August 29, 2015

Full Hands

Every day some kind stranger holds a door open for me as I drive my boat of a double stroller through a heavy door (Whoever invented those little air locks for stores where you have to negotiate two sets of doors should have their foot run over with said stroller. Repeatedly.); they eye me and the two to four children with me and inevitably announce, “You sure must have your hands full!” It makes me want to stab them in the eye.

But before the eye stabbing comes the befuddlement. The stranger asks, “Oh, are they twins?” Why, oh why, on the face of the planet, would I have two identical babies in identical car seats, in a specially designed double stroller if they weren’t twins? Because I’m pretty sure it would be considered rude, I haven’t had the balls to stop and ask, “What other scenario would you propose?” I genuinely can’t think of one. Where would I get another baby? How would I manage to get an extra that looks EXACTLY like the first one? Under what circumstances would they have the same car seat? And how would they both look extremely related to my other children? Wouldn’t the most obvious solution be that they are in fact twins? As rare as twins might be to the average shopper, wouldn’t it be even more unusual for me to just be toting around an extra infant? Who does that?!

These thoughts whip through my mind every time. I wonder if this is the time that I’ll crack, and ask the stranger back, “What else would they be?” It’s coming one day. One day I’ll be more sleep deprived and drained than usual, and I will happily report back the fantasy created to explain the troubling presence of the second baby.

Then they tell me I have my hands full. I repress the full body scream and stabby feelings while I smile and say, “I sure do!” I generally try to keep moving at this point. People, especially older people, inevitably want to stop and admire the twins. I can understand the impulse. They are stunningly handsome, if I do say so myself. But I do not really want you touching my babies, no matter how many of them I have. I also do not really want to spend time telling you that they are in fact a handful and that yes, I am really busy. “Oh yes, big brother/sister is a great helper!” I report as I continue to edge away.

Just like people wrongly assume that a pregnant belly gives them license to say anything that pops into their heads, the presence of twin babies gives people the wrong impression that they can ask me whatever they like. People often ask their names (Why do you want to know, stalker?), how old they are (OK, that’s a pretty standard baby question.), were we surprised (The reason this irks me is too long for a parenthetical and probably requires its own blog post.), and do twins run in our family. Twins run on Josh’s side of the family, which has no bearing on my ability to ovulate more than one egg. Further, as identical twins are a random event with no genetic grounding yet identified by science, identicals don’t “run” in families. A-I do not wish to share my medical history with you, stranger. B-I do not wish to try and explain to you the difference between identical and fraternal twins. C-It’s none of your beeswax.

What these strangers don’t stop to think about is that every parent has their hands full. Parents with one child or seven have their hands full. It’s true that twins fill your hands in a different way, but even if I’d had four singletons, I would still be a very busy woman. I have three boys under three years old and a six year old with ADHD; life is busy. I spend all day asking and cajoling and ordering and separating short people and holding and shushing and nursing and laying babies down and changing diapers and doing all the things parents of small children do. This situation is not unique to me because I have twins. All mothers of small children feel the same way: like every day done with no major injuries to children or mother is an accomplishment.

So yes, I’m busy. Yes, my hands are ever so obviously full. I go to sleep more quickly and deeply than at any point previously in my life because I am exhausted at the end of each day. My life is so consumed with assuring the continued health and wellbeing of these tiny creatures that your classification of busy seems absurd to me.

More than that, when you announce, “You must have your hands full!” you say it in a way that smacks of a feeling of being put upon. You seem to say, subtly and sometimes not so subtly, that I am saddled with a hard road. It’s as if I am under some sort of punishment. Sometimes it’s as if you are smugly glad you’ve avoided whatever awful pitfall has landed me in this Hell I must live in (The pitfall is sex. And precociously dividing eggs.).

You, dear stranger, might mention to your partner that night, “I saw this poor woman with twins! And she had two other children!” Perhaps you mention how tired I looked, or how sweaty (Damn you, Alabama in August.), or how distracted. You might go on to say something like, “I can’t imagine it! Twins must be hard.”

