Monday, September 30, 2013

Finding My Peace in the Present

Answering the Never Ending Question of What's Next?

It seems like no matter what phase you are in in life, people are ALWAYS asking what is next.  When will you get engaged?  When will you get married, have a baby, have another baby...and so on and so forth.  And yes, I am guilty of this.  My friends and I are always trying to plan out our lives. But I guess now that my boys are close to hitting the year and a half mark, everyone always wants to know, Are you ready for another?  

Well you asked.  Here is the long answer:  (scroll down for a shortened version)

Mike and I know that we both want at least one more child but right now I am trying to enjoy life with my boys.  I still have a hard time believing our family doubled in one day.  Every day, I am still adjusting to motherhood and trying to find a balance (maybe I will be doing that for the rest of my life?)  And I still remember that pregnancy like it was yesterday.  I will openly admit I am dreading being pregnant again.

A lot of woman say they love being pregnant and that they felt so "in tune" with their body (whatever that means?!).  I am one of those women who will say how it truly is, or was for me, carrying two babies for 35 weeks and 5 days.

Mike and I only tried for about 3 months before we found out we were expecting.  We were very lucky.  I will never forget the date, Sunday October 2nd I took the pregnancy test that clearly read "PREGNANT".  I scheduled an appointment with my OBGYN.  They also confirmed the news.  
Two weeks later, we went in for our first internal ultrasound.  Since we found out we were only 6 weeks along (pregnancy tests come back positive earlier with twins) everything was VERY small and we couldn't hear the heartbeat yet.  About halfway through the procedure, the technician had a big smile on her face and you obviously know why.  She told us that she saw a second yolk sac.  I learned a yolk sac is the very first thing you see when a baby starts to form.  She explained in layman’s terms, we were pregnant with twins!  Identical twins to be exact!  Wow, what a lot to take in!  Twins don't run in either of our families, so the idea of multiples hadn't even crossed our mind!  They wanted to schedule an ultrasound for the following week so we could hear the heartbeats and confirm that there was indeed 2 healthy babies inside.  

As soon as we left the office, I called my mom and just started bawling.  This was too much.  For someone who plans literally everything in life, this was one surprise I never saw coming.  Mike on the other hand was so excited, easy to say when you’re not the one pregnant!

One week later we went back for our 2nd ultrasound.  Mike couldn't make this one, he had to work (the only appointment he missed all 9 months) and we thought the initial shock was over. As soon as she started the ultrasound our two babies popped up on the screen.  It was amazing to see how much they had changed in just one week.  I was now able to hear both heartbeats, strong and steady.  What a relief!  But as the technician was looking, a worried look came over her face and a doctor was immediately brought in.  The doctor explained that my babies did not have a membrane.  The rest of what she said to me was a blur.  Here I was alone, in a room with a doctor I didn’t know, without my husband, learning there was something wrong with my pregnancy.  She told me my identical twins were in the same sac, sharing a placenta, but they didn’t see a membrane.  The membrane acts as a wall and keeps the babies’ umbilical cords from getting twisted, tangled and knotted together.  Pressure on one cord and not the other can cause one baby to grow while another baby could slowly die.  Or worst case scenario pressure on both cords means they both don't make it.  It's called Monoamniotic twins.  The doctor at Pocono Medical Center told me this was an extremely high risk pregnancy and that the babies, at best only had a 50% chance of survival.  I was sent to a specialist down in Allentown.  

I think I cried myself to sleep for 2 straight weeks.  The excitement and overwhelming joy of twins was immeasurable but the complications were stealing my excitement.  I remember Mike saying to me, "It would be devastating if we lost this pregnancy.  What are the chances of us having identical twins again?"   Although I know he didn't mean to, it put a lot of pressure on me to make it through the pregnancy but I also knew that was out of my control.  We kept these "complications" to ourselves and only shared with immediate family and friends.  We didn't even share are pregnancy with many people at this point.  Here I was, trying to go to work everyday and act like nothing was wrong.

