annie is one.

I started this post over a month ago:

Annie, my sweet baby, is one and on the verge of walking and talking and expressing herself.

It turns out, her past year of docile compliance was just a cover: she has been taking notes, identifying weaknesses and formulating a strategy.

As of this week, she has decided she will NOT stand for being locked up in a baby-safe containment area (or, crate, as I call it) while I work out and shower. Once she is free of the bonds of the minimum security baby containment facility, she immediately bolts for any doors she can find.  Cabinet doors and drawers that are unlocked are unceremoniously opened and slammed shut with deep, unmitigated baby satisfaction.

Annie did run into a minor hiccup with opening standard doors: once the door swings open away from her, she found herself standing unassisted. The first few times, she plunged forward after the swinging door in sheer terror. Now that she figured the tricky doors out, she smirks as she maintains her footing and the door crashes open.

A fan of her sisters, Annie is completely delighted by any attention they pay to her.  Ellie is much more amenable to Annie’s hair pulling and grabbing, while Carrie gets annoyed by these shenanigans rather quickly. Despite Annie’s interest in slapping her sisters silly, the twins adore making Annie laugh and giggle.

Annie says a few words that sound like “Hi!” and “Daddy!” and “MAMAMAMAMA” and so on.  I’m terrible at understanding baby talk. I’m lucky if I understand half of what the twins are hollering at me from the third row of the minivan.  All that to say: Annie may be reciting soliloquies from Shakespeare and I have absolutely no idea.

And now, almost a month later:

Annie is walking! It is unsteady, precarious walking, but it is walking! I am both relieved (my child can walk!) and terrified (my child can walk!). I recall, all too clearly, the poop-storm that ensued with twin toddlers and while Annie is only one child, she is one of three very active girls.

No matter.  We survived the twinpocalypse, I am sure we can make it through one more unstable toddling little one.

In short, Annie is one and is walking without fear, speaking without annunciation and drinking without a bottle.

And so… I think I better hit publish on this post before it’s 2027 and Annie has discovered the Internet (or whatever it will be called then) and realizes that I still haven’t published her first birthday summary!

Congratulations Annie!  YOU ARE ONE! (Or 13…)

We love you!

Kerous-29

annabel

I’ve wanted to write this post for weeks now, but every time I try to sit down at the “big computer,” I decide to sleep instead. And also it is really hard to type with one hand.

A Birth Story

On May 8, we went to a regularly scheduled OB appointment and discovered that the baby was transverse – lying across the uterus instead of in the preferred “head down” position.  The fact that I had a lot of fluid and a misshapen uterus (thanks to a myomectomy and a twin pregnancy) made it very easy for the baby to swim into whatever position she preferred.  Dr. G had already performed a “version” (changing the baby’s position) in the office at 37 weeks, but the baby happily shifted by the next day. Knowing that the baby moved so quickly, Dr. S suggested that once we achieved 39 weeks gestation, we should schedule another version followed immediately by an induction.  In the meantime, we were advised that I should try hard NOT to go into labor and that if I did go into labor, or my water broke, we should go straight to the hospital due to risk of umbilical cord prolapse.

Thus began my maternity leave.

The first available date for the version and induction was Wednesday, May 14 with Dr. G.  We were signed up for a 7:30 a.m. time slot.

In between the appointment and the induction, I managed to injure my neck, causing me considerable pain and insomnia.  The day before the induction, we visited our friendly neighborhood chiropractor who attempted to mitigate the pain and gave Frank some suggestions for assisting me with pain management during labor and delivery.

We both woke up bright and early on Wednesday morning, ready to meet our third child.  It was an absolutely beautiful morning and a perfect drive to the hospital. I was so happy to walk into Labor and Delivery, instead of being wheeled into L&D in complete terror (as was what happened with the twins). We were set up in our room, I changed and was put on monitors … and then the fun started.

 

Ready to go to the hospital!

Ready to go to the hospital!

