Did She Have a Bad Day Today? (Clues for the Husbands)

If…

She asks him to bring home more carpet cleaner and/or Spray n’ Wash,

The carseat is in pieces, drying on the deck,

The kids’ sheets are clean (think about it),

The living room rug is outside,

The van windows are down (think about it),

She’s standing in front of the pantry with a quizzical look on her face,

It’s raining,

The migraine medicine is out on the counter,

Her ponytail is askew,

The kids’ breakfast is still glued to their hair,

You call her from your work number and not your cell number at dinnertime,

You start a conversation with, “You know how tomorrow was supposed to be my day off?”

…then she probably had a bad day.

Setting the Record Straight

Sometimes people misunderstand my snarky tone. I hope I can write well enough that everyone understands my intentions. My intentions are to convey the absurd in my daily life. I want to be truthful. The truth is:

1) I love my kids. This is indisputable. Everyone loves his or her kids. Every parent wants to do his or her best for  the children. If I wrote a blog about that, it would be really boring.

2) What I do is really hard: There are only 2 people on the whole planet, besides myself, who have done this job alone all day (my husband and a friend from church). Usually it takes 2-3 grandparents to replace me for a day. Having three children under three, or three children in diapers, does not occur often in nature. Number 2 does NOT NEGATE number 1.

3) What I do is really ridiculous: My daily life is absurd. It’s weird. It’s crazy. Normal people do not live this way. If I didn’t find humor in what is happening here, I would crack. I might literally crack in half from being tense. Number 3 does NOT NEGATE number 1.

My blog is trying to tell the truth about numbers 2 and 3. I have mothers all over the world messaging me about how grateful they are that I am telling the truth. I have infertile women all over the world telling me that they are sobbing while reading my story because someone finally understands them. I have friends telling me they are crying with laughter or crying with tears at something funny or sad that I wrote. How are we supposed to help others if we don’t tell the truth? How can we relate to others if we don’t show our weaknesses?

If you have read my “about me” page, you know all this already. I have overcome trials as we struggled to build our family- some of which include infertility, miscarriage, adoption, IVF, carrying twins, and almost dying. I want to tell my children what it was really like to “acquire” them.  It was hard, sad, funny, ridiculous, embarrassing, and wonderful. I also want to record what these early days were like for us. Soon enough, they will be in school, and none of us will really remember these painfully beautiful and painfully hard days. I have a bad memory, and I am seriously sleep-deprived –  both of which indicate that I will not remember the majority of what is happening here.

A friend of mine has a sign on her wall that says, “The days are long, but the years are short.”

This blog is written for my children. A question I answered in my “What Happens When You Start Blogging” post was, “Why are you writing in a public forum if the information is really for your children?” The answer is that I have discovered that I am incapable of keeping a private journal for them – I just don’t make the time. However, when I am blogging, I know I have followers who are waiting for my new posts. I currently have just shy of 1500 followers. People tell me that they eagerly anticipate the email notification that I have posted something new. That knowledge is excellent motivation to keep writing. So, yes, this information is recorded for my children, but you readers are the motivation. And I thank you for that!

With all that cemented, let me set the record straight by doing something I never do: brag about my children. Here are some amazing things about them… just so you know they are loved. wink wink.

My oldest son (R, age 4):

  • Has a very long attention span
  • is obedient, despite tantrums
  • has excellent motor skills, both fine and gross
  • can recite some scripture stories and knows how to pray
  • can talk about Jesus and Heavenly Father
  • is very thoughtful
  • has favorite foods that include salmon, blueberries, falafel, quinoa, and veggie juices
  • doesn’t know what a “Happy Meal” is (even though he loves french fries, I admit)
  • does not watch TV (but does watch a limited selection of DVDs)
  • does not know how to manipulate any sort of smart phone, computer, or device (this is my choice)
  • protects his babies from all sorts of dangers
  • has an above-average vocabulary (according to a speech therapist) and even understands a bit of Farsi

