Love in a Time of Toddlers

hugs

At dinner I look over at E to find her craning over sideways in her highchair, toward D, making her lips into a kiss.

I’m in the kitchen, chopping something at the counter, and I feel two little arms hug my knees. I look down to find E and hug her back.

M wakes up crying from a nap. When I lift her from her crib she squeezes me tight. I hug back.

Holding both twins in my lap I give them each a kiss on the head. M looks at E and leans over to give her a kiss. E kisses back.

Seeing a cat at a friends’ house, M tries to give it a kiss.

We’re reading a book, Panda Bear Panda Bear, What Do you See? M leans down to give the water buffalo a kiss, and E kisses the lion.

We’re reading a book about shapes. M gives a kiss to the square.

At first, seeing that, I feel disheartened. Maybe they don’t really understand.

But on second thought, I think that square feels better.  I think they know about love.

Today, a List

flowercycle

Today I was a bit distracted, and probably because of that there was a diaper malfunction, and poop all over a leg, and plum puree squirted from a pouch all over a car seat.

Today I stood in the kitchen looking at my two babies in their high chairs. They were both smiling at me, two teeth showing on the top, and waving by opening and closing their hands. They were so beautiful.

Today E continued to point at everything–the windows, paintings on the wall, toys, people..and call them all “duck,” enunciating very clearly in her precious little voice.

Today we woke up before 5 am to a baby crying. After a while we relented and brought E in to bed with us, where she crawled around happily, climbing up on our faces, breathing very close, trying to make it to the edge of the bed. Her perfect, round face illuminated by moonlight.

 

 

First Baby Steps

First Baby Steps

M is taking little steps. Not by herself, but now when you hold her up by both hands and coax her she takes jerky little steps forward. She is working on walking. Above is a sketch of her and D.

How Becoming a Mother Has Changed Me

beforeafter

There have been many turning points in my life, of course: September 11th, my parents’ divorce, meeting my husband…those are a few that come to mind. Each of these has changed me; there is a very clear before and after. Becoming a mother has been another of those milestones. I could make jokes about my new digestion/poop expertise, or the difficulty of looking stylish anymore, but I think I’ll try to be serious. Here are a few of the ways becoming a mother has changed me:

1. My heart has gotten bigger. Before having kids I think I had some vague idea that love, like water, was a limited resource. But now I understand that our capacity for love is infinite. The more there is to love, the bigger our hearts get. If I gave birth again I have no doubt my heart would grow even more. The love feels almost physical, like a shiver. This heart-expanding is an amazing feeling, almost drug-like.

2. I understand what it’s like to be a parent. This may be an obvious one but that doesn’t make it insignificant. I have a better understanding not just of my own parents but of parents everywhere and what drives them. I’m not saying I understand what it’s like to be other people, but I know how being a parent has affected me and that allows me to feel more empathetic.

3. The world seems more mysterious. I am not a religious person and never have been, but I reserve some wonder at the mystery of the universe and forces at work greater than ourselves. A year and a half ago my husband and I were sitting in a doctor’s office while a nurse rubbed a sonogram wand over my not-yet-large belly. “You’re having twins,” she said. Sure enough, there were two little blips floating around on the black screen, one on top of the other like bunk beds. Now here they are, Munchkin and Bean. I can’t pretend any of it makes sense.

4. I feel like I have to be a role model. Whether the babies really care what I do or not is sort of beside the point. They allow me to see myself from the outside and that helps me think about who I want to be. What’s important in life? What do I want my career to be? What sort of home do I want to create? What sort of mother do I admire?

5. I’m more thankful. I’m thankful for my babies’ health. I’m thankful for my health, my husband’s, my family’s. I’m thankful for my husband, for our home, for good food. I feel lucky all the time. To be perfectly honest, to go along with “more thankful” should also be “more fearful.” At the same time I’m thankful for all these things, I feel like I have more to worry about and more to lose.

6. I live more in the present. The babies will never be this age again. They will never be sitting here, babbling to the rocking horse and giving it kisses on the nose again. That, and I’m too busy to think much about anything that isn’t attending to everyone’s basic needs at this particular moment.

7. Time moves more quickly. As we get older it’s true time moves more quickly, but since I had the babies it’s been on overdrive. Every hour of the day is taken up with making my way through their daily routines. The days fly by. The weeks, the months. They are almost a year old now and this whole year has passed in a second. My time has become incredibly limited and incredibly valuable.

8. I can appreciate life’s pleasures. I recently saw this quote from Lorrie Moore from her new book, Bark“Here’s what you do for your depression. I’m not going to say lose yourself in charity work.[…] I’m going to say this: Stop drinking, stop smoking. Eliminate coffee, sugar, dairy products. Do this for three days, then start everything back up again. Bam. I guarantee you, you will be so happy.” It’s basically the same with babies. Lying in bed in the morning without having to get up immediately, taking a walk without a stroller or bags, sitting in a cafe alone with a coffee, reading a good book uninterrupted, taking the time to watch a robin hunt for worms. The fact that I now almost never get to do these things makes me appreciate how absolutely heavenly they are. And when I do get to do them, it’s bliss. 