Dr. G is sort of a legend in our area.  My mom actually went to his practice many years ago in hopes that he would deliver her third child, my brother Andy, but unfortunately she went into labor on a day that he wasn’t on duty.  He is an older gentleman, with a sweet and kind demeanor.  His old-school training made him more likely to try things like a version, something that only one of his colleagues would also attempt (Dr. S). He was optimistic that he could shift the baby’s position, but he was also realistic.  He’d seen enough versions that should’ve been easy that failed, and other versions that should’ve failed, work. Within minutes of locating the baby on the ultrasound, he began the process of shifting her position.  We watched in awe as her little shape moved into a perfect head-down position.

Once it was confirmed that her head was in the best position possible, Dr. G broke my water and began pitocin.

Hanging out, inducing and stuff...

Hanging out, inducing and stuff…

Everything was pretty uneventful after that.  Frank and I watched a movie, texted, played games, and just sat around waiting to meet our baby. Frank left for breakfast and lunch breaks, and finally by about 2 p.m. we decided to get the epidural.  At that point I was dilated to 2 cm and everything was looking good.

At 5 p.m. Dr. G was leaving for the day and he wanted to see how things were going with me before handing me off to Dr. S.  I was dilated to 3 cm and everything looked fine. After he left, though, my nurse and I both noticed a deceleration with the baby’s heart rate on the next contraction.  I bit my lip nervously as I waited for the heart rate to return to normal.

A few more contractions came and went without decelerations.  The nurses changed shifts and the new nurse wanted to check my cervix.  While she checked, a worried look crossed her face.

“Did the doctor mention anything about feeling facial features when he checked last?” she asked.  I shook my head.

I’m not a doctor, but I knew enough to know that you shouldn’t feel a baby’s facial features during a cervical check. Crap, I thought.

The next contraction, as though the baby knew, involved another heart rate deceleration.  I furrowed my brow. Frank was now pacing next to my hospital bed.  The nurse called the hospitalist (the doctor on duty for the hospital).  The hospitalist arrived quickly.

“Yes, I feel a forehead… and eyes.  What does the OB want you to do?” the hospitalist asked the nurse.

“Turn her on her side and stop the pitocin and call the OB in,” said the nurse, reaching to turn off the pitocin as she said it. The hospitalist nodded. Within 30 minutes, my OB was in the room.

Dr. S was a very professional and still very kind doctor.  She is one of those doctors that instills a sense of authority while still being very compassionate at the same time.  She spent a long time assessing the situation.  During her check, she attempted to move the baby’s chin down in order to shift her head into a better position.  She attempted to push the baby’s head back into the uterus.  Neither effort worked – the baby was fully engaged.  Dr. S could tell that the baby’s head was becoming swollen from the pressure from the contractions.

Dr. S looked at me with sad eyes and I knew before she even said it.  “We have to do a C-Section. I can’t move the baby’s head.  There is a risk that if the baby is allowed to be born this way, she might break her neck,” explained Dr. S.

My heart dropped. My poor baby.  All I could think of was this poor, sweet baby trying to be born into this world and being stuck and injured.  Frank and I took a few minutes to talk and to pray.  I knew I had to do the C-Section, but even though I had tried to mentally prepare for that before we were induced – I just couldn’t wrap my head around it.

I’ve done a lot of difficult things. Not climbing mountains or anything, but I’d had surgery before, been through challenging seasons of my life and so on. I’d created ways to mentally push through those difficult situations by outlining steps in my head.  Just get through this, this and this. Once you do those three things, you will be done.  But being awake for a major surgery? I knew what the steps were and I just couldn’t see my way through. I actually thought, so then they will put your organs back in… sweet heavens to Betsy… my organs will be on the outside… on.the.outside.  I couldn’t see my way through it. I started to panic.

And then I remembered that the last time I had a similar surgery to a C-Section (a myomectomy), I had been horrifically sick.  I threw up for hours by myself in my hospital room after surgery.  I remembered texting Frank and telling him how sick I was. Frank had asked if he should come back to the hospital. For what reason?  I remember thinking.  To watch me puke up jello into a kidney shaped blue bowl while I try not to hurt my already aching stomach muscles?  It was the kind of lonely misery that would not be improved by a spectator.

