The Case of the Missing Library Book

I hate feeling like a nuisance.

My brain regularly tells me that I am a nuisance to people, and I go out of my way to not actually be one.

Yesterday, I had to be a nuisance.

Sunshine is doing really well at school. She loves going and she is learning so much already. She has been able to identify letters for a couple of years, but her ability to recognize letter sounds has exploded in the last month. Her teacher is going awesome things with her already.

She is a little overwhelmed by the long days. Sunshine’s only experience outside of our home were 2.5 hour days of preschool, three days a week, the year she was three. We allowed her a mental health day on Friday to reset and recharge. Kids need mental health days too.

But Sunshine has been flustered by one thing. She has not been permitted to take out a library book since the very first day that they visited the library.

Sunshine was really excited about library class. I took her to the public library for the first time when she was barely three and it became a regular event for us that summer.

When she climbed into her carseat at the end of that school day, she told me all about library. They got a tour, she picked a book, and she brought it home.

“I picked the Grinch, but they must’ve known I already have it, so they gave me a cat book instead. I like cats too.”

That’s wonderful, baby. You love cats! And you don’t need the Grinch book. We already have it.

That night, I read her library book with her. In it, a cat named Chester goes to the library and learns how to properly care for the books. I found it an apt choice for her first book from her school’s library.

After reading the book, I told Sunshine to put it in her backpack so that it was ready for the next day she had library class.

I saw that book in her bag every morning when I put her lunch into it and every afternoon when I checked her take-home folder. That was the case until library day rolled around again.

Then the book disappeared, but Sunshine did not have a new book.

Didn’t you want a new book today?

“They wouldn’t let me get a new book because I didn’t bring back my first one. It must’ve been lost.”

Did you take it out of your backpack sometime today?

“I gave it to the aide. She must’ve lost it. I couldn’t get a book.”

Sunshine’s disappointment was evident. She loves books. She loves libraries. And I know she could not have loved watching her new friends select books when she could not.

I told her that I was sure it would be figured out before next library day. Maybe the aide set it in the wrong pile. She had plenty of books at home.

I try to project a calm outlook about these sorts of things. I do not want to overreact, especially in front of Sunshine or her brothers.

It’ll be fine, baby. They’ll figure it out.

But on the next library day, Sunshine still did not come home with a book. This is when I talked to Saint Daddy about it.

It doesn’t make any sense, I said. She carried that book back and forth to school for two weeks. What do they mean that she never returned it?

“I’ll email her teacher.”

Here is where my nuisance idea comes in. Teachers are busy. I know how busy they are. They have hundreds of things to deal with every day. They make countless decisions. They are responsible for so much every single moment of their day. There is so much to think about. Their jobs are difficult.

The last thing I would want to do is give Sunshine’s teacher one more thing to think about.

But on the same token, Sunshine did return her book. She did not deserve to be punished for not doing so.

Thank you.

Sunshine’s teacher said that she had borrowed How the Grinch Stole Christmas and never returned it.

I picked Sunshine up from school a few days later, and her teacher met me in the office to discuss the case of the missing library book.

I told her that Sunshine had mentioned thinking she had borrowed “the Grinch,” but that the school must have known she already owned it and sent her home with another book instead. She did not bring home “the Grinch.”

Her teacher offered to email all of the parents to see if maybe their child accidentally brought home Sunshine’s book.

A week passed.

The librarian sent an email to Saint Daddy and me. Sunshine owes this book.

Saint Daddy said I would explain what I believed happened.

I became a little flustered. I felt like a nuisance. It is one book. Should I just offer to pay for it so Sunshine can get books again? Is that the right thing to do? But what if another kid does have Sunshine’s book? Can it be located?

I told the story, a little more briefly than I did above. I hit send.

My cheeks flushed.

I know this probably seems like such a small thing to become so agitated over. I sent that email at the end of my lunch hour, and when I went to my next meeting, someone asked me if I was having a bad day.

No. Not really. I was just nervous. What if I was accused of lying? What if what I said made no sense? What if it does not help? What if Sunshine never takes home another library book from school again? What if the mistakes of adults result in punishing my child?

I needed closure for that event.

With anxiety, even small things can incite large responses. And the best way for my responses to end quickly is closure. The wait for that closure is filled with a million what-ifs. Waiting means my brain begins to wander. My waiting brain has too much of an opportunity to destroy me.

I needed a response. I needed it quickly. I needed Saint Daddy to say something to me.

By the end of my meeting, the librarian let me know that the book Sunshine brought home was on the shelf. She said she knew who checked it out and that she would check with his family to see if they had Sunshine’s book. However, she was clearing Sunshine’s account. Sunshine would definitely be coming home with a book on her next library day.

Even now, writing this, more than twenty-four hours after it happened, I am realizing how minor this whole event was. It was a non-event. Emailing about this issue was entirely appropriate.

I know that.

However, anxiety often means putting more stock into an event than it deserves. Anxiety means that I think other people think about me in the same obsessive way I think about myself or in the exact opposite way.

Saint Daddy recently told me that I sometimes operate in extremes.

That is true. I do.

That is my anxiety. That is what anxiety does for me.

I do not imagine that it works exactly the same way for everyone, but that is how anxiety affects me.

I have begun working on my awareness of that. I am trying to find my equilibrium. I am trying to remind myself that sending an email is not that big of a deal. Not in the grand scheme of things.

I am glad that Saint Daddy and I solved the case of the Missing library book.

Sunshine deserves a library day. It was worth being a little bit of a nuisance to do that for her.

Fighting the Sunday Blues

This weekend was perfectly lovely.