You don’t get to take those twins home with you. You don’t see how they wave their arms and legs when I walk in the room, happy to see me and eager to be picked up. You don’t see the way they sometimes hold hands when they nurse together. You don’t get to hug two perfect tiny miracles. You also don’t get to cuddle the world’s cutest toddler boy. You don’t hear him encourage his younger brothers to talk, saying, “Ah-goo!” You don’t see how big sister watches over all three little brothers like a mother hen.  You don’t see the bigs gently rock the littles’ car seats to help settle them while I frantically try to pack the diaper bag.

My life is busy. My life is messy. But it is so incredibly beautiful. If you stop at thinking my hands are full, then you miss the fact that my heart is absolutely bursting. I constantly wonder how I could possibly be this lucky. I also constantly wonder how I will ever get the three boys to all nap at the same time. No one’s life is just one thing. No one’s journey can be defined by a trite phrase. If you want to tell me something, stranger, as you hold that door, wish me well and send me on my way. After all, I have my hands full.

April 29, 2015


The twins seem to wake up just at the same time as J. This is also just about the same moment when Josh is heading out the door (H is already off on the bus), so most mornings are Mommy vs. All the Boys. As I shuttle twins between their room and mine, changing diapers and getting them ready for their breakfast, I can hear J start talking to himself and rolling around in his crib. J cannot be trusted to eat breakfast by himself, so he gets to wait in his crib while the twins eat. Thankfully, he’s kind of slow at waking up and rather likes having time to himself in his crib.

The twins are impatient, as all babes are, to get to breakfast, and waiting their turn while brother is getting changed or even latched, causes tears. I can’t tell you how many times the one is trying to latch himself on my boob or arm or stomach, while I’m getting the other latched. Once the three of us are settled, everything is fine. Tandem nursing has turned out to be much easier than I thought it would be. It helps tremendously that before the twins were born I’d already spent 3.5 years nursing babies. It also helped that I got a special twin nursing pillow (made by My Brest Friend). There’s room for both boys and generally I end up with at least one if not two hands free. This morning I got to spend their breakfast looking at wedding proofs of my sweet sister-in-law.

This is the giant pillow. (M on the right)

Inevitably at least one twin poops during breakfast. If the other doesn’t follow suit within moments, then he will in the middle of my breakfast later on. After nursing we do another round of diapering and set the twins up in their bouncy chairs in the kitchen. They tolerate those chairs infinitely better than either of our other two, who really didn’t like them. My life is made so much better by how incredibly laid back M and little J are. I can’t stress enough that my sanity is due more to their disposition than my parenting prowess.

While the twins chill in the kitchen, I head down the hall for the big boy. We cuddle and say good morning and change his diaper. Occasionally we even put his pajamas back on. J just learned how to take off his clothes. We are therefore going through an anti-clothing phase. (“At least it’s warmer weather,” she sighs to herself.) Then it’s time to get breakfast for J and myself. If I stay in eyesight then I can usually eat breakfast before the twins start freaking out. By the time we are both done eating, it’s usually been about an hour since the twins woke up, which means they start getting fussy. If I’m lucky, I can get the dishwasher emptied and the breakfast dishes put away before we start the nap dance.

Today Josh had a break in his schedule mid-morning and because the twins needed shots, we picked him up and headed to the clinic. It just so happened that this was during normal nap time. But it was that or no adult helper. Instead of waiting for nap time to shower, today I got to shower with one bouncy chair in the bathroom and the door open so the other twin, just outside the door, could also see in. It’s not my favorite, but my tender heart can’t take the dramatic increase in crying if I stuck them in their cribs, and I was too lazy to wake up early and shower before they woke up. I’ve trained J for years now to play in his crib during my shower, so he’s easy.

After my shower was another round of diapers, car seats, and coaxing J into clothing. It went well because his favorite color-changing Lightning McQueen shirt was clean. Everyone was loaded into the car and off we went to get Josh.

Shots went well; J also wanted to get shots, because somehow it seemed cool. He eventually settled for Cars stickers instead. We all headed out for lunch, where J refused to eat a single bite of the hamburger and fries he requested and both grown ups ended up holding babies while we ate. We dropped Daddy off, J asking, “Where Daddy go?!”  and headed home, praying that J wouldn’t fall asleep in the car and ruin the lengthy afternoon nap he usually takes. It’s never fun when he doesn’t nap. The twins did sleep because it’s impossible to keep them awake in the car at this point.

