Saturday, December 26, 2009

"God Bless the Mamas"

[Quote from Primary Colors]

I recently told a friend of mine (who also has twin girls, and who also has struggled with depression) that I know my experience wasn't necessarily extraordinary, but part of me felt it needed to be documented, while the other part of me just wanted to forget it. All new mothers struggle - don't they? (I found myself saying the word 'torture' often to describe the first year of the girls' lives).

As I recall the fragments that make up my memories of those first few months, it occurs to me how a veteran mother views a new mom-to-be. It's like watching someone put on a parachute and jump out of a plane for the first time. There is absolutely no way that you could know what the experience will be like until you live through it, and there is no amount of research or advice that will make it any less shocking, scary, or dare I say, exhilarating.

And as much as being a new mother is a fantasy in so many respects for many women, that balloon gets burst as the reality of the near-crushing weight that new motherhood brings sets in.

As I look back, realizing that I was struggling with post partum depression (or perhaps a continuation of years of untreated depression - I may never know), I see such strength in all mothers. I feel such pride in my new title, but also such sadness as a new wave of understanding washes over me for all the mothers in all the countries in the world, throughout history, the pain and vulnerability that comes with having your "heart go walking around outside of your body" -Elizabeth Stone

"To understand a mother's love, bear your own children" - Chinese Proverb

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Gift of Calm

This Christmas, I'm thankful for many things - the usual: family, friends, job, house, etc. But there is one thing that stands out for me, that has eluded me in my parenting of these twin girls, and that is CALM. My ability to remain calm in the face of situations that present themselves in the course of a day with two preemies, two infants, and now, two toddlers.

I recalled for an acquaintance at a holiday party how my girls would scream from about 4pm until 7pm between 4 and 8 months old. I'm sure it wasn't always both babies, for the full 3 hours, and I'm doubtful that it lasted four months, but that's how I remember it. I remember the utter chaos and the complete frantic feeling that would overtake me. My anxiety was palpable. I wasn't able to put it away, even after the girls had fallen asleep. Even when I myself was asleep.

On a busy holiday evening, I ventured out to the local take-out pizza place with my two two year olds in tow - a task I would not have even considered a year ago. More than likely not 6 months ago. Possibly not even 3 months ago. It does have an awful lot to do with their age - they tend to cooperate, put on their shoes, hop into their car seats and go.

But they are still two. Before we had even left the garage, there was a dramatic crying scene over shoes and the possibility of being left behind. I strapped the little drama queen into her car seat, feeling confident (and calm) that it would pass, and went on our way.

My mom calls me just as I was pulling into a parking spot in front of the pizza place. I watch people go in and out, hoping the line won't get too long before I can finish up my call and go inside. With my girls holding my hands, I step inside just in time to see the customer before me pay for $112 worth of pizza! Knowing we might have a longer wait than I had hoped for didn't send my blood pressure sky rocketing, as it surely would have in the past.

There were times in the past when I viewed my daughters as ticking time bombs, with only a finite time frame to work with before -- what? I don't even know now what I was so worried about.

Since the craft store is right next door, I decided we needed to pick up some supplies for Christmas. Normally, my husband and I avoid taking both girls with us to the craft store because it can be hectic. I asked the girls to please stay next to me and entered the store without a second thought. Next thing I know, they have discovered porcelain piggy banks and each have both of their hands eagerly cupping a pig, with gleeful anticipation. A quick, stern warning from me prompts a look from a woman passing by, and we make eye contact with that knowing glance that all mother's share. Purchases in hand, we exit the store.

Unbelievably, I'm still feeling calm.

Calm enough to walk over to Safeway to grab a movie and some pop. This task is uneventful until I can feel victory with the swoosh of the air coming in through the automatic doors. Then, the finale of this story: I pull Jaeda up out of the cart, and set her free. Just as I'm asking Tristyn to carry the movie, Jaeda runs over the threshold outside, and the door closes separating her from us. I hastily grab the case of pop and it collapses, silver cans spilling out onto the floor. The automatic doors open again and I reach for Jaeda, pulling her back inside. I pick up the cans and heft the box into my arms and task the girls to a "race" to the car, which keeps them on track and focused on the goal: the safety of the car.

As I close the door and start the car, I do a mental inventory. My heart isn't racing. I don't feel angry at my children or circumstances. And, above all, I feel calm. Wow. Writing it doesn't have nearly the same intensity. I'm sure there are millions of people that strive for many other emotions that are the opposite of calm, but for me, I feel as though I've run a marathon, and that calm is my reward.

I'm quite certain that anti-depressants account for the majority of my calm. But I would like to think that after 2 1/2 years of being a mom, I'm finally learning what all moms eventually discover - that you have to roll with the punches, and when you stay calm, your children stay calmer too (most of the time). What a concept!

