Tuesday, March 26, 2013

A Second Postpartum

I can still wreak havoc in this white jacket, Mom.

It's been three years since my husband and I have seen the upheaval particular to that of bringing home a bundle of joy.  In anywhere from 6 - 10 weeks (give or take some), we will see our sense of  "normal" fly out the door as we adjust to our new life as a family of five.

I thought I would sort out some thoughts here on how I plan, quite the laughable word when twins are part of the picture but whatever, to work through a second postpartum season.

Things I WON'T be doing:

1. Swearing off pacifiers.  You would have thought these things were nuclear weapons when Thomas was born.  I was terrified of nipple confusion.  With the twins, I have all kinds of resources at an arm's reach for a little bit of just in case and a whole lot of flexibility.

2. Denying help. My first go at this, I envisioned coming home with a baby and being so capable that anyone at home would have compromised my sense of space and my chance to do it on my own.  These instincts didn't betray me.  I did reap benefits from attempting a heck of independence, but the reality was that I did need help in ways I didn't foresee.  My c-section sent me in a tailspin of a tinge of postpartum depression and an inability to nurse.  I won't pretend this time to know exactly how or when I'll need the help or even who is willing to do so, but I'll humbly accept any sweet soul who is equal parts kind and brave enough to ask, "You need a hand?"  I'm so grateful for the family and friends who helped out in big ways after Thomas was born, and I cringe to think of being unwelcome to those close to me who wanted to help even more but could sense I was closed off to the idea. 

3. Tackling nighttime feeding on my own.  Again, there was some sound logic in me approaching the night on my own this last time: a) my husband's performance at work is of high priority and b)it didn't make much sense for me to complain about feeding at night when I had the daytime to get some sleep.  The problem here is that a mother can get in a situation where she is so worn down and fatigued, that those bursts of brief and interrupted sleep, no matter how many caught throughout the day, just do not cut it.  I know I got there with Thomas, and I can't afford to get there with three boys to take care of the next day.  I also think that, while respecting one's spouse is important, conversations about appropriate changes in priorities, values, and demands of mother can be difficult to have when the husband hasn't had a taste whatsoever of REM cycles being torn to shreds for days on end.  *I won't share yet what exactly I'm hoping to get from my husband in terms of help because that seems like a recipe for disaster and also because our 1st serious conversation about this ended with Paul saying, "Yeah. I hope I wake up." So there's that.

Things I WILL be doing:

1. NOTHING! No. I know.  Taking care of babies and a three year is a ton. It's a lot.  It's a lot of something.  You're right! But what I mean is all the other stuff.  One day, weeks after Thomas was born I confided in my mom the terror that I was getting "nothing" done.  Her answer was a relief but it took a stupidly long time to sink in. "Yeah, you won't get anything done for a while and that's okay.  Before you know it, you will be...when it's time."  My productive self was frantic to be working on "work"---something quantifiable, visible, valuable to people living outside my home.  This time, I'm going in as a friend of Nothing.  Anything extra will be an unexpected bonus.

2. Laughing.  Earlier tonight, after three times in a row of Thomas pooping in the toilet in the past 72 hours and being so proud of himself, he pooped in his underwear.  No big deal.  I cleaned him up and was carrying the wipes and the underwear to the trash can and was just figuring out the logistics of disposal when plop, the turd I thought was secure in the hammock o' undies escaped and made a landing on my hardwood floor. I stopped, tilted my head, and laughed loudly for a long time.  You deal with a lot of poop (only I'm thinking of the word that starts with "sh" and ends with "it") when you are parenting.  Sometimes, your best coping mechanism is to laugh before you have to get down on your hands and knees and deal.  

3. Capturing the moment.  I don't know exactly how this will look.  Photos. Videos.  Blog posts shorter than my pinky.  All the staring into eyes and letting little hands curl around my finger are wonderful and sacred and beautiful because they're captured in a mommy's heart in a very, very special way.  But, I'm sad to say, some of these things can fade out too in the sifting sands of time.  We think I will never forget his ....or I won't ever forget how this feels when... but we do.  The fatigue of the first few months can play tricks on our minds.  Having pieces of memories solidified in video, the written word, and photos are such a blessing later when we are so busy with life those deeply cherished memories of late night feedings and little boys in their 1st bathing trunks seem buried beyond reach. 

