My Timehop Story

There is a story that Timehop tells this time of year that makes me remember that I never really told it. Two years ago today, I posted pictures of my sons to Facebook. They were a couple of weeks old, and I posted a couple of weeks’ worth of pictures. I had not posted them previously. There was a reason. A dirty truth. One of those things that mothers rarely speak of but that many of them feel.

For the first few weeks after my sons were born, I was not happy. I was the precise opposite of happy. I was overwhelmed and broken. I felt that I had disappointed me and them and Saint Daddy and Sunshine.

I was not sure what I felt for them was love. In fact, I was not sure at the time that I would ever feel love for them.

It was something. It was awe at their existence. It was longing to feel something for them. It was responsibility for their lives. It was commitment to their protection.

But love? I do not think it was love.

That was strange for me. When Sunshine was born, I held her close and felt that immediate connection.

When Grumpy’s first cries filled the room, I cried real tears because he was real and alive and safe. I had done that.

But it was harder. Delivery was less painful but more difficult. The effects lasted for a while. I could not get out of bed. I could not hold both of them easily but I wanted to.

Feeding them was hard.

It was that last point that changed on this day two years ago. It actually changed the day before. That is the story that Timehop tells.

Neither Grumpy nor Sleepy was very good at eating. Of course I was going to breastfeed my sons. That is what good mothers do. That is what I did for Sunshine until she was eighteen months old and weaned herself.

As soon as I left the operating room and was wheeled across the hall to recovery, I was handed two absolutely perfect miracles and Grumpy latched on. Sleepy, of course, was too sleepy, but he rested his little head on my chest and we all knew that he would do it soon.

He did.

But he never did it well. It was really Sleepy that was the issue, but I did not know that. I would not know that for weeks.

Everyone told me to feed them individually at first. I was not ready to tandem feed them. But when you have two crying newborns and you are the source of comfort, the creator of the food, the pacifier, the only thing that they have every known, that is easier said than done. So I tandem fed from day one. When they cried, Saint Daddy brought me one at a time, I latched them on and waited, trying to enjoy these sweet moments with them as I had with their sister.

But they were not sweet, they were stressful. Only one position worked and I needed a million pillows. And I was sore. And I was tired. And I could not help thinking that I probably would not be able to tandem feed in public so we were stuck together in the house for the next four months or so until they could figure out how to wait their turns or could help me in the process of latching them on. And I would be sore until then because that is how long the vasospasms lasted with Sunshine.

They ate every 2.5 hours around the clock for 20-30 minutes at a time. That is what my Facebook status said two years ago yesterday, according to the story that Timehop tells.

I remember their cries waking Saint Daddy and I as we set about the process of changing and comforting, feeding and swaddling. Saint Daddy did diapers while I set up my nursing pillow in bed. I was sore from my incision and bone tired. He handed me a baby, letting me know which one he was based solely on the nail polish on his big toe. I recalled which side he had the last time and offered him the other side. Saint Daddy brought me another baby, and I latched him on too. Saint Daddy fell asleep for thirty minutes. I swaddled the first one, handed him to Saint Daddy to return to his cradle, and moved onto the second one.

That was just at night. While Sunshine slept, and I felt overwhelmed. I felt exhaustion in my soul.

During the day, this pattern took place on the couch. Except I would let them sleep on me in whichever position they landed after they stopped nursing.

Timehop showed me the picture I sent to my mom, who was in Florida at the time. Both boys curled in a ball on my lap, my shirt a little disheveled still from being quickly pulled down to cover my twin mom body.

And here is the thing, despite the constancy of it all, despite the exhaustion, despite the fact that it was all that I seemed to be doing, both boys were losing weight. Both boys were struggling with lethargy. Both boys were not eating well enough.

The nurse practitioner at the pediatrician’s office said she knew I was working hard. She held me as I cried. She told me she knew it would work. She sent me home with two formula samples and said to consider an ounce or two twice a day, just until they get up to birthweight. Then they would do it, she said. She knew they would.

I had seen lactation consultants. That is what Timehop tells me. I had seen five different ones before that tearful meeting with the nurse practitioner. They all said the same things: “They’re both latched so well. They’re little champs. Just keep doing what your doing. They’ll get it. Then it will be so easy.”

But it was not easy. If it was going to get easy, I wanted it to get there much more quickly than it was because I was suffocating under the weight of it all.

When we left the pediatrician’s office that day, I called another lactation consultant. I begged to be seen as soon as possible. It was not an emergency, but it was an emergency. I had twins. I wanted them to eat. I wanted to feed them. I wanted them to live.

And under these circumstances, how can the word be called love? Responsibility for their lives is not the same as love. I did not feel love. I felt weighed down by the responsibility of being the one who gave them life.

That lactation consultant worked with me for two hours the next morning, according to Timehop. She weighed my sons before and after a feeding. She watched me latch them (perfectly) and watched them suck. She checked for ties and felt their little sucks with her pinky.

“This one doesn’t have a very strong suck. That’s probably the issue. I bet this one is working really hard to make enough milk for both of them to eat, and it’s not working. That’s the problem. He’ll get better when he gets stronger. Birthweight will change him. But you’ve got to get him there first.”

She asked me what I wanted.

“To sleep. I want to sleep. I want to breastfeed my sons for as long as I possibly can. But right now, I want to sleep.”

Saint Daddy came back and she told him that she wanted him to let me nap. As soon as we got home, he was to let me go to our bedroom and let me nap.

She handed him formula. She said that if they needed to eat during my nap, to give them the formula but not to wake me until I woke on my own.