Not so calm in Santa's lap (Christmas 2008)
MERRY CHRISTMAS to my blog readers!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Anti-depressants Make Me a Better Mother

I’ve actually uttered this sentiment to complete strangers while discussing my twins, usually after one of those inane comments twin moms hear so often; “I don’t know how you manage with two – I can barely handle one!” “You’ve got your hands full” or my favorite: “I’ve always wanted twins.”

My path down the yellow brick road to the fields of opium poppies and Lexapro was arduous, and filled with much doubt that anything was even wrong with me. I’ve referred to myself as Tom Cruise-esque in my belief that depression (post-partum in this case) is “all in your head” or could be fixed by simply wishing it away. I even once believed depression (if it was real at all) only struck those unfortunate enough to have been traumatized by some past event or form of abuse.

Then I lived it.

Day after agonizing day, with two infants to care for, and no basis with which to complain, I began to surmise I simply was not meant for motherhood. I forced myself to do the minimum amount of work required to maintain a household, and attend to two babies, but each and every action required effort, and I waited for the moment of reprieve; the girls’ nap, my husband’s arrival home, or my own bedtime. I longed for sleep all the time, even after surviving those eleven months of sleep deprivation before the girls finally slept through the night – at the same time. When I did sleep, it was restless, and I awoke feeling worse than when I lie down, simply praying for their cries to stop or hoping, against all odds, that both of them would go back to sleep (that never happened, but it didn’t stop me from hoping it would).

My restless, overworked brain went round and round trying to come up with some solution to my angst towards these ever-demanding bundles of flesh, only to reach the conclusion that I was simply too selfish to give up my entire life to motherhood. I developed a few survival tactics that kept me going – twin mommy blogs, a phone call to my mom or a drive to the espresso stand down the street. Lots of espresso.

I remember telling a close friend of mine somewhere around my daughters’ landmark first birthday, that I felt the kind of intense anger everyday that I had only experienced a handful of times in my life pre-children.

That should have been a red flag for me, but instead, I continued to assume that I, unlike billions of women before me, wasn’t meant to procreate.

Finally, when my girls were 16 months old, that same friend suggested I see a psychiatrist after I told her I was “barely keeping my head above water”. Having just had a baby herself, and being a mental health professional, she must have seen that look of desperation in my eyes, that certain quiver in my voice. Or maybe it was just women’s intuition.

Reluctantly, those little white pills followed, and I felt so infidel to my inner Tom Cruise. I heard my father’s well intentioned advice to make better use of my juicer (lest this be a mineral deficiency) go out the window.

And I started to feel relief. A missed nap no longer put me into a tailspin I could not recover from; a screaming match over a toy or bottle didn’t end with me screaming as well.

Of course, as any user of anti-depressants knows, relief didn’t happen overnight, and it wasn’t without its stumbles along that yellow brick path, but I can’t recall the last time I felt that plume of anger steam through me like a freight train.

I hear myself telling my daughters to “use your words” in that sickly sweet tone mothers use, and find myself staring at their delicate faces instead of the TV as they lounge in my lap. I relish every hug and kiss; I soak up the touch of their hands on my skin when they need reassurance from a barking dog or a passing train. I find myself engrossed in one of their activities, enjoying the simplistic pleasure of block stacking or pretend muffin making. I chase after them encouraging their delightful squeals over and over again. I am patient enough to stand at my daughter’s crib while she hands me – one by one – all eleven of her baby dolls that must accompany her at night, and still have the patience left over to swaddle and re-swaddle them until she is satisfied it’s done correctly.

When I forget to take a dose, those old “patterns” rear their ugly flying monkey heads – the impatience, the stagnancy to move on after an unpleasant event, the mental exhaustion, the irritation at everyday toddler idiosyncrasies (refusing to sit in their car seats, dawdling when we are in a hurry, the incessant rant of “mama mama mama mama mama mama MAMA!”)

I am enjoying motherhood like I never could unless I was on anti-depressants. And I’m okay with that.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Flirting with the deuce

(25 weeks)

My close friends and family know that I am a confident, curvaceous woman, unabashed at being full-figured. I've always embraced my curves. My best friend says that I "carry my weight well", which I regard as a compliment!

I had the awkward chubby phase pre-adolescence, but was a sleek, muscular swimmer in high school and college, with a healthy body image. In the years before becoming pregnant, I had settled into a delicate equilibrium with my weight - thin enough to feel sassy and healthy, while still embracing my natural hourglass figure.

But pregnancy broke me.

