Thursday, July 29, 2010

I Can See Clearly Now

My favorite twin mommy blogger, Jane Roper/Baby Squared once described depression like "walking around all day inside a cube made of thick, dirty glass" and that "everything is muted and dark and dull".

For me, depression felt like quicksand that I was always trying to crawl out of. I would find a precarious foot hold only to slip back down, the muck threatening to squeeze the air from my lungs.

When my girls were infants, I craved only three things:
1) sleep
2) order
3) predictability

Lack of any of these threw me into a tailspin.

Is there any experience in life that involves less sleep, is less predictable or less orderly than simultaneously raising two infants??

I would scour the internet looking for activities to keep my twinfants occupied, while stimulating their rapidly developing brains. But when it came time to execute a project, I simply didn't have the energy - physical or mental. Or, the girls would devour the activity and crave more, but I had nothing left to give.

Some days felt like an exhausting countdown towards the next sleep break.

Coincidentally, the things I noticed when my meds started to kick in were the same as when I got my first pair of corrective lenses; the leaves on the trees, the details of those around me - just as if my eyes were more focused.

Coming out of depression is like a prolonged, good marijuana high, when random thoughts and ideas flow - and seem worthy. It was as if a switch had been flipped in my brain - from darkness to light.

At times, I've found myself at a loss for words to describe my depression, and could simply say it was "a dark place".

When I look back at pictures of myself, I am transported back there, and remember how I was feeling.

In these photos, which my boss took of me on my 34 birthday (which marked 15 months for my little clones), I can see that my depression was starting to lift, and I was finally starting to enjoy my daughters.

Can you see it? There's hope in those eyes.

This post is dedicated to Jane Roper, who was brave enough to share her story with her readers, and who inspired me to write again, and more importantly, to get help for my depression. I've never met her, but she will be in my heart always.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Birth Order

Twins don't have a birth order. Sure, there are minutes, sometimes hours or even days that separate them, but the theory refers to singletons born years apart - and how the time between affects their psychological development, bonding with parents, etc. It's also a convenient way of distinguishing between offspring - my oldest daughter, etc.

Nonetheless, I humor the inquiries of "who was born first" with anecdotes to support the theory and the characteristics that differentiate them.

But I also can't help myself from labeling them.

(When twins or higher order multiples are born, they are labeled A, B, C, D in order of appearance. In utero, it is by access to the cervix - a queue to the exit, if you will.)

Pregnant mothers love to assign characteristics to their unborn babies. And moms of multiples are no different. I knew from the beginning that my Baby A would be spunky and squirmy and that Baby B would be mellow and easygoing. Baby A (Jaeda) was sprawled out diagonally across my belly, with her feet and arms outstretched. Baby B (Tristyn) was curled up - folded in half actually - taking up little space in my too-small womb.

When they were infants, it was quite the opposite. If they were hungry, it needed to be Tristyn that was fed first; I called her my little T-bird. Jaeda, on the other hand, was so laid back that I worried that she would be pushed aside by her aggressive sister.

Not anymore.

One department store restroom "twin expert" (and twin moms run into so many) told me that their initial characteristics would flip-flop. As if, I thought.

But they did.

Jaeda can't sit still for 2 seconds, even when she is sleeping. She thrashes around in her bed so much that I often find her in awkward positions, without blankets, completely turned around. My husband brought Jaeda into bed with us the other night because she had spilled a cup of water in her bed (which she got from the bathroom...) and when my husband woke up, I pleaded for him to "get her out of here".

Tristyn, on the other hand, will remain in the same position throughout the entire night, her arms folded angelically across her chest.

Jaeda makes sure she is the first in the car, the first to choose a toy or a dress or a snack. She's more opinionated on matters of clothing (Tristyn is almost always agreeable to whatever mommy chooses),  bath water temperature, and the general method of things (such as how I brush her teeth).

Tristyn is sweet and forgiving and gentle. She is often on the receiving end of Jaeda's aggression, and is "injured" by her sister ten times more than the other way around.

How could 46 minutes possibly manifest such profound differences?

Regardless of birth order, in my heart of a mother, I will always see my Baby A as my oldest, and fearless leader; Baby B as my "baby", the youngest and most fragile. 

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


This post is dedicated to the memory of John S., who loved nothing more than his family and his bike rides.

