Twinfant Tuesday: A year in photos (minus the photos)

Next week, my little monkeys will be ONE!  That one saying is so true.  What is it again?  The days go slowly, but the weeks and months fly by, or something like that?  The other night my husband and I were watching photos float by on a slideshow from the past year.  While it’s impossible to adequately describe the first year with twins, a few of these moments help summarize the roller coaster.

Exhaustion

Photo: both 8-week-old babies are in just a diaper, passed out on my husband, who is also asleep.  My son’s arm is draped over the face of my daughter, whose mouth is wide open.  Everyone looks exhausted.  I recall this night in particular, because it was taken at the end of the first night we decided to “try” one of us going out for a few hours during the “witching hour.”  This witching hour was so very real in our house between about 5 weeks-13 weeks or so.  This particular night they started crying about 10 minutes after my husband left the house (of course), and they seemed to ratchet each other higher and higher on the scale of hysteria for the next 45 minutes until I called him, beckoning him home.  I still have no idea what got them so upset, but it was one of those nights where I needed to put them each in their crib and walk away for a good 3-5 minutes because I truly did not know how to calm them.  Eventually they stop crying for just as mysterious of reasons as why they started.  I still feel shell shocked by those first few months with two infants.  I can almost still feel the anxiety, counting the time until I’d need to go pump or breastfeed two babies again, or feel the burn in my sleep-deprived eyes.

Joy

Photo: taken after a bath, and the babies were laying side by side, and my son reached out and was touching my daughter on the arm.  She smiled back at him.  They were about 5 months old and it was taken on our first trip (see also: only) with the kids.  (We really took on the challenge of a first vacation with infant twins: Cold weather.  Over Christmas.  Staying at high altitude.  Attempting to take turns to go skiing.)  It wasn’t likely the first time they connected like that, but I do think it was the first one we caught on camera.  It captures the hope that I have for a close relationship between them and the warmth I feel in my heart when I see the connection between them.

Fear

My heart aches and is filled with gratitude simultaneously when I see the photo of my son smiling, holding a small box of cheerios in a hospital gown, the morning after our first night (and, hopefully, only for a very long time) in the hospital a few weeks ago after he took a bad fall and sustained a head injury.  We spent the night saying prayers that all would be okay, while we realized the vicarious pain one can feel for their child, as a parent.  Seeing this photo, even just a few weeks after, makes me so grateful that he is okay.  I’m almost equally as fearful of other accidents and illnesses that no doubt lie down the road for us as a family.  I was warned about how you experience pain when your children hurt, but it is truly something you cannot understand until going through it.

Fascination

Photo: my daughter standing, holding onto the collar of our 8-year-old pitbull-boxer mix makes me giggle.  I remember coming around the corner and catching her standing there with our dog, who patiently sat and let our daughter examine her “necklace.”  Mind you, she cannot walk yet, so this means she crawled over and pulled herself up on our dog’s collar.  Her fascination with jewelry has begun early, as has her love of feeding this doggy all her vegetables.  This photo captures the delight and fascination I feel as I watch these kids discover their world and learn new skills every day.  It’s incredible to watch them stand for the first time, or make a new sound and see their faces light up with pride.

And, that has been the emotional cycle of the past 12 months: Exhaustion, Joy, Fear, Fascination, or some derivative of these feelings.  I truly wish I could stop time for a day or at least an hour to really reflect on the ways life has changed and motherhood has changed me in the last year.  But, for now, a post like this will have to do.

Katie has b/g twins that will be one next week.  She lives in Chicago and balances full-time work, being a mom and training for a sprint triathlon for which she regrets signing up.

Twinfant Tuesday: “You’re done, right?”

There are so many topics on which I could write a Twinfant Tuesday post.  But, a topic that goes round and round in my head is the topic of “How to decide whether or not to have another baby (after twins).”

Considering another baby when you have twins. There's no one good time, and no one good reason.

Of course, this decision is completely individualized per family and not one you can give advice on. I’ve debated whether or not to post about this on HDYDI, since some friends and family periodically read this. But, screw it. This is honestly what’s on my mind.  And I’m curious how others answered this question for themselves.