The nap dance began with carting all the boys upstairs because J decided walking was lame. I had to run back down and get J’s leftovers. When I came up J had one hand on each car seat handle and was rocking the twins and shushing them. Have I mentioned that he is the best big brother ever? My heart was appropriately melted. Then I had to harden it and leave the crying twins in their seats to take J back for his nap. He is the easiest child on the planet to put down, thankfully, so a few minutes later I came back out and decided that M was crying more, so he got picked up first. I changed everyone’s diaper, ferried them back to the bedroom, got us all situated, and within minutes they were asleep, happily nursing.

Now here is the thing about twins. I have long been a fan of nursing babies to sleep. It’s easy and kind of wonderful. When there are two of them and they’re up on this great, giant nursing pillow that looks vaguely like a pool inner tube on steroids, it’s nearly impossible for me of the short arms to keep them both asleep while I somehow unlatch them, put one down, pick up the other, remove the pillow, and transport him to his crib. Events were complicated today because little J pooped halfway through lunch. These boys do not like being poopy. If I didn’t change him, he wouldn’t stay asleep long.

So, I nursed them to sleep. They both woke up when I tried to put them down. I changed little J. I picked them both up, cause I’ve gotten good at that, and then paced the room, jiggled, and rocked them until I had them both asleep on me. It is incredibly sweet to have two babies asleep on you. It is also nearly impossible to put them down once you do. Only very rarely are they so tired that when I let one slip down into the nursery chair while I put down brother, the first doesn’t wake back up. This was not that day. So I put M down on the chair and little J in his crib. Then I picked M up and put him to sleep for the third time and finally into his crib.

I wandered out to the kitchen only to realize that in my haste to make it out the door this morning, I hadn’t actually cleaned up from breakfast. The oatmeal was on the counter, the dishes were on the table, and the dishwasher was full. Basically, I live right now in a state of perpetual motion, punctuated by enough moments of calm to keep my sanity. There are always dishes to put away, toys to pick up, diapers to sort, and babies to pick up. I can’t help but ending by sharing the well-known secret of how and why we do it. When those tiny men smile at me, I’d do anything in the world for them. And the same goes for the slightly bigger man and young lady down the hall.

One day things will slow down. The boys will be getting their own breakfast and certainly no longer handing out in the bathroom during my shower. And I try to remember that when I am about to lose it. This is my last time having babies. They’ll never be this small again. And every day will be easier than the day before.

January 25, 2015

Twin Time

When you are pregnant with twins, most of the people you meet tell you that twins are early and it seems that everyone knows someone whose twins were born so many weeks early. Even the doctors and medical books tell you that 38 weeks is considered full term for twins. And the numbers show that over half twins are born early. So, you can imagine that I pretty much took my due date, revised it two weeks earlier, and figured I was set. Surely I’d have the twins right around 38 weeks.

On Friday, January 9, at 37 weeks and 4 days, I started having regular, mild contractions over my IHOP breakfast with friends. I knew they were kind of giving me the hairy eyeball, so I tried to play it cool. When J and I got home though, they kept up and were 4 minutes apart. “Holy smokes!” I thought, “Is this it?!” My other labors had both begun at night, so this whole mid-morning thing was throwing me off. But it was enough that I called Josh home from work and my friend Stacy from her morning errands to watch J.

When the contractions started petering out on the way to the hospital I thought it was just because I was sitting. In triage at the birth center they looked unconvinced, as I was myself, that this was for real. The price of admission was a dilation check, which I don’t like to have done until I am seriously in labor. You can be a little bit dilated for a long time (like weeks) or not dilated at all and progress quickly, so for my personality that number is simply stressful. I was nervous about heading home without knowing if things would heat up, so I consented and, as I was dilated between 4 and 5cm, they kept me.

You know the ending. We did not have babies that night. We spent about 10 hours at the hospital as the contractions grew further apart and fainter. Finally, I admitted defeat, and we went home. Here I would like to say how thankful I am that my OB had no problem with my going home. It was the best decision for sure.