That’s about everything that’s coming to mind. I’d love to know your thoughts.

 

 

 

A Series of Word Images from Today, Home with Babies

I.

One baby started fussing as soon as I set her down in the highchair. To distract her I started waving around a red bib that was on the table, an impromptu game of peekaboo. She chuckled, slowly at first, as if something funny had just occurred to her. As I kept repeating the peekaboo she got more and more jolly, the chuckles rolling out in waves. Then both babies got into it. The second watching, rapt, as I covered and uncovered my face. Each time I quickly pulled the bib away both babies would give a start. Then came the happy belly laughs. This went on until my arms got tired of holding up the bib.

II.

Water!  In the little bathtub on the dining room table, she started kicking her legs vigorously. She was smiling, water droplets splashing all over her face. Half the tub water ended up on the table, the floor. You could tell she thoroughly enjoyed that sensation, the strong kicking, squeaky splashing, the warm wonder of it all.

III.

Both babies suddenly stopped nursing and looked up at me. Then both, wide eyed, reached their arms up to touch my face, my hair, my mouth.

Sunday Morning, a Comfy Bed, Two Babies

Image

Yesterday morning I woke up early, before anyone else was awake. I went to the living room for a while, and when I came back I found D on the bed in his pajamas playing the guitar. He had the babies propped on our pillows, cozy under the blankets, and they were grinning ear to ear as D sang Puff the Magic Dragon. When I came in all three looked at me and the babies started their breathless smiling, arching their whole bodies with all-encompassing joy. What an amazing welcome. I felt so lucky to be a part of this little family, to get to climb in next to everyone and give Bean, next to me, a hug and kisses.

Positive Thinking for the Holidays

Positive Thinking for the Holidays

This is an ipad sketch of my mother holding Bean, copied from a photo taken last week over the holiday. It was a beautiful Thanksgivukkah. Won’t be another of those for 79,000 years.

I was inspired to go back to ipad sketching by my tech-forward grandmother, who was also at the celebration. She had downloaded a drawing app onto her own ipad after seeing a recent David Hockney show. She had us all ipad sketching.

NICU Graduates Unite!

IMG_1245This weekend we attended a reunion party for graduates of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, organized by Maimonides Hospital. There were balloons, free book giveaways from the Brooklyn Public Library, face painting for the older kids, ice cream, a slide show of pictures of the the babies then and now, food, and raffles. But the best part was seeing the nurses again. It’s been five months, but seeing them took me back to that sad, bright room full of tiny babies, that frantic, exhausted feeling of wonder and pain we felt watching our babies sleep through the thick plastic of incubators.

When we first walked in, at the greeting table was a short-haired, round-faced nurse who I recognized instantly. She exclaimed loudly and ooed and awed over the babies and how big they’ve grown. I remember sitting with her in the NICU annex, after the babies had moved into open cribs. At that point we knew they would probably be discharged in a matter of days. I had learned how to take their armpit temperature with the thermometer I’d wheel over to the crib; I’d learned how to change their tiny, preemie size diapers. I remember asking her what type of thermometer to get. I was so stressed about the babies coming home, about everything, though I didn’t realize it myself. She had a very brusque, sarcastic way of answering and seemed to find my nervousness funny. I was so grateful for any advice.

Then D saw a lanky, long-haired woman in a maroon sweatshirt. She had on small wire-rim glasses and was standing in a circle of doctors. “That’s the neonatologist I talked to when you were in surgery after the C-section,” he said. “She was the first person I talked to.” I had never seen her. I had been unconscious at that point. I realized what different experiences we’d had in those initial days, though we’d lived it together.

“Cheeks, cheeks, everywhere cheeks!” she exclaimed when we said hello, admiring the babies.

We spoke to the lactation consultant who’d wheeled a breast pump up to my hospital bed while I was still groggy from meds, showing me how to assemble and clean the parts. Later, when I brought my sister and father to visit the hospital she had helped me set up a video monitor so they could see the babies. For the camera, she put both the babies in my arms. It was the first time I held them both at once. I felt so rich.

“They look great!” she said. “You don’t have to say the adjusted age; you can tell people their actual age.”

As we made our way around the room, the nurses all asked, “What was the babies’ last name in the hospital?” They were known there by my last name, though their last name now is their father’s. Hospitals retain their own maternal culture separate from society.

My time in the hospital, the babies’ time in the NICU, was really like a trip to another country. A stay in a foreign land, where you don’t understand the language, you don’t know what rituals are being performed most of the time. But we brought the babies back with us from this foreign land. They made it home.