Overcoming Infertility and PTSD to Raising 3 Young Children with Casey McCurdy – Podcast 307

Joe Rawlinson by Joe Rawlinson - May 23, 2024

Episode 307 of the Dad’s Guide to Twins Podcast Show Notes

Today we continue our father of twins interview series with Casey McCurdy, father of 7 year old boy/girl twins. Listen as we explore his twin parenting journey, including:

  • Managing twins in first grade
  • Separating twins at school and twins’ reaction
  • Different friend groups
  • Different activities for all 3 kids
  • Deciding which parent will stay at home with kids
  • Overcoming infertility and having twins via IVF donor eggs
  • Mom had daytime morning sickness first two trimesters
  • Being there with wife during pregnancy
  • Delivered at 33.5 weeks after 60 hours of labor
  • Being a veteran with mental struggles with PTSD, anxiety, depression
  • Getting twins to breastfeed successfully
  • NICU for three weeks and going home without your children
  • Juggling work while kids in NICU
  • Using FMLA and coworkers donated some time off
  • Kids on oxygen after coming from NICU for about a month
  • Having a third child after twins
  • Challenges of three very young children
  • Help twins feel uniquely celebrated on birthdays
  • and more…

Connect with Casey on Instagram or email.

Podcast Transcript

This is transcript auto-generated so please forgive any mistakes.

Today we are continuing our father of twins interview series with a twin dad who shares his story about overcoming their challenges with infertility overcoming challenges with anxiety depression and PTSD that was kind of triggered again by the birth of the twins and managing young school-aged children and the crazy logistics that that requires we talk about that and so much more today on the show

Today’s show is brought to you by my two books for Dads of Twins. You can get a special deal, save 20% on the combo of these two books, Dads Guide to Twins and Dads Guide to Raising Twins. If you go straight to my website and order there, dadsguidetotwins.com/books. You can save 20% off of list price for those books and you’ll get free shipping if you’re here in the United States.

Today I would like to welcome to the show, Father Twins, Casey McCurdy. Welcome to the show, Casey.

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Thank you, Joe. How are you doing today?

I’m great. I’m glad that you’re on the show today. Casey, how old are your twins right now and what’s something exciting about this age?

So my boy-girl twins are seven and I would say something exciting about this age is just how much is going on, changes with them. They’re in first grade now. And so there’s a lot of school activities, a lot of friends that we’re making play dates with. It’s a very busy time of year for us, a busy season of life, but it’s totally different than when they were infants or toddlers.

Now, are they in the same class at school or are they separate?

They are not. They are actually in separate classes. One of the things that their school has done is put them in separate classes to kind of let them develop their own kind of school personalities. And it’s been wonderful with my son. He’s really kind of come into his own and had his own, developed his own voice and his own personality is really starting to show through.

And your daughter’s same kind of thing or is a different reaction?

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She’s always been more of a source of nature and has always had no problem with sharing her own thoughts and sometimes she could talk over her brother. So it’s been really beneficial for them to be in separate classes and she’s really blossomed. She’s very social, made lots of friends. So it’s been cool to see the development for both of them.

Is this their first year apart or like kindergarten or preschool where they separate as well?

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Preschool, they were together. And then kindergarten, that was the first time they were apart. And the way their classrooms work, they can actually go between classrooms for different activities. And so they still get to see each other. They see each other put lunch for recess throughout the day. And what’s entertaining is that the teachers always tell me they’ll walk by each other, say hi, and then go play with their own friends.

Was this like a school district school policy or did you and the parents want them separated?

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As far as I know, it’s not a school policy. It’s just something that they recommend with twins and we didn’t have any problems with it. We thought it would actually be pretty good for them. So and it’s worked out pretty well.

Yeah, it sounds like it has. Our girls, we’ve had them at school together and separate and there’s advantages and disadvantages of both, but it sounds like your kiddos are having a good experience in their own little classes and friend groups. Definitely. You mentioned play dates and social life for seven-year-olds. Now, if they each have their own little circle of friends, I suppose you may be getting pulled in lots of different directions. How are you managing the kind of logistics of that?

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Some days better than others. We’re fortunate that we go to a neighborhood school, and so a lot of their friends are in our neighborhood or the one right next to us. So their play dates are easier to manage. My daughter’s in dance right now. My son is doing piano. And my youngest, because we have one more, she’s actually in Taekwondo right now. And so it’s just kind of planning our days out. And being a stay-at-home dad, it’s kind of my job to get them from place to place. And so my wife and I really coordinate our planning and logistics. And this is the first year they’ve really had separate activities. They’ve always wanted to do stuff together. So we’ve been pretty fortunate with that.

