Archive for November 2010

Forget more sleep, I just need more arms...

The twins are four weeks old today and three days shy of a month old, but I'm still going to use the phrase, "When the twins were little," in this post. Here goes.

When the twins were little, i.e., a few days old, feeling like I was treating them fairly was really easy. They'd wake up, I'd feed them both, change them both, and put them back to bed. We were lucky if either boy opened his eyes for more than a few seconds during all of this.

(Just a note, now: This post will be shorter than the last one because I need to do some house-stuff and the boys are starting to fuss themselves awake.)

Anyway, time (okay, days) passed and they started to keep their eyes open more. We went through one or two days of a lot of fussing at nap time before I realized, "Oh, wait, they're crying because they're bored." My sons were ready to join the world! For like, twenty minutes after eating, anyway.

Now we're at the four-week mark and their awake-time seems to be about thirty minutes after being fed and changed, give or take ten minutes before they start yawning and getting cranky. And they like to look at toys or faces and get quiet and wide-eyed when people tickle them or talk to them. Also, they like when they're held and get to be walked around the apartment.

Also, tummy time is pretty nice, for like, five minutes. Sam can roll over from his tummy to his back already (yay for being four months ahead of the game!) and Theo seems less interested in moving; he just likes to stare, still. But then I'm trying to avoid flat heads and at the same time, don't have enough arms to carry both of them comfortably around the apartment. So they still end up spending some time on their backs, on a blanket (they still don't like swings or bouncers).

In a way, I'm okay with that when they're being played with. But here's where my desire to have more arms comes in: I'm starting to suffer from Mommy Guilt.

I remember being about thirteen or fourteen when my mom announced to me, at the start of a fall shopping trip, "We're not going to try to get all the kids an equal number of gifts for Christmas this year. I've decided we were focusing too much on trying to be fair and that's not the most important thing."

Well, I want to be fair. And sometimes I can't be. Sometimes, I shouldn't be. And that's hard.

If Theo got my attention for five minutes, I want Sam to have it for an equal amount of time. If I carried Sam around and talked to him, I want to do the exact same thing for Theo. And it took all of a few hours to realize that it's just not possible.

So I have to pray against the guilt and just deal with it, because "fair" isn't the ultimate goal in life. "Fair" isn't what I really want to be teaching them. I want them to get attention, yes, and I want them to get lots of it from me. If one boy is wide-eyed and needs some play-time or to be held, giving him that attention is great! But if his brother is yawning and getting fussy and really just needs sleep, it's not right for me to keep him awake and deny him that for the sake of "fairness" -- and, more unjustly for him, to make me feel better.

I'll just keep working on balancing that, but I gotta go. I have two boys to feed. :)

So much for that last post...

...all that writing about discipline and I haven't posted since February. :) But now I'm even more determined to write semi-regularly, at least. Maybe if I write frequently enough I can weed out my bad habit of punctuating nearly everything with emoticons.

What's my life look like nine months later? Well, it's got more children in it, and less sleep. If you're reading this, you probably know me well enough to know that I've had twins since I wrote the last post, but I'll announce it like it's news anyway. Two days after writing that last post, I found out I was pregnant and then another seven weeks after that I found out I was having twins. Ten more weeks went by and then we were told it was twin boys. Then three weeks ago, I had them.

I love them to pieces. We named them Théoden and Samuel, but they go by Theo and Sam (or bug or bear or fussbucket or any other host of fond nicknames).

Theo is on the left and Sam is on the right. We're pretty sure they're fraternal and I'm confident in my ability to tell them apart without any aids (like fingernail polish or, in our case, an orange Cowboy-and-Horse SillyBand on Sam's ankle, courtesy of Aunt Ania; we had blue fingernail polish that was donated by a kind friend, but Adam about had a meltdown when I mentioned painting one of our boys' toenails).

