I should be folding laundry. Or putting laundry away. Or gathering yet another load of laundry.....But I've decided that my time is more valuable than the endless pursuit of laundry and am writing instead. Years from now when the girls look at these ponderings, I'm sure they'll feel thankful that I wrote instead of caring for their clothing. Who needs clean clothes anway? Really.
I've found myself making comparisons of late. In these last months before the girls start Kindergarten, I am often in awe at how changed our life is from when they were little. Newbies. Twinfants. Lots and lots of work. We've come such a long way from those beginning days that, in many ways, I almost see a dividing line that separates Now from Then with a crystal clear clarity.
I remember the night we brought the girls home. It was Monday. All day we had been humming with the hope that the girls would be released from Special Care. The doctors kept changing their minds, unsure about one twin's sucking ability or the other's ability to keep her temperature up. And both had lost a pound of weight. (They were 6 weeks early, after all). In the end, at the last moment, they were released to us under the conditions that we'd have weekly weight checks with our pediatrician. There it was. Signed some papers. Watched a video about not shaking them. Signed some more papers. Got 4 huge cases of free formula. Off we went. Wave-wave. See ya.
Looking back at it, it can be said that nothing really prepares you for the first moment that you walk into your house with a new baby (or two). It felt so alien to me. I'd been in the hospital for 3 weeks, so for me, that first step over the threshhold sent visions of my pregnant self winging my way. As I stood there, I saw my ghostly form all over the place. Pregnant. Before. Now here I was with two screaming babies who should still have been inside of me. After. In a way, we had to re-learn what "home" meant to us because this house, the one with 2 squalling, impatient, unhappy preemies, was not the one we'd had before. We spent that first evening in sheer confusion. "What do you DO with them?" we wondered. It seemed like a good idea to put them somewhere, so we got them into their Boppy Seats and put them on the couch. We sat across the room and stared. "What now?" We looked at each other, reading the alienation in one another's eyes. The girls just sat still with their eyes squished closed. "Shouldn't we be...I dunno..holding them or something?" I wondered to Dan. "Maybe", he replied, "but..they're content, so maybe we shouldn't." At that moment, I burst into tears. (I was still surfing a mighty hormonal surge). "We don't know what we're doing!! We're failures!" I wailed. Dan, too exhausted from the last 2 months of edge-of-your-seat-life-or-death-drama that he'd been immersed in just looked at me. "I guess we'll figure it out," was all he could offer. "Yeah," I sighed. "I guess." So much for a brilliant homecoming. (My parents ended up coming over that night, saving us from ourselves & despair, reminding us that we'd figure it all out.)
The next few months were a sleepless blur. For the first 2 months, the girls were eating every 2 1/2 hours, and feeing them was a chore. A huge one. Neither had been great at sucking in the hospital, which had concerned the doctors a bit, but they were right on the cusp of it, hedging enough towards the "able" side that they felt the girls would do fine. In reality, it was rough. Really rough. They had a certain amount they had to drink at each feeding or we risked their losing more weight and having to have a nose tube put in. That gave us the incentive to persevere, let me tell you. The amount of milk was small, but they were so slow at eating it you'd think we were giving them a gallon. It took 40 minutes for each to eat 59ml (1/4cup). And feeding one required two hands in those early days. One to hold the wiggling, turning head still, and the other to continually pry open the clenched mouth while somehow still holding the bottle. The feeding schdule looked like this when I was alone: Feed, burp & change one (50 minutes). Feed, burp, & change the other one (50 minutes). That left me with about 50 minutes (give or take) to express milk (since neither girl would nurse at all)and do silly things like go to the bathroom, shower, brush my teeth...eat. And I still had to get things ready for the next feeding. This monotonous and grueling schedule went on 24 hours a day. Every day. When I wasn't alone, I got a break because someone else either fed one baby or took both feedings while I caught up on some of the aforementioned silly things. Or took a nap. Things got markedly easier at around 3 months because, even though they were still the world's sloooowwweeessttt eaters, it was possible for one person to feed both simultaneously while holding both on a Boppy. And in due time, I had a great system down whereby I fed them both on the Boppy AND pumped milk at the same time, creating oodles of free time. Okay, not oodles, but coming from the hazing of nearly 720 hours without sleep...it felt like oodles.
From that point on, things got a little easier. We still had plenty of challenges, but we worked through them. For example, I learned not to beat myself up about knowing I was constantly letting one kid down while meeting the louder needs of the other one. I am only one person. I learned that crying kids does not mean unhappy kids. I am only one person. And I learned that sometimes you DO need to plop them down in front of the tv for an hour. I am only one person.
Now I sit here a totally different person, with two different kids. Our daily struggles have changed from the constant challenge to meet needs, to the daily vies for power. I've gone from having to balance time to having to balance caring for them while allowing them independence. And doing everything for them has given way to doing things with them. I can't say that I've embraced all these changes with relish. Not completely. In fact, a lot of the time I've been the one with my heels dug in hard, unwilling to let go. But I'm progressing right along with them, I am happy to report.
It comforts me to see my life with kids in this divided way. In this way, I feel like I am better able really think about where we've come from and more appreciate where we are now. I still look at The Olden Days with a smile. I honestly feel like we've grown up with the girls. Neither of us had any clue what to expect from parenting. We'd given up playing the "What Do You Think It Will Be Like" game when my pregnancy fell apart and our lives all hung in the balance. We spent those first few years flying by the seats of our pants, going with the flow. I think it's worked out pretty well for us. (Smile). We have two happy little girls who are growing and healthy and loved. We have a marriage that has had its share of ups and downs and has weathered some nasty health issues, but still is filled with love and a deep respect and genuine appreciation. And the best part is that the story is still unfolding, right before our eyes. God willing, it will continue to do so. I'm very interested in where this tale is headed. Very interested indeed.