on the cusp: a letter to the future

The scheduler at my OB/GYN’s office was explicit in her instructions: no food or drink after midnight.

Oh, but prior to midnight…

And so, at 11:17 p.m. on the night before you were born, dear baby K, I enjoyed our last bowl of mint cookies and cream ice cream with chocolate syrup.  It seemed fitting because throughout the duration of this pregnancy, you seemed to be only satisfied by carbs.  Which I am absolutely fine with, by the way.

As our third child, you will no doubt notice that I slacked off on the weekly and bi-weekly updates on your growth and development and the minutia of your existence.  Your sisters enjoyed a high level of micromanagement for their 32 weeks of gestation and then much of their first year post-partum.

It’s a good thing that blog posts and belly pictures are not the primary indicators of being loved and wanted and adored.

When I was barely five weeks pregnant with you, I started bleeding. I was horrified and scared and deeply, deeply saddened. I thought I lost you before I knew you.

Weeks of ultrasounds followed, showing first a small 1 cm bleed that grew, without good reason, to 3 cm.  Weekly ultrasounds revealed a dark storm brewing next to the hopeful flashing of your sweet, flickering heartbeat.

I was full of so much hope and so much sadness, all at the same time. It was a strange time for your dad and me because while we felt so full of love and happiness with your sisters, there was such a deep longing in our hearts for you. The idea of our family without a you in it seemed so sad and empty. It was around that time of so much conflicting emotion, perhaps week seven or week eight, that I was worshipping in church.

I know Who goes before me
I know Who stands behind
The God of angel armies
Is always on my side
The One who reigns forever
He is a Friend of mine
The God of angel armies
Is always by my side
~Chris Tomlin, “Whom Shall I Fear”
The words of the song resonated in my heart and I felt that those words were, in that moment, a message to me about you.  I had an overwhelming sense that God was protecting you.  I also had an overwhelming sense that you were a girl, but you know, we’re still waiting to see if I was right about that one.  (Just remember, if you are a boy, .500 is still a great batting average.)
The next ultrasound revealed that the bleed was reabsorbing into my system and that your happy little heartbeat seemed to be blissfully unaffected. The doctor overseeing the ultrasound was visibly relieved. “You know,” she said to me, a smile lighting her face, “I really thought you maybe had a 50/50 chance with this one.  I think you’re going to be OK.”
I watched the days tick by through this pregnancy.  You and I would have little one-sided chats where I would tell you that I loved you. And sometimes, if we were alone in the car, I would also give pointed advice about driving, using other drivers as an example.
I think that driving advice will come in handy.
Thanksgiving came and went. Christmas came and went.  Then the New Year, Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day and Easter.
Here we are in May.  May is a lovely and enchanting time in Chicago.  It’s the time of the year where, no matter how wretched the winter was (and this one was terrible), Chicagoans invariably forget about the preceding frosty weather and race outside in tee-shirts and shorts in 45 degree weather.
May is a great month for a birthday.  Your dad was born in May and now, so will you.
You and I have already had a good run of it together.  I poke you, you kick me back.  We have a good relationship like that.
Your dad is giddy to meet you.  He is like a kid on Christmas Eve – excited to hold you and love you.  For someone who is generally so stoic and professional, your dad is already a softy when it comes to you and your sisters.
Speaking of which, your sisters are excited to see what all the fuss is about.  I suspect that they will go through phases of coming to understand what it means to have a new little brother or sister in their midst. I would guess that there might be a few rough days and nights ahead, where one or both of your sisters may ask when it is we are going to send you back.
That’s just how siblings are. And over the years, they will come to scarcely remember a time without you.  Your histories and lives and futures will be forever intertwined.
So here we are: the night before you will be born. Just you and me in a quiet house.  I should be sleeping.  Truthfully, I tried sleeping, but this is our last night hanging out like this – me eating ice cream and you kicking my bladder.  Tomorrow (5/14) is a big day, little one.
Birth is an excellent, albeit quick and dirty, bootcamp for life: There’s a lot of discomfort, maybe some swearing and general disorientation, followed by joy and tears and excitement.  Get ready; it’s a beautifully messy ride.
I love you already.
Love,
Mom

twinfessions

Ah, twins.

