33 seems really, really old. Except that it isn't. It's just that I feel every one of my years for perhaps the first time in my life.
I've always looked youthful. It runs in my family, as my mom who is 58 and my grandma who is 79 both look about 10 years younger than their actual ages. But motherhood has kicked my butt this year. I'm noticing a lot more grey in my hair. I'm wiped out a lot. And I need not mention the permanent bags under my eyes for the hundredth time.
I feel 33, if not older.
I've spent enough time grousing about my issues with motherhood and childcare, so I'm not going to do it again in this post. I feel like this is going to be a transformative year for me, where I'm either going to have to come to terms with the reality of my life or I'm going to need to make some changes. Given my penchant for dissatisfaction with the status quo, the latter is the more likely of the two to happen. Of course, as I sit here typing, I have no idea how to do so.
My 84-year-old great uncle is taking me out to lunch today. My great aunt, and my grandma are coming over to watch the kids. I have a certificate from Cold Stone Creamery for free ice cream (thanks, Shannon, for cluing me in to that birthday promotion a few years ago!), so I may load up the kids and treat those of us with teeth to ice cream. Other than that, I have no plans for the day. The hubs and I have spent both of our birthdays, plus our anniversary, every year since we first started dating in 1997 having dinner at our favorite restaurant, which is located about 30 minutes from our house. This year, given the twins' bedtime antics, that's not possible. There's no way we could ask a sitter to deal with bedtime for Isabella, Luci, and Nicholas. It's an absolute circus here every night, and it wouldn't be fair.
That said, I'm really, really going to miss that dinner, and the time alone with my husband, sans kids.
I know this post seems like I'm mired in melancholy, but I'm not. I'm just...resigned. My life is what it is, and next year at this time, I hope to be in a much better place.
And of course, it's not all bad. I have much to be grateful for. I have three great children, where at this time just four years ago, I thought I would never have any.
I have a husband I love a lot (when he's not driving me insane-hi, dear!).
We have enough money to pay our bills (for the most part), we're not starving, and my husband has a full-time job. So many families right now are not as fortunate.
I have an amazing family who is always there for help, support, and to offer the occasional assvice, which I promptly then ignore. (Stay tuned-new story coming soon!)
And perhaps most importantly, I live within walking distance of a Starbucks.
Thank you, thank you, thank you for your support and ideas for "me time" in response to my last post. I truly wish I had the time to email each of you to express just how grateful I really am, but as you know, time isn't exactly something I have in great supply. Just know that I read every comment, and even cried while reading some of them. As Ness said, I may feel like I'm trapped inside someone else's life right now, but I'm still in there, and one of these days, the "me" I've lost is going to show up when least expected.
And when I do, look out.
There's a lot of change for the better. Watching Isabella as a big sister is immensely gratifying. Witnessing them grow and change from tiny NICU graduates with bony chicken arms and legs to round and pudgy babies is awesome. And of course, their gummy little smiles and belly laughs can (sometimes) make me forget that they're still basically nocturnal.
But their arrival has also further chipped away at the person I was before I became "mommy" 2.5 years ago. Sometimes it is very hard to see where they end and I begin.
Case in point: Running.
Prior to Isabella's birth, I ran 30 miles a week. As a result, I had loads of energy and I was in the best shape of my life. I set a goal of someday running a marathon. Of course, I was knee-deep in infertility hell, so my emotions were frequently out-of-whack, but other than the "pining for a baby" bit, I was at a good place in my life. I loved to run.
Enter Isabella in August of 2006. All of a sudden, I was a slave to her schedule. My time was no longer my own. I couldn't run in the morning before work anymore because she needed to be fed. I couldn't run after work because I was working FT from home, and so there really wasn't an "after work" anymore. I needed to utilize every free second I had from the minute the hubs walked through the door to get my work done. So I ran on the treadmill in the basement while she napped in the morning, and when she gave up her morning nap, I ran during her afternoon one. I didn't have time for 30 miles a week anymore, but I averaged about 18-20, and that suited me just fine.
And then I got pregnant. And then the twins arrived. And then the twins decided that sleep was for pansies. And then I was (and still am) up all night long with one baby or the other (or both) and as a result, a haggard, energy-drained mess during the day. And then running took a backseat to sitting at my kitchen table with eyes half-closed, chin on my chest, and a cup of coffee rapidly cooling on the table in front of me.
