Monday, June 21, 2010

Why Twins Are Awesome

It seems that there have been more than a few posts on this blog about how much having two babies at once really sucks.  It's exhausting and back-breaking.  It's chaotic and stressful.  It's stinky and sticky and downright dirty business. 

But it is also wonderful. 

Yesterday morning, I heard the babies chattering in their room.  It was 7:30 a.m. and they had slept much later than usual.  I went in to get them only to find them blowing kisses to each other across the room.  It was beyond adorable.  As I scooped them up and wrestled them into my arms, Ellie's nose rubbed against Jude's neck and they dissolved into the amazing little giggles that only babies get.  I realized in this moment, as I was completely enamoured with my Turtles, that I would not be experiencing any of this if I had had just one baby. 

And I just would not trade all the heartache and stress and bad behavior that come with twins and an older child, for anything.  ANYTHING. 

At fifteen months, these Turtles are full of mischief and personality.  They also seem deeply bonded in a way that I will likely never understand.  When Ellie cut her finger and my husband was trying to restrain her to stop the blood, Jude did not leave her side.  When they get off their synchronized sleep schedule, no amount of exhaustion will allow one baby to fall asleep unless her sister is in the room too.  Similarly, if Jude wakes up before Ellie and I remove her from  the bedroom, Ellie wakes up almost immediately.  It is like somehow, in her deep sleep, she senses that her sister is no longer there.  The same is true for Jude.  They play together and they feed each other and they hold hands while they nurse.  They even simultaneously throw the stuffed birds out of their crib if I did not give each baby her correct toy.

Of course, there is the joy that this age brings no matter how many babies you have at one time.  When the babies see me getting dressed in the morning the sight of a bare breast will send them into panting fits while they bounce on their knees squeezing their tiny fists together to show the sign for "milk." Or those wonderful, but tentative, first steps and the excitement of discovering that they are doing something they have never done before.  Then, of course, there is the delightful sound of a wooden spoon on the lid of a pot.  These are new adventures for us and they are happy ones.

Tennis, anyone?

Friday, June 18, 2010

Improved Playdates and a Clarification

Regarding my previous post, I should clarify that it was I, upon consultation with my husband, who decided to pull Vivi from the Wednesday playdates.  This was done as a way to give the kids a break from each other but also to create an opportunity for me and Aviva to spend some more positive time together. 

Since the inception of the Wednesday playdates, we have had very few problems.  In general, Vivi is left to play on her own with the other children while their mothers and I fawn over the Turtles.  What I have come to realize, however, is that the vast majority of her friends do not have siblings, much less two baby siblings.  As a result, when another kid asks to get a push on the swing from his mother, it happens.  When Vivi asks, I generally put her off.  I can see how this would feel upsetting for her so I'm trying to be more available and open to her requests.*

So for the foreseeable future, my husband and I have a lot of fun planned just or her.  We spent this past Wednesday at Ikea so Vivi could play in the ball pit.  My husband is taking her hiking on Father's Day and we are going to get a sitter for the Turtles in the next couple of weeks so we can take her to her first movie.  For the first time in 15 months, we are trying to say, "Turtles you have to wait.  It's your big sister's turn."

Wish us luck!

*I do want to qualify this by saying that I am not turning into a helicopter parent.  I strongly believe that children do better when we are not at their constant beck and call and when they are given the opportunity to explore on their own and work out their differences.  What I feel was happening to Vivi, however, is that I have been virtually unavailable to her because her sisters require so much supervision and care.  I'm trying to be more mindful and inclusive now.    

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Unfriendly Friends of the Preschool Sort

I spent the better part of yesterday afternoon in tears.  I was still reeling from an accident Ellie had on Sunday morning that nearly landed her in the ER (all is okay now) when I spoke to a friend of mine on Monday.  She informed me that her son doesn't want to play with Vivi anymore.  Vivi's sporadic aggression has justifiably upset him and he also apparently doesn't like that Vivi doesn't always say hello and good-bye when spoken to.  This has lead to the cancellation of a childcare swap as well as us pulling Vivi from a weekly playdate. 

This has hit me hard.  While Vivi hardly seems phased that we are no longer seeing some of her friends, I am really having a hard time with the idea that I won't get to see the little boy (who I adore) and his parents regularly. 

When Vivi saw me crying and asked why I was upset I told her it was because this little boy doesn't want to play with her anymore because she has been unkind.  I explained further that I love her very much and I want her friends to love her so it is hard for me to hear when they don't want to play with her.  She looked at me and very seriously said, "Mama.  I don't want to be that way."  I took it to mean that she doesn't want to be unkind and I believe her.

What I see when I look at Vivi is a kid who has been almost totally displaced.  We had a rocky beginning when the Turtles arrived but settled more or less into our chaos by nine months.  As soon as the babies started moving and getting lots more attention, however, Vivi's behavior deteriorated.  At four years old, she is frequently having accidents, yelling at her sisters for touching her stuff (which is pretty much everything), and melting down every morning my husband leaves for work.  I try to snuggle and play with her the best I can but it doesn't seem to be enough.  I think this is impacting her behavior although I'm not sure to what extent.

