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.
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