Many a fellow parent has commented to Frank and me, “I don’t know how you do it!”

And I’ve been all like, “Um, what? Raise two infants simultaneously? Like that’s hard or something?”

Ha ha. Ha. Hummm.

It’s time to fess up.

Raising twins is like juggling grenades: If you drop one, everyone gets blown up.

Ok, maybe that’s a bit dramatic.

But let’s be clear: twin infants (even twinfants who enjoy projectile vomiting all.the.time) are a piece of cake, once you get them sleeping through the night. From 4 months through 13 months, it’s all just a matter of budgeting a little extra time to accommodate doing everything twice.

Twin toddlers? It’s like dealing with lunatic zombies. Cute lunatic zombies, but lunatic zombies all the same.

Logistically, if both Frank and I are watching the girls, it’s easy-peasy.  Man-on-man defense.  Done.

The challenge is when we are doing some demented version of zone defense because one of us is at work. That’s when it gets exciting.

Case in point: Frank left the room to brush his teeth. He was gone 2 1/2 minutes, tops.

He came back to the twins perched on top of their changing table having a grand old time.  They scaled the rocking chair and the dresser to get on top of their changing table pad.  And they were smiling like they were supposed to be there.

They love to dance on top of our glass topped coffee table.  Specifically, they love dancing to Rolling Stones on our glass topped coffee table.

The second we put them down in the family room, they identify all of the weak points and attack relentlessly. Remote controls? Cell phones? Glasses? Open baby gates? Nothing slips by them.

And the twins are completely fearless, a la lunatic zombies.  I’ve noticed other toddlers are more hesitant to go down the slide at the park, but not our girls. Ellie, our generally more cautious girl, went down the slide the other day, her foot caught and she summersaulted the rest of the way down. I thought for SURE there would be tears. She stood up, brushed herself off, and hurried back to the stairs to go down the slide again. What the what?!

wheeee! Carrie conquers the slide!

This weekend I took the girls to the park solo. Seemed reasonable enough.  How bad can a park be?

I don’t know if you’ve been to a park these days, but holy-crapola, these parks are DEATH traps. Sure, they coat everything in rubber and plastic, but every single piece of equipment has a side that is a free-fall into wood chips. If you are only watching one toddler, this wouldn’t be a problem, but since I am watching two lunatic zombie toddlers, this is a major issue.  Carrie likes to walk right up to the edge and growl at me.

 

Grrr, Mama!!

Again, this would be fine if I wasn’t already distracted by Ellie going up and down the stairs to the slide with the grace of a heavily intoxicated, stiletto-wearing monkey.

Oh, and then there are the communication issues. The girls know how to wave “hi” and “bye”. This is really cute until Carrie is waving “bye” as she walks off in one direction and Ellie sprints in the other. They only sort of understand “Stop!” and “SIT STILL!” and “STAY THERE!”  We’re working on it, but right now the communication gap adds a totally interesting layer.

So yeah, raising two toddlers makes for some very interesting/challenging/exciting/crazy times.  I’m forever grateful that strollers and wagons have seat belts. And I’m even more grateful that I have a husband who is truly a partner in raising these girls – cuz man alive, I certainly wouldn’t want to do this solo all the time!

Plotting to take over the world…

how we say “i love you…”

When Frank and I were first dating, we thought it would be incredibly insightful to read the book The Five Love Languages. We were being all academic about love.

We bought the books… and then?

And then we spent the last decade making up our own love language.

Yes, that’s right, Frank and I have been hanging out romantically for a decade now.

Whoa.

So to celebrate a decade of smoochin’ and snugglin’ and stealin’ each other’s desserts – I thought I’d kick things off right with the top 10 ways we say “I love you.”

In no particular order:

10. Snuggles.

We snuggle all.the.time.  It’d be annoying if it wasn’t so delicious. There are nights where we follow one another from one side of the bed to the other and back again.  We’ve even named some of our favorite ways to snuggle.  That way, like good little quarterbacks, one of us can yell out, “SWEET SPOT!” and we assume the position.

