I was talking with my friend Joie the other day and I couldn’t help be taken back to the last seven years of my life. Tripping over those years of nostalgia I pondered where the time went. Today as I look over and I see two individuals, different yet similar, completely independent yet reliant on the other.
I am forgetful how they once shared the same small square footage of my womb; nestled and grappling for elbow room, literally, all at the same time. I almost forgot the horror of the first year with twins, the daily struggle. If you want to know about taking life day by day, have multiples and have multiples into your 30s where you teeter on the edge of youthful patience.
My pregnancy with Seth and Sara was like any other….except for the pain. The pain in the first trimester is what tipped me off that this wasn’t a normal pregnancy. You see I didn’t have fertility. I didn’t “plan” on twins, hell I didn’t even really plan on getting pregnant. The Chad and I only fantasized about having another child. So once the pain was identified by an emergency room staff to only be twins and nothing was wrong I erupted into tears.
Life as I knew it was over.
The tears were borderline joy and dismay. How on God’s green earth would I carry twins to term? Experiencing another loss of pregnancy and twins would be devastating to Chad and I; the emotional toll would be too great as we were no strangers to loss and miscarriage having experienced the struggles of conceiving over the years.Soon that night of grief and joy passed, as did the following eight months.
Judgment day as we delivered these two miracles. Wailing in terror to the hospital staff, “I can’t do this!” and “What the eff were we thinking?” were sputtered across my lips as I experienced the shock the childbirth affords.
They were here and now came the sprinting marathon. Marathon runners in general pace themselves, but in this case we had no chance. Full speed ahead. Sleep schedules had to be set. Requiring them to both do the same things at the same time for efficiency and sleep, for all of us. Feedings were different. As a parent of multiples there is no chance to enjoy and feed each child alone if you are breast feeding. Unless of course you enjoy living like a zombie verging on being alive and half dead due to sleep deprivation.
I found out the hard way within the first days of their life; feeding one, changing a diaper and then feeding the other, changing the diaper, 15 minutes of sleep. Rinse and repeat. That is no life. So I braved tandem feeding and became like all other mammals of the animal kingdom who deliver a litter of young, utilizing both breasts to feed my children. An awkward feeling to have both breasts exposed and in a non-sexualized or medical examination type fashion. Not that I was a prude, but you literally have to grasp being topless for the first twelve months if you plan to breast feed. Be prepared.
What else are you not prepared for, the circus act. Outings are transformed into safari excursions with gear. Breast milk bottles. Pumps. Diaper bags or a large duffel size diaper bag. Blankets. Car seats. Strollers. The list goes on and on. The gawkers are like lions and hyenas, salivating at the sight of you and your precious cargo; you are a rare spectacle braving a local super market, or worse Costco. After my first jaunt to Costco I learned to plan for a three hour tour and plenty of breast pads. Frequent stops from bystanders accosting you to daydream over your children, married with daft questions about the sex of each child, easily identified by colored blankets (pink and blue), followed by more daft questions on whether they were twins and whether they were mine. As if I shoplifted two babies and this life I was not living. Anger got the best of me as I learned from that singular experience to put on a bitch face and to power through Costco like a plow in a snow storm.
When the three month mark came I knew I was seeing light at the end of the tunnel. Incorporating solid foods, all of us. Sleeping had extended to 4 or 5 hours each night. Sweet Jesus, thank you for answering my prayers. Personalities were more prominent about this time as well. Smiles, giggles, tummy time became a time of entertainment as I watched these people evolve. Fascinated by their growth, their individuality but codependency on one another, and the awareness each had for the other.
Did I mention I had a toddler I was raising too? Completion of potty training G, yet still attempting to corral him and his energy. Despite the fact I fought to yield any energy myself. Keeping a clean house. Caring for a husband who was traveling rather extensively for work. Who’s got time for sleep?
Half way there! Six months came and I could hardly believe my eyes. The time felt like an eternity but passing quickly with each milestone. As if my days were being relived on repeat, I felt like Bill Murray in Groundhog day. Wake, feedings, diaper changes, tummy time, shower. Breakfast for the gnome, diaper changes again, a snack, then a feeding, and the cycle continued. About this time I was really taking advantage of writing. Unloading my thoughts into this blog. I also felt myself becoming somewhat of an agoraphobic.
