#worldstoughestjob

Common parenting wisdom dictates that babies are very sensitive to transitions.  Much is written about this in parenting books and websites, and much is asked on forums (“My baby is going crazy!  Hellllpppp!”).  Transitioning from playtime to sleep time.  Adjusting to a new nap schedule.  Falling asleep somewhere other than home.  Handling a new sibling, or a new house, or a new tooth, or a new whatever.  Babies are finicky little creatures of habit, and we, the all-knowing, older, wiser adults of the world, need to help them get through it.

But lately, I’ve been drowning in a giant ocean of transitions myself.  Buying a house and selling a house.  Living somewhere else until that house sells.  Having to abandon the well-oiled machine that is my daily twin mom routine.  Letting go of the way I do things, without all of my stuff, and my bed, and my kitchen, and the nursery and my neighbourhood.  Losing sleep and also my mind over each day that passes without my house being sold.  Getting sick and staying sick for days on end with little relief.  Who said it was just babies who suck at handling change?

The irony in all this, of course, is that Madeleine and Reid are actually doing pretty well at rolling with the madness that is our life right now.  They’re currently sleeping in a walk-in closet, but they’ve strayed very little from their usual sleep habits for the most part.  They don’t have their highchairs for meals, and they’re eating Grandma’s meals instead of Mom’s (which, let’s be honest, is probably a good thing), and they don’t seem to mind it at all.  The only thing that bothers them is the restrictions placed on where they can and cannot play (our temporary home is not very baby-proof!), but I can’t say I blame them.  All in all, I’d say my kids could teach ME a few things about being adaptable.

We’ve faced many challenges over the past year-and-a-bit since the babies were born – more than I ever anticipated, although fewer than we probably should have given the nature of what happened to us.  And one thing I learned during that time was how much more we could actually handle than I thought.  But just as surprising to me has been realizing how debilitating the little things can be when you are a parent.  When you are starting to crumble as a single human being, but then you also have to take care of two more.

It’s easy to talk about all the difficult things that come along with being a mum (and even easier when you have twins, since all of the other mums seem to automatically empathize!), but for the most part, I’ve never found any of it that bad.  What is truly difficult though, and what I don’t hear often in books or sentimental online commercials about motherhood being the world’s most challenging job, is how hard it is to keep going when you cannot really ever take a break.  When you are sick and need to lie in bed all day, but your kids are still waking up at six.  When your life is feeling overwhelming and you want to hide under the covers, but Madeleine has a doctor’s appointment and you need to get your act together because her health is more important than your anxiety.  When your bank account balance is dwindling, and your new home closes in a month and you need to stop and take a breath and maybe eat something or take a shower, but you have to take the kids out for the day to pass the time until bedtime, because spending the day hanging around somebody else’s home is driving you all a little bit batty.

This is the stuff that makes motherhood hard.  Not the crying or the diapers or the tantrums or the constant neediness.  It’s a lot of effort, of course, but there is much more difficult stuff out there!  It’s frustrating sometimes to spend all your day with little ones when you wish you could have a real adult conversation, or a lunch break, or just some ‘non-baby’ time.  It’s constant, full-on, under-appreciated work, but it’s also the most rewarding, the easiest job to get up for in the morning, the clearest sense that you are doing something really important and valuable with your time.  You are raising humans, keeping them safe and showing them love and teaching them about the world and about trust and about security.  I wouldn’t trade those responsibilities for anything.

But being a mother all of the time, without ever truly getting a break, even when you need one so badly, and having to figure out a way to keep going when you need to be mothered yourself?  No weekends or holidays, no sick days or vacations?  Motherhood may or may not be the world’s toughest job, but somedays, no matter how much you love it, it can certainly feel that way.

Twelve Months, Actually

maddie12mos

They say that the key to enjoying motherhood is taking it one day at a time, living in the moment as best you can, as often as possible.  But I don’t think I’m alone in feeling that this can be very hard to do.  You get caught up in your to-do list, trying to keep the kids happy and fed and occupied, but not really ever plugging in fully.  In fact, lately it feels like all I can do is count down the number of hours I have to get through until bedtime.  Everything else is pushed by the wayside.

I haven’t had much to write about, either.  What’s the value in writing a post about how much Maddie puked, or the way Reid refuses to let you feed him, knocking the spoon out of your hand and sending the food flying?  Everyone knows that stuff, the day-to-day drudgery that makes people say things like, “motherhood is the hardest jobs in the world!”, or “I could NEVER be a stay-at-home-mom!”.  We all know that taking care of children – your children who will one day be adults – is challenging, often thankless work.  What I want is to spend more time thinking – and writing – about the other stuff, the little moments and flashes where I’m reminded that, wait, this is still a really awesome way to spend my time.