It’s fascinating to me to talk to friends about how they decided when their family was “complete.” For some, it seems the number of kids was predetermined around the time of marriage: “Well, Joe comes from a family of three kids and I’m an only child, so we’ve always known we’d have two kids.” And that’s that. For others, it seems a very calculated decision: “With my income, divided by the cost of two college educations, multiplied by inflation to the second power, subtract my 401K…” For another group, it seems to be more an emotional decision: “What if we only have two and they don’t get along when they’re older? Three increases the chances that two will get along at any given time, and at least one will take care of me when I’m old.”

Of course, many people have made the cliché comment: “You had a boy/girl set of twins. Instant family! You’re done, right?” It’s been amusing to see how many people feel comfortable commenting on our family size. I can’t seem to remember what our expectations around family size were before infertility and having twins. The expectations apparently flew out the window when we had a hard time conceiving on our own and had twins.

I try to stay as mindful as possible with my almost 10-month twins during the waking hours and set all of this aside. I snap a gazillion photos. I giggle along with them, as they tackle each other and belly laugh. I close my eyes and take a deep breath when they snuggle with me to steal a sniff of their baby smell. But, when these little loves go to sleep, this question often crosses my mind. I make mental pros/cons lists. I say a little prayer of gratitude that infertility treatments left us in a place of being able to consider having more, while also wondering if we’d be “done,” like so many seem to want us to be, if we’d conceived twins on our own. Even though friends with singletons think we’re nuts to think about more, especially when our twins are ten months old, I do feel a clock ticking to make this decision.

If you had twins first, what was your experience like of deciding whether or not to have more children?  What factors came into play?

Multiple Identities

When I found out I was pregnant with twins, I urgently googled everything about twin pregnancies.  I started writing on this website.  I joined our local moms of multiples group.  When people told me I needed to talk to so-and-so who is a mom of twins, I took every phone number or email address.  Stories of sleepless nights were swapped over (a quick) coffee in during maternity leave with local twin mommas, and my first night “out” was to a meet n’ greet for my MoM group when my babies were 7 weeks old.  When I was stressed, I turned to this blog, other twin websites, or emailed other parents of twins. I gritted my teeth when parents of kids who are 16 months apart say it’s “just like having twins.” While nearly all of my friends are moms, I rarely reached out to them, thinking they won’t “get” it, or I wouldn’t feel the same connection as I would with someone who has lived this experience.

However, I’ve noticed recently, that I’ve not had the interest to attend the new moms’ coffees, and while I’ve reflected on dozens of different topics on which to write a blog post, they’re related less and less to a solely twin mom experience.  When did this happen?  All the sudden, it seems I see myself just as a “mom,” with the “twin” qualifier no longer being the first and foremost descriptor of my experience.   All the things that made new motherhood harder with two babies (feeding two at one time, having two babies wake up in the middle of the nights instead of one, not being able to manage getting two babies out of the house on my own) still apply.  I still felt that having two is truly the challenge of a lifetime that you can only understand if you’ve been through it.  (I also still don’t think that having two kids 16 months apart is the same thing as having twins!)  But, it seemed less important to me to try to explain it to others.  Could it be that I’m becoming more confident, knowing that I’m doing all I can and trying my hardest, regardless of how hard others think it is?  Or is it that, now that my babies are smiling, interacting with each other, communicating with us, I’m experiencing double the reward, as well?  Is it that, I’ve found my support (some mothers of multiples and some not) and that feels sufficient?  I can’t quite put my finger on it.

A similar phenomenon I’ve noticed, is that, while others used to turn to me pretty frequently with their struggles, friends of mine with young babies are not venting to me about their experience.  Rather, they’ll start to, and quickly cut themselves off saying, “I feel bad complaining to you,” or, “No matter how tired I am, I’m sure you’re more tired.”  Let’s be honest, they may be right.  But, are we not all struggling with the same thing here?  Whether we’re moms of quads or singletons, five kids or only children, aren’t we all, essentially, wanting to feel like others validate our struggles, understand what we’re going through, and celebrate the joys of parenthood along with us?

Identity is something I’ve thought much about, both in forming my own, and how I hope to help guide my kids in this process.  How important is the “multiple” part in your identity of being a mom of multiples?  Is it sometimes more predominant than the “mom” part, or is it just an adjective?

Surrendering to the Experience

Prematurity Awareness Week 2013: How Do You Do It?