Saturday was rainy, but Saint Daddy and I took our babies for ice cream at our favorite Creamery anyway. I spent much of the day organizing the kids’ clothes, pulling out summer clothes and washing sweaters and jackets that had been stored in boxes given to us by generous friends.

Sunday found us at the same farm where we got ice cream, enjoying a hay ride and pumpkin picking. Grumpy was surprisingly not the grumpy gus at the pumpkin patch. Sleepy screamed his head off every time Saint Daddy set him down. It all made sense when he promptly fell asleep in the car. Classic Sleepy. We bought butternut squash at the farm, and I can smell the delicious soup I am making with it simmering in the kitchen as I type this.

We are all coming down from colds that Sunshine picked up at school. Her cold took us to her pediatrician on Friday after school for a quick ear check after she complained of echos. It is hard to say how serious that complaint was as she is currently obsessed with the notion of being “absent.” Sunshine loves school, but she has never been absent and she is hoping that someday soon Saint Daddy or I will give her the go-ahead to stay home.

I spent the last week on a major project at work, and I needed this weekend. Not that I do not need most weekends, but between the cold and the stress at work, I needed this one.

I have enjoyed my weekend. Ice cream, pumpkin picking, family time, a six mile long run, and a half-nap this afternoon? What more could I ask for?

It is almost five o’clock on a Sunday, though, and I am feeling the Sunday Blues right now.

There is tension in the back of my neck. It is pulsing up through my head. My eyes hurt from the pressure. I feel a little nauseated. I am more tired than I should be.

I am anticipating the rise in pressure that will occur from the moment I walk out of my door tomorrow morning and will continue with small increases and decreases until the moment I walk back into it on Friday afternoon, toting Sunshine’s nap supplies and a another week worth of stories.

I hate the Sunday Blues.

I researched this one too. According to Monster, 76% of Americans say that they experience unusually high levels of anxiety as the day progresses on Sundays.

76%!

That means that I am in great company on Sundays as I focus more on what the upcoming week will bring my way instead of what I have in front of me.

It is unfair to today.

I have expressed that sentiment in my blog before. Anxiety is not fair to my present. I wish I could control it.

My family deserves a mother who can pay attention to today instead of sitting her wondering what will be in my email tomorrow morning.

I am not required to check my professional email at home. I stopped doing so shortly after Sunshine was born. I received an email from a client on Thanksgiving, which I responded to. The client emailed me again during dinner and I ignored it, clearing the notification. She emailed me again the following day, also not a work day, and her email was filled with hostility. She wanted to know why I was not prioritizing her and told me she would be contacting my boss.

I immediately removed the email app from my phone and decided to wait to see what other feelings she had on Monday when I returned to work. I knew my boss would not have demanded that I respond to her email on the holiday, and it was wrong of her to bully me.

That was five years ago. I have only occasionally checked my work email at home since then and I have often regretted it. Work is for work. Home is for my family.

I did not prioritize that client. Not at home.

At home, I prioritize motherhood.

Motherhood is one of the most important tasks I will ever undertake. Being a wife is as well. Saint Daddy, Sunshine, Grumpy, and Sleepy are vastly more important than anything that will happen at work. Everything at work can wait when it is their turn to have me.

Which is why I hate the Sunday Blues. Because the Sunday Blues take my brain away from them.

Anxiety is largely just fear of the future. I am afraid of what might happen this week. I have a plan in place for the week. I know what I will be doing, what my meetings are, what I need to accomplish. I know I am good at my job. I will have a great week. I almost always do, even if I am handling a particularly stressful project.

But, much like driving, I cannot predict everything. Sometimes, things fall apart without warning. Sometimes, I get so focused on my thing that I ignore the periphery and that periphery might be burning because I accidentally left a candle burning.

I do not have a solid solution to the Sunday Blues right now. I am working on it.

Some Sundays are better than others. Actually, some Sundays I do not feel it at all. Usually, Sundays are only particularly bad when the previous week was stressful. I believe it is my brain’s way of saying “I can’t go through all of that again.”

I am trying, though.

I am focusing on Grumpy and Sleepy running around the living room after their nap. I am enjoying Sunshine sitting next to me and watching a Halloween cooking show with me. She loves Halloween because she loves spooky stuff. “Except spiders. Those are yucky!”

I am thinking about how good that soup is going to taste after the garlic and apples and onions all had a chance to really mingle with the squash.

Tomorrow will come. I will face tomorrow then.

Right now, it is time to enjoy what remains of Sunday.

Behind the Wheel Fears (Part Two)

I learned to drive ten years ago. I had my accident ten years ago. I am afraid of driving.

Driving is one of those anxiety-inducing triggers that I must face every single day. I have to drive. I have to take myself to work five days a week. I have to pick Sunshine up from school five days a week. I have to run errands, go to ballet, and take my children to the doctor.

To be a functioning adult in suburbia, I need to drive.

I will always hate it. I will always be afraid of it. But I will always do it.

I know that everyone who battles anxiety must have a few triggers that they cannot avoid. That they must face every day. That they need to overcome in order to exist. I cannot avoid this trigger in the way that I avoid other ones.

Late last week, I was driving to pick up Sunshine from school. Her school is in a complex located just off one of those highways that run through commercial areas. The flow of traffic is steady, broken only by the occasional red light.

I was driving along, listening to Taylor Swift, Sunshine’s favorite artist, thinking about how much I did not like the book I was reading at the time. Maybe I should give that up and find something else. I was driving 40 miles per hour. A car waiting to turn right at the next light turned in front of me. There was plenty of space between our cars. She made a good decision. Without hesitation, the minivan behind her also made the same decision. This time, there was not enough space between us. I braked slightly, but the minivan did not speed up. My car rushed toward its rear bumper. I slammed my brakes, they squealed against the road, I hit my horn, my heart race, and I checked my options.