Yeah, because you mentioned Taekwondo, piano, dance, very different activities. So it wasn’t always the case where they were doing very different things.

Yes. Yeah, this year they really started to come into their own and wanted to do… My son has really started to show an interest in music and we’re fortunate to have a music teacher across the street from us. And so he’s been really blossoming in piano and voice and wants to start playing the guitar. And my daughters always loved dance. They’ve all tried dance at one point, but the girl twin, she’s always definitely stuck with it more than the other two.

We had our kids in the same kind of activities too. All four of our kids were in dance classes, and we would just spend all afternoon at the rec center as they had their different schedules. But then ultimately, like your kids, they start to have different interests and we end up going different places. But we kind of limited it to say, okay, you get one extracurricular type of activity, otherwise it gets kind of out of control.

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That’s definitely what we’re doing. When we let them choose what they want to do, We’ve let them try a whole bunch of different sports. We’ve done gymnastics, we’ve done dance. We also did some like Ninja Warrior obstacle course stuff. They all tried Taekwondo at one point. So it kind of got to the point where they’re like, “I’m gonna do my own thing.” And it’s like, “Okay, let’s see what we can make to work.” And fortunately it’s all in different days. So we’re able to figure it out, but it’s always a busy week.

You mentioned that you’re a stay-at-home dad. How long has that been the case?

I have been a stay-at-home dad since 2021. I was working for the city. I was actually an auditor doing sales and use tax. And when everything shut down with the pandemic, it was my wife and I both at home trying to work 9, 10-hour days from the computer. And it just– it got to the point where it wasn’t feasible for either one of us. And so I was fortunate enough to be able to take a lot of leave, kind of get loose ends tied up and then leave to be a stay-at-home dad. And my wife works full-time and blessed that she makes enough that we can stay fairly comfortable. Definitely have to watch the budget at times. But yeah, I’ve been doing it for about three years now And I will say it’s the best job and the hardest job I’ve ever had.

Absolutely. Absolutely. The, uh, when I was working full time at the office, my wife was, was a stay home mom. And I mean, she worked harder than I did in my, in my little cubicle for sure. How did you decide? I mean, it’s, I mean, it’s very common for, for between parents and parents with more than, more than two kids to have to make this decision of who’s going to stay home. So how was that discussion about if it was going to be you, if it was going to be your wife, how did you come to that conclusion?

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She had been working part-time while I was working full-time. So she had been home with twins and our youngest until late when everything started to shut down. And I had always talked about wanting to be a stay-at-home dad, to be the one to come up from school, have their sake, take them to appointments. It was just something I felt deep inside that I really wanted to do. And my wife, fortunately, she was in agreement with that. And she’s also very, she’s very good at her job. She’s very successful. She’s an amazing woman that works extremely hard. So it kind of just fell naturally that I would be the one to stay at home and she would continue working.

That’s great. That’s fantastic. That you had that opportunity you’ve had for the last several years to be home with your kiddos. Are they all now going to some kind of school or do you still have your youngest at home?

So they are going to school. The youngest is home one day a week on Fridays. She goes to preschool Monday through Thursday, and then next year she’ll move into kindergarten. So I’ll actually have all three kids in school five days a week at one school, which that will definitely help with logistics.

Oh yes. Oh yes. We had a season where we had our four kids in like three different schools and it was kind of crazy. So I’m glad you have like your neighborhood school and you have them kind of all together in the same spot. That makes it easier. Let’s go back to when you found out that you were going to be having twins. What was your family situation like at that time and what was your reaction to that news?

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So we actually went through a journey of infertility before we got the twins and we went through about four years of infertility, tried lots of different treatments and lots of different doctors. We wound up having our twins through IVF with donor eggs. And so even though I knew it was a possibility, it still just caused me to take a step back and be like, “Oh man, there’s going to be two of them. What on earth am I gonna do? So it was scary. It was exciting and it was a very happy time for us because we had been trying so hard and wanting and wishing and praying and wanting to start a family and it was a very long journey for us.

It sounds like you have lots of ups and downs in getting to the point where you’re able to welcome the twins to your family. You mentioned you had some donor eggs. How do you go about that process of selecting the donor?