I had my first appointment at my maternal fetal doctor.  We had a 40 minute ultrasound that day.  The doctor searched and searched for a membrane, and low and behold, he found it!  It was probably the best news I heard.  He told me it was an extremely thin membrane but it was there and that's all I needed to hear.  I wanted to be at peace with my pregnancy, but that misdiagnoses really put a sour taste in my mouth.  I don’t think I ever truly got over it.

Then came the sickness.  I was sick as a dog from about 9-17 weeks.  I can’t tell you how many days I couldn’t even get out of bed or how many sick days I blew through at work.  Thankfully my boss was awesome about my pregnancy (shout out to Jeremy Settle) and I kept him in the loop with everything.  I will never forget the day I was anchoring my morning show, and during the weather segment I had to run to the bathroom to throw up.  It was awful.  And it wasn't just "morning sickness" it was ALL THE TIME sickness.

Just as I was starting to feel better, I got PUPPS.  Gosh, did that suck.  PUPPS is a pregnancy rash.  It's basically itchy red bumps all over your belly and back.  Doctors don’t like to give you medicine, due to the pregnancy, so guess what?  You just get to deal with it.  The only positive; they say when you have PUPPS once, it doesn't come back.  There's my silver lining.

As my pregnancy progressed, I was constantly at the doctor. In a good month, I would have at least one appointment a week, between the specialists and my OBGYN.  I had a total of 27 ultrasounds.  Many moms would think, "Oh, I would love to get to see my baby that many times."  But each time I walked into that office, I had a pit in my stomach.  I just wanted to know that there were two beating hearts inside.  Mike and I learned quickly what to look for.  We would hold hands until we both saw and heard two hearts pumping, then we could relax.  Unfortunately, going through that many ultrasounds, it’s no longer "fun".  You’re having that many for a reason.

As the babies started to grow, our doctor noticed Baby A (Case) was not growing as quickly as Baby B.  They started talking to us about twin-to-twin transfusion (words you never want to hear when carrying identical twins.)  This is when one baby is getting a better blood supply than another.  The mortality rate is high.  All I could think was here we go again.  We started going every week for ultrasounds.  They didn't want Colt to ever be 15% bigger than Case and we flirted with that line several times.  

At 28 weeks I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes (keeps getting better, huh?)  They put me on a diet, the LAST thing you want to do when you’re pregnant.  I had to prick my finger 4 times a day, and send my levels to the doctor once a week.  It definitely opened my eyes to what people who suffer from diabetes go through on a daily basis.  Thankfully, mine was controlled by my diet.  I never had to go on insulin or medication.

At 32 weeks, I started my non-stress tests.  Two times a week, I had to go to the hospital and get hooked up to a machine to measure the babies’ heartbeats, to make sure they were beating in the right rhythms.  At this point I was going to the hospital twice a week, my specialist once a week and my OBGYN once a week.  FOUR visits in one week.  They noticed I was having contractions.  I was no longer allowed to work and was put on medication to slow them down.  I was home for five weeks before I had my babies (which I know, is nothing compared to a lot of women).  I was bored.  I was huge.  I was so ridiculously uncomfortable.  I gained 50 pounds.  Mike would literally laugh every time I stepped on the scale at the doctors.  I, on the other hand, wondered how I was ever going to lose all this weight.  I was getting up to pee every single hour.  I was exhausted and all I thought about everyday was when was I going to FINALLY meet my boys?

The doctor scheduled my C-section for May 25th, exactly 37 weeks.  But in the last week, my specialist did not like what he saw with Case.  He was too small.  They bumped it up 2 days, and I had my boys on May 23rd, 2012.  As every mother says, they were perfect.  God blessed us.  After all that drama, they didn’t have to spend any time in the NICU.  Case was 5lbs. 5 oz. and Colt was 5lbs 15 oz.  We had two minor, minor issues.  Colt had low blood sugar (due to my diabetes) and Case had to spend some time under the lights because his body temperature was a little off, but that was it!  It felt like such a miracle after the whirlwind I had been through over the past 8 1/2 months.  

Fast forward to today and the miracle continues.  To this day, Case is still a little smaller than Colt.  My mom calls him her peanut.

