Tag Archives: Family

Putting on the Brakes

The babies turned eleven months old today, so in this house we’ve all assumed the brace for impact position.  And by “we all” I mean me.

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I have dreaded their first birthday with such sorrow you’d think it was move-in day at their first day of college.  I have this pit in my stomach about them not being infants any more.  The word “toddler” is so beyond what they are to me.  They are still little squishy piles of smiles and I want them to crawl around with me in a time capsule forever.  Is that asking so much?

It’s true that every phase of life is just that: a phase, but I’m just so aware that for only one year do I get to be the mama of baby twins, thrust into a life of chaos and beauty I didn’t know possible.   It’s funny how a time limit on any experience can make us sentimentalize it.  I’ve even found myself thinking, “In a month I won’t be pumping for them anymore!” with sadness in my voice.  I do not like pumping.  Breastfeeding is normal to miss, but pumping?  No.

The other day I had a radical thought: I am enjoying myself more as time passes, not less.  As this occurred to me I asked myself why I was clinging to their babyhood so fiercely, and I could only conclude that it’s because I have loved every single one of the last 335 days.  Why would I want to leave such a time?  But now I’m realizing that my love and enjoyment of them is only growing, not diminishing in the least — and if that’s so, I should be dreaming of, not dreading, every day ahead.

We went to the zoo for the first time last weekend, and we were overwhelmed by how fun it was to have them participate in a family activity rather than just be rolled along like potted plants.  They saw the penguins swimming in the water and they laughed and stared.   That little penguin in the top middle of the photo began to — what is the word for what penguins do?  Bark?  Caw?  Scream like a banshee? — and Henry imitated him almost perfectly.  We laughed out of pure disbelief.

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They gazed at the brown bear walking through his artificial river, and we could see their little faces thinking “What the…” at this enormous creature ambling along.

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We only had to feed them once the entire time we were there, and they were awake until just before we left.

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This would never have been possible even four months ago.  It would have been a hassle of feedings and naps and baby boredom.  So this is what other twin moms mean when they say it gets easier, I thought.

For now, I need to focus on the fact that July 27 is going to be the same as July 26.  They are not going to grow two feet, start playing sports and asking for their own cell phones.  And, more importantly, they’re not going anywhere.  I have literally thousands of mornings to wake up to their happy faces.  Year two will be packed with more wonder than I can conceive of right now.  So until their birthday, I am going to revel in who they are precisely today, and give myself room to let a piece of my heart break at saying goodbye to this chapter.

And then, I’m going to celebrate.  And let them eat cake.

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Filed under Uncategorized, UpWORD (Beauty)

Vastly Improved

After last week’s trial by fire, I thought the kids and I deserved a little field trip.  The Kirkland farmer’s market opened for the season on Wednesday, so we drove over and strolled among the fresh produce and baked goods.

It was a gorgeous, blue bird day, full of sunshine and plenty of shoppers. We walked the stalls, pausing to admire the array of color in the radishes, carrots and peppers. We stopped to talk to our favorite organic lotion shopkeeper who hadn’t seen the babies since close of last season.  He had a new organic baby lotion, which we would’ve purchased had it not been for the stores of similar lotion we have at home.

We walked the pier, basking in the water view, breathing the fresh air, and basically having every opposite sensation to illness one can have.

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Mike called while we were walking the pier, saying he was just getting off the freeway into downtown Kirkland.  I couldn’t believe it; it was only 4PM.  It was like we were getting reimbursed by a cosmic retailer for last week’s trouble.

“Three of you were sick?  Here’s a sunny day.  You, the mama, were sick?  Okay I’ll throw in a market day.  This went on for days?  Fine!  I fold.  Mike will get off early and meet you for a drink.”

I accepted this deal, hands outstretched.  We walked up to the Slip, our favorite outdoor restaurant/bar in Kirkland, and we met the baby daddy and another good friend for a beer.  I nearly had whiplash from the change: here I was, not lying helplessly on the floor, but sitting in the sunshine drinking a beer during happy hour, holding giggling babies — on a Wednesday.  It was some sort of stay-at-home-mom unicorn day.

And now, even more spectacular, I’m looking ahead to a momentous first — our first night away.  On Mother’s Day Mike gave me a card that told me we were staying overnight at a fancy hotel on June 14.  I was so excited, but also nervous to be away from the babies for the first time.  I’m still nervous, anticipating texting my parents every hour to check on them, but I’m also out of my mind excited.  I can sleep in.  I can sleep in.  I can sleep in.  Even if our wine tasting afternoon fails, and dinner isn’t great, even if everything else goes wrong — I can sleep in.  I haven’t slept in in over ten months (and I really wasn’t sleeping in while pregnant, so it’s been over a year, easily).

