against hope that this wasn't happening.

After another hour of waiting (why must the ER docs make you wait?!), the doctors confirmed there was no heartbeat.  I called my doctor in Virginia and she encouraged me to come back to VA immediately so we could discuss my treatment plan.


We were so grateful for the opportunity to take a trip to France in May of 2015.  As I mentioned, we needed time to reconnect.  I couldn't seem to kick my sadness.  I remember sitting on our couch watching countless episodes of Jimmy Fallon in hopes of being able to laugh again.  I was so lost, but so ready to move forward.

To France we go!  Michael took French in high school and had never traveled to the country, so we saw this as a great opportunity to check off a bucket list item and escape from the stress of our everyday life.

We absolutely loved our time in Paris before we headed to Mont St Michel and the beaches of Normandy.  It was such a gift to reconnect, focus on each other, and just have a little fun.  This felt more like the life we imagined.

The Wait (and Pain) Begins

When a couple first decides they want to have children, it's organic, isn't it?  There are some traded smiles and hopeful glances while everyone waits to hear the good news that a baby is on the way.

Unfortunately, this wasn't the case for Michael and me.  We tried to get pregnant for a year and a half and nothing happened.  All the while, several friends started families and people began to ask the dreaded question, "So do you want children?".  OF COURSE we wanted children, but it just hadn't happened for us. I can't tell you the number of times I held back tears and tried desperately to tear the topic of conversation away from babies.  I remember dreading going to family events for fear that someone would inevitably bring up the issue that Michael and I had been married for several years.  Didn't we want to start a family in the near future? Every forced smile seemed to cause yet another tiny tear in my heart.

After 18 months of trying, we decided it was time to see a doctor. The good/bad news was that nothing was wrong with either one of us.  It just wasn't happening.  I endured every (humiliating, painful) test in hopes of finding something we could "fix," but that just wasn't in the cards.

Finally, in February of 2015, I saw that glorious plus sign.  The one that every woman "trying to conceive" longs to see.  After waking up Michael with a hug and a smile, I immediately called my mom and my sister.  They squealed and began to imagine a tiny Baudinet running around our country home.  I called the doctor and they encouraged me to come in for a blood test to check my hormone levels.  I did so and made a stop by the church to sit in the sanctuary to thank God for this amazing gift. Things couldn't be better.

Unfortunately, the nurse called to say that my hormone levels were surprisingly low.  I was technically pregnant, but it didn't seem as if my body was responding as it should.  She suggested I come back for another test in 48 hours.  Oh sure, I'll just go home and wonder if this pregnancy is doomed to fail for the next 48 hours.  Perfection.  

In the second test, it showed my hormone levels were in fact decreasing. The doctors called it a "chemical pregnancy."  I was absolutely devastated.  I remember getting that call while Michael and I were sitting in church.  I stepped out to take the call and as the doctor spoke, I just collapsed into Michael's arms. This was happening to us.  I was that woman whose body couldn't support a pregnancy.  Thus began my assumption that I must be "broken."

We decided to take a break.  We needed a vacation.  I was exhausted--from everything.  From life.   From getting my business up and running all while serving as the (volunteer) President of a local non-profit.  We needed to have fun again. We needed to see the light and revel in the laughter.

Where It All Started

Michael and I were married on what we call “the best day,” also known as September 18, 2011.  Given that we both attended (and adore) the University of Virginia, we married at the UVA Chapel and hosted a reception at our favorite spot in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Veritas Vineyard. 

Immediately following our wedding, we moved to Boston, Massachusetts for Michael to finish his law degree.  Upon his graduation from Harvard, we moved back to Virginia where Michael joined a prominent Richmond law firm and I continued my work at the University of Virginia.

Our first married Christmas in Boston...

Once the first year associate year came and went and I settled into a career in private college counseling, we realized we were ready to start a family.  My sister had one (now two) children of her own and we absolutely adored our time with those children.  Now was our turn to start a family, wasn't it?