World Prematurity Day November 17In the United States, 1 in 9 babies is born prematurely, 1 in 10 in Canada. Worldwide, over 15 million babies are born too soon each year. While not all multiples are born prematurely, a multiple birth increases the probability of an early delivery. Babies born prematurely, before 37 weeks gestation, are at a higher risk for health complications in infancy, some of which can have long-term effects. Full-term infants are not all free from their own health complications, of course.

In honor of November’s Prematurity Awareness Month, led by the March of Dimes, How Do You Do It? is focusing this week’s posts on The Moms’ experiences with premature deliveries, NICU stays, health complications, special needs, and how we’ve dealt with these complex issues.


Back when I was in my first trimester, pregnant with our twins, I wrote on here asking other MoMs how I could still work with a midwife and try to have a vaginal birth after being told that I needed to see an OB and deliver in the OR. Some of the feedback I received was to accept what I couldn’t control. I fought this at first, of course. But eventually, I realized that the only thing I could control at the time was my attitude toward the situation. I decided to take this advice and surrender to the experience of being pregnant with twins.

I’m so thankful I did. Accepting what I did not have control over, deciding to trust my doctor and do everything in my power to remain calm was what got this previously terrified patient (and perhaps control freak?) through the crazy end of a twin pregnancy. While I, like every other birth story on here can say it did not go as the way I’d always hoped to give birth prior to getting pregnant, I can also say that, despite having many things go “wrong” at the end of a pregnancy, it’s still possible to have a really amazing experience. I really do attribute this to the rock bottom expectations I had around giving birth and just knowing that I wasn’t calling the shots.

My “birth” story probably really starts at 32 weeks when, after a pretty healthy twin pregnancy, I was sent to labor and delivery at my 32 week appointment. My doctor (now the OB I’d grown to trust) was concerned about my blood pressure, my ginormous feet, and some pre-term dilation. Somehow I knew that the babies were not coming that day, however. We spent two nights on the high risk floor, so that I could receive some steroids for lung development and a drug to stop the contractions. I was then put on bed rest for the next 10 days to get me to 34 weeks, which is when the doctors felt more comfortable with me delivering. Ten days later-no babies. So, I was allowed to return to work.

I was there for one day, and then sent home after I had protein in my urine at my next appointment. Back to bed rest until a preeclampsia diagnosis could be ruled out. 24-hour urine collection at home, loads of fun. And back to the hospital at 34 weeks and 5 days for my ever-increasing blood pressure. Another two nights in the hospital after my platelets were low and the doctors wanted to rule out HELLP syndrome. Another urine collection reveals a preeclampsia diagnosis-what the doctors were waiting for. The night before my 33rd birthday, an IV was started and I was told to fast, in preparation for surgery. (Our son, baby “A”, pretty much sat cross-legged, breech, for my entire pregnancy, and I’d, by this point, accepted a c-section.) I spent my birthday eating ice chips, waiting for the perinatalogist to approve a pre-36 week delivery, and after 18 hours, the doc finally shows up and gives the thumbs down. She wants me to stay in the hospital for another week, to get to 36 weeks.

Oh, hell no. There is no way I am spending another two nights on the high risk floor, then another seven laying here waiting for 36 weeks, then another four nights after a c-section. Only to return home and not sleep for the forseeable future. Not to mention, it took you 18 hours to tell me this?! (Those of you who have spent multiple nights in the hospital know how little they let you sleep while you’re there. During my first stay I was woken up at 3am so they could WEIGH me.) Ready to check myself out AMA, my own doctor fights for me to be on strict bed rest at home, checking my blood pressure multiple times per day, and coming in for monitoring. Deal. I can do that. Multiple close calls over the next week, but I make it to 35 weeks and six days.

Delivery

(My husband got up and went for a run at 4:30am the day of my surgery. He ran. I definitely appreciate the need he had to burn off nervous energy and somehow commemorate the day with a jog to the beach to watch the sunrise on the day our babies were born. But, I still find the irony hilarious: I hadn’t been able to walk more than the distance to and from the couch/bathroom in a month, and he went for a lovely early morning run. Love you, dear.) Everything was clockwork once we arrived to the hospital-well-oiled machine, despite my anxious tears throughout the entire pre-op process. Many of my fears were knocked down. Fear of going into labor and not getting the doctor I wanted? My doctor came in on her day off to do my surgery (and I could canonize her for this!). Fear of a bunch of old, male doctors who would be insensitive? Of the 17 or so doctors, NICU nurses, etc. who came in and out of the OR that morning, only two were male, and all 17 were great. Fear of throwing up on the table? My iron gut served me that day.

