Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Happy First Birthday Boys!

So a bit delayed post...only 18 days late. Par for course in the world of twins, I suppose. This is it - the last post for this blog. Life is just too crazy - twins, a preschooler, professor and pilot. As much as I would love to do "blog therapy" on a nightly basis, this life just does allow for it.

I continue to be perplexed by the whole "time flies" concept. It has never flown with Emmeline - I feel like Emmeline and I have known each other for centuries, yet it has only been four years. And the boys...time has moved in slow motion as well. Yes, it has all been a blur, this is true, but a blur that has kind of moved in slow motion. I'm grateful for the postings that I did while the boys were in the nicu. Like I've wrote before, I remember big events and chunks of time while there, but the day-to-day and the feelings of it all is hard to access.

So how would I describe the boys at their first birthday. Oldest first...

Evan, you're my sensitive boy. You are quick to cry, quick to get frustrated, but also quick to laugh and give a smile. This was demonstrated at your one-year doctor's appointment. While your brother was easily bought off by a couple of tongue depressors, you clung to me for dear life as soon as Dr. Sue angled her chair towards us. Your innate hyper-vigilance and sensitivity is evident. You're a pound less than your brother right now, but this doesn't hinder you in any way. Your not quite walking yet, but will take a few steps. You mastered the ability to shake your head "no" a while ago and sometimes crack yourself up with this talent. You love food and have been known to swipe some of your brother's off his tray when he isn't looking. You usually go to bed easily and wake up happy. You adore your big sister more than anyone. You say "mama", sometimes randomly and sometimes with an urgency that reminds me how lucky I am.

Oliver, you're my stoic observer. Sometimes less quick to crack a smile, but you also a often a demonstrate great patience. You often just go with the flow...unless, of course, you decide that it is time to wrestle. At the age of one, wrestling is hands down your favorite activity. If someone lays on the floor, flat on their back, you will make a beeline for them and throw yourself on top, all the while laughing from your gut. You love to wrestle your brother, although he is not always the biggest fan. You're not quite walking yet either, but will also take a few steps. Whereas Evan will cautiously fall to his knees when off balance, you are completely trustworthy...falling straightforward, knowing that mama is there to catch you. You also think big sissy is the best. You're not saying anything specific, yet you are "talking" all day long. And, as the picture below shows, you love chocolate. The apple doesn't fall far from the tree.

I love you Evan and Oliver.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy New Year

I have a very distinct memory of being upstairs in what is now Emmeline's room, alone, on New Year's Eve in 2008. We had a failed IVF cycle in the fall, and I remember writing a post that night on my old blog about a review of the year - the good and the bad. Alex was somewhere across the pond and although it would have been nice to dress up and enjoy a night out, I remember feeling quite content to be staying in, by myself, just me and my blog...attempting to make sense of my world through the written word. I also remember looking around the room that I had planned to be a nursery and bargaining with the universe. Please, please, please. Just give me a baby this year, just one (I don't want to be greedy), and I will never ask for anything else. I will be good. I will be eternally grateful and happy.

And here I sit. Exactly five years later. Very different circumstances, yet a similar feeling...minus the pleading for more children. Alex and Emmeline are at a neighbor's house, brining in the New Year with some friends, while my boys are asleep upstairs and I am cozy on the couch. I once again find peace in my aloneness and seek the challenge of bringing beauty and order through writing to what can only be described as the most chaotic year of my life. Ok, universe, I come clean. I am not eternally grateful, nor happy...nor terribly good.

There has never been a year in my life that is more of a blur than this past year. It's one of those time periods where I only remember the large events, the details are lost. I look back at pictures of us in the NICU and I don't even recognize myself. It was as if I was there in body only. I also feel that I survived the year by being completely detached. I went through the motions. I did what I had to do. I kept everything on the surface. And now, on the Eve of 2014, I realize that the weight of 2013 is just starting to feel too heavy to maintain on the surface. It's just starting to settle in my gut, in my core. And man, do I ever feel wiped.