4. Eating from the freezer. How it was possible for me to have such a love affair for cooking and yet miss the mark so greatly on food prep with my 1st baby astounds me to this day.  When we came home from the hospital Paul, after giving Thomas a tour of the place, got in the car, went to the grocery store, and bought a lot of food.  Because I'm pretty sure we had a conversation that went something like this: 

ME: "Um.  Can you like go to the store and just get a lot of easy to cook food?
PAUL: [Husband who does the grocery shopping on average of 1 out of 10 trips]  "Sure. No problem."

WHHHHHHAAAAAAAAAATTTT were we thinking???!!! No, Thomas was not an early birth.  Yes, we were on a budget AND knew how to cook AND hate processed store-bought foods.  Whatever. Sometimes in life we can just be really, really dumb, and my overconfidence that I would come home post birth and be whipping up homemade meals in no time would be a perfect illustration of that.  

 * * * * * * * *

What's on your list of DOs and DON'Ts for postpartum?  What are your best tips for surviving the season of tiny toes and little sleep? I would love to hear your advice!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Reality of Twins

I killed time in between doctor appointments pounding away at the pages of one of my riveting twin books. I've decided a new approach for the homework of reading books on multiples I've ladled out for myself: divide, conquer, and shoost those suckers into the closest library deposit slot as quickly as possible because I'm kind of tired of breaking out in sweats from perusing non-fiction.

These books are one part rest-assured and nine parts crap-your-pants.  I honestly feel like I've crammed for an exam.  Baby weight numbers and when feedings can be stretched to three hours.  Tandem feed holdings.  Must have items for nursing.  Witty comebacks for cliche questions people will likely be asking (and most of them I've already heard).  How to ask, beg, and direct people for help.  The four different approaches to nighttime feedings with a spouse.  Pregnancy weight gain projections.  Averages for gestation.  NICU know how. Symptoms of post partum depression. All the reasons why you've chosen the wrong names for your twins.  It's quite enjoyable.

Seeing as we all have a little crazy in us...  [Wait, you don't?]... I find myself reading within these books personal testimonies of women you have lost themselves somewhere amid the finances, fatigue, or feeding of twins and I think to myself, "Oh, but I'll pull this off.  I'll think logically.  I won't need an intervention."  And turn the page and read on I do.  And yes, I get frantic over all there is to do and know and prepare my home and heart for, and yet the crazy part of me is excited for the challenge.

And I say crazy part because I've got the credibility to say so about myself.  Tonight, I came home with my son and weathered the storm of a boy who is sick and would like nothing better than test his vocal cords' ability to produce whiny, high-pitched indecipherable noises.  I gritted my teeth when he accidentally spilled the sugar cinnamon   I reassured him when he pooped in his diaper.  I took a deep breath, literally three minutes later, when he tip toed suspiciously into the hearth room and admitted, "Mommy, my poop fell in the closet." And I whipped up dinner quickly so that I could cuddle him on the couch for some much needed read-with-mommy time.

I kept my cool until dinner.  Interrupted in what I've waited all day to do, talk to Paul, by Thomas terribly distraught over not finding his "utter boo" (which is some interesting way of naming a toy weapon), I pull a fake smile and my eyes widen across the table from my handsome husband as I tell him, "it's your turn."  I may have added some melodramatic maxim like I've hit my limit or I can't go over there.  Essentially, some kind of concept of me hitting my head against a wall.

The reality of twins is something a book will only marginally prepare me.  If my good sense serves me right, my wall of I-can't-take-any-more will have no choice but to be torn down and rebuilt farther down the road over and over again.  But just as my patience and love for Thomas wasn't overnight, neither will my ability to gracefully whisk two newborns to my chest sans help, complaining, cursing, or tears.

Too bad for that.  Books 1, 2, 3 & 4 of Run & Hide: You're Having Twins make one thing very clear.  I don't have time to allow for gradual, incremental additions to my bounty of love and ability.

These babies are coming, and for the 1st month, the most critical, their mission is to leach on to take, take, and kill.  Or so I've read.