When my doctor insisted that I would need to gain _at least_ fifty pounds, my jaw dropped. Didn't I get a weight credit for being ample to begin with? Nope. At my 16 week visit, as the twin shock wore in, I had only gained a few pounds. I was ordered to gain 20 pounds in the next 6 weeks by any means possible. Numbers were thrown at me like hummingbirds whizzing around my head. 175 grams of protein and 2,700 calories PER DAY. 11% chance they would be identical. Twins represent one in 200 births. Average 37 weeks gestation. Expect bed rest by week 28. I was given a blue packet full of information and shooed out the door in a daze of confusion. My first post-twin-shock meal? Fettuccine Alfredo, which I could barely force myself to swallow, even though it would have been a forbidden treat an hour before.

Everything I'd learned about food and nutrition went out the window. It was like living in this backwards Jerry-Seinfeld-bizzaro universe where I was encouraged by my doctor to eat fast food. For the first time in our 5 year marriage, my husband was privy to the weight on the scale, standing behind me as I removed my shoes for the hopeful (!) weigh-in.

I remember the day I hit 200. My husband was amused that I now weighed more that he did ('I'm THREE humans', I reminded him defensively), despite being nearly a foot shorter.

Towards the end, I ignored the scale. I knew that my belly felt like it was suffering under the weight of 2 bowling balls. I saw the chubbiness in my face in the pictures that my boss and coworkers would diligently snap of me every 2 weeks so I could remember my pregnancy. I stopped going out in public. I felt the additional 70 pounds at week 34 with every step I took.

I delivered at 34 weeks, 2 days, and was spared the final belly-stretching weeks and bone-crushing weight gain that often comes with carrying multiples. I traded 70 pounds for just shy of 8 pounds worth of baby. At first, I accepted my additional weight as par for the course, feeling confident that the pounds would melt away with the whopping volume of breast milk I was producing.

Besides, what new mother has time to worry about losing weight? Amidst the craziness with two infants, I was lucky to make it through the day without collapsing. And, I had a built in excuse!

At least, that's what everyone kept telling me.

Almost a year later, I was feeling discouraged. My body confidence waned. Would I really have to bid adieu to my pre-pregnancy self-assurance? I vowed to make a better attempt to get closer to where I had been before.

By the girls' 2nd birthday, I was down 50 pounds! And that is where I still stand (sit?) today... Reluctantly hanging onto that extra 20 pounds, that threatens to drown my old aplomb - the girl that collected bikinis and barely gave a second thought to actually wearing one. (Gasp!)

Perhaps that is yet another one of the battle scars of motherdom. Perhaps the women in Hollywood that whip back into shape in 6 weeks are merely a figment of our imaginations.

Honestly, I haven't quite figured it out yet. I'll get back to you on that.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Letter to My Mom

Mother's Day 2009
Dear Mom,

This Mother’s Day, my thoughts are of how these past 3 years, starting from the beginning of my pregnancy to the girls 2nd birthday, have shaped me into a different person – a mom. And how the experience has strengthened my love for you, if that’s possible. I remember only wanting to call you and no one else, the day I found out there were 2 babies in there. I remember that I didn’t want to hang up the phone and turn off your reassuring voice. So many moments in these past 3 years are so vivid, and most of them involve you – our many phone conversations during my pregnancy; wishing you were there to see their birth, and to witness my strength (Look mom! I gave birth to twins!); feeling my heart rip out of my chest watching you say goodbye to your tiny preemie granddaughters; watching you, amazed, dancing for them in your nightgown; giggling as we tried to feed them bananas; laughing hysterically at your antics with your camera; and just feeling a sense that everything would be ok because you were there with me to help me with my struggle to feel confident that I could do this – I could mother twins.

I love telling you stories about our days – you understand me better than anyone. I love hearing the eagerness in your voice to hear tidbits about Jaeda & Tristyn – anything at all, and how you soak in every detail.

I have discovered that even though I’m an adult, and a mother myself, I still have those “I want my mommy” moments: The afternoon you swept in and saved me from a wailing Tristyn, or the late night when you took Jaeda from my arms and walked out the front door to calm her down.

It’s funny to think that that’s the only way I’ve ever known you – as my mom - but you get to witness the transition in me. I guess that’s one of the many privileges of being someone’s mother.

I love you. Thank you for being my #1 support.

Amber Lena

Saturday, November 21, 2009


A close friend of mine just found she is pregnant. With one. Not two.

My heart sank, because this may be her only chance for a viable pregnancy, and for me, because I wanted so badly to share my experience with her. We have been friends for a long time, and our paths paralleled since the carefree days in high school French class. We both married, but waited to have children, instead focusing on travel and career. I gauged my own timeline by hers, checking in occasionally to see if we were still on course.

I have a curious "gift" - among my friends, I know when they are pregnant before they tell me (and sometimes before they know). It's usually in the form of a dream, but sometimes it's just a feeling. With one of my friends, I literally woke up knowing the morning after the baby was conceived.

