Expectations and Grace

I had one of those “I feel like I’m failing” moments yesterday when both babies were fussy (most of the day) and I couldn’t figure out what they needed.

All parents have these moments where we feel like we have no idea what we’re doing. It’s a normal part of this journey.

While I try to not fall into the comparison trap, it happens, especially in those areas in which I am the least confident. It’s SO easy to see another mom with her children (whether online or in person) and compare your performance to hers, making yourself feel disappointed and like a failure. When it comes to social media, it’s likely more “performance” than reality, anyway!

When I finally got them to nap, I had a chance to think. How many of these self-imposed expectations are actually relevant to the care of my babies and how many of them are merely an effort to measure up to my perception of what the perfect mother looks like?

And I realized something important: my babies don’t think that I’m a failure, that I don’t know what I am doing most days.

To them, my presence is enough. I walk into a room and (most of the time) they smile wide. They are thrilled just to be in my arms. So why do I compare myself to unfair, self-imposed ideals and expectations?

They don’t compare like we do because they have NO idea what other moms do. I am the only mother they know! If I were actually failing, they would have absolutely no idea. Therefore, there is no way for them to be disappointed (until much later πŸ˜‰) in me.

Isn’t that freeing?

My babies delight in me. They love me. And their opinion (meaning what brings them joy, security, and comfort) should be the only one that matters (God and my husband aside) when it comes to parenting them as infants.

THANKFULLY they don’t have social media to show them what other moms are doing with their infants, and I need to remember that. And maybe I need to reduce my social media consumption on days when I’m feeling like that.

This realization is the first of many reminders throughout my life to show grace to myself during these (sometimes difficult) days of infancy with twins. And toddlerhood. And childhood.

After all, their joy is what matters right now, not my comparison to what I think others are doing. ❀️

Going Viral

We were so blessed to have the amazing Erin Fortney Photography capture the birth of our twins because it has made me feel like I was more involved and actually present in the room after delivery.

One of the photos she posted garnered a great deal of attention, to all of our surprise:

We love the photo and what it represents, but we didn’t expect what happened next. We were amazed to be contacted by so many reporters regarding our story and it went viral.

They were enamored with Brennan’s persistence in doing skin-to-skin in the O.R. (which to us is interesting because it wasn’t a question in our minds that he should have that experience with the boys, as well) and we definitely talked about that, but we also recognized the potential for Krabbe awareness and made sure they focused on Tori and her story, as well as Newborn Screening. THIS is our true passion in life!

Here’s the current list of publications that have written about us:

Babble: https://www.babble.com/parenting/skin-to-skin-dad-twins-photo/

Motherly: https://www.mother.ly/news/viral-pictures-show-dad-doing-skin-to-skin-with-his-twin-babies-for-a-very-good-reason

Love What Matters: http://www.lovewhatmatters.com/six-weeks-later-she-was-handed-a-death-sentence-how-dads-amazing-skin-to-skin-contact-with-twins-helps-heal-family-after-devastating-loss/

Birth Becomes Her: https://www.facebook.com/56901132/posts/10100975465821040/

CafeMom: https://thestir.cafemom.com/parenting_news/212461/dad-skin-to-skin-rainbow-twins

People:Β https://people.com/human-interest/brennan-brackbill-skin-twin-sons-death-toddler/

The Epoch Times:Β https://m.theepochtimes.com/uplift/father-gives-his-newborn-twins-a-shirtless-hug-right-after-theyre-born_2544565.html

The Daily Mail:Β http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-5849873/Pictures-father-cuddling-newborn-twins-skin-skin-delivery-room.html

Huge thanks to Erin Fortney for this image and for the write-up on Birth Becomes Her that started it all ❀ :

Dad had requested skin-to-skin in the OR from the moment that he stepped foot in the hospital… he must have mentioned it a dozen times.

He + his wife were preparing to welcome twins in to the world after losing their first-born to Krabbe Leukodystrophy at the young age of 20 months.

