On the Twins’ First Birthday, Looking Back on the Past Year

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Last week the twins turned a year old. There have been huge changes this year: M and E’s birth and our move from New York to Pittsburgh being the biggest, plus all the smaller changes that those precipitated.

I can remember so clearly when we first brought them home from the hospital, looking down at their little sleeping bodies swaddled in the crib under the window. Their tiny, perfect faces, the hats they wore though it wasn’t cold. I remember that feeling, sleep-deprived, vibrating with nervous energy and wonder. My mom had come for the summer to help, and I remember those hot days we spent camped out with the babies in the bedroom, the one air conditioned room of the house, talking. I remember buying preemie size diapers at Target.

Still, so many things about those first few months are a blur. How many days until the NICU nurses let me hold them? How long did I keep pumping breast milk so that we could offer them a bottle first and then breastfeed after, until they got the hang of it? Until we were confident they were growing. And did we really feed them every three hours, getting only three non-consecutive hours of sleep per night, and for how long? No wonder those months are a blur.

Now suddenly they are a year old and two tiny individuals: eating cupcakes, waving and saying hi, taking little baby steps with help, climbing the stairs, getting the giggles. It’s hard to believe they’ve only been part of my life for a year. They have accomplished so much, and I am so incredibly proud.

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How Becoming a Mother Has Changed Me

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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.

 

 

 

First Scrape (A Dubious Milestone)

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Suddenly these babies are much more active. There’s no more rolling, it’s all crawling and pulling up on things. This weekend we expanded the gated-in play area so it now encompasses most of our living room, and the babies are taking full advantage.

I can’t get over the new activity level. If there’s a pile of books, they’re pulling them all apart. If there’s a tower of blocks, they’re crawling over to it to knock it over. When you pick them up they grip you like little monkeys. And when you try to put M down on the changing table, forget it. She hates lying down, arches her back and cries and twists and turns and tries to climb off the sides and onto the laundry hamper so that you’re pulling her back by the waist.

She got her first scrape yesterday climbing up on the toy box, which is not wood but a sort of flexible cloth-covered plastic. It flipped over and hit her in the face. Now she has a scrape right between her eyes. She was outraged and crying when it happened but very quickly recovered and went right back to climbing on the toy box. Great.

Also , now that we’ve expanded the play area our living room is like an obstacle course of thigh-high barriers to step over. I’m sure this is some new muscle I’m exercising with all this high stepping. In fact, M isn’t the only one who got her first scrape. Today Bean fell off the rocking horse, and in my rush to get to her I jammed my shin on the baby gate, nearly falling myself.

On an unrelated note, the Bean is now leaning in to receive kisses on the head and waving at new friends, who happily wave back. And she is definitely saying “duck.”

 

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.

Sweet Potatoes, Sweat and Tears

It’s been a long day.

It started with one baby screaming at 4:45 a.m. We waited until maybe 5:15 and then decided just to feed them. We tried to put them down again afterward, but no go. D went grocery shopping and the over-tired babies cried. There was no sleeping at all, by anyone. When D finally got home I had one baby in a moby wrap, the other was in the crib still crying, and I was about to lose my mind. He put the second baby in a moby, and when they finally fell asleep we transferred them carefully to the crib.

We had wanted to go to a neighborhood baby play date at 10:30. No way we were going to wake the babies, though. At 11:15 they finally woke up. We tried to feed them quickly and then go. As if getting out of the house is ever quick these days. And today it was frigid. Bone chilling winds rattled the window panes. Bundling the babies took half an hour. Finally, with the babies all bundled, as I was putting M into the moby wrap she spit up all over my chest. I had to unwrap myself and change. We started off to the play date probably about an hour and forty-five minutes after the start time.

“I think I wrapped [E] too tight,” D said, before we’d walked a block, the frigid wind making our faces ache. “I don’t think she can breathe.”

“She can breathe.”

“I don’t think she can breathe!”

“Let’s go!”

“This is stupid!”

By the time we made it to the play date the last two people were leaving. We said hello then turned around and walked back home.

The rest of the day went similarly. I went to get a free high chair from another parent of twins in Clinton Hill. She had asked me to come between 2 and 3:30 because her three year olds would be napping.

“They’re not sleeping,” she said first thing when she opened the door. Her hair was unbrushed and her eyes bloodshot. Her husband appeared around the corner, about to say something to her then stopped when he saw me. “The only thing about these highchairs,” she said, “I sort of wished we had invested in some of the fancier ones with steps, like the Stokke, because…”

“Aiiiiii! Maaaamaaaa!” there was a scream from down the hall. The woman sighed and walked off mid-sentence. They husband offered to help me to the car. “I don’t have a car,” I said. “I’m taking the subway.”