A little over a week later, with my sweet in-laws now in town, arriving early after our practice labor, I got ready for bed, resigning myself to having full term—as in 40, not 38 week—twins. But as I tried to get comfortable for sleep, I started having some crampy feelings (this was about 11:40pm). By midnight things started to get more intense, and I went to tell Josh to stop working on his paper because this might be it. I don’t have long labors, so it was only 15 minutes later or so when I decided to call my doctor. This was definitely not practice. She called right back and told us to come on in.

I did the Hypnobabies home study this time to help me stay relaxed in the hospital atmosphere. For me, personally, a hospital is not my first choice when it comes to birthing babies. To make matters worse, because I was having twins, the hospital required me to push in the operating room, just in case. The operating room is not the most welcoming room in the hospital. I was afraid that I would freak out and be unable to relax during my labor. The Hypnobabies program did help a lot with that. On the way to the hospital, I listened to my hypnosis track and actually did pretty well with the contractions, even though they were getting pretty intense, and I was having a lot of pressure in my back.  I remember as we made the last few turns thinking, “I just want to get in the tub. I just need to make it to the shower.”

We arrived at the birth center at 1am. Josh parked and came around to get me. Getting in the car had been no big deal, but faced with the prospect of climbing out of the Civic, I wasn’t sure I could do it. I waited out a contraction and forced myself to get out of the car. It was freezing cold, and Josh had my coat, but there was no way I could put it on just then. I walked into the birth center in my short-sleeved PJs. Thankfully I got a break halfway to the door, and I walked as I could to get in the door before another contraction started.

How they expect laboring moms to sign forms is beyond me. Josh took care of just about everything, and I scribbled something illegible between contractions. A smiling nurse showed up to wheel me to a room (no triage this time). I looked at the wheelchair and informed her there was no way I was getting in it. It took three contractions just to get from the lobby to the second floor.

Once we got to our room I was sort of surprised to find that it was crowded with Dr. Proverbs and nurses. Everyone was busy prepping something. They very kindly asked if I’d get on the bed so they could do a monitoring strip on the babies. I told them very tersely that I was getting in the shower and started stripping. Dr. Proverbs helped me in the shower, and we got the water going. The hot water was so soothing.

I was probably in there a few minutes, though it seemed like no time at all when Dr. Proverbs came and said, “The nurses are getting kind of nervous. Would it be ok to get out now and check on the babies and your dilation?” If left to my own devices, I would have stayed where I was, but I understood that the babies did need to be checked and slowly climbed out of the tub.

They got both babies on monitors, and checked my dilation while also putting in a hep lock. It was a busy moment. Dr. Proverbs announced I was at 9cm. Given how fast I was progressing, we decided it was prudent to go to the OR. Thankfully, they wheeled the whole bed down the hall; there was no way I could have walked so far.

We started pushing shortly after we got in the OR. My water hadn’t broken yet and the bag started to bulge out pretty quickly. Dr. Proverbs told me to keep pushing and expect a big pop. I actually felt the bag bulging out, which was both cool and weird. Another push or two and it exploded out. Josh said the nurses actually jumped back out of the way. Once that was gone, it was down to the real deal.

It took a few pushes to find a good rhythm. My doctor was doing perineal massage during every push and that really helped give me something to focus on. Everyone was really encouraging and supportive. At 2:53am, when M was born, Dr. Proverbs told me, “Jamie! Open your eyes!” and there he was. They gave him to me right away, and I cried with joy and relief. I did wish that the nurse vigorously rubbing him would go away. I didn’t want anyone messing with my perfect babe. Because the boys shared a placenta, they cut M’s cord pretty much immediately, which was disappointing. There was some concern that odd things could happen with the blood flow between the boys with one on the outside and one on the inside, but I still wished he could have gotten more of the cord blood.

Josh took M, and the nurses took his measurements and wrapped him up and gave him to Josh. Dr. Proverbs was telling me what a great job I’d done. She said M had been born posterior, or sunny-side up. That was why my back had hurt, and it had made him more challenging to push out. We hoped that little J would be better positioned. A few minutes later the show was back on. I thought my water broke on one of the pushes, but afterwards Josh told me Dr. Proverbs broke it. Either way, he was heads down and coming out, if a bit sideways. He didn’t take as long to be born; I think that was probably because his brother had stretched things out for him and also because I had a better handle on pushing. His contractions were really intense though with a crazy tail on them where I didn’t feel like I could push, but I was still contracting. A few of those were really hard to deal with.