So for us, the donor eggs come from my wife’s sister. We had a lot of discussions about it. We talked to a lot of family about it and she was an amazing person and was willing to share that incredible gift with us so that we could have a family. It definitely took some thinking and talking about it just with the differences it would be because it wouldn’t have been my wife’s eggs. It was a donor’s eggs. But that’s never been something that we’ve hidden from the kids. We’ve talked about it. It’s not something we’ve ever hidden from family. We’ve always been pretty open about it because what we found in going through the IVF process was that it’s something that a lot of people go through, but nobody wants to talk about it, it seems like. And so us being open and sharing it with people, we’ve connected with a lot of different families and a lot of people where they’re like, “Oh, well, we went through that too. Maybe it’s not, maybe we can talk more about it. Maybe we can be more open about it.”

That’s true. I mean, I talk a lot to a lot of parents that have twins from IVF because they struggled like you and your wife for years to have kids. And then finally through this amazing modern medicine that we have, they have that gift of having children. It’s too bad that there’s a stigma of not wanting to talk about that because it often ends up with a very good outcome like you have here with your children. How did the pregnancy go for your wife and delivery? Were there any challenges or complications there?

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So she dealt with morning sickness, kind of like all day sickness. The first trimester and second trimester were rough. We tried a lot of different of everything from old wives tales on how to feel better to…it got to the point where basically she just had to have a snack with her at all times. Otherwise, she’d get really nauseous. Overall, the pregnancy went pretty well. Being that there was twins, we had checkups every week and I made sure that I went to every single one of those, taking time off from work because we were both working full-time at that time, but I had made a commitment to myself that I wanted to be there every step of the way. I didn’t care if it was a five-minute appointment or if it was a ultrasound appointment or what type it was. I wanted to be there for every single step of the way. The pregnancy overall went well. They did decide to make an early appearance. They were delivered at about 33 and a half weeks, so they definitely came early and were premature. The delivery was a long process. My wife was technically in labor for over 60 hours. because we were trying for a while, we were trying to see if we could keep them inside until we got to 34 weeks. And then it just got to the point that my son had dropped lower and was under stress, and they just decided to do an emergency C-section. And we went through that process. And it was definitely a, I mean, I would say it was a traumatic experience for me.

Yeah, that’s crazy. Like 60 hours of labor and then ending with emergency C-section is not usually how you plan things to go. And with our firstborn, who was a singleton, my wife was in labor for a long time and I ended up with an emergency C-section that was just, I mean, not just a struggle physically, but a very emotional challenge, mental challenge. How did that affect you, how did that affect your wife, and how were you able to work through those?

So it definitely, it kind of added to the mental struggles that I already had. So just to kind of give a little backstory to that, I’m an Air Force veteran, served for four years, and I came out of it with some mental health struggles. I have PTSD, depression, and anxiety. Those are managed by medications now and actually the thing that caused me to get on medication and counseling, I have my twins to thank for it. The stress of everything really brought it to a forefront and it was like, “Man, I need help. There is more going on than just, ‘I’m having a hard time.'” And my wife suffered through some postpartum a little bit, but she was so focused on recovery and being an amazing mother for the twins, that she seemed to deal better with it than I think I did as far as from a mental standpoint. And she also had to heal up from the C-section, which I had no idea going into it that how much work it would be involved recovering from that and things she could do and couldn’t do. I’m sure you probably experienced that same thing.

Yeah, it’s, you, you conceptually understand what it is going in, but yeah, my wife had C-section with all of our deliveries, so three deliveries and four kids, and I mean, that’s major abdominal surgery that she’s having to recover from. At the same time, you know, trying to breastfeed the babies and trying to move around and recover herself. It’s, it’s just insane amount of things that mom’s having to go through.

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And she wanted to make sure that she really wanted to breastfeed for the twins. And I mean, breastfeeding for twins is… There was definitely times that she said she felt kind of like a milk factory because if we weren’t feeding, she was pumping. If she wasn’t pumping, we were trying to rest or making bottles. And we had to supplement with some formula, which is normal. It’s common. I mean, it’s not anything to hide from. And we were very fortunate that my wife did very well with being able to produce milk. And it took a while for the twins to get to the point where they could take bottles. And nurse, being premature, they were on feeding tubes and it was a very slow process while they were in the NICU.

How long were they in the NICU?

A full month. It was like 24, 25 days.

And were they both in there the whole time or did one come home earlier?

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They actually were both in there the whole time. But I will say that’s one of the hardest things that I’ve ever had to do was the first part would be my wife got discharged and so So we had to go home without our kids because they were still in the NICU. It’s like we just had our kids and we can’t take them home. We can’t be with them as much as we want to. We were there every day, all day until they basically would come in and say, “Okay, you need to go home and get some rest so you can come back tomorrow.” spent every day in there with them and did all the bonding that we could. But seeing this little tiny human being in a bun warmer and just how small they were was definitely intimidating. I never felt scared holding them or anything. I’m very proud of the fact that I changed the the first diaper for all three of my kids. That’s great. That’s something I always try and tell new dads is like, “Change the first diaper. You will hold onto that for the rest of your life.”

