Four Years to the Day After I Almost Died, I Feel Selfish and Depressed on My Twins’ Birthday

wp-1484074415461.jpgFour years to the day after I almost died, I still don’t like my twins’ birthday. I get feelings of dread that begin a month or so before their birthday. People ask me about their birthday plans, and I sputter.  I don’t understand why I have a dark cloud over me and can’t/won’t think about their presents and party. Finally, a couple of weeks before their birthday, I remember why I feel like a puddle on the floor.

Oh, yes, hello again, old feelings. I remember you. You’re not welcome here. I see you’ve come in anyway. Make yourself at home while I struggle to carry on with daily life.

The depression is heavy. The anxiety is dizzying. I look at my healthy and lighthearted sons and feel so.much.guilt. They are happy and adorable. They are wild and strong. And I am the Girl Who Lived. We lived! They thrived! I have nothing to be sad about. I want to celebrate. I want to celebrate their health and their beautiful little miraculous lives. I want to celebrate the doctors who saved me that day. It’s their BIRTHDAY. What is more joyful than the birthday of a set of four-year-old twins?! Isn’t that reason to celebrate? And it’s my survival day. Shouldn’t my survival day become a holiday, with capital letters? Survival Day.

What is wrong with me? What an ingrate. Look at those gorgeous faces and get yourself together. But I can’t. I’m not sure if the initial feelings, or the guilt about the feelings, are worse.

It’s been four years. They turn four today. Isn’t that enough time to have worked through my feelings about the way I almost lost my uterus, a twin, and even my life? Somewhere between the birth of Twin A and Twin B, I lost consciousness. Twin B wasn’t breathing and was intubated – but I didn’t know that. I came around again and held Twin A to my breast for a miraculous five minutes, but my heart was with my unknown Twin B, whisked away to the NICU, away from my body for the first time since he was in that Petri dish eight months before. It was the very first time I realized that I would never ever be able to fully focus on only one child. The moment they were taken from my body and the three of us were separated, my heart was split forever.

And then I lost my entire blood volume and came back to life two days later in the Intensive Care Unit. I didn’t know the fate of Twin B, or if I even still had my uterus. I didn’t know where Twin A was, or what day it was. It was dark and I was alone. I was intubated and tied down. I couldn’t talk or move my own arms. There were no babies in my belly or on my chest. I was more scared than I had ever been in my entire life.

And yet, my story had a happy ending. I was wheeled out of that hospital a week later with all the babies and body parts with which I had come into it. (Well, technically, I guess I lost two organs. Placentas are organs, right? Disposable organs?) I think of all the people I know and love who have had such tremendous traumas in their lives – like losing children forever – and want to slap myself for being so maudlin about a story with a happy ending.

How could I have held on to this fear for four years? Their birthday should be all about them. No matter how hard I try to celebrate, I have this black cloud hanging over my subconscious. Even when I think I’m fine, even when I think I’m not thinking about it, October brings scary memories. It’s a movie that won’t stop playing in my head. If my birth story is a movie that I can’t stop watching, then I had better move a few more rows back in the theater.

I have a happy ending to my story. I do not pity myself. Seriously. I don’t want pity. I don’t want sadness. I don’t even want understanding. I just want to be happy. But the leaves start to fall, and so does my mood.

Sadly, I am not alone in my grief. My husband witnessed more than I did that day, because, unlike me, he was conscious for all of it. He feels the weight of this day, too.

And what about my oldest son, the one who joined our family through adoption? He was only two when his momma went on bedrest, left for a while, and almost died. He lived with his grandparents for at least a week and visited me every day in the hospital – but wouldn’t touch me or come near me. My in-laws later told me that he threw up in their Cadillac every day on the way to the hospital. He was so scared. And when he finally got to go home, he came home to a sickly momma who couldn’t even walk… and she had brought two new people with her. Two very demanding people.