Then I was to pump. I should pump every three hours or so and bottle feed them when they were hungry. She told me how much they should eat at a feeding and we should supplement with the formula until my supply met their demand and in a week, if they were at birthweight, I could try to latch them or I could pump forever until I felt I had met my goal but nipple confusion is a myth and babies will latch and she knew I could do it. I was in the right mindset.

She hugged me. She gave me her personal cell number if I needed her for anything.

She sent us home, and I… I napped.

I woke up and I pumped. I fed my babies, who were finally getting enough milk during a feeding that they also slept. We slept.

And the weight, almost immediately, lifted off of my shoulders.

We did not sleep long stretches, they were newborns after all. And I needed to pump regularly. If that was the thing I intended to do, I needed to pump every three hours around the clock. Eight times a day for the first twelve weeks.

The lactation consultant did not tell me that. My sister in law, who was pumping for my niece at the time, added me to a Facebook group where I learned that. I learned all about exclusive pumping. I learned about what supplements might help and about water intake. What I really learned from that group was that there were thousands of women out there breastfeeding their babies through bottles. It was not easy, but they were doing it.

And the next day after that nap and the feeding and the sleeping? That very next day? I posted pictures of my sons to Facebook. Not because that is what new mothers do, which was the case with every picture I had posted previously, but because I felt that maybe I could love them. Maybe I did love them.

The next year of my life was filled with ups and downs when it came to breastfeeding. Saint Daddy and I bought a chest freezer to store my milk because I was overproducing by more than fifteen ounces a day for a while, but then their demand went up and I watched that supply dwindle. They needed more some days than others and I became nervous that I might not keep up. The stress of returning to work hurt my supply, and I had to give up middle of the night pumps and running and the very notion of losing weight. I pumped on work breaks and lunch breaks. I missed meetings. I pumped in my car in many parking lots. I pumped in a restaurant booth. I was a pumping mom and that meant battery backs and sanitation and labeled bags.

But the year went quickly. And exactly one year after that meeting with the final lactation consultant, I fed my sons the last bag of frozen milk. I had stopped pumping a month prior to that bag being used, but we made it to more than a year of breastfeeding.

I never thought we would. When I met with that lactation consultant, I had already told myself that if I made it to six weeks, I was a winner. But I made it a full year.

And you know what? I love my sons.

I love them with every fiber of my being.

I love the way they like to tickle my toes. I love the way that they call my name. I love the way that they stare out the window at the cars. I love the way that they laugh at each other when they should be sleeping.

I am glad to see this Timehop story each year. It reminds me of how far we have come. It also reminds me that new motherhood is harder than any of us can imagine sometimes. It is not just soft blankets and warm snuggles. It is sometimes desperation and hopelessness. It is anxiety and fear.

One of the comments that I make in my Timehop story is that my pressure was both internal and external. I wanted to breastfeed my sons because it mattered to me. But it was so necessary for me to not look like a failure to those witnessing my motherhood from the outside.

Motherhood is full of judgment. It is full of people who know how to do it better than we do. People who have never experienced our struggles but insist that they would know how to handle them if they did. People who are forthcoming with their criticism masked as support. People who think they have the solution.

Sometimes the solution is not the one we had hoped for, but it is the one we need. Timehop tells me that. I am glad that it does.

To the Man With the Plan

Dear Saint Daddy,

Before we became parents, we knew we would have tough nights. We knew that newborns cry and babies get sick and teething hurts. We knew it would be difficult at times.

We did not know that difficult might sometimes mean fantasizing about running away and leaving it all behind. We did not know that we would independently think about where our passports are kept and the best place to go and would the other forgive us for having to quit this gig altogether.

We did not know.

We did not know that it might mean two tiny boys who cannot sleep for nights in a row after lulling us into complacency for nearly two years.

We did not know.

But let me tell you something, dear husband.

Last night, when you called me into our sons’ bedroom because you needed backup during their third wakeup of the night, when you said to pat Sleepy’s butt until he fell asleep while you patted Grumpy’s, when you swore it would only take fifteen minutes because you had a plan, and I set my head down on the edge of the crib while patting that tiny tush, and you leaned over and kissed me on my cheekbone while patting our other tiny tush and the sound machine played gray noise in the background and the humidifier glowed blue…

Last night, I thought that kiss was one of the most romantic and beautiful that I have ever received.

We were in the thick of what we did not know it would be like, and I felt like I was being kissed passionately under a waterfall in Tahiti.

I could never imagine, my love, doing this with anyone else but you.

We are in it together.

Last night, when you grabbed your keys, I thought, “he has his passport.”

I asked if you were leaving us. I laughed.

But you, you would never leave. You are in for life. You are a constant in a world without consistency.

You said that you were going to the store. They had to sell something for this. Teething tablets, ear drops, we would treat it all.

“Pick up some Motrin while you’re there. We can alternate and give them every two hours.”

We realized it was Grumpy. So I went to their room and took him out while you were gone. Sleepy fell silent within five minutes.

Grumpy stared at me blankly. He was in pain. He was tired. He was in our bedroom, which is a place he rarely is.

You came back with medicines and we set about helping poor Grumpy.

Our team. It is unshakeable.

Grumpy wanted your love, so you held him until he fell asleep. You held him until the pain came back and he crawled to me and we gave more medicine.

You held him again, patting his tiny butt and singing Twinkle, Twinkle in the light from our closet at 2:38 am until he fell again into a fitful sleep.

Until the pain came again and he crawled to me.

And I thought, thank God for you. Thank God for a partner who loves me enough to kiss my cheekbone and pat our sick son’s tush all night.