At the memory of my myomectomy recovery, I became scared of puking on one side of the operating curtain, while my actual stomach was exposed on the other side.  I couldn’t handle it.

I will say, my doctors were amazing.  Upon hearing of my nausea/vomiting fears, they took every step possible to reduce any chance that I would become violently ill while delivering my baby.  Not once during the C-Section did I even think of vomiting.  I was grateful.

Once I signed off on the paperwork for the C-Section, I was prepped and wheeled into the same operating room in which I delivered the twins.  I was moved from the L&D bed onto the narrow operating table.  The anesthesiologist began the spinal through the same port as my epidural and the final work to bring our baby into this world began.

Frank joined me by the head of the table, but he watched the entire surgery, not missing a moment of our baby’s delivery.  The thing about a C-Section is that while you do not feel pain, you feel your insides being moved around.  It’s a totally surreal situation – knowing that on the other side of a thin piece of blue fabric, your insides are on the outside.

But, oh heavens, at the first gurgling cries of sweet Annabel – it was all worth it. At 7:18 pm on May 14, 2014 she made her way into this world.

"Seriously you guys, what took you so long??"

“Seriously you guys, what took you so long??”

 

“It’s a girl! And she’s a big baby!” announced Frank and the doctor, laughing.

They brought a screaming, healthy baby Annie around the curtain so I could see her for the first time.  Frank laughed, “Boy is she angry!” The swelling in her forehead gave her a particularly angry scowl.

They cleaned up Annie and weighed her – 9lbs 3oz and 21 inches long – and brought her over for a more formal introduction.

"Hey, Mom, wassup?"

“Hey, Mom, wassup?”

Frank, Annie and me.

Frank, Annie and me. All of our best angles.

Annie and Frank hung out in the nursery waiting for me to get cleaned up and after two hours of recovery, we were all reunited.

"Mmm... Pain Management rocks!"

“Mmm… Pain Management rocks!”

Annie and I snuggled while Frank tried to forge for food (a nearly impossible task).  In between coos, I hit the button for pain medication every ten minutes. I’ll tell you what, C-Sections are no joke and I am grateful for the excellent pain management (the PC way to say “large quantities of pain killers”) that I was offered at the hospital.

The twins were excited to meet their new sister.  Poor Carrigan, confused and concerned by the logistics of birthing, immediately asked if Annie was going “back in.” We assured her that Annie was here to stay.

Party of 5!

Party of 5!

Annie and I hung out in the hospital for four days and were discharged, happily, on May 18.

Processed with VSCOcam with m5 preset

Frank and his girls!

Frank and his girls!

"Let's rock and roll mom and dad!"

“Let’s rock and roll mom and dad!”

Sisters

Sisters

About the Name

Annie’s first trimester was more exciting than we had hoped.  Early on, we were very concerned about some bleeding issues that went on for nearly four weeks.  During that time of worry, I felt peace at church and felt that her middle name would be Ruth.  We knew we wanted an “A” first name, and it was between Abigail and Annabel.  I’ve always loved Annabel and it’s literary history.  We both loved that the name could be shortened to Anna, Ann, Annie, etc.  Annabel is actually a variation on the Scottish name Amabel, meaning loving.  And she definitely is a little lovebug!

Two weeks old, poolside

Two weeks old, poolside

Eight weeks old

Eight weeks old

baby fever

Let’s be real: the reality of baby #3 has not totally sunk in.

You’d think 15 weeks in, post morning sickness, post exhaustion, post first trimester, I’d be all like, “Woot, woot. We gotta bay-bay cookin’!”

Only sort of.  I mean, yes, I totally know that I am pregnant.

And I understand that being pregnant often results in a baby.

The part I’m having trouble with is imagining what our life will look like with baby #3.

Perhaps I should’ve had a more solid vision of life with baby #3 before we began this process of getting pregnant.