9. The Clean House Maneuver.

This maneuver works great on both of us. It’s not complicated: clean the house while the other spouse is out. That one gets me every time!

8. The Clean Car Maneuver.

Similar to #9, but with either or (if particularly amorous) both vehicles. It differs from #9 because we have, on occasion, let our cars get particularly yucky.

7. Sweet Texts.

I’m sure in the olden days, spouses would have to find a piece of paper and pen and ::GASP:: write a note. Us? We just grab our phones and shoot over a text message.  Some of my favorites:

Frank: 11:30 a.m. doctor appointment for the twins.

Me: OK.

Frank (a few hours later): It’s Herpes.

Me: What?!

Frank: Nevermind. Girls are fine. Love you!

Frank is, as you may know, a pilot.  Occasionally (frequently…) I forget where he is going, until he gets there and texts me:

Frank: Love you in SFO (San Francisco)

Me: Oh, good. I didn’t know where you were going. XOXO.

On the first Tuesday of every month, the state tests tornado sirens.  Every first Tuesday at 10 a.m., I get a text that looks something like this:

Frank: DISASTER IMMINENT!! SEE YOU ON THE OTHER SIDE!! LOVE YOU!!

Me: Shhh. In meeting.

6. Laughing at the Same Jokes Over and Over and Over Again…

We have a cycle of jokes that is on endless loop.  Just like when I was kid and my sister and I watched Howard the Duck on an endless loop until my mom “dropped” the VHS tape, Frank and I can’t get enough of some of the same old jokes.

And there is comfort in that. Singing goofy versions of Kenny Loggins song Danny’s Song (“Even though you look kinda funny, I don’t care cuz you’ve got money!”); Frank chasing me up the stairs saying, “I’m gonna getcha!” while I freeze-up laughing, unable to move; holding hands and trying to be the first to tuck our thumb in between; responding to the other with “yer mom”; and the list goes on and on. No matter what we’re going through – there is always a small, sweet way that we can say “I love you” that brings a smile to both of our faces.

… Juvenile as it may be…

5. Holding Hands.

When snuggling isn’t an option, we often have to settle for holding hands. We hold hands everywhere we can – even in the car. We talk about how if we have to be in separate beds in the nursing home that if we can’t snuggle there, we’ll hold hands all the way until the end. Pity the nursing home peeps that try to get in between us. We will go all ninja old people on them. That’s how we roll, yo.

4. The Postcard.

You guys:  Frank and I have never discussed this.  Ever.  It’s one of the rules of Postcard Club: we don’t talk about the postcard. Seriously. I was worried that if I shared the postcard, it might lose some of its magic, but it’s a risk I’m willing to take so that our children and our children’s children will know exactly how nuts we are. 

In 2005, I took a trip to Utah for work.  It was a lovely trip, but only a 2 day adventure.  I bought a postcard that I intended to mail to Frank, but never did because I would get home before the postcard would.  I gave Frank the postcard and thought it was the end of the postcard. Until I found it tucked in one of my drawers.  So I put it in his overnight bag.  And he put it in my work bag.  And I put it in the cupboard next to his cereal and he put it in my pillowcase.

This postcard has made it through at least 3 moves and 7 years without being lost.  Which is more than I can say for about half a dozen spoons, three dinner plates and a shelf.

Whenever I find the postcard, sometimes months between sightings, it always makes me smile.

3. Spanish Radio.

Yes.  You read that right.  Nothing says, “I love you” like 105.1 FM in Chicago.

See, because we use our SUV for carting around the twins and our sedan for lots of driving/chores/what-have-you, we tend to swap out cars a lot.  And even if we aren’t swapping out cars, Frank often is nearby my place of employment to drop off the babies and from time to time, he stops by my car, turns the radio to Spanish Radio and cranks the volume.

While some people live in fear of turning the key in the ignition and a bomb going off, I live in fear of turning the key in the ignition and being bombarded with the music stylings of an enthusiastic mariachi band.

