1 in 23 Million

Well, hi there, friends. Just wanted to share this little family portrait we took last week.

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Let’s get the elephant in the room out of the way first, shall we? Not that any pregnant woman wants to be the “elephant in the room,” figuratively or otherwise. But hey! Look at that. I just announced that I’m pregnant. (I feel like I’m going about this all wrong).

Maybe that’s just what happens to your brain when it’s your ninth kid.

Or! 9th AND 10TH, as the case may be.

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That’s right, friends! We’re having twins! AGAIN!

And since it’s been a while since I’ve waxed eloquent (read: longwinded) on the blog, I figured I would tell you allllll about how this came to be.

I would start at the birds and the bees, but I’m pretty sure you guys are already good with that part, so let’s skip ahead to the bit where we were actively trying not to get pregnant for a while so that I wouldn’t be pregnant while we were in Europe.

Oh! Did I forget to mention that too? Yep. We were going to Europe in April. In one week, actually. All 10 of us. Months of planning. Plane + train tickets booked. Airbnbs rented. The whole shebang.

Now, as most of you know, we rely heavily on the Lord’s guidance for the number of children he has for us. (Hence: 8). But I’ve also never made a secret of the fact that we aren’t opposed to some spacing techniques. And so, we were practicing those in hopes of not getting pregnant until after Europe.

I felt pretty confident we’d be fine. The twins are well over two years older than Theo (our 6th), who is a little over 2 years older than Honor, and Honor is, likewise, over 2 years older than Shiloh (our 8th little love). We weren’t even “due” for pregnancy for another 4 months at least, extra precautions or not.

But here’s the thing, folks: if the Lord thinks it’s time for you to be pregnant, your opinion about the optimal timing does not really matter (just ask my friends who’ve gotten pregnant while on the Pill).

And so, despite the timing being less than ideal (in our minds) and the circumstances seeming a tad outlandish (I’ll spare you my actual fertility schedule, but let’s just say I wasn’t “supposed” to get pregnant when I did), there I was, fighting nausea at Shaun’s 40th birthday party on Feb. 1 well ahead of “schedule.”

I would love to tell you that I immediately surrendered to the Lord’s will with joy and thanksgiving. But that’s just not true. I cried. Not because of the baby. (I love babies). But because of the pregnancy (which I do not love) and the timing of it, which just seemed so unfortunate.

I get over these things pretty quickly as a rule, though, and, pretty soon, I was imagining what it would be like to have another little girl around the house. Wait, what, Abbie? You knew the gender already?

Well, no, not exactly. But, after three boys (whom I love dearly…boys are AWESOME) in a row, it kind of felt like it was time for another girl baby to finally take advantage of all of those cute hand-me-downs from her sisters that are just languishing in the attic.

We briefly toyed with the idea of not finding out the gender with this pregnancy (something we’ve never done) but quickly decided that we didn’t want even a moment of disappointment when we met our baby (because Shaun was hoping for a girl too). If we were having another boy, we wanted to know early and be happy about it.

And so we did something we’ve never done before and got an early blood test. I scrubbbbbbed my fingernails (because, let’s be real: I bandage little boy cuts, wash little boy hair and wipe little boy bottoms all day err’day, and there was bound to be SOME trace of boy DNA on me somewhere) and washed my hands 8 times, then poked my finger and squeezed and squeezed until I finally had a respectable amount of my life’s blood puddled on that little test card.

In less than a week, we had the results. And it was…ANOTHER BOY!!

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I would love to tell you that I immediately surrendered to the Lord’s will with joy and thanksgiving. But that’s just not true. I cried.

I type this knowing full well that someone (maybe many someones) will judge me for my response. “Why do you care about gender? Every baby is a blessing! How can you think like this??”

The answer: I don’t usually. Totally agree. And I can think like this because I haven’t been perfected yet, and sometimes, I let my emotions get the better of me.

