Twin Kindergarten Panic: I Feel Everything and Nothing

IMG_20180828_203653.jpgEveryone keeps asking me how I’m doing after sending the twins to kindergarten. The truth is that I don’t know. I’m in shock. As I am obviously a very wordy person, it shocks me that I’m in shock but can’t explain it. How do you feel, everyone wants to know. How do I FEEL? I feel everything and I feel nothing. I can’t explain it and I know I just need time to process. My husband tells me to write it out. As always, he is right. My brain usually feels clean and neat after I write.

I FEEL OVERJOYED TERRIFIED EXCITED GRIEVING CELEBRATORY MAUDLIN FROZEN CONFUSED RELIEVED GUILTY NERVOUS LIKE A BALLOON THAT MIGHT FLOAT AWAY BY ACCIDENT.

Oh, and did I mention terrified and nervous?

And thank you for asking.

I know I’m not reinventing the emotions wheel here, folks. But you have to admit that sending two children away at the same time doubles the feelings that other mothers have. Then we add in the worry about an older child who is switching schools but doesn’t adjust well to change. And don’t forget special needs and mental health stuff stirred into that pot of worry. Three children in a new strange place. It’s a lot. IT’S JUST A LOT OKAY?

When I taught kindergarten, there was one mother who needed an ambulance on the first day of school. She had so much trouble separating from her child that we had to call 911. I guess she thought she was having a heart attack. Was her heart panicking or was it breaking?

At the time, I was not yet a mother. I’ll be honest – I thought she was being ridiculous. I had no patience for crying parents whose tears were contagious to their children. In retrospect, however, I see things through a different lens.* Like my current self, she was an older mother, who had probably struggled to conceive this only child for many years. He was probably a miracle baby. Maybe even a “rainbow baby” born after the storms of miscarriage and loss. Like my current self, she probably had an anxiety disorder that crippled her. She was probably ashamed that she couldn’t control her feelings that day. Like my current self, her son had some special needs. Special needs that probably terrified her when they were in the hands of a stranger. And unlike my current self, she had the additional burden of being a single mother, whose husband had either died or left. I don’t remember, but I do remember that her son was all she had.

I want to deeply, sincerely, profoundly apologize to that mom. And to all the other parents that I didn’t understand. Yes, I was a professional that day. I technically didn’t say or do anything wrong that day we called the ambulance, but I want to apologize for my silent judgement. I know now that she wasn’t being dramatic and she didn’t want pity. She genuinely could not control her pain and worry. Her son has probably graduated college by now. I don’t even remember his name. I actually don’t even remember if he was my student, or belonged in the kindergarten class next door. It doesn’t matter. I was wrong to judge.

Last week, I had a panic attack at my children’s open house at their school.

And, yesterday, on the first day of school, I lingered thirty seconds too long and made Twin B start to cry.

I did both those things. Yes I did.

The first thing, the panic attack, was not under my control – or at least I’m trying to convince myself of that fact. The latter thing, staying too long, was an error and I should have known better. I have no patience for my mistakes here.

That panic attack at open house really hit me like a truck. It blindsided me. My anxiety has been semi-well-controlled lately, but I expected the first day of school would be hard for me. Harder for me than for the kids, anyway. But open house, the week before school starts? Why would I expect that to mess with my mental health? We were just there to hear a speech about school rules, meet their teacher, see their classroom and whatnot. Standard procedure, right? My subconscious didn’t think so.

The principal was speaking, and I had two children to the left of me, one child to the right, a mound of paperwork on my lap, and about two hundred dollars’ worth of school supplies under my feet. Suddenly I felt that familiar cold claw start to clamp down on my heart. My heart felt frozen and squeezed to the point that I felt like I couldn’t breathe. My heart was working too hard and my lungs weren’t working enough. My children were nervous enough, and I desperately didn’t want them to notice my unwarranted panic. I want to protect them from the world – but sometimes I just have to protect them from my own brain. I dug my nails into my sweaty palms until the skin started to tear. I bit the insides of my cheeks until I tasted blood, to distract my eyes from the tears they were trying to spill. I tried to breathe slower and tried to remember all those things you’re supposed to remember but can’t. I couldn’t hear the principal. I could only hear my own blood and adrenaline pumping.

Then I jerked to attention, as the teachers lined up the students to take them to see their classrooms. The parents were to remain seated and continue listening to the principal. Twin sets of bright eyes, so different from each other, looked at me. “Momma, do we go now?” one of them said. Moms are the best actresses in the world. Yes, I said with a normal voice. “Will you still be here?” the other one said. Yes, I promise, I said with a calm voice that sounded alien to me because it didn’t match my brain, which was screaming. Their four eyes were nervous, but they turned and obediently but very slowly walked toward their new teacher and out the door, into their new world without me.

Instantly I was on the operating table, fading in and out of consciousness. One twin was already out of my womb, and I was experiencing being separated from that child for the first time, ever. The second twin was being pulled out and was not breathing. I was experiencing a panic for that child, like I had never felt before. A mother’s fear. A primal thing. I wasn’t in the school gym. I was in a cold operating room and my arms were tied down and I was more helpless than I’d ever been in my life.

I tried to remember what my therapist always said, “If you’re replaying your trauma like a movie in your head, just try to move ten rows back.” She wisely knows that you can’t stop it. You can only try to wait it out – but maybe with a little more space.

My oldest child was still sitting beside me. He would start third grade at this school next week. I had to stay here, stay present, stay quiet, for this sensitive and precious boy. He didn’t ask for this. He doesn’t deserve a mother like this. But guilt won’t help stop panic. I feel like my conscious brain was slapping the face of my subconscious brain. STOP IT. GET IT TOGETHER. THIS CHILD NEEDS YOU NOW. ALL YOUR CHILDREN ARE HEALTHY. YOU DON’T DESERVE TO GRIEVE SOMETHING THAT HAS A HAPPY ENDING. (I didn’t say my conscious brain is always right.)

I never did feel all the way better that day. The anxiety lessened but it didn’t leave. I faked my way through the rest of the open house and the rest of my day. I sobbed at night. I told myself that I would try again tomorrow.

Four days later, I am dropping my twins into their kindergarten classroom for their first day of school. This time, my husband is with me. My third-grader has already insisted on walking to his classroom alone. My husband is a deep well of calmness. He is contentment, not excitement. He is logic, not panic. Despite all that reasonableness, he is also the only person on earth who is feeling what I’m feeling right now. These are our babies. Babies that are a miracle of modern science. Babies that almost didn’t survive.

My husband is my rock. He is my bravery.

We watch the natural chaos in the classroom. There is one boy standing in the middle of the rug alone, sobbing, like a lost kid in a movie. The teachers bustle about, kind and sensitive, but also trying to get business done. We watch Twin A calmly walk to his cubby, hang his backpack up in an orderly fashion, put his nametag around his neck, walk evenly to his assigned desk. He never looks at us. We watch Twin B wander in circles around the room, eyes getting wet, looking lost, pleading with us telepathically. His wandering becomes faster and more ….lost. He has forgotten everything the teacher told him during open house. I already know we have overstayed. He stumbles over to me and actually asks me for a kiss. I kiss his soft cheek and breathe his baby smell that somehow never left and I want to scoop him up in my arms and run away. His teacher tries to pull him off me and says, “We’re fine” as he starts to cry. My conscious brain knows she is right.

I am in the operating room. He is my baby. He isn’t breathing. His tiny body responds when his father whispers in his ear. They intubate him and whisk him off to the NICU. I wake up a couple of days later, in the dark, arms tied down, intubated myself, unable to speak, and I don’t know if he is alive or not. Eventually I will meet him, but it will be three weeks before I can even change his diaper.

My husband gently pulls my hand. I try to snap back into this classroom, into this moment. I try to “move ten rows back”. I try to remind myself that my baby survived. He is strong and healthy! Look at him! I let go of my crying baby. I don’t cry this time. I realize that I’m glad I’m not the teacher. I remember that I’m alive. These feelings, whether good or bad, mean that I’m alive. I intertwine my clammy fingers with my husband’s warm fingers and we walk down the hall and out of the school.