There was open space in the left lane, so I quickly pulled into it and passed the minivan.

My heart was in my throat when I pulled behind the last car in the parent pickup line, put my car in park, and picked up my phone.

I texted Saint Daddy.

“Driving seems like such an outmoded way to get around. There must be a better way to do it. Someone should get on that.”

I am always afraid that I will be in another accident. My accident was entirely my fault. Although, Saint Daddy did say that he had noticed that my Breeze did not maneuver turns well. He wished he would have warned me. Even if he had, though, I am sure the same thing would have happened. I did not think I was going too fast.

I am not worried about my driving, though. I know that my accident made me a hyper-aware driver. I check my mirrors, I pay attention to my blind spots, I wait my turn. I am not 100% sure if the opposite of an aggressive driver is a passive one. I do not even really know if I would consider myself to be the opposite of an aggressive driver, but I trust myself behind the wheel.

What I hate about driving is not me; it is them.

Driving is unpredictable because I do not know what other drivers might do. I was being perfectly safe and cautious in the right lane. Sunshine’s school was less than a half a mile away, so I would not have gone into the left lane of my own volition in case I had to be aggressive in getting over again. I am not interested in high emotion driving. The minivan, though, is something I could not predict.

I do not know what went on with the driver of the minivan. She made a dangerous choice, but I do not know how much thought went into it. The minivan turned out of a medical complex, the same one where I take my children to their pediatrician. Maybe she had received bad news. Maybe she was distracted and not thinking of the task at hand. There are a hundred maybes for that one driver.

And there are millions of drivers on the road.

I cannot even begin to imagine their maybes. I cannot even begin to fathom their what-ifs.

I hate driving because it is unpredictable. At any time, a white minivan could pull out in front of me. A red SUV could slam on its brakes. A black sedan could swerve into my lane.

I have to be hyper-vigilant, and I feel the weight of that bearing down on me every time I get behind the wheel. I cannot know, and that lack of knowledge threatens to throw me into a hurricane of thoughts I cannot control.

My children ride in the car with me. Recently, I drove Saint Daddy somewhere and dropped him off. I then drove our three children home with me. It was dark and raining. While we were near home, I was not very familiar with how to return to our safe little nest. Sunshine was telling me all about My Little Pony. Grumpy and Sleepy were taking turns shouting out nonsense and giggling. I missed a turn, and I tensed up.

It was early fall. 70°. And my brain told me to watch for black ice.

What if you’re in an accident with your babies in the car? What if you destroy part of them like you destroyed part of you? What if you give them scars to carry? What if you’re the problem?

Black ice!

The thought was absurd. I knew it at the time. “There’s not going to be black ice right now. What’s wrong with you?”

But how do you know?

I fought against my anxiety as I “uh-huh”-ed everything Sunshine said about Princess Celestia and Princess Cadence and their cutie marks. I told my anxiety about science as I found my way unto the bypass, a road that meant familiarity and increased speeds.

In the rain? You’re going to crash!

It meant more people around if there was a problem but also more headlights coming the other way.

Those bright lights are blinding, aren’t they? How are they even legal? You’re never going to see the turns in the road. You’re going to miss your exit. Look at that big puddle!

I hydroplaned a little bit. I always remember what Saint Daddy told me to do when that happens. I gripped the wheel, I let off the gas, I avoided my brake, and I felt traction come back under my wheels. Grumpy called for me “MA-MA!” Sleepy yelled, “DAD!” Sunshine kept prattling about the ponies.

I managed to make it to our exit and down the steep hill that led to home.

Sunshine began asking me about the reflective plastic in the middle of the road, and I explained to her that they helped drivers know where their lane ended to help everyone feel safe.

I wanted to make sure that Sunshine felt that safety, even though I rarely do in the car. Having the responsibility of three tiny souls while I drive only adds to that lack of security.

It is easier for me as a passenger. I can read or play on my phone and ignore the parts of being in a car that make me feel tension.

But I have to drive. I will always have to drive. It is a fact of my life that I cannot avoid.

I had thought that, by now, ten years later, a lot of my fears related to driving would have begun to disappear, but they have not. I am sure that is because of the unpredictable nature of my fellow drivers. I will never be able to control that variable.

So what can I do?

I make sure my babies are as safe as possible. The law says to rearface them until they are two, but science says to keep them that way until as close to four as possible. So that is what we do. Sunshine was three months shy of her fourth birthday when we switched her. Her brothers are still riding in the convertible carseats we strapped them into when we left the hospital with them right after birth. The law says to use a five point harness until four, but science says to keep them harnessed as long as possible. At the rate she is growing, Sunshine may fit in her convertible carseat until she is eight and she will be harnessed until she grows out of it. Grumpy and Sleepy will get the same seat Sunshine has when they are ready for an upgrade. Safety is worth inconvenience. Safety is worth the cost of a seat that will last longer. Safety protects my babies if something horrible does happen because of those variables that I cannot control.

For this reason, safety helps me handle my car anxiety.

I was not wearing my seatbelt when I crashed my car. Because of that, I lived and I walk. But I always wear it now.

Safety measures bring me traces of sanity when I feel powerless to overcome my thoughts.

There was no chance of black ice on that night, but my brain often tells me the impossible might be true.

I will drive, and I will be afraid. But at least I know some things that will help. And sometimes, that is the best I can hope for.