Things that are clear in my memory from the surgery: telling the anesthesiologist resident that I needed her to hang out right next to my head. Telling my doctor to distract me during the spinal with stories about the country concert she’d taken her daughter to a few days before. My husband getting to cut the cords of both babies and telling me our son “has dark hair like you” and our daughter is “light like me” with tears pouring out of his eyes. Asking my husband to take a photo of me on the table so that I had proof that I was there. Telling the OR staff to call our children by name and me Katie (as opposed to Katherine) so that I felt more comfortable throughout the surgery. The tilt of the operating table, supposedly to help bring blood pressure down. Not feeling pain until the very end when the docs pushed on my stomach to get blood clots out. Ouch.

Recovery

Surrendering to the Experience: Katie's Birth StoryThe previous hospital stay where I received steroids proved useful, and our son only needed to be in the NICU for one night and our daughter for two. We knew what an incredible blessing this was! I was put on a magnesium drip shortly after surgery, while we hung out in the post-anesthesia recovery area. Within minutes of starting the IV, I could barely finish a sentence without falling asleep. My husband still likes to tell the story of me, drugged up, while another woman was wheeled in right next to us, and gave birth after about ten minutes, unmedicated, as they were using the area as triage, so close to us, my husband could have caught the other woman’s baby. The first 36 hours or so were rough. Even though I was hell-bent on being the first person to hold our babies, and the NICU staff obliged, I was too drugged up from the magnesium drip to really know what was going on. I absolutely relate to another post on here about feeling out of place, as I watched our family come and go to the NICU with my husband. I kept saying I felt like I’d been in a car crash and was all beat up, but everyone else was celebrating and telling me about what my babies looked like. It was such an out of body experience. The pain was pretty awful during those first two nights, as well. It was absolutely traumatizing to go through such an experience and have my babies away somewhere, while others are able to go off and visit them, while I was groggy, in bed. I remember having dreams that people were sitting on me, pushing and pulling on my body. I had to ask anyone in our room to talk softly. It felt like sensory overload.

By the time the babies were released and were able to stay with us in our room, things had shifted dramatically. The nasty magnesium had finally made its way out of my system, and was able to do some skin-to-skin time with each of them and completely fell in love with my little babies. I still, 16 weeks later, feel like it was an out-of-body experience, and am oddly grateful to have a c-section scar to validate that I was there. I feel profoundly thankful that our babies were healthy, that I was able to conquer a boatload of lifelong fears about giving birth and that despite the drama of the previous month, things never escalated to emergency status. It was amazing to meet our son and daughter on the outside.

Secondary Guilt

This is my fourth week back at work since the birth of our twins 13 weeks ago.  In the weeks leading up to my return, I had many people offer support (sharing their stories of tearful returns to the workplace) and some asking if I was really going to go back.  For much of my maternity leave, I felt this looming deadline.  I wondered how I would feel once back at work.  I’ve nearly always had two jobs since I was 19 years old, and for just as long, have known that I would return to work once I had kids.  But, I also knew everything could possibly change once I met their little faces.

Four weeks ago now the deadline was in front of me.  I re-entered the office that I left prematurely in June for a month of bed rest.  I chuckled a little at the decaf keurig coffee pods in my desk drawer, and my eggless Caesar dressing in the fridge, along with other things I couldn’t ingest while pregnant.  I noticed outdated paperwork and a card from my co-workers meant to be handed over in a shower that I missed due to sudden bed rest.  But, ultimately, I was shocked by how easily I fell back into the flow of working.  Granted, we did have our nanny start a week early, so that I could get to know her a bit.  That definitely helped to ease back into the work force.

I always thought that I would feel guilt about returning to work.  Instead, I felt guilt about how not guilty I felt.  I mentioned this to a close friend, an attorney who is pregnant with her third baby and a working mom.  She said, “Katie.  I work so that I can afford a cleaning crew and a nanny.”  My mom remarked, “Yes, we do need to work to afford these things.”  My friend clarified: “No, I mean, I work so that I can justify getting help with my kids and cleaning and don’t have to do it all myself 24/7.”  I applaud her honesty.  It gave me permission to be more honest about my feelings on this subject.