In the morning, which came too soon, we worked out a plan to get Grumpy evaluated as quickly as possible. You worked. My car was in the shop. Grumpy’s carseat was in it. But he would fit in Sunshine’s, I said. And you restrung the seat to make it safe for our boy while I fed him some cereal and found clothes in the diaper bag so as not to disturb Sleepy.

You, my husband, are the best father I could have ever given to my children.

When we reach those difficult times, you do not shudder, you do not shirk, you do not fall back and insist that I take the lead while you follow.

You do this while loving my whole self. You lean over and kiss my cheek late at night while I pat one son’s tush and you pat the other and you have a plan and it will be okay. I know that in the darkest nights and the brightest days, you will be my truest partner.

I am glad it is you.

I am proud to call you mine.

Because we are a team. You parent with your whole heart. You support our children and me with your whole soul. We are, we are, we are the luckiest.

I love you.

I love you.

For lack of anything stronger to say…

With full acknowledgment of the limitations of language…

I love you.

Normal Twin Language Delays and Their Mother’s Anxiety

Sunshine began speaking shortly after she turned seven months old. Her first word was “duck,” but she picked up new words so quickly that it was hard to maintain a solid list. By her first birthday, she had multiple sentences under her belt. She could count to thirteen by fourteen months. She said “I love you” by eighteen months. She responded to questions. By her second birthday, she recognized twenty letters and could read her own name.

Once she knew a word, it was hers forever.

She was verbally advanced. We knew it. We nurtured her language development through talking and singing and reading with her as much as we could.

I told my oldest sister that she should not compare Sunshine to her second son, who was born exactly seven weeks after Sunshine’s birthday. It was not fair to him. Sunshine was very verbal. She understood language.

She still does. Now that her kindergarten teacher has put a few tools in her hands, she is advancing quickly with her reading.

Grumpy and Sleepy are altogether different. Grumpy spoke first. Coincidentally, his first word was also “duck.” He and Sunshine had both fallen in love with the same stuffed duck in their infancy. While Sunshine was seven months when she grabbed onto that word, Grumpy was nearly ten months old.

Sleepy did not find a word until weeks after that. It was “mama,” but he lost it. I posted a while ago about both boys calling me “dad” for months and breaking my poor mom-guilt-ridden heart.

That is another thing about my sons’ language development that separated them from Sunshine. They have lost words over time. “Dog” faced a similar fate. It was an early word for both of them, but they lost it along the line. Instead, they have used “cat” to mean any animal. They both agree that all animals are cats, even ones that do not look even slightly like our pet cat.

Timehop continually shows me videos of my very verbal Sunshine, who was born six weeks later in the year than Grumpy and Sleepy, and was therefore younger than they are when I watch these videos. Grumpy and Sleepy are not where she was verbally, and I have found myself tempted to compare, which is precisely what I told my sister not to do five years ago.

I need to take my own advice.

This post is for mommas of multiples. If your babies seem behind, do not compare.

I first questioned the possibility that twins might sometimes be delayed with our pediatrician when Grumpy and Sleepy were nine months old. They were late crawlers, especially compared to Sunshine. (There I go again, comparing them.)

The pediatrician said that many multiples reach milestones in the “late average” range, meaning that the concern is likely to be my own and not truly medical/developmental in nature. I did not find any research to support the fact that full-term twins walk later than full-term singletons.

For language, though, there is research that suggests that multiples do develop later. This issue is more likely to appear with identical twins, and may be linked to complications related to multiple pregnancies and deliveries. However, fraternal twins, like Grumpy and Sleepy, are also more likely to develop speech deficiencies than singletons.

The reasons why are so logical:

  1. Multiples spend more time with each other than anyone else. Since they speak at an underdeveloped level, they tend to mimic each other’s methods of communication. My best friend told me that she has a local friend with twins in speech therapy who was told that her sons are reinforcing each other’s poor language skills. It makes perfect sense. If language is developed mostly by interacting with people who speak it and their primary interaction is with someone who does not speak it well, children will struggle to develop language quickly.
  2. Multiples get less one-on-one time with adults than singletons do. This is actually the reason I believed my sons were late to sitting up on their own. I could not easily get on the floor and play games with them for as long as I did with Sunshine because there were two of them that needed my support. I blamed myself for their poor core development. It was not actually my fault, but mom guilt is real. However, much like the first reason listed above, multiples spend less individual time than singletons with people who do speak the language well, so the correct methods of speech are not modeled as much for them.
  3. Multiples also tend to simplify their language in the essence of efficiency. Because they get less individual attention, multiples tend to stick to short sentences. They also tend to be louder. I did not realize that was a legitimate twin thing until I began to research it. They do this so that they can say what they need to say in a way that will be quickly heard and understood. Unfortunately, it can delay their development further.

Grumpy and Sleepy also have what is called a Shared Understanding. This means that they understand each other and use sounds that they have developed to stand for objects that are not true language. Around their first birthday, they were referring to each other as “ahgugug.” Other shared understanding words that they have had include “dee” for anything that they like to throw, “guy” for sock, “psss” for star, and “guk” for boat. They both agree that those are the words that mean those objects. Shared Understanding is something that develops largely because twins spend more time with each other than with anyone else.

There is also research to suggest that the mental health of the parents plays a role in language development as well. Parents of multiples have a higher incidence of mental health problems than parents of singletons, and when parents have a difficult time taking care of themselves, they have a difficult time supporting their quickly developing children.

(Holy link share in this post!)