The memory, not the diaper, right?

Yes. Yes. The diaper would be very gross by now.

There would be plenty of diapers that come after that one, but that’s a fun first memory with the kids.

There are tons and tons of them.

How did you juggle work with visiting the kids in the NICU and stuff like that? I really lucked out. I had some amazing coworkers, so we knew that we were trying to have kids. So I started kind of saving my leave and not really taking any other appointments. I would try and take the appointments that my wife had. I would try and do those over lunch hours. I had an amazing supervisor at the time that really worked with me to do that. And then with the city, I actually got some paternity leave and was able to take time off for a couple weeks and then put in for the FMLA, the family leave too, just because they were in the NICU. And it was needing to provide care and extra care for that. Plus with my wife having a C-section, I was able to justify it too since there was so little that she could lift or carry and recovering from it. And it was follow-ups with her doctor and also with being in the NICU. And then my coworkers were awesome because they actually donated leave to me so that I could stay with the kids and not have to come back to work.

Well, that’s fantastic. Wonderful people that you were working with. I know a lot of dads have maybe a few weeks off max for leave. You took some FMLA time. Can you maybe explain a little bit how that was different from the work you got? Like, is it paid or unpaid and stuff like that?

So I was able to take, I took all the paid time off that I had allowed and then the FMLA, there was… So I guess we’ll back up a little bit. So I had paid time off and I took that full amount of time that I had accrued and then my co-workers actually donated their paid time off to me to use. And then once I got to the end of that, I was able to take the FMLA, which for me was some unpaid leave, but I was able to be there and I didn’t have to worry about my job position going away, about losing where I was at as far as career-wise. I didn’t have to worry about losing out on my benefits because in a sense it held the position for me. So I was able to just focus on the kids and know that nothing was going to change at work, that I could just come back and be right where I was before. I was very fortunate enough to work for the city and they had been pretty progressive with the changes that they had been making for paternity and maternity leave so that people could take time off and spend it with their family and dip into the bank of paid time off that you had. So they were very supportive from the top down very supportive of it. And I think what was fortunate was that a few of them, their kids had been in the NICU at one point or another. So they understood the stress of being a NICU parent that it goes with. So it definitely was a great place to work.

Absolutely. That’s a great combination of nice people that you’re working with and people who understood your situation. It has some strong empathy and sympathy going on there. For listeners who are not familiar with FMLA, it’s the Family Medical Leave Act, which, as Casey was describing, does give you an option for some unpaid, job-protected leave for medical reasons. I know when I talked to lots of dads in the US, somewhere about as you and me where we had limited paid time off. And then I talked to dads who are across the pond or down in Australia, New Zealand, and they’re like, “We got months off. Paid time off.” So it’s a little bit different across borders, but it sounds like you’re in a good situation able to make the most of the options that you had for you at that time. Were there any lingering challenges because your kids were in the NICU? Were there anything lingering after they came home or were they good to go once you brought them home?

They were both on oxygen for about a month, month and a half once they came home from the NICU. It’s not too uncommon for babies that are born in Colorado, which is where I’m at, to come home on oxygen just because of the altitude that’s here. But they definitely had breathing struggles and they were on oxygen the whole time. My daughter, she was actually on a CPAP device initially. They both stayed on nose canyons. I mean, it was the entire time they had to meet a car seat challenge, which was them sitting in the car seat and their oxygen levels couldn’t drop below a certain percentage in order for us to be able to take them home. So that was a long process. We learned to navigate life carrying around two small backpack oxygen tanks and we had a big one at home and how to clean and put the pads back on and change out nose cannulas and get deliveries of O2 tanks. And then we had to teach all of our family how to use it and it was definitely a challenge. I have a really great appreciation for people that have to be on oxygen all the time, just all the extra stuff that they have to worry about and carry with them.

Did there logistics of needing oxygen interfere at home with maybe feeding or sleeping or other logistics like that?

Not too much. We pretty much lived in our living room for the first couple months when they were home because it was so much easier for my wife and I to stay downstairs to come down on the couch and we would just alternate shifts. We would have them in a big bassinet together. With the oxygen tanks, it made it a lot easier until they were able to come off of those. Luckily, it was just nose cannulas that they had, and so it didn’t really interfere with bottles or nursing.

So. After the twins were home, fast forward a couple of years, you find out that you’re expecting number three. What was the reaction from your twins? Were they old enough to understand what was happening when that happened?