But with fertility treatments, my baby radar goes haywire. I knew when implantation occurred - because my friend told me. I waited for the dream to confirm it was successful, but it never came. I would wake up before it was time, make note that I hadn't dreamt anything specific about her, and go back to sleep hoping the next time I awoke I would know. Day after day, as I waited for her text message, I began to wonder if the procedure was fruitless. Finally, the call came - she was pregnant! I stomped my feet and tried to squeal with delight quietly in my small office.

Then, we were left to ponder - one baby, twins or maybe even triplets?! As tormenting as it was for me to wait, it must have been that much more so for her and her husband. I can only imagine the conversations that they must have had - hoping, wondering, second guessing. This is part of the fertility experience that is both thrilling and heart wrenching at the same time.

In the end (or the beginning as it were), there were two yolk sacs indicating the inception of twins, but only one with a heartbeat.

It's an internal struggle for me. I find myself caught between my selfish desire to be her mentor, my belief that she and her husband _deserve_ children, and my newly held stance that infants were meant to come one at a time.

Ultimately, I'm beyond thrilled that she will soon experience the joy of motherhood. The fact that I raised infants in duplicate only better prepares me to support her as she navigates down that road.

Sometimes I need to remind myself that we are all on different paths - the one we are meant to travel.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Citizen of the World

That's how I feel after becoming a mother. Prior to mommy hood, it felt like I was floundering around unattached to anyone or anything; that I could disappear and the memory of me would simply fade away. Now, I somehow feel more attached - tied down, if you will - with the negative connotations that that expression brings, as well as the warm comfortability that comes with knowing you are needed, and that other lives depend on you. It's not the same as being a daughter - my parents have long since entrusted me to my own independence in this world, and there is, of course, less reliance of them on me than there is with my own daughters. Perhaps that is why empty nest syndrome is so traumatic to so many parents. When the children fly the coop, that feeling of connectedness is not as concrete, and they are left to wonder if their children still need them.

Before I had kids, I didn't really get kids. Sure, I love my nieces and nephew and find my friends' babies adorable, but I wasn't drawn to them like I am now. All the children-are-our-future sayings we hear from parents were lost on me. Not so much from an intellectual standpoint, but from an emotional one.

Children are everywhere, with similar features that propel me to smile or say hello. I could be halfway around the world and still see my daughters' characteristics, even if not physical - a giggle, squeal or a tiny footprint.

It's all encompassing. I feel this connectedness wherever I am, whether I have my girls with me or not, like a warm blanket. The reminders are everywhere. The obvious ones of course; the pictures on my desk and computer, their voices in the background when I am talking to my husband on the phone, an empty gum wrapper in my purse. And there are the inquiries from clients and friends - as if they are an extension of me. No other possession in life is revered by so many.

Even when I'm out on my own in my car, there are the behemoth car seats that clutter the entire back seat, yet look eerily empty at the same time. The ads or songs on the radio that inevitably make me think of them.

But mostly, it is the fervent pull towards home - towards wherever my daughters are.

I'm forever altered.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

I can't complain

I really can't complain. I delivered two babies without surgery and less than 15 hours of labor. The fear I've had my whole life of child birth was finally over, and I had two daughters.

I've wanted a c-section ever since I can remember. When I was told I was expecting twins, I lobbied for a c-section - begged even. My reasons were simple: I had two babies to deliver in one sitting and I was scared. Twin c-sections are extremely common due to incorrect fetal position and a myriad of other concerns that go along with multiple pregnancies. Much to my chagrin, when I met with the OB that partnered with my nurse midwife group to discuss birth options, she told me she also had twins - twins which she delivered vaginally...and assured me I could do the same. I left the appointment feeling angry - wasn't this my choice? Hadn't I been told throughout my pregnancy that I was high risk? (A label I fought tooth and nail before acquiescing)

After meeting with the OB and talking to friends about delivering vaginally vs. c-section, I decided a vaginal birth may be advantageous because I would no longer feel restricted in my movement, as I had felt so much as my pregnancy progressed. I was ready to have my body back and knew a c-section would involve a recovery time that I simply didn't have the patience for. However, births are complicated, whether its one or multiple babies and I knew I wouldn't have much choice anyway. So, I decided to accept my unknown fate for whichever would be the one I was meant to experience.

Doing a complete 180 from my previous thinking, when I arrived at the hospital in labor, I could have cared less about a c-section versus vaginal birth. My nurse midwife group convinced me to try to labor naturally and see how things progressed. Not until I spent almost an hour pushing out Baby A and lie there waiting for contractions to begin with Baby B did the fear hit me.

The one thing I did NOT want was to labor and deliver Baby A the conventional way, only to turn around and be cut open to deliver Baby B.