Here is the thing: Even with all of this information, it is hard not to worry. It is particularly difficult to know when that worry becomes something worth bringing up with a doctor. We are not at that point of worry with Grumpy and Sleepy. I feel like they will be fine. They are working on it. Grumpy is starting to pick up words more quickly right now. Suddenly, he knows that the animal that came with their Little People farm is a “cow” instead of a “cat.” He began saying “sock” the other day, which was a major turning point in the Shared Understanding department. Sleepy is always a couple of weeks behind Grumpy when it comes to language, so I assume he will catch up to Grumpy soon.

There are services for delayed children, whether they are multiples or singletons, and concerned parents should talk to their pediatricians about beginning evaluations.

I worry, though. Each time a Sunshine video comes up on Timehop, I cannot help but wonder when her brothers will get “there” because they are not there yet. It is not fair. I know it.

As with most things related to my anxiety, I have little ability to control that worry, those nagging thoughts that something is not right, that I could be doing more.

I love my sons. I love them up and down and all around. I love them from the ends of the hair on their head to to their tiny tickle toes. I read to them every night and as much as they will let me otherwise. We sing and eat dinner together as a family. We try.

But the people they spend the most time with are each other, and they are both at the same developmental age. They reinforce each other’s speech patterns.

And I wonder… What more can I do? Could I do better? Could I be better?

This is anxiety meeting motherhood. I have read the research. This is normal, natural. Twins are more likely to have a slight delay in language development. I know it. I understand it. My sons are developing language every single day. Over the last week, Grumpy picked up four new words. Sleepy found two of his own. They will be fine.

If only I could make my brain believe it.

This happens to me time and time again. My sons’ speech is not the beginning of this, and it will not be the end.

Having twins has certainly impacted my mental health. My heart is full, and my anxiety is in overdrive. I pray that it gets better.

Twin language is a story that twin mommas should hear, but this story–one of knowing the truth but struggling to really believe it–is one that I am sure that all people with anxiety can understand.

Sometimes, when I learn something that will assuage my fears, I spend time telling myself to “believe it, believe it, believe it.” Eventually, I can.

Soon my sons will say “I love you.” I believe that. They are close. They respond to the phrase now. I say “I love you,” and they give me kisses. We are communicating a beautiful thought.

One day, they will say it too. And I will cry. With joy and with relief. Because that is what I do when the thing I tried so hard to believe finally becomes a truth.

It Is All Sunshine’s Fault

Almost every mother I know will tell you that her first child was an angel. Her first child lulled her into complacency. Her first child somehow convinced her that parenting was easy. She could do anything. Her first child did not yell or climb or throw things.

There are exceptions, of course. My best friend’s first was difficult from birth. She has had plenty of rough moments with him.

But, for the most part, moms agree that baby number one was a breeze.

That is certainly the case here.

Sunshine arrived on the scene two weeks late after a rather uneventful pregnancy. She cried at night if she was not in her swing for the first six weeks, but once she overcame that six week growth spurt, she slept on her back in Saint Daddy’s grandmother’s cradle next to my side of the bed. I could easily reach her there for her middle of the night nursing sessions, which we were both pros at by six weeks. She nursed once or twice a night, and I placed her fresh diapered and full bellied into her cradle where she slept happily until her tummy told her it was time for more noms.

At three months old, I transferred her to her crib in the nursery, which adjoined our room. I expected a fight, but she accepted it beautifully. She hit all of her milestones at a delightfully average rate that caused me not even the slightest concern. She grew on her growth curve; she took to solids right at six months. I did not think too hard. It seemed natural and fitting and completely intuitive.

She did not require baby proofing. She was not a climber. Sunshine did not put random things in her mouth. We put a baby gate up to keep her in the living room and made sure she could not pull items out of the entertainment center, which would cause us more work. But she was not destructive. She did not like messes.

Sunshine was pure bliss.

I told people that Sunshine most assuredly was not completely human. She was too easy, too good-natured, too smart to be completely of this world. At least half of her was alien. It was the only explanation.

In deciding to have a second baby, Saint Daddy and I knew that we were pressing our luck. It seemed unlikely that our second child would be as calm as Sunshine. We referred to this hypothetical child as Sunshine’s Little Brother or even, sometimes, by the name we would eventually bestow upon Sleepy. We knew that Little Brother or Sleepy would rock our world.

When people would ask me if we planned a second child (a question I will always loathe), I would tell them that we were trying to decide if it was worth tempting fate. There was no way we could possibly get two little aliens, nature and nurture be damned.

But of course, I always knew that, if I was having one child, I would be having two. It is not that I see anything wrong with only children, but being raised with so many siblings, I knew that I wanted my children to always have each other in the way that I always have my siblings. We would press our luck. We would see what happened. We would try anyway.

And we did.

But then there were two flickering heartbeats inside two little seahorses.

We never would have had three children. No matter what, at the end of that second pregnancy, one of us was getting “fixed.” That was the agreement. But God wanted Saint Daddy and I to have three babies. That is why he sent us twins. We would not have had a third otherwise. He knew it.

Ideally, as Saint Daddy said, exactly one of them would be a boy. But if he had to choose two of the same sex, he wanted two girls. Saint Daddy makes such a wonderful little girl daddy. Worst case scenario, we would have two boys on our hands. Worst case.

And then, we did.

Our sons were nothing like Sunshine from the first day. We struggled in the hospital with nursing. Sleepy was too sleepy to care about eating. Grumpy was a gassy baby and needed extra care. They woke frequently and at random intervals. Saint Daddy and I separately considered running away. It was a very difficult time for us.

I turned to pumping, which strained us further at the beginning. I spent hours of each day with my breast pump. Saint Daddy took on a lot of the burden.