No one calls an ambulance.

How do I feel? I really don’t know.

But thanks for asking.
******

 

*Please forgive any errors in my memory.

Two-Year-Old Quotes, Twin Edition

Brothers

Alas, my dear readers, you have been so patient recently as I have tackled the not-so-funny topics of racism, politics, anxiety, and adoption. I reward your long-suffering with – ta-da! – some overdue twin quotes! You can see their personalities very clearly here. Anyway, two-year-olds were hilarious. And exhausting.  (Note: “E” refers to “Twin A” and “G” refers to “Twin B”. I’m not consistent. And yes, I know they are four years old now, not two. I’m slow. So what?!)

***ONE LINERS***

To his Daddy
E: You has a zipper on your pants?! Wow, that’s scary!

When I put a hat on his head:
E: Ears, where are you, ears?

Holding my camera
G: This Mommy’s cheese!

Asking for Tylenol
E: I need two mess-a-sins.

Running to the dinner table
E: Here I come, Kabobs!

Asking for “fish sticks”
E: Can we have dick dicks for dinner?

The first time I wore a scrunchi in my hair
E [worried]: You has a snake in your hair, Momma?

As G sat on my lap
E, with a look of concern: He squished your penis?

Watching Daddy do pull-ups with no shirt
E: Daddy, whoa you’re tired. Now you go put on some clothes.

As I zipped up his hoodie
G: My tummy’s not here!

To his grandfather
G: I has a poop. You have a poop too?

While peeing on his little potty
E: Oh man! We forgot to show this to [Grandma]!

Waking up
E: today is a new day?

E: Your hands are cold, Mommy. You need a coat on your hands.

E: When I get big, I’m gonna have hair on my cheeks. And my arms.

G: You makin tator tots? Oh, that’s so nice, Mommy!

E: Daddy’s at work. Brother’s at school. Now it’s just me and us.

Daddy: Use BOTH hands to clean up. Look, you just doubled your productivity.

Unknown Twin: I’m a big boy cuz I grew feet now.

Unknown Twin: Sometimes I cry a lot. Sometimes I don’t.

Unknown twin: My doggie will be waiting for me. He will be so happy to love me.

G: Christmas is over? Santa Claus not coming to town?

***G’S MANNERS PROBLEM***

G: More cookie.
Daddy: What do you say?
G: Please?
Daddy: Please what?
G: Please me.

Loudly, during the sacrament at church
G: I WANT ICE CREAM.

G, on a grocery trip
To a teenage boy: Hi, Daddy!
To a fat man with a beard: Hi, Jesus!
To a mom with a cart: DON’T CRASH ME!

At the table
G: I want more milk.
Me: [blank stare while waiting for manners]
G: I want more milk.
Me: [blank stare while waiting for manners]
E, trying to help: You have to say please!
G: CHEESE! [pretends to take picture] I want more milk.

Me: Do you want an Eskimo kiss or a lip kiss?
G: A NOISY lip kiss!
[*kiss*]
G: NO, NOISIER!

***AWWWW***

While hugging me
E: I make you happy!

While looking at a picture of himself
E: Oh, that’s me. So cute.

After taking his big brother to kindergarten for his first day of school
E: Now we miss him.

When he had bad diaper rash
E: Don’t change me harder!

E: Our Daddy is a smart Daddy. He can fix cars and trees and houses.

G, to me: I love you too much.

***THE WORD “CRACKED” BECOMES “CRAPPED” FOR A WEEK***

G: I crapped my shoe. My shoe is crapped.

G: The big crap! The egg crapped!

It’s crapping.

Somebody crapped this.

This crap!

***STRANGE RELIGION***

While driving a car on top of a picture of Jesus
E: I hit Jesus. I drive Jesus. I kiss Jesus.

After church
Me: What did you do in nursery?
G: Ba-yoons [balloons] and Jesus.
Me: Did you have a snack?
G: Yes. Fishies and crayons.

***WEIRD CONVERSATIONS***

Me: I’m just kidding.
E: You not a kitty cat. You a momma, momma!

Older brother: Don’t eat bullets!
E: Only eat dinner!

Me, while changing his diaper: It’s just a little poop.
E: It’s not humongous. Just a little pew.

E: Brother wears underwear?
Me: Yes.
E: Momma wears underwear?
Me: Yes
E [triumphantly]: And Daddy wears a penis!

Me: Can I help you carry that big truck?
G: NO! I help me!

Me: Why didn’t you sleep at nap? That was a bad choice.
G [bored]: I sleeped at night.

Me: Daddy fixed the van. Isn’t he smart?
E: Daddy isn’t fart.

When both twins climbed on my lap simultaneously while naked
E: I won’t poop on you, Momma.
G: I won’t poop on you.

As I got out of the shower
E: That your bottom? Where your poop?
G: [pokes my butt] That your bottom? Where your poop?

While eating a burrito
Me: I hope you’re not making a mess.
E: No. I not making a mess. I just doing a lot of poking it.

Me: You’re my honey!
E: And you’re my toast. I eat you.

Looking at my sweatshirt pocket
E: That your baby comin out?

Me: Don’t eat egg shell. It’s not good for your body.
E: You’re not good for my body.

G: Grammy, you have a bottom?
Grammy: Yes
G: Can I see it?
Grammy: No
G: It’s all yucky?

E: Mommy, he hit me!
G: I didn’t hit you! I pushed you!
E: Mommy, he pushed me!

***LAST BUT NOT LEAST… MY FAVORITE***

G: You has a penis, Mommy?
Me: No.
G: Daddy take it away?

*******

I have a long history with quote-giving. If you liked this one, check out my other ones:

2-Year-Old Kid Quotes

3-Year-Old Kid Quotes

3-Year-Old Kid Quotes, Part 2

Four-Year-Old Kid Quotes

Geez, kids

Verbal Twin Fights, Two-Year-Old Edition

Momma Quotes

*******

Sooo… About Yesterday…. Lord Have Mercy

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This photo was taken a few minutes after one of them fell down those stairs … and the dog tried to eat the underwear. We’re good.

As my southern Grandma used to say under her breath, “Lord have mercy!” (And when we say that, we are not using the Lord’s name in vain, because we only say it when we are SERIOUSLY IN NEED OF ASSISTANCE.)

I’m not sure I even believe all the things that happened yesterday. It was so bad, it should have been funny. But I didn’t have time to laugh.

I did the mom-juggle of getting one kid on the bus while caring for/ ignoring the other two. Once he was on the bus, I focused on the twins… Wait.

You know what? I’m just gonna bullet point this one. No use writing it all out nice and neat, because the day was not nice and neat. It was bullet points of pee, poop, nearly-grave injury, and a long relationship with the Social Services office. Here we go, in chronological order:

  • While trying to get ready for the gym (don’t make fun – I’m repairing the damage the twins did to me with strength training classes), Twin B started bawling because he “just wanted to play” instead of going to the most awesome gym daycare in the whole world. Seriously, it has a three-story climbing maze thing and skylights. Kid, your First World Problem problem is showing.
  • I finally got him calmed down by promising him he could bring two monster trucks in the car. I then sent Twin A into the garage to keep himself busy by trying to buckle his seatbelt with no assistance; I sent Twin B into the bathroom for one last pee before leaving.
  • What is taking him so long? Ah. There it is. Pee had sprayed everywhere. When I say everywhere, I mean everywhere. Toilet, clothes, floor, wall, door. If it was in that bathroom, it was soaked.
  • Tried to clean him up, change him, clean the bathroom, and keep the dog away, all without damaging his already-fragile emotional state. Meanwhile, good ole steady Twin A was still trying to buckle his seatbelt in the garage, while occasionally shouting good-natured updates on his progress.
  • Got everyone in the van, and into the gym, and was extremely late to my strength training class. (First World Problem, I know. Not complaining.) I did humor the instructor by explaining exactly why I was late. The consequence of being that late was that I was the very last one left in class after everyone had completed their circuits. I may or may not have shouted to the last person to leave, “Don’t leave me alone with him!” My trainer had plenty of time to focus on me and what I’m doing wrong and how much harder I need to work. Plus, it was super awk-weird. Thanks, Twin B.
  • When leaving the gym, we needed to “swing by” the county Social Services office. Yeah, so, I learned that you don’t just “swing by” the Social Services office. Especially when you have potty training kids. And, may I just say, the twins were strangely silenced by the angry people shouting into the intercom thing at the caseworkers behind the glass. Good thing, too, because we waited in that line for 40 minutes. A small child terrorized my twins so badly while in line, I shook my finger at him and said “NO!” when he began beating on one of them. The other mothers in line nodded their approval at me. Finally got to the front of the line and got my paperwork.
  • Leaving the Social Services office, feeling grateful for the sunshine and the mostly-well-behaved children trailing behind me, I optimistically announced that they deserved some rare McDonald’s for lunch. But I’m not crazy enough to let them into a restaurant. We definitely went through the drive-though.
  • Got home, ready to relax with my adorable children and some well-deserved french fries, and realized that I needed to call a social services number for a certain question about this paperwork that I should have asked the lady behind the glass. Have you ever called any Social Services number? Yeah, I was stuck on a “menu option” recorded message for six minutes. Then on hold for about 20. Then got through to someone and got a bad answer to my question. Meanwhile, twins finished their food and began to fight. I threw some letter stickers at them.
  • Realized I had to call our caseworker. She called back when the twins were fighting worse. Of course. I hid in the bathroom and try to hear her. She told me that the paper I needed wasn’t at the Social Services office that I just stood in line for 40 minutes with twins to get, but instead is already filled out and in my possession. “Remember when we filled that out together in November?” She’s right. I remembered. My brain sputtered.
  • I send the twins upstairs for “quiet time”, which really means, “beat each other up more quietly so momma doesn’t actually know you’re fighting” time. I needed to focus on finding this paperwork. I am a lifelong pile-maker. I just cannot, cannot, manage my paperwork. I am an otherwise organized and responsible person, though, I swear.
  • I began to tear through my piles – first quickly, superficially, then back through the piles again more slowly and systematically. My hands began to shake as I realized just how irresponsible it was that I had lost this paperwork. I AM NOT THIS PERSON.
  • My mind began to sabotage me by yelling things in my head like, “WHAT KIND OF MOTHER LOSES THIS KIND OF PAPERWORK FOR A SPECIAL NEEDS CHILD?” I started to cry. I knelt down in my mess of papers and prayed. I told the Lord that I might not be worthy of his help, but my special needs child was, and please help me find this for my son’s sake.
  • I resumed the search. I tore through paper piles in the kitchen, the master bedroom, and even in the garage. Nothing. Nothing but tears and my own shame.
  • Suddenly, without thinking, I calmly walked into the TV room, pulled a binder off the bookshelf labeled “IEP”, and saw the paperwork. All of it. I really had no memory of deciding to walk into that room, or thinking about any IEP binder. I still have no idea why it was even in there. My body just found it. You can call it muscle memory, or a subconscious memory… or you can call it an answer to a prayer. I know what I call it.
  • I sank to the floor with gratitude. I put my forehead to the laminate and offered a prayer of thanks.
  • “Momma, can you check my underwear for poop?” yelled one twin, while the other twin simultaneously yelled, “I have to go pee-pee!”
  • I raised my head from my laminate. I shouted up the stairs to the poop problem, “Come down here right now!” and then yelled to the pee problem, “Well, go to the potty up there right now!”
  • One twin shuffled down to me, and I put him on the hall bath toilet. The other twin got on the upstairs toilet. I got to work cleaning up the messy underwear and kid, while trying to shoo the huge dog away.
  • THUD THUD THUD THUD THUD THUD THUD THUD WAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHH!
  • A twin had fallen down the stairs. The wooden stairs. All of them. And landed at my feet, right beside the hall bath toilet.
  • I think I was screaming. I’m not sure. My brain was already working the motherhood miracle of simultaneously scanning for injuries, considering the needs of the other twin, plotting a 911 call or a minivan race to the hospital, and also, of course, the dog who wants to eat the poopy underwear on the floor.
  • Within milliseconds, I was holding the fallen twin in my arms, trying to snuggle him while flipping him all over for injuries. He was screaming. Open the mouth, move the hair all around, lift the shirt, squeeze and turn the ankles and wrists, and burrow that poor child into my bony chest. He was okay. How?!
  • And I had poop on my right hand. Why?!
  • And the other twin was off the potty, with a not-yet-clean bottom, desperate to check on his brother.
  • And the dog was nosing at the poopy underwear.
  • We sat like that for a while. I tried to keep my poop hand in the air and snuggle and fix boo-boos with just my clean hand. I told the other twin not to sit down. For heaven’s sake, DON’T SIT DOWN. I yelled at the dog. She’s deaf, though. Oh well.
  • Finally, the fallen twin was able to get up. Through tears and sniffles, he explained to me what happened. He had been standing on the next-to the top stair, backwards, while trying to balance on one foot. HAVE I TAUGHT YOU NOTHING? NOTHING AT ALL?!
  • I resumed cleaning the soiled twin. I got the soiled clothes to the laundry room. (“Laundry room”? Who am I kidding? The laundry closet.)
  • WE HAVE TO GET TO THE GROCERY STORE!!! We are so late! If we didn’t leave then, we wouldn’t be back in time for their brother’s bus. (Mom Math.) The twins had been softened by their recent escapades, and we successfully brought back groceries for six people who eat like grown men. They even helped me unload and put everything in the pantry, including the bacon and milk.
  • The bus arrived. My three boys fought each other for a while outside in the fresh air. They soaked up some Vitamin D while beating an old Christmas wreath to death with large sticks and then running it over with various wheeled vehicles. Then they worked together as a team to hurl it, discus-like, across the yard an impressive distance.
  • My husband got home late. He had had a bad day at work. I listened sympathetically. I love him and for real don’t want him to have bad days. I hugged him tight.
  • He said, “So did you guys do anything today?”

Lord, have mercy.

But he did have mercy. Maybe not on me, but certainly on my twin who fell down the stairs. Much like that time my son fell off the deck while peeing and landed naked on a rock, this child was miraculously fine. I cannot fathom how he could not have been injured. I witnessed the somersaults down the last three of those steps – there is no way he should be okay.

There are angels watching over our little ones. And these children are made of rubber. The Lord did have mercy.

I’m so tired.

The Powerlessness of Not Having a Voice

My son almost ran in the road, and I had no voice with which to stop him. My story is a literal one, but the analogies I take from it are numerous.

My sons were playing outside on a mild January day. I was sick that day, lying in bed, feeling guilty for being sick. (Ah, the perks of motherhood!) I had lost my voice, and my children had been uncharacteristically alarmed by my baritone squawking that morning. My husband kindly bundled them up and took them outside with him while he was working in the garage.

wp-1486487754623.jpgThis is my view from my sick bed. The boys were throwing sticks down that embankment. Yes, it leads to the road, and yes, I briefly wondered if they were going to hit any cars with that stick-throwing. My boys know not to go down the embankment, into the ditch, or into the road. However, Twin B is quite … forgetful. Suddenly, I saw Twin B follow a thrown stick and run down the embankment and out of sight. I raced to the window and threw it open, knowing full well I had no time to run to downstairs and to the door. I had no idea if my husband had seen Twin B, and I had no time to wonder. My body completely forgot about being sick as the momma adrenaline kicked in. As I slammed open the window and leaned out, I screamed, “STOP!”

Only nothing came out.

No sound. No voice. No nothing. Having forgotten I was sick, my surprise turned quickly to terror. My son was probably running into the road and I was completely powerless. I had no voice. At all. There was nothing I could do quickly enough. Panic.

Our dog is deaf, but she can hear loud clapping. So, thinking quickly, treating my children like dogs, I leaned out the window as far as I could and clapped as loudly as I could. My hands stung. My heart was on fire, too. Where was he? Would he hear me?