Truthfully, I have a vision of life with child #3 – although I glossed over infancy and toddlerhood in my vision.  I love having two sisters and a brother.  I love the gatherings we have when we get together and laugh and giggle and talk and argue and laugh some more.  We are siblings and friends.

The twins have a unique and wonderful bond with each other because they have never known even a minute of existence without the other. Just tonight, we were driving home and Ellie was in a fowl mood.  Something about apple pies and Christmas trees really honked her off.  Ellie was muttering and sobbing in her car seat for about five minutes when Carrie yelled at her. Not in an angry, “What the heck?” kind of way, but in a mocking “this is how dumb you sound” kind of way. It worked.  Ellie found Carrie to be hilarious.  The next ten minutes of our ride was still filled with screaming, but mixed with fits of giggles as they made each other laugh.

It was the best.

It was why people have twins and siblings for their children.

When I think of this third child, I think of road trips and family vacations and Frank tossing the kids into the pool.  I think of three pairs of eyes peeking over the edge of our bed on Christmas morning, pleading with us to let them open their gifts from Santa.

I think of the twins teaching this child new things and this child being a joy to them. And a pain. And an annoyance.

The good and the bad… Family.

When we were in the midst of this whole having babies business the first time, I could barely dare to dream that we’d have a family – much less dream of a family of five.

When we decided to try to have a third baby, it seemed like less of a choice and more of a prayer that we tossed heavenward. And then we wondered.  And we hoped.

And God, being the funny and merciful One that He is, said, “Yes.”

Amazement. Awe.

More hope. More prayer.

Last night was an outright debacle. Nothing went as planned – not even close. After a “quick” stop by Walgreens for a prescription turned into a 30 minute fiasco and I brought my sobbing children into the house a full hour after bedtime, I felt totally outnumbered. I’d put one in bed, the other one would get out.  Finally, I had them both in bed and went on a quest for Jingle the Husky Pup.  I returned to mass chaos.

Carrie was sitting up in bed, crying and staring at Ellie.  Ellie was screaming and her nose was bleeding on EVERY THING. I carried her to the bathroom and stopped the bleeding, cleaned her up, stripped her bed, made her bed, put her back into her bed and then stood in the middle of their room. They looked at me and I looked at them.

And it felt like together we all thought, “So, Mom, what happens when you have a third infant in a carrier that needs a bath and a diaper and dinner and pajamas and bed? What about when that happens?”

I doubt I would’ve made all of the same choices that got me to the point of utter meltdown, but I also know that I can’t plan for everything.

There will come a point where a similar scenario plays out.

I’m glad I have six more months to get my “poop in a group” because right now, I am so not ready.

three things: bodily functions

A few months after having the twins, Frank and I were out on a mini-date, and during a lull in the conversation, Frank said, “You know, having twins wasn’t quite the poop storm I thought it would be.” (He didn’t say poop… but you know, what I mean)

And, really, it wasn’t a total poop storm.  Except on the few occasions that it was literally that: a storm of poopies. Or barfies. Or whatever.

Just today, I was thinking that I didn’t want to write something my kids would be embarassed about later.  But just like Carrigan cannot resist the siren song of the TV remote control, I cannot resist telling a few scintillating baby stories that I am sure will make their weddings all the more memorable.

Story #1: Everybody Poops

At some point, we realized we couldn’t both get up for every feeding, so we started taking shifts in the middle of the night.  One night Frank came back to bed and I rolled over, half sleeping, and asked him how the first middle of the night feeding went.

“I got poop on my face.”

In my sleep-induced fog, I couldn’t quite figure out the mechanics of that statement. I was vaguely aware that poop just typically doesn’t go on your face.  Or my face.  Or anyone’s face.

In the morning, certain that I was having weirdly realistic dreams, I dismissed the memory as fiction.

But over breakfast, appropriately, Frank gave me the low-down.  While changing Ellie’s poopie diaper, he dropped it dirty-side-down on the carpet. Annoyed and without thinking, he bent over to pick it up, putting his face dangerously close to Ellie’s behind. Being a gassy little love, Miss Ellie chose that moment to let a wet one loose, resulting in poop on Frank’s face.