Then they needed solids earlier than I would have liked. Grumpy reacted poorly to foods, but I could not figure out which ones. Our world was a blur and time was meaningless, and it took too long to figure out. They did not sit up until almost the age that Sunshine was when she started to crawl. They crawled quickly enough after that, but they did not walk until much later than she did, late enough that the doctor began to worry me about it.

Their language development is right on target. But one thing the pediatrician does not measure is their capacity for destruction. Sunshine ripped exactly one book in her first two years of life. Grumpy and Sleepy destroyed two books this week. And by destroyed, I do not mean ripped a page. I mean that they bent them open and stomped on them until their spines cracked and their pages fell out.

They rip apart toys. They throw. They break. They slammed a toy into the television, destroying pixels in the lower left hand corner. Grumpy has been to the hospital for stitches. Sleepy terrorizes the dog.

They are watched, but they are sneaky and unstoppable sometimes.

My best friend often tells me that Sunshine did not prepare us for human children. Nope.

Sunshine might be part alien, but our sons are one hundred percent human.

They are destruction and danger and tears.

Sometimes, I feel incapable of knowing what they need or what they will do next. I love them and hug them and try to teach them, but I know that I have my work cut out for me. Sunshine gave me such a beautiful feeling of complacency. Nothing could get me down when I was only Sunshine’s mother.

But Grumpy and Sleepy are why we cannot have nice things. They are the reason that my China cabinet’s drawers are on the dining room table and why Saint Daddy had to put a lock on the sliding door that leads to his office. They are the reason why we own giant gates and hid our movie collection. Grumpy and Sleepy are why Sunshine’s crayons, which she draws with nearly daily, are put away in another room so they cannot eat them or break them or, now that they have the dexterity with which to do so, color on my walls with them. They are why I do not sit comfortably on my couch in the evenings so as not to tempt them to higher heights.

Right now, Sleepy and Grumpy are throwing toy cars at each other’s heads in the living room. I have already learned that there is not anything worth doing about it. One of them may get hurt, and I will comfort him if he does. But I will also say, “Maybe you will learn not to participate in those sorts of shenanigans in the future.”

Then again, what do I know? I thought parenting would be a breeze.

And it is all Sunshine’s fault.

I Will Get There

I had twin boys eighteen months ago. Sleepy and Grumpy are wonderful little terrors, constantly working to destroy our home and bring joy into our hearts.

During my pregnancy with Sleepy and Grumpy, I gave up on all forms of exercise. My high risk doctor told me to stop running at the end of my first trimester. At twenty weeks, he told me to stop lifting anything over ten pounds, including Sunshine. By twenty-four weeks, I weighed more than I did at forty-two weeks with Sunshine and most yoga poses were nearly impossible.

By the end of my thirty-eight week pregnancy with my sons, I had put on sixty-two pounds.

That is eight pounds more than the recommended amount for a twin pregnancy, but I was not concerned. My doctors were not either.

While pregnant with Sunshine, I ran 2-3 miles three days a week until my thirty-sixth week. I delivered six weeks later. I had gained thirty-five pounds, the upper limit of the recommendation.

I lost all but five of those pounds before returning to work at twelve weeks post partum. I returned to running at six weeks postpartum. I kept those extra five pounds until I stopped nursing Sunshine at eighteen months old, even during half marathon training. Then, they melted right off of me.

With Grumpy and Sleepy, my C-section meant not returning to running until ten weeks after delivery. Because I was so completely out of shape and thoroughly exhausted by newborn twins, it was slow and horrible.

When the boys were four months old, they entered the four month sleep regression. I lost sleep and precious ounces in milk output. I started eating my feelings and I stopped running. I needed to consume a minimum of 2500 calories and drink a gallon of water each day to maintain my supply.

I lost fifteen pounds between two and four months, and I gained every ounce of that back between four and six months as I ate more and exercised not at all.

I have been running again for ten months. Seven months ago, I cut my calorie intake back down to my pre-pregnancy levels.

I reached my goal weight three months ago.

But I am not happy with my body.

It will never be the same.

After Sunshine, I lost the weight and my body was only a little worse for the wear.

Now I am soft and doughy. There is extra skin that droops. I look like someone who lost weight too quickly and her skin did not get the memo until it was too late.

Which makes sense because I did and it did not.

It is demoralizing.

Because I am not happy with my body, I am having a hard time focusing on my fitness goals.

In my mind, I should be able to easily run six miles at this point. The boys are eighteen months old. Six miles is no big deal. I have done it countless times before. And I have done it a handful of times since the boys were born.

But I keep accepting excuses.

I often quote Wedding Crashers, saying, “No excuses. Play like a champion.”

But I am not playing like a champion.

I have a great long run. Hitting my six mile goal. I feel awesome. I know I can do it. I am proud of myself.

But the next weekend, it does not go nearly as well. And the following weekend, I convince myself that four miles is enough. That it is okay. I am still working on my comeback.

It is not until afterwards, when I am home again, that I realize that four miles is not enough. I could be better. I could do better.

The thing is, what sucks the most is that, no matter how hard I work or push or try, I am probably still going to be soft and doughy. I hit my goal weight and I do not look anything like what I think I should.

This is not a cry for compliments. I know I look good. About six months ago, people stopped adding “for having twins” to their comments about how good I look. I just look good.

But I do not feel good.

I am not happy with my body.

It is not just the running. I am not strength training because I do not feel strong. I am not eating well because I do not feel like it even matters at this point.

I have become incredibly cynical about my body, and it is being a twin mom that did that to me.

Now, while I have said before that there are experiences that are unique to being a MoM that non-MoMs cannot appreciate, this is not one of those things. I believe there are millions of moms who feel this disconnect with their own bodies. Women who love their bodies because of the babies that they brought into this world but hate them for what they look like afterwards.