Once in a while, having twins is wonderful: Twin A, an obedient, empathic brother’s keeper, heard my frantic claps, looked up at the window, yelled, “What, Momma?” I pointed to the road with crazy gesturing. Bless his little four-year-old heart: he understood. He retrieved his twin. As soon as I saw them both come back up over the embankment, I raced down the stairs to yell at Twin B with my non-voice. They were fine.

Later, during a quiet moment (probably after they were in bed, because that is the only quiet), I reflected on that feeling of pure terror I had when I realized I had no voice with which I could protect my child. The fear. The helplessness. We often hear versions of the phase “they have no voice” when reading about oppressed groups of people. It made me ponder many of my favorite quotes with a new understanding.

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“In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” -Martin Luther King, Jr.

“Agitate! Agitate! Agitate!” –Frederick Douglass

“There comes a time when silence is betrayal.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” –Desmond Tutu

“White silence is violence” – my protest sign

“Hear Our Voice” –an official logo of the Women’s March

wp-1489081101207.jpgThat is why Black Lives Matter. That is why refugees matter. That is why Muslims matter. None of these groups of people have the same voice that I do. I am a middle-class white blonde American woman. Simply being born that way is privilege. I truly believe I am obligated to use that privilege to help others. I am obligated to use my voice for others who have no voice. Staying quiet is no longer an option. Change will not happen if we don’t speak up. Literally. Speak. I never want any mother to feel powerless to help her child.

 

***

“For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat. I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink. I was a stranger, and ye took me in, Naked, and ye clothed me. I was sick, and ye visited me. I was in prison, and ye came unto me…Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” Matthew 25:35-40

“Fighting for Your Kid” Really Just Means Trying Again

During my first year of teaching kindergarten, a more experienced teacher kindly said to me, “Sometimes being a good teacher just means showing up again the next day.”

I never forgot that.

Sometimes being a good mother just means showing up again the next day. Trying again the next day.

Every teacher struggles tremendously during the first years. I had a student with some serious emotional challenges that I really was not equipped to handle. I went home and sobbed to my husband that I wasn’t going back, he couldn’t make me, and I was going to work at Walmart. Somehow I managed to go back to school the next day, and the next day, and the next day. I wasn’t the best teacher for that boy who was struggling, but we struggled together. I remember trying to approach him from a different angle the next day: I kneeled down, at his eye level, and very gently painted his hands with an empty paintbrush. He looked me in the eyes. Everything was not smooth sailing after that, but it was a start. I was an emotional wreck sometimes, and I could have done a thousand things better and differently, but I did the best that I could at the time.

And I tried again the next day.

And the next day.

Now that I am in the belly of the beast of motherhood, I recall that lesson I learned from that wise teacher and that hurting child. Being a good mother means showing up and trying again the next day.

My Mom is Just Okay

My Mom is Just Okay

We have some really bad days around here. I don’t subscribe to the “rainbows and unicorns” mentality. Adoption is not easy. Sometimes it’s not even pretty. Or nice. And saying that doesn’t disrespect my child. In fact, it’s the opposite. Being honest about these feelings gives my child respect, because I respect him enough to give his feelings room to just… be.

And having twins is not easy. Sometimes it’s not pretty. Or nice. And having a child with special needs is … well, gut-wrenchingly painfully invisibly hard. It keeps a mother awake at night, going over every single thing she did wrong. Beating herself in the chest for the ways she wasn’t patient enough or sympathetic enough or just ENOUGH. Or that she hasn’t researched enough, dug deep enough, learned enough.

I have had to come to terms with the fact that I absolutely cannot be ENOUGH for any of my children. Maybe if they were all perfect singletons with no special needs. Maybe if their human and flawed mother didn’t have migraines, or anxiety…. just imagine how much better she could do. But, this blog isn’t called “Okayest Mom” for nothing. I’m okay, and I know it, and that has to be ENOUGH. I’m getting there.

All of that emotional vomit is just to say: I try again the next day. That is what makes a me a good mother.

There are meltdowns and problems so serious here that it makes me feel like giving up, for real. (I don’t mean to vague-post, but I need to protect the confidentially of my children and their medical privacy, of course.) But what does “giving up” mean, exactly, when you’re a mother? That I wouldn’t get out of bed and feed them? That I would walk to the mailbox and keep on walking? That I would drop them off at their grandma’s house and not come back? Believe me, thoughts like these have crossed my mind. (And if they haven’t crossed your mind, too, maybe you don’t have the challenges we have in this house. You can’t know, and I can’t know, unless we move in with each other.)

But I haven’t. I haven’t given up. I try again the next day, no matter how tired or how completely empty my tank is.

I have heard myself, and other mothers too, say with our Mama Bear passion that we would fight for our children. There have been times that I have fought hard for my children – for county services, medical attention, and even respect. Any mother knows that Mama Bear feeling. We have all been there and done that. Mother to mother, we know that we have all fought for our children in times of crisis.

But I have realized that “fighting for my child” sometimes means just showing up again the next day. It’s the constant, mundane, day-to-day stuff. It’s the meltdowns. It’s the challenges. It’s the invisible problems. It’s the days when you want to give up. It’s trying again.

That is fighting for your child.

 

 

In the Two Minutes It Took Me to Order at Chick-Fil-A

Why would I brave Chick-Fil-A with two crazy three-year-old boys? Because they have that play area – the one that is enclosed in GLASS. I can sit in silence while they play. We can be two inches apart, yet separated by a wall of glass. If I hadn’t found a way to silence them that morning, I would have put their foam swords through my ears. (By the way, the wall of glass should be in all minivans –  like in a limousine.)

We never go out to eat. This was a rare treat. The weather had been terrible and we all needed to get some space get some exercise. So, upon arriving at the Chick-Fil-A parking lot, I turned around and (in my most grave voice), gave them a pep talk in the van. Stay close to Momma. Sit on your bottom. Eat food. Leave without crying.

We walked in the door. They walked wide-eyed with me to the cash register. Suddenly I heard a loud car alarm. Sheesh, why won’t someone turn that off? In the time it took me to order two kids’ meals, my kids*:

    • Set off the panic button on my van
    • Waved at a black man and yelled in his face, “HI, DADDY!” (Our dad is white.)
    • Saw a soldier wearing fatigues and yelled in his face, “HI, SOLDIER! You in your jammies?!?”
    • Body-slammed a wheelchair of a very old Grandma. A wheelchair!
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The tiny great-grandmother

***

By “my kids,” I of course mean, “Twin B”.

Diary of a Woman Who Has Three Hours to Herself (to Squish In Everything)

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[preschool dropoff]

Woohoo! I’m free!

Are they ok? Wait, doesn’t one of them have a stomachache?

I’m a bad mom for needing to send them away.

I’m so happy!

[anxiety attack]

Breathe slowly, you idiot!

I’m really gonna enjoy my time off this time.

I’m not going to waste it.

I have to stop at this store first.

Dang it, they don’t have it.

Just one more store.

They don’t have it.

Argh! I’ve wasted a whole hour. For no reason!

Drive home faster so you can relax faster, you dork.

This anxiety attack is giving me an anxiety attack because I’m wasting time on the anxiety attack.

What do I even want to do? What do I even like anymore?

Oh, lemme just look up this thing online. Maybe I can find it.

Dang it! You wasted another HOUR!

Ok, Melissa, buckle down and write. For real. It’s the only thing that helps you.

Virus warning? WTF??

Did I lose that work? NO NO NO NO NO NO

I’m gonna stare at this ceiling for a while in the depths of despair like Anne of Green Gables.

ONE HOUR LEFT? LOOK AT THIS MESS! Why haven’t I cleaned anything?

What is wrong with you?

[pace, pace, pace] Which mess should I start with? The worst one or the easiest one? When was the last time I cleaned this dog bowl? OMG.

Maybe I should put on some music. Or take a bath. Those things always help.

Music. Ok, Talking Heads is my cleaning music.