The way that Frank tells it, there was a long pause where he reflected on the situation, absorbing the reality that it was 2 a.m. and there was poop on his face.

Story #2: Diapering 101

One night, after many nights of not getting a lot of sleep, we were bathing the girls and getting them ready for bed.  Or maybe we were just changing diapers and it was dark.  Or maybe we were changing diapers and it was the middle of the day.  Who knows?

The important thing is that one of us (Frank) took a few liberties with the diaper changing process.  Namely, he didn’t really secure the diaper to Carrigan’s itty-bitty behind.

I was sitting on the rocker, holding Carrie on my leg when it happened.  It began as a subtle warming on my leg, spreading  quickly. When I finally realized what was happening, Carrie had peed through her clothes, my pants and onto the floor. 

Her diaper, however, was hanging around her knees and was totally dry.

Story #3: The Barfies

Our twins had reflux from the time they came home from the hospital until they were 9 months old. Seriously.  You can’t make that crap up.

They barfed all the time.  Sometimes, just when you would think to yourself, “Oh, it’s been an hour since their last feeding, certainly they can’t possibly get sick” is usually also the time where they would unload the motherload of vomit. So. Awesome.

 I smelled barf everywhere I went for a very long time.  Even now, I sometimes sniff my clothes just to make sure I don’t have barf on them somewhere.

While many people experienced the twins’ epic barfies – my family members started bringing extra clothes with them when they came for a visit- the best barfing extravaganza happened to my dear friend Eve.

Eve came over to visit while she was still 6 months pregnant with her little Josiah.  Probably expecting a zen evening of snuggling babies, I don’t think that Eve really understood what was in store.

“Want to give Carrigan a bottle?” I asked her. Said another way, “Want to pull the pin from this grenade?”

“SURE!” 

Eve fed Carrigan a bottle. And Carrigan, equal to the task, gulped the whole bottle down in record time.  She gave a few demure burps, batted her eyelashes, opened her mouth as if to yawn and …

BARFED ALL OVER EVE.

It went down the back of Eve’s shoulder and the front of her shoulder.  It cascaded like a rancid waterfall onto the couch.  It went down the front of her shirt.

And Eve, being six months pregnant, began gasping, coughing, dry heaving and generally reacting to being coated in a thick layer of regurgitated formula. 

If the quantiy of barf expended by my children was directly proportional to the amount of love they feel for a person, my dear twins must love a lot of people VERY MUCH.

thoughts on pregnancy

… very post partum!

The girls will be nine months old next week and I find it interesting how frequently I think back on my pregnancy, the delivery and the weeks following.  I suppose the fact that my dear friend VIcky is going through some pregnancy concerns may have triggered some of these thoughts (if you pray, please pray for her and sweet baby Bubbles and her husband Tim and their little boy Caleb).  But anyway, in no particular order, the things I think about are:

How strangely calming it was to be on hospital bed rest.  Perhaps that’s where the phrase “peace that passes human understanding” comes from. And while I’m sure I was not always peaceful about it, the way that I remember it was that I didn’t have much anxiety about the situation most of the time.  I remember being alone in my room a lot, looking out the window at the office of my childhood pediatrician. The memories of my childhood pediatrician are pleasant, although most memories involve being home from school sick.

Aside from actually being sick, I usually liked being home from school sick because it afforded a sneak peek into a world I didn’t usually get to enjoy.  It put the world into a new context for me – a glimpse into what adults did while I was at school. Often I would look at the clock and think of what I should be doing in class and compare it to what was going on in the world around me – the mailman delivering mail, neighbors out walking, adults going to the store and so on.  I would hear my bus stopping near my house, dropping off all of the other students who had gone to class and I wondered what it would be like if I had been at school that day and was disembarking the bus at that moment, instead of tucked away in my bed.

And really, that’s what it was like on hospital bed rest.  The world was going on around me and I was watching it happen from my adjustable hospital bed. I tried not to think too much about work, although I checked in frequently to make sure that everything was OK. It was as though if I could just make it another day and just stay pregnant a little bit longer, it would be so much better for our girls.  I made it ten days.

