Watch, Now, How I Start the Day in Happiness

hello sun in my face

image via

“Hello, sun in my face.

Hello you who made the morning and spread it over the fields…

Watch, now, how I start the day in happiness, in kindness.”

-Mary Oliver

I think I was doing pretty well with my pledge to post every day and then Mia came down with some kind of bug, then that bug found me. It was a pretty mild bug but it lasted for what felt like forrr-evvv-errr.

That little bug also took with it my drive to wake up early and write and if I don’t do this I can pretty much count on not getting much writing done for the rest of the day. This is because it’s usually the largest chunk of the day I can devote to writing. It gets the train moving and sets the tone, writerly wise, for the remainder of the day. So just like that, I fell out of a habit I was only just beginning to form.

But all is not lost! Over the past few days I’ve been rediscovering this little blog I had when Mia was a baby. I hadn’t looked at this blog in years. I started that blog when I was in the thick of the infant days and wanted to feel less alone. I ended the blog after I wrote a post that was supposed to be celebratory, if a bit raw and vulnerable, but I discovered too late that it failed in execution, and the result was exposure at an uncomfortable level. So I stopped blogging and life went on.

When the boys came along a few years later, I was catapulted back to that lonely place. Times two. That exhausting up-all-night-every-night, spit-up-in-my-hair-don’t-care, just-shoot-the-coffee-into-my-veins, someone-needs-something-from-me-every-damn-minute-and-good-God-can-I-please-just-take-a-shower place.

You know the one?

And the whole time my creative itch needed scratching and my mind needed to work some things out the only way it can – with the written word. So around the boys’ first birthday, I finally felt like some fog was lifting and instead of waiting around for life to knock on my door, I decided to rejoin life (my life, anyway) and see just what kind of world I would open myself to if I started writing again.

First, I took a shower. Then, I started this blog.

It didn’t take long to realize that blogging, when you devote yourself to it and keep at it, can create this wonderful, rich, creative, connective world where all the little moments can be magnified and shared, then wrapped up in tissue and preserved until they’re taken down from the shelf, dusted off and revisited, experienced time and again. And the people you connect with become more than connections. They become this community where everyone inspires and encourages each other and you can’t help but marvel at all the ways God brings people into your life.

So after a bit of reminiscing on that old blog (it feels like a lifetime ago), I’m ready to get back to this one. We all need to find our way back to Memory Lane once in a while, and I might republish some of those old posts simply to indulge my nostalgic side, but not yet. Not today. I’ve only been away from this space for a week, but today sort of feels like that first day, that first post.

Today feels like a beginning.

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Uh-oh, Help, Charge it

Early last month I spoke to our pediatrician about Wyatt’s speech, or lack thereof. I also expressed some concern that he didn’t really pay us any attention. He didn’t respond to his name. He was more independent, more in his own world than Luke. I told her that Luke loves animals and books and trucks, but where Wyatt was concerned everything was a bit more muddled. She suggested a hearing test.

We didn’t do the hearing test, deciding to wait a little longer. “They are twins,” I reminded myself. “Not clones.”

Here we are, six weeks later. He’s talking. He’s connecting. He loves books. He loves machines and things that move. He especially loves the Kindle.

About a boy (or two)

depression in pregnancy

I’ve never tried to put this into words, this story my heart knows and my gut feels and my mind won’t let me smother every time I look at their faces. It will forever be the pin that punctures the yellow balloon of sunshine, slowly releasing the air that fills it.

depresison in pregnancy

There are so many entry points for this story. How we tried for a year and a half to get pregnant the second time around. How I took a pregnancy test at six o’clock in the morning because I had been tracking my cycles so I knew the exact day that a positive pregnancy test was a possibility. How Mia was the only one home at the time and the second she woke up I told her I had a baby in my tummy because I couldn’t hold it in. I had to tell someone. I had to speak the words out loud. How we went to a friend’s house that night and my stomach protruded a little more with each passing hour. I called the OB-GYN’s office on Monday to set up an appointment. They were skeptical seeing as how early it was, but I knew. I got sick within a few days — feverish chills and dizzying nausea and insomnia and exhaustion. Maybe it was all of these things combined but all along there was a low hum inside of me, a frequency that my soul felt even as my mind chased it away.

I was having twins.

depression in pregnancy

So I was not shocked during the ultrasound when two little beans showed up inside a space reserved for one. I was shocked, however, that my gut instinct about something so HUGE was spot on. And yet it didn’t feel real to me. Everything I felt when I was pregnant with Mia was intensified. I was more nauseous, more exhausted, more emotional, just more. Literally. I gained exactly double what I had gained with Mia. So logically all signs pointed to twins but I couldn’t absorb it. I knew all along but even in the face of evidence I chased it away.

The day I went in to find out the sex of the babies my mom and Mia came with me. I wanted Mia to see the babies on the screen, to connect with them and feel her big sisterness. I was not expecting what happened next.