I could see the anesthesiologist in my peripheral vision hovering around me, waiting, waiting. As the minutes passed and the room grew tense, I craned my neck to see him and say "don't even think about it". Poor Baby B simply wasn't ready. Through 15 hours of labor and the stress of her womb mate being delivered, her water was still intact. (Oddly, she does this still - she'll linger in the bath long after her sister has evacuated).

See, Baby B has so much more room (womb - ha!) after his or her twin leaves that they sometimes turn. (shudder) She did. When I heard my midwife murmur something about a foot, I pushed with everything I had. She arrived 46 minutes after her sister, and was swept away to the NICU to join her twin.

I dodged the proverbial c-section bullet and was famous for a day amongst the nurses on the birthing floor.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Bestow My Beating Heart

Today at a birthday party I was asked if I had any advice for a friend that was pregnant with twins. First I joked that I would give her my blog address but that might scare her. Then, I bumbled about connecting with other twin moms (blogs included, but perhaps not mine), keeping the babies on a schedule, hiring a baby doula (if she could afford one) and renting a hospital grade pump instead of buying one.

I could have kicked myself after I got home. What is the ONE thing that I have learned these past three years? The inspiration, if you will, for this blog? The fear that resides permanently inside my head lest it return? The affliction that held me hostage from enjoying my beautiful daughters for so long? The triumph over which I feel such emotion every_single_day? The one thing in my life that I couldn't fix myself? The compassion I feel for others that have suffered much longer than I have, and continue to suffer? The experience in my life that has made me who I am today? That reminds me how far I'm come, and how strong I really am?

My first, and perhaps only response should have been to keep in touch with your doctor, know the signs of post-partum depression and God Dammit! not be afraid to ask for help. I should have relayed my ridiculous knack of concealing my depression from my husband, my mother and my best friend. My ability to justify my struggles each and every day with another ailment or worry. The utter depths that one can reach while still appearing normal to the outside world.

Then again, the other pieces of advice are much more tangible. And that's what people want, right? Each person has a journey to live, struggles to endure, and reasons for both. We can't always deflect other's troubles simply by bestowing warning. Life simply doesn't work that way.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

"I will always be your mama"

I uttered these words to my youngest daughter (by 46 minutes) today as I wrestled with her and her sister on the kitchen floor. They elbowed each other to be the one closest to me and I heard Tristyn say to her sister "No! MY mama", in that typical toddler competitive tone. I hugged her and reassured her, "I will always be your mama" and it hit me - the title of mama/mom/mother is so very permanent. More so than any other relationship in our lives. Husbands and wives divorce, BFF's grow apart, friends and co-workers lose touch.

But your mother is always your mother. Even if she's no longer alive, or you were adopted, or raised by grandparents or another family member. The woman who gave birth to you always has a certain infallable influence in one's life.

For some reason, this didn't occur to me until that moment, even though I've always been my mother's daughter. Perhaps it is the nature of the relationship that bombarded me with such force. That I'm shaping young lives just by virtue of being myself - a dynamic that isn't as magnified in any other area of our lives.

*sigh* I hope I don't screw this up.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Cuddle Time

Is there anything better than cuddling with a 2 1/2 year old?

Perhaps, but as I recline on the purple overstuffed chair in my daughters' room, holding Jaeda in her footed "jammies", I can't think of anything that would trump this feeling. Tristyn, from her crib checks in occasionally; "Mama....?" "I'm still here" I reply soothingly, and she is temporarily appeased, until another 30 seconds has passed and she calls out again.

The girls have both brushed their teeth, first with "pongebob" toothpaste, then demanding a refresher of the "striped" toothpaste. They assist me in dressing them by holding up their too-long limbs and pressing determinedly into the anti-skid soles. We three settle in the overstuffed chair - Jaeda making room for me next to her and Tristyn climbing up onto my lap - for three books, which they have already selected and brought clumsily to our designated reading spot.

This leisurely evening ritual is in such contrast to two years ago, when I would begrudgingly return again and again to their bedroom to nurse, sing and cradle one or the other until seeking out my escape to my own bed, only to return at the sound of crying again. But that is another story entirely, and feels light years behind me; a notion that does not escape me even for a day, and especially in moments such as these that must be the reason for propagation of the human race.

What will I do when I no longer have two toddlers to cuddle with?

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Cabbage Patch Preemies

Premature babies are a different breed from full-term babies. What you notice first, of course, is their size. In our new age of fertility treatments and higher order multiples, I've seen heartbreaking images of impossibly tiny human beings struggling for each breath, a myriad of cords emerging from orifices and wrapped around limbs.