But as soon as I peel myself off of the ceiling of my car and get my wits about me, I remember that it is just a small way of Frank saying “I love you” using the only Spanish he remembers from high school.  Note: Aside from finding Spanish Radio formats on the dial, he can also say “The cat is on fire” and “The cat is in my pants.” What can I say? I’m smitten…

2. Our Rings.

For most married people, their wedding bands are a symbol of the promises they made to one another.  You know, the part where I lied and told Frank I loved to cook and could not wait to cook all.the.time? (And now Frank does 99.9% of the cooking)

But for us, our rings are also a symbol of our love (which is probably what it symbolizes for everyone else, too… we aren’t very original in that department… but whatever this is our top 10 list!).

I’ll spare you most of the schmoopy details, but basically it went like this:

Me: I love you, Frank.

::Cue the music, the soft lighting, the raw romance. Soap operas and love stories could learn something from this kind of passion.::

Frank: Aw, I love you, too babe.

After a few seconds of analysis.

Frank: If you were to quantify your love for me, how much would you say you had?

Me: This much!

Frank: (furrowing his mighty eyebrows) Which way?

Me: (exasperated) Always!

And so when Frank and I were engaged, we each separately decided to engrave a message on the inside of the other’s wedding band.  On the day of our wedding, after the vows and rings were exchanged, we couldn’t wait to slip off our rings to see what the other wrote on the inside. When I slipped the ring off of my finger and turned it into the light, I saw that, magically, we both wrote:

“I know where you live.”

Ha ha.  Just kidding.

We each engraved: “This Much, Always. 09-19-03”

I mean, occasionally we do get things right.

And so, when we look at our wedding bands, it is a constant reminder of our love – and that I don’t cook. Ever. Except when I get in the mood. But really, let’s be honest: dude has to cook all of the meals.

And, last, but not least:

1. We Love to Make Each Other Laugh.

Sure, I guess that’s been the under-riding theme of this entire post.  But truly, nothing delights either one of us more than the other being delighted.

These are the kinds of pictures that Frank sends to me with some sort of funny caption.

Eventually Frank’s series of Panda captions became his Anniversary Card to me one year.

And for Frank’s Golden Birthday, I surprised him with a few of his closest friends and some bread pudding.  He was delighted!

I always get a laugh out of Frank when I make that face.  What can I say??  I’m a charmer.

***

And so, in summary, we are probably certifiably crazy.  But that’s OK: we’re crazy together.

To Frank, I say, “Thank you for being my friend!”

… “Travel ’round the world and back again.  Your heart is true, you’re a pal and a confidant!  And if you threw a party! And invited everyone you knew!  You would see, the biggest gift would be from me and the card attached would say, ‘THANK YOU FOR BEING MY FRIEND!'” (Sung loudly, totally off-key and with heart because really, if you don’t sing it with heart, what’s the point??)

Extra Credit: Name that TV show theme song.  Nate? You got this one?

mothers day deux

Parenting is not pretty.

Last mothers day weekend, I begged my sister to come spend the night. Frank was out of town and I had to go up to my in-laws for mothers day on Saturday.  We plant flowers and have a nice meal together.

But I knew I would be in no condition to go up there if I had the twins to myself at night.

And so I commenced begging Caitlin.

Because Caitlin is so amazing, the conversation went like this:

Me: Hey Cait–

Caitlin: I’m coming over!!

So yeah.  The evening initially went OK. I mean, there was the requisite puking, but by bedtime, Caitlin was still wearing the same clothes she arrived in.  We snuggled the girls into their car seats (that’s where they slept for three or four months) and tried to get some sleep.

I want to tell you I vividly remember what occurred that night.  I want to tell you that it was a series of Norman Rockwell moments illustrating a generation of sisters passing along the torch of sisterhood to the next generation of sisters.

No.

I have to tell the truth.  The night is a blur.  I desperately wanted and needed sleep, but the nursery house of horrors had come alive in vivid shades of regurgitated formula and the soundtrack was the wailing and gnashing of gums.  I helped Caitlin with one of the feedings, I think.