The ultrasound tech navigated the wand over my belly until she found what she was looking for.

“Baby A is a boy,” she said. I looked over at Mia to see her reaction. At my baby girl who was not such a baby anymore. At that moment I felt something I hadn’t before.

Please, God, let baby B be a girl. I’m begging you.

For reasons I can’t explain, I felt this shift inside of me. I clung to the hope of another baby girl as though it were a life preserve. I wanted desperately to take back our decision to find out the sex of the babies. I wanted to be able to deny the second instinct I had about this pregnancy.

“Baby B is also a boy.”

I wanted to crumble. This all feels so silly now, two plus years after the fact, after they’re here and woven into our lives so intricately that I can’t imagine the fabric of our family without them. Now that they’re here and they’re THEM.

All that time, if I only knew it was YOU. Not some faceless, nameless boys, but YOU.

depression in pregnancy

But it wasn’t silly then. Far from it.

My mom and Mia went back out into the waiting room while I went into an examination room and waited for the doctor. I don’t remember what he talked about during the appointment. I don’t remember the drive home. I do remember setting Mia up with a movie and closing myself in the bathroom so I could finally cry. I was grieving for the little girl I suddenly wanted so desperately. At that time, Mia was three (soon to be four) and her babyhood was something oily slipping through my fingers. Keenly aware of the impossibility to hold on tight enough, I thought another baby girl would take away this feeling of “losing” my first baby girl. If only I could do it all over again.

depression in pregnancy

the day after we found out the babies would be boys

I think I’ve never tried to put this into words because as someone who has had two healthy pregnancies resulting in three healthy babies, I’m aware of how it might come off as trite but here it goes.

The following weeks were filled with desperation and paralysis. I went through the motions of my days, covering the basics as best I could, but I wasn’t really there. I felt as though I were walking through a glass tunnel. I could see everything, hear everyone, but I couldn’t touch anything. I could never get close enough to life outside to feel it. I hid what I could during the day but cried at night. I cried so much that blood clots formed in my nose and I watched the blood and tears mix as I bent over the toilet at midnight, 2am, 4am, 6am. I started resenting the babies that invaded my body and seemed to grow at warp speed. I may or may not have fantasized about falling down the stairs. I prayed that I would go on bed rest to just rest. I just needed to rest. Physically, emotionally, mentally. I wanted to sleep for a long, long time.

And then something happened. I went for an ultrasound and as the tech switched to 3D this appeared:

twin ultrasound

“But they have their own placentas. How are they touching?”

“The membrane that separates them is thinner than a string.”

Those are my babies looking peaceful and serene despite the torment I was going through. Despite the torment I was putting them through.

This is when I started saying that though I couldn’t give them all of me, I was able to give them each other. And in the weeks when I felt that I didn’t want them, when I prayed that God would take them from me and give them to someone who did want them, who could love them better than I could, I know they drew strength from each other.

Where I failed in nurturing them through projections of warm and cozy thoughts or the sound of my voice humming soft lullabies, they had each other.

And so this is what I began to tell myself to eradicate the guilt that consumed me:

Though my laughter was scarce, my heartbeat was strong and steady. Though I was wracked with nausea and exhaustion and depression, my womb was hushed and still. Though I stood at the top of my stairs and thought, What if…, my body endured and protected them from my mind.

During the ultrasound above it was discovered that Baby B had too much amniotic fluid and preterm labor became a possibility, but there was nothing I could do to prevent it. So we just kept on keeping on and they held on.

They held on because they knew what I didn’t — that I needed them in a way I couldn’t understand until I saw them for the first time. Until I held them in my arms and looked into their faces and thought, So all along it’s been you. Of course it’s been you.

depression in pregnancy

For more information on depression during pregnancy:

http://www.babycenter.com/0_depression-during-pregnancy_9179.bc

http://americanpregnancy.org/pregnancyhealth/depressionduringpregnancy.html

http://www.psyweb.com/articles/bipolar/antepartum-depression

11 Months + 1 Year

Twins 11 months

I took this picture on May 19th last year, the boys’ 11 month birthday (back when a turn of the calendar constituted a new milestone). As I recall, they were just beginning to take first steps and I spent my days watching them step and fall, get up and repeat.

Step, fall, get up, repeat.

They slipped, bumped heads, hits corners, and collided when momentum took on speed without brakes, but still they would get up and do it all again. Perhaps knowing that if they just kept trying, kept putting one foot in front of the other, something miraculous would happen.

Now they charge ahead without caution or boundaries, unaware of danger or perpetrators or objects moving at a speed capable of ripping apart our world in seconds.

I both love and fear this stage.

twin boys

I feel like I’ve spent the last 11 months + one year in survival mode, and on what is metaphorically the eve of their second birthday, I’m wondering when exactly my babies became little boys.