Yes, they are smaller and require miniature, doll-like clothes. Hand knitted hats are lovingly donated for their sweet little heads. They have their own endearing moniker: preemies. Children can own their very own preemie Cabbage Patch doll. ----------WAIT, what??? Not until I had two premature infants did it occur to me how absolutely absurd it is that a company would market such a thing. This video of an old commercial makes me sick to my stomach. But what's worse is that they are still being sold. Oh yes folks, the 25 year anniversary editions are available now. *Sigh*

Preemies are not "bouncing" babies.

They overstimulate easy; I remember my sweet father in their NICU room holding Jaeda in a rocking chair and seeing her readings spike in distress from the simple rocking motion, despite being swaddled tightly and held by her loving grandfather.

Preemies can't suck. Pre-baby, I thought breastfeeding came naturally. Then I learned that it's a skill by both parties. New infants can almost be the teacher to the new mommy, but preemies don't possess this skill.

Preemies don't meet typical developmental milestones. Mothers today are bombarded by charts and articles and e-newsletters and magazines telling us when our babies should smile, coo, track, sit-up, roll over, ad naseam. Doctors have attempted to solve this little problem by giving us "corrected age". Moms of preemies cling to this almost to a fault. Myself included. But it creates this neurotic dynamic that's hard to disregard. It's so easy to forget that children all develop at their own rate, and preemies even more so.

Their immune systems are compromised. They are sequestered during their hospital stay, sheltered from the loving hands of friends and family. Upon arrival home, new parents are given strict orders not to go out in public, or let many people hold or touch them. This is a heartbreaking endeavour; I had to turn away well meaning neighbors that showed up at my door eager to see my new babies.

Preemies are at increased risk for life long health conditions, learning disabilities and other delayments.

Preemies require significant additional medical resources.

Enough said.

I'm blessed to have had two preemies that are now healthy little girls, but the experience was not nearly as glamorous as the marketers of baby dolls would have led me to believe.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Singleton Angst

I spent months resentful towards mommies of single babies. I can confess this because most of my friends that have non-multiples have heard this from me before. It was the ease with which I imagined their motherhood experience must be. How simple to worry about the logistics of only one baby while breastfeeding, to have only the baby in your arms to concern yourself with, to nap when your one baby napped, to change only one diaper, dress and bathe only one and most of all, to transport, shop, go to the doctor - anything - while carrying that ONE baby simply and easily. Either in a car seat, in a sling or how quaint! on one hip with the diaper bag casually slung over your opposite shoulder.

I could be seen struggling to carry 2 car seats - one in the crook of my arm, the other in my opposite hand, my backpack diaper bag already slung over both shoulders. Trying not to look frazzled, but feeling crazy-stressed inside, always double checking my mental list to make sure I wasn't forgetting something, and always overheated and perspiring from the effort.

(On the other hand, I loved the challenge - proving that I could do all these things with two babies. But it wore me down to my core. I kept up the facade so well that I wondered if all mommies do this? Are we all just ticking time bombs driving around in our mini-vans?)

It all started that fateful day when I saw two Tiny Heads on the ultrasound screen. My pregnancy immediately transformed from one in which I envisioned myself jogging around the neighborhood during my 3rd trimester into a reluctant HIGH-RISK-no-exercise-except-for-yoga-and-eat-2,700-calories-a-day-to-gain-weight bummer of a pregnancy, with a likely probability of bed rest to boot. I learned such appealing terms as "twin skin" and "pre-eclampsia" and the one that still gives me pause; "singleton". I like to consider myself a bit of a wordsmith - I'll stop someone mid-sentence to compliment them on a well placed, impressive word. But I had never heard of a baby referred to as a singleton. It's used exclusively in the multiples community. And dare I say, it almost sounds a bit condescending...

My angst has subsided, but I would be lying if I didn't admit that I still feel it from time to time...

Sunday, October 11, 2009

It Is Always Darkest Before The Dawn

"Mama, what's vacation mean?"

"It's when you go somewhere....and you don't ever come back"

That's what Forrest Gump's mama tells him when he asks where his daddy went. As I sat at the dinner table with my husband and daughters telling them mommy was going on vacation - without them - I feared they would think I wasn't coming back.

It's truly a case of projecting my own fears on my offspring. For some reason, as motherhood loomed, I began to fear I would abandon my children - how this fear came about, I have no idea. After I became a mother, the fear became less acute.

For the most part.

I discovered how debilitating the combination of depression and sleep deprivation can be in the eleventh month of my girls' lives. Neither had slept through the night and we were nearing the end of winter cold season, which had blurred together in a seemingly endless torture of coughing and runny noses.

I developed an anxiety response to my own bed. Every time I would lie down, exhausted, feeling unable to move another muscle, I would hear a cry, soft at first, but just enough to instill that first ounce of dread.