This is the life of a parent, isn’t it?  Ecstatic at the thought of twenty-four hours of freedom, and desperate at the thought of even one hour away from those scrumptious cheeks, chubby thighs, eager smiles.  I’ve never missed a morning of them waking to greet me.  I thank God I have my trustworthy parents to leave them to.  I know I’m going to relish a day away of doing whatever we please, but just as much I know I’m going to sprint back to their shining eyes and outstretched arms.

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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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Filed under The WORD (Faith)

Sweet and Sour

Weekends away are supposed to be rejuvenating and fun, not make you want to get your tubes tied.

Over Valentine’s Day weekend we had our first family getaway to Whidbey Island for my 30th birthday.  We rented a house on the beach, Mike took two days off of work, and we hopped aboard a ferry for the short trip across the sound to the island.

Packing took hours.  It’s not the baby clothes that slow you down, it’s the, “oh, we’ll need another pack and play so they each have somewhere to sleep.  Oh and did you grab their bouncers?  Otherwise they’ll have nowhere to sit.  How many diapers do you think we’ll need for four days?  Do you think their baby food will stay frozen for the 90 minute drive?  Did you get the stroller?”

I finished all of that, feeling like an Olympian, and pronounced, “We’re ready to go!”  And then immediately realized I hadn’t actually packed myself.  Cue another 30 minute delay of departure.

When we arrived we soaked in the fresh feeling of being somewhere new and unfamiliar.   The view of the water and mountains was gorgeous from every window and we felt our lungs expand from the vast amount of visual space.  I’m big on visual space.  I get a little suffocated when my eyes have nothing to gaze upon but the four walls around me.   Beach houses are the perfect remedy.

We strapped the babies onto our chests for a walk on the beach.  It was perfect — sunny, brisk, and nobody else in sight.  The babies cuddled against us and we beamed at each other, proud that our trip was proving to be family-of-four fun.

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We had brought along several bags of food, knowing that going out to dinner wouldn’t be an option with two six-month-olds.  But I told Mike I was getting a little panicky at our lack of adequate post-dinner sweets, plus we didn’t even have popcorn, which in our family is an aberration.

In true Mike fashion, he agreed to buy a handful of snacks and instead returned with three bottles of wine, chips and salsa, popcorn, half a dozen types of candy, ice cream, potato chips and beer.  I almost had a stroke, but then reminded myself that this is a significant portion of our fun these days; the theory being, we can’t leave the house at night, so let’s pig out and watch movies like fatties.

At this point, we were still buoyantly optimistic about our getaway.  We knew traveling with children could be a double-edged sword, we just didn’t realize quite how sharp.  For the remainder of this post, I’m going to slice and dice.

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The first night was the night of my 30th birthday, so we had a fabulous home-style happy hour on the deck while the kids napped.  Mike gave me a few presents, and then he made dinner.  The kids went to bed without issue and slept well all night.

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Nothing!  It was an early win.

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The next day we explored Langley, an adorable seaside town with lots of shops, cafes and art studios.  We walked the babies around happily in their strollers and then decided to have lunch at a popular pizzeria.

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Just as the waitress approached while we were waiting for a table, the babies were like, “Oh you wanted to have lunch?  Perfect timing, because we want to get out of here.”  We sighed and left, knowing we were no match for babies who want to nap but can’t fall asleep.

Hunger caused our good-naturedness to hit a snag.  We got in the car to head home for lunch but realized we were too hungry to make a meal from scratch.  Mike stopped at the corner market while I ran inside for a frozen pizza, which, after smelling gourmet pizza moments ago, was torture.  By the time I was back in the car the babies had fallen asleep, so we decided to return to the restaurant to salvage our afternoon.

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We got a table with a gorgeous view and quickly ordered a pizza and two beers.

“How long do you think we have?” I asked Mike.

“Twenty minutes?  How do we get the food out here faster without looking like jerks?”  he said.

“She just saw us leave earlier because of them, so let’s hope she can figure it out,” I replied.

The babies woke up not long after the pizza arrived, but I already had their bottles ready so we each fed one while feeding ourselves.  It was a stroke of genius to choose pizza because it can be eaten with one hand.

We took another great walk on the beach when we got back to the house and put the kids down to sleep without issue.  They woke up once or twice overnight but it wasn’t earth-shattering.

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On Saturday we drove to Coupeville, the other charming town on Whidbey, and explored shops and drank coffee and wore the babies on our chests.  We had a great time, and our positive pizza experience gave us the confidence to try for lunch a second time.