I’ve been wandering into their room late at night to watch them sleep. I put my hand close to their noses or gently rest it on their bellies to be sure of their breathing, just as I did when they were infants. Once upon a time, one crib held them both with room to spare but now they look like giants stretched across separate beds.

The thing about raising twins is that rituals and routines become more like assembly lines, which causes everything to happen lightning fast, and this has maybe been the most difficult part for me — the surrendering of a sense of authenticity, of an organic flow to our days, always having to choose who needs me more in that moment. There’s a kind of freedom, a sense of luxury, that comes with a singleton that I didn’t even notice until I had twins.

But then there’s something else too.

These boys speak their own language, something secret and exclusive (or maybe it’s Turkish). They converse mostly in gestures and laughs but every now and then I catch them chitchatting in their native Turkish and it catches my breath, knowing the moment is rare and fleeting. The other day our new neighbors came over with their two year old boy. As we were talking grown up talk, I turned around to see Wyatt and this little boy engaged in a back-and-forth conversation (turns out he speaks Turkish too). Pretty soon Luke wandered over and joined their conversation. And it really was a conversation. The little boy would say something and my boys would wait until he was finished before responding. And the more I watched, the more it became clear to me what my boys were saying: “Look, we like you and we’ll hang out with you, but mess with my brother and it’s over.”

I’ve always said that I might not be able to give them all of me but I gave them each other. To finally witness this bond take shape makes me realize that assembly lines or not, we’ve always had our own little luxuries.

Expect the Unexpected (In which I discuss body image after baby…or babies)

What I’ve learned from parenting so far is this: Expect the unexpected. Planning a picnic? Don’t forget the umbrella. Scheduled a family photo shoot? Learn to love photos in which someone is crying (not necessarily a child). Going out for drinks with the girls? Until some sweet child you have no choice but to claim as yours loses her dinner all over your sweater and hangs onto you for dear life as she carries on with a scene rivaling those of The Exorcist (not speaking from personal experience or anything). Oh, and that uterus of yours that’s built to house one baby? Congratulations, you’re having twins!

Expect the unexpected. I should eat these words because when the doctors at my ob-gyn practice warned me that my stomach would be stretched beyond recognition (I’m talking postpartum here), I didn’t believe them. They told me that most women who have multiples end up getting tummy tucks, but I brushed it off without a second thought. I’ve always been (somewhat) active, I try to eat healthy, I’m not overweight by any means, and within weeks after giving birth to Mia I was back in fighting form. Maybe not pre-baby form, but fighting form nonetheless.

After I gave birth to the boys (via c-section), I knew it was going to be a long road back to fighting form when I left the hospital nearly the same size I was when I went in. Worse, my entire body was swollen. I told Zach that I looked like a completely different person. He joked that I looked like I was wearing a fat suit while my dad thought it was okay to verbalize that I resembled someone with elephantitis. Score one for the men in my life.

Before we left the hospital, the nurses told me to drink water like it was my job, so I did. Eventually, the extra fluid drained out of my body and everything was pretty much back to normal. Except for my stomach.

There’s something we do as women that I think is fantastic: we talk about stretch marks and c-section scars and varicose veins as battle wounds, scars worthy of superheroes, the marks of bringing life into the world. We build each other up, confirming our roles as warriors, as the bearers of pain that threatens to split us in two but one that is uniquely ours. We know that the pain is only something to be pushed aside in order to get to the prize because what’s waiting for us at the finish line is a moment, both permanent and fleeting, that can’t be put into words: the euphoria of holding our baby for the first time, of looking into their eyes and speaking that language between mother and baby, the one that gets lost in translation to anyone else. And when we bounce back after giving birth (and by “bounce back” I mean work our asses off), we’re the first to cheer each other on and trade high-fives because we too have fought/are fighting the battle against baby bulge. And if we’re one of the lucky ones to have given birth to multiples (I mean that earnestly, by the way), our climb is only that much steeper.

But I wonder if the battle wounds are visible to only those who’ve gone to battle. Are stretch marks recognized as the mappings of motherhood by anyone other than mothers? Is all the “Yay, rah! Go us!” a grand facade to hide the truth that when we look in the mirror we still mourn our childless bodies? (Or maybe that’s just me.) When I look in the mirror I think of that game, Which one of these is not like the other? It’s my stomach. Still a bit paunchy no matter the sit-ups crunched or miles ran with loose, wrinkled skin rivaling that of an 80-year-old and a sad, droopy area formerly known as my bellybutton.

I’ve thought about this frequently since having the boys, when the ghost of abs past haunts me, and I wrestle with wanting a tummy tuck vs saying, whatever, I went to battle, I’m strong, I am woman hear me roar. It’s just that sometimes I would like to roar with a stomach that doesn’t look like a warm slab of dough thrown against the wall.

infant twin boys

I know they were worth it, okay? I know.