I always knew there were bound to be some disasters in going out with the twins. And now I’ve encountered them and lived to tell the tale. Of course I’ve encountered several, but will only tell one tale.
About a month ago, Evergreen Hospital invited us to return for a class reunion to see the people with whom we took our twin birthing class — to meet each other’s babies and learn how everyone was doing. This was really appealing to us because we don’t know any other twin parents (apart from acquaintances in EMOMs and one friend in the city I don’t see nearly enough) so we decided to attend. There were just two little hiccups: Mike had class on the night it was held, and it was planned for 6:30PM, otherwise known as Baby Unhappy Hour (no booze included). Not a problem, I thought. I’ve gone out with the babies by myself countless times, and I really want to see the two other couples from our class. Onward!
I arrived on time (!) and made my way down the hall. I saw a large group of parents in one room, but noticed they all held one baby, so I assumed there was another room for the parents of multiples. I went room to room — no luck. I pushed the stroller back to the main room and asked the woman in charge if there was another meeting for the multiples group.
“Oh, no, we just plan one big reunion a month and anyone who can come, does!” she said cheerfully.
I tried to mask my disappointment, but probably failed. Not only would I not be able to “relate” to these parents, but I didn’t know any of them so had no vested interest in their new babies. The entire point of a reunion is that you know the people prior to being reunited…am I right?
I took a seat and felt twenty pairs of eyes staring at me as I wheeled the twin stroller to park it next to my chair. I heard Arden stir, just as I knew she would, because it was their dinner time. I looked at the clock; there was no sight of either of the set of parents I was waiting for, and it was already twenty minutes past the class start time. After debating for a moment, I decided I’d already made the effort so I should stay and try to redeem the situation.
I pulled Arden out of her seat and fed her a bottle, and just as I did Henry woke up. I did my best casual “hahaha” to the parents around me who were watching closely to see what I would do. I was suddenly very aware of the fact that I was the only single parent in the room, and the only one with more than one baby. I said ten silent thank-yous to God that I had brought two bottles, instead of my usual routine of breastfeeding one while bottle feeding the other. The image of that happening in this room was so unimaginable I physically shuddered.
I grabbed bottle number two and plunked it in Henry’s mouth, keeping him in his car-seat since I couldn’t hold them both. I held Arden in the crook of my right arm, with my hand wrapped around her holding the bottle in her mouth, and used my left hand to hold Henry’s bottle in his. Trying to play it cool to the audience before me only had the effect of making me break out in a sweat. I was a little duck: calm on the surface, paddling like crazy under the water.
Feeling like something of a baby master at this point, I noticed that Henry was fussing, and he never fusses when eating. I talked to him and tried to soothe him, but it wasn’t working. Oh Lord, I prayed, please just get me through this and get me out of here. I will never again display the absurd audacity it took to attempt this, I promise, just get me through the next ten minutes.
I pulled the bottle out of Henry’s mouth and as soon as I did I knew — I hadn’t removed the spill-proof top to his bottle. He had been sucking on an empty nipple for five minutes. This realization sent a stab through my heart, the kind that accuses oneself of being a monster of a mother. However, I was still holding and feeding Arden, so I had to put her bottle between my knees, which made her cry, and then unscrew Henry’s bottle to remove the stopper without spilling it — all while everyone watched. Perspiration collected under my arms. I mentally grimaced at the twin moms who had not shown up.
I finally got Henry’s bottle set and continued feeding both babies until burp time. This went about as well as can be expected, as Arden cried when I put her back in her seat and Henry took about a year to burp. I told myself “that’s it, I’m out of here,” but then realized we were only two people away from me “introducing myself and my baby.” One would logically think: who cares? You don’t know these people and will never see them again. Despite that sound reasoning, I forced myself to stay in my seat to avoid looking like a failure.
The insanity of that decision is clear to me now, but in the moment I tortured myself to prove I could do double the work with half the help. Now I see it just proved what a prideful asshat I really am.
I rocked Arden with my foot and held Henry in my arms and smiled broadly to the class, “Hi, I’m Abby, and this is my son Henry and this is my daughter Arden, and they’re three months old and she weighed 7 lbs 14 oz at birth and he weighed 5 lbs 13 oz.” There was an audible gasp in the room because most of the other babies weighed less than Arden at birth. I responded with my fun fake laugh and answered the usual round of questions.
Just then one of the twin couples walked in the door…beam of light, ray of sunshine. We quickly huddled and began comparing notes, and as we did I felt the sting of realization that my road had been smoothly paved and hers had been straight through the woods with no clearing. Shortly after recovering from a near-death cesarean section, she had been diagnosed with thyroid cancer — cancer! — and was in recovery. She’d had surgery, and the follow-up rounds of treatment had forced her to quit breastfeeding. I wanted to swallow my head for the dramatic pity-party I’d been throwing myself. To put me right over the edge of self-hatred, she handed me a gift for the twins. She might as well have handed me a grenade, because my heart was splattered across the floor in awe. Almost bleeding to death? A cancer diagnosis? And you went shopping for my babies? It was beyond my understanding of selflessness.
At that moment the evening shifted. I put crying Arden in her car-seat, covered her up, and pushed her around the hallway where she fell asleep instantly. Henry was pleasant and content, and I spent the rest of the reunion getting to know the darling twin girls of the woman who no longer felt like a classmate, but a friend.
I left the building forty-five minutes later knowing that I wasn’t the one who had survived a disaster. As I passed the nervous and hopeful-looking pregnant couples walking in for their birth class, I smiled at them with the special knowledge of all that lay ahead of them. One woman whispered to her husband “Oh my gosh she has TWINS” and I thought…it doesn’t matter. You’ll have your own challenges, as I’ve had mine. And regardless of their severity, you’ll come through it.