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mike pier

This time we chose what appeared to be the most popular bakery/restaurant in town, Knead and Feed, which had a dining room the size of our living room at home.  We sat at a two-person table, which was bold considering we were each wearing an extra person.  The people were so disarmingly welcoming we actually began to relax, rather than spend the entire hour stressing over everyone’s disapproving stares.  Several people came by to interact with the babies and we were so happy it was a little ridiculous.  We ordered big meals, Mike even going so far as to order mussels, which later proved to be as impossible as it sounds while holding a baby.

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As we were finishing our meals, the babies were tapping their watches and motioning toward the door.  We scrambled to stuff the last few bites in our mouths while cooing at them and sing-songing our way through waiting for the bill.  We stood up to put our coats back on, as well as our baby carriers, and the entire room turned to watch.  Putting a baby in a Baby Bjorn is difficult enough with two people.  Putting a baby in one with only a baby-holding person to help is like juggling bowling balls with one hand.  We wrestled everything into position and then burst out laughing when we couldn’t get one strap buttoned into another.  Everyone was staring, we were sweating from the effort, and we tumbled out the door of that pressure cooker.

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Sarah and Casey met us back at the house to spend half a day with us, and we were thrilled to have great company as well as extra hands to hold babies.  We ventured out to a winery nearby for some wine tasting, and then had dinner together back at the house after the babies went to sleep.

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So, So Sour

Except that they didn’t, not really.  Arden cried for half an hour before falling asleep, and then woke up around 10:30PM, never to return to real sleep ever, ever again.  The Bullers left around 9PM, so thankfully they were spared the screaming.  We’re not sure what changed between the other nights and this night, but we assume it was just her weariness at not being in her own bed, because she’s never cried that much in her entire life.

We took turns walking her around, pacing the room and silently begging her to go to sleep.  We soothed, we sang, we kissed, we participated in a parenting ritual as old as parenting itself.  Henry slept through it, miraculously, so at least a quarter of us was getting some rest.  We kept moaning to each other, incredulous that we dared to think this would be relaxing.

She would quiet temporarily, and then the second we’d put her in her crib she’d scream like her life depended on it.  A few rounds of that game of battleship and she sunk us, so we brought her into our bed.  She fell asleep after awhile and we collapsed on our pillows in relief.

I started to relax and then noticed something.  There were two skylights directly above our bed.  On our first two nights these were appealing — we had great lighting during the day and could see the moon as clear as day during the night.  As I looked up on this night, however, I saw the moon approaching the skylight directly over Arden’s little body.  I whisper-yelled to Mike, “The moon!  The light is going to wake her up!  What do we do!?”  I put my hand between her face and the light.  His bleary eyes looked back at me like, really?  Now we’re battling space to get our kid to sleep?

The spotlight shot down on us like a cannon, illuminating the entire bed.  She startled awake and the long charade began again, this time with Henry chiming in.  He wasn’t crying from restlessness so much as a general complaint to management.  I couldn’t blame him; these living conditions were entirely unacceptable.

Mike carried Henry around the room, and I counted up the hours left until morning, which only brought me right to the brink of losing my mind.  So this, I thought, is why people refuse to have more than two.  It’s making perfect sense to me now.

Just then Mike walked back into the room with Henry still crying and announced, “We’re not having any more kids!”

“I’m way ahead of you,” was all I could mutter in reply.

We nestled the two crying babies between us in the bed and cuddled them as best one can cuddle a screaming infant.  We looked at each other and sighed as they finally fell asleep.

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The next morning, if you can call a morning “next” when you have all but ushered it in, we groaned as the light filled the room and the babies started their day.  I fed each of them and we said a holier-than-thou “We forgive you” as they stared at us with their eyes full of love.  And that’s what always gets us — no matter what happens overnight, no matter how enraged and beleaguered we feel, those cherub cheeks and happy squawks pierce through the misery and we’re hopelessly in love again.

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“So,” I said to Mike as we looked at the water with our happy babies, “we’re back on track for four kids, right?”

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The Twins are Six Months Old!

Happy six months to Henry and Arden!

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Moms always say things like “I can’t believe they’re six months old already!” but really, I can believe it.  I’ve been with them every day and night of the last six months and I’ve immersed myself completely.  I don’t feel like I have whiplash because I wouldn’t allow myself to be caught off-guard, at least not this early in the game.  I told myself over and over that it would go quickly, and I think that reminder helped slow it down.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve buried my face in their little necks, breathing them in and saying I love you.  I often lay them both in front of me and tell them they’re my dreams come true, they’re the songs in my heart.  I look at them, look away, and by the time I look back they’re even cuter than I remembered.  Babies are opiates, I tell you.