Because that’s really what was happening: conscious or not, my emotional reasoning went a little something like, “Lord, if I have to be pregnant when I don’t find it convenient to be, you at least owe me a little girl.”

Truth be told, Shaun and I were both a little sad. Briefly. But then, we got over it. And life went on.

At first, I felt a little too good to be pregnant. Sleepy, yes. But not much nausea or other discomfort. Some days were better than others, but for the most part: fine. And then, at 8 weeks, I had something resembling a migraine (I hesitate to actually classify it as such, since I wasn’t lying on the couch with a cold compress in the dark, but even the smallest movements triggered significant pain in my head, which produced pulses of nausea in my belly) for 4 straight days.

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The weird thing was that I experienced a full week of bad headaches when I was pregnant with Evy and Nola at–get this–week 8. But I brushed that knowledge aside because I’ve gotten headaches while pregnant with other kids too, and what were the odds that headaches + week 8 were anything other than a weird coincidence?

Fast forward a few more weeks, and my symptoms had definitely worsened. I was exhausted and nauseated most of the day. But again. Nothing to raise an alarm. I’ve gotten more nauseated (and for longer) with each pregnancy, so I figured that this was just being pregnant at 37.

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Still, I can’t deny that there was at least a niggling thought that I might get my wish for a girl after all…if I had twins. Plus, depending on the day, it did seem like I might be showing a little more than I was used to. But I also figured Baby #9 don’t play. I was due for an early poochy belly.

I say all of this to note that the possibility of twins had crossed my mind. But only fleetingly. I didn’t really think it was twins. Until we were sitting in the parking lot of the sonogram office. Shaun looked over at me, saw my face and said, “What’s wrong?”
And I said, “I don’t know. But I don’t feel super excited for some reason. I feel weird. I feel like we’re going to go in there, and she’s either going to tell me that it’s twins or something’s wrong.”

Now, before you go getting your feathers ruffled thinking that I’m equating twins with “something wrong,” I’m not. But twin pregnancies are hard, and we already have 8 kids, so twins sounded like a lot at the time (still does). I wasn’t exactly rooting for that option.

Shaun assured me that I was borrowing trouble, and we went inside for the appointment.

I didn’t have a lot of conscious thoughts as the sonographer swiped the wand across my belly, but I definitely felt relief, and something else I didn’t analyze too closely, as I spotted one cute little fuzzy white jelly bean dancing around on the screen. Our sonographer (I say, “our,” because she’s done almost all of our initial sonos for the past 10 years or so) has the cutest, most effusive personality, and she always exclaims with delight about how perfect your little baby looks the moment she sees him/her, so I was feeling pretty good.

After finding the heartbeat (nice and strong), she began to maneuver the wand around the side of my belly to get measurements, and–HELLO!–there were two fuzzy little jelly beans bobbing around side by side.

And then, I realized what I’d felt when I saw only one: surprise. I realized that, subconsciously, even though I hadn’t thought I thought I was having twins, I had thought (known?) just that. (Did you follow that sentence?).

Shaun reacted almost the exact same way he did the first time we found out we were having twins. His mouth fell open. He stared at the screen. He stared at me. He rubbed my leg with a worried look on his face while he stared at me. He said, “But…but…but…”

And I reacted almost the same way I had the first time. I just gazed at the twin dancing jelly beans and thought, “Yep.” I felt complete peace. I didn’t cry. I didn’t feel stressed. I just felt…confirmed.

(Let the record also show that Julie reacted almost exactly the same way she did the last time it was twins by exclaiming again, “GIRL!” You are THEE most fertile woman on the planet!” [Man, oh, man, do you feel that one deep in your bones when the woman who looks at babies for a living says it]).

But then, my brain started working again, and I said, “We know that one is a boy because we had an early blood test, but do you think we can try to see the gender of the other?”

I knew the chances were slim because I was only 11 weeks at the time (14+ now), but she immediately said, “Well, I only see one placenta, so that would make them identical.” And, sure enough, after a fair bit of wand-maneuvering and triple-checking, she was able to confirm that, not only was there only one placenta present, but both little wigglers possessed some pretty apparent “boy parts.”