These boys have rocked my world. I still feel shock. Imagine...12 years of unprotected sex, 5 years of ACTIVELY trying (going to extreme lengths to get the timing right, including an 18-hour trek to NYC because I was supposedly ovulating and Alex was on an overnight there...I was so sure that it had worked that I had purchased a little NYC rubber ducky at the airport for the baby I knew we had just conceived. Bahahaha! That was only one year into our actively trying time period), three failed IUIs, a failed IVF cycle, and a touch-and-go pregnancy from a frozen cycle which resulted in one amazing baby.

And I think out of my own fear of another loss or disappointment, I exhausted my mothering skills with her at each step of the way. I wanted to use up all of the mothering I had in me so that there would not be any yearning left. For yearning for more children would open up the possibility of having to try again, and having to try again would bring the risk and likelihood of disappointment and/or loss.

And now, on the Eve of 2014, there is no loss. I sit in plentitude all the while my exhaustion, the weight of undigested 2013, distorts me from seeing things clearly.

My hope for myself for 2014 is that I finally let 2013 settle deeply in my core - so that the weight of it no longer feels like heavy burden trying to push me under, but rather like an stable anchor that secures me in the lap of this abundance.
Happy New Year and you and yours. May you find yourself cozy and confident in your own abundant lap in 2014.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

On the night you were born...

Yesterday, Emmeline celebrated her 4th birthday.

It's the first year that she was really into everything...REALLY into everything. The parties, the presents, the cake and most interestingly, her birth story.

This is what I told her.

"So, the night before you were born, mommy, daddy and Auntie L spent the night in the hospital. I was all cozy in my bed (Emmeline loves the word "cozy"). Daddy was all cozy in another bed in the room. And Auntie L was all cozy in a chair. The room looked a lot like the room mommy was in the night before the brothers came. That night, we all talked about how excited we were to meet you. Then, the next morning, the doctor came and woke me up and told me that it was time for you to come out. We were so excited. So he pulled you out of my tummy and we found out that you were a girl! We were so surprised that you were a girl. Then we named you Emmeline.

That night, we were very tired. So you, mommy and daddy all slept in the same room. So many people were taking care of you because everyone loved you so much.".

The end.

I was just getting her out of the bath when I had told her the story. "Again, momma. Again.". I wish I had had a camera on me to capture her delight.

Now, this is how I typically tell the story to myself, in my own head.

"Even though I desperately needed the 5 more days to get my shit together, we were unexpectedly sent to the hospital that afternoon because my platelets were crashing and my doc was concerned for my health. Then, they forced us to go to a different, high risk hospital...that really pushed me over the edge. Once we got there, they strapped a gazillion monitors on me, making it absolutely impossible to get much sleep. The next morning, they started pitocin and my cervix refused to cooperate. By 11AM, they decided to rip the membranes of my cervix to get things moving. This involves little Miss "I'm-a-beautiful-calm-and-serene doc" sticking her fist up my who-who and scrapping her well-manicured nails (of course, covered by latex gloves) on my cervix. Yes, it was as pleasant as it sounds. Oh, about 30 minutes after that move to get things going, the same doc makes a decision and says f' it - a c-section will be better for both mom and baby. F'ing fantastic. Yada, yada, yada...In the OR, I get sliced open and after violently pushing my organs around, out comes Emmeline. My reaction to Alex saying "It's a girl!" is "Holy shit!" (We were certain the she was a he). I get a quick peak and they take her somewhere. Back to the room I go to get all the IVs back in because, oh, did I fail to mention that I'm suffering from preeclampsia which requires me to be on a devil drug called magnesium sulfate (so I won't seize, of course). About an hour or so after being back to the room, inspite not having anything to eat for the past 50 hours (thank you, magnesium sulfate), I dry heave my guts out, only to pass out for about a day afterwords. Seriously, I don't I have one memory from the time I puked my guts out until sometime the next day."