I also think a lot about the labor and delivery. I remember it like I was watching things happen to me and not actively doing something about the situation.  As a matter of fact, I spent much of my mental energy trying to stop the freight train of labor so that Frank could be there for the delivery.

I was apprehensive about delivery because I felt like there was a big question mark hanging over the outcome. I wondered, somewhat fearfully, what my children would look like.  I wondered if they would look like real babies and if the image of alien-looking babies would follow me for my entire life.  It made me sad to think that their birth wouldn’t be “normal” – that a trip to the NICU was a certainty.

I remember the doctor announcing I was “complete” (ready to deliver), but was only measuring 9 cm (normally you measure 10 cm before you push).  Then I realized that the reason I was “complete” was because they were expecting me to deliver very, very small babies.  I was filled with dread.

When they wheeled me into the operating room to deliver and told me to start pushing, I was suddenly confused and unsure of how to do it.  I had thought about this moment over and over in my head, but I found myself afraid to push.  Not because I was afraid of pain, but I was afraid I’d push too hard and hurt the babies.  Silly, right?

I pushed anyway. The girls were born within 20 minutes.  I remember wondering, as I was pushing, whether they would cry when they were born.  When Ellie was born, I found myself holding my breath, waiting for her to take her first breath.  Oh, and when she cried, it was the sweetest sound I’d ever heard.

And when just three minutes later, Carrie was born, screaming and all angry, I was flooded with relief.

Yes, they were small, but OH! they looked like real life babies! I was so relieved.

I did get to hold Ellie in the operating room for a few seconds – long enough to snap a picture.  I think about that moment a lot – how surreal it felt. How different that moment felt than I had ever imagined.

I also think pretty frequently about getting to go see my girls in the NICU after I spent time in recovery. My entire pregnancy, the thing I couldn’t wait for was hearing the lullaby played over the intercom system at the hospital.  But all the times I had imagined it, I was holding my babies with my husband.  Instead, the first strains of the song rang out as I was being wheeled to the NICU through a long, winding hallway.  The doors of the NICU ward opened and directly ahead of me painted on the wall was an excerpt from the poem “‘Hope’ is the thing with feathers” by Emily Dickinson:

“Hope” is the thing with feathers—
That perches in the soul—
And sings the tune without the words—
And never stops—at all—

And oh, how those words chilled me.  I remember seeing those words when we toured the hospital two months earlier.  I remember seeing those words on our tour and saying a quiet prayer in my head that I wouldn’t see them again.

There I was, facing those words and hearing the song playing over intercom and my heart was so sad.  “This is not how I imagined it!” I wanted to say.  But there were no words.

As they wheeled me into Ellie’s room, the second lullaby started playing for Carrie. They wheeled me up to her incubator, a glass box, and there was my very small, but very beautiful, baby girl.  She was hooked up to monitors and an IV and wearing only a diaper.

They placed her in my arms and I think about that moment, too.  I was so sorry.  I felt like she was hooked up to monitors and IV’s and I didn’t do everything possible to stop it. I came up short and she had only been alive for a few hours.

Carrie hadn’t been cleaned up yet or fully observed, so I didn’t get to hold her.  I looked at her through the glass, marveling at her tiny, perfect features.

I think a lot about going back to my hospital room on the Mother & Baby floor.  All of those rooms, in my mind, were full of babies and their mommies.  And I was going back empty and alone.

I think about swallowing all of those feelings and thoughts when I saw my little girls. They needed me to be strong.  They needed me to be happy when I saw them and to cover them in love. This whole thing wasn’t about me any more.

I think about the next day when they explained to us that the girls would need feeding tubes. While we were sitting in Carrie’s room, they ran her feeding tube through her nose and into her tummy.  She screamed these fragile, tiny baby cries that broke our hearts.

I remember the sound of the breath leaving Frank as he watched them run the feeding tube.  The “oomph” was like he had been punched in the gut.