For me, though, I believe I feel this way expressly because I am a MoM. Carrying Sunshine did not make me feel so uncomfortable in my own skin. My stretch marks never made me feel uncomfortable. I still only own bikinis. But I am afraid that I will never truly feel comfortable in one again.

For me, my journey to accepting my body has been rife with highs and lows. I first started questioning its value when I was very young.

My skin is pale. Very pale. It makes getting blood work easier because my blue veins stand out against my white skin. I am paler than all of my siblings. They pointed out my Irish skin frequently. How I burned and they tanned. How I needed my own beach umbrella.

I was always chubbier than my next older sister. She was athletic from a young age. I was not. And my mother pointed it out to me on more than a few occasions. Grandma took me to her TOPS meetings where she weighed in and women sat in a circle and discussed how disappointed they were with their bodies.

Dislike of our bodies is ingrained in the minds of young girls so thoroughly, and I was no exception.

I did not buy my first bikini until I was in my mid-twenties. I was “too fat” before that.

But I had taken up running to combat my anxiety at my doctor’s suggestion (exercise, he said, may help if medication was not something I wanted to stick with). And running did something for me that nothing else could have done.

Running showed me that my body was capable of amazing things. My body could run miles. My body could go farther than I could have ever imagined. My body is wonderful. It is spectacular.

I was proud of it.

I remained proud of it until about a year ago. It brought me three children. Two at once.

But then I was thoroughly post-partum, and it feels less mine than the one I used to have. I feel less capable and less amazing.

I want to love my body again. Sometimes, I am afraid that I never will.

I keep trying to.

One day, I will to write a love letter to my body. One day, this will merely be evidence of where we once were.

Today, though, I am feeling that disconnect from what I see and what I am. From what I did and what I can do.

I hope that I can find my pride again. No, I know that I will.

For any mommas reading this post who understand, I see you. Your body is amazing, but I know that it can be hard to see that when you spent so much time sharing it with other people. You will get there.

I will get there.

Twin Fears

Two years ago today, I went for an early ultrasound. A dating ultrasound. Standard practice. I had one with both of my pregnancies.

Sunshine’s was at 5+0 weeks. She was just a fluttering lump of cells, nothing discernable. But her heart was beating, and it was magical.

My second one was at 7+1. I was far more sick the second time than I was the first time. I could not find ways to quell my nausea.

I bloated quickly. If it is possible to begin showing at conception, then that is what I was doing. My BFFL said my face looked different at just six weeks. She knew it was a boy based on my face alone. My best friend knew I was pregnant before I told her because I looked “five pounds heavier” mere weeks after conception.

Sunshine said it was twins. I will never forget that. When Saint Daddy and I told her about my pregnancy, just shy of the five week mark, she said it was not a boy or a girl but both. Two babies, she said.

At that first ultrasound, at 7+1, I was nervous. I think every expectant momma in the first weeks feels that. She knows she is pregnant. She saw the test change before her eyes. She felt the early symptoms, but she had no real proof that a baby was coming.

I refer to it as pregnancy limbo. The momma knows, but she has little to show for the knowledge and she does not really want to tell anyone. So she is walking around with a big anxious secret, unsure of what the future might hold.

I once tried to explain that to Saint Daddy, but he did not quite grasp what I was saying. Mommas know it. I am sure.

Saint Daddy and Sunshine came with me for that ultrasound. Saint Daddy rarely missed any of my appointments. He is quite proud of being at all but one for Sunshine. The second time, he missed a few more. In his defense, I had a lot of appointments the second time. No one can blame him for missing a few.

We went back into the ultrasound room. The tech was very nice. She asked me some questions about how I was feeling. She assured me that the intense all-day nausea, the exhaustion, and the discomfort were all excellent signs of a healthy pregnancy. We would know soon enough, she said, just how healthy it was.

When I laid down on the table, I never imagined what I would see. Pregnancy limbo involves a fear that there might be nothing to see whenever an ultrasound occurs. Pregnancy limbo is a scary time. I prepared myself for the worst possibility. I steeled myself for it. I could never be ready for that devastating news, but I refused to be blindsided by the possibility of it.

Miraculously, I never had to use that preparation. I am lucky, I am grateful, and I am blessed.

What I did not truly prepare myself for was Sunshine’s guess that there were two babies in my belly.

I had laughed about it. I had told my best friend about it. I had told my BFFL about it. They laughed with me. “Could you imagine?” “Where would you put a second one?”

So I laid down on the table, I lifted my shirt up, and I waited.

The tech put jelly on my lower abdomen and she pressed the wand against me. The screen in front of Saint Daddy, Sunshine, and me remained black. She would not turn it on if she had bad news. I knew it. I held my breath. I prayed to God that it would be okay. That the baby would be okay.

We had already been calling the baby our Seahorse. That is what that ball of cells becomes next, a seahorse. Come on, little seahorse, be there. We want to see you.

I am sure it was only a minute, but it felt longer. But then, she turned on the screen. I let the air out of my lungs. That screen turning on meant our seahorse was growing, its heart was beating, the pregnancy was going well.

The tech told us all about our seahorse: the heartbeat, the size, he was measuring on schedule. It was exactly as expected.

“And then, this one.”

And she flipped her wrist ever so slightly up, and suddenly, there were two seahorses on the screen.