I'm averaging a completely pathetic 6-10 miles a week. All of my runs are accomplished when there is someone else in the house because the needs of my children demand it. If my grandma comes over to play with Isabella, I'll wait until the twins are asleep and hit the treadmill. On the weekends, the hubs is home, which grants me a bit more freedom, but even then someone's butt always needs wiping, someone is always crying, and someone always needs to be fed. If my time wasn't my own when I was the mother of one, my time became non-existent the second the twins arrived.
And I miss it. I crave it. Half the time, I'm too exhausted to even contemplate a run. The other half I'm longing for the ability to just open my front door and run and run and run for miles.
In a lot of ways, I don't recognize the person I am now. So much has changed in just 2 years. I've gone from the mother of none to the mother of three. I've gone from working FT at a job that wasn't my dream position by any means, but that I was damn good at and received frequent praise for to freelancing from home with dwindling assignments. I went from reading a book a week to reading a book every six months. I went from complete and total independence to being able to count on one hand the number of hours in a day where I do not have my arms full of baby.
Sometimes I can look at my life and see that it isn't my time now, it's my children's. They're very young, and my life won't always be this way. I should enjoy these years (tough as they are) because when they're gone, I will miss them terribly.But other times I am desperately searching for me amongst the Legos, the burp clothes, the green beans mashed into the floor, and the constant and never-ending needs of three small kids 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
And it's during these times when I find myself wondering if I'm always going to finish last.
As a result of my frivolous but pre-economy-in-a-tailspin spending, Luci has a pretty complete wardrobe. Of course, there are seasonal differences to consider (Isabella was an August baby and Luci an October) and also the fact that Luci is much smaller than Isabella was at the same age, but for the most part, I've had to buy very little for Luci.
Nicholas, however, is the proud owner of exactly three outfits. I'm exaggerating, of course, but the truth is, I've bought very little for him. I'm freelancing now, instead of working FT, and with my time-constraints and clients cutting back, I'm working very little now so money is extremely tight. I got him a few things at the twin sale I went to before they were born, friends have generously given me some of their sons' outgrown clothes, and of course some of you have sent me some awesome clothes for the twins (thank you again!), but his wardrobe is meager.
But even if we had scads of money to spend, I think his wardrobe would be just as scant as it is now. Don't tell Nicholas, but I hate shopping for his clothes.
Perhaps it's where I'm choosing to shop, but the clothes I see for baby boys are completely dull and uninspired. Boys' clothes are either full of planes, boats, and cars ("Even though he's totally bald, has eyelashes his future wife would kill for, and is often mistaken for a girl, these clothes prove he's a boy!") or they're slapped with precious little sayings, "Daddy's Little All-Star, " "Future Golf Pro," "Baby Slugger, etc."
Or maybe I'm not loving boy clothes because I had a girl first. I'm accustomed to the styles, colors, and patterns of girl clothes. I'm drawn to certain color combinations (pink and brown!), I know how clothes will look on a girl body, and I know what I find cute (pink and brown!) and what I do not (words on my baby's butt). With boy clothes, it feels like I'm trying to acclimate myself in a completely foreign world.
I have gone shopping explicitly to buy Nicholas clothes in recent weeks and have left stores empty-handed.
If you're the mom of a boy, please clue me in. Where do you shop?
Still cute, even when dressed as a purple Easter bunny.
For the record, my politics couldn't be more different than Meghan McCain's. The 24-year-old daughter of John McCain, Meghan is a conservative political writer who blogs about Washington.
Truthfully, I didn't know she was a writer until she became news over the last few days. It seems Meghan has had some moments of brilliance lately, taking on Ann Coulter and calling her "offensive, radical, insulting, and confusing" (agreed!), and then having the earth-shattering idea that Republicans should play nice in the sandbox with Democrats because it would benefit the country.
It seems Laura Ingraham, a conservative talking head, didn't like Meghan's ideas. On her radio show, Laura called Meghan "a valley girl gone awry" and a "plus-sized model." Mind you, these two are hardly Rush Limbaugh and Michael Moore. They're members of the same political party. They both make a living as political commentators. They share many of the same ideas, except, apparently, the desire to try and unite the country under our new president.
