And of course, this past year I did a frozen embryo transfer cycle, got pregnant with what we were told was one baby, and then found out when I was 10 weeks along that we were having twins. 23 weeks later, they arrived.
May 1st, 2008, the day I went for my follow-up ultrasound, alone, and was told I was pregnant with not one baby but two is the date from this past year that I'll always remember. It was in that instant that I had to radically change my perception of what my family would look like. Of course, I dealt with infertility for years before conceiving, so this would not be the first time I had to revamp my thoughts. Just three years ago, I thought I'd never have a child at all, let alone the three (three!) I have now.
But the idea of having multiples was something I feared. I've written about it many times on this blog. I didn't think I was equipped to handle stress, the noise, the work, the incredibly life-altering upheaval of twins. In many ways, I still don't. And yet I'm surviving, some days barely, and others with a little more ease. Next year at this time, I'm counting on life being a whole lot easier.
The revelation of May 1st is the moment from this past year I'll never forget.
What date from 2008 won't you ever forget?
Opening presents took hours. The twins spent exactly five minutes sitting peacefully in their respective baby gear watching their big sister tear into her gifts. I captured this extremely rare occurrence for posterity.
Other hits with the two-year-old include this coffeemaker, and a doll stroller. She informed us numerous times that she was wheeling her baby to Dunkin Donuts, and was wondering if we wanted anything.
The twins partied hard on Christmas and as such closed the evening by sporting their new hats and sucking eachother's noses.
The hubs bought me this, which we are both enjoying, however me much less so because I'm limited to decaf. My sister bought me all four books in the Twilight series, which I'm counting on finishing by 2011.
Instead, we ended up with this:
At least the twins were cooperating:
After two hours and approximately 156 shots, we called it quits.
My sister and her boyfriend are in town and staying with us, my mom and her husband arrive today, and so I'll begin the marathon of family visits, huge meals, and copious amounts of leftovers that can be frozen and later defrosted, reheated, and eaten while standing up and jiggling the pack-in-play with a hip in the hopes that the motion will calm colicky infants.
Her cognitive development continues to amaze me. Two is hellacious in some ways, but two is also pretty incredible in others.
Isabella has taken to asking what a word means if she doesn't know it. She also asks, "What did Mommy/Daddy/Grammy, etc. just say?" if we're talking to eachother and she doesn't understand what we're saying, and "What you laughing about?" if we're chuckling about something she's said that's unintentionally funny. Miss Nosy wants in on the grown-up talk. This makes it hard to converse above her head now.
Christmas is big in my house this year. She knows that Santa comes and will bring her presents. She sings almost all the words to "Frosty The Snowman" and "Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer," which she learned courtesy of the legion of animatronic singing Christmas animals my grandma has bought for her. She loves drawing snowmen and Christmas trees, and watching scenes from The Polar Express. The book is her bedtime story of choice.
That said, the holiday season in an awesome time to be a parent (as opposed to the other 11 months of the year). I kid. Sort of.
Isabella has begun to understand bits of Christmas, and it's very cool to watch her experience the magic of this time of year, especially since I'm usually so disillusioned and stressed out by it.
This year, the fun began for Isabella on December 1st. Last year, I picked up a wooden Advent calendar with little doors for each day of Advent. Every night, I hide a small treat behind the next day's door. Every morning, the first thing Isabella says to me is, "I wonder what's in my calendar." She races to the kitchen and is thrilled with the idea of opening that day's door to find some stickers, a small container of Playdoh, or two M&Ms (which she pronounces "lemons"). Her most favorite Advent calendar gift was her very own bell to wear around her neck. (Ever since we've shown her parts of The Polar Express, she's become obsessed with them.)
Next, we went to pick out the tree. She scurried around the tree lot searching for birds hidden under the trees. Yeah, I don't understand that one either.
The tree became even more interesting to her once we put it up and decorated it.
Last weekend, my mom was in town and watched the twins while we took Isabella to a local garden store that puts on a huge holiday fair each year, complete with rides, games, food, and of course, Santa, of whom Isabella was terrified and would not get near...until he decided to leave his chair, walk amongst the kids waiting for their lap time with him, and waltz with her very surprised great-grandmother while singing "We Wish You a Merry Christmas."
Since she loves trains, I thought Isabella would jump at the chance to ride the toddler train at the garden store. Turns out, she only wanted to ride if mommy rode with her. The sign read "Children Only." I had to slip the high school kid a ten-dollar bill to experience the pleasure of cramming my not-even-close-to-its-pre-pregnancy-size arse into a seat the size of a postage stamp so my daughter wouldn't start tearing out her hair and frothing at the mouth.
Once the train started, she cried the entire length of the ride anyway.
I got her back for that little embarrassment, because Christmas is also a great time to force kids to do things solely for the entertainment of their parents.
10 minutes in the bouncy house made it all better, though.
Wilton School of Confectionery Art, here she comes.