I Did It For Grumpy

I am not fascinated by the human body. When people share the intricacies of the human heart on social media, I block the page from which it originated. I am squeamish and squirmy about blood, cuts, wounds, holes in the body. I recognize that the human body is beautiful. A miracle. It is amazing what our bodies can do. I am the awe of the process of bringing new people into the world. Having twins made that even more pronounced. A single human being can create two lives simultaneously. Wow! Just… Wow!

But I do not want to watch it.

This squeamishness is why I waited until Sunshine asked me to before getting my ears pierced. The very idea of sticking pretty metal through holes in my body? No, thank you.

Hospitals make me uncomfortable. They smell of my anxiety. Something about the air in a hospital. It seems unnatural. I tense up as soon as I smell it.

Yesterday, I experienced both of these events together, and I did it all for Grumpy.

Grumpy and Sleepy recently learned how to climb onto the couch. Sunshine was not a climber. I recently told my best friend that Sunshine only learned to climb onto the couch six months ago. Slight hyperbole. But really, she was not a climber.

Sleepy is a climber, and Grumpy? He likes to do what Sleepy does.

The boys both love climbing onto the couch and sitting there like big boys. Saint Daddy and I say that they like being “Kings of the Castle.”

Yesterday, Grumpy climbed onto the couch while I watched America’s Got Talent on Hulu and painted Sunshine’s toes. I snapped a picture of him, looking adorable as King of the Castle. Saint Daddy came home from the gym. Sleepy was wandering around the dining room with a ball, saying, “ball, ball, ball.” Saint Daddy entered the kitchen, and Grumpy fell off the side of the couch.

He had fallen before, but this was different.

He screamed. Not cried. Screamed.

I jumped up. Saint Daddy called, “What was that?”

I picked up Grumpy, and there was blood dripping from near his mouth. I took him to Saint Daddy for a look. I knew me, and looking would make my woozy. I would have to sit down. I would need cold water and five minutes, and Grumpy needed love. He did not need to be patient.

Saint Daddy said there was too much blood. He did not know where it was coming from, so I took Grumpy to the entryway to assess him in better light.

The bleeding was coming from the bottom of his cheek, near his mouth, not his tongue. I worried he had bit off part of his tongue. But this was external.

Saint Daddy looked again.

There was a hole in Grumpy’s cheek and something was inside the hole. One of us needed to take Grumpy to the hospital.

And suddenly, I had Grumpy in the car, covered in blood, only half a water bottle of water, no dinner for either of us, my cell phone at less than 20%, and on our way to the hospital.

Two of my big stressors. Wounds and hospitals.

Motherhood.

I held Grumpy in the waiting room while a kind older woman asked solicitous questions about him. She hoped he was okay. She would pray for us.

When we went back to be admitted by a nurse, Grumpy panicked. He was in pain. He did not know what was going on, and I know he was starving. The oxygen monitor was a nuisance, he refused to settle long enough to be weighed, and he screamed bloody murder when the nurse put a hospital bracelet on his leg.

I tried to comfort him but he did not know how to hold his head. He wanted his thumb, but it hurt to put it in his mouth.

We went back to a room to wait. My cell battery drained, and I switched to power save mode, hoping it would last well enough to keep Saint Daddy updated. I texted my best friend and my oldest sister. I wished we had a book or a toy for Grumpy to focus on.

I tried to keep us both calm.

I was being calm for him.

Yesterday, I talked to a coworker about how it is easier to put my anxiety aside when I have to do it for someone else. Even something as simple as ordering garlic knots after we already ordered. I could do it for her, but I could not have done it for me. No worries, I’ll do it for you.

No worries, Grumpy, I will do it for you.

I sang to him. Twinkle, twinkle little star… I explained to him that we were in the hospital and that the people there all have one thing in common. They all want to help other people not feel pain. And they were going to help him not feel pain. I tried not to look at his injury. I tried not to cry.

The PA came in with an assistant. I laid Grumpy on the bed, and she cleaned his face. I had to hold his arms over his head while he screamed and cried and writhed. I felt helpless. I could not stop it. It had to be done, but I hated it. I saw his injury up close. Two clear punctures.

I began to feel light-headed. I quelled my nausea.

The PA said that there was something in the wound. She asked what did it, and I told her that he had a toy dinosaur in his hand when he fell. She was mystified that parts of the dinosaur could be in Grumpy’s face, but she would get it out.

She said she needed a scalpel to clean the wound better.

Here is another example of his need outweighing my anxiety.

I said, “I won’t be able to watch that.”

She said, “You can wait in the waiting room.”

I said, “No, I can’t do that either. He’s my baby, and I’m going to be here with him.”

Grumpy and I waited again. When the PA came back, she brought a nurse to help hold Grumpy and a papoose to secure his arms and legs.

She numbed his face and used a scalpel to clean his wound. I looked into his eyes the entire time.

“Mommy’s here, baby. I’m not going anywhere. I’m right here. I’m so sorry, baby. I wish I could stop it, but I can’t. I love you. You’re doing such a great job. You’re being so brave. Almost done.”

It felt like it lasted forever as the PA removed the dinosaur and stitched his two punctures. The nurse brought him a freeze pop and a stuffed cat, and he was discharged.

We stopped at CVS to pick up Grumpy’s antibiotic and something for Grumpy to eat, since we both missed dinner and I wanted him in bed as soon as possible. He saw a display of toy cars, and I let him choose one. A white convertible with blue stripes. I bought him Fruit Loops and let him munch on those as we waited for his prescription.

Grumpy became immediately attached to both the car and the Fruit Loops.

We arrived home to great fanfare. Everyone was still awake. I gave Grumpy a wipe down to remove any blood, got him changed, and put him in bed.