I think a lot about the nights when we first had them at home.  The nights sort of blurred together. On the morning that Prince William and Catherine Middleton married, Carrie woke up at 3 a.m. Frank and I wound up watching the entire wedding, thanks to Carrie.

I turn these moments over in my head, over and over.  I think about what they mean, how they changed me, and wonder what would’ve happened if things went differently.

But what happened is what happened, as un-profound as that is. Months and months later, the girls are doing great. They are healthy, vibrant, active little girls.  They laugh and squeal and chatter.  It’s hard to imagine that they were born a minute before they were meant to.

The more I talk to people and hear their stories, the more I realize that life rarely turns out as expected or planned. Perhaps that’s what John Lennon meant when he said, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”

Life is fragile and delicate and rough and sharp and beautiful.

the twins in pictures – 3 months!

Lots of pictures of the girls!  Carrie is on the left, Ellie is on the right.



A few solo shots of Ellie:



Don’t adjust your monitor – the color of Ms. Ellie’s hair is definitely RED.  How, you may be wondering, could two brunette parents have a child with such brilliantly red hair?  It’s all in the genes.  My dad’s beard came in red when he was younger, as did my mom’s dad’s beard.  Plus, my dad’s family is Irish and my great Uncle Frank was a red head.

And Ms. Carrie:

What is hard to see with Miss Carrie is her hair… and that’s because she has very little up on top!  Most of her hair is in the back and is very dark brown.  Looks like she got her mom’s dark hair and blue eyes.

mother’s day

When we were going through infertility treatments and struggling to get pregnant, this day was so bittersweet. I have a wonderful mom and a great mother-in-law. But the pain of feeling excluded from this day, because of the challenges we faced having a child, weighed on me.

This year is different for two obvious reasons and I am beyond grateful for our twin girls. They are smiling, cooing and starting to develop a little bit of personality.  It definitely helps make the long nights worthwhile.

But since I had the twins, a realization that had started to take shape when we struggled with infertility has continued to become more clear to me.

Motherhood does not happen to you, it happens in you.

Yes, it sounds totally cliché and trite, but bear with me. I did not magically become a mother on February 19th of this year. There was not a moment in the delivery room where a rush of hormones released a locked part of my brain, making me a mom.

Becoming a mom started a long time ago when I watched my own mom care for my sister and tried to imitate her with my doll I named Karen. It started in preschool when I pretended to be the mom when we played house. It continued to develop when I would babysit my siblings and neighbors. In my career, my instincts to mother grew as I learned how to nurture my coworkers and help those who reported to me achieve their goals. In volunteer work, I practiced and developed mothering skills with teenagers – one of the toughest and most rewarding groups to work with.

That being said, on February 19th when the doctors gave me my daughters to hold, I was filled with the requisite awe and wonder at our infant daughters. And while I loved them immediately, the moment was not transformative as I had previously imagined it would be. Sure, now I had the title, but it occurred to me that I had been doing the job, in one way or another, my whole life.

Am I saying that being a mother isn’t full of responsibility, challenges and difficulty? Certainly not. After being up most of the night with the twins, I have new appreciation for my own mother. I also have an even greater appreciation for my husband who was up with me, changing diapers, making bottles, rocking and burping.

But I also have a great appreciation for all the women in my life that have mothered me without having the official title. From teachers, bosses, mentors and friends, I have been fortunate enough to have a fantastic biological mother in addition to an army of women who have come alongside me and used their mothering skills to help me grow and flourish.

Mothering is encouraging, growing, nurturing, challenging, comforting, loving and caring for others, with little to no reward.  For the women out there who feel excluded from this day because they do not have children, I hope that this realization affirms the wonderful women that they are. It may not take away the pain and heartache of not having a child in your arms, but I want you to know that the amazing work you do in the lives of others is not, and will not be, forgotten.

And for everyone out there that has had the great fortune of having an army of mothers as I have had, I hope that you can take some time today to thank some of those outstanding women.

Happy Mother’s Day to all of the women who mother – you are all a wonderful treasure!