If you saw me tell this story in person, I would not be shy about the language I used at that moment. In the interest of keeping this a little more PG, however, suffice it to say, I dropped the f-bomb. Not angrily. It was in complete surprise. HOLY FRIGGING POOP! I said. Only not quite that way. IT’S TWINS! IT’S TWINS! SUNSHINE WAS RIGHT! IT’S TWINS! SHE SAID IT WAS TWINS AND IT IS TWINS! HOLY FRIGGING POOP!

I am sure everyone within a mile of that room heard my exclamations.

I laughed and I cried at the same time. It was so many thoughts and feelings at the same time.

The first thing I heard outside of my head was Saint Daddy. “We’re going to have to get a new car, aren’t we?”

I spent three days in a mystified stupor. I wanted to tell the world, but I was terrified.

I remained terrified throughout my twin pregnancy. I was prepared to carry a singleton. I had done it before. We could afford a second child. We bought the perfect car and perfect house for a family of four about a year beforehand.

I am a planner. It is one way I tackle my anxiety. I had planned this pregnancy. We had planned for Saint Daddy to begin working outside of the home again within a couple of years. We had planned. We had planned. We had planned.

We did not plan for twins, and I was terrified.

My mom carried twins once. Just briefly. Between two ultrasounds, one twin disappeared. This was completely normal. Six months later, the remaining twin arrived healthy and thriving. That remaining twin was me. And here I was carrying twins myself, and I worried about the possibility that I would face a similar story.

One of my colleagues learned that I was having twins, and she stopped me outside of an office to tell me about how she had lost a twin and survived. She wanted to reassure me that one healthy baby was worth the sadness.

But the second there were two seahorses, I wanted two healthy babies. I wanted two healthy babies in a way I had never expected to want them, and I was terrified that one would be taken from me.

I was selective about whom I told about the pregnancy. When my cousin texted me a congrats around ten weeks, I cried. I wanted another ultrasound before people knew. My mom called to apologize for telling her sisters. She did not realize how I was struggling. She made a mistake, but she was too excited not to share.

I prayed.

After a reassuring thirteen week ultrasound, I felt comfortable going public. The chances of losing either baby after the first trimester were slim. I never stopped worrying about it, but I breathed more easily.

Then I worried about pre-term labor. I read that gaining weight quickly could help prevent that from happening. I needed to build up my fat stores before my stomach ran out of space and I ended up eating less than I needed to support the three of us each day. Twenty-five pounds by twenty weeks was a daunting task. I had gained only three pounds in as much time with Sunshine.

But I did it.

It was one way to handle my fears. To feel like I had some sort of control.

I worried about bed rest. Saint Daddy and I could not afford three children, and an extended maternity leave was not going to help matters. I needed to work as long as possible.

I needed to rest. I needed to stay off my feet. I needed to lower my stress. And I needed to stay pregnant.

I had to give up running, one of my coping mechanisms, early in my pregnancy. Doctor’s orders. I needed to stop picking up Sunshine and carrying her. Doctor’s orders.

I needed to attend many appointments, miss work, take frequent breaks.

Then, Grumpy was breach. I would have to have a C-section. I had a beautiful natural delivery with Sunshine. It was all I wanted.

Part of my desire to have a natural delivery was because of my squeamishness in regards to the human body. IVs make me lightheaded. I do poorly with them.

However, no matter how I delivered my twins, I would need an IV. They would want me ready for immediate surgery. Twins meant considering a lot more “just in case” scenarios. Even if A and B are both head down, my doctors would want me ready for an emergent cesarean. It was not unheard of for a Baby B to flip around as soon as room became available.

I would also have to deliver in the OR, even if both babies came vaginally. The OR is big enough for the team of medical professionals needed for twin deliveries. It is big enough for two babies to come at the same time.

That was nerve-wracking enough for me.

But then, Grumpy was breach and a C-section was guaranteed. And not only would I definitely need an IV, but I would definitely need a spinal and I would definitely be having abdominal surgery while wide awake and I would definitely be strapped to a table and I would definitely have a panic attack while all of that was happening. That was a definite.

I was horrified.

My entire pregnancy came with fear. Fear that there was nothing. Fear that I would lose one. Fear that they would come early. Fear that I would panic on the table.

I was afraid.

The only fear that was actually realized was the last one. I did panic on the table. But my anesthesiologist recognized what was happening and she gave me something to lower my adrenaline-fueled response.

I lived in constant fear. I could not even talk about most of my fears.

I was happy. I was excited. I wanted to meet my sons. But I was terrified.

My boys were born at 38+0. I had a textbook pregnancy. I went on modified bedrest at 33+1. We passed all of the tests with flying colors. My delivery was perfect. My recovery went well.

My sons are amazing. They are perfect and beautiful. I love them with all of my heart and soul.

They were worth every fear, every tear, every moment spent in prayer.

I would never choose a life free of fear if it meant a life free of them. They have taught me so much about myself in the two years since I first saw them on that screen, my tiny flickering seahorses.

I am lucky to know them, to love them, to have them.

The end of my pregnancy was not the end of my twin fears. I am sure I will have new fears cropping up all of the time.

But my sons? They will always be worth it.

My MoM Group aka $30 Sanity Savers

A few weeks ago, some of my mom friends were discussing multiples. One said her son has two sets of multiples in his class. Since the school is so small, they could not be separated. One said her school routinely separates. A third agreed that what was best for the children to keep them separate. At one point, someone mentioned the fact that she has a biological child and a step child in the same grade and she is glad they are separated.

The one thing that all of these women have in common is that none of them has multiples.

When I first learned that I was going to be having twins, I was gripped by fears. So many fears. I laid on the table with jelly on my belly, with Saint Daddy and Sunshine sitting mere feet away, stunned by my thoughts.