At 3:17am, 24 minutes after his brother, little J was born. He was also placed on my chest and he got to stay. They let his cord pulse for several minutes before they clamped it and Josh cut it. Then they took him over for measurements as well.

I had been a bit nervous about the third stage. In both my previous labors it had taken a good 45 minutes for the placenta to detach. I knew that hospitals were not too patient with waiting on a placenta, so I feared I might have to tap dance a bit to keep them from trying to go in after it. Thankfully, this time it came free within just a few minutes. I was bleeding a fair bit, but nothing too crazy, so they let me be for the moment.

Later, in recovery, I ended up with Pitocin to get my uterus to contract down. I was still bleeding on the borderline of a hemorrhage, so they were being careful. I had the choice of Pitocin, Cytotec, or uterine massage. I don’t know if you’ve ever had your post-baby uterus massaged, but believe me when I tell you that it is extremely unpleasant. After enduring that several times, we tried the Pitocin, which was actually much gentler (I had been afraid that it would also cause really painful contractions), and stemmed the bleed. Once that was under control, they took us to a recovery room.

I was very leery of going to a hospital to have my babies. For twins, it was the best decision, as we do not live anywhere near a really good hospital. The hospital we went to was 45 minutes from our house, much too far if we’d run into any real problems. The staff though, was amazing. It helped that our labor nurses were actually the same ones we’d had the week before. They were thrilled to see us back and excited to be part of a natural twin birth. We had nothing but supportive, kind nurses who respected our decisions. It was such a relief. I was afraid that they would wake us up all night even more than the babies would, but we had the same night nurse both nights and she just peeked at us and pretty much let us be, which was great.

A week out, I’m finally used to there being two babies. Those first few hours and days I’d just look from one boy to the other and say in wide-eyed wonder, “There are two of them!” I had seen them on ultrasound, I had felt their individual wiggles and kicks, but to see their beautiful faces side by side was a revelation. I feel that they are a fulfillment of a promise. And they are so much more than I ever could have asked for.

November 18, 2014

Big Boy

I’ve discovered a special flavor of tenderness for this little man of mine—my rainbow baby, born after so much heartache. When this amazing little man came into my life and soothed all the raw places in my heart, I couldn’t help but have a little different attachment to him. I’m more protective of his babyhood. When you have your first, you’re so eager for them to grow. But this time, I just want him to stay small. And he refuses!

This is the child who wants to be big. He wants to sit in a big boy chair, drink his milk without a lid, and eat the exact same sandwich you are eating. He wants the toy that big sister wants; he would really like to ride her bike if only his legs would reach. He takes in everything, and conquers it.

He is also the child who greets me with an enthusiastic, “Mama!” every morning and any time I come home from running errands by myself. He literally runs into his Daddy’s arms every day, shouting, “Daddy!” with the biggest grin. So easy going, so happy; he makes life a joy.

He was my worry when I found out I was pregnant. H got 3½ years of my time all to herself. Poor J only gets 2 and a couple of months. He still wants to be held and soothed and rocked and cuddled. What will happen to him when both my arms are full of babies? Will he still know how very much I love him? I will have to make sure of it.

Of course, this little man also has a temper. He has a tendency to throw and hit—occasionally bite. We are learning all about gentle touches and inside voices. His vocabulary, so long limited to “Mama,” “Daddy,” and “There it is!” has begun to expand. Today his said shoes. This is big stuff.

I wondered to Josh the other night if I would feel this nostalgic for the twins or if I’d be so relieved at surviving that I’d just take a nap and call it good. I will probably be worse because they will be my last babies. And truthfully, it doesn’t matter which kid it is that is having a birthday, it reminds you of all the joy that child brings to your life (and frustration). This particular kiddo is just all the more special for being so desperately wanted and so beautifully starting to heal my heart.

Little J, I hope you always know how much I love you; how amazing your smile is; how capable I know you are; and that you can accomplish anything in this world. You will always be my little man, even when I have to look up at you.

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