a long overdue update on the twinsters

Yes, I have fallen behind in the girls’ second year with marking their milestones.

It’s not that they girls have stopped developing and thereby no longer necessitate updates.

Oh, heavens, they are definitely still developing.

It’s just that while writing an update and mopping up baby vomit was a challenge, writing an update and pulling one twin out of the toilet and the other out of the refrigerator is darn near impossible.

And yes, I know there are toilet locks.

And yes, I know there is probably something for the fridge, too.

But you know what?  I have the door locks for the bathrooms and haven’t had time to install them for a variety of VERY good reasons, reasons that may include my new fascination with Married to Jonas or WORK or OTHER AMAZING THINGS THAT I CANNOT NAME RIGHT NOW.

Excuses, excuses.

So, the twinsters are doing great.  Walking, running and TALKING up a storm.  They say things like,

  • milk
  • more
  • up
  • downstairs
  • outside
  • mama
  • dada
  • Aunt Cay Cay
  • Gramma
  • Papa
  • cow (moo)
  • dog (woof)
  • cat (meow)
  • sheep (bah)
  • book
  • shoes
  • socks
  • bath
  • water
  • bellybutton
  • eyes
  • nose
  • ears
  • mouth
  • cake
  • uh-oh
  • no
  • No
  • NO!!! (pointing finger) (Not sure where they learned that one)

etc, etc.  For anyone looking to compare how many words my girls have compared to their progeny: STOP (collaborate and listen, Ice is back with a brand new edition…). This is not an exhaustive list.  I’m sure your children are brilliant and say many amazing things.  My kids are starting to count. We could do this, “I’m parenting better than you” business all day long and you know what we’ll have to show for it? Even more exhaustion than we currently have to show for it. Let’s not be like that, K?  K.

Anywho.  The girls are stacking blocks, reading books, completing shape/animal puzzle-type games, dancing and generally living la vita loca.  Carrie feeds herself very well with a spoon and wears her dinner bowl as a very fashionable hat.  Ellie is an A+ snuggler who has completely grasped an innate ability to whine her way up into my arms. It’s not at all charming, but it is 99% effective.

Frank has started a pseudo evil game of telling the girls to put their arms up and then promptly tickling them.  The result? Our genius babies no longer raise their arms over their heads.  This is awesome unless you’re their poor mother who has to change their clothes and give them baths.

We are at that awkward phase of the girls wanting/loving independence, but us not letting them have it because, well, they can’t handle it.

Tonight, for example, there was a LOT of the word no.

“NO! Do not pull that out of the garbage!” (said while I am pulling twin #2 out of the dishwasher)

“NO! Do NOT play in the toilet! I am serious! OUT OF THERE!” (said while I am pulling twin #1 out of the garbage)

“NO! Get off of the coffee table! Didn’t I just tell you to get off of the coffee table!” (said while I am pulling twin #2 out of the toilet)

“NO!… Wait… YES! Let’s read a book!  A book would be great!” (said while I am pulling twin #1 off of the coffee table)

They are such happy babies and they don’t seem to be taking any of this “no” business personally.  Well, I mean, I haven’t gotten a bill for therapy yet, but they seem mostly happy and fulfilled.

The highlight of the last few months has been that the girls are starting to hug and love back.  They always enjoyed a snuggle or two, but now when I pick up the girls, they wrap their arms around my neck and squeeze.

It’s the sweetest thing.

Also, the girls have discovered make up, love wearing dresses, ask me to put their hair up in pony tails (only to take them out immediately) and are enamored with shoes of all shapes and sizes and styles.

Love my girly girls!

Ellie 1 year ago…

Miss Ellie at 19 months

Carrie 1 year ago…

Miss Carrie at 19 months

a prairie home companion

alternatively titled, “a love song for my children.”

I love talk radio.  I love conservative talk radio.  I love liberal talk radio.  I love post-Hawks games sports talk radio.  I love morning talk shows and will frequently change the station when they play music.  I adore news radio of all kinds.

But there is something absolutely magical about my childhood Saturday nights at 5 p.m. in Chicago.