Staff told him that it would be tough since he would have two babies and needed to be in a scrub suit over his clothes … So he promptly and without question explained that he had a large arm-span that was ready and waiting to hold his two boys and then took his shirt off and zipped up his scrubs announcing, ‘well then.. problem solved!’

This nurse made sure to advocate for him to all 24 other people in the OR that day — and personally made sure that his request was fulfilled.Β Β – Erin Fortney

Three Weeks!

When we found out we were having identical twins, I knew we were in for an adventure. I expected being exhausted, overwhelmed, and outnumbered; and yet, I had no idea just how much I could love these tiny humans. It feels like my heart will explode with hope, love, joy, and gratitude for these precious babies with whom the Lord has blessed us. ❀️

Today these handsome little men are three weeks old, and I can honestly say that it hasn’t been a blur. Thanks to my parents being here and helping – even during the night shift – I truly feel like I have been able to cherish each moment and not feel like time is flying by without my permission. Their month (plus) visit will end in two weeks and their absence will be strongly felt. And I will be much more tired πŸ˜‰ For now, I’m taking full advantage of their presence and resting when I can.

My recovery has been as easy as with Tori – only the first four days were rough. I’m very thankful that both c-sections have been uneventful! I’m already back at pre-pregnancy weight since I was all baby, and I’m also thankful for that.


Though they are identical twins, Isaiah and Caleb have distinct differences – both in appearance and personality – and so many of the differences were observed even in the womb! We have found it relatively easy to tell them apart, thankfully.

Isaiah (baby A) is relaxed and “chill” most of the time – as he was in the womb. Easy going describes him to a tee, even when eating. He is sweet and patient and loves to snuggle.

Isaiah currently weighs 6lb 14oz and is 19.4 in long.


Caleb (baby B) is our feisty one – especially while eating! He is passionate about his food. He was the very active and particular one in the womb, constantly avoiding the monitors and kicking his brother, and that has certainly remained true (minus the kicking his brother part)!

Caleb currently weighs 6lbs 9.5oz and is 18.9in long. No, he didn’t shrink – we were originally told the wrong length at birth; he was 18 inches long.


The best part of their pediatrician visit yesterday was seeing their Newborn Screeing results and confirming that they are indeed KRABBE FREE. Seeing the words “within normal limits” almost brought me to tears, even though we knew they didn’t even carry the mutation. That confirmation means the world to us. ❀


They still don’t really acknowledge the other’s existence, something we find so funny. The twin bond seems to be delayed, haha. At least these amazing photos (by Mary Ramirez Photography) make itΒ look like they love each other ;)s


(We were SO blessed to have the amazing Erin Fortney Photography capture my pregnancy, their birth (which deserves its own blog post), and their second day of life, and Mary Ramirez Photography captured their precious newborn stage so beautifully (photos above). Both ladies knew our story and offered their services as a tribute to Tori and to bless our family as we welcomed our “rainbow babies” into this world. We cannot recommend their services enough!)



Similarities:

They both LOVE to grunt and make noises in their sleep (and while awake) and it’s so funny. Sometimes it’s like they are communicating with each other while asleep. They are both great sleepers and wake up every three hours or so (you can count on Caleb waking up every three on the dot to eat!). We can’t wait until they are awake more so that we can have some fun.

They both make the same noise when they have to sneeze and it goes away – something that will be nearly impossible to capture on video, unfortunately, but it’s adorable.

They are both SO strong and can roll over on their side, mostly when mad πŸ˜‰ They have decent head control already, too! We tried tummy time but that wasn’t a success – they both used their legs to basically crawl off of the pillow that was supporting them! Already!

They both LOVE their hands and arms and, though they don’t have great control over them yet, love to have them by their faces.