This blog may sound, to some, like me just complaining.  Maybe I am.  I may offend some people for writing this.  Believe me, I know how lucky I am.  There are a lot of women who would give anything to experience all this or have gone through worse pregnancies that didn't have the happy ending mine did. I know I have two healthy babies, but that doesn't take away how I feel.  It was amazing feeling my babies move and kick inside my belly. This experience really makes you understand the miracle of life, but those 9 months are still VERY fresh in my mind.  The stretch marks on my belly remind me every day.  

When you ask me, “When are you and Mike going to have another baby?” this entire timeline runs through my mind.  We want more than two children and I can't imagine not experiencing ALL the stages again.  Plus, we make pretty awesome children, I wouldn't want to deprive the world of more Cunningham's!  I know, this pregnancy was unique but the uncertainty of what will happen the second time around is terrifying to me.  I can’t tell you how many times I asked my doctor, "What are the chances I will have twins again?"  He assured me the odds are no higher.  1 in about 300 births are identical twins.  But the only thing I hear is, "So, you’re saying there's a chance.”

To shorten my answer, yes we would like more children someday.  Eventually.  

Key word: Eventually.

Right now, I am working to find my peace in the present.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Less is More

Simple Is Beautiful

A few weeks ago, I had a very intriguing conversation with my brother.  He had been posting things online about the minimalist lifestyle, and I wanted to know more.  He sent me a few blogs to read and I became immersed in them.  I'm going to start off by saying, no I am not trying to become one of those people that has 2 pairs of pants and lives in a camper.  But I am trying to simplify my life and enjoy what IS important.

"Be content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are.  When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you."  -Lao Tzu

I think it all started when we moved back in June.  Packing your entire life into boxes makes you realize how much you have and how much you never use.  It was stressful.  I had anxiety looking at my life pile up in cardboard, wondering why I had half of this crap! Some of the boxes I literally hadn't touched in years!  Why was I holding onto it?  It wasn't bringing me happiness or good health in fact it was quite the opposite.  It was time to let go.

"Have nothing in your homes that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful."  William Morris

A few months passed and we were finally settled into our home.  I now had the time to finally begin my detox.  My brother told me the hardest part would be the start and he was right.  Where to begin?  I have a 1500 square foot home, packed with stuff and thats not including the basement.  I decided my closet would be the easiest place for me (weird as it is, I like weeding through my clothing so that felt like the natural place to start).  I took each piece and really questioned how often I wore it.  I had jeans I hadn't worn since college.  My dreams of being a size 2 again are just that, dreams.  WHY was I keeping them?  

"We go on multiplying our conveniences only to multiply our cares.  We increase our possessions only to the enlargement of our anxieties."  -Anna Brackett

As I made my way through my dresser and then through each closet (Yes, I have clothing in 3 closets in my house, that in and of itself is pathetic) I started to feel better.  I filled an entire garbage bag with clothing and shoes.  I posted some of my more expensive items on PoshMark (an online consignment shop) and have already made a few sales!  Although it was nice turning my "trash" into treasure, it was more than that.  I was letting go.  I was starting to "escape the excess".  The idea behind Minimalism is that when you strip away the nonessentials in life, you are able to better focus on the essentials and believe me, that's not my jeans, shoes or handbags!

"If you realize that you have enough, you are truly rich."  -Lao Tzu

But that wasn't enough.  Friday night I found out there was a community garage sale at my in-laws and I didn't want to miss this opportunity.  I was on a roll.  I frantically (as Mike would say) rummaged through box after box in our basement and came up with a pile of everything from silverware and candles to picture frames, martini glasses and video games (half of which I forgot I even had) that hadn't seen the light of day in years.  I sold off what I could, profiting $78!  (not bad for a last minute sale)  Then we packed up everything that didn't find a new home and dropped it off at the Goodwill.    My brother told me, "There is something to be said for giving things away."  I am now officially one truckload closer to freedom.