I'm always relieved when January arrives, and the utter insanity of celebrating the holidays in a huge family in over. But, there's something special about watching little ones, who aren't yet jaded and cynical, whose perceptions about Christmas aren't yet colored by crowds, traffic, and gift-buying stress, experience the joy and excitement so many of us have lost since our own childhoods.
And I'll hope that just maybe, a little bit of it rubs off on me in the process.
At their two month checkup on Friday, they weighed in at 7 pounds 3 oz (Luci) and 7 pounds, 13 oz (Nicholas). I was actually shocked that both of them were seven pounds. Luci feels so much lighter than Nicholas. This puts them below the 5th percentile for both weight and height, but according to their pediatrician, they will catch up and won't be the only kindergartners still riding to school in their infant carriers.
They are grabbing at objects now, and turning to look at lights. They're especially fond of gazing at our Christmas tree, which is located right next to the area where I change their diapers.
Their personalities are beginning to emerge. After the first night they spent at home, we immediately determined that Nicholas was the fussier and more vocal of the two, and so he was the one who should have the bassinet closest to our bed. The one in which Luci sleeps is located just a few steps away. He is still the needier twin and the louder twin, although Luci has come alive a lot more in the past month. It continues to amaze me that while lying side-by-side in the pack-n-play, one of them could be screaming, and the other will peacefully sleep through the entire fit.
They both like to be held. A lot. This makes preparing meals, eating, cleaning, bill-paying, taking care of a toddler, and basically existing with any degree of normalcy very, very hard.
But, on the positive side of things, they've begun to grace us with a few smiles here and there. You know, when they can find the time between crying jags.
I may have mentioned once or twice that these two have seriously upended our lives. But much as I complain about the twins, I love them fiercely, and every bit as much as I do Isabella. They may pee on my hand, devour every second of my day, and cause me to look like a cast member from Night of the Living Dead, but they're mine. I can see my eyes in Nicholas' and my nose in Luciana's. I can see how much they are loved by their big sister, and how much joy they're bringing to their family members. Being the bearer of such happiness is so gratifying.
Having two babies with identical needs and wants is preventing me from fully enjoying their babyhood. I feel as if I'm continually running triage with absolutely no break between emergencies. I'm constantly assessing needs: putting down one fussy baby to pick up a screaming one, cradling a twin in one arm while trying to prevent Isabella from falling down the stairs, eating crumbs of questionable origin off the kitchen floor, or "hugging" (read: death-gripping) the cats. Telling a crying Isabella that no, mommy cannot dance with her right now because she has to spend the next 45 minutes nursing her brother and sister who will not wait to be fed.
Motherhood is so much different this time around. There is no time for staring into Luciana's and Nicholas' searching little eyes. No time for holding their tiny hands while nursing them. No time to just sit them on my lap and be. I nurse them at the same time whenever possible to save time. It's a job, and not something I enjoy doing, as I did with Isabella. I miss the bonding that occurs from nursing a single infant.
Someone always needs a diaper change, a burp, a story read to her, breakfast, lunch, dinner, a snack, a hug, a cuddle, a tissue, a bath, a trip to the doctor, a Playdoh replica of Elmo. Motherhood is a labor of love, but it's also a job. And yet as the mother of one, I seemed to have achieved a halfway decent balance between the grunt work, and the fun parts. I remember enjoying Isabella's babyhood, even though it was a crazy first year because I was still working full-time, and from home. I am not enjoying the twins' babyhood in the least. There simply isn't time. And it's depressing me.
Luciana and Nicholas are fussy babies. They may even have colic, given their everyday fussiness in the early evenings. They continue to be up all night long. We are now averaging about four hours of sleep per night, and of course, not all in one stretch. A few days ago I came down with a cold that has nothing to do with contracting a virus and everything to do with sheer and utter exhaustion. You could pack a lunch in the bags under my eyes.
I started accepting work again when the twins were about three weeks old. Most freelancers can't afford to turn down work, and we need the money. I have no idea what to charge my clients since I never work for more than 10 minutes in one sitting. I am constantly interrupted by a baby needing something.
I still need to lose 20 pounds. None of my clothes fit, except for one pair of jeans held over from a time when I ate more than my fair share of Cheetos. And yet there is no time for running anymore.
Emails take me days to answer. I almost never answer the phone when it rings, and then I often forget to return calls.
I have no time to pump, which according to a fellow twin mom, I should be doing after every feeding. This means I have very little freedom from nursing the twins. The huge supply of milk I was able to accumulate in the freezer when my mom was here to help is gone.
The hubs returns to work on Monday. I need to work out some semblance of a schedule for getting my new life together. I just have absolutely no idea how to even start.
My twin mom friends tell me that things will get better. I know they will. And I also know that I have way more help from family and friends than most mothers I know. I should be more appreciative than I am.
But I also know that my sanity is slowly eroding.
Having three kids under the age of 2.5 is kicking my ass.