“Can you make it?”

I hoisted the the highchair over my shoulder plus lugged two booster seats they’d given me in a big IKEA bag all the way to the subway, the wind blowing me back one step for every two forward. I was reminded of the scene in the movie, In America, where the father carries the Air Conditioner on his back across town. I was also reminded of an ant.

When I got home we washed and scrubbed the high chairs, we fed the babies, we washed the highchairs again, we washed the babies, we washed everything, we did laundry at the laundromat, we made dinner. Finally we put the babies to bed. They cried for fifteen minutes before finally going down. I don’t know if they were wired from the sweet potatoes or what.

It’s been a long day.

Sweet Potato Extravaganza!

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What a pro she is!

Today the babies had their first taste of sweet potato. This was their first solid since our false start with rice cereal a couple months back. I’d say they definitely enjoyed it. They polished off the jar we opened, and by the end they were grabbing the spoons and opening their mouths for the next bite. 

Sweet potato is very…orange. And it was everywhere. In the creases of their hands, on their shirts, pants, socks, sprayed on the table, on D’s face, smeared on his sweater, my shirt, and of course all over their happy faces. The table was full of soiled crumpled napkins. Safe to say it was about as messy as one tiny jar of orange mush could be. “Next time we should just strip them naked first,” I said. In any case, they enjoyed it, and they’re eating solids now. They’re practically adults. 

Father Makes Video of His Premature Son’s First Year

Well this video just reduced me to tears. Geez, brought me back to the NICU. Though our babies, born at 33 weeks, were bigger than this to start, the NICU is the NICU. Beautiful video.

We just got back from our 6 month checkup and M and E are now seventeen and a half and eighteen pounds, respectively. It really feels like a miracle.

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Did you like this video? You might be interested in this post about a NICU reunion, too:

https://spacemonkeytwins.wordpress.com/2013/11/12/nicu-graduates-unite/

There’s a Hole in My Stomach (and Wallet)

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Last week I was on a walk with some friends who are mothers. “Do you find yourself hungrier, with breastfeeding?” one asked.

“Oh man, yes!” I said, enthusiastically. “I go through like a big tub of peanut butter a week!” There was a moment of silence. I imagined them imagining me eating a tub of peanut butter. “Maybe that was an over-share,” I said.

Later the conversation moved to drinking water. “Do you find breastfeeding makes you really thirsty?”

“Oh man, yes!” I said. “I’m drinking constantly! I can’t breastfeed without a big canteen of water to drink at the same time.” I must drink a gallon a day. I began to realize that everything I’m experiencing is double.

My stomach is a bottomless hole. People seem impressed that I’m back in my pre-baby clothes. I’m happy I haven’t shrunk down to nothing. There’s a hole in my stomach (and my wallet–same cause–though that’s a subject for another post). 

Is This Your Baby?

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I came around the corner. There was my landlady suddenly outside my door, standing over the baby I’d left there. “I was just coming up to the roof and ran into your baby, here.”

But here’s what happened. I swear I don’t just leave my babies lying around. I had just come back from a walk. Actually I had just come back from the most laborious trip to the bank ever. Or, just how every trip is now getting out of the house. (Eight trips up and down the stairs, lugging 25 lb of baby, car seat and stroller each way up and down. But anyway…)

When I got back home, I was at the final step of getting everything and everyone back into the apartment. Both babies were in their car seats back up on the third floor landing. All I had left to do was carry one into the apartment, then go get the other one and lug her in. Then shut the door behind me.

The landing is only for our apartment (and the door to the roof). We fill it with our mess of bicycles, shoes, boxes, ACs, etc. I carried Bean in first and took my time with her in the bedroom. She was falling into a nap, so I didn’t want to disturb her much, but I took off her hat, which seemed a bit too warm for indoors. Slowly I made my way back for M. I was tired.

“Aaaaaaah!” I cried. There was a big figure in black at my door. It took me a moment to see it was the landlady. Actually she isn’t big at all, she is maybe just over four feet tall. But big in comparison to the tiny people I am used to spending the day with. And behind her was a roofer. “I was just coming up to the roof and we ran into your baby, here.”

“Oh, sorry,” I stammered. For all they knew she had been there for hours. Maybe I made a habit of leaving babies lying around. “Every time I come in and out I have to carry the car seats up and down,” I said, as if that explained why my baby was in the hall. Oy vey.

“I’ll just close the door for the draft,” she said. Babies here, babies there, babies everywhere. And a mess to boot. Outed as a bad mother by a surprise visit from the landlady. It’s been a long day–time for me to go to bed.