My middle son/oldest twin (E, age 16 months):

  • looks exactly like my husband’s baby photos, but with lighter eyes and hair
  • is a hugger. He will even pause to hug the stairs, the wall, or a boot
  • has a lower lip that slays me
  • rubs two fingers together when he is nervous
  • is much larger than almost all singletons his age
  • is already learning to share and take turns, because he has no choice
  • has favorite foods that include avocado (he can eat a whole one every day), eggs (he can eat 3), salmon, falafel, and plain yogurt
  • does not watch TV
  • knows a small amount of sign language and says many words

My youngest son/youngest twin (G, age 16 months):

  • looks exactly like my baby pictures, but with darker hair and eyes
  • is quick and sneaky, like a ninja – or a chess player.
  • has the most kissable head… His oldest brother calls him “baby doll head” (he made that up)
  • was in charge in the womb and is in charge now
  • is much larger than most singletons his age, but is way smaller than his twin
  • has favorite foods that include all the same healthy foods that his brothers like
  • does not watch TV
  • knows a small amount of sign language and says some words

I love my kids (duh, boring), and what I do is really hard and really ridiculous. There you have it. The record is straight.

To My Readers Who Are Struggling with Infertility

I don’t just sympathize – I truly empathize with you. I feel your pain. I walked in your shoes. Whatever you are going through or feeling right now, I probably experienced it:

…..Miscarriages, adoption paperwork, IUI, IVF, Clomid, Follistim, Bravelle, Lupron, progesterone suppositories, 1.5” needles, glass vials, cysts, insensitive comments from strangers or non-strangers, meeting with social workers to prove that my house was suitable for children, getting fingerprinted at the police station like a criminal to prove that I was suitable for children…

…Spending $1500 out of pocket at the pharmacy for one month’s medications, enduring laparoscopic surgery for endometriosis, waking up in agony after egg retrieval surgeries during IVF cycles, wasting thousands of dollars when my period started and that cycle didn’t work, breaking down in tears at family parties, screaming in pain during not one but two HSG procedures (barbaric), blood tests every other day, vaginal ultrasounds sometimes EVERY day…

…Genetic testing for me and for my lost fetus, trying to change everything from the lotions I used (parabens!) to the temperature of the water I drank (the ayurvedic doctor said only hot water!), crying  in Wal-mart because I saw a poster of a baby, wanting to run over the “stork parking” signs in parking lots, hating my body because it couldn’t do something that teenagers/ out-of-wedlock couples/ drug addicts can do by accident… (And I’m worrying about the kind of Teflon on my pots?!)

Did I forget anything?

The whole thing was infuriating, and it made me feel powerless over my life and my body and my future. I wanted more than one child, and the clock was ticking.  I even listened to my doctor say, “Well, if it hasn’t happened in five years, it’s probably not going to.”

So, yeah, I get it.

But, I am here to tell you something. I not only survived infertility, I kicked its butt! I never want to dull the pain of what happened to me, because I want to support those who are coming down the infertility path behind me. I want to be a small source of hope for you. Everyone is probably telling you stories (like “My friend so-and-so…”), but I don’t want to be that person. I just want you to know that I felt how you felt at one point, and now it’s over. It’s over. And it will be over for you someday too. I know it.

I experienced all of those things, and more. After 13 rounds of fertility drugs, 2 rounds of IVF, miscarriage, and adoption, I now have three beautiful boys. Although we haven’t used birth control in nearly a decade, none of those children were conceived in my own body. One of them came to us through adoption, and two of them came to us (simultaneously) through IVF. All of them have souls that belong in this family.

While the acute pain of infertility has ended, I refuse to forget about it. I think I know what you are feeling. And that feeling won’t last forever.

"Not room enough to receive it."

“Not room enough to receive it.”