I will admit that I experienced a twinge of disappointment at having my girl hope stamped out completely, but it was very quickly overshadowed by the whole “twinness” of the situation. And not just regular twinnness. Identical twinness.

Which is where, arguably, the most fascinating part of this whole story emerges. (Not that this narrative hasn’t already been the absolute height of scintillation so far).

But first, a little bunny trail.

We have gotten early sonograms since “the twins” (I can’t say that anymore, can I?) just because we’ve wanted to know early if we were having twins again (we didn’t know about Evy and Nola until 19 weeks), and, when we went in for Theo’s 11 week sono, there was the shadow of another baby whom my body had reabsorbed at around 8 weeks (based on sono measurements). So, Theo would have had a twin (right after Evy and Nola). And there was only one placenta (and no evidence of another), which means that Theo would have been an identical twin.

Identical twins are “random.” They occur in approximately 1 of 285 births regardless of age, race, heredity, or any other normal influencing factor (fraternal twins are a different story). In other words, statistically it’s not supposed to be possible for one person to be more likely to get pregnant with more than one set of identical twins.

And yet, I got pregnant with identical twins twice in a row. The odds of that are 1 in 81,000(ish). And THEN, 6 years later, I got pregnant with identical twins again.

The odds of that are 1 in 23,000,000. (Hence the blog post title)

Quick, somebody study me! Ha. Ha.

And so, here we are. I am pregnant with identical twin boys who are due in October. Our European trip is canceled due to Covid-19 (clearly, the Lord knew it didn’t matter about being pregnant during my trip time [insert alllll the crying laughing emojis]), and I will have an even 10 (TEN!) kids in no time flat.

And I’m reminded yet again that God’s ways are not my ways. And honestly? I’m good with that. Not just because I have to be but because I can look back and see that he has used all of the things I “would have done differently” (including my first set of identical twins) to shape me and grow me and show me his goodness and his glory.

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(Theo, left, Evy, front, Honor, right, and Nola, back)

Not surprisingly, the kids–especially “the girl twins”–think that having another set of twins is the raddest ever. Evy even told us that she had been “praying so hard at night that it would be twins.” (Thanks, Evy-girl).

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(Evy’s the one jumping extra high in the background)

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They’re all SO excited and love to pray for and talk about “the boy twins” (who, depending on when they make their appearance, have at least a chance of arriving on “the girls twins’” birthday!!).

 

And I’m excited too! It’s tempered with a 37-year-old’s knowledge of the weight/risks of a twin pregnancy and with an awareness of the challenges I will face in the next year as we navigate life with two newborns who are arriving at the very beginning of a school year.

But I have a “peace that passes understanding” that the Lord will provide what we need when we need it (I’ve already seen this begin to unfold). He really is good all the time.

Bravo to you if you made this far. You are true friends.

Oh, and I can’t wait to add twin baby boys to this line-up of my favorite people in the world.

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The Ultimate Amazon Gift Guide: Books {2019}

Hi again! I’m back with the post where I tell you all about the books we’ve read, the books we’re reading, and the books we want to read…in hopes that you find something you want to read (or gift!) as well.

Here goes!

amazon book guide

For me, children’s books need to be an ideal balance between beautiful words and images, but I’m a pretty big sucker for quirky/creative illustrations.

I just stumbled upon this Little people/BIG DREAMS series on Amazon, and, while I have little to no interest in quite a few of the people about whom the books are written (I just don’t see myself sitting down to read my kids a book about David Bowie or Bob Dylan), there are quite a few options to choose from, and I like that each book comes in hardback or board book form and features simple language for younger readers and fun, imaginative illustrations.

Some of the titles that caught my eye:

L.M. Montgomery

Amelia Earhart

Rosa Parks

Marie Curie

(It just so happened that all of the titles that I was drawn to were women, but that was mostly because I felt like a lot of their male offerings were lacking interest for our family).