I know that I went into the nursery a few times and tried to help.  My sister valiantly sent me back to bed.  I was somewhat aware that she was in a new outfit – or that her outfit had been “redecorated” by one of the twins – but I didn’t stop to question it.

When I came-to in the morning, having had a few continuous hours of sleep punctuated by a foggy awareness of babies crying, I stumbled into the nursery at 6 a.m. to find my sister surrounded by a half-dozen half-eaten bottles and dirtied burp rags. Her normally beautifully-kept, perfect blond hair was in rats nests around her face (how do babies make that happen so quickly???) and she had the look of a woman who had seen things she could not bear to repeat.

Me: What… what… what happened?

Caitlin: Oh (looking around, trying not to break down), it’s nothing. They just… they just… THEY WOULDN’T GO TO SLEEP! (lower lip quivering) Why? Why? I tried (weeping) Lord knows, I tried.  I sang, I rocked and they – THEY VOMITED!

Me: Uh huh. Are you OK?

Caitlin: Yes. Yes.  I’m OK.  I’m OK. I just… Just.. need… sleep.  Please, make the crying stop.  I just need to go to sleep.  One would stop and the other would start. Why??

Me: There, there.  It’s OK.

The twins, for the record, had calmed down.  They were looking at us with a quiet satisfaction. It appears that the generational torch of sisterhood can be passed in either direction.

Together, we put the girls in their cutest outfits.  I combed my hair.  Caitlin helped me load the car for my one hour journey and then she stumbled to her car and drove home, where she slept until 2 p.m.

I don’t blame her.

And I thought to myself, “Is this how it is always going to be? What did I sign up for?! HELP!”

I wasn’t alone.

Around July of last year, Frank looked at me pleadingly and asked, “will these children EVER sleep through the night?” I told him reassuringly, “Of course!” but thought, “What if they don’t? What if we never sleep again?!” And then, miraculously, about a week or so later, the twins finally started sleeping through the night.

We had the same situation with feeding the girls solids – it seemed like we would be forever be covered in sweet potatoes and mashed green beans and all sorts of disgusting (and, might I say, bland) baby food.  It seemed like the girls would never figure out their sippy cups or straws.  It seemed like they would never crawl or walk or talk.

And every time I’ve felt that way, I’ve been wrong.  Motherhood has proven me wrong more often than not.

So this year, I’d like to say three things about parenting on this lovely Mothers Day weekend:

1. It is epically humbling.  Not: “Waving at someone across the street because you think you know them but then you realize that you don’t know them and so you pretend your wave was actually a hair adjustment”, but “Holy crap, I actually showed up to college graduation naked AND without the required number of hours!” But, the good news is that it’s not about you as a parent, but rather about doing what’s best for your kids and your family. So, you know, grab a trench coat from graduation coat check and fake it til you make it.

2. A win is a win. Yeah, your kid may not have walked as soon as Susie’s prodigy child or Donna’s baby might have a larger vocabulary, but odds are, your kid will not go to high school only saying “bah” (ball) and “dada” (everything else).  Odds are, you will have a phone bill that will prove that your child has indeed expanded her/his vocabulary to include “Whatever” and “Can I have the car tonight?”

3. Old people are on to something.  Live long enough, I’m starting to realize, and you’ll start saying the same annoying stuff your parents said.  I’m not going to suggest that anyone admit their parents are (gasp!) right, but perhaps our parents might have a few pieces of well-earned wisdom.  They still don’t understand good movies/music/books/fashion/texting/whatever, but they definitely might have a few pieces of sage advice when it comes to raising/chasing after/loving kids.  I mean, I/you didn’t turn out so bad, did we?

Right now I find myself starting to wonder if the twins will ever grow up.

And I stop myself.

 

 

Happy Mothers Day to all you ladies.

a tuesday night.

It’s Tuesday night at 8 p.m.  I am lying on the floor watching the twins play.

Carrie, who has methodically crawled and climbed on every piece of furniture I’ve allowed her to crawl to and climb on, is cruising along our coffee table trying to, very nonchalantly, get her hands on the large black remote control.