I reflect on my infertile time each day at naptime, when I settle my three big baby boys on my lap for their milk. Combined, they weigh almost as much as I do. They take up all the space on my big rocking armchair. My lap literally cannot hold them all. I get weepy and emotional each day during this rare few moments. It’s the only time of day I get to cuddle them all. I think of a scripture each day during this time: “I will…open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.” (Malachi 3:10) That scripture runs through my mind as they try to sit there on my lap because there is literally “not room enough to receive” them all. My arms are full. My lap is full. The windows of heaven opened, and, I must say, we worked really really hard to open them.

We may have never had this lap full/chair full/ house full of children if we had not prayed, or had miscarriages, or done the adoption paperwork, or decided to do IVF twice. I don’t know. All I know is that, in my case, I had to wait. I had to wait and learn and be patient and work really hard. But, most of all, I had to break. I didn’t bend when I was supposed to bend. I was not a strong branch. Eventually, instead of bending, I broke. But after that, I accepted my life/journey/path/challenge (ugh, each of those word choices is equally as cheesy as the next). I reached a state of peacefulness and true patience somewhere around the eight-year mark – and that’s when my children started arriving.

There was not room enough to receive them.

***

[And, yes, I do know that the verse from Malachi is about tithing, not IVF.]

Surviving the NICU: Life as a Preemie Mommy

Preemie Motherhood - 2

This article is the first in a series of guest posts. I have invited a few select friends and family members to contribute to my blog. I have chosen them based on two things: 1) I personally go to them for help; and 2) I am fascinated by their unique parenting challenges, because I want to hear how they make “okayest” work for them.

Allow me to introduce you to my sister-in-law, “Dee”, who, along with her 2-year-old daughter, Em, is currently living with us. Em, my niece, was born 3 1/2 months early and survived. Em, a former micropreemie, now weighs 27 pounds and can hold her own against her three cousins (who have managed to outweigh her). We have four children under the age of four living in this house. The chaos, mess, noise, and diapers are out of control, but every time I see Em giggle, hug a cousin, or say “oops” with a lisp, my heart soars. She is the Girl Who Lived. Here is a little window into the world of preemie motherhood.

When Melissa asked me to be a guest writer for her blog, I thought about what “okayest” moments I’ve had parenting my daughter, Em. I could go on for days about different situations we’ve had, but being a mom of a 1.5 lb baby tops all of my other mommy moments. Parenting in a NICU is incredibly difficult, especially when you never saw it coming. There are no perfect moments. There are no lovely, glowing pictures of you snuggling your newborn. It is chaotic, heartbreaking, and eye-opening to watch your tiny baby struggle to live, while you struggle to keep your sanity. Each and every day is about surviving and being okay.

Em’s (glossed over) Birth Story:

At 25-weeks gestation, I noticed a small amount of spotting. I’ve heard it’s not terribly uncommon, but I had my husband take me to the hospital just to make sure. As my doctor was checking me, his expression turned from unconcerned to uncomfortable. He told me that I was 2 cm dilated, and needed to be rushed to a hospital with a level three NICU, so that they could put a stitch in my cervix.

While in the ambulance, I asked the EMT how many premature babies he had delivered. He responded with: “Two. But neither made it, since we aren’t equipped to keep smaller babies alive.” I was stunned and furious. Who says that to a patient that is 25-weeks pregnant and on a two hour trek to the hospital?!

By the time we arrived, I was 4 cm and having contractions. They were able to give me medication to keep Em in the womb for another week, which saved her nearly a month in the NICU.

On the seventh day, I woke up bleeding and contracting, and spent the next five hours begging my nurse to get my doctor to help me. She would come in every half an hour or so to tell me that I was fine, and that I was not in labor. I cried. I pleaded. It took my mother and husband yelling at nurses down the hallways to get someone to come in. By the time my doctor showed up, my daughter was having her legs crushed in the birth canal. I was told I needed a stat c-section. Then an ultrasound showed that there was no time, and she needed to be born breech, immediately. My tiny little baby was born with bruised, black legs, because of my nurse’s negligence. Had she been head first, my time as a mom would have ended that morning.

