Category Archives: The WORD (Faith)

Double Double Toil and Trouble

When my mama said they’ll be days like this, she was not screwing around.

I remember having a conversation about motherhood with her months ago when she said, with a shudder: “Just wait until you’re sick.  You will not believe you ever thought you knew misery before that day.”

I trusted her, but by that point the babies were six months old and we’d never been sick, not one of us.  So I put it on a shelf and forgot about it.

Then a month ago Henry got croup.  His first illness (at nine months, which I was pretty proud of).  Like the gentleman he is, he graciously passed it to each of us, so we shared colds for a week.  Mike and I swam in a sea of tissues, comforting babies, low on energy.  But it didn’t bring us to our knees.

Then last weekend, Arden got her first fever.  She had no accompanying symptoms, so I called the pediatrician who advised I do nothing but monitor her and keep her comfortable.  Her fever raised and lowered over the next two days, and then Henry caught it.  I took them both to the doctor because it was strange to have fevers and literally no other issues.  She did a thorough exam and said it was a virus, and that many babies had been in with the same experience.  She said it would be gone in the next day or two.

Since they were nearly healthy again the next day, I decided to go on our first run since the cold I’d had several weeks before.  I felt great, and was doing my best time post-birth.  I got back to the house and put the babies in their highchairs for a snack — and suddenly, I felt wrong.  My skin hurt and every single joint ached.  At first I thought I’d pushed myself too hard during the run, but the feeling wasn’t going away as I recovered from that effort.  I prepared the babies’ food and felt worse with every passing minute.

After half an hour I called Mike and told him something was wrong with me, but I had no idea what, as I’d just been healthy enough to push 65 pounds over hills in the neighborhood.  Fifteen minutes later it occurred to me: take your temperature, genius.  Bingo: 100 degrees.

From then on it was like being run over by a train.  I had to say out loud, “Just get me to the next thing, Jesus,” as I washed dishes or moved the kids to a different area.  I felt so weak and aching that I physically couldn’t play with them.  I went limp and laid on the floor, holding up a book and whisper-reading it to the babies.  I realized I would be laughing out loud at myself if only I had the strength.

It was soon obvious that Jesus had heard my pathetic wimper because the babies were chubby-thighed angels for the next forty-five minutes.  They just sat quietly playing next to the woman heroically auditioning for the role of a starfish washed ashore: arms and legs splayed, eyes closed.

In a moment of grace I will never forget, Arden looked at me, leaned over, and put her head on my arm, right in the crook by my shoulder.  She stared at me with her enormous eyes and just laid beside me, radiating empathy.  I felt so impossibly in love with her I thought it would be enough to heal me on the spot.  I also remembered she had felt this sick over the last five days, and maybe still did a little, and my heart broke.

I kept my hands on each of them so I knew they were safe, and then I pretended this all wasn’t happening, because I knew I didn’t have an out.  My mom was out of the country, my mother-in-love was working, my husband was working.  Okay — my husband was working and then had a four o’clock tee time, but I still felt guilty asking for help.  As soon as that became a conscious thought — “I feel so guilty asking him not to golf to come take care of the babies because I can’t move,” I realized how absurd it was, and I called him.

He immediately offered to come home before I had to beg, which helped me to remember this was the first such call I’d ever made.  He was understandably bummed about his plans, but made it home within an hour.  At his insistence I went to bed, announcing as I walked up the stairs that I’d sleep probably half an hour (because what kind of a mother takes a longer break than that? I berated myself)…and then didn’t regain consciousness for more than two.

Thank God this happened on a Thursday, because on Fridays my mother-in-love comes to help (alternating Fridays with my sister) so I knew I wouldn’t be alone the next day.  I felt much better through that day, but the fever spiked again as evening approached and I went to bed early, sleeping like the dead.

That Saturday we didn’t have plans, which is always cause for celebration in our house, and I told myself I was ruining it by being sick.  How could we do anything fun if I was sick?  How could we leave the house?  I had to rally!  This was Mike’s day off and the kids’ chance to get out and do something new and exciting; I had to pull it together.  But every ounce of my 101 degree temperature body was saying, Abby, move to the couch.  Do not move off of it.  So, logically, I forced myself to get dressed and put on accessories.

What is with this mother guilt?  Did I drink from a vial concocted by a gaggle of evil raccoons stirring a pot of poison in the woods labeled “Mother Guilt”?  Have I forgotten this disturbingly detailed memory?  Why do I not allow myself to get physically ill?

Mike walked into the room and saw me sitting next to the children, fully dressed and ready to go, but staring into the distance like one of the rubber giraffes they were playing with.

“Babe, I think you should stay home,” he admitted.  “You look like…babe, you need to sleep.  I’m taking the babies, we’re going walking along the water and getting lunch and you will sleep.”