“Slippery People”? How can I not dance to this? Dancing helps anxiety. Dance it off!

Wow, why can’t I dance like that when people are around?

Maybe I’ll unload a few dishes while dancing.

Wait, look at that pile of clean clothes.

Look away. Look at it again.

I really need to clean the toilet. Maybe I can dance-clean the toilet.

Ok, focus, Melissa. Sit down and make a list. Prioritize.

Look at that pile of clothes! JUST LOOK AT IT!

Oh, wow, DJ Shadow? [lost in a romantic college-era dorm-room Christmas-light trance]

OMGosh I have to LEAVE TO PICK UP THE TWINS!

Wait, I didn’t eat.

Isn’t it a beautiful day outside? Why wasn’t I outside?

[start the car]

Get it together, woman!

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.

Who Pooped on the Deck? And Other Twin Potty Training Nonsense

wp-1485523235578.jpgI’m making dinner and my husband is late. The twins are playing on the deck with their big brother, all within my sight through the sliding door. I look up from chopping onions and realize that both twins are pooping on the deck at the same time. One is pooping on the little potty that is on the deck, and the other twin is actually pooping on the deck itself.

Did I mention that the 100 pound dog is also outside? She eats anything.

I drop my knife and race outside. I somehow simultaneously chase the dog away, clean up the poop on the deck, and praise the child who pooped in the right place. (What’s with the smug look? You mean moms of singletons don’t put potties on the deck? Must be nice.) I make a mental note that we need more trash bags. Lots more. And paper towels. Lots more. And then it’s time to clean two bottoms.

EVERYBODY INSIDE NOW! I MEAN IT!

Dinner will have to boil over. My husband cannot be late again during potty training. It is not sanitary to make dinner and clean up two poops at the same time. I don’t care how many times I wash my hands: IT’S JUST NOT SANITARY.

Need a great diet plan for yourself? Gross yourself out with twin potty training, and you may never want to eat again. Holy crap, there is a lot of crap. I could write a book about this crap. A series of books. This whole thing will be funny someday, right? RIGHT?! I need a reward. A reward that doesn’t involve poop. I can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. The tunnel made of poop.

I must be really bad at potty training. This ain’t my first rodeo, though. I did manage to potty train my oldest son, who had some issues, AND do so while I was recovering from dying during childbirth AND taking care of newborn twins. So, yeah, I have done this before.

Yes, we’ve tried bribes, threats, special toys, candies, treats, rewards, punishments, ignoring, zipping my lips, talking about it nonstop, charts, potty watches, potty parties, no pullups, being naked, potty movies, potty seats, potty chairs, travel potties, outdoor peeing, outdoor pooping, flooding them with juice, restricting their liquid, having them clean their own accidents, fun underwear, non-fun underwear. Yes, tried that. A lot. Often. All of it. They don’t care.

I thought that potty training twins might be easier than training a singleton. I mean, they could learn from each other, right? Cheer each other on? At the very least, I could count on getting it all over with at the same time. Right?! WRONG.

I didn’t predict that, yes, more than once, one twin would be pooping upstairs while one twin would be pooping downstairs. I didn’t know I would have to decide, in a millisecond, which twin is more likely to need my help to get the underwear down / sit down properly / make it in time. And if I decided that it is the twin that is on a different house level, then would I even make it there in time? If not, I’ve got two potty problems to deal with instead of one. Better stick to the twin closest to me and just assume an accident is happening elsewhere. I didn’t predict that scenario.

I also didn’t predict that I would get the twins up from “quiet time” two minutes before we had to leave for big brother’s bus stop, only to discover pee and poop in one or both of their beds. Have you ever showered a toddler or two AND gotten them dressed and shoe-d and out the door in two minutes? Didn’t think so. There was a LOT of crying that day. I was basically pushing them around like a grocery cart. A grocery cart in a game show about racing around for groceries. Didn’t see that coming.

I also didn’t see far enough ahead to realize there’s only one toilet on each floor, but there’s two of them. (Twins have been known to share one toilet. I’ve been forewarned. Not gonna describe that though.) I didn’t realize that we would have to resort to the dumb potty chairs – although they do come in handy for playing on the deck. I didn’t predict that we would have two potty chairs on each level of the house. That’s a lot to clean up. I also didn’t know that my twins would apparently be giants, because all but one of the potty chairs would be too small for them. (Not gonna describe that either. But I’m sure you can use your imagination.) I didn’t realize that they would fight over the one potty chair, even though we had four of them. We might as well have trained them on the real toilet anyway. Argh.

The thing is… the twins are TWINS. They have special Jedi mind tricks. Mind control. I don’t know what they’re doing to me or to each other, but it’s on a whole different level than … everything else. If one twin progresses, the other stalls. If one twin suddenly develops a fear of toilets, he will pass that along to the other. No matter which way it goes, it’s not the right way.

The only thing I know about potty training is that it doesn’t progress in a straight line. And, if twins are involved? I don’t even know what that graph would look like.

As the twins splash in the bath, and my dog sits by herself in her crate to think about just what she has done, and my older son enjoys some good old-fashioned PBS, my dinner burns. I sigh. I pick up my phone and text my husband that he better bring home a pizza, a lot of paper towels and trash bags, and maybe some hard drugs. And I warn him never to be late ever, ever, ever again.

 

Twins Did Not Destroy My Body (Hope for Preggo Moms Who Can’t Stop Googling)

Author’s Note: (Hey, that’s me!) I wrote this post two years ago, but never published it. I sat on it for TWO YEARS. I have always pushed it back, deep into the drafts section of my blog. I have worried that it is inappropriate to discuss body image, or that it could sound like whining, or that it could sound like bragging, or, of course, that it could be too personal. I am still struggling. I won’t be able to be 100% open here because this is not a completely anonymous blog. I have decided, however, to post a portion of the truth. The reasons I want to do this are:

1) To help (give hope to!) other women currently pregnant with twins or recovering from twin pregnancy
2) To help (remove blame from) any women who are struggling with post-baby body crap
3) Because someone did this for me and I want to pay it forward.

I am an LDS (Mormon) woman who keeps her body covered from shoulders to knees while in public, unless swimming. My husband and I made this formal commitment during our temple marriage. So I’ll spare you the “before and after” picture nonsense. Anyway, it is extremely important to me that I convey what I have to say in a manner that adheres to the fact that I consider bodies to be sacred. It is also extremely important to me that I say what I have to say in a humble way. I hope I get this right, y’all. Here goes. 

***

Twins did not destroy my body.

Well, yes they did. But not in the ways I expected. My twin boys are two years old now, their little fat bodies asleep in their cribs. It’s the middle of the night and I can’t sleep from the adrenaline of another day of keeping up with them. My handsome husband, unaffected by child-chasing adrenaline, softly snores beside me. I flip back the covers suddenly and wander into my bathroom. I look at my reflection in our huge mirror. I take off my clothes and I don’t know why.

The house is still, and for the first time in two years, I am still too. I have been in fight-or-flight mode for two years. I feel like I’m seeing my own body for the first time since the hellish pregnancy. I am having flashbacks to the way I needed my husband’s help to undress near the end of the pregnancy, and to the way both of us would gawk at my daily changes before he helped me into the shower. Sometimes my body looked like a freaking miracle in that mirror, and sometimes it reminded me of a vampire pregnancy from a popular young adult novel: grotesque and progressing too quickly. My naked body in the third trimester of a twin pregnancy was a speeding train that I couldn’t stop (despite the fact that it could barely walk or roll over). Even though six years of infertility treatments had answered all my prayers, and my twins were healthy in my huge womb, I was still enough of an ungrateful jerk to worry about stretch marks and permanent weight gain.

I snap back to the present. I focus my eyes on my current body. Two years have passed in a haze of sleep deprivation. My body has not been the focus for so very long. All I have known about my body was that it was always very tired. Now I am focusing my lens right into this mirror, right onto this body. This body that couldn’t get pregnant, and then did, and then carried twins, and then almost died during childbirth, and then came back to life, and then raised two newborns into toddlers. My body is…. fine.