I’m sure we’ve observed more similarities, but I can’t remember right now πŸ˜‰


Sure, we appreciate the newborn stage, and we don’t want to rush their development; but, there’s one thing for which we anxiously await: intentional smiles. Smiling is something Tori lost the ability to do at five months due to Krabbe affecting the cranial nerves, and it was heartbreaking. Right now they smile in their sleep, but I long for the first intentional smiles to happen. I can’t wait until my presence can evoke smiles and laughter and joy – right now I’m comfort and food…mostly just food πŸ˜‰

Joy doesn’t begin to describe our life right now. We are so blessed by these precious babies and we know that our journey with Tori has only magnified our joy. We can’t wait to tell them all about her. ❀

Adjusting to Life with Twins

We came home from the hospital yesterday afternoon (three full days and a morning spent there) and we’re so happy to be home!

The boys are GREAT eaters and are nursing so well. From the very first attempt they have latched well and definitely eat! So thankful for that because it’s often an issue for “late pre-term” babies like ours.

Both boys lost weight in the hospital – as expected – but the doctor were more concerned than we were. We knew it was because every single interruption, test, etc. made them sleep for a while and they had no interest in eating. We tried to “force” them to eat when they were sleepy and it didn’t work.

We are happy to report that both have gained weight back as of this morning, though they are still right around 5.5lbs. That will change soon! 😍

For those wondering how we tell them apart, we have left their hospital bracelets attached for now, but I’m getting pretty good at knowing who is who! 😍

Isaiah – day four Caleb – Day four

We are definitely in love with our boys. They are SO good so far and remind us so much of Tori. Both have long periods of being “quiet alert” and are so adorable.

As far as my recovery, it has been a little more challenging than the last time, but not unmanageable. The spinal block caused some minor issues – most of which resolved in the hospital. I have only been taking ibuprofen for the past 48 hours and even then it’s not on a regular basis.

I have a lot of post-partum edema (swelling) in my legs, especially, from the IV fluids they pumped into me, and partially from the twin pregnancy. It should go away in a less than a week or two (hopefully sooner).

I’m extremely tired (expected) and moving more slowly than before. But, I have to remember that it’s only been four days and a c-section is major surgery. We’re very thankful for my parents being here for the next month to help with everything!

Above all, we are overflowing with joy that these two precious boys bring to our lives. They are amazing and we love them so deeply! 😍❀️

Thank you for your continued prayer and support! We still can’t believe we have IDENTICAL TWINS!

Completely Different

I haven’t changed my phone wallpaper in almost two years.

My dad captured this moment only a couple of days before Tori went to Heaven and it’s the last non-selfie photo I have of me and her together. I have had no desire to change it because it’s comforting to me. I like that it’s always there, easy to find, and that it represents the deep trust she had in me.

I like that it’s the same photo day after day.


This pregnancy has been both similar and different to my pregnancy with Tori. In many ways, though it was still relatively easy, hers was more complicated.

Both pregnancies were/are easy in regards to no morning sickness, little discomfort, no swelling, etc. I do not take it for granted that my body seems to like pregnancy!

But there are some major differences:

  • I had gestational diabetes.
  • I had excess amniotic fluid (because of the GD).
  • I gained over 30 pounds.
  • My hips caused me pain constantly.
  • She would sleep through non-stress tests, triggering multiple ultrasounds each week.
  • I tried to deliver her naturally and ended up having an unplanned c-section.

When we found out that we were having identical twins (mono/di), we immediately assumed that we were in for a rough ride.

And, thus far, we’ve been completely wrong.

  • I passed my glucose test!
  • My fluid levels are normal.
  • I have only gained 20 pounds.
  • My hips only hurt while trying to sleep.
  • We will see about the non-stress tests, which start at 32 weeks πŸ˜‰
  • Even though I have ultrasounds every other week, everything is going as smoothly as possible! No complications; good, steady growth; very active; healthy boys.
  • This c-section is scheduled, and I am happy about it this time!

I had prayed that God would let us have the easy road this time, and while we’re not in the clear until they are born, so far He has blessed us with a normal pregnancy, and we are beyond grateful. I needed this.

(25 weeks and 29 weeks)


We’ve begun to realize that everything about what’s going to happen in April is completely different than with Tori.

  • Boys, not a girl
  • Two, not one
  • No Krabbe, no genetic issues

And we need these differences, too.