Before I left the ultrasound room, the tech handed me a brochure for my local Moms of Multiples Club. She said, “Reach out the them. They’ve been there too.” Every single one of them had received this same news. While they might have different stories or circumstances that led them to the fact of multiples, they had each experienced what I was experiencing in their own way and in their own time.

Know them because, in some ways, they already know you.

I had that thought, and I put it off.

I carry around a lot of social anxiety. I worry that people judge me when I need help. I worry that people judge me for how I dress. I worry that people judge me for being me.
I remember a time in the seventh grade when I stood in front of my social studies class for a presentation. One of the girls in the front row whispered something to the girl next to her, they giggled, and I felt a wave of embarrassment wash over me. I was wearing second hand clothes that did not fit quite right, and while I would never know what they whispered, I felt their laughter was at my expense. I felt shame, and I carried that shame into my adulthood. I include this story as one of many instances that made me feel less than. One of many instances of situations that created who I am today. I still struggle to feel good enough, and I often do not know how to just “belong.”

So while I wanted to know my fellow MoMs, I did not feel ready to put myself out there.

Shortly after my twentieth week, I found my local MoM group’s website, paid my dues, and requested access to their Facebook page. When a week went by without being added, I felt isolation.

I needed them. I knew I needed them. I had friends with children. I had sisters with children. My mother and mother-in-law had children. But my experience was one that they could not understand. They knew me, but they did not know this. I needed the people who knew me only because they understood where I was and what I was doing and what I was going through. I needed women who did not see my situation as a novelty.

I needed them, and I waited. My anxiety piqued. My brain came up with scenarios. What if one of them does know me and I have been blackballed in my local MoMs group?
Real anxiety stuff. It takes all forms and gets ludicrous. It is my life.
So I did something brave. I told myself to be brave. When my anxiety is particularly rampant, I try a lot of self-talk. It often works. Be brave, I said. What is the worst that could happen?

I messaged one of the women who admined the Facebook page, and within a day, I was added to the group. There was no fanfare. No welcome. Just a quiet adding.

I was in.

However, despite that shaky start to things, I am glad I was brave.
A month or so later, I sat at my first MoMs meeting. I showed up early to attend the new MoMs meeting for women who were still pregnant with their multiples or who had infant multiples. I was very nervous on the drive over. I asked my husband if he thought I should go. I requested that my best friend encourage me to walk into the school where the meeting was being held.

And do you know what?

THEY KNEW ME!!!

I was seven months pregnant with twins, and when I said things about my obstetrical care, they knew exactly what I was doing. In fact, before I mentioned my obstetrical care, I said how far along I was, and one woman said, “Oh… So you are going to start your NSTs in a few weeks.” Yes, I was! And she knew why. One woman inquired about the positioning of Baby A, and we talked about the possibility of his moving into a more favorable position. “Don’t give up,” she said. “My A switched right before my scheduled C-section, and I delivered both babies vaginally. It could happen for you too.”
But I did not have to explain why I would be scheduling a C-section soon or why I had to deliver in the 38th week or why so many NSTs and ultrasounds are simply routine and not an indication that anything was going wrong.

I was known.

Since joining my MoMs group, I have participated in countless discussions that let me know I am not alone.

When my sons were not walking at thirteen months and their doctor said, “50% of twins need early intervention; yours probably do too,” I turned to the MoMs.

Tell me about your twins.

I felt so much more reassured by them. If 50% of twins really do need early intervention, it only stands to reason that MoMs would know a thing or two about whether my sons needed to be evaluated, whether they would even qualify, whether I should be concerned.

Some twins walked well before their first birthdays; some walked well after. In all cases, walking alone was not the reason their twins had qualified for services, unless their babies were eighteen months old and still not taking steps. It was too early to worry. They believed that my boys would do it. They helped me believe it too.

And my boys walked. Right on schedule. Without extra support.

My MoMs group gets it. They understand.

There is something about twins that is hard to explain to those who do not live it. Grumpy and Sleepy are both individuals and a set. They will always be that way. They will always be Grumpy and Sleepy and also “the twins,” “the boys,” or “the brothers.”

The MoMs know that. They know the intricacies of my life. They understand the beauty of routine, the necessity for structure, and just what I mean when I mention the “Twin Haze.” They have been stopped by strangers on the street who wanted to discuss their gynecological health and their choice in doctors and whether or not they are sure that their twins are fraternal. “But they look sooooo much alike! I’d never be able to tell them apart!” They have heard people claim to understand because they had children less than two years apart. “It is almost the same thing, you know?” They get it.

The MoMs know the pros and cons of various double strollers. They know which stores are not double stroller friendly. And they know that sometimes it is better to skip the stroller and let the kids run free.

The MoMs are the least judgmental group of women that I have ever interacted with. I do not know if it is just because we are too tired or if it is because we know how truly difficult every day can be so the least we can do is support one another.

As I was thinking about that conversation that I had with my non-MoM mom friends, I realized that the MoMs would have opinions on the matter. Of course they would. The question discussed is one that impacts their lives directly. But their responses would have been based on research, experience, and knowledge of their children. The MoMs would not have vilified either option. That is not what the MoMs do.

I could not recommend joining a Mothers of Multiples group enough. Maybe I am lucky and mine is the best one in the world, but it seems unlikely that other MoMs groups are not at least close to as awesome.

I am glad that I found them when I did. I am happy that there are so many pictures of multiples on my Facebook feed now.

They have helped me to feel much less alone in my new role as a mommy to twins. I can think of few better ways to spend $30 a year than being a part of such a supportive group of women.

They are my $30 sanity savers. I am proud to MoM along with them.