Attacking someone's ideas is one thing. Maligning her physical appearance like a 12-year-old is another.Institutionalized sexism does enough to harm women. In 2009, we're still making .77 cents for ever dollar made by an equally qualified man. A vast majority of the Fortune 500 companies are run by men. Women and men alike still think men make better leaders than women. Women attacking other women and essentially silencing them not because of differing views but because they're "too fat" or their voices are "too shrill" or they "wear too many pantsuits" is revolting. Why is it still considered socially acceptable to criticize a woman's weight and appearance?
The feminist movement has come a long way since the days of suffrage, but apparently, not far enough.
On Saturday morning, we went to my friend's annual St. Patrick's Day Parade pre-party, followed by the parade in the afternoon. This marked only the second time I had left the house since the previous Sunday, so I was ridiculously excited about the prospect of 4+ hours away from my house and away from the babies. Love them though I do, mama needed a break. I think this was my longest time apart from them since they were born.
Isabella had a great time playing with my friend's two kittens. I think she appreciated that this brother/sister duo made a heck of a lot less noise than her own at home.
Then it was on to the parade, Isabella's first. They were an estimated 80,000 people lining the streets for the parade and I think I rammed her stroller into the ankles of every single one of them while trying to get through to where our group was gathering.
The twins did not partake in the St. Patrick's Day festivities. Instead, they stayed home, wore green, and raised hell for my two aunts who so graciously offered to watch them.
Are you celebrating St. Patrick's Day?
Nicholas has turned into the napper baby I've always wanted but thought I'd never have. Isabella is in the process of ditching her afternoon nap, and I'm in mourning, but the little man is known to take a two-hour nap in the morning and one in the afternoon too. This is probably attributed to the fact that he's up all night long, but at this point, I'll take it! Luci is still my sleep striker, although she's improving as well. Of course, they nap in their swings and I have no clue how to get them to sleep in their cribs, which they appear to hate. In the past two weeks, I've fought like hell to get them on a napping schedule (9am and 1pm) because mama needs that 1pm break with all the kids sleeping like she needs carbohydrates and strong coffee. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't, but this is another improvement over last month.
I've started to give them more tummy time, which I've avoided because like their big sister did, Luci and Nicholas screech like howler monkeys when placed on their bellies. They aren't rolling over yet, but they're close*.
Other than church a handful of times and my aunt's house for Sunday dinner, the twins don't get out much. The weather here is still awful, and although I have taken them for walks a few times, they pretty much live like cloistered nuns. Last weekend, though, we took all three kids and the monstrosity of a stroller to the mall because Isabella needed new shoes. We received the requisite stares, the "are they twins?" comments (Actually, no. They are two same-age babies we found on our front porch one morning), and plenty of "Whoooo, Boy! Do you have your hands full or what?"s. Here's something that apparently most of the world already knew, but that was news to me until I experienced it: twins get a lot of attention. I'm not sure I like it.
Their favorite person in the house is, without a doubt, Isabella. They simply light up when she pays attention to them, and when she isn't trying to squeeze their heads like melons, she appears to really love them too.
When I look back in this blog and read about what Isabella was achieving at five months, it's clear to me that the twins are lagging behind. I know they're preemies, and their pediatrician says that they may achieve milestones six weeks behind a same-age, full-term baby, but this concerns me. Why does it matter when they roll over or grab their toes or sit up as long as they eventually do? I'm not sure. But this is probably something I need to get used to. They were early and there's nothing I can do about that.
And in case you're wondering, I'm still exclusively nursing. Thank you, once again, for pumping me up (ha!) and supporting me. Last week was bad. Very, very bad. And your comments made a horrible week bearable for me.
Time for some cuteness.
Six weeks early was early in my mind. As in, high likelihood of breathing problems early. Long stay in the NICU early. Increased risk of developmental delays early. I desperately wanted them to stay inside for another two weeks. 36 weeks seemed like a much safer time to deliver.
Obviously, that didn't happen. As I later found out, I could have died and so could have the babies from the liver problem I developed if they weren't taken that day. It was a much greater emergency than the nurses and doctors in and out of my room on the day of their birth ever let on to me, and probably with good reason. Had I known that at the time, I would have probably had a breakdown.