Let me be clear.  I am a feminist who is absolutely in awe and support of ANY moms, whether you are a SAHM, work multiple jobs, or have tons of help while you lie in bed and eat bon bons.  I am not here to judge, and believe we need to create a society that celebrates all choices that moms make.  I also recognize that I’m blessed that this is a “choice” for me, and that it’s not for many women.  Not to mention, I’m aware that working a mile from home, with pretty sane hours make all this far easier of a decision.  That said, with all the recent talk about “Leaning In,” and the like, this is one perspective.  I already feel like a better mother when I am able to nurture other parts of my identity, in addition to the newest part called “mom.”  I’m so grateful to have a job where I can go use the skills I learned in graduate school and in my work experience, and then go home and completely shift gears for the rest of the night.  I look more forward to the nights and weekends when I can spend a few hours just staring at our daughter’s face light up or listening to my son coo.   I get more excited to meet the needs of our little ones when (as Sadia brilliantly put it in a previous post about working) I’ve already met some of my own needs and am not looking to my babies to meet my needs.  The whole oxygen mask on an airplane metaphor, you know.

I wonder if it’s reasonable to hope that someday our society will make space for women to say they want to be a working mom.  Period.  Without any qualifiers.  Because, while I can write this somewhat anonymously for a blog, why is it that I’d still feel guilty sharing this around certain audiences?

Twinfant Tuesday: On the Clock

Hello all-

Our twins are 8 weeks old today, and in the past 8 weeks, there have been countless topics I wanted to write about.  Among them: how it’s possible to have a beautiful birth of your babies even after bed rest, preeclampsia and a magnesium drip, how no one REALLY explains how hard breastfeeding is to you before you have babies (much less, breastfeeding twins), and something about the sleep deprivation (if I had more sleep, I could have said that more articulately).

http://hdydi.com/2013/09/17/twinfant-tuesday-on-the-clock/But, what has been the most difficult adjustment, and perhaps the only thing that has truly surprised me about being a new mom, is the grueling feeding schedule.  Feeding two hungry mouths every three hours was much more challenging than I anticipated.  For some reason, it didn’t occur to me that it would really require two adults to do so, and that it would take nearly the whole three-hour window before the next feeding to complete the cycle.  All this made me start thinking about the timeframes I’ve been bound to in the last two years and how a biological clock isn’t just about trying to have kids before various risks increase.

Pregnancy

  • 40 - The number of weeks all multiple pregnancies strive to get to.
  • 38 - The number of weeks we all secretly could tolerate getting to.
  • 35.6 - The number of weeks I made it to in my pregnancy.
  • 32 - The number of weeks in my pregnancy before being put on bed rest.
  • 28 - The number of weeks in my pregnancy before I really had any complications. (First one was pubic symphysis dysfunction, followed by preterm dilation, then preeclampsia.)

Infertility treatment

  • 16 - The number of months we tried to get pregnant before our successful IVF treatment.
  • 9 - The number of months I was on hormone treatments before getting pregnant.
  • 10 - The number of weeks I took daily progesterone shots during pregnancy.
  • 2 - The number of weeks in a cycle I felt I lived my life on before this: the two week wait to ovulate, then the two week wait to find out if I was pregnant.

Parenthood

  • 3 – The number of hours between feedings.
  • 1.5 – The number of hours I usually have between feedings to shower, feed myself, clean bottles or pump parts, close my eyes for a bit.
  • 1 - The painfully slow number of hours it currently takes my daughter to finish a bottle.

I recall being anxious to get off of the “two week wait to ovulate/two week wait to find out if I was pregnant” schedule. Silly me. I didn’t realize how the scheduling would just take another form.

And I recognize that it will be this way always. It just will be a soccer practice, or school or day camp that is dictating my clock instead of ovulation or weeks of  gestation.

In the meantime, my daily goal is to focus on the moment instead of when the clock will alert me to the next deadline.  To try to appreciate my little ones in this very innocent, sweet time.  To take the time to feel the love and support that has been brought into our house by all the visitors and family support, knowing the visits and support will someday end.  To try to laugh at the things that sleep deprivation has caused us to do (ie, pumping without bottles attached for a good 3-4 minutes before feeling warm milk on my lap).  To open my heart and my life to these two little beings I’m getting to know more and more each day.

What was your favorite memory of being in the moment when you first brought your babies home?