Stay tuned.  It's gonna get real up in here.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Holding Hands

I won't apologize for the sentimentality today.  I'm jet lagged. I'm stressed. I'm overwhelmed. And I'm anxious about the amount of weeks left to prepare for the twins which, when you figure in possible bedrest and/or early labor, is something like five weeks (maybe) and that just sounds like negative three weeks to me.  But I've also reached that point in pregnancy where the fatigue is matched by a weepiness at all things lovely too.

So there's this. A look at what it feels like to reconnect with your best friend. Bliss namely.

And while I was bursting at the seams just a few days ago with insightful points to share with you about vacationing and all the experiences within... well, I can't seem to see much beyond my fatigue and pregnancy brain. 

And all that seems to matter after a vacation absolutely 100% packed to the brim with good things is that I'm most happy for the chance to bond with Paul.  We drove through L.A. and jammed to our theme song selected for the city of fame and insane drivers, Imagine Dragons' Radioactive, after it had played multiple times on the radio during our short stay.  We slipped off our sandals and walked hand in hand across Santa Barbara's beach and just when the needle for our meter o' romance was swinging toward max capacity... we found our dismount off the beach and across grass with our bare feet afforded us a lesson in how to scrub tar off your foot with a dish towel, a bar of soap, and some fierce determination.  We ate uninterrupted.  We talked about anything and everything we cared to.  We made plans.  We collected inside jokes and impersonated our own ridiculousness, reshaping our sense of taking ourselves not so seriously around each other.  And Paul surely fell in love with me when, as we walked across the Golden Gate Bridge, some mystery nickel hit my butt at a frightening speed and I burst into tears for the inteenth time during our vacation. Yes, I've got the bruise to prove it.  

I felt immeasurably closer to Paul as we landed in STL than I did when we were taking off just a week prior.  But hours later we were already grappling with reality rather than the romance of a blissful trek up the coast of California. All thanks to the ever anxiety inducing twin books I'm making my way through, we found ourselves in the car on the way home arguing about why we were arguing about something we weren't quite sure was what it was.  And if that sentence was confusing for you, just imagine being in the conversation.  Talking about scheduling help for the time after the twins are born---you would have thought we were trying to negotiate a peace treaty between two hostile nations of which we had never been to or met. Just in case you were wondering what it feels like to prep for twins.  Or read books which tell you how to prep for twins.  

But I'm just fine with reality, whatever that might be.  Illogical arguments fueled by fatigue? I have a feeling that won't be the last one Paul and I will be having this year, as much as it pains me to admit it.

I'm just so very glad that above the most majestic views and mind-blowing food and fancy upgraded Hilton hotel rooms, my heart is happiest when it is closest to my husband's.  I love and respect him very much.  It saddens me that there have ever been times I've become so busy, distracted, selfish, or disillusioned to not know and feel deeply his great character, masculinity, selflessness and unconditional, supportive love for me. There have been and maybe there will be more moments of fogginess up ahead. Crazy, right? Well, it's true. It's life.  We wonder how we are going to really love this person forever because that's a lot of work amid a lot of factors that just aren't promised to us when we put those rings on each other's fingers.  And somehow, sometimes we allow our struggles to serve as a wedge between us rather than a bridge to cross.  It shouldn't ever be that way, but we are human, and we might find we're not quite sure how to unravel our resentment, disappointment, or broken dreams to see what we saw at first: a person worthy of a whole life's worth of commitment.

This is how marriages die. Some intact.  Some formally divided.  We find ourselves unsure of how to ever get back to what it was, that magic that astounded us, that captured our hearts and made us want to run off into the sunset hand in hand.

The great realization we should all have---we don't want to go back.  The vocation of marriage requires a heartbreaking amount of vulnerability, leaving us grasping for breath when we feel wronged.  But it's that very vulnerability which allows for, eventually, someone to know and understand and help us in ways unimaginable at the onset. And once you've gotten there, impossibilities shatter.  What we have is something greater than our own measures put together.  Our interdependence multiplies our harvest exponentially.