All I know is that my baby was taken care of. I guess that's the one commonality between how I often choose to remember that time and what I told Emmeline last night.

Was the story I told Emmeline a fairy tale version of what I wish it was like? No, what I told Emmeline was true. Is the story I have running through my head the nightmare version of what really happened? No, it is true also. It all got me thinking...imagine that...

I could write this same blog about many events in my life - the contrast between the version I would tell to my child or someone else and the version that I live with in my head. Yes, initially, it does feel like I'm presenting an untruth - a fairy tale version - on the outside, yet living a nightmare of the darkest variety on the inside. And, frankly, both feel off and extreme, resulting in me feeling fraudulent in some way. But the truth of the matter is, that I'm not a fraud. That the truth of a memory lies in both the light and the dark. I think with Emmeline's age and my current unskillfulness in the balance of these matters, I made the right choice in how I told her the story. But, perhaps I can start to change the scripts that play out in my mind, moving a little more towards a spot the resides between nightmare and fairy tale - a spot that defines what it means to be fully human.

Happy Birthday my sweet baby! I've always known you and I can't wait to keep growing with you.

Saturday, November 16, 2013


Up at 4AM, unable to sleep, I, of course, do the thing that is least conducive to sleep - read horrifying stories about the typhoon. It's a world so far removed from mine, and as I scroll down the pages I realize the limitation of my empathy. Sure, I've been a little between my meals...that I know will be there for me to consume in a few hours. But I have never been so hungry and dehydrated that I become sick. And I have never been in a situation where food and water, the basics, were inaccessible. I have never been that close to death. I have never watched my own children struggle to get their basic needs met. On Maslow's Pyramid, my loved ones and myself have always been above that bottom row. So I read and read in a somewhat detached state, aware that my head and heart cannot come close to understanding their devastation.

And then I came across an article about a mother who gave birth to her baby girl at 32 weeks - the exact gestational age of my boys. Her daughter clings to life on a wooden bench in a hospital chapel, wrapped in plastic and blankets - the only solution in an attempt to regulate her body temperature. There aren't any incubators or electricity. Her mother lays on a similar bench, in the original clothes that she gave birth in, trying to recover herself. The article was quite descriptive about the scene, but doesn't directly state the obvious - the likely hood of that baby surviving is very,very small. The parents survived the typhoon, only to be thrown into a deeper, more cruel hell.

And there I sat with my boys, in their own private rooms, receiving some of the best care in the world. They were both intubated within minutes of being born. Yes, they would not even be laying on the bench in that chapel - their life would have ended much sooner. The first few days, my boys were protected from the world by their sophisticated and functioning incubators. I remember the joy I felt when we were told that their "tops were being popped"...that they finally reached a level of health in which they could regulate their temps. I also remember the daily joy of them taking more and more of their feeds by bottle. After starting out on feeding tubes, every bottle feed was one step closer to being able to come home. I would relish the quiet nicu moments, relaxed in the room's recliner with a naked babe (or two!) cuddled under blankets against my bare chest. Not that there wasn't stressful times, but by the second week, our nicu experience settled into a rhythm, becoming a mostly comfortable routine.

But there were many, many times that I lost perspective. I would feel self-pity. Why did I have to go through this? Why couldn't I have had one of those birth situations that you always hear about - you know, the ones where mom and babe are surrounded by unicorns vomiting rainbows. Hospital food, again? And having to trek the twenty feet back and forth between our private rooms. Didn't anyone have any forethought about multiples before they constructed this state-of-the-art multi-million dollar facility? And oh the pumping and more pumping. I remember feeling irritated when I happened to be "hungry" at pumping time.

I get it. All we have is our own perspective. For me, someone living a life raising three healthy children in a town with world renowned medical care, the above situations did most likely cause some discomfort. But as I read that article, with tears and a tight chest, I couldn't help but be consumed by something that can only be described as survivor's guilt with a big heap of helplessness.

Yeah, I can send some money. But that's the extent of it. My life isn't set up to hop on a plane and give myself to the relief efforts. And let me be honest - even in the absence of family and responsibilities, I'm not so sure I'm cut out for that anyway.