Saint Daddy and I decided to use the baby monitor for the first time in six months in case Grumpy needed us. He whimpered in his sleep a few times, but he did not need us.

Babies are strong and brave and resilient. Grumpy is a tough guy.

My mother’s heart was hurting. I am so glad Grumpy is okay. It could have been much worse. But I wish it had never happened. I wish I could have prevented it.

I am mad at me, and I will never get the sight of his tiny distressed eyes reaching out to me from that hospital bed while I stood feet away. They searched for me, they begged me, and I felt helpless to do anything for him.

My anxiety makes everything about last night the stuff of my nightmares. Blood and wounds and hospitals. Not enough water, being alone, nothing to occupy my brain.

But I did it for Grumpy.

My anxiety is no match for the love I have for my son.

I hope to never have to relive that experience again, but with three children that seems unlikely. However, I will do what I must for my babies, my own issues be damned!

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.

There’s No Mom Guilt Quite Like Twin Mom Guilt

This is not a challenge. I am not throwing down some sort of virtual gauntlet, begging for other moms to prove to me that it is not so bad.

This is my reality.

This has been my reality for two years, despite the fact that my sons are less than eighteen months old.

My twin mom guilt began the day I found out that I would be having twins. That afternoon, I felt my first twinge of twin mom guilt. It came when I realized that I had only ever wanted two children, and there was a really good chance that, one day, one of the flickering heartbeats that I carried inside of me would think that maybe he was not the wanted one.

I love all three of my children. I love them with all that I am. I love them in ways I never thought I could. I wanted that second heartbeat in my belly as soon as I knew it was there, fighting to become the toddling son I had crawling up my back this morning.

But sitting in the car, completely stunned at the revelation of a second baby, thinking about all of the things I never knew or expected, I felt guilty because I only ever wanted two children, and there would be three.

My twin pregnancy was riddled with mom guilt. I felt guilty about how my decision to have one more child became two more children, and I did not know how that would affect my singleton. I felt guilty for never considering the possibility that I might use the word “singleton” to describe Sunshine, despite the fact that I was an almost twin and must have carried the same gene that made my twinhood possible. I felt guilty that I could not move as quickly for Sunshine, that I could not carry her three year old self around, that I had to stop going places with her and Saint Daddy. I knew she missed me. I felt guilty because I asked her little heart to be understanding when that goes against the very nature of preschoolhood.

I felt guilty for what I could not do for my sons that I had done while pregnant with Sunshine. I could not maintain my activity level. I ran to nine months with Sunshine, but stopped running before the end of my first trimester with my sons. I felt guilty that I was secretly glad that Grumpy’s placement made a cesarean guaranteed. I had prepared for a medication free delivery for Sunshine, and despite needing Pitocin, I accomplished my goal. For my boys, I was glad for a breach Baby A that meant not risking a double whammy delivery. I felt guilty for not wanting to risk a double whammy delivery. I felt guilty for putting my comfort first. I felt that guilt even though the choice was out of my hands. Grumpy was in the same position from the fourth month. Grumpy got to decide how he and his brother entered the world, and I felt guilty for agreeing with Grumpy’s decision.

My mom guilt doubled after they were born. I stopped nursing. It was the right thing to do. But even now, months after their first birthday, having successfully breastfed them for a year, I feel guilty. I feel as though I could have done more. Been more.

Every time I hooked up to the pump instead of playing more or cuddling them close, I felt guilt. They needed me; I needed them. Instead, I had a motor and tubes and plastic. I wished I could have done things differently. My guilt filled me, and I carried on.

And here is where it gets very twin mom. I feel guilt every time I have to choose which of my sons to focus upon. They are both babies. They have nearly identical needs. I feel guilt every time I choose which one to turn my attention to. If we are playing on the floor and I am rolling a ball to Sleepy and he is laughing and repeating “ball, ball, ball” over and over again, I feel immense waves of guilt weighing down upon my soul because Grumpy is not getting that time.

It seems simple, I am sure, to just play with both of them simultaneously. But it is not. They are babies after all. They do not quite grasp playing with each other. Simply because Sleepy wants to pass a ball with me does not mean Grumpy does. Grumpy may want to play with a dinosaur or stacking toys. He may just want to be held, which is often the case with Grumpy.

And I feel guilt because I have to decide.

There is only one of me, and there are two of them. I cannot be the same mom that I was for Sunshine when she was their age. I want to be, and I feel guilt.

I often think about their first year. There is not too much to think about because Saint Daddy and I were firmly entrenched in Twin Haze. When Dad would call on Sundays, he would ask, “So what’s new with you?” And I would say the exact same thing every week: “It’s all the same. I’m knee-deep in motherhood. Just hoping to survive.”

Their first year was a beautiful blur. I remember so few distinct moments. I decided that social media would have to do the remembering for me. The first three months were spent in three hour cycles: wake, change, feed, play, pump, feed, sleep. I am not even sure I showered. I know I went to the dentist a few months after they were born and apologized to my hygienist because I could not remember if I had flossed in weeks. “I had twins. I know I’m brushing. But flossing seems like too much to ask of me.” She did not even admonish me. Bless that woman. Bless her.

I remember long nights. I remember Saint Daddy giving up and sleeping on the twin bed in the nursery when he could no longer stand another wakeup call. I remember considering the practicality of fleeing to another country in the middle of the night and allowing Saint Daddy to take care of it. “Would he let me come back home in six months? I don’t even know…”

I would tell Saint Daddy, “It’ll be better after six weeks.” Then twelve. Then four months. Then six months. Then a year. And it was. Every time I said it would be better, it was. We developed a routine. The boys found their schedule. We made it.