Because it will be completely different, there will be less temptation to compare them to Tori. She has her place in our hearts and they will have theirs. ❀️

We have no reason to fear the future with the twins and yet we are going to be waiting…for the NBS results, for the 5/6 month mark (when Tori’s symptoms surfaced), for them to surpass her life of 19 months and 27 days. I think until we hit that mark we will wonder if the genetic testing was wrong, if the Newborn Screening was wrong, if things are going to be the same as they were with Tori.

The boys are going to learn to crawl, talk, walk, run, play…things we can’t even imagine because Tori was robbed of those opportunities. I can’t wait (and yet I can) until they are mobile and able to get away from us – something Tori never could.

Usually the status quo brings comfort; in this case, the differences are refreshing. And we need them.


I wonder what I will do and how I will feel when the boys are here in regards to my phone wallpaper. I imagine that will be an emotional moment, even if the new photo incorporates Tori in some way, because it will be a reminder that she is in Heaven and not here with her brothers.

But, as we move forward in our new adventure, we know that things are going to change, that change isn’t bad; that things are going to be new and wonderful, even if bittersweet, and we will learn to embrace the change and the joy that these precious boys will bring to our lives.

And we can’t wait. ❀️

Our IVF Journey: The Results

As I type this, I am halfway through the first trimester already – so, our IVF was successful! However, it didn’t go as we had anticipated.

On September 1, we drove to Towson, MD for the transfer. The entire process lasted about ten minutes but the transfer itself was about one second! We were given a picture of our two precious embryos as they were hatching from their shells.

Right before the embryo transfer – #4 is the boy and #6 is the girl

We put in two embryos because we really wanted twins, but we also did it just in case only one made it. Financially it was necessary because this transfer was already paid for but subsequent ones will cost around $4,000 each. We needed this one to work.

The transfer was quick but the waiting was long. Β Thankfully we were both distracted by the happenings in our lives and didn’t have much time to wonder if I was pregnant. The pregnancy test wasn’t until September 14, but while I was visiting family in California I took a test and it was positive. It was a super faint line, but there was a line!

On September 14, I had blood drawn and received the call that afternoon that I was indeed pregnant and that my HCG numbers were great – 971! They said it was too early to know if there were twins in there based on the number. More blood was drawn a few days later and my HCG was close to 6,000.

We had our first ultrasound on September 25 – also Brennan’s birthday. At first we were only seeing one baby and our hearts fell. The technician then said, “you’re having identical twins!”

Six Weeks

To say that news was shocking is an understatement, as it’s actually quite rare – even in IVF – for embryos to split. We’re talking less than 2% chance. We were both shocked and saddened at the same time because this means that we lost an embryo.

The funniest part of all of this is that we now have no idea what we’re having! We knew when we put in the boy and the girl…but now we don’t know which embryo split! God has such a sense of humor! We will be happy no matter what we’re having, but we’re hoping these are boys simply because it’s our only shot at boys – our remaining frozen embryo is a girl.

Seven Weeks

Both babies have strong heartbeats (141 at the seven week ultrasound) and are growing right on schedule. I feel fine and have no pregnancy symptoms aside from being a little more tired. My pregnancy with Tori was easy with no morning sickness so I’m praying for the same with the twins!

I have 1-2 more weeks of being seen at Shady Grove Fertility before I transfer to my doctor in Hershey. I cannot recommend Shady Grove highly enough – they are the best at what they do and have been so good to us!

It has been quite the adventure. It hasn’t always been easy and I’m growing weary of the nightly progesterone shots (and the side effects that brings). But, it’s beyond worth it to know that I’m carrying precious Krabbe-free twins (they aren’t even carriers!)!

Thank you all for continuing to pray for us and support us. Please keep praying for the twins – specifically that they are in their own sacs – and for an uneventful and full-term pregnancy. My goal is to carry them until at least 36 weeks, and preferably beyond that. ❀

God is so good and we are so thankful that He has made this possible.