But as I think about it more, I realize that there is one more thing I can do. I can express gratitude and keep gratitude on the forefront. For to not feel overwhelmingly grateful for this charmed life is to disrespect that mother and her babe fighting their hard fight on those wood benches.

Sunday, November 3, 2013


I take Emmeline to swim lessons most Wednesday evenings. I always look forward to it for a variety of reasons. What joy it is to watch a child born out of MY body, fearless of the water. Sometimes in the space between waving and blowing kisses, I just stare at the wall and breath. Sometimes I make small talk with the other moms in between their own waving and kissing. I'll admit it - sometimes I just mindlessly surf through the emails on my phone. It is my half hour to do what I please. A precious half hour in a week of hurried chaos.

Until recently, Emmeline refused to let me blow dry her hair after swim lessons. Then one day, like the switch that is so often mysteriously flipped in the mind of a three-year old, she discovered the pure luxury in having someone slowly blow dry her hair, running their fingers through her strands while that warm goodness covers her neck. If only she knew how much this treat will cost her in her adult years. If only she knew what a luxury it is for me to spend these precious moments with her as her mom and hairdresser.

Yes, since the birth of the twins, that half hour on Wednesday evenings is some of the only time during the week that I'm not in a hurry.

This past Wednesday, as Emmeline was fancying herself at Momma's Salon after swim class, I witnessed the mother next to me talk sternly to her little girl, probably under the age of four. She was grabbing one of her arms firmly and said in an elevated voice, "I said come on. We are in a hurry! We don't have time for this!". Please - in no way am I judging. I'm sure she as her half hour at some point in her week, just not at swim class. Rather, in that moment it was as if I was presented the gift of a mirror. I know that I had exhibited her look and those mannerisms. I had used her words in that tone of voice, many, many times before. Many times that week. Many times that day. I never really thought much about my behavior except that I believed it was "necessary" now that I'm so busy with the boys and being back to work. And then the mirror was held up...

Man, it was not one of her better moments. Man, those times are not my better moments.

Having recognized this gift, I became observant of the situation as I continued to run my fingers through Emmeline's hair. The more the mother expressed her need to hurry up, the more the girl's body tensed up and became resistant. And the more the girl resisted, the more the mother tugged and raised her voice, and the more the girl resisted...Having started around the same time, the mother finally finished with everything about two minutes before Emmeline and I were done, both mother and daughter leaving with tensed bodies and strained faces.

Two minutes quicker. And that's when it really clicked. Now, as a mother of three, I am fully aware of the importance of logistics. I know that there are times, that in order to get everyone fed, bathed and basic needs met before bed it may often feel like I need to hurry. If hurrying would really change the course of events for the better, I'm all for it. I'm a sucker for efficiency. But the truth of the matter is that, to a three-year old, the difference between the "hurry" and the "non-hurry" speed of doing things is very negligible - perhaps a maximum difference of a minute or two. And that minute or two can be the difference between being all tensed up or sharing a few memorable moments at Momma's Salon.

Later in the week, I decided to indulge Emmeline in her desire to try ice skating. There's a rink near by with open skate. Within a minute of hitting the ice, Emmeline was not a fan, but we stuck it out for one complete lap around the rink. She wasn't quite ready to leave and it was around lunch, so we got a couple of hotdogs at the snack bar and snuck into the stands of the professional rink. About 40 teenage figure skaters were practicing a complicated routine and we were their sole audience, having the bleachers to ourselves. Emmeline was in awe. As she mindlessly ate cut-up hotdog, she talked about how beautiful they looked, how she wished she could twirl like they did and how she wanted to be a good skater too. This led into that important discussion about practicing, how getting really good at something takes time and patience and how those girls probably started with the little walkers and fell a lot when they were three-years old too.