I mentioned The Wingfeather Saga in last year’s list, but we hadn’t started it yet. Well we read the entire series last year, so I can now say with resounding confidence that I. LOVED. IT. And so did my kids. The first book is a bit slow and glitchy (some unnecessary quirks like long, nonsensical footnotes) in parts, but persevere, my friends. Because, after Book 1, the series soars. It is phenomenally well-written, developed, and plotted with meaningful relationships and poignant, Biblical lessons taught in such a compassionate and complex way that you could read this series coming from any faith background and still be touched (although, I would argue its most significant from a Biblical standpoint of sin nature/redemption). I seriously can’t say enough good things about this series (obviously). Just buy it. You won’t regret it!

Another series that my boys, especially, got really into is Redwall. I think there are 17 books total, and they are fairly hefty, so they could keep your kids occupied for a good while. We (mostly Ezra and Simon) listened to at least 6 on audio book. I will say that there’s a great deal of fighting and death (the characters are talking animals), but the line between good and evil is always clearly delineated, and the action is non-stop. Great for adventure-loving boys. (Also, be warned that there is the occasional “damn,” so younger kids who are more prone to parrot dialogue should probably be steered clear).

Another favorite Audible listen this year was Matilda. I know that Roald Dahl books are well-known classics, but I had never actually read any. I loved Matilda, though, in no small part due to Kate Winslet’s superb narration. But I could tell from the prose that it would make a delightful read-aloud for the whole family

Kate Dicamillo is another classic children’s author that I hadn’t actually experienced much of myself, but we read The Tale of Despereaux together this year and thoroughly enjoyed it.

Next on our Dicamillo hit list?

Our current read aloud series is The Mysterious Benedict Society, which should keep us busy for quite some time and already has the kids on the edges of their seats with every chapter. Funny note: I love to do accents and started out this series thinking that it was British based on a red double-decker bus on one of the covers (and also on the style of the writing/dialogue, which has a decidedly English flair). I ended up having to switch accents a few chapters in when I read a line about “George Washington, the father of our country.”

Whoops!

Oh well. I still highly recommend so far!

After the Benedict Society, I want to get this.

Also on my hit list because I’ve read such good things about them…

The One and Only Ivan (which I may have to intersperse with Benedict Society, since I’m so eager to read it).

…The Family Under the Bridge

and A Long Walk to Water

As far as books that I have no intention of reading aloud but that my kids love, these are great:

The Imagination Station series is a great set of adventure books aimed at ages 7-10

And the Passages series by Paul Mccusker is another great one for tweens.

I’m all about books that teach my kids truth by engaging their imaginations, minds, eyes, and hearts. And I am loving the look of these options:

How Great is Our God

The Ology

A couple more that I’m ordering for my kids:

This is How We Do It

National Parks

The Big Book of Birds (there are other Big Book titles as well if you scroll; we love The Big Book of Bugs)

A Rock is Lively (we have several books in this series, and we love them!)

And let’s not forget that there are books for mamas as well!

I have both of Ruth’s books, and they are simply delightful. I think you or any other woman in your life would love them too!

Gracelaced

Beholding and Becoming

Another great one from a blogging friend of mine, Just Open the Door has lots of great practical ideas for growing in Biblical hospitality.

Another good one to encourage the mamas in your life: Risen Motherhood.

This was not the year of the novel for me. But I did manage to read (aka: listen to a few good ones).

Before We Were Yours is a heartrending tale based on (incomprehensible real-life events). It’s captivating from start to finish.

Once Upon a River is a story with an almost Dickensian feel and some of the most beautiful, lyrical prose I’ve ever read.

Resistance Women is the continuation of my obsession with all things WWII. It’s not as emotionally engaging as some I’ve read, but considering that it manages to efficiently weave together multiple story lines, all of which are based on historical people, it’s an impressive and informative read.

And there you have it! Enough books to keep you and your kids occupied for a good long while. Hope you find something you love!