At 5 p.m. on Saturday night, the self-deprecating Minnesotan Garrison Keillor, accompanied by a jaunty pianist, would open up the stage of “A Praire Home Companion,” a lovely radio show that often featured tales of Garrison’s beloved Lake Wobegon

Listening to APHC is like being thoroughly ensconced in some of the most treasured aspects of my childhood.  Growing up, we mostly listened to APHC on the way to Saturday night Catholic Mass, and some of my strongest, most delicious memories, are of Garrison’s steady, deep voice rumbling through stories of Guy Noir and News of Lake Wobegon.  Our family’s red minivan bounced along the tree-lined streets of Palatine, the same streets that brimmed with my own family’s 50+ year history of growing up and growing old in this town.  Sunlight filtered and danced through the large oak trees we drove under, a faint smell of barbecues pre-heating wafted through open car windows and Garrison’s narrative rose and fell over the sounds of my family chattering along the way to mass.

I especially recall Garrison’s folksy duets with guest singers and song writers: a perfect soundtrack to a lush summer day.

Tonight, on the way home from a day with Frank’s family at the Lake, I turned on NPR and heard the familiar sounds of my beloved APHC.  The first strains of the piano accompaniment sent me straight back to those wonderful evenings driving to Mass.  I turned the volume up, hoping that the sound of Garrison’s rambling stories, always punctuated with his deep, inhaling breaths through his nose, would bury themselves deep into the girls’ psyche.

See, those Saturday night family trips to Mass are, for me, the epitome of an American childhood.  We worked outside all day on nearly every Saturday – mowing, trimming, watering, and planting – and then we would wash up, put on clean cotton shirts and skirts, and go to Mass.

The church I grew up in, was a dark, cavernous space, but it was not unfriendly – not at all – it was a holy and happy place for me.  On Saturday nights, our parish allowed the worship director to use guitars and folksy versions of our favorite hymns.  We always left church on Saturday nights with light hearts – and hungry stomachs.

Usually Garrison’s show was still going on when we left church.  While we drove somewhere to pick up dinner, we’d listen to the News of Lake Wobegon, smiling as Garrison deftly wove together stories of Lutherans and casseroles and young people making their way in life.

And always, always, Garrison finished his broadcast with: “That’s the news from Lake Wobegon, where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average.”

Then, the jaunty pianist would send us all off into the proverbial sunset, happy and satisfied that somewhere in the world, there must be a Lake Wobegon. And more importantly, there seemed to be an implicite promise that there would always be a Lake Wobegon – as long as their story was told.

One day, maybe my children will hear the sound of Garrison Keillor’s voice intimately narrating a story about the stoic midwestern folks up in Minnesota, and that they will feel what I feel: that our stories and our legacy and our love continues on in the people we love, long after we are gone.

 

18 months

The twins are 18 months old.

I know that I am always amazed when I mark the time that has passed since the twins were born.

Every time I do that, I slap my forehead and think, “when did I get so OLD??”

And then I think, “I was so much younger 18 months ago! Where did that time go?”

Full circle.

So yes, the twins are 18 months old.  I am also 18 months older than I was when I birthed these babies.  Frank is, too.  Time, being all chronological and stuff, does that to a person ya know.

On the twins’ 18 month birthday, we celebrated my parent’s 116th birthday.  No, just kidding.  They’re only 58 each.  Ha ha ha. I bet they loved that joke.

As I’ve mentioned before, my parents have a lot in common, including being born within 24 hours of each other.  This is Super Convenient for planning birthday dinners and the like.

We enjoyed brats, burgers, salad, potato salad and Portillo’s chocolate cake.  OMG. Have you had Portillo’s chocolate cake?  Stop reading this and drive to your nearest Portillo’s and get some cake – what are you waiting for??

The girls had a blast playing with G-Ma and Rick Almighty.  Auntie Cay-Cay, Auntie Laur and Uncle Andy also entertained the twins, chasing them around the field behind our house.  All in all, everyone had a nice time – although it would’ve been 100x better if Auntie Sarah was there.  Instead she’s all like, in California surfing and stuff.

Boo.

So, yes, the twins are now 18 months old.  Ellie is our chatty baby – she says a lot of words now – Mama, Dada, Bib, Cah-gin, socks, shoes, sippy,  and WAH! (which means more milk, more food, more hugs, more snuggles, more binky).  Ellie also reprimands Carrie from time to time, “Cah-gin. Cah! No! NO!”  It’s pretty hilarious, but will likely need to be reined in.

The girls are hugging each other, which is, by far, the Cutest.Thing.Ever!