But I feel like I missed moments in the blur.

And I feel guilt.

I feel guilt because I can no longer remember who rolled over first. I can no longer remember when they crawled. “Sometime around eight or nine months” does not compare to “The day before Valentine’s Day. She had a double ear infection, was teething, and decided she wanted nothing to do with her bath seat that night. I set her on the floor to dress her for bed, and she crawled away.”

And maybe that is a first and second child thing. But I believe it is because I had two to remember in quick succession. I will never really know, and for that, I feel guilt.

Mom guilt is real. I feel it in regards to Sunshine as well, but there is just no mom guilt quite like twin mom guilt. It is double the mom guilt. It is guilt for them as individuals and guilt for them as a set.

Having twins is an experience I would never want to trade away. It is unique and full of wonder. I feel privileged to have the opportunity to mother my amazing boys.

Having twins comes with challenges that are hard to explain to other people. Often, when I express my twin mom feelings to mothers of singletons, I am met with “I deal with that too.” But they do not. Not really. Not in the same way. I know that women interact in that way. It is not usually a one-upping; it is an “I understand.” But there are parts to my role as a mother of multiples that my mothers of singletons friends could never truly appreciate, and sometimes, their “me too” is not actually something I need to hear.

I feel guilt for that too. That one is not mom guilt, though.

I wish I could put less pressure on myself to be a million things. I am a good mom. I love my children. I feed them. I play with them. I read to them. I sing silly songs while brushing their teeth. I plan holidays and birthdays and little adventures. I love their father very much and I respect his role in their lives (something I find to be an integral part of being a good parent). I am not perfect, but I do my best.

I wish that was enough for me.

Perhaps You Should’ve Thought of That Before Becoming a Twin

Grumpy is clingy. Not inordinately so. I am sure Sunshine was just as clingy as an infant and toddler, but Grumpy needs me far more than Sleepy.

Grumpy comes over to wherever I might be, and he places his hand on my thigh, just to feel my presence. He demands to be held. If I am sitting on the couch reading or writing or watching reruns of The Office after dinner, he begs for me to pick him up so he can sit next to me and suck his thumb in peace with his momma near him. He is curious, but he is not adventurous. He is content to watch as Sleepy takes on the world.

Neither of my sons really calls me Momma. They use “dad” to mean parent, and refer to both Saint Daddy and me as “dad.” If questioned, they will point to the correctly named parent, so they understand that we have different titles, but “dad” works for them.

For a while, because of this dad thing, I had absolutely convinced myself that both of my sons were entirely indifferent to me. I thought about all that I had done as their mother up to that point. The hard pregnancy, the C-section, my attempts to nurse them, months of pumping so they could have my milk for a year, working with them as they fell behind in their gross motor skills, and I felt as though I had been robbed. I cried a lot about it.

Saint Daddy was both sympathetic and a little happy that, finally, he ranked evenly with me. Sunshine was fairly indifferent to Saint Daddy. As a baby, she would sometimes cry for the floor if he was holding her. We have the video to prove it. Poor Saint Daddy…

The reasons were obvious to me. Nursing went well with Sunshine. She took to it from birth, and we had no major issues. She self-weaned at eighteen months. So while I worked outside of the home during her infancy as well, she knew I was the one with the best food. That paltry stuff Saint Daddy was offering was okay, but it was a poor substitute.

Grumpy and Sleepy were breastfed through bottles. I had to do it. It was my best choice. I saw five lactation consultants. I cried a lot. I prayed my hardest. They were not gaining weight. That fifth consultant got me on the path to exclusive pumping, and I never deviated from that path. I worked hard to maintain my supply. I hooked up to a machine for 4-6 hours a day for eleven months, until I knew, without a doubt, that I had the necessary freezer stash to see them through their first birthday. It was complicated and difficult, and I feel strongly about my experience. It will warrant its own post at some point.

So I convinced myself that they did not know me, did not love me, did not want me. It was a middle of the night thought. Everyone with anxiety knows what I mean by that. In the middle of the night, I am not kind to me. In the middle of the night, I convince myself of atrocious things. I convince myself that my friendships are a lie, that my husband does not love me, and that I am unworthy of any amount of happiness.

It is not my sons’ job to convince me of anything. As a mother, I have vowed to myself that I will work out my thoughts without putting the burden on my children to prove to me that those thoughts are not real. Saint Daddy has reassured me a thousand times before. He will reassure me a thousand times more. But my children do not need to reassure me. That is not their job.

Grumpy adores me. I know he does. I have often said, “No one has ever loved his Momma the way that he loves me.” Even when I was dealing with those pervasive middle of the night thoughts, I still claimed that notion. Only my closest friends knew what my brain was actually saying. I turned to them for that reassurance. Saint Daddy and my best friend helped see me through it.

What I have learned about my anxiety over the last decade and a half is that talking about it, sharing my thoughts out loud, and trusting people with those thoughts are instrumental in getting through it. Early in my relationship with Saint Daddy, I was not open enough with him about what my brain was telling me. I saw it as a weakness, and I worried he would not love me the same way if he knew how weak I was. Opening up to him and letting him see my messier side strengthened our relationship while helping me to overcome the burden of my thoughts.

I refer to it as my Inner Circle. Depending on the particular thoughts that are plaguing me, that inner circle can shift around. Saint Daddy is always in it. I believe that is part what makes our relationship strong. But work thoughts call upon one inner circle and parenting thoughts call on another. My BFFL and best friend participate in all of my inner circles. I trust them with all of my thoughts. I am grateful for them in ways I could never express.

