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...