Adoption – even adoption at birth – is a trauma. And having your little two-year-old life change so drastically is a trauma, too, even if it had a happy ending. It’s possible that these events put our attachment to each other at a disadvantage. My guilt over what that did to him is staggering. I stagger under the weight of it. Even if it is misplaced guilt, it’s still placed there in my head. Yes, I know postpartum hemorrhage is not my fault – but I did make the decision to start IVF when he was so young and so fragile. I did make the decision to implant two eggs and put my life in danger.

In addition, soon after the twins’ birthday, I know my oldest son’s birthday is coming too. Can’t I celebrate at least his birthday with joy? But his birthday – the day of his birth – was the last time he ever saw his birthmother. My heart breaks for her on that day. And my heart breaks for him. It is a day of separation and pain for many children who were adopted. Some adopted children don’t want to celebrate the most defining and painful moment of their lives. Adoption is very complex and it involves walking with your child through his grief. He’s still young, but his conflicted feelings are present. And that’s okay. I need to put my own worries aside and focus on his needs. (Yep, that brings more guilt for taking too much time to worry about myself.)

I feel a depression on these anniversaries that smothers me. It feels like a heavy suit. A suit that is depressing me into the ground. Leaving a depression. I look around at other people and wonder how they are able to do things.

wp-1462743015156.jpgIt’s time to stand up, blow up the balloons, frost the cake, and put a smile on my face. “Forget yourself and go to work,” I keep repeating on a loop inside my head. I schedule a therapy appointment. I write and write and write some more to work through the feelings. I draw my babies close to me and sniff their heads. Focus on the unique scent of each strong boy. I pretend it is fuel and I keep going.

 

 

 

 

****

The order in which I publish my blog posts is not the order in which I write them. I actually wrote this over six months ago. So, before you feel too sorry for me, remember that I more recently wrote that one where I learned how to treat my feelings like visitors. Or a train. Or something. Read it here, so I can prove that I’m not too much of a mess.

It Took Over Two Years to Unpack My Toiletry Bag

image

I just found and unpacked my hospital bag. My twins are two and a half years old. Yep. I’m just gonna let that sink in for a minute.

Rather than being surprised that it took me two and a half years to unpack my toiletry bag, I merely thought, “So that’s where my good tweezers* have been.” I didn’t even chuckle or say “huh.”

It wasn’t until I was lying in bed a week later that I realized that most twin-less people would think two and a half years to unpack a toiletry bag was excessive.

If you are one of the many people who have said to me, “I’ve always wanted twins,” I would like you to ask yourself if you could wait two and a half years to unpack your toiletry bag.

That is all.

***

(*Also, why did I think I needed to bring tweezers to hospital for the birth of twins? I am pretty sure my mom brushed my hair on the fifth or sixth day of hospitalization, and my husband brushed my teeth after I made it out of the ICU… But shame on them for not doing my eyebrows? Being overprepared shows just how underprepared I was.)

“My Twins Sucked at Breastfeeding” was posted on the Scary Mommy Blog…

…and I have a few things to say about that.

I wrote a post for Scary Mommy about breastfeeding multiples, and they posted it last week on their home page. It has over 11,000 shares on facebook right now. I think I might have had my fifteen minutes of fame. But it’s over now. (I have been tracking my stats. Thousands of views and shares does NOT actually produce more followers or likes. The internet has a short attention span.)

I originally titled it, “My Twins Sucked at Breastfeeding”, which I thought was way more clever and accurate than the title they gave: “The Truth about Breastfeeding Twins”. I was criticized in the comments for generalizing and discouraging other twin moms, but I was simply trying to tell MY story. I think the title change is a little to blame – I was not telling anyone else’s “truth” about breastfeeding. I was only telling MY truth, hence the “my” in “My Twins Sucked at Breastfeeding.”

Most of the comments were extremely kind and loving. However, a handful said that breastfeeding twins was “easy”, and I want to kick them in the head. Annnnnd there was one woman who said, “Lots and lots and lots of women experience complications pre, during and post pregnancy. You aren’t a martyr. You aren’t the first woman to have twins. Get over yourself.” Hmmm. I think if she read my blog, she would know that I have already said the exact same thing myself. Many times. Also, I would like to challenge her to say that to my face. Ah, the internet.