Carrie, our child with smaller vocabulary, is our child with the highest likelihood (at this point) to be an athlete.  Running, attempting jumping, spinning (until she makes herself dizzy and falls down… woops) and all sorts of shenanigans are the name of her game.  A lot can happen before the collegiate scouts go to their volleyball/basketball/whatever games.  But still, I am comforted by her interest in spherical objects and throwing them.

Both girls love to be snuggled and cuddled.  They have developed a twin language that they use to plot evil schemes, or who knows what.  It seems pretty legit and conversational, which has Frank and I amused. And concerned. But mostly amused.

The girls go in to be weighed and measured next month (we thought we would avoid the mad rush of back-to-school physicals), so I will post those relevant stats mid-September.  I’m sure that they have gained weight, I’m sure that they have grown taller.  I mean, Carrie grew two shoe sizes between May and July, so the stunner would be if they hadn’t progressed.

So yeah, 18 months, man.

 

 

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…

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.

ten months? really??

Nothing makes time fly faster than two very mobile little girls.

Carrie has been crawling for a while now.  She’s added pulling up and climbing to her tactics that allow her to get into trouble.  Just yesterday, Frank and I left the girls in their bedroom while we got ready for church.  We heard a thud and went to check on the girls, only to find Miss Carrie in an unusual position:

Ellie was a little bit later in learning how to crawl, but once she had the proper motivation, she can bust a move with the best of ’em! Ellie hasn’t started pulling up on much, but we are pretty sure that milestone is not too far away.

The girls have a ton of teeth in varying stages of protrusion.  Both have at least four teeth with a few more on the way.  They have been teething champs – requiring no ora-gel and muscling through teething like it was no big thang.

Carrie continues to be a vibrant, electric soul.  We love the bright smile she is so quick to flash at everyone. And she has this awesome laugh that just warms my heart. Every morning, when we walk into her room, she is standing in her crib, GRINNING at us. There is, in my opinion, nothing better than that.

Ellie is our peaceful soul.  She loves to snuggle and study books, pictures and anything with intricate detail.  She has two plush, rosie cheeks that are like little apples – just perfect for smooching! She was the first twin to really lock down feeding herself – her fine motor skills are excellent.

Miss Ellie enjoying bath time.

Watching the girls interact is one of the best parts of having twins.  They started laughing at each other and playing together more over the past month.  The other day, Frank’s mom was watching the girls play.  Both girls had pacifiers and were sitting facing each other.  Carrie casually reached over and plucked Ellie’s pacifier out of her mouth, spit out her own pacifier and started enjoying the stolen pacifier. Without blinking, Ellie picked up the discarded pacifier until Carrie noticed and the cycle repeated itself several times. Carrie was remorseless and Ellie was unruffled throughout the entire exchange. The perk of having twins is that they have never had the benefit of an existence without a sibling, so their tolerance for such antics seems to be much higher.

The nice thing about this stage of their lives is that they are eating pretty much anything we eat. This proved to be quite helpful this weekend when Frank and I spontaneously went out for brunch after church.  The girls enjoyed watermelon, blueberry muffins, mac & cheese and a few other items with gusto.  They were perfect little angels, delighting the staff with their sweet selves.  Let’s hope their dining prowess continues and they don’t start doing the screaming thing they do at home. That screaming thing is pretty annoying.

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.

the girls: sixth month update

I’m a little late on this one, but bear with me:

Stats:

  • Ellie: 17 lbs 2 oz, 26 1/4 inches long
  • Carrie: 16 lbs 14 oz, 25 1/2 inches long

What they are doing:

  • Gabbing and chatting with us and with eachother
  • Rolling everywhere they can
  • Grabbing and holding toys, putting EVERYTHING in their mouths
  • Drooling. On. Every.Thing.
  • Eating solids – they love rice and oatmeal and have enjoyed prunes, pears, and apples.
Ellie is my little snuggle bunny these days.  She loves to get cozy and enjoy a pacifier and some snuggles in the middle of the afternoon.  She “sings” herself to sleep in her car seat.  She is rolling back to front, but not front to back  yet.  She can sit up with assistance.
Carrie loves to play.  She loves being bounced on Dad’s knee or tickled under her chin.  She is very, very chatty.  We even discovered that she’s cutting her first two teeth tonight!  She tries to sit, like her sister, but prefers to stand up straight and tall.
We are pretty pleased with our little girls.  For being two months early, the doctors are very pleased with their progress.  They are definitely ahead of their adjusted age and catching up quickly with their chronological age.