This is the day Em was born, at 26 weeks gestation, when her eyes were still fused shut like a kitten's.

This is the day Em was born, at 26 weeks gestation, when her eyes were still fused shut like a kitten’s.

Em went through nine weeks of crazy ups and downs. We went through more than I can even write, but here are some of the things I’ve learned along the way.

Being a preemie mommy means:

-…you were (more than likely) unaware that your little one was going to come into this world so soon, and are BEYOND unprepared. And it’s okay that you are! You will learn by watching your baby change each hour of each day (and from the occasional google search that turns out to be helpful, and then is just down-right terrifying).

-…mourning a pregnancy that ended too soon. You will feel gypped. You may have to go to your baby shower while your baby is in the NICU. You don’t get to look super pregnant and take fun maternity pictures. If you’re like me and waited until the second trimester to tell anyone, you’re going to feel like you’ve been pregnant for five minutes.

-…not getting to touch or hold your own baby for days or even weeks.

This is the first time Dee was able to hold her own baby. She had to wait two agonizing weeks for this touch.

This is the first time Dee was able to hold her own baby. She had to wait two agonizing weeks for this touch.

-…being discharged and having to go home without your baby. This was one of the worst nights of my life. The guilt, the pain, the uncontrollable need to just be with your baby…. As hard as the first night is, it gets less painful as visits become routine. Eventually, you will be able to walk out of the hospital with your sweet little preemie and it’ll be a day you’ll never forget.

-…having to decide different courses of action, whether they are invasive, risky, or down right experimental. Em was part of the NEWNO study, which is a double-blind study to test whether or not giving a particular gas to preemies helps them breathe on their own faster. It was a scary decision to make, but to us, everything that was being done to save Em was first tested on preemies that were part of studies like this one. She can know that she made a difference to future preemies.

-…realizing that you and your child are capable of more strength, endurance, and hope than you can imagine. It may not seem like it, now, but trust me. You will see.

The Unique Positives:

-You will get to know your baby sooner than most parents do. You will see their personality shine through from day one, and (let’s be honest) it is interesting to watch a baby develop before your very eyes. When Em was born, her eyes were still fused shut, like a kitten. When she was about two weeks old, we walked up to her incubator to find these odd paper sunglasses on her, and her nurse told us that early in the morning, her eyes opened. I wish we could have seen it, but we put pictures of us in her incubator, so at least she still saw us.

-You will see that your preemie is a warrior. They will go through things that adults can’t handle, and their strength will amaze you. One of Em’s scariest NICU experiences was when a PICC line (an intravenous catheter that is threaded from the arm/leg/head to the heart for prolonged medication) site became infected. For several days I watched the slightly concerning bump on her foot turn into a black, marble-sized wound, that the nurses just would not take seriously. It wasn’t until she started running a fever of 103 degrees with her heart rate at 220 bpm, that they took action. They took off my 2.5 lb infants clothes and made her stay in an open bassinet for hours just to bring her temperature down. Once her fever was under control (days later), they told us that they needed to do a spinal tap to check for a deeper infection. After they performed it (and we cried harder than she did), we went home, for the night. At 3 am, I received a call from the doctor that they didn’t get enough fluid to test, and that she needed consent right now to perform a SECOND spinal tap, while she was all alone. As you can imagine, spinal taps are PAINFUL, and she was only given a small amount of Tylenol to ease the pain. These tests bring grown men to their knees, and yet these preemies often go through some of the scariest things alone. By the time we got there, she was bundled back up and sleeping soundly. It was if she hadn’t just had two giant needles jabbed into her frail back, just hours earlier. I don’t think I would have been in her position.

-You have more milestones to celebrate! Daily weight-checks to see if they’ve gained a few grams, being able to finally put some cute little clothes on your tiny baby, graduating to an open bassinet, and for some preemies, getting to take an ambulance ride to go from a level three NICU to a hospital with a level two!