To Scary Mommy, I would like to thank you for the opportunity to write for you, but chastise you for your typos. Come on, Scary Mommy, you have over half a million followers. I think you could be a little more careful (less scary?) with your editing.

To any of the new twin moms that I scared, I apologize.

Here’s my original text:

My Twins Sucked at Breastfeeding

Was it me or was it the twins who did the sucking at breastfeeding? Maybe both. After surviving one adoption, several miscarriages, fifteen rounds of fertility treatment, hellish high-risk twin pregnancy, bedrest with a toddler, and almost dying from postpartum hemorrhage, I certainly knew better than to expect breastfeeding would go smoothly. It sucked, both literally and figuratively.

I read every book I was supposed to read on the topic of breastfeeding twins. I underlined so many sections of my La Leche League multiples book that my husband asked me if perhaps I should consider underlining only things I didn’t want to remember. I tried to be prepared simply by adding post-it notes of information in my brain, but I knew I would have to wing it when the twins arrived.

I couldn’t have been more right. Who would win when this twin momma faced off against all the books she read?

 

The books say: Breastfeed immediately after birth, or within 60 minutes after a C-section. That should be enough time to get you all stitched up and ready to go.

Twin mom says: Breastfeeding is impossible in the ICU while you’re knocked out.

Winner: Nobody.

 

The books say: Frequent breastfeeding will teach your body to double or triple the amount of milk you need for multiples.

Twin mom says: Almost dying and getting blood transfusions messes with the body’s ability to produce milk.

Winner: Nobody.

 

The books say: Feed each twin separately at first, to teach proper latching techniques. Tandem nursing can wait.

Twin mom says: No problem. Tandem nursing can definitely wait.

Winner: Books.

 

The books say: Avoid bottles and pacifiers during the hospital stay to establish proper nursing.

Twin mom says: You don’t have a say when you’re knocked out in the ICU.

Winner: Nobody.

 

The books say: When you begin to tandem feed, the double-football hold will work the best.

Twin mom says: WHATEVER. You totally need substantial boobage to pull off the double-football hold, because you’ve got to have boobs that actually flop around. Not all of us are so endowed, even with the milk! Why didn’t any book talk about THAT?!

Winner: Nobody. Certainly not my boobs.

 

The books say: Your milk will come in within three to four days after birth.

Twin mom says: Be a rebel! Mine didn’t come in until the eleventh day after birth, which was the latest my lactation consultant had ever seen.

Winner: Twin Mom!

 

The books say: The best way to help a baby learn to nurse is skin-to-skin contact.

Twin mom says: It’s hard to do when I was so bruised, battered, and patched up from all the ways they saved my life. I wanted nothing more than to put my babies inside my hospital gown, but I was too mutilated from all the procedures they performed on me. I came home from the hospital with a walker, a lot of bandages and bruises, and a physical therapist.

Winner: Nobody. Certainly not my babies.

 

The books say: Within the first two weeks after birthing twins, be sure to pump and/or feed every 2-3 hours to teach your body to establish and double the milk supply.

Twin mom says: No problem. I will never sleep again anyway. I will never not be holding a baby again anyway.

Winner: The books.

 

The books say: Rent a hospital grade pump for multiples. You need a pro to suck out enough milk for twins.

Twin mom says: NOBODY TOLD ME HOW MUCH PUMPING SUCKS (literally and figuratively)! I had no idea how bad it would feel and how much I would hate it. I had no idea how long it would take. I had no idea how much my toddler would misbehave when he knew I was attached to those tubes and completely immobilized.

Winner: My toddler.

 

The books say: Tandem breastfeeding is harder with fraternal twins than identical twins, because they only share 50% of their DNA. They will have different hunger cues, feeding patterns, and body clocks.

Twin mom says: Ain’t that the truth. My fraternal twins were opposites in the womb, and they were opposites while breastfeeding. One was a pro; the other had feeding difficulties – including allergies, reflux, and nipple confusion.

Winner: The books. Or maybe the one twin who was good at nursing.

 

The books say: Tandem breastfeeding is the best choice for twins.