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Mike and I notice every day how much more they’re able to connect with us, to really see us and interact.  Their laughter is carbonated joy and there’s nothing too embarrassing to do to earn it.

In the last month we’ve been getting a taste of what it will be like to actually do things with them as participants.  Over three weekends we took them to the Seattle Aquarium, the Pacific Science Center, and Pike Place Market.  We always wear them facing outward so they’re able to see the sights and be entertained by it all.  Some of the entertainment for us is the constant stream of commentary we get from people as they pass us by.  They always speak as though we can’t hear them, making comments just as they pass or pointing from three feet away.  It never bothers us; it’s actually really fun to parade our little spectacles around.

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A huge part of me is in a rapid-breath panic at the thought of being in the second half of their first year, and it’s family activities like this that keep me excited instead of in mourning.  I find that the more we do together, the more we have to look forward to, and the less there is for me to cry about leaving behind.

I read a great essay recently about parents’ tendencies to over-savor some moments of their children’s lives.  We can grasp at the present so fiercely that the moment isn’t authentic at all.  This struck a nerve with me because I’m always exclaiming, “This is the only time they’ll be 22 weeks and 3 days old ever in their entire lives!  They’ll never again fit into this onesie!   They can roll over — I miss when they were just blobs!  What if Arden never blows bubbles like this again?  What if Henry stops laughing when I reveal that it’s me behind the blanket?”   Life isn’t meant to be lived as though it’s already passed by; at times I catch myself projecting into the future imagining myself reminiscing about a moment as it’s happening.  That’s a little frightening, and it’s a slippery slope.  Soon I could be collecting their nail clippings, and we can’t have that.

With this in mind, I’m thrilled that they are exactly as they are today:  scrumptious thighs, a blush of fine hair, blue eyes for days and devastating smiles.

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*gorgeous photos courtesy of Lindsay Schuette.

Also, what my mom calls “her joy”: walking into their nursery after their naps, each of them cooing and babbling, faces lit up like Christmas at the sight of us coming to get them.  It really is one of the happiest moments of my day (or my mom’s when she’s with me) and it’s something I will carry with me the rest of my life.

To every day ahead, my loves.

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As If I Needed Another Excuse to Play Dress Up

Fact: I don’t really like Halloween.

Fact:  I really like dressing up babies.

Result:  Babies dressed up not once, not twice, but thrice.

Costume #1:  The Great PumpkinsDSC_0010 (2)

Costume #2:  80’s Prom

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Costume #3:  Mickey and Minnie Mouse

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Now comes the gut-wrenching part — pick your favorite.

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Verbal Birth Control

Even though the vast, vast majority of people I encounter are really excited when they hear I’m carrying twins, nearly every interaction includes the following statement:

“A boy and a girl!?  Perfect!  One and done!”

I expected this a little bit, because most people prefer to have two children, but I didn’t expect it to be such a resounding sentiment used so frequently.  I had no idea people were so unanimous about two kids being the absolute limit, but now I’m totally convinced it’s society’s standard.

Most times I just smile and agree, because I don’t feel the need to tell the grocery store clerk my family plan of having three or four kids, but sometimes I want to dispel the myth that everyone is only having two kids.  So sometimes I speak up and say that we’re hoping for more.  They usually look at me like I just confessed to being a member of the Duggar family.

Or maybe it’s not two kids, maybe it’s just that everyone thinks that every family needs one of each gender.  I would love to know what women carrying twins of the same sex encounter.  I bet most people say, “Oh two girls?  You’ll have to go for one more to get that boy!”

I realize this is mostly just people filling the space with something to say, but I don’t think it’s a coincidence that most of them end up saying the same thing.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with two-children families, or with wanting one of each gender, it’s just bizarre to me that people forcefully assume that we shouldn’t want any more.

I’ve talked to friends who have three or four kids, and they all mostly say the same thing: people are extremely excited for you for the first two, mildly happy for your third, and then deeply confused/concerned for your fourth.  I’m taking this in and preparing my future replies to people who question our sanity, maybe something sassy, like, “It’s not like I’m asking you to raise them!”

I also find it totally absurd when people cry overpopulation, because it’s just not true in this country.  We’ve been below replacement-level fertility as a nation since 1972 (2.1 children per woman is the amount needed to replace the current population).  Our birth rate as of 2009 is 13.5 births for every 1,000 people.

I’m not advocating for everyone to have ten children; I’m just realizing more and more how off-hand comments to strangers really add up.  My advice to people everywhere: when a woman tells you (or you can’t help but notice) that she’s pregnant, just be happy for her, whether it’s her first or her fifth.  If you loathe the idea of people having gaggles of kids, remind yourself that one day those kids will be paying into your social security, and then go on your merry way.

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