Silver Linings of Bed Rest

12 days ago I went in to the doc for my 32-week check up and a half hour or so later, ended up in the hospital for monitoring, due to high blood pressure, having dilated and lots of swelling.  Once hooked up for monitoring, I was told my contractions were about 3-4 minutes apart.  I had been having contractions for a few months now, and never really bothered to time them, as I’d been told it was normal to have contractions early with twins. Before you knew it, I was being admitted, and stayed two days in order to get some meds in my system to slow down contractions and two doses of steroids to help with the babies’ lung development should they come a lot earlier than anticipated. Upon discharge, it was recommended that I stay on bed rest till 34 weeks, at minimum.

12 things I’ve learned in those 12 days that I did not know before

  1. The clock does not matter in the hospital.  I had a nurse come in to check my weight at 3am.  My weight.  I understand that this could be related to ruling out preeclampsia.  But still.  3am seemed a little unnecessary.  Almost like they just wanted to give a job to the night nurse to even out the daytime workload.
  2. After only two days of hospital bed rest, my muscles seemed to weaken.  I have nothing but sympathy and total admiration for you MoMs who endure MONTHS of hospital bed rest, not to mention, people who struggle with chronic illnesses that keep them bedridden for the forseeable future.
  3.  Even nurses in the high-risk OB floor, whose caseloads are probably half women pregnant with multiples, will make the annoying comments like, “Wow, a boy/girl set of twins!  Now you’re done!”  If the nurses in this arena still make these comments, can we really have hope for the rest of society to be more PC?
  4. IVF really does prepare you for the discomforts of being poked and prodded a million times and the lack of modesty that comes with being in the hospital.  Silver linings.
  5.  It is possible to gain 10 lbs of fluid in 48 hours from IV fluid.
  6.  It is possible for it to take 10 days to lose said 10 lbs of fluid.
  7.  The advice from others takes different shape throughout pregnancy, and has followed this timeline for us: Trying to conceive advice- “Just don’t stress about it, it’ll happen.”  Pregnant advice-”You think you’re tired now, just WAIT until you have a baby to take care of at 3am.”  Twin advice (from moms of singletons)- “Better you than me.”  See also number 10 on this list.  Bedrest advice-”You need to just accept it.  It’s all for the greater good.”  I just can’t wait to see what lovely nuggets of wisdom we get once the babies are actually here.
  8. That list of things I’ve always wanted to do that’s piled up for ages can actually get done pretty quickly when I don’t have other things like work, exercise, cleaning that I’m able/allowed to do.
  9. Working from home would not be something good for me.  I didn’t learn this through this experience, but it reaffirmed that I do get so much out of being around others each day, conversing, learning, contributing.  And I’m grateful to have a job I can return to that will allow me this luxury when the twins arrive.
  10. I am so lucky I had no complications in this twin pregnancy until 32 weeks, and even with being on bed rest, this is still a very healthy pregnancy.
  11. Every step of our fertility and pregnancy journey has taught me more and more to surrender and accept the things I cannot control.  Bed rest is just another one of these things to humble me and remind me to live life on life’s terms, not on mine.
  12. I am so incredibly lucky to be surrounded by friends who have texted every day, parents who have driven 45 minutes just to walk my dog for me, a husband who has waited on me hand and foot, family to visit and make us meals, a great hospital system a few blocks from our house, and my general health.

What did you learn from your bedrest or pregnancy complications?

Katie is almost 34 weeks pregnant with b/g twins, currently on bed rest and watching way too much HGTV.  She lives in the Chicago area with her husband and soon-to-be-big-sister canine friend.  

Maternal Instinct?

I think on some level, I’ve always wanted to have kids.   But, I wasn’t in a rush.  I’m the person who is a little unsure of how to hold my friends’ infants when I first meet them.  When we go over to friends’ houses who have kids, the kids often look at me and ask where my (fun-loving, young-at-heart, AKA-more-fun-to play-with) husband is.  While I can connect with older ones, I’ve always felt a little ill-equipped at dealing with kids before they can talk about their emotions, or at least tell me what they want or need.  Even a few weeks ago, my husband pointed out to me that I drooled over a woman’s super sweet pit bull, while she also pushed a stroller and I hardly even looked at her kid, all while sporting a big pregnant belly.  What the heck is wrong with me?!?  This has always been an anxiety of mine: should I still have kids, if this is the case?  When do those “maternal instincts” kick in? What do I do if I have kids and I feel like it doesn’t click?  What if I don’t like spending time with preverbal kids?  The anxiety has only heightened since getting pregnant, yet not feeling that instinct kick in yet.