The twins didn’t destroy my body. Well, yes, they did make me gain 80 pounds during the pregnancy. They did almost kill me during the birth. They did leave my belly as floppy as a waterbed. They did do some pretty wonky things to, well, some of my insides (you’re welcome for the generalities). And, we recently found out that the weight of them, both in my belly and on my hips, did give me scoliosis.

However, none of those things were the things I panicked about before they were born.

I did not get stretch marks.

I did not have trouble losing the weight.

I want to share what I have learned: genetics and circumstance are to blame or to praise for these things.  I want women to quit beating themselves up for problems that they have less control over than they think.

I did not get stretch marks because my mother did not get stretch marks. It is as simple as that. There are no secrets, no creams, no magic remedies. It is just genetics. It’s not a woman’s fault if she gets stretch marks, and it’s not to her credit if she doesn’t have stretch marks.

I lost the baby weight because my dad is thin. Yes, I mall-walked and trail-walked and ran on fumes like all mothers do, and I carried babies until my spine bent, but my metabolism is a genetic gift from my father. (Along with migraines.) I have no secrets or magic cures. It’s not a woman’s fault if she can’t lose the last of her baby weight. It’s also not to her credit if she did lose it all.

It’s just the way it is.

My body in this mirror is… fine. It’s sore and it’s tired and it can’t sleep tonight, but it’s fine. I see my mostly flat belly. I see my mostly smooth skin. I see my strong arms from carrying those fat toddlers who are asleep in their cribs right now. It’s time for me to appreciate all of this stuff and get back in my own bed beside my warm husband.

I know there are wide-awake moms, pregnant with twins and a big dose of panic, presently Googling something morbid like “twin pregnancy belly” just because they can’t sleep. Why can’t they sleep? From the discomfort pain of an octopus of limbs in there? From anxiety about wondering how to burp one twin without detaching the other nursing twin? From just now realizing that she has TWO SETS OF GENITALIA inside her right now?!

Well, wide-awake panicked mommas staring into the bathroom mirror and/or their search engine in the middle of the night, I want to tell you something. I know it feels like you are on a careening train that won’t stop and you want to get off it sometimes. I know you think there is no hope and that only a plastic surgeon could fix what multiples have done to you. But listen to me: There’s a chance you will look the same afterwards. I do. I went from 118 pounds to 198 pounds to 117 pounds in the space of two years, and I am mostly the same as I was before.

The internet is flush with momma-pride articles, giving women with stretch marks and permanent baby bellies a voice. I celebrate with them when they take ownership of those “tiger stripes” and eschew any shame. I applaud them and even gain strength from their stories. Women should always stick together and gain strength from each other. Women should never apologize for bodies that have built and birthed human beings. I agree that it is not anyone’s “fault” when we end up with stretch marks and baby weight. It isn’t because you didn’t buy the expensive cream, you know?

But also, it isn’t to your credit if you didn’t earn those tiger stripes. Just as I wouldn’t have been the cause of stretch marks, I am not the cause of my lack of stretch marks. You see what I’m saying? It’s the genetic role of the dice. I hope that by sharing my story, I can actually further the cause of the mommas being proud of their post-baby bodies.

I am not bragging. I am trying to get you to stop Googling and go the eff to sleep.


***

PS, I know there are regular pregnant moms (you know, the singletons ones, the ones with only one penis in there) who also can’t sleep and are also Googling stuff they shouldn’t. To you I want to say: My doctor said that multiple pregnancies are more challenging for the body than a multiples pregnancy. Therefore, since I had three children for the price of one mega-pregnancy (twins + adoption), I might have to eat this essay if I ever miraculously get pregnant again.

Regular thoughts vs. Anxiety Thoughts

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Me. Worrying.

Sometimes my mind plays tricks on me. Well, “tricks” makes it sound kind of fun and playful. These tricks are neither fun nor playful. Hmm, maybe “my mind” isn’t the best phrase either. Let me start over.

Sometimes my brain chemicals try to screw me over.

The same things happen to me on good days as do on bad days. No matter how good or bad my brain chemistry is acting, I still have to make the same amount of meals, wipe the same amount of bums, and hear the same amount of chaos. The difference is whether or not I can handle those things.

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Me. Hiding.

Some days, I can calmly look around and survey the damage and prioritize my responsibilities. Other days, I look around at my life and I … feel like when I’m swimming and I think the bottom of the lake is right there, but then my toes realize that I can’t touch the bottom and I panic and tread water even though I know I know how to swim.

And then, I shut down. Zombie mommy takes over. I don’t know what to do about anything and I slowly lose the ability to do anything. I lose the ability to prioritize. Everything seems huge and every attempt on my part seems inadequate or even just wrong. On a “good” day, I might look back and wonder why on earth I couldn’t handle that stupid little event/ responsibility / feeling/ chore/ request.

Here is how my brain handles things on good days versus bad days…

The houseplant needs water.                                                            
Regular thought: Where did I put that watering can? Which kid will help me water this plant?
Anxiety thought: I kind of like watching this plant die.

My kids go to their rooms for their regularly scheduled “quiet time”.
Regular thought: These kids really benefit from quiet time. We all need a break.
Anxiety thought: Shouldn’t I be doing some cute craft with them or something? I shouldn’t need a break from my own children.

I see a book on the floor that I had promised to read to them but didn’t.
Regular thought: Oh, I better remember to read that to them tomorrow!
Anxiety thought: I am the worst mother ever. How could I promise something and not follow through? These kids will never keep trusting me if I don’t mean what I say.

I am late to something.
Regular thought: Ugh, I tried hard. Oh well, people understand that I have potty-training twins and can’t always be on time.
Anxiety thought: I am never on time. Everyone else manages to be on time, no matter how many kids they have. What is wrong with me?

There are piles of laundry on the couch.
Regular thought: I can’t believe how much mud and pollen three small boys can get into in the spring!  Let’s get this folding started. It won’t be so bad in the summer time.
Anxiety thought: There is no point. Laundry never ever ends. Other moms can handle their laundry with bigger families than mine. What is my excuse? I can’t even look at this pile.

I need to start making dinner.
Regular thought: Let me consult my meal planner on the wall to remember what I am making tonight. Ok, I need to start that in ten minutes.
Anxiety thought: Everyone is going to need me while I’m making dinner. It’s so impossible. They won’t even want to eat what I planned anyway. Why do I bother?

My husband calls and says he will be late coming home from work tonight.
Regular thought: Ugh, not again. Ok, let’s get this over with.
Anxiety thought: I will be doing this alone forever. I can’t handle this. I can’t handle them.

I have a whole lot of emails/ texts/ messages/ calls to respond to.
Regular thought: Well, people understand that I have twins. I’ll get to them sooner or later.
Anxiety thought: People make time for me, yet I can’t seem to make time for them. I am a really bad friend. I am going to lose the friends I’ve got.

Everyone is crying at the same time.
Regular thought: Let me see who has the most serious need and handle him first.
Anxiety thought: I don’t know what to do. I want to hide in the bathroom.

The house is a mess.
Regular thought: Well, I have three small boys! What do I expect it will look like? It’s not like I have a cleaning crew. I’ll clean it when they go to kindergarten.
Anxiety thought: I am a failure.

Even on a bad day, I know I can’t believe the anxiety thoughts. But it’s so hard. I know I shouldn’t listen to that crap. I know it’s not real. These “tricks” are all so new to me. I can’t believe how much effort it takes to both hear them and not to listen to them. On a good day, I just handle it. Handle it and move on.

Besides my migraines, anxiety has absolutely been my biggest challenge to my parenting. Sometimes I imagine what kind of mother I could be without anxiety or migraines strangling me. I can’t decide if thinking like that makes me feel better or worse.

Yes, what I do is really really hard. I am not sure that anyone in my situation would be able to do any better. At least, that’s what I have to tell myself. Having three small children, one of them with special needs, a couple of them potty training, and all of them very very dependent on me, would take a toll on anyone. Right?