Outings caused such great anxiety because I was so frustrated, so tired, so frustrated from being tired and tired of being frustrated. Octo-Mom was the latest headline and all of the sudden I was treated like the idiot savant of doltish mothers of multiples; incessant questions about fertility, my own fertility, I learned a lot about strangers and their loss of inhibition for questions. I feared more impossible questions by the shoppers from Costco or the local grocery store. My fear began to overtake me, that I could not go anywhere without feeling like a normal mother; now more so than ever I was a spectacle.
I savored quiet moments. During those moments I began medicating myself with emotional waves and food. Cycling through the various emotions from running my marathon at 85 miles an hour for the past six months. I was finally able to sleep through the night with my children, but the toll of sleep deprivation had already put me in a stranglehold. Loneliness as I lacked gumption to leave the house because of a pseudo-agoraphobia feeling and burnout to entertain anyone else. I found comfort in food and I found an insatiable hunger from continuing to breastfeed two children. Stuck. Trapped in a cycle of repetitive actions, crying for some break, pitying myself and never embracing my blessing. Hiding my emotions in food and the care of my children.
But each day and each milestone became easier. One blessed trip to Costco changed my outlook about my twins and extended a wise perspective to my present state. Preparing for Thanksgiving that I was so eager to host….I think this gives you a glimpse of my unstable mental state that I was eager to host Thanksgiving for a party of 17.
A lovely woman in her mid 40s was gazing upon me, lovingly and at a distance. I deeply appreciated and respected her allowing my wide berth of shouldered emotion, as if she saw my warning signs. Inching in her direction as we shopped she sweetly told me, “It gets easier.” Her smile and comment was disarming and sincere. My eyes burned and welled. She continued, “My twins just turned 14, I remember like yesterday when they were born. Milestones are counted as a way to show you how far you have come and that you will survive. The first year is the hardest. Struggles will come along the way, but when you make it past the first six months and then you make it to a year you know you can do this. You are almost there, you got this.” I wanted to jump up and hug her but I just stared at her like I was starstruck. A real live mom who made it….with twins!
We chatted some more and I was ever so thankful for that short moment. I was thankful that God intervened so I would meet this woman, her triumphant story exuded hope for me that life does exist. You do live beyond the first year with twins, and years to come in fact! I thanked her for the kindest words I had heard in months, that she extended me breathing room and her wisdom.
From that moment on I knew life would be easier.
Thanksgiving was a day of glory and survival. Seth began crawling and Sara started walking. Another milestone. I even successfully served up a turkey dinner with all the fixings and dressings, worthy of gracing pages of Better Homes and Gardens. Life got a bit easier and harder all at once with both little people on the move. Excitement and dread again; excited for them and our new milestone, but dread that I would be on the go again to ensure their safety as they explored new territory with their maturing skills. How could I do this with three kids and two arms. Lord help me.
The first year was labored, but not as hard as I thought. Or maybe my nostalgia is overcoming my reality deluding me to think all those years ago were not so dreadful. You know that feeling….the same one when you gaze upon another baby and you forget all the discomfort and griping of being pregnant; that feeling! The first year with twins showed me how resilient I was, my humanity, my inexperience with G that I was able to refine with Seth and Sara, and that we can run a marathon in slow motion. I embraced that my house was no longer the epitome of cleanliness like a mausoleum, makeup was secondary and only to mask exhaustion and emotion, and fashion was based on what articles I could afford to soil with breast milk, boogers and other miscellaneous smegma.
God gave me two arms to hold my babes, wisdom, patience and an unending amount of love to speak to G as he became my hero and helper. Thinking all was lost trying to hold the hands of two toddlers and a now five year old I found the words to ask for help. I found the most loving and harmonious way to communicate with my child, my children, the evolution of a beautiful relationship they have with each other and we with them. I watched as we all evolved and grew up some more that year.
Had you asked me seven years ago, I probably would have told you all was lost. Today I appreciate surviving that first year with twins, the ability to share that all is not lost. I am giddy about the turning points, eager for each new milestone. I learned to appreciate each day and each moment with G, The Chad, my family. My twins and G taught me how to appreciate living day-by-day, never take the little things for granted, and just as much as they relied on me for guidance and wisdom that I could rely on them as well.