Life at Home:

Here is the joyful day of Em's homecoming, after almost 3 months in the NICU.

Here is the joyful but intimidating day of Em’s homecoming, after almost 3 months in the NICU.

-The first night at home, you will be thinking: “WAIT. No monitors?! How will I know what her sats are? What if she has bradies (bradycardic episodes)?! How will I know?!?!” The idea of going from medical care 24/7 to being totally on your own is terrifying. Chances are, there will be a lot of unnecessary phone calls to the NICU because you think something is wrong, but DO NOT stop calling just because you think you’re being overly concerned. Had we given in to the many doctors that told us we were just young parents, and were still having some PTSD from Em’s prematurity, she would have never been diagnosed with epilepsy when she was, and she very well may not be here today, had we not followed our parental instincts.

-As time goes on, you start seeing your baby as a normal, healthy baby. No wires, no needles, no bandages, just your wonderful munchkin. Other people, however, don’t always know how to treat you and your preemie, now that you’re home. Which brings me to my next thought.

What NOT to Say to a Preemie Mommy:

1. “At least you’re not 40 weeks! Being this pregnant sucks!”

Say this to a preemie mommy, and she’ll want to punch you in the left ovary. We would give ANYTHING just to have been pregnant long enough to deliver a healthy baby. Bite your tongue!

2. “I wish I didn’t have to breastfeed!” or “You DON’T breastfeed?”

Preemie mommies can’t always lactate, which makes us feel inadequate and guilty for robbing our sickly babies of something that is so good for them. Even if you don’t want to breastfeed, it stinks not to have a choice.

3. “How is your baby having a GOOD day?! It’s so sick!”

Preemies can have good days. Even if it’s just gaining ten grams or coming down on their oxygen levels, it’s progress and that leads to hope. If you aren’t going to be positive/sympathetic, don’t say anything! We could use someone to just listen to us.

4. “Don’t worry, she’ll be fine.”

Yeah? Where did you get your doctorate of neonatology? Not only is this infuriating because no one knows if your baby will be fine or not, but it makes you sound passive about a very upsetting situation.

5. “Yeah, my kid was in the hospital with the flu for a few days. It’s tough!”

There are many parents out there that have had kids in the hospital, and many for reasons far worse than prematurity. But if your kid is in the hospital for poison ivy, don’t compare.

6. “At least you didn’t have to deliver a big baby!”

(Insert the hundreds of “at least you”’s that preemie parents can throw back at you.)

7. “She looks awful!”

She may not look well, because she is small and sick, but come on, now.

8. “She’s a preemie and you took her outside in this weather?!”

I’ve got more doctors numbers in my phone than I have friends/family. If I need medical advice on my kid, I won’t be asking you.

9. When your GYN nurse asks (without looking at your chart) “Did you feel the baby move, today?”

And cue sobbing. Running into people that don’t know you delivered early is tough. I have no advice for this one. It’s just awkward and sad.

10. “I’ve heard that the odds of a preemie doing ____ are ____%”

I’ve heard that the odds of being killed from falling out of bed are 1 in 2 million, so I’d start sleeping on the floor, if I was you. I hear statistics from every doctor and nurse that crosses my path. Don’t be negative, or try to be “realistic” about it. Just be supportive.

A Few Things to Remember:

-It’s okay to have fun outside of the NICU. I’ve had my share of guilt about going grocery shopping, seeing a movie, or just getting some dang sleep, but it’s necessary! You really do have to take care of yourself! Your baby has plenty of people taking care of him/her, so get take a little time each day to do something for you, even if it’s only for five minutes.

-Don’t take people’s crap in the NICU! I had a good share of family members that needed to just get the boot, either from being upsetting or negative. Your baby wants a happy mommy, and he/she won’t get that if mom is stressed out by a visitor that isn’t being supportive. Don’t be afraid to ask them to give you some space!