But they look very different to me, now, and several other people, so Sam's SillyBand is now on my wrist and we're winging it. So far, we only get them mixed up occasionally for a second or two when we're super-tired, and that seems to be more a case of mixing up the names than the actual babies (i.e., "Does Sam need a diaper change? Wait, I meant Theo.")

That's pretty much what's happening in my life right now, along with trying to keep up with my mild to-do list and breastfeed two very hungry, very noisy little boys every two and a half hours (sometimes three hours!).

My mom suggested I start blogging again when I mentioned the desire (need) to keep writing but expressed my doubt about tackling NaNoWriMo right now ( and this is the first year in six years or so that I haven't at least TRIED to start something by the first week of November). "Blog about being a mom," my mom said, "you read enough mom-blogs; write your own!"

So, yes, this is turning into a mom-blog. And in my first official mom-blog post I'll share some things that I've learned since becoming a mom (that's SO WEIRD to type). I'll make some lists and elaborate on some things, not so much on others. Even in list-form this might get a bit disorganized and this post is going to be nearly forever long. That's okay. At least I'm writing.

Things That Surprised Me About Labor and Beyond:

1. After hearing lots of people tell me that labor was hard and exhausting and draining and that only those "super-people" could do anything right afterward, I was expecting to feel, well, exhausted and drained after giving birth and to not want to move or do anything for a bit. But when the nurse told me I could get up about forty minutes after labor, and that I could take a shower after about an hour, I nearly leapt out of bed. I felt so ready to be on my feet again. Before you start hating me, though, I'll add that I felt queasy and ready to lay back down after about three minutes. But I was ready to be mobile right after giving birth and never felt like I couldn't get up and do stuff.

2. For some reason, I thought I would feel completely different after having kids. I'm not sure why. Maybe this was residual and attached to ideas my younger self had about mom-hood. In particular, the ideas in which my nine-year-old self imagined that when I became a mom I'd instantly be taller and have long, straight blonde hair like moms in 1990s Disney movies. I ALWAYS pictured myself looking like this when I had kids, until I realized around age 11 that it was highly unlikely my hair would change that much.

Perhaps the change I anticipated was a mental and emotional version of this; I just expected to feel completely and totally different. And I didn't. It wasn't really disappointing, though. It was actually reassuring. I remember thinking sometime during the second day in the hospital, "Hey, I'm," and I liked that feeling. I love, love, love my boys and rather than feel like childbirth completely changed me, I feel more like I've just always had my twins around. I've never been nervous holding either of the twins and it feels like I've been handling newborns for a lot longer than three weeks.

3. When I was five, I started praying for identical twin boys. When I was dating Adam, I warned him about this. When I got pregnant, Adam was convinced it was twins while I was only hopeful (desperately hopeful!). When I found out it was twins, I knew Adam really wanted daughters, so I started hoping it would be boy/girl twins for his sake. We even picked out boy/girl names. My mother-in-law (and some others) kept telling me that if it was twins, it was going to be boys, because that's what I'd prayed for, right? And they were right. (Adam, to his credit, was super, super excited about the fact that we were having two boys.)

So, when we knew that it was twin boys, I just sort of assumed (and clung to) the idea that they were identical. I even had some dreams about it (and my dreams about children have been God-inspired spot-on in more than one instance). Medically, we didn't have any proof either direction. And then they were born and we couldn't tell them apart except for their hospital bands...until about nine hours after birth, when we noticed their ears were a little different. And their hairlines and hair color, and their face shapes. And so on and so on, until they looked totally different to me.

And you know what? I wasn't disappointed at all. I had a moment about a week ago when I looked down at both of them and was just so very happy that they looked so different, not because it was easier for me but because I'm looking forward to all those differences and watching them grow up as two definitely separate people. When God answered my prayer, He knew better than I did which parts were good to say yes to and which parts required a gentle, "No, here, this instead is good."