"When there is no desire, all things are at peace."  -Lao Tzu

I know this is only the beginning for me, and I have a LONG way to go but already I feel the power I  have over my material things.  Now let's be serious.  I'm not trying to act like I'm never going to go shopping again or buy stuff for my family, that would just be silly.  But isn't changing your mindset the entire battle?  I have already stopped myself several times lately and asked, "Do I really need this?"  "Why do I want this?"  "Will it only make me happy for a few minutes?"  This new way of thinking has made me reevaluate need vs want and truly opened my eyes for the good.

"You have succeeded in life when all you really want is only what you really need."  -Vernon Howard

My husband keeps questioning my reasoning for all this.  He thinks I have a motive and to a point he may be right.  Should I save up my earnings from all my sales and finally buy myself the Louis Vuitton I've been waiting for?  (I'm already at $300...1/3 of the way there)  But isn't that exactly the point I am trying to make?  Instead of concentrating on what I can add to my life, I'm trying to concentrate on the progress I have made and the things I have that bring me pure joy.

"Simplicity is the ultimate form of Sophistication"

To end my blog, I want to write a list of things I do have that don't cost a dime.  They are MY essentials.  Things I am blessed to have and couldn't live without...

  1. My husband.  (Yes, for all you questioning my order, he IS my number 1.  Without him, I have nothing.)
  2. Case & Colt (in no particular order;)
  3. The rest of our family.
  4. Friends.
  5. Health.
  6. Career.
  7. The ability to exercise.
  8. Fresh Air.
  9. Happiness.
  10. Love.
***Thanks to my big brother Brandon for always trying to help me be a better person.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

So What's in a Name, Anyway?

Wondering why I named my blog "Murphy's Law?  Here, this may explain it...

It may sound silly, but one of the the hardest things I've left behind as I say goodbye to the TV world, is my maiden name.  Most women (I think?)  look forward to the day they get married and take on their husbands name.  It's fun.  It's exciting.  It's something new!  I remember when I was younger, I would mess around signing my name with the last name of my current boyfriend at the time.  It all seemed so nonchalant back then, but taking on a new last name IS a big deal, at least to me.

On October 30th, 2010 I married Mike and legally changed my name to Cunningham .  Thankfully it's a good, solid last name.  It's easy to spell, easy to pronounce and I could finally get an Eagles Jersey that would never go out of style.(Thanks to my brother, I now sport Randall Cunningham's jersey every Sunday)  I was excited to become a Cunningham.  I'm lucky, Shannon Cunningham even sounds good!  But the idea of giving up my maiden name didn't hit me until recently, because for the first 2 1/2 years of our marriage, I didn't have to.

I think at first, Mike was a little disappointed when I told him I was going to keep my name Shannon Murphy for work.  I was already somewhat established in my career when I got married, so I didn't want to confuse viewers by changing my name (at least that was my excuse).  It was also a way I could stay incognito out in public.  He, as always, was super understanding although I don't believe it was the outcome he would have chosen.

So there I was, essentially living two lives.  At work, I was Shannon Murphy.  I had my "Shannon Murphy" fan page on facebook and my "Murphys Law" twitter account.  I was to a lot of people, still Shannon Murphy and I took pride in that.   I remember after I had the boys, a viewer wrote me a really sweet email which read, "Congratulations on the birth of Case and Colt Murphy!"  I didn't have the will to correct him, OR the heart to tell my husband!

Then at home, I was Shannon Cunningham.  Wife to Mike and Mother of Case and Colt.  Two roles that Shannon Murphy could never top.

But now, I have no more excuses to live two lives. I don't have viewers who recognize me or my name anymore.  There is technically no more reasons to keep Murphy (except for this blog!).  Everything in my life is now streamlined from work to home, which on a positive note, is less confusing!  I am Shannon Taylor Cunningham.  Although I KNOW there is so much to be proud of in Cunningham, I still feel like I lost a little piece of myself.  You all know, it's not about the name.  It's about what you make of your name.

Although I've been a Cunningham legally for almost three years, it feels like I'm starting over.  I'm in a new town, in a new job and in a new role with a "new last name".   But isn't that also half the fun?  It means, a new exciting journey lies ahead.  It's all what Shannon Cunningham makes of it!