One of my favorite sessions recently was a "Fresh 48" session held at Backus Memorial Hospital in Norwich, CT. Shannen and Jacob were welcoming twins into their family, and were excited to document those first few hours in the hospital with their sweet new babies. Their story is a moving one that will pull at your heart strings, so grab that tissue box and settle yourself in for a some happy tears, it's about to get real.
1) Can you share with me and our readers a little about your family? Where you and Jacob are from originally, and how the two of you met? What made you decide to live in CT?
Jacob and I were both born and raised in CT. We grew up in neighboring towns, and met through mutual friends when we were in high school. We’ve been together since we were sixteen. Jacob was a year ahead of me in school, and joined the Marine Corps after graduating, so we were long distance for about three and a half years while I finished high school and started college back here in CT. We got married in June of 2016, and I moved to finally be with him at that point. In the following two years, the military bounced us around a lot, we moved five times, and lived in a few different states. We found out I was pregnant shortly after he completed his service, and came home to be with family during this transitional period.
2) What was your pregnancy like? Did you have any strange cravings? Which part did you enjoy the most? And the least?
Carrying multiples is anything but easy, but I loved my pregnancy, and I never wished away a moment of it; I took in every day, and felt everything as deeply as I could. Jacob and I struggled with infertility, so for a long time, I used to beg God to let me experience pregnancy in its entirety, I wanted everything it entailed because it seemed so unattainable and foreign to me. I couldn’t imagine it. God gifted me a pregnancy that was miraculous and full; it carried excitement, pain, discomfort, sickness, fear, joy, wonder, and the purest love I’ve ever known. I felt every struggle and every victory equally, and I look back at that time with nothing but appreciation and awe. This isn’t to say I had an easy pregnancy by any means, physically it was extremely difficult, but I had a pregnancy that gave me everything, and I am grateful for that. I enjoyed the entire journey, but the greatest part had to be feeling two babies kicking inside me at the same time. I definitely recognize how beautifully unique that opportunity is, and I’ll always thank God for it.
3) What was your birth experience like with Marlena and Logan?
My birth experience was incredible. I had a scheduled c-section at 38 weeks exactly, which is amazing for a twin pregnancy. Most twin pregnancies don’t go that far, and so many doctors told me that it was very likely that my babies would come much earlier than that, so I was surprised, but so happy that they were born full term and we were able to bypass any NICU time. Making it to our scheduled c-section also meant Jacob was able to be there. He’s currently in training for a federal job about 1,500 miles away, and I had mentally prepared to give birth without him, assuming he wouldn’t make it in time if I spontaneously went into labor beforehand. Having him here for our babies’ grand entrance into this world was certainly one of God’s greatest gifts to our family. That blessing is something we will never take for granted. I got to watch my husband become a father, which is something that takes all your love and stretches it beyond words. The c-section itself wasn’t nearly as bad as I expected. Managing my own nerves was honestly the most difficult part of the entire experience. It really was amazing; I remember them telling me they had started, and then just a few minutes later hearing my doctor say “Hi baby!” followed by the sound of the sweetest and most beautiful cry I had ever heard. In an instant, I realized she was earthbound. I remember thinking “she’s real!” I couldn’t believe it. Marlena was held up over the drape and greeted us with wide eyes. The moment when they hold your baby up for you to see for the first time is its own kind of magical. Logan followed two minutes later, and the moment I saw his face, I felt entirely complete. Both babies were healthy and placed on my chest within minutes. Jacob was standing over us, arms wrapped around our new little clan, kissing my forehead. It was all perfect.
4) What has been the sweetest, most memorable moment you've experienced since becoming parents?
There’s this children’s book called “Wish” by Matthew Cordell, it’s about two elephants that wish for a child, but face some unexpected challenges. In the end, after struggle and bitter disappointment, their deepest wish miraculously comes true. We discovered the book while I was pregnant, and always found it fitting after our own struggles to have children. We used to read it to the babies when they were still in my tummy, and we could never make it to the end without crying. When we were home from the hospital, Jacob wanted it to be the first book we ever read to them, so we all snuggled up on the bed, and he read it aloud to all of us. It felt like we were telling them our story, about how we worked so hard to get them here, and how wanted and loved they were long before they were even born. We still can’t make it through the book without crying. By the end, we were sobbing with the babies in our arms, and I told Jacob “This is the best moment of my life.”
That was the sweetest time as a new little family, it was a victory moment.
5) On the flip side, what's been the grossest thing you've experienced since becoming parents?
Poop. I don’t mean the typical, day-to-day breastfed baby poop, that doesn’t really phase me, but sometimes there’s weird poop. I find myself googling things about their poop all the time. Is this normal? Should it be this color? Should there be this much? Projectile pooping? That’s a thing? It can go all the way up their backs?
6) What was your first thought when you found out the sex of your babies?
Honestly the very first thought I had when we found out we were having a boy and a girl was how great it was that I would never be able to permanently mix them up! We were beyond thrilled though. We never had any gender preferences, but being blessed with one of each just felt so right.
7) What was the last non-baby-related book you read?
Before pregnancy, I read novels avidly, but during my pregnancy I found my mind too consumed to focus the way I used to. Aside from books about twins and pregnancy, the only book that was otherwise able to hold my interest during that time was a collection of poetry called “Love Her Wild” by Atticus. It made me feel peaceful.
8) How are you feeling about returning to work once your maternity leave is up? I know Jacob had to not only return to work shortly after the twin's birth, but move out of state to do so! How are you feeling about all that?
I actually stopped working about halfway through this pregnancy. I plan to stay home with the twins for the next few years, and I’m so incredibly grateful for that opportunity.
As previously mentioned, Jacob, on the other hand, is in training for a federal job, so returning to work doesn’t just mean going to a 9-5 everyday, it means he had to leave again. Just three days after the birth of our babies, Jacob had to catch a noontime flight. We were still in the hospital that morning. They keep you longer after a c-section, and discharges don’t typically occur very early in the day, but I begged the nurses to speed up the process. I told them that I needed to walk out of that hospital with my husband, and if we weren’t on the road soon, he was going to have to head for the airport, leaving me to bring our new babies home without him. With one more tiny miracle granted, we were able to dress our babies in their coming home outfits, and I was able to watch my husband carry two car seats out the front doors as we left the hospital together. Jacob drove our new little family home, he brought us inside, and then we had about 15 minutes together as a new family before it was time to say our goodbyes. The time we brought our babies home will always be a bittersweet memory. Having him away is so hard. I cried for about a week straight. My heart is in two places right now. We miss him terribly.
9) What tips or advice would you give other first-time moms and dads as they experience these first few weeks of parenthood?
The early days home are a blur. I felt like I had to be perfectly confident and content from the get go, but my husband was gone, and I was scared, sad, sleep deprived, and I felt like I was doing everything wrong. I’m still overcoming that, and trying to find some confidence in myself as a new mother. On that note, I think my biggest piece of advice to new parents would be to trust yourself; Trust in yourself, your body, your instincts, your emotions, and your babies. Making mistakes doesn’t make you a bad parent, you will adapt, your body is powerful, your emotions are valid, your confidence will grow, and your babies are resilient.
Find more information on Fresh 48 Sessions here, or send me a message, I'd love to connect!