-The NICU stay will end eventually. It will seem like you will never escape the monitors, doctors and the sickening smell of Purell, but in a few weeks/months, you will hopefully be home with your little one.

There is no such thing as a perfect parent, but it seems like an even more unattainable status when you’re the mommy of a preemie. You don’t have to have it all together. You don’t have to pretend like you didn’t just cry in Target because a woman was pushing around her newborn, and you can’t even find a preemie shirt that will fit your baby (which, by the way, you’ll want ones with snaps that go down the front!). If you follow your instincts, get some sleep every once in a while, and just do your best, you will be okay.

Here is Em on her second birthday. Look how strong and big she is! Photo courtesy Mr. Okayest (Em's uncle)

Here is Em on her second birthday. Look how strong and big she is! Photo courtesy Mr. Okayest (Em’s uncle)

Run-On Sentence Life

I'm not *busy*. I'm just crazy.

I’m not *busy*. I’m just crazy.

My sister-in-law asked how I was doing, and this run-on sentence disaster is what came out:

“We’re doing great, other than I feel like a crazy woman with the babies going so fast in opposite directions. They are like puppies. And potty training at the same time? Insane! I put R on the potty, and then I have to herd Baby A out of the bathroom, and by that time, Baby B is in the bathroom, and by then R is kicking that one in the face (idly) while he tries to go potty, and by then the Baby A has climbed up on the fireplace hearth and is falling off, and then I have to leave R on the potty, but then he cries because he is “wone-wee” in there and can’t go if he’s “wone-wee” and by then, Baby B has climbed on top of some sort of wheeled toy and is actually being pushed by Baby A across the living room.”

Run-on sentence much? My whole life is a run-on sentence!

My days are crazy. People say, “Wow, you are so busy,” but it’s not about being busy. I have plenty of down time where I am just lying on the floor as happy babies stick their fingers in my nose and knee me in the c-section scar. It’s more about me always spinning in circles- sometimes literally. By the time I remove Baby A from crawling toward the dog, Baby B has crawled toward the dog. I spin in circles.

My whole day is fight-or-flight. My husband says this means I am just reacting to things. I think this means that I am just really sweaty all day long.

I taught Kindergarten for five years before this motherhood thing. I can easily wrangle 25 five-year-olds into coats in 1 minute flat, but I can’t dress my own three children in under twenty minutes. I can easily usher 25 five-year-olds out the door during a fire drill in mere seconds, but I can’t get to my own kid who is falling down the stairs before dropping another kid. I can easily keep 25-five-year-olds happily engaged at a lovely decibel level, but my own three children make my ears bleed.

I miss a few things from the old days, when my 25 kids got on the bus and went home at the end of the day. Now I have three children for 24 hours a day, and there are some things that I feel like I will never get back. That’s okay. I swear I’m not complaining. But, whew, I wish God could give me one of those days back right now, just for a little vacation.

My husband and I were introverts. We had a quiet life, but maybe that was the problem! Our life is so loud and wild now, even if it’s not overtly busy. If only we had been big partiers before children (ha!), then maybe this would be easier now. I think wild party animals and social butterflies get all the After-Baby-Attention because their busy social calendar screeches to a halt, but I’m here to say that maybe we should consider the poor introverts. How do we fare in all this commotion?

I wish I was that mom who gets all gushy about the noise and chaos bringing joy to her heart, but, as you know, I am not shy about saying that bedtime is my favorite part of the day. I love my kids, and I love their bedtime just as much. I long to get my house back for those lovely two hours before I go to bed. But shouldn’t I be celebrating this “joyful noise”?

Mr. Okayest says that we’ll get there. The kids are just too little to go upstairs together and make blanket forts and have raucous laughter echoing down the stairs while I make dinner in peace. They still require constant 100% physical effort from me.