In the waning daylight hours of a summer evening, the problems and worries that plague my mind dissolve into manicured lawns and law abiding drivers meandering down the street. There is no oil spill in the gulf, no war in Afghanistan, no poverty, no imprisoned innocents. There are no abused or neglected children. There is no threat of my career extinction from Healthcare Reform. There are only the bright flowers lovingly planted in front yards, rows of mailboxes, and refreshingly green trees and shrubs.

A man plays frisbee with his dog, and a mother and daughter step aside to let me pass. A dad waves to me as his little girl speeds past him on her bike.

I weave between houses, past private backyard sanctuaries where people enjoy their lives, their most precious moments, away from work and traffic and illness and suffering and and...

But I digress.

Each song changes my gait, just slightly, to conform with the new feeling; Jordin Sparks fades to Amy Winehouse, and Justin Timberlake hip hops his way into my stride. 

Manure and blackberries mesh together in a country perfume that caresses my senses. The grass is impossibly green; a gift of the wretched, tireless rain that plagues us in Spring, and returns like an unwanted visit from a relative in October. Today, the rain has yielded to a sunlit evening that sparkles like a child from a warm bath. Fluffy clouds dot the horizon beneath the welcoming blue sky.

Kanye's 'Stronger' reverberates in my ears and my heart follows dutifully to the beat. The kids are tucked in bed as I stretch the tightly wound cord that tethers me to home. I see the pale green house where my hopes and dreams are kept safe; where my children will grow and dream of when they are adults, just like I dream of my own childhood home.

I am not running away anymore, I'm running towards life.
This post is also an homage to Linda over at All & Sundry, who inspires me with her determination.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Rock Star

I've described the day my mother-in-law left as one of the worst of my life. It represented much more than her exit after five weeks of helping to care for my new babies; it meant my maternity leave was over - I would return to work part-time the following day - and most of all, I felt so very alone and scared to care for these two infants without a veteran mom - my own mother or my husband's mom - there to guide me.

Our girls came home after a relatively uneventful 21 days in the NICU.

Then the fun started.

A few days later, while the girls slumbered in the pack-n-play, my best friend, her boyfriend, my mother-in-law and I bowled enthusiastically on the Wii. My husband was upstairs when my cell phone rang. Oddly, it was him calling from our bedroom, telling me he needed to go to the emergency room. He'd been relentlessly sick for more than 48 hours.

We left our preemies in the capable hands of their worried grandma and drove to the ER.

Living in a small town has its advantages; my close friend and birthing coach was also his ER nurse. As she tended to him, I waited anxiously. Worry consumed me. This man, my husband, partner and the new father of my fragile children, was such a valued commodity; I needed him to be well. I needed him to survive.

When my friends' husband and their 4 month old baby came around the corner, I crumbled into tears.

After numerous tests, Colin was sent home without any answers. As one fear slowly diminished, another one took hold. I became so sick that I could barely get out of bed, much less care for my babies. I did not hold my newborns, for fear I would give them my illness, so instead gave them precious antibodies through expressed milk.

My husband returned to work, and my mother-in-law singlehandedly cared for two infants, and their sick mother. I could not have been more appreciative, or more in awe of her.

After an emotional conversation with my own mother, telling her through my sobs that I couldn't do it - I couldn't take care of these twins, I made my way downstairs where my MIL had the whole house in order - the kitchen was clean and the babies were sleeping peacefully, with full bellies and clean diapers.

I realized the baby monitor had been on in my bedroom where I spoke so candidly to my mom, and Edna certainly must have heard it all.

During those five weeks, not only did she witness my worst moments physically, but also emotionally. When you have raised three spirited boys into strong men, there resides an inner strength and an understanding of human nature that I could not have comprehended.

When she left, the door sill under my feet felt like a precipice with the momentum of life urging me to jump. I fought back tears as she hugged me one last time, my stomach in knots and my heart sinking as I watched her leave.

I don't recall the moments after closing the door. The relentless hamster wheel of infant care surely carried me into the afternoon, evening and into the next day.

Eventually, I scaled down that cliff, and discovered the strength that motherhood brings.   

My MIL, Edna (in blue) and her identical twin sister, Ellen holding my identical twins, Tristyn (sleeping) and Jaeda.

Do you need further proof that my mom-in-law is a Rock Star? Here she is holding her OTHER set of twin grandchildren, Micah (left) & Gabriel (right), born just 5 months after ours. Of course, she was there also to help them adjust to the world.  
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