Twin mom says: Um, nobody told me how MUCH I WOULD HATE TANDEM NURSING. It was almost impossible to position the babies even with another adult present. How do I get the second baby latched on after I already had one attached to my boob? (When I was alone, I would try to position the second baby on the couch beside me, and hoist him up by his jammies with my one free arm. If he was wearing snap jammies, he would fall out of them. I quickly switched to zip-up jammies.) Nursing two at once felt overwhelming and, I hate to say, a little creepy. They finished eating at different times, so what was I supposed to do when one baby had to burp and one was still attached? And how do I care for a needy two-year-old while I am completely immobilized by two nursing babies? What do I do when the toddler gets into the knife drawer? Do I pull the babies off or do I try to stand up with two of them attached? I guarantee I would either fall down or lose the latch. What about my (adopted) son’s jealousy while I was nursing both babies? I had to deal with some major adoptive momma guilt there. I did not have the answers to these questions. I gave up and nursed them separately.

Winner: Nobody.

 

The books say: Alternating bottle-feeding and breast-feeding is not recommended. It creates more work, and less milk production.

Twin mom says: Too bad. I never made enough milk, despite every effort. We finally established a system where I would breastfeed one twin, supported by a Boppy and one of my arms, while, with my other arm, I bottle-fed the other twin, supported beside me on the couch with a Boppy. This also enabled me to leap off the couch, if needed, to help my toddler not die.

Winner: Twin mom! And my toddler.

 

The books say: Breastfeed for at least a year.

Twin mom says: My goal was one day at a time. I made it to just under seven months. I figured that counted as a year in my Twin World! By that time, I was about to crack from having 1-2 hours of sleep from my non-synchronized, non-tandem night feedings. Also, my poor-at-nursing-twin was completely off the breast and only drinking pumped milk anyway. It was time to sleep-train them. I couldn’t let them “cry it out” while nursing. We dried it up, cried it out, and started sleeping. (PS, The last time I breastfed my last twin, I was listening to “The Last Time” by The Rolling Stones: “Well this could be the last time, This could be the last time, Maybe the last time, I don’t know, oh no, oh no.”)

Winner: Twin Mom! I did what was best for MY FAMILY! (“My family”, of course, refers to me not cracking.)

 

The books say: Any amount of breastmilk is good for the babies.

Twin mom says: Ain’t that the truth. I never made enough milk for twins, despite visiting several lactation consultants, pumping with a hospital grade pump, reading every book, and trying every home remedy. I had to supplement with formula from the very beginning. I was happy to give them immunities, even if I couldn’t make them full.

Winner: Everybody.

 

The moral of this story is that books are great, but twin mommas are better!

 

from: http://www.scarymommy.com/truth-about-breastfeeding-twins

The Twins Destroyed My Body (No, Not Like That)

My ever-present wrist brace helps me hold this heavy flower (the first flower my kid ever gave me!)

My ever-present wrist brace helps me hold this heavy flower (the first flower my kid ever gave me!)

Everyone talks about the pain of childbirth, but what about the pain of child-rearing?

You think I’m going to talk about stretch marks? Wrong. The twins destroyed my body in a whole different way than I expected: they are breaking me. At just over a year and a half old, they weigh 32 and 34 pounds each, and apparently that’s too much.

I don’t really carry them anymore. I taught them to go up and down stairs on their own as soon as possible. I don’t even pick them up when they’re crying- I just sit down on the floor and let them come to me. (That’s a trick I learned during bedrest with a toddler!) But, when you have two fat children under the age of two, there is still a lot of lifting and hauling. Every day, there is hauling in and out high chairs (2 twins x 2 times per meal x 3 meals = like a thousand times), hauling in and out of cribs for naps and wake-ups and bedtimes, heaving them into carseats if we go anywhere (I long ago calculated that one trip to anywhere means four buckle/unbuckles per child: in at home, out at destination, in to go home, out to come inside), and heaving them off their brothers during tantrums over the empty Tylenol bottle.