Madeleine and Reid are almost 15 months now, but at the end of the month they’ll reach one year corrected.  Which means they will “really” be one, instead of just technically being one based on their birth date.  As usual, these milestones are a time of major reflection – so much has happened to us in such a short time – but most often I find myself thinking about the sheer amount of ridiculous stuff that we’ve experienced.  Cerclages and bed rest and false labour and real-honest-to-goodness labour.  Three-and-a-half months in the NICU.  Brain haemorrhages and shunts and our hearts that kept breaking over and over and over again.  Discharge and newborns and diapers and bottles and rolling and crawling and babbling and standing.  But today I had a different memory.  Not of hospitals and motherhood, but of the year before the twins, when we’d just moved into our first house, a young married couple and their dogs, thinking that, hey, maybe someone might be missing from our family.

I’m not sure if this is a universal experience, but I went from being unsure about getting pregnant, to absolutely ready to be a mom almost in an instant.  It was just time, and that was that.  But it takes a bit of time from realizing you’re ready, to making a firm decision in your marriage that you’re going to make it a reality.  We were lucky that we got pregnant easily, but I remember in the interim feeling the distinctly desperate feeling of having to wait and not knowing how it would all turn out.  I saw pregnant women everywhere.  I took my temperature each morning and felt phantom pregnancy symptoms far before they could have ever occurred.  You just want it to happen, and then you want to hold your baby and be a mom forever.  Your focus gets very, very narrow.  And, of course, you need to spend the entire time trying to pretend that you aren’t a crazy lady counting down the minutes until she ovulates again (even though, uh, you totally are).

Today, in my messy kitchen, still in my pyjamas at three in the afternoon, stepping on squished raspberries dropped from Reid’s highchair tray, I thought back to those days.  I thought back to the day I first took a pregnancy test – too early, though I didn’t know it at the time – and was surprised and disappointed to see that it was negative.  I thought back to the five minutes I spent in the bathroom waiting for the results from a second pregnancy test later on – the one that would turn out to be positive – bargaining out loud with no one in particular that if this was it, if I really was pregnant this time, I would try so, so, so hard to be the best mother I could possibly be for this baby.  And I thought about my first ultrasound at eight weeks, when I learned that not only did I really, truly have a baby in there, but that I had two.  And when I looked back at my grumpy, teething babies sitting on the kitchen floor covered in spilled milk and bits of hard-boiled egg, I realized, you know what?  I got everything I asked for.

Of course, I didn’t ask for the smushed fruit or dirty dishes or the rarity that showering or changing my clothes has now become.  And I certainly didn’t ask for two babies at once.  But what I got – two beautiful babies with big smiles who hate diaper changes and scream when they’re tired and throw their food and come in every now and then for a sweet, brief cuddle and a kiss – it’s everything I hoped for when I realized I needed to become a mom.

All of the stuff, the awful pregnancy and much-too-early delivery, the NICU and the health problems, the worries about disabilities and brain damage, and the continuing question mark that is our future?  It kind of seems not so bad anymore, one proper year later.  A year on from my due date, and things look awfully different from how I thought they’d look when that pregnancy test came back positive.  All of the expectations I’d had about pregnancy and early motherhood then had been so, so wrong.  But did my dream come true that day?  Absolutely.  And it’s actually even better than I ever thought it’d be.

All Touched Out

It needs to be said:  I love love.

I love getting cuddles.  I cry watching movies and TV shows.  Sometimes I cry watching YouTube.  My dogs are used to being hugged and kissed and squeezed and held like babies against their will.  And my human babies?   They will never have a shortage of affection from their mama (whether they like it or not!)  Back during our NICU days, all we could really do was sit and snuggle with the twins for hours on end.  But really, that’s all I would have wanted to do anyway.  The fact that it was essential for their development was just a nice bonus as far as I was concerned.

Continue reading

The Burden of Good News

madeleinethumb

Yesterday marked exactly one year since Madeleine’s first brain surgery.  One year since one of the most difficult days of my life.

Once we knew Madeleine was in trouble – once we figured out that her brain hemorrhage wasn’t going to self-resolve, once we knew that the ventricles were dilating, once we knew that she needed help – things moved pretty fast. Faster than I was prepared for. We were sent to another hospital, a new place that functioned totally differently and where nobody knew my little girl. Matt was out of town on business, which was terrible, awful timing, and I felt terrified and alone. And that day, the day of her surgery, while I waited for an update and tried not to think about my impossibly tiny baby lying on a table while someone cut into her skull, it really hit me for the first time that maybe things would not be ok. Maybe it won’t all work out in the end.

Continue reading

First Birthday for Two! (And a free DIY bunting printable!)

birthdayparty

When the babies were in the hospital, I was pretty sure I wouldn’t want to celebrate their first birthday.  The day they came into the world was a scary blur, where I went into labour and had two babies (one by emergency C-section), and was left to be stitched up while a team of people tried to keep them alive.  It was supposed to have gone so differently, and I couldn’t imagine wanting to celebrate that day one year later.

Continue reading