So what is it that helps two weathered souls connect? Dare I suggest it is simply in the act of holding hands. Something there says it all.  It says: you, me, and "this" works (whatever good, bad, or ugly thing "this" is at the moment).  And the magic of holding hands doesn't need to be on a beach or at a historic landmark. As for me, I plan on grabbing Paul's hand a lot more this year--when I'm scared and unsure, when I want him to know it's us in this together, and when I just want to remember that we fit together and that is one wild and precious gift.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Getting Away

Paul and I are on vacation in California this week. So far, I have fulfilled any stereotype one might have about a pregnant Momma on the loose.  I burst into tears of anger at the obnoxious interruptions of the voice command in our rental car.  I’ve visited the bathroom no less than one thousand times.  I’ve gushed to any stranger who would listen that I’m carrying twins.  But my most notable prego moment was my winning performance as a caring mommy so concerned with her son she considered, for a moment, knocking over a Delta stewardess and jumping out of a plane.

Said stewardess, in her blue skirt suit and red tie, stepped up to the curtained frame of first-class- ends-here and mustered formality.  As the announcer methodically droned about our options for potential exiting of the plane, the stewardess stared forward and motioned twice for each designated area where chaos would funnel should my worst fears come true.

As a first time flyer, I absorbedly munched on nacho flavored Pop Chips, and tried my best to ignore that response which was, like the release of a drugged i.v., slowly coursing its way through my veins.  Around me, passengers situated and calm.  Inside me, a numb feeling crawling.  And then she pulled out the bleeping yellow oxygen mask and a wave of panic hit me.

I looked to my left, out the tiny airplane window and felt the tears emerge.  I closed my eyes and thought of Thomas’s face.  California and Missouri.  Too much space between those two.  The impending separation of me and my son reared its ugly head and there was the pavement moving under my constricting window view. Tears fell like rain.

We started floating backward. I wanted to flee but gripped the arms of my chair and my heart screamed silent angst at the thought of me so far removed from my son’s kisses and hugs. My chest froze at the handicap of not reaching him in the unfortunate chance of sickness or emergency.

Paul discovered my crying and reassured me. I, as is my style when in a state of fear, could only respond to his questions about why I was crying with a dumb silence.  When he figured it out and said, “He’s going to be just fine. We’re going to be safe. Your parents are going to take great care of him,” I really lost it.  I accepted Paul’s hand in mine and breathed deeply as we raced into the runway for takeoff.  We lifted and I lost my breath.  As we ascended into the clouds, my appreciation for all this beauty below was mixed with slivers of apprehension for leaving Thomas behind.

It is a very good thing to get away.  In less than four months, I will be altogether tethered to Missouri, in my home, with three boys stripping me of my sanity. I’ll be pushed to tears not because of an overwhelming attachment to them but rather because of a very real need to be detached just long enough to get a shower without fear Thomas will bang a toy into one of the twins’ heads or that any one of my three boys will greet me post shower with a poo so epic and uncontained my shower will be rendered pointless.

Taking a vacation is about filling our cup with happy memories.  There is a sense of fueling up on good to last us through the mundane and the difficult.  But it’s a lot more than that too.  It’s a separation that allows us to see new, question more, and daydream about painting bold strikes of colors into our lives when we return.

Paul and I are on day #5 of our long anticipated vacation, and I’m coming to see our time away as much more than just really enjoyable.  I’ve stared into a soul-wrenching painting of Mary Magdalene and felt her agony.  I’ve mused at the waves which crash on the coast off Highway 1.  I’ve sat across the table from Paul and been simply, fully present.  I’ve let the questions which start with “why” to take up residence, front and center, in my mind.

Sure, we don’t need to abandon our children and jet set across the country when we’re feeling the hankering to regroup.  Most of us, on most of our days, need to just remember to jet set across the house to fish out some chocolate from the back of the kitchen drawer from goodness knows whatever holiday last came around in a maneuver to avoid screaming at the kids, “Why is it you people poop so much!!!”

And that’s all good and great that we have liberties to imagine ourselves into an adventure, to frame up our happiness and hold it high, to dip our toes into the six inches of our toddler’s $10 plastic pool in the backyard and proclaim, “Hey, this is our beach, kids. Soak it up!”