4. Confession: Of all the things I worried about during pregnancy (listeria from lunchmeat! salmonella from eggs! heart rates! fetal movement! nutrition!), there was one thing that actually terrified me. I feel like, for the most part, I was pretty good about handing things over to God and leaving worry behind. But one thing pestered me even when I prayed about it.
I was absolutely, totally, shaking-in-my-socks terrified about postpartum depression. I'd read blog entries about it (positive ones, about coping, even!), I'd read about it in pregnancy books, I heard people talk about it, but those were only reminders that it was a scary thing.

The real reason I was terrified was because I remember (I remember it in my bones, at the back of my mind, in so many scars) what it feels like to be really and truly depressed. I remember what that chasm feels like when you're stuck in it; I remember what the darkness looks like and how it clouds your thoughts and sets your teeth on edge and sucks the life, the energy, the strength from your limbs.

Oh, I remember. I've been there.

And I tried not to think about it. But when that first wave of darkness shook me in the hospital, when I was sitting on the edge of the bed holding a sweet baby boy and talking to a visitor, I grew quiet. I tried to ignore it. But it wouldn't go away. For those of you who haven't been there and don't know, when you're facing the prospect of depression after getting through it once (or twice, or three times), being overwhelmed with it again is sort of like this: It's like that scary moment when you fall backwards and feel like someone isn't going to catch you, mixed with sliding down, like you were doing that trust-fall game but no one is behind you and then you hit the ground and it knocks the breath out of you, and before you can breathe again, you're going down the biggest slide on the playground backwards with no way to slow yourself or catch yourself at the bottom.

Yeah, that's kinda what it feels like. Kinda.

Anyway, I felt like I was on the edge of that, teetering on the slide part, and I kept pushing it away but it wouldn't leave. I read a Psalm, almost at random and sort of frantically, because I knew that the Word of God was one of the only things that could actually hold it at bay (can I get an Amen?). The visitor left (I honestly don't even remember who it was, I was so preoccupied), and I immediately did the one thing I had promised myself I would do: tell Adam.

My biggest mistake before, when I was dealing with depression, was never talking to anyone about it. And so I was determined to be super-vigilant about it this time, and tell Adam every time I felt so much as a twinge of just "downness." And he gave me a hug (or two, or three) and prayed with me for a minute and encouraged me to take a nap, and you know what?

It helped. I woke up and didn't feel that same panicky "nearly lost"-ness. And the next time I felt it, I did the same thing: I read some of the Psalms, I told Adam, I cuddled for a few minutes, I took a nap.

And it didn't get worse. It got better. Every time I started to think I was perched backward on the peak of that nasty playground slide again, it was less time than it was before. There was one really rough night when I pretty much sobbed into Adam's shirt and babbled fairly incoherently about how scared I was of being "there" again, but even after just crying for a few minutes, I felt better.

God's been really good and it hasn't been nearly as bad as I was afraid it would be. He's protected me from a lot and He's helped me really apply a lot of what I learned about prevention the last time I was recovering from really severe depression. It's only been three weeks and I've already gotten to the point where I feel a momentary twinge of that "top of the slide" feeling every few days, if I'm really tired, but for the most part, I'm just actually and honestly doing really well. God is my rock, He really is, and Adam has helped so much.

5. This whole list could have been like a month's worth of different posts. Oh, well.

6. Does it take longer for me to do stuff around the house? Yes. Am I more tired than before? Yes. Is the prospect of making dinner or doing dishes overwhelming? Nope, not really. Not in and of themselves. What's overwhelming is if I expect too much of myself on any given day; and I usually have to set the bar a bit lower than before. But life goes on; babies are a wonderful addition to our family, they aren't the whole of our family. I've been surprised by what wears me out, but more surprised by what doesn't. Also, facebook is far more detrimental to my to-do list than taking care of Theo and Sam. Sometimes, I have to make myself nap, though, instead of plowing through the stuff I feel like I should do. But the things I need to do, like, you know, making dinner for me and my husband, feel pretty normal (i.e., life before twins) unless it's just been a really rough day.