Then my eyes met the big clock on the score keeping wall. We had been sitting there watching for 30 minutes. I became anxious to go. I had things to do. It was time to hurry out of there and hurry through the rest of my day. And then Emmeline looked at me with her beautiful and now inspired eyes and begged to stay "just a few more minutes, momma". In that moment, the scene from that week's swim class flashed before my eyes. We stayed, almost another hour.

Because sometimes in a minute or two, a few moments at Momma's Salon can be soaked up or sometimes a life-long dream can be born. Or sometimes a mother and daughter can just have a meaningful chat over a hot dog.

Saturday, October 19, 2013


When I wrote the last post, I had intentions of writing more like every other day. And now I see that the last post was written on September 26th.

See, I have this admittedly insane guilt complex about not keeping the best documentation of the boys in this first year. The source of that guilt? The blog that I had kept about Emmeline. It was detailed. It was regular. It started over a year before she was conceived, continued through my pregnancy and while a little less detailed and frequent, I managed to keep it up through her first year. And then I found this amazing site that can take your blog and print a hard copy in a beautiful book. That book rests on top of the coffee table. Although Emmeline can't read yet, she often will sit with the book and look at the pictures. She relishes in the fact that it's a book about her. I've told her that someday she will love to read it and I'm confident that will be the case.

And every time I look at that book (which, I may add, is sitting on top of her very well put together baby book), I am flooded with the mommy guilt that stems from that fact that no matter how hard I try, I will never be able to give the boys what I give Emmeline - not just that better blog and baby books, but the quiet moments in the rocker and the days of nothing but cuddles, the longer evening baths. I feel like I'm being a good mom when I get them bathed once a week (although, that is going to have to change now that we've started solids)...and, if someone offered me a method to bath babies quicker than I am already doing, I would without hesitation say "Yes please.".

It's a crazy life - these two boys, big sis and now working as a professor. Add on top of this the fact that my husband is experiencing some severe back issues that will most likely end up being resolved with surgery. For the first time in my life, this Type A is not keeping up with much of anything...the laundry, the house, friends, sometimes my own basic hygiene. So yes, there is no denying that the boys will have a different life.

But as one dear friend stated so well, "What is missing in the one-on-one attention that you can give them, is compensated for with siblings.". I think about this phrase often. It lessens that mommy guilt.

And one day I hope to even transcend that helpful mantra and realize that there is really nothing compensate for...that when my intention is good, when I'm giving them my best, I know they're going to be okay. And that probably the best thing I can actually do for them is to let go of any guilt and simple be present.

May this find you well and enjoying your own guilt-free moments, whatever they are.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Nicu Days 16 - oh wait, they're almost 6 months old now!

I'm sorry for the delay.

That's it. No long excuses about the absolute craziness that is now my life. I now realize that my apologizes for lateness will forever be constants in my life, and frankly, no time or energy to expand beyond a heartfelt "I'm sorry". And, I'm also learning, a little more slowly, that there really isn't a need expand. People know. People understand. People don't need the well-defined excuses. People just want to help.

The quick - the boys are well! We busted out of the NICU with Oliver on May 3rd (exactly four weeks after birth) and Evan quickly followed on May 5th. The adjustment of being out of the NICU was large. What do you mean there is no nurse to feed my baby when I feel like sleeping through the night? Did I say "baby"??? Babies. BABIES. Maybe someday the plural version will flow more freely. Not yet. Not even close.

Because they were considered "high risk", not just because they were twins, but also because of the twin-to-twin transfusion, we were advised to get "early on" involved. Oliver didn't qualify (which is a good thing), but Evan did, mainly due to increase muscle tone. Early On is great - now coming to our house every other week and mainly doing physical therapy with Evan. He is progressing nicely. Both boys are meeting their milestones...and in most cases, based on actual birth date instead of adjusted. My little overachievers. Evan still has the stiffness, but it is kind of an unknown in terms of what that means. Of course, I have some worry about his future...but not as much as you would think. He is generous with his smiles and his laughter is abundant. I know this means that he will have a quality of life.

More, more later. For now, some pics.