I've said it before and I'll say it again: I like my children best this way.
While they generally sleep well during the day, my two precious bundles of joy transform into rabid hellcats come 7pm. From 7pm to 11 or 12, they are screaming. They are fed and full and should presumably be snoozing away in a breastmilk coma, but instead they are awake and fussy and miserable. A call to my pediatrician's office last week netted me the obvious: A lot newborns are fussy in the evenings. Really? No shit. However, the nurse I spoke with did make a good suggestion. She mentioned that my milk supply is at its lowest point of the day in the early evening. After feeding them, I should immediately give each one an ounce of pumped breastmilk in a bottle to "top them off" to see if this helps. I tried it, and it worked to a degree. Instead of five hours of screaming, they cried for four.
Last night we tried a homegrown solution. We stuck Isabella's old sound machine (she's since been upgraded to a fancy new model with a digital clock display) under their pack-n-play in the living room in the hopes that the white noise would recreate womb sounds and lull them into a deep sleep so we could watch Survivor without the tv's closed captioning feature turned on. It worked for a little while, and we actually enjoyed over an hour of peace and quiet, although watching tv at the volume we needed to in order to hear it over the white noise was annoying. We'll probably try this again tonight.
Night screaming is hugely annoying and makes me want to flee to Mexico with only the clothes on my back, but it's nothing compared to their middle-of-the-night antics. I generally feed them for the last time each night between 10 and 11pm. Most of the time, they're asleep and settled into their bassinets by midnight. They'll wake up again to eat by 2am, and then again every 2.5 hours (lasting 3 hours is a rarity). My largest chunk of sleep is between the last feeding of the day and the first awakening-about 3 hours on a good night. After which point, by the time I feed, burp, change, and rock two babies back to sleep in the middle of the night, 1.5 hours have passed. For example, last night they went to sleep around 11:30pm. They were up again at 2am. I fed them, and got back to sleep by 3:30am. They were up again at 5am, and after feeding them, I was up for the day.
Why is it that they can last 3.5 and sometimes 4 hours in between feedings during the day, but at night, they're up every 2.5? I was so tired this morning that while paying bills, I sealed three envelopes without including the checks inside.
Please, little darlings, mama needs her sleep.
* Thanks for all the great suggestions and support. I tried keeping them to a strict three-hour schedule as some of you suggested. I also tried feeding them as much as possible in the early evening hours, including multiple nursing sessions and bottles of pumped breastmilk. Neither seems to enjoy the swing very much, and I have a low-frills sling that seems to swallow them up when I put them in it. I'm going to post about slings soon, but if you have a suggestions for a good one, please let me know! Unfortunately, no matter what tactic we tried during the day, they were still up all night long.
Please send Red Bull. Am dying a slow sleep-deprived death.
My mom left about an hour ago. Thanks so much for the supportive comments yesterday. Things are actually okay. Despite the Armageddon-like scenario I imagined in my head, both babies are sleeping peacefully (a rarity). Isabella is extremely busy not napping upstairs in her crib. And my house is quiet except for the soft rustle of newspaper pages turning in the next room.
It seems Mamacita hired some babysitters before she left. My grandma is sitting on my couch to make sure I don't plunge off the deep end of despair over actually having to care for my own children after the loss of round-the-clock childcare. Of course, quiet is something that doesn't occur too often here and I'd generally like to be alone in the silence. Being the ungrateful git that I am, I'd appreciate her more if the babies were apoplectic, but today I'll let her stay without complaining. Except to all of you, of course.
And tomorrow, my great aunt is coming to watch the twins for an hour while I take Isabella to her gym class. Friday, I'm unsupervised, but next week the hubs is taking his last week of twin leave from work. This means I won't fly solo for any really long days until December 15th. At this point, though, I reserve the right to once again introduce the melodrama, but this time with real cause, because is there anything more terrifying than being alone with these three day in and day out?
For seven weeks, I have had the safety net of a second set of arms to rock babies screaming through the night and a second pair of legs to chase after a toddler who never stops moving. When I was sick of holding babies after marathon nursing sessions, she took over. When I was too tired to pour a cup of coffee, she brought one to me. When Isabella was crawling up my leg begging for attention while I held one fussy baby on my shoulder with the other crying in hunger and needing to be fed, she distracted her.
Tomorrow, it's just me. And three little kids, all of whom are incredibly needy.
I am truly terrified.
I know people do this. Somehow (although it seems impossible now) I will create and adapt to the "new normal" others have spoken about. I will begin a routine just as I did when Isabella was born. I will find time to shower. I will find time to work, to blog, to eat an uninterrupted and possibly even warm meal, to start running again. I will not run screaming from my house and into heavy traffic after hour 3 of listening to two small babies cry in unison night after night.
I will cope.
Right now, though, I'm not sure how to accomplish any of these things. I've always considered myself a strong and capable person.
How is it then that three small little beings seem poised to bring me to my knees?