I’ve explored this with other colleagues in the mental health field, and I find I’m not alone, particularly on the front of feeling more comfortable when kids can express themselves.  (Yes, my kids will probably have a feelings wheel in their bedroom before it’s entirely appropriate.)  A friend who is a mother of twins, and also a therapist, explained a similar feeling to me when her kids were about three.  She said she is “still waiting for her moment to shine” as a parent.  She told me her husband seems to have shone while the kids were young, and, given her background, she’s anticipating that her moment is when her kids are adolescents.  I related to this so strongly, and ever since have secretly hoped my husband can carry us through until our kids have an emotional vocabulary.

This week, I’ve seen a different side of myself come out.  We have had an 11 and a half-year old black lab that my husband had before we met, and I had a boxer-pit bull mix who is now 7 and a half-years old.  These two girls became fast and furious friends when we introduced them four years ago when my husband moved to the area and we ended our long-distance dating.  They never fought, my girl shared her space with the newcomer right off the bat, and our hearts were warmed daily by their instant connection.  On Monday, we had to make the decision to put down our older dog.  I could write an entire separate (and somewhat unrelated to MoMs issues) blog post about the pain of this decision and the heartache that goes with it.  But, I’ll spare you (and myself, the tears welling up again).

A few friends and family who have known my fears about being able to connect with kids when I have them have always said that they see a maternal gene in me when I’m with our dogs.  But, the skeptic in me thought that this was what people said when they don’t really see you as a “mom” type and just want to make you feel better.  However, this week, the momma bear, protective part of me has come out in so many different ways.  One part of me has been grieving the loss of our older, sweet girl, while the other part of me has kicked into caretaking mode of our younger girl, in full-force.  I haven’t wanted to leave her for a second, and have brought her to work with me, spoiling her, letting her nap on the couch in my office and giving her treats.  When I left her last night for the first time since her friend left us, I cried all the way back to work, texting my husband about the sad face she made, the refusal of the treat I gave her, and all the other signs I saw in her that she was not handling the loss well.  Sure, some of this could be the hormones of being 31 weeks pregnant with twins, or me projecting my feelings onto the dog.  But, she is definitely not herself, and knows that something is off.  I can’t shake the knowledge that she has spent more of her life with her old friend than without, that she has not lived in our current house without a canine friend, etc.  Today, having too full of a day to have a dog in my office, I’ve asked my mom to go check in on her, and I’m planning on bringing her back to work tomorrow.  Am I overreacting?  Maybe.  But, it hit me that there IS a maternal gene in there, wanting to protect the surviving “child,” ensuring that she’s still happy and that life can go on as normally as possible for her.  (Until, of course, in 6-7 weeks, we bring home two little bundles of joy that she’ll sniff until her heart’s content and she’ll likely be demoted on the priority totem pole.)  It just may surface differently than it does for others.

The other dynamic shift that has felt bittersweet, is the ability to take care of my husband again.  I haven’t loved the part of pregnancy that puts you in the spotlight, requires you to need help from others, and essentially be more vulnerable than other times in your life.  Since our elder dog spent 6 years with my husband before we met, he has countless memories with her that I’m not in, and got to see her in her youthful, bouncy days.  While we’ve both been grieving, it’s been so nice to step out of the “patient” role for a moment and be there to help him process this event and what it means for him.  This, too, gives me hope for my caretaking gene.

This whole event has made me realize that it’s not black and white: you don’t either have or not have a “mom” gene.  I like the way my friend looked at parenting, as all of us having moments when we may “shine” more than others, which often has to do with the skills we bring to the table, and those we develop along the way.  I’m so grateful to have a partner who can naturally run around the backyard with a couple three year olds or play hockey in the living room with a five-year-old.  But, I’m also grateful that I may have skills that might be helpful in times when others may lose patience.

How did others fare with new babies who may have once worried about their ability to connect with kids?

Katie lives in the Chicago area with her husband and surviving “child” dog.  She’s 31 weeks pregnant with twins and hopes she knows what to do with them once they’re here.  