I miss Sunday naps after church, making dinner in silence, and eating dinner without food on the floor. I miss reading the Sunday Washington Post, going to the movies on Friday night, and going out to eat once a week. I miss driving the car in undistracted (i.e., safe) silence. I miss not lugging a 30 pound diaper backpack everywhere I go (and not packing a 30 pound diaper backpack before going anywhere!). I miss a back and a neck that don’t hurt constantly. I swear I’m not complaining. After all, I did let the doctor implant two eggs in there.

I’m a crazy woman with a run-on sentence life. I promise you that I used to be smart, and creative. I promise you that my vocabulary used to be twice as large as it is now. I promise you that I never wrote any run-on sentences. I also promise you that I never said this sentence ever at all before yesterday: “We don’t put turtles in our brother’s bottom”.

I also promise you that I wouldn’t change it or trade it. To cope, I may cry, or watch Keeping up with the Kardashians, or shamefully snap at my husband, or drink too many Diet Cokes, or whine… but I promise I wouldn’t change it. I kiss their fat cheeks, I squeeze their cellulite, I inhale their baby head scent before it’s too late. I see  three shades of skin, three colors of eyes looking at me, and my heart melts sometimes. I am thankful. Truly. But I wouldn’t mind just that one pre-kid vacation day….

One Year Later: In Photos

The Early Days

The Early Days were a blur of sleepless nights, toddler tantrums, pain, painkillers, and a revolving door of grandmas, aunts, and cousins helping for days and nights on end. My husband was perfectly capable of taking care of a newborn or two OR taking care of me – but not both.  Early Days were dark. They were a little sad, a little happy, and very overwhelming. Early Days lasted for the first month.

twins_1st_drtwins holding hands brothers early days all of usearly days with daddy twins cuddling first walk

Survival Mode

After the early days came Survival Mode. Survival Mode came after I was healed. It was after the overnight help went back to their own families, and my husband went back to work. These were the first days that I started to take care of the three children on my own. I was shaky and scared. I cried a lot during Survival Mode Days. Neighbors and friends dropped by often to help me for a couple hours each day to rescue me. The babies were still demanding newborns. I was delirious from lack of sleep. I often only got one or two hours per night and I felt wildly not normal. Survival Mode lasted for perhaps the next three months, until the twins were more like babies and less like newborns. I can honestly say that this period in my life was the most challenging. (It ranks up there with my week in the hospital and my first year of teaching!)

moby wrap first smiler holds twins sitting around the tree snowsuitsfeeding 1

Real Life

After Survival Mode came Real Life. Real Life started after I gained my strength and my confidence. Real Life came after the daytime help sent me on my way. Real Life came after I was sleeping a little bit more. Real Life came after the twins were on a schedule – and could sleep, smile, play, and enjoy life. In Real Life, I started to feel proud of what I was doing and how I was doing it. In Real Life, I had a little bit of time to think. I felt like me again, except that I had three small children tagging along. Dare I say that we even have fun once in a while?

6 months shoot ahugging guitar all 3 on daddypushing the twin daddy is home poolgoing for a walkfamily portrait photobomb

One Year Later: In Words

First Birthday Twins

My babies had their first birthday this week. I am so proud of them, and me, and my husband, and my oldest son. We did it! Happy 1st birthday to two of my boys! I guess I can’t call them “my babies” anymore, but I don’t like saying “my twins” when they are so different from each other.

Also, happy “Survival Day” to me! While I don’t really want to think about what was happening a year ago, I do want to celebrate surviving that day and surviving the first year. I want to celebrate my boys. I want to celebrate the doctors who saved us. And most of all, I want to celebrate all the friends and family who gave us so much of themselves during the bedrest and the first year. We could not have done this without them. (Seriously, the doctor said so!) We are overcome with love for them all.

Seeing the leaves fall all around our wooded property makes me feel the way I did a year ago. I went into the hospital when it was summer. I came out of the hospital when it was fall. It was only a week, but it was the longest and scariest and bravest and happiest week of my life. Mr. Okayest and I just stood in the kitchen last night and hugged, as three children clung to our legs and cried for attention. We just needed each other for just one moment. He had looked at me and said, “A year ago today we were still in the hospital.” We don’t need to say much more than that. He was by my side for everything.