He was so sincere, and so earnest about having a daddy-twins day that I finally caved.  I crawled to the couch and shouted last instructions.

“Take a bottle for each,” I moaned.  “Do you have wipes?”

As he left I burrowed under a blanket, freezing despite the heat radiating off my skin.  I was just about to fall asleep when I remembered: “Be sure to cover their legs with the thin blankets in the back of the car so they don’t get sunburned,” I texted him.

And with that motherly duty complete, I fell into a blissful two and a half hour coma.  When I woke up, my fever was gone and never returned.  Mike had a fabulous time with the babies on an afternoon adventure — perfectly happy, and not sunburned, without me.  Evil raccoon mother guilt be damned!

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Gimme a Break

We’ve come up with a little survival strategy around here, and it dovetails nicely with the relentless structure and organization I impose on us.  When we’ve had a rough night (babies up more than once), when we haven’t had an extra pair of hands to help in many days, when things generally feel awry, enter: Mercy Days.

Mercy Days are days when I tell the conductor in my head that he has the day off, and instead of fighting it, he shrugs and walks off stage.  They are the days when I let myself off the proverbial hook, when I release the three of us from any need to accomplish greatness.  In short, Mercy Days are days of, as Anne Lamott would say, “radical self care.”

For instance, normally I would never have the television on during my time alone with the babies.  I may watch ten minutes while they face away from the screen as I’m feeding them, but apart from that, it’s off.  On a Mercy Day, I am allowed to shamelessly stream You’ve Got Mail and Something’s Gotta Give, should I choose.  The babies still can’t watch it, but it’s a mental break in the background for me to escape to as I hold a toy for them or watch them play on their blanket.

I do not need to get dressed on Mercy Days.  There are clothes on my body, but they may be pajama pants or particularly unattractive leggings.  If UPS comes to the door, that door will simply not be answered while the UPS man is standing there.

These days also involve treats.  On regular days I eat meals made at home or leftovers, but on Mercy Days I pack the kids in the car and we get to drive through the only acceptable drive-thru and my guiltiest pleasure: Taco Time.

Please allow me to make an aside about Taco Time.  Firstly, Taco Time sits in sharp distinction from Taco Bell.  Taco Bell is cat food.  Taco Time is America’s Mexican gift to itself.  I do not order complicated items — it’s a beef taco (or two…I am still producing food for two other people, after all) an order of Mexi fries and I’m on my way.  Those Mexi fries (tator tots given a more glamorous name) should be considered a drug, considering the opiate-like effect they have on me.  Also!  Not to be forgotten: the ice.  Taco Time is the only place in the world I know of besides Evergreen Hospital to serve pellet ice.  Pellet ice is just what it sounds like; little cylinders of textured ice that pops apart at the merest attempt to chew it.  It is bliss for those who love to chew ice, as I do.  I always order an ice water, just to get that cold, crunchy bite of heaven.

So you can see, Mercy Days and Taco Time go hand in hand.

Sometimes it’s the wrong time of day to visit a Taco Time, in which case, obviously, we drive through Starbucks.  Starbucks in the middle of the day represents everything decadent about stay-at-home-motherhood that I always envisioned.  I used to picture stay-at-home-moms having oodles of time to do whatever they wanted and Starbucks in the middle of the week was always a clear part of that picture.  Now I laugh out loud at my misconception, but on Mercy Days, the stay-at-home Starbucks is essential.

Speaking of food, there’s no need to make dinner.  Frozen pizza or calling the mister to pick something up on the way home is perfectly acceptable.  Having a glass of wine at the ready the moment my man walks in the door also goes without saying.

You’re probably wondering how often this slap-dash day occurs.  I’d estimate once a month.  We’re not falling apart at the seams over here, we just need elastic waistbands once in awhile.

These days, rare as they may be, prevent the total breakdown that would surely await any mother who is very aware that her job doesn’t allow for a day off.  My little alarm clocks don’t include snooze buttons.  I can’t call in sick if I don’t feel like changing a diaper or pumping six times a day.  So, I create respite when I need it.

The essence of Mercy Days is grace.  My life is spent earnestly; I give everything I can to my babies.  I read them every book we own, I teach them as much as their little brains can take in, I lead them through physical drills to improve their motor skills, I take them on daily walks, I talk and sing and dance and do whatever it takes to be the steward of them that I know I am called to be.  But thankfully, mercifully, God created grace to fill the spaces when I cannot do all that I should.  He created rest, and breaks, and tiny bouts of junk food to allow me to regain my sustenance to move forward with energy and gratitude.

Oh, and showering?  Laughable.

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Disaster Baby Class Reunion

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.

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