My mind started to play tricks on me - did I hear a baby crying? Or was that a dog barking down the street? There is a moment I remember perfectly: Early one morning before dawn had broke, the cries began and my brain scrambled for a solution like scrolling through rolodex cards, none offering anything worthy or realistic. Then it hit me: I would have to give them up for adoption.

The very next night, they both slept through the night.

Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction. It wasn't a conscious desire, per se, but more a solution to a problem. With each passing day, week and month, my anxiety of my own bed lifted, but remained a ghost in my psyche, always there to remind me how valuable uninterrupted sleep is to the human mind.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Two For One

I never truly embraced the idea that I was meant to carry twins. Even though I've always been strong physically, with broad shoulders and muscular legs and arms, having two inside never felt quite right. And as far as I could tell, a successful multiple pregnancy didn't seem to be dependent on the stature of the mother.

These were before the days of Jon & Kate Plus Eight and before I knew how common twin births had become. I didn't know any mothers of twins - had never even thought of the challenges of a twin pregnancy, much less raising two babies simultaneously. So, the reality floored me to the point of extreme anxiety.

My dad told me while I was pregnant , "all you need is those babies in your arms", but I couldn't come to terms with the fact that I had more than one baby growing in my womb.

I asked people I barely knew to pray for the health of my babies - something unheard of for me, considering that my childhood was mostly devoid of religion, and as an adult I am spiritual at best. I had never attended church on my own accord, and perhaps only once or twice as a child.

I didn't have those peaceful moments in pregnancy where I would sit in repose and cradle my belly with a wistful look in my eyes. I had only worry and anxiety. How would I give birth to two babies?

My daughters were born on a Monday, just 15 hours after going into labor on Easter morning. People used to say "2 for the price of 1", but that labor was the only thing that felt that way - everything else seemed twice as hard.

In later years, I would tell people something that I wholeheartedly believe; infants are meant to come one at a time, the way nature intended. Fertility treatments notwithstanding, twins (and other multiples) were - and still are - a malfunction in the reproductive process.

My husband and I had only planned on having one child, so the "2 for 1" idea seemed like a cruel joke. It's like when you ask for chocolate ice cream and get strawberry; both are sweet and wonderful, but as with many things in life, it's all about expectations.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Same same but different

The term "identical twin" conjures up images of a cloned pair, with exactly the same features and personalities. Able to switch roles at will, with none the wiser. Perhaps in the movies, but not in my house.

I've been mocked by friends and family since their birth, rambling off their physical differences, though subtle, so that each could be distinguishable as the independent little beings they are. I argued vehemently that they were fraternal twins up until the day I received DNA results when they were 15 months old stating they were indeed, monozygotic/identical twins.

Side note: in my defense, Jaeda's hair was brown at birth, and Tristyn's was blond. In twin pregnancy speak, they were DI-DI (dichorionic, diamnionic) which means they each had their own "apartment" as my perionatologist so eloquently put it - this is somewhat rare for identical twins, with only 8% of identical twins growing in the womb this way.

I think the answer lies in the simple equation of child and parent. As I write this, I'm on the floor in the hallway outside the bathroom, watching my girls as they play in the bathtub. Their forms so familiar to me that I can distinguish them at a glance, even if they aren't facing me. I notice each new mark and mole, and know each scream, squeal, giggle and voice from the other. I know the temperment of each one and how she will react when I tell her that "we don't jump in the tub". I have never known such intimacy. Such profound familiarity...

My husband and I still get odd looks when explaining there is something one twin likes that the other doesn't, as if that can't be.
They may have the same DNA, but they aren't the same person.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Isolets and Isolation

The other night, I lie awake remembering the first time I saw both of my babies - my daughters - in their isolets in the neonatal intensive care unit. I don't even recall how I got there - I was all alone in the room, still in my hospital gown. Someone must have wheeled me upstairs from my birthing suite on the second floor to the NICU on the fourth floor. I stood up from my wheelchair and peered through the clear plastic protecting my babies from the world. Tears welled up in my eyes, overwhelmed by the sight of them. How could I take care of these two miniature human beings? Neither one of them cleared 4 pounds, but the weight of responsibility on me felt immense.

Having your newborn baby/babies in the NICU is...well, it's indescribable. Sitting here thinking about it brings tears to my eyes because of the sheer intensity of emotions and confusion thrust upon you. The experience of giving birth is life changing in itself, but then to have this new life that you've created available for viewing only through a plastic incubator is mind numbing. Luckily for me, I had been prepared for this. Where once upon a time twins were rare, nowadays they are a fixture in malls and playgrounds. Hospitals host twin birthing classes, which my husband and I attended dutifully with five other couples. Essentially, we all knew that the NICU was inevitable. In addition, my close friend and birth coach gave birth to her first son just four months before me, six weeks prior to her due date. I lived the experience through her, and fell in love with her baby from behind the glass, not able to hold him or kiss his tiny face.