From the moment I learned my babies would be born at 34 weeks, I felt my body had failed them. When I saw them covered with tubes and hooked up to monitors in the NICU hours later, the guilty feelings only intensified. I felt I had caused their suffering because my body wasn't strong enough to do its job and keep them safe. And then I got sick and spent the first five days of their life throwing up and writhing in pain in my hospital bed. There were days I spent less than two minutes with them in the NICU. I was too weak to hold Luci for 48 hours following her birth. I wasn't bonding with them, they weren't in my hospital room with me, and I felt utterly useless. I couldn't do anything for them. I couldn't even feed them because I was too sick to pump. When I was able to sit up long enough to do so, I was getting only a few ounces at a time. They received formula in the NICU because there just wasn't another option. Soon, though, I was pumping enough to supply them with breastmilk for almost every feeding. A few days after that, we took them home and I began exclusively breastfeeding them.
I had always planned on doing this, just as I had with Isabella. Of course, every single person I told this to thought I was crazy. Women just don't exclusively nurse twins, you know. It's insane! But it had never even crossed my mind not to. I nursed Isabella exclusively until she was 13 months old. She never had formula. How could I not do for Luci and Nicholas what I had done for Isabella? It didn't seem fair. It still doesn't.
But my primary motivation for sticking with breastfeeding is because I feel I owe it to the twins. Logically, I know it's nonsensical, but I feel as if my body failed them, causing their early delivery. They were premature because of the condition I developed. And yes, I know the liver problem is a pregnancy condition that was actually caused by the little darlings, but in my mind that's irrelevant.
I want to stick with nursing them so I can provide them with every positive antibody and disease-fighting protein I can. They're already susceptible to a whole host of infections and developmental and physical delays because they were early. By nursing them, I feel like I can act as a one-woman army of defense for them. No, it's not a guarantee that they'll continue to thrive, but I'll know that I've done everything I can to ensure that they will.
How can I weigh my need for sleep over their ability to grow and thrive? In my mind I know one or two nighttime formula-feedings isn't going to harm them, if this is even what they need to settle down in the evenings (and I'm not entirely convinced it is). In my heart, though, I feel as if I would be letting them down once again.
And I just can't bring myself to do it right now.
Thank you for all your advice and support. It means more to me than you know.
Things improved slightly once they hit about 3 months old. We were able to get them down in the evenings in the pack-n-play in our living room from about 8pm to 11pm. At that point, I'd quit tandem nursing, so I would feed whichever one woke up first, then the hubs would take the fed twin upstairs to a bassinet in our bedroom. I would feed the other one, and then do the same. It was still hard to get them to go back to sleep, but we managed. At that point we were both getting about 5 hours of broken sleep each night.
Looking back, those early days now seem like paradise. We transitioned them to their cribs and began a new bedtime routine about a month ago, and since that point, all hell has broken loose. Here's a snapshot of what life is like in my house at bedtime now:
Around 6:30, we get the twins ready for bed. I start to feed whichever one is screaming the loudest at that point, while the hubs deals with the other one, who is also usually fussy at this time. Isabella is usually watching Martha Speaks. Once I've finished feeding Luci or Nicholas, the hubs takes him/her upstairs and attempts to rock that one to sleep while I start feeding the other twin. This often takes the hubs 20 minutes or longer. Then, depending on the evening, either I'll give Isabella her bath while the hubs tries to get the other twin to sleep, or he'll put Isabella to bed while I try to get Luci or Nicholas down.
Isabella is usually in bed for the night between 7:30 and 8pm. The twins will generally stay asleep for no longer than 45 minutes to an hour before one or both of them is up and fussing. The hubs or I will race up the stairs to try and grab the crying twin and run with him/her out of the twins' bedroom before the other one is awakened. Sometimes this works, and sometimes it doesn't. Then, the marathon cycle of rocking, feeding, burping, comforting, Why Can't It Be Spring Already So We Can Throw Them In Their Infant Seats And Drive Them Around The Block Until They're Asleep? begins. It doesn't end until about dawn. We are getting no downtime, no time to ourselves to collapse on the couch without a baby in one or both of our arms at all.