I am watching her side-step along the table toward the remote, while simultaneously watching Ellie writhe on the floor. Miss Ellie has to be very motivated to want to crawl and, coincidentally, very few things motivate her.  She has crossed about eight feet of floor space in our family room through a series of rolls, pivots and shuffles.  Along her path, she’s stopped to study fuzz on the floor, blinking lights on the receiver and to plant her face on the carpet while sticking her rear as high up into the air as possible, creating a human pup tent.

And at this very moment, watching Ellie give her face rug burn, I am comforted by the fact that I have twins.

When you have one baby,  you compare your child to other children. With one, I imagine you wonder if you’re doing something wrong and, invariably, congratulate yourself for something you had nothing to do with. The joy of twins is that I know I’ve raised both girls almost exactly the same.  They have faced the same challenges, they have had the same opportunities and they share the same genetics (pro or con, who knows). And yet, with so many things similar, they are nothing alike.

Ellie ate first, Carrie crawled first.  Ellie rolled over first, Carrie rolls over most. Ellie is more calm and patient, Carrie is more… um… dynamic?

I’m sure there will be plenty of other times where one child does something before the other. But for those of you out there currently wondering why your baby isn’t crawling/walking/rolling/scooting/cruising as far or as fast or as frequently as another baby, hopefully I can offer you some comfort there are some things (many things, even) that as a parent that are far outside of your control.

One of my favorite scenes in the movie Parenthood is of Steve Martin watching his son run headfirst into the walls with a bucket on his head.

Yeah, I expect my kids will probably do ridiculous things like that.  I suspect there will be times that I will be somewhat embarrassed even.  And of course, I am sure I will document those embarrassing moments on my blog because, well, I want my kids to know that what they do has consequences.

So yeah, Carrie is right now screaming at the remote control that magically (thanks to mommy) moved to the other side of the coffee table.  She is slamming her little fists of rage against the coffee table, incredulous that her calculations of distance and time to said remote were so off.

And Ellie, well, she’s been rubbing her face into the carpet for about five minutes now.  I think it’s time for bed.

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.

evolution

For those of you who were guessing that my post would be an announcement of another pregnancy – you are very wrong.

Frank would lose his ever-loving mind if we had another child barely a year younger than the twins.

Nope.  This is not a clever blog announcement about a pregnancy.

I started this blog the same month that Frank and I became engaged to be married.  I was 22 years old.

I had been out of college for less than one year.  I had been working for less than six months.

I am not even really sure why I started the blog, other than that I had a weird fascination with the idea of having a diary.  And I’m not even sure why I had that weird fascination.  I’m a terrible correspondent.  Ask anyone who has tried to correspond with me.  I found letters from my darling college roommate, Kelly, and nearly wept at the beautiful notes she would write me.

I doubt that she could make the same claim about the letters I wrote her. Because I didn’t write.  I was a horrible pen pal.

If you look at my blog from 2003, you will find that it was nothing more than a documentation of shopping excursions, what I ate and how I felt about it, and who could forget my rankings of area shopping malls?? (answer: just about anyone and everyone could and should forget it)

I don’t go back to those early postings very often.  Sometimes I do re-read various posts from our wedding planning.  But truthfully, my most pressing concern (if I’m being honest) was finding a tube top so that I would tan evenly.  Heaven help me if I had strap marks while wearing my strapless wedding gown!

I look back on those early years and I wonder at how Frank and I managed to make a life together.  I mean, considering how seriously the odds were stacked against us (under the age of 25, for starters) and then reading my blathering thoughts at the time, it’s a wonder that we managed to move across state lines, find full time employment and not critically hurt ourselves in the process.

But here we are.

I look back on those early years – my immaturity and my self-absorbed interests – and I am struck not by how much I’ve changed, but how much more aware I am that I haven’t changed as much as I should have.

Yeah, this post is not about patting myself on the back.

“Way to go, self, you managed to generally stay clear of the Emergency Room for most of your adult life. Bravo.”

No.

I think a lot of life is about peaks and valleys.  Peaks offer a moment of clarity where I get to see where I am going and where I have been – and realize that the road in both directions is long, winding and generally uncertain.