Yet, the irony in all of this is that Vivi has a wonderful new friend.  She lives across the street and she is six.  Vivi waits outside every day for her bus to come after school and then the two of them play together until dinnertime and beyond.  There are no conflicts and for the most part, they play as equals.  Maybe she will just do better around older children.

When I see her with the child of my friend, however, Vivi gets easily frustrated.  When we had the biting incident a couple of months ago, she got angry that the little boy would not move his hand from the merry-go-round after she asked him to.  That's why she bit him.  When they are together, I notice that they both seem to want what they want and neither one is particularly able to compromise.  While I think the biting is absolutely unacceptable, I don't think that Vivi is completely at fault for the incompatibility with this child.  (I should say here that the mother of the boy doesn't blame Vivi either.  She's been very understanding.)

So, once again, I'm hoping that there is someone who reads this who has been in this kind of situation.  How has the incompatibility of children impacted your adult friendship?  Any advice?     

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Finding Out

I like routines.  Like a young child, I find comfort in knowing what to expect and don't do well with last minute changes of plan.  Yet, and the irony is not lost on me, the unpredictable nature of spending all day, every day with children and their own internal schedules is something with which I struggle.  For that reason, I really cling to my evening rituals.

There's nothing particularly interesting about my evening routine.  Once the girls are in bed, I putter until my chores (dishes, laundry, etc...) are done.  Then I sit on the couch and read or watch a little TV or pull my sewing machine out.  When I'm tired, I head upstairs, brush my teeth, check on the girls, and then read in bed until I fall asleep.  My husband and I are often doing the same things in parallel.

Last night, however, I stayed up late watching crappy, reality TV.  (Hey, I'm not proud.)  By the time I got to bed my husband was already asleep.  This left me in quite a quandary.  I was afraid to check on the babies because they are such light sleepers that about 50% of the time they wake up when I go in.  (When my husband and I are both awake, it's not a problem.  I nurse them and then we play with them for about 10 minutes before putting them back down.)  Not wanting to wake my  husband, I skipped the baby check.  Then, knowing that the light would bother him, I also skipped  my reading. 

And, of course, I could NOT fall asleep.  Somehow, in all that wide-awake thinking, I ended up in the memory of discovering that I was carrying twin girls.  For those of you who know me personally, you will likely remember that I said we did not know what we were having.  Well, we did know and finding out was such a traumatic experience for me that I was in a lot of denial about actually knowing.

Here's the thing.  I felt that just because I could find something out before nature intends didn't necessarily mean that I should.  There are so few truly wonderful surprises in life that I wanted the sex of my children to be unknown until I was meant to find out.  I had been VERY CLEAR to everyone who had any involvement in my pregnancy that we absolutely did not want to know.  So, after we discovered we had twins and my departing midwife dropped off my medical records at my home, I didn't think anything of looking through the file. 

Well, there it was:  Baby A is female.  Baby B is female.  I burst into tears.  The sex of the babies was absolutely irrelevant in assessing their health and the documentation of that fact made me angry.  Even if the documentation was "standard practice," I felt betrayed that my midwife had been so careless in passing the records on to me instead of mailing them to my new practitioner directly.  Plus, there was the disappointment of knowing that there was not a boy growing inside me.  It was a disappointment that lingered with me throughout the remainder of the pregnancy (even though I didn't fully believe it until I birthed both babies).  Of course, the disappointment led to guilt because I didn't think I actually wanted two girls and then I felt even worse.

The thing is if I had not known the sex of the babies, I would not have had more than one moment of disappointment.  One feels differently when the baby is physically in the world but I had three months of anger and disappointment at my surprise being stolen.  To cope with those feelings, I went into a place of deep denial.  The ultrasound couldn't be correct.  Even after the second test and the stupid technician kept slipping and referring to the babies as "she,"  I still couldn't go there.  That's why we did not, in fact, have a second girl's name picked out.  No girl's name other than Eliya (which, ironically, is derived from Eliyahou, the  Hebrew version of Elijah) appealed to me.  In retrospect, it is pretty clear to me that by finding two girl's names, I would have implicitly accepted my knowledge of their sex.  Clearly, that was something I wasn't able to do at the time.

Lying in bed, I felt angry all over again.  It was a strange emotion since I adore both of my Turtles and could not imagine having a boy in the mix.  Jude and Ellie are infinitely perfect in their girl bodies and having a house with three sisters feels right in so many ways.  I came to realize that the anger is because my wishes weren't respected.  The casual nature of the whole debacle led me to feel dismissed and overly sensitive.  That's what still makes me bristle.. not my beautiful girls.

This leads me to wonder if anything like this has ever happened to you.  Did you find out the sex of your babies in advance?  Why?  If you didn't, why not?

Friday, June 4, 2010


There are some days when being a mother really sucks. (Actually, that's literally every day for me since the Turtles are still going strong with breastfeeding. Ahh.... I'm already digressing from the point.) Anyway, in the figurative sense of motherhood suckage, we all probably have had more days than we can count when we would give ANYTHING for an hour of solitude. You know what I mean... that glorious chunk of time when you can do whatever the heck you want and have the freedom from worrying about someone else.

Then there are days when I feel nothing but pure joy around my children. Complete, in-the-moment delight at what I have created. One of those days was yesterday. It was warm and sunny and the girls got to eat dinner at our new backyard picnic table. Oh yeah, and there was lots and lots of watermelon.