It makes me really sad to read what I have written – to put this stuff in words. But I usually can’t heal from something until I write it down. I think better when I write. Let’s just hope I can learn to think better during the bad days, too.

I Went Away With a Girlfriend for Two Nights So I Wouldn’t Crack

I went away with a girlfriend for two nights. My husband insisted. I had been going through a really rough time, due to anxiety problems combined with some truly evil migraine medication side effects combined with potty training. He knew I was about to break. He told me, “You need to call your friend and ask her to go away with you. Right now. If you don’t call her, I will.” She is also a mother of three-year-old twins, so she heard the desperation in my voice text, and scheduled a beach weekend with me right away. Her husband must be as smart as my husband.

In order to make it to my weekend away, I had to sludge through my husband’s six-night business trip first. It was such a huge strain on my body and mind that I could barely even look forward to my beach weekend. I survived, but potty training didn’t.

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I did force my friend to do this with me and she will never forgive me.

When my friend and I told our strength-training instructor that we would be going away to the beach, he got a sparkle in his eye and said something about us “going out” and blah blah. We looked at each other and laughed. Sleep. Lots of sleep. And maybe a couple long walks on the beach. (Oh, and somehow I would force my friend to do one of those old-timey dress up photos with me, but that would be pushing it.) Our trainer, a man with no children, had no idea what we were really looking forward to. Sleeping through the night. Deciding when we wanted to go to the bathroom. Eating a whole meal without witnessing anything gross enough to make us stop eating. Eating a whole meal without getting up. Not having anyone demand anything of us. Not dealing with anyone else’s poop besides our own. Not having anyone ask us 900 questions a day. (Not exaggerating: the average three-year-old asks upward of 400 questions a day. Times two for us. It’s science.)

It was finally time to leave. My kids, ages 6, 3, and 3, are finally old enough to basically say, “Don’t let the door hit you in the a$$ on the way out” when I leave. A year or two ago, we were still in the cling-to-my-legs stage. Sometimes they seem better off without me. I know that is the anxiety talking, and it’s not really true. But they fight less when they aren’t around me. They potty train properly for my husband. My husband can keep the house in order. Sometimes it seems that I shouldn’t be here. Anyway, I was so emotionally drained by the week of single parenting prior to our departure that I sagged into my friend’s car with not quite as much enthusiasm as I had imagined I would have. I wanted to weep, but more from exhaustion rather than from sorrow at leaving the kids or from joy at leaving the kids.

As the house got further and further behind us, we realized it was so much … easier… to talk to each other without four three-year-olds talking to us at the same time. Wow. Imagine that. We were able to finish thoughts and sentences. Have a real back and forth like normal people. It was so… easy. And not once did I turn around and strain my neck looking into the back seat!

We arrived at our hotel and both of us had to take Benadryl. It’s been so long since we slept through the night that we know we can’t actually sleep through the night anymore. The body is a cruel mistress.

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My first time alone in a hotel room. Age 36.

I had never slept in a hotel room alone before. Since I married at age 22, I can’t remember a time that my parents or my husband weren’t with me in a hotel room. (I did go to college and also studied abroad in Italy, but I always had roommates!) It was weird and scary and intimidating. And yeah, kinda nice.

We did all the usual things that you would expect Mormon moms to do at the beach in the cold springtime: walk around, sleep in, eat at cheap restaurants, look at dolphins, not drink, and maybe make fun of the cheerleading competition that was in town. It wasn’t life-altering. But it was good. Very very good.

I was surprised that I couldn’t make myself call home.

I was also surprised that I never did relax. How many days would it have taken?

I was also surprised that when I came home, I discovered that my kids are the cutest things in the whole world. Those little voices? Those chubby legs? Those giggles? Those fat arms around my neck? Are you kidding me?! Beautiful.

It lasted about an hour. Then they were the same old kids.

I need to go away again.

 

Also, this is a non sequitur, but this sign made me laugh every time I got on the elevator.

Also, this is a non sequitur, but this sign made me laugh every time I got on the elevator.

 

It’s Mother’s Day. I am alone. And I am so happy.

It is the opposite of when I used to be alone on Mother’s Day, and I was so sad. Many years of infertility led to many years of crying every Mother’s Day – and skipping church to hike in the woods with my momma so I wouldn’t cry when they handed flowers to each mother in the congregation.

This year, my husband has taken our three small boys – ages 6, 3, and 3 – to his mother’s house for the day. I am alone, and I love it. He made both his mother and his wife so very happy today, all in one fell swoop. Grandma got time with the grandkids (and her son), and I got time to myself –which is a very rare commodity.

My husband got up with the kids this morning. He handled all their needs and requests and fights and commotions and teeth brushings and clothing wrestling. I took a leisurely hot shower and didn’t think about anything. I wandered down the stairs when I was ready. The inside of my head felt so… clean. So empty. So relaxed.

wp-1456004293423.jpgHe had made breakfast for the kids, and they were all sitting at the table in their nice clothes, shoveling scrambled eggs into their slobbery mouths. He coached them to say “Happy Mother’s Day, Momma” in unison. They all had big smiles. Their voices sounded so sweet and beautiful – because I hadn’t yet dealt with any whining whatsoever. They were pristine little innocent voices, untouched yet (in my mind anyway) by the needs of the day. It was perfect. They were perfect.

Their little chorus of “Happy Mother’s Day, Momma” really got to me. It wasn’t just their adorable little voices. It was the memory of all the mother’s days that I had spent longing for these voices. All the years spent longing for a full breakfast table. All the years of injections or adoption paperwork or failed cycles. I was having a moment! I got so choked up that I had to turn away (after kissing each fat messy cheek first, of course).

How easy it is to forget each day, during the trials and constant demands and pure exhaustion down to my bones, that I desperately wanted these children. How easy it is to forget how very hard we worked for them. How many years it took for them arrive. How I truly almost sacrificed my life to bring them here.

In a house of twins/”triplets”, special needs, anxiety, migraines, and the regular nonstop pace that never ever slows down, it is so easy to forget how very very lucky I am.

I’m lucky to have them – and lucky to be alone today!

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Okayest Mom and Okayest Mom’s Mom on Mother’s Day

I’m not letting myself worry about any of my chores and messes. Just think of what I could accomplish today without all the pitter-pattering (i.e., stomping and running and crashing) of little feet! But no. Today is mine. Maybe to see my own Momma for a little bit. To write. To reflect. To remember how precious and treasured my children are to me. The distance is clearing my head.

This kind of alone is so much better than the other kind of alone. During infertility, I was alone against my will. During motherhood, I am alone out of choice. Just for today.

I am so happy.

 

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To those of you who are still fighting and still in the trenches, I haven’t forgotten about you. I will never forget about you. I love you all! Here are some posts just for you …

Mother’s Day Can Sometimes Feel Like a Bruise

To My Readers Who Are Struggling With Infertility

Adoption, Infertility, Miscarriage, IVF, Twins, Oh My!

 

 

 

Why Is “Postpartum Anxiety” A Thing Now? And What Do We Do?

Ah, okay, there’s a name for that now. I have a Bachelor’s degree in psychology (granted, it’s old) and I had never heard the term “postpartum anxiety” before recently. Where did this come from? Everyone knows about postpartum depression, but why was no one talking about the postpartum anxiety? When I type the word “postpartum”, the suggested next words are “depression” or “hemorrhage”. Not anxiety.

I was at a baby shower recently and the words “postpartum anxiety” passed through the room like a hot potato. From mom to mom to mom. These are my friends, and we had no idea that each other was suffering.

What is going on?!

I didn’t feel any of these feelings during high school or college. I managed to graduate cum laude without getting too overwhelmed or ever hearing this kind of negative self-talk. I managed five years of a teaching career without hearing this crap. I could handle 25 five-year-olds every day for ten months out of a year, and only feel normal amounts of tiredness and frustration. Yes, those things were incredibly challenging and a huge amount of work, but I didn’t shut down.

This anxiety is all new to me, since motherhood began.