After sharing those thoughts, working through them, finding reassurance, establishing a plan to overcome them, I take the steps necessary to move on from them. I do my thing. No one actually fixes anything for me. I am not actually weak.

But I would never be able to do it alone. Living with anxiety makes it absolutely necessary to be trusting and be trustworthy. Living with anxiety means finding people who will love you through your darkness so you can revel in the light together. Living with anxiety requires bravery when the last thing you feel is the confidence to take a step, to say a word, to keep going.

That fear about Grumpy and Sleepy not loving me is behind me. I moved on from it as I inevitably move on from each of those terribly atrocious middle of the night thoughts.

Today, as has happened many times, I was sitting on the floor reading my book, and Sleepy walked over to me and sat on my lap. I began to read aloud to him. Grumpy was all the way at the other end of the room, and as if he could sense that Sleepy was encroaching on his Momma space, he toddled quickly to us and wiggled his little self between his brother and me, knocking Sleepy onto the floor. Sleepy whined and tried to find his place on my lap. They argued over who was allowed to sit on my lap for a few moments until I situated them so that they were both sitting on my lap, which meant that I had to give up on reading my book in favor of snuggling my two boys. Not a bad trade off.

As this was happening, I said to Grumpy exactly what I have said to him plenty of times before. “You are quite selfish in your love of Momma. Perhaps you should have thought of your need for attention before you decided to become a twin.”

The thought makes me giggle. As though my first tiny blastocyst made the decision to have another tiny blastocyst join him.

My sons love me. No matter what my middle of the night thoughts told me a few months ago. My middle of the night thoughts may tell me something similar again. Sometimes they repeat themselves. But I always know that, with the help of my Inner Circle and time, I am more than capable of overcoming them again and again and again.

Anxiety can be debilitating. I am currently experiencing what I call “high alert anxiety.” My anxiety is telling me that something horrible is on the horizon. I do not know what that horrible thing is, but my anxiety is convinced.

What my anxiety does not know is that my spirit is indomitable. And I do not fight alone.

How Did We Get Here?

I sent that text to my BFFL this morning after putting Doc on the bus and seeing her kids’ first day of school pictures online. She and I were pregnant together. She was carrying her second, and I was carrying my first. She and I worked together at the time, before we both left for other ventures. My leaving put four hours of driving between our homes, but it put no distance between our hearts.

She was the first person, besides my husband, who knew that Doc was coming. On Tuesdays, the small grocery store near our work made taco salads at their deli counter. On many Tuesdays, she or I or both of us would walk over to the store, pick up $5 taco salads, and bring them back to work for lunch. They were delicious, and I miss them. I miss her more, but that is different.

On that particular Tuesday, early in September, I thanked her for walking to the store before I was able to join her because if I did not eat soon, I was sure I would throw up. She said, “Are you pregnant?” And I said, “Maybe a little.” And she said, “Me too.”

We were due less than two weeks from each other, and having her there, going through it with me, was an irreplaceable experience. Since she was two weeks ahead, every single procedure was still fresh for her when it was my turn. We saw the same OB, we went to the same hospital, and she was a constant comfort. We worried together and we experienced together.

Her baby, a boy, came a little early. My baby, Doc, came a lot late. And our little ones ended up just shy of a month apart from each other.

Today, four hours distant from each other, they both started kindergarten. So before I pulled away from my home on my way to work this morning, I sent her that text. “How did we get here?”

How did we get here?

I do not want to wax philosophical about time slipping through our fingers. At the same time, how were taco salad Tuesdays so long ago that our babies are school aged?

This morning, Doc felt a brief surge of nerves. She was all excitement until today. She wants to read so badly, and her teacher is going to help her read. But there she was at the dining room table, eating breakfast with Saint Daddy, when she said, “My belly hurts. Can I lay down?”

She went to the couch, and I sat with her. I told her she was not sick, just nervous (a thought I have to tell myself nearly once a day). “What is the scariest thing about today?” Doc was scared of riding the bus because she did not know anyone who would be on it. She wanted to know if I could ride it with her. But I could not. She understood.

I reminded her that after the bus was her classroom, and her teacher is very nice. She will learn so many things and make new friends. Not only that, but her own BFFL is in her class, so she would be seeing her as well. And then, at the end of the day, instead of boarding the bus to head back home, I would be there waiting to drive her home and listen to every story she could muster up about her first day.

That last bit, about me being the one to pick her up, changed her completely. She glowed. She did not want to finish breakfast, but she did want to put on her uniform and have me braid her hair. She was ready for pictures on the front porch with the pretty sign I ordered from Etsy and the bus stop.

At the bus stop, she asked Saint Daddy to lean down so she could ask him a question. “Will you hold my hand for a little bit?”

Then, right on time, the bus came down the hill toward where we stood, the lights began to flash, it came to a stop, and our little Doc climbed on board. I kissed Saint Daddy, told him we did really good, went immediately to our family car, and drove to work, crying the whole way there.

I thought about Doc all day. I could not believe how long a day can feel when all you can think about is how your baby could be needing you and you do not know anything about it.

I left work and drove to her school to pick her up. One of my middle of the night, I will never sleep again panics was that Doc would not be there when I went to retrieve her. But she was. I had to pull out of the line while she was retrieved (cue the near hysterics), but she was there, and she was thrilled to see me.

She had a wonderful day. She learned the Spanish word for eye, which she swore is rojo but maybe I am right that it is not. And she missed her brothers terribly. She wanted to wake them up as soon as we walked in the door.