But for all the out of country trips and late night work sessions Paul busted out to help us earn hotel and flight points—hallelujah! For all the days which built into months which turned into years that’ve somehow magically brought two stubborn and sensitive individuals immeasurably close together to make this trip all the sweeter —hallelujah! And for the three year old boy in his version of heaven at Nana and Papa’s house who couldn’t care less if Mommy & Daddy [or his brudders] are ever coming back—hallelujah!  Today, I walk a real beach.

View at our current stay--a Double Tree in Santa Barbara

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Five Favorites [vol. 1]

So a link-up for simply five of my favorite things? Yes! I'm needing a post with barely detectable levels of exerted brain power. I'm in!

Favorite Product

After a little freak out session over impending stretch marks, a Facebook friend suggested Bio-Oil.  I rushed out and laid out my cash, ever grateful to ease my anxieties.  Even though I'm not yet credible to pose as a Bio-Oil poster child, I will go ahead and declare a love for the stuff! Rubbing the oil over my body is helping me accept my figure, day by day.  Also, I've used the time it takes to rub my tummy as a moment of prayer for my two sons, keeping my perspective in check that, regardless of my body's appearance, it's a joyous miracle that I get to carry two souls inside me each day.  This stuff feels great and makes me feel beautiful too--which is quite remarkable considering my ho-hum bodily woes as of late.

Favorite Current Read

I remembered about a week ago that this book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, was on my Kindle.  I feel like I need to go to a 7 Habits meeting wherein I stand up, state my name, and speak of the recovery process from having not read the book for 28 years of my life.   I'm an odd creature.  I must read about something to really be sold on it, I must read something to really understand and believe.  This book could not have landed in my life a day too soon, considering the big adventure of twinning up ahead! This book has truly revolutionized the way I think of myself, my friends and family, and everything from the big picture and where I want to be at the end of my life to the tiny details of each day. Have you read it?

Favorite New App

My husband shared an app with me this past weekend.  Wunderlist! It's a place for me to store all kinds of lists and that's just wunderful because I'm very list-oriented and have been in list hyper speed lately.  My husband and I have shared lists and tasks, making our day to day decision making a bit less hectic or stressful since there's no need to talk more than once about the priority or scheduling of a project or task.  The app is free. Check it out!

Favorite Drink

My lovely friend, Jodee, hipped me to the mango smoothie at Panera.  It's sheer bliss in a cup.  Pureed mango.  Raspberry drizzle. Pink straw. What more could I want?! I've only ever had two, but I'm determined to start making a copycat at home.  In the meantime, I'm trying my best to avert my eyes at the all alluring Panera sign.

Favorite Bedtime
Right now.

*Wow, I couldn't even muster up enough energy for my 1st Five Favorites. You can even see me fizzling out at 4... thinking of my bed and pillows and closing my eyelids... That's good. I've set the bar low.  Can't wow you all at once.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

It's Not Okay...

That I just woke up at 12:30 am and decided to have a bowl of cereal.

That my son tonight, with me in the very same room, decided to zip in the closet for a quick pee on the wood floor.

That my husband is in Connecticut just days before our delayed honeymoon to California, leaving me here to wake up at midnight with irrational fears like:

What if we don't have cash to pay a cab? Will my sister know to call us if something spills on the new couch? Are we going to lose something in one of the several hotels we're staying? Will I have room to read on the plane? Will my Kindle work on the plane? Will I have time to both catch a nap on the plane and finish a book before we land??? Will I???

That I'm just now doing laundry for the trip wherein I'm fearing losing something which hasn't even been packet yet.

That students begged, scoffed, and inched their way toward burning me at the stake for not providing them late work to do two days before I'm submitting quarter grades. Well, really it's just not okay that I didn't let myself laugh out loud at their request.... because, um, yeah, that's totally ridiculous!

That a bright orange sign on my front door welcomed me home yesterday and scrawled on it, by an apparently worried City Utilities representative, a need for me to schedule an appointment because, and I'm not making this up: "NEED ACTUAL READING ON ELECTRIC METER, PLEASE."  What was out there? Some of those symbols you find on a gambling machine? Cherry, cherry, grapes. Shoot. Try again!