Oh, and let’s not forget the heaving them onto the changing table for every diaper. Yes, yes, I know that I could change them on the floor or the couch. Yes, yes, I know that most of you don’t use changing tables. I don’t want to hear it. I have changed approximately three trillion diapers by now, and I know what works for me, and it’s the changing table. I am just not good enough to keep a poopy diaper away from the dog or the other twin if I change someone on the floor, okay? Also, I’m tall, and I don’t want to bend over more than I have to. Also, maybe I just suck at changing poops, because I can make a mess and I prefer to keep that e.coli contained to one area that I can disinfect. OKAY?

Anyway, as you see, the children are heavy and ridiculously large for their age and still need to be lifted many times per day. Also, as you can see from any of my photos, I am not large for my age. I have zero muscle tone. Well, not zero, but I think it would take some major steroids to make me even look like I have any muscle definition. With my first son, everyone said, “Don’t worry; you’ll get stronger.” Ha! Now I reply, “I don’t get stronger; I just get sorer.”

I hurt everywhere, all the time.

Do you other moms hurt this much? If so, how can anyone look at a young mother with her arms full of a baby or a toddler and not rub her neck? This kid thing HURTS. Everyone talks about the pain of childbirth, but what about the pain of child-rearing?

My neck hurts. My back hurts. My wrist hurts. My head hurts. My hips hurt. Let’s just say that everything from my hips to my skull hurts all the time. Tell me I’m not alone in this, or else I’m going to have to see a doctor.

I primarily lift babies on my left side, so my left shoulder and back are all bulked up – at least compared to my right side. I probably look like I have a disorder. My left shoulder sits so much higher than my right, and I spend all of yoga class trying to get it down again (that is, when I’m not staring at the dude in front of me who is wearing my same skin-tight women’s workout capris, but with his shirt tucked into them).

My left wrist started to give out when the babies were about three months old, so I received cortisone injections several times. Now the doctor won’t let me do any more, so my choices are surgery or hold on until we can turn the cribs into toddler beds and the high chairs into regular chairs.

Even my muscles in my throat hurt! I feel like I’ve been looking down for 4 1/2 years straight, and now I have foreshortened the muscles in front of my throat. I am always stretching my head backward to help. Is that weird? Has anyone else experienced this? Almost five years of gazing into their eyes while nursing and bottle-feeding, and then looking down at their short little toddler bodies from my great height …. seems to have put me in a permanent downward-facing position.

My neck is all kinked up. I have had migraines my entire life, but they are worse lately with all the muscle strain. I do yoga and I stretch out on a foam roller every night and I try to take care of myself, but there is really nothing more to do until I get these kids more independent.

What the heck, kids? My husband said I feed you too much, because you just poop too much and weigh too much, at least compared to the pooping frequency and weight percentiles of your little friends at the playgroup. I guess it’s my fault you’re so heavy. It has nothing to do with the fact that your father weighed almost ten pounds at birth, right? (My twins were seven and a half pounds each at birth, at 38 weeks gestation. I shudder to think how big they would have been at 40 weeks as a singleton. However, bedrest and tator tots helped them get to be that big. On purpose.)

I’m lucky: my husband has magic hands. He can find every knot and every tender spot. He can just touch my neck with his fingertips and I might start to cry with relief. He takes over most evenings and most weekends, doing all the heavy lifting to let me recover before the next round.

From now on, the only gift I will give a new mother will be a massage therapist to visit her house every day for three years, or for as long as her child needs to be lifted, whichever comes first. Just kidding. That’s what I’m giving myself. When I win the lottery.

 

***

I understand that there are other ways to maneuver children. I worked at a Montessori school for a while, so I know that an ideal situation would be to have everything at the child’s level. No lifting/hauling/heaving would be needed. In the Montessori method, crib mattresses are on the floor from birth and children’s tables and chairs take the place of high chairs. Their feet should be on the floor when eating and they shouldn’t be restrained behind buckles or bars. I saw this method in action, and I can attest that it works in a Montessori environment. I can also attest that my house is not a Montessori house, and that one of my twins is a hurricane. I chose the buckles and bars and all of that as a way to keep my sanity in the short term, so I have myopically chosen to sacrifice my body for my sanity.