So, kind of. I think they had an idea of what was going on. So when my youngest was born, my twins had just turned two. So I had the whole three under three for three years, which is a whole other episode I’m sure. They kind of understood because they could see that mommy’s belly was getting bigger and we kept telling them that, you know, there’s another baby in there, mommy has a baby in her tummy. I don’t think it really made any sense to them until she was born and then we brought them over to the hospital so that they could meet her. It was definitely a massive shock for my wife and I because when we started our infertility process and when we made the decision to go to IVF, we were essentially told that we couldn’t have kids any other way than through IVF. And to conceive naturally, it was a huge system shock to us. So it definitely took some coming to grips with the idea of, “Okay, we’re gonna have another one.”

Yeah, that’s crazy. So it was totally out of blue, totally surprised. Usually the twins are the surprise, but you knew that was a possibility with IVF. So now, your youngest was the surprise. So what was maybe the most challenging part of having three extremely young children at the same time?

Probably the feeding of all of them because the youngest was we also nursed the youngest my wife did and then feeding the twins and then keeping everybody on somewhat of a schedule for naps and sleeping in bed. And it was just our daily schedule was a struggle, especially when they were a lot younger. As they got older, then the twins could have more time, and they have each other. And so they’ve always played pretty well independently. And so we could focus on the youngest if we needed to, or get her down for a nap and then come back and play with twins. So I would say just for us, it was just a daily schedule of trying to figure out who’s doing what and who needs to go down for a nap. Who’s going to bed, who’s getting fed.

We had four kids ages 3 and younger, and so I feel your struggle for sure. How do you help your twins feel uniquely celebrated when it’s time for special events like birthdays?

So we actually talked to quite a few twin parents to kind of figure out how they did birthdays. And a lot of the twin parents we know, they actually have either two boys or two girls. And even though they do that, they’ve always tried to make sure that they feel celebrated individually. And so our focus has always been, they each get their own cake, they each have their own presence. There’s not like a shared, “Okay, you only get one cake.” As they’ve gotten older, they’ve each been able to invite their different friends that they have. We’ve offered them opportunities to have their birthdays in different places, but they have, this last, like for instance, when they turned seven, they chose to go to Skate City, which is a place to go roller skating, and they wanted to have it together. So it’s really cool. They still love sharing the day and they love the fact that they’re twins, but we’ve really, really tried to make such an effort that, yes, you share a birthday, but this is your time and this is your time. They get to pick their own decorations and help decorate their own cake. I would say that’s been the real big focus and we try not to make it a shared experience for them. If we get a gift for the kids. It’s for all three of them and it’s like a family gift. But they get, they have their own presence, their own special time that they get to see themselves as an individual.

That’s great. I always love trying to find ways to uniquely honor the individual child’s needs and sounds like you have a good setup there with your three children. It’s wonderful. So Casey, as we wrap up our discussion today, if listeners want to connect with you, what’s the best way to reach out?

Probably the best way to reach out to me is I’m on Instagram. It’s @cohiker. If you do send me a request, I will have to approve it. I just keep it kind of private. But that’s usually the best way to reach out. Or if there’s any twin dads that want to reach out and connect with me. You can send me an email. It’s the letter K and then C, [email protected]. And I’m happy to meet over Zoom and talk about life as a twin dad or try and give any advice of things that I’ve learned over the years. I’m still learning, so I may not have all the answers, but I’m definitely willing to lend it near.

That’s very generous of you. Thank you. I’ll link up to that. Those email and Instagram on the show notes for this episode. Casey, thank you so much for sharing your story with us today. We really appreciate it.

Yeah, thank you for having me on. This has been an awesome opportunity.

I hope you enjoyed that conversation with Casey about his adventures as a father of twins. If you want to connect with Casey, I’ll link up to his contact information in the show notes for this podcast, you can go directly to the archive for all Dads Guide to Twins podcasts by visiting TwinDadPodcast.com. Again, today’s show is brought to you by my two books for Dads of Twins, Dads Guide to Twins and Dads Guide to Raising Twins. This will get you through the pregnancy, through birth, newborns, infants, toddlers, and beyond. This book combination is available to you for 20% off list price if you buy directly from my website, DadsGuideToTwins.com/books. If you would like to share your story, like Casey did today, I would love to hear from you. You can reach out to me directly via email, [email protected] or on Instagram or Twitter @twindadjoe. And I would love to hear from you. If you’ve enjoyed this podcast and found it helpful, would you do me a favor and recommend it to another twin dad that you know that may be expecting or raising twins? I would greatly appreciate it. Thank you so much for listening and I’ll see you next time.

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