When we finally do make it upstairs and attempt to sleep, it's often for mere minutes before one or both is up again. I cannot remember the last time I slept in a horizontal position for more than one hour. I'm averaging about 3 hours of broken sleep per night, most of it had while sitting up and nursing Luci or Nicholas. He/she will fall asleep in my arms, and I'll wake up only when the baby monitor screams with the piercing cries of whichever twin I'm not currently holding. At that point I offload the baby in my arms to the hubs, and start feeding the other one. All.Night.Long. Nicholas is up for the day at 5am. Luci, thankfully, will generally sleep pretty reliably from about 4am to about 7 or 8am.
We have tried every combination of swaddling, no swaddling, sleepsacks, gripe water, gas drops, bottles of pumped breastmilk in addition to nursing, music, sound machine, no sound machine, earlier bedtime, later bedtime, tranquilizer darts and Ambien that you can imagine. Nothing is working.
I am very tempted to go against my pediatrician's recommendation and try feeding them rice cereal once they hit 5 months next week. She's advised against starting solids before the 6th month because of the increased risk of developing food allergies, and so I didn't start Isabella on cereal until that point. But, I'm getting to the point of desperation with these two. I have a feeling their fussiness and refusal to sleep at night has more to do with their colic than it has with hunger, and their pediatrician agrees, but I'm willing to give it a try. The hubs has been begging me to give them formula at night. I'm not ready to take that step just yet.
Their pediatrician says most colic goes away by the 6th month. April can't arrive quick enough for me.
I like to maximize my waking hours. Sleep is for wussies!
If you haven't already, please consider signing up on Grow Together, Root & Sprout's social networking site. You don't need an account to read my blog there, but if you do create one, you can participate in groups and discussions, chat with other members, and even create your own blog space. Signing up is fast, easy, and free, much like I used to be in my youth. Or something.
The next day when grandma returned, she saw the cookie still sitting in its bag on my kitchen counter. She inquired as to why Isabella hadn't eaten her cookie for dessert the previous night. I told her that Isabella hadn't wanted to eat much dinner, and on the nights when this happens, she doesn't get dessert. Grandma, keeping up her trend that I am ogre mother for not dressing Isabella in four layers of clothing each day (criminal!), taking Isabella to a weekly gym class (germs!), and enrolling her in preschool (lazy!), told me that I am making food too much an issue in my daughter's life. She thought it was horrible that I wouldn't give her the cookie anyway, and she said Isabella looks "too thin" to her.
Here's our "treat" policy. After dinner each evening, Isabella usually has a small treat once she's finished a decent portion of her meal. We aren't members of the clean plate club. She needn't eat every last green bean or ziti on her dish. But she must make a noticeable dent. When she does, she can enjoy a cookie, a sugar-free popsicle, or a small slice of cake or pie, if there happens to be any left over from Sunday dinner at my aunt's house. The hubs and I generally don't partake, so on the nights when she doesn't eat dinner, it's not as if sit there chewing cookies in front of her.
And when she doesn't feel like eating, it's not treated as a big deal either. We do a bit of cajoling to encourage her to eat sometimes, but when she's done, she's done. She doesn't whine or cry for her dessert. We don't force her to sit there and stare at her plate for hours. We just let her down from her booster seat at the table, and she's off to play. She understands that not eating means no dessert. She's fine with that, and so are we.
But according to grandma, dessert should be a part of her meal, just the chicken and veggies are. If she didn't want the main course, grandma thinks she should still have dessert. I then asked her, "What's the motivation to even try the meal, if she knows at the end she's going to have dessert no matter what?" Grandma responded that I'm too rigid, and Isabella should be able to have her treat regardless.
I think our "sweets" philosophy is a pretty decent one. Toddlers have strange appetites as it is, and one day Isabella is starving, and the next, she hardly eats a thing. But I don't agree with letting a two-year-old fill up on cookies or popsicles when she hasn't eaten anything nutritious beforehand.
So, what's the treat policy in your house?
I have Three Riveting Articles in this month's issue. Check them out and then leave me a comment there. I'd love to hear what you think.
Root & Sprout also has its own social networking, Grow Together, where parents can interact with each other to share stories and advice. If you like Root & Sprout, please consider joining Grow Together. I'm on there! That's motivation enough to join right there, isn't it?