7. Patience. I expected to not have as much of it, really. I like to hope I'm a fairly patient person during the day, but I know me and I know that one of my weaknesses is that I like sleep a lot. Part of this is because I have this terrible habit of waiting until I'm absolutely, totally dead on my feet before I lay down (and this was before I had kids), and then I really, really don't want to wake up for a long time. And if someone tries to wake me up, I can be a serious grouch about it. I've said some of the nastiest stuff to Sarah DeRoos, Adam, my parents, and siblings (and some other friends) while they were trying to wake me up. So I was afraid I'd be really short-tempered with my boys now that they're in the "wake up every two hours" phase of life.

I'm less short-tempered than I thought I'd be. Note, I'm not perfect; there are still times when I want to cry because I'm so tired and frustrated because I have to be awake (not the same as depression crying, though, not by a long-shot). More than once I've rolled over in bed after a just-fed boy fusses loudly nearby and moaned to Adam, "What's wrong with him? Why can't he just sleep?"

But there's seriously something amazing about the same hormones that threatened to drag me back into depression. I can be half-awake, on the verge of tears, ready to throw a glass of water or a book or anything with some crunch to it and...I glance down at a whimpering boy who really doesn't want to be cleaned with a cold wipe while I'm changing his diaper, or stare into the also half-asleep face of my tiny son while he makes contented you're-finally-feeding-me noises and I'm all like, "Oh, Sam-bug, I love you *hughughug*" or "Oh, Theo-bear, only a minute longer, buddy, we're almost done with this diaper-changing thing," and part of my brain is like, "How do they do that to you? Is it because they let you pick out all their clothes?"

No, it's because they're my sons. And while the following is not always true (sometimes I'm still mean or thoughtless), they even make me nicer to Adam sometimes, and I'm like, "I'm sorry you're so tired, here, just go back to bed, I love you, I'll make you cookies soon."

Hormones are weird but God is using them despite myself. Lots of things are hard right now and I think I'll cry for joy the first time I sleep for like, four whole hours at once, even, but sometimes, they aren't as hard as I thought they'd be and I'm not always the monster I could be.

8. I definitely married the right man. I even told him earlier tonight, "I loved and respected you before, but you've been seriously impressing me since the hospital."

And he has been. When I start to fall apart, he's always ready to pray with me, calm me down, promise me that it's not going to be forever. He's given so many hugs, changed so many diapers, done so many dishes, and gone to school and finished projects and graduate assistantship work on top of all that. Then he still manages to come home and give me more hugs and assurance and cuddle his boys. I don't know how he does it. He loves his family in such an evident way; I'm so blessed.

9. My mom is a texting beast. She went from not texting at all to texting with me all the time. I'm still on a limited texting plan, for those of you who have my number, but you can email texts to pretty much any phone and pretty much any phone can reply directly to an email address. She's been so there for me, even when I just need some grown-up conversation when Adam's away at school.

She's come over and cleaned and talked and helped out, but on the days when I'm here by myself, I'll have either GoogleTalk open or my Thunderbird email client and I'm texting or IM-ing her like an addict and she replies and talks and lets me obsess about my kids and ask her all kinds of questions. Also, she got me pretzel M&Ms the day I came home from the hospital, and seriously, that's like the best candy ever. I keep telling Adam I have to go buy more before they stop making them. Anyway. My mom is cool, you know? So are my siblings and my dad, who have sacrificed time with her, and have helped clean or do laundry (Ania, you know who you are), and have just generally been super-excited to be aunts and uncles.

And now this post is forever long, like I warned you it might be, and it's getting late (I mean, is late) and I'm getting too tired to think of a proper ending. So, g'night, and hopefully it won't be nine months before I post again...

I'll think of something again soon, I promise. I've missed writing.

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