So, when I too gave birth six weeks early, there wasn't any question that my girls would be residing in the NICU to begin their lives. I didn't even question the protocol when they were whisked away one by one after being born. Honestly, I'm not even sure if it was because I expected it to be that way, or if I just didn't have the energy.

My memories of those 21 days are clear, but mostly devoid of emotions or reactions. I simply followed the rules, displayed my hospital-issue baby bracelets upon entering the locked unit, washed my hands for the requisite time, delivered expressed milk, and remained dutifully in their room for the majority of each day. However, I did not stand over their isolets staring at their thin bodies - doing so may have put me over the edge. It was my way of protecting myself from the utter fear of failing at the thing that women are supposed to know how to do, but are unprepared for, regardless of the life we lead up to that point.

I felt sad for that version of me standing there in my hospital gown, crying for babies I had not yet held in my arms. I wish I could have known that being a mother fills me with pride everyday. If I could wear a sign on my forehead announcing it, I would. I wish I could have known that I could take care of both those tiny wrinkly babies, and that with everything in life, it ebbs and flows - just when you think you can't take it anymore, you get a respite.

Friday, September 25, 2009

The Beauty that is Two

I was hesitant to embrace the beauty that is two - even though I was constantly bombarded with reminders and images; two babies sleeping peacefully side by side, two babies in the bathtub, car seats, stroller...

Two always was my favorite number. There is just something cosmically right about two. Yin and yang, husband and wife, the sun and the moon.

It's almost become an obsession. Or maybe just a habit, to always have two matching sets, a pair. Whether it's the matching floral car seats or their boots lined up at the door, it conjures up a sense of peace in me.

There is also something shocking to the human eye to behold two of something similar. Seeing double, if you will. Sometimes, even I am taken aback by them. Today, arriving home from grocery shopping, I spy in the backyard sitting naked side by side on a lawnchair, these two matched toddlers with glowing white curls atop their heads.

In my mathematic brain, two just feels right.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Tiny heads

This is the image that changed my life.

For anyone that may not be familiar with two miniature skulls side by side on an ultrasound screen, that's what this is. It is the indelible impression that sent me careening down the mineshaft of self doubt, fear and uncertainty.

It's still difficult to find words to express the emotions running through my veins in that dim ultrasound room, my dad and step mom sitting next to me. I have described it as the only moment in my life that I honestly thought I was dreaming, and not really wide awake, lying on a table propped up by pillows, my swelling abdomen exposed and covered with clear, warm jelly.

I was 16 weeks pregnant and barely accepting of my new condition. A woman perfectly capable of becoming a mother, but not quite mentally ready yet. Unlike many current and prospective parents, the timeline that my husband and I had set for conceiving had followed an almost eerily accurate path so far. Having said we would try at the 5 year mark in our marriage, we sat across from each other on our 5th wedding anniversary joking that perhaps I shouldn't drink that beer - that perhaps our first attempt at conceiving had actually worked, haha!

One week later, I awoke in the guest bed of my husband's cousin's Amsterdam home, feeling an unusual heaviness in my breasts, and surmised that indeed, it had worked. I spent the next 2 weeks dragging around Italy, complaining of fatigue and vertigo.

Fast forward to the moment that began a journey that would bring me to my knees over and over again, and remind me life is full of unplanned surprises, and we as humans possess incredible strength.

Ambivalence, times two

My road to motherhood was paved with ambivalence. I don't remember ever feeling the need to breed as I entered my mid 20's, or even when I hit 30. When my husband and I married, we insisted we did not want the burden of children. When describing ourselves to our new suburban neighbors, I would tell them we were "the childless couple down the street". The ear piercing squeals of the neighbor kids would send me inside rolling my eyes at the noise pollution. We even had a mantra; "no babies-no babies-no babies", chanted to the old game show where contestants would yell "no whammies!" It was an odd source of pride in an overpopulated world of unwanted children, global warming and political unrest.

Nevertheless, after hearing my dad explain that he had a "double kings' ransom" - two boys and two girls - to the cardiac nurse after suffering a heart attack and subsequent stent placement, I knew I had to have children. Of course, I didn't know it in that moment, but looking back, that was the event I can pinpoint as the turning point in my anti-child psyche.

There were a handful of moments that caught me by surprise as time passed, and my friends began having children. One in particular comes to mind: I remember being slumped over my steering wheel sobbing, the rain pounding down on the roof of my car after a particularly stressful trip to Babies R' Us while shopping for a baby shower gift for my oldest and dearest friend. Celine Dion's "A New Day" coming out of the speakers and resounding into my soul - did I want a child?
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...