That I'm writing a blog post at this time. And from what I've observed, with no useful, eloquent, or sound reason.

That I feel like a beached whale at t-minus one day of being 23 weeks pregnant.  Isn't that feeling reserved for the 9th month?  I feel like I need to call ahead to my stomach to make a reservation for the food I'm about to send down.  One banana headed your way. Make room!

That I am confused about feeling like a beached whale when I've just admitted quite publicly my questionable practice of eating cereal amid sleeping.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Stretch Marks

Yesterday morning I woke up and recalled the three dreams I had during the night.  In one, Thomas, in a notably miraculous fashion, informed us that he needed to poop and wanted to do so in the potty.  So, that dream was basically like parenting Heaven and I smiled at the thought of Thomas, in the next decade or so, not announcing his poop victories in a post-feat manner.  In another dream, my family [mom, dad, and siblings] started to drift away from the Catholic Church and entertained attending a non-denominational parish.  I found this dream uncomfortable for me to wrap my early morning mind around, so I continued my dream roll call as I put on clothes in the dark, laboring over whatever elastic material lay victim to my senseless groping at the floor.  Then I remembered the nightmare wherein it was this very morning and wherein I had looked down at my belly and saw my flesh riddled with stretch marks in every direction. My jaw dropped and then my face turned upside down at the thought.

Here's the photo we took yesterday morning for hitting 22 weeks. One of the photos.  I quibbled with Paul over positioning during five takes and then begged to take another photo, one last photo [this one], where I didn't look miserable.


Thomas's arrival brought on plenty of difficult, but my body was more or less the same minus two things.  A c-section scar so low, light, and thin I will forget about it for sometimes one or two weeks at a time.  And then this collection of teeny tiny stretch marks so faint around my belly button they're worn more as a token of pride than anything else, something any sensible mom doesn't mind having as part of her motherhood story, especially as a stamp of the one particular kiddo who helped her earn it.

But let me get something straight.  There is no sentimentality or symbolism on this blessed Earth that is going to make me happy to look into the mirror one day and see highways of red running their way across my skin.

I talked to my friend, Angie, yesterday about my fears.  As we talked more and more about it, the air left my chest. I about doubled over from the sensation of being trapped inside a treasure chest of pregnancy horror.  Right before hyperventilation set in, the bell rang for class.

And do I have more important things to be worrying about? You bet your skinny self I do! With the twins due to make their arrival in no less than 14 weeks [hospital's policy to induce at 36 weeks], I've got a whole host of things which trump the I-might-not-get-to-wear-a-two-piece-after-this card.

To name a few...

I've got to solve what will be the most complicated math problem since whatever I did in that Algebra class my freshmen year in college: car seat configuration for two babes and a toddler in what clearly isn't a Suburan or a van or anything, ya know, spacious because we're stubborn about not spending money on cars like that.

I've also got an epic level of nesting going on in the house at the moment.  Paul worked from home yesterday to welcome a small truckload of furniture into our abode.  And now Paul and I are up to our happy eyeballs in even more plans for a little flare and jazz here and there throughout our house. And who wouldn't be? We've envisioned me hunkering down for like forever and then a few days after the twins are born.

I've become unproductively obsessed with making and freezing meals for after said time when babies are born. So there's that. There's other sorts of lists too: consignment sale lists and diaper research/buying lists and delayed honeymoon lists.  We're like list making machines over here.

And I have to figure out how to peacefully prepare for equal chances V-bac and C-section.  [Btw, that can about make a woman go crazy right there.]

Oh, and to top it off, I've been writing my personal mission statement this week.  And nowhere in there do I get an allowance for vanity freak outs.  There isn't some kind of you may pass go and collect $200 for selfish moments where I'm more concerned about the color of my skin than whether or not I've eaten enough  protein to successfully encourage growth in my two very littles.

Thomas watched the boys on their latest kick and punch tour of my womb two nights ago and said, "Look, Mommy. My brudders are coming out of your belly." and then reeled back with two eyes wide open as if they were in fact collectively cracking the shell of an egg of which I happened to have been hosting atop my personage.

So there you have it.  Even my three year old son is lucidly aware of the horror.