So, dear BFFL, I do not know how we got here. I may not ever understand time. But I do know this. At the end of the day, the things I will remember about today are:

  • Doc was so happy that I would pick her up at the end of the day that her nerves completely disappeared.
  • Doc really needed to hold Saint Daddy’s hand just a little while longer.
  • Doc’s face was pure joy when she saw me walking toward her in the school parking lot.
  • Doc shrieked her little girl sounds of happiness when her brothers crawled down the hall after their nap.

Our babies are somehow school aged, but they are still our babies.

I know I have many days ahead of me of wondering if Doc needs me without my knowing it. I know I am still destined to cry over the cruelty of time. I know I will continue to lose sleep over who she is and what she does and where she will go.

But I also know that today was a good day.

Anxiety usually means fruitless worrying over the future. It is unfair to the present, but it is inescapable for those who deal with it. I told Doc this morning as we walked to her bus stop hand-in-hand that the best way to conquer her fears is to experience the thing that scares her. For her, it was that first bus ride. When I asked her about it in the car this afternoon, she said, “I thought it would be as scary as the whole world, but it wasn’t. It wasn’t even as scary as my whole leg.”

I thought her first day of school would be as scary as the whole world, but it was not. It was only as scary as my whole leg.

Did I Love Her Enough?

I know that my first post should be about what brought me here in the first place, but I will come back to that later. Or maybe not. Maybe I am already there. That title up there? That is what brought me here today.

I asked myself that last night. It was shortly after midnight, I had been trying to sleep for a few hours, we had somewhere to be first thing in the morning, and I was thinking about my daughter.

She is five and kindergarten begins on Wednesday.

I know. This is trite. The pining, reflective mother thinking about her first born being ready for kindergarten. Everyone collectively roll your eyes. Is that out of your system? Great. We can begin together.

I remember the day she was born. Of course I do. How could I forget the most painful event in my life? I remember forty-two long weeks of pregnancy. I was trying to beat some famous pachyderms in regards to gestational fortitude. It was me against science back in 2013. Science won. Well, Pitocin won. Pitocin fought a hard battle. I bow down to Pitocin. I remember sitting with my husband in the summer of 2012 and saying, “No, really. I think we should have a baby.” And him saying, “Let’s do it!”

And I remember the day she was born. I remember holding her and thinking, “How, on Earth, am I officially responsible for this little person’s entire life? What am I supposed to do with her?” I remember late nights with this Timeline of a Breastfed Baby and thinking about each of the milestones she would reach. I would hold her to my breast and look at the two of us in the mirror hanging in her nursery, and I would will myself to imprint the image of the two of us in my memory as clearly and completely as possible. I wanted to absorb her tiny self, feel the weight of her, and protect her forever. I remember tears. Tears of frustration, tears of hopelessness, tears of joy. I cried for myself and my baby and for mothers everywhere. There is something that feels truly connecting about holding your firstborn child in your arms in the early morning hours. Billions of mothers have done it, and I was doing it too.

So, like billions of mothers, I am preparing to send that little soul off to kindergarten. She has been home for the last five years. Besides a single year of three day a week mornings at preschool, she has spent every day at home with my husband, a work from home dad and a saint. We are not Catholic, but I am sure that Francis himself would agree that my husband deserves canonization.

She is ready. I know that. She is stinking smart. Like, by the age of three, she had decided that her favorite constellation is Orion, her favorite dinosaur is a brachiosaurus, and her favorite parent is Momma. Poor Saint Daddy lost that one with our daughter.  She knows things that her ten year old cousin does not. She is so excited to learn how to read, and honestly, heaven help her unsuspecting teacher who will become another audience for the hours of stories she wants to tell every day. She is an empath. She feels what others feel. She wants to be a doctor, and I believe she has the focus and brain to do it, if that is the path that she still wants to be on in fifteen years’ time.

But I am not ready. I have stopped sleeping. I told Saint Daddy that I might never sleep again now that she is going to school. A few nights ago, I could not sleep because I realized that we had never really told her how to help prevent the spread of head lice. Truly, that was the thing that kept me up all night. Out of all of my possible concerns, I could not sleep because I never told her not to share hats with her friends. I tossed and turned. I considered waking her up at 2:37 am to tell her about head lice and how I could potentially have to cut her hair and bag up Tiana, her favorite doll, and it would be a nightmare, so please, I am begging you, never touch another child. Do not even look at another child. What would we do with lice in the house? Would I have to shave her baby brothers’ heads? Would I have to burn the house down?

In the morning, as she ate her generic marshmallow cereal, I told her about head lice. “Don’t share hats, hair clips, hair brushes, or pillows with your friends. You don’t want lice.” Sidenote: My word! I hope I do not give her my anxiety!

Last night, my concern, the thing that kept me up, was this question. This burning thought. Did I love her enough? Will that love be enough to sustain her in the years ahead? My brain keeps telling me that this is it. That kindergarten starting means that I have no more opportunities to show her my love. It is over now. I had my chance. So with that in mind, did I love her enough? Could she feel my love during those forty two weeks? Did the Pitocin mix with my blood and enter her veins filled with my love? Did she get it from my breasts as I read about her upcoming milestones? Every time I kissed a boo-boo, every time I washed her hair, every time I hugged her close, did she feel my love? Did I love her enough?

Now, I know it is ridiculous to think about kindergarten as the end of my opportunity to show her my love. But part of being the person who I am is being someone who knows her thoughts are ridiculous but feels them anyway.

I just hope I filled her to the brim with love during the last five years. I hope that love holds her when she sits on the bus for the first time surrounded by children she has never seen before. I hope it sustains her when she feels her first sting of rejection. I hope my love carries her through heartbreaks I have worked hard to guard her against while she was here with us alone for those first five years of her wonderful, beautiful, remarkable life.

And I know that I join billions of other mothers who have had that thought.