We both still have a lot of pain to process from that time. What strikes me about that fact is worrying and wondering about all the people who have had far worse stories than mine. I mean, we survived! We had a happy ending! We birthed two children, and even though one wasn’t breathing and had to be intubated and sent to the NICU, we still brought both of them home with us! How is it possible that we still have so much pain and emotion from this one week in our life that actually ended so well?

What about all those who have not had happy endings to their hospital stories? I think about friends of mine who have lost both newborn twins. I think about close family members who had a micro-preemie who spent over three months in the NICU and almost didn’t survive. I think about a family member who has died from cancer. I think about a family member who had to face the decision of whether to terminate a baby who was fatally ill. What kind of grief and pain and loss faces them each morning? How do they process it all? How do they feel when they look at a hospital bed on TV? What kind of hugs do they give their loved ones in the kitchen?

One year later, we are so grateful for everything. We know we could have lost everything that day. No matter how much I complain, I am even grateful for little things, like being able to vacuum or unload the dishwasher, or even change a diaper. There was a long period of time where I couldn’t do any of those things for my family. I have conquered so much, with the help of a small army. I still have a long way to go.

What I’ve conquered:

What I am still dealing with:

Healing physically – After bedrest and three procedures after the birth, then recovering at home with some physical therapy, I am 100% healed, albeit scarred. Healing emotionally- Both my husband and I, as well as my 3-year-old, are still wrestling with some of the emotional scars we bear from that time.
Weight loss- I’ve lost about 75 of my 8o pounds. I have no secrets. Yes, I breastfed, and I mall-walked all winter (and trail-walked all spring) while pushing two kids and carrying another. However, I think anyone who brags about postpartum weight loss should be kicked in the face, because I think my Dad’s genes are probably to thank for the weight loss. I have many friends who have worked a lot harder than me, but still struggle with the weight.  I am just not sure we have as much control as we think we do. Muscle Mass- My body feel soft and wobbly. My belly is still a waterbed. Most of all, I just do not have the muscle I need to carry and lift these tanks I have created. My back and neck hurt all the time. I carry them primarily on one side, so I am all bulked up on one shoulder and not the other. It’s gross and it’s painful. I have no core strength and no arm strength. Mr. Okayest says my arms are like little q-tips, with cotton ball hands. Ha! I usually say, “I didn’t get stronger. I just got sorer.”
Keeping them alive for one year  Making sure they get enough attention and love
Sleeping- I have taught the babies to sleep through the night and nap on a rigorous schedule. We cried it out and it was an excellent decision. All 3 of my kids sleep from 7:30PM to 7AM. Having too much adrenaline – I cannot seem to relax at any point during the day. I am constantly in fight-or-flight mode and I don’t know how to stop.
Starting potty-training my oldest Finishing potty-training my oldest
Learning how to put all 3 to bed by myself- This is possible simply because they are older now. They have learned how to wait. As newborns, they were incapable of that! Really supporting my husband through grad school- Putting the kids to bed myself on school nights is still torture. (I usually have help from my wonderful in-laws, though!)
Childproofing horizontally Childproofing vertically – Umm, my oldest was not a climber. I’m getting schooled by one of my twins.
Learning to plan and execute healthy meals while three kids cry during the witching hour (a.k.a., “the arsenic hour”) Learning to plan and execute healthy meals while three kids cry during the witching hour WITHOUT LOSING MY COOL.
Having a family via adoption and biological means Understanding how to raise each of them to be okay with that

First Haircut

This photo captures the passage of time to me. The leaves are changing again. My babies survived, and grew big enough to need haircuts! Here is E’s hair on the ground, with the attachment to the clippers and some proof of autumn. Last year at this time, there were only the leaves.