How many of you mothers out there are rocking in this same unsteady boat? Is it new for you too? Why now? Are we poisoning ourselves and our brain chemistry? What is to blame? Ourselves? Pregnancy? Regular daily situational stress? Environmental toxins? Pesticides? Food dyes? An overabundance of information?  The fact that modern parents are not able to let their ten-year-old walk home from the playground without getting Child Protective Services called? Pinterest? (Just kidding. You know Okayest Mom is not a Pinterest mom.)

No one told me before I started infertility treatments that women with successful IVF  have higher rates of depression and anxiety. No one told me before my twins were born that mothers of multiples have higher rates of depression and anxiety. Some studies even show that new adoptive mothers have higher rates of depression. We all know that people who cheat death like I did have some mental repercussions later. And it’s probably obvious that almost all mothers of special needs children have higher rates of “psychological distress.”

Despite the fact that I was not quite cognizant of all of this crap, I figured it all out on my own as I bowed under the pressures. I wrote about being haunted by successful IVF a while ago. And I have never subscribed to the belief that “adoption is rainbows and unicorns.” (The truth is that adoption is extremely complex – and involves walking with your child through his grief.)

With all of these complicated family dynamics under my roof and inside my head and on my shoulders, it’s really no surprise that I have some really really bad days. Days when I can’t handle my life. Days when I feel like a bad person. A wrong person. And, yes, days when I feel like a bad mother. I am really bad at a lot of things. Potty training twins. Growing blueberries. Unpacking anything ever. Turning down the minivan radio.

And then I have some normal days, like today. Today I reread a hopeless and detailed (unpublished) post that I had written during a bad day. It made me feel so sad. Not sorry for myself – just plain old sad. Since my brain seems to be thinking clearly today as I look back on that post, I started making a mental list of all the things that I actually do right. My list was kind of beautiful. Everything on it was something I do as a mother, just naturally, without comparison to others and without force. My list made me smile, and I realized I needed to write it down.

I needed to write that list down and read it on every single bad day. I wanted to be able to read my own words and believe myself on a bad day. Here is my list.

Motherhood things I do well (and need to reread on a bad day):

  • Having Beastie Boys dance parties with my kids
  • Saying “no” when needed
  • Saying “yes” as often as possible
  • Going outside with my kids in all types of weather
  • Making exercise a priority for all of us
  • Baking homemade organic bread often (for fun!)
  • Making homemade organic wheat pancakes from scratch every Saturday and a homemade pumpkin pie every Sunday
  • Loving their father
  • Checking the pollen count every day for my seriously allergic son, and making him change his clothes and wiping him down all over when he comes inside
  • Running a food-dye-free kitchen when I realized one of my sons reacts to dyes
  • Driving to another state to see a specialist on a regular basis for one son
  • Fighting tooth and nail to get services for one son (and then listening to this ridiculous 80s Journey song on the way home while pumping my fist in the air)
  • Snuggling and kissing and hugging my children as often as they allow
  • Teaching my children that they are the bosses of their bodies and can say no to my hugs (sigh)
  • Taking them to church every Sunday (okay, most Sundays)
  • Letting them see me preparing my Sunday School lesson, and then teaching them a 3 minute shortened version of it every Monday for Family Night
  • Teaching them to respect their father
  • Making them kale smoothies (they don’t eat their vegetables, but they sure drink them, and I’m okay with that)
  • Keeping my kids away from electronics
  • Getting my own exercise so I can be healthy for them (and keep up with them – almost)
  • Almost always controlling the volume of my voice
  • Seeing the grandparents and great-grandparents a lot
  • Learning about my own white privilege, and trying to change that for my son
  • Taking classes about race and transracial adoption to try to do better
  • Making sure my kids know what a record player is
  • Living by my favorite parenting quote: “Give them time to explore and learn about the feel of grass, and the wiggliness of worms.” (by Marjorie Hinckley)

Again, this list is not here to compare to your good things. I am writing it to remind myself what *I* do right, and hope that it can outweigh my shortcomings. If you suffer from the same crap I do, make a list for yourself of your good things – the things you do effortlessly and for which you forget to take credit.

Make a list for yourself. Give yourself credit. Reread it. Reach out to other moms on your bad days. Remind your friends what things they do right. Let’s do this together.

I Sold My Triple Stroller Today

first walk

Our first walk

I sold my triple stroller today. I’m not gonna lie: I cried a little bit.

I hated that thing. I hated how much it cost. If I had bought it new, it would have cost more than our old pickup truck did! The market for triple strollers is extremely limited. At the time, there were only three triple strollers on the market. I was stuck buying a four-wheeled vehicle without a motor that retailed for more than one of our four-wheeled vehicles with a motor.

I hated that thing. I hated how much it weighed. It was 37 pounds *without* children in it. All I can think about when I look at it is how it broke my back to get it in and out of the van, and how it weighed more than I did with all my kids in it, and how it felt to push it uphill. I think of the friends who had to help me lift it or push it.

And now it’s gone… And so are my babies. They are three years old now.

I remember buying that stroller from another twin mom when I was pregnant with the twins. (Before the bedrest, obviously!) Her twins were three at the time. I was already huge and lugging a very unhappy two-year-old with me. I was scared – not scared of this rich lady I found on Craigslist, though. I was scared of the twins in my belly. I was scared to see if that triple stroller would fit in my VW. I was scared I wouldn’t be able to lift it. I was scared I wouldn’t remember how to unfold it. I was scared to pay the amount I would have to pay (which, at half the retail price, was still a staggering amount).  I was scared that my hyper-sensitive toddler would flip out with the commotion of her twins that day (he did) – and his twins in the future (he would).

Most of all, I was scared that I would never survive until my twins were three. I would never make it as far as she had.

I almost didn’t.

And then I did. I survived. My house isn’t as nice trendy clean as hers. I probably suck at twin-momming way more than she did. But I’m here. I did it.

And now I’m selling the triple stroller to another mom.

triple strollerI loved that stroller. It was my only freedom. It was my only way to leave my house to get fresh air, even for something as simple as a walk down the street. I was not physically able to maneuver three children under three with my own body.

I loved that stroller. without it, my only options would have been drive-thru fast food and drive-thru pharmacies. It was my only freedom.

My babies are gone. In their place, I now have strong, hearty three-year-old twins and a strong, hearty (and still hyper-sensitive) six-year-old son. They are beautiful and boogery and filthy. They are angelic and horrid. They smell like dirt. They smell like Burt’s Bees soap. They smell like snot. They smell like coconut oil. They smell like engine grease and sawdust like their father. They smell like rosewater and saffron ice cream.

cleaning triple stroller

The triple stroller was my albatross and my only freedom. Now my kids are cleaning it for me instead of being dead weight!

They don’t have wheels like that triple stroller. They don’t have an engine like the old truck that cost less than that fancy stroller. But, somehow, they have become completely self-propelled. They are fast and wild. They are slow and meandering. They sometimes hold my hand, but I never carry them. If they have a tantrum in public, I can’t carry them out: I have to wait them out while the whole world hears. If they get hurt and cry, I can’t heave them onto my hips: I have to sit on the floor/gravel/pavement/dirt and let them climb into my lap for comfort. They each now weigh more than that triple stroller ever did: 45 pounds, 40 pounds, and 38 pounds.

It’s another mom’s turn to have a turn with that monstrosity. I wonder if she is scared. Probably not, because she is having her sixth child. She will be fine.

So why did I cry? Of course it wasn’t really for the stroller. It wasn’t really even for the memories of my tiny babies in the seats. It really wasn’t even for my non-babies who are now so self-propelled.

It was for the future babies that I can’t have. As I drove away and left that stroller behind, I knew I would never have another baby to put in it.

And if by some miracle, I did have another baby, it would only be one baby… so obviously I would only need a single regular stroller anyway.

I really hated that triple stroller.

 

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This isn’t an affiliate link or anything, but since so many people have asked me, you can buy this Valco Baby stroller here. It is a twin stroller with an additional third seat called a “Joey” attached. And, since this isn’t an affiliate link, I’m allowed to say, buy that thing on Craigslist!