And valleys remind me of my own humanity.

I think that I am on a momentary peak.

The K-Fam, for all intents and purposes, is doing very, very well.  Frank is employed.  I am employed.  The girls are healthy and growing and developing and have clean diapers on (at the moment).  We have food and shelter and enough extra cash to afford a brand new Starbucks addiction (as long as I keep brewing at home…).

Our coffee cup runs over.

But in this rare moment of clarity, I see my life as it is.  I’m not sad about it or angry or hurt or feeling guilty.  I am just aware that I was young and like pretty much all young people I know, I was blissfully unaware.  And now I am approaching middle-aged.  Or, if I am honest, I am probably middle-aged already (I’m 30 – does that count?).

Whatever.

The point is that I see myself driving home from church, work, wherever – I see the sun shining and the wind rustling the leaves on the lush green trees and even though I have many responsibilities, I feel unburdened. I feel light.

And I am becoming aware that being unburdened is a rare, precious gift; I feel that while I am in the sunshine, enjoying the beauty of this world, there are people whose burdens are great.

Reading the news is a buzz kill.  You are bumping along in life all concerned about what is for dinner or wondering whether or not you remembered to pay the water bill, when all of a sudden a news anchor calmly, matter-of-factly explains that 32 girls in Ghana were rescued from a baby factory where their brand new babies were sold into slavery or as human sacrifices.

The juxtoposition of my life and theirs is hard to grasp.  How can my brain comprehend such disparity of the human existence?

God has been working on my heart, opening my eyes.

Am I going to end human trafficking in this world?  No.

But how can I do nothing?  How can I enjoy a warm summer day spent going for a walk or teaching my baby girls how to build sand castles, while other men, women and children are in such total darkness?

Many children find themselves sold into slavery because their families cannot afford to eat.  They are sold so that the rest of the family can survive.

And yet so easily, I can go to McDonald’s and enjoy a fruit and yogurt parfait, oatmeal or a warm cup of coffee.

While I am contemplating ways I can get involved (more to follow over the next few weeks), I cannot help but realize how mindlessly I eat.  I think very little about what and how much I put in my mouth.  After fertility treatments and a twin pregnancy, this is definitely starting to show.

I have a lot of weight to lose.  Fifty pounds to be exact.

Yeah, that’s right.  Fifty.

Not fifteen.

FIFTY.

Ugh.

What’s sad is that I’ve lost pretty much all of the baby weight.  The weight I have left to lose crept on slowly at first.  I slowly gave in to the weight gain.  “It’s just a pound.  Or two.  Or five.”

Or fifty.

Working out my body is just as important as working out my mental muscles.  The discipline I use for walking and running (and not eating dessert after every meal) helps me be more disciplined in other areas of my life, like time management or finances.

Getting involved in helping to stop human trafficking isn’t going to happen over night.  I won’t find a solution by writing a check for $5.  Big problems like this require persistent and unrelenting action.

In 2001 I started Weight Watchers.  I lost 60 lbs over the next 8 or 9 months.

I did not lose all 60 lbs in the first week.

Every week I lost a little bit and it all added up.

It’s that kind of discipline – making one more person aware, getting one more person to care – that adds up.

A little bit of kindling added slowly builds a big fire.

My goal is to become more disciplined and aware of what I eat, which will simultaneously help me work out the mental muscles needed in order to be dedicated to a cause as important as ending human trafficking.

It’s a weird way to connect two things, but it makes sense to me.

If you ask my mom, she’ll tell you I’ve always been annoyingly persistent. When I want something, I usually find a way to get it.

For every pound that I lose, we (Frank and I) will donate $10 to end human trafficking.  It’s a weightlossathon.

If you want to join me in this effort – either by losing weight yourself or donating money for every pound that I lose, please do!  Let me know in the comment section if you are “in” and what you are doing.

And if you aren’t interested in joining in, if you could keep me in your thoughts and your prayers as I go down this road – both weight loss and figuring out how to help raise awareness of human trafficking issues – I would be so grateful.

Thank you.