Here Is Your Membership Card for The Circus.

I haven’t been able to put some of my thoughts into a more coherent blog post than what will follow.  (I blame fewer and fewer hours of sleep as pregnancy progresses.) But, I just wanted to say I’ve been reflecting on how amazing it is to feel the support of other mothers of multiples while pregnant with twins. It’s truly amazing to share with someone that you’re expecting twins and watch their face light up, share with you about their twins or triplets, give details of their pregnancy and birth or sometimes scare you about the first few months. But without fail, they offer you support. Or, that’s been the case in my situation. Pretty much every mother, and in some cases, fathers, of multiples, that I’ve met, has offered to be available for questions, given us hand-me-downs, or even offered to bring us food once the babies are born. It’s really neat to already be part of a bigger community! Lastly, I couldn’t resist sharing this video a friend sent me. I’m sure most have seen it. But, it provided great comic relief for me! Enjoy!

Can Moms of Multiples Have It All?!?

Something I have considered from seemingly every angle before getting pregnant was whether or not I’d want to return to work after having kids. I forwarded Anne-Marie Slaughter’s article “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All” (The Atlantic) to my working mom friends, or friends of child-bearing age, followed the Yahoo CEO story closely and am looking forward to reading Lean In when time allows.  Love these discussions, whether I’m talking to a SAHM or a single woman who never sees themselves having kids.  Now that I’m pregnant, it feels like I’m admitting to a crime when I say that, while I can discuss my opinions about maternity leave pay in our country, or gender-specific expectations around child-rearing, etc, etc, the deep down truth is that I always wanted to work after kids (and still want to return).

Of course, an angle I didn’t quite consider is that I might have twins, and have the daycare costs for twin infants, the emotional impact of leaving behind TWO infants and perhaps double the sleep deprivation to contend with in the early days back at my desk. When we started trying to have kids, I was in a very stressful, unhealthy work environment, and it only took about six unsuccessful months of trying for me to question whether my stress level was impacting my fertility. I started looking for jobs elsewhere, took a pay cut and began my work in an area in which I was less passionate, but allowed me to get out to the increasingly frequent reproductive endocrinologist’s appointments and take more time for myself.

I felt guilty taking a new job, knowing that we were actively trying to get pregnant, and decided to tell my boss about our fertility treatments early on. I do recall her giving her support, as long as I was planning on returning to work. (Of course, this was probably unnecessary, as it still took another 8 months to get pregnant.) While I occasionally miss some of the more passion-driven days at my old job, I definitely have settled into a new role where I can do things like (ahem!) write blog posts in my down time and relish waking up a little later and still having time to do yoga before work. Upon finding out I was expecting two babies, some questions started popping into my head: If this doubles the cost of daycare, is it worth it to still work? If we break even with my salary and day care, is it STILL worth it? I don’t know any moms of twins in my life who returned 5 days per week (well, ones without ample help). Am I crazy for considering this? Will weekends and minimal time at night during the week feel like enough time with my little ones?

I have always worked two jobs. Like, for the last 14 years. (Don’t worry-I only have three weeks left of job number two, and will only be returning to one after the babies arrive.) While I absolutely strive to maintain other parts of my identity (artist, aspiring chef, yoga enthusiast, world traveler, wife in a healthy marriage) other than employee, I am not going to lie: I enjoy working full-time, being needed in a work place, and possibly most importantly, feeling part of a community, both in the sense of working people in the world, and also in my small non-profit. I decided to commit to returning full-time, taking comfort in the fact that I now have a VERY short commute, have found a nanny who is amazing, and have a very laid-back work environment.

In the eight weeks or so since I announced that I’m pregnant at work, my boss has resigned (the head honcho of our agency) and more recently, the chairperson of the board that oversees our whole agency announced his plans to step down. My perfectly-laid plan of returning to a stress-free environment seems to be crumbling before my eyes. I’ve questioned whether I may want to apply for said head honcho role, to ensure the laid-back attitude prevails. And I’ve questioned whether I will be able to get through if someone new is hired who cracks the whip a little more… Yes, of course, another lesson in, (big shocker here) things I cannot control! I feel pretty certain I’ll return either way and see how things go…

I realize there are previous HDYDI blog posts on working moms. I’d love to hear from working moms, especially those in leadership roles, who have thoughts about returning to work after 12 weeks off.