Sadia’s Perspective — On the Outside Looking In: What Infertility Means

Infertility from a fertile woman's perspective. You can't really understand if you haven't been through it.

I don’t really know what infertility means. I know the science and biology of it. I’ve witnessed the emotion and pain of it. But I’ve never experienced it. I don’t really know.

When we at How Do You Do It? decided to put together this week’s posts, to lay bare how infertility is a very real part of mothers of multiples culture, I volunteered to coordinate things. Because that’s what I do.

As I sat down to write the post calling for submissions, however, I found myself stumbling. Instead of the smooth way in which the words usually pour out when I’m blogging, I found myself writing in pained spurts. I was pondering the right words, getting up close and personal with the Backspace key, even folding laundry, hoping a break would bring me the right way to phrase what I was trying to say.

I needed words that acknowledged the uniqueness of each infertility experience, the sense of kinship within the infertility community. The fact is, though, that I’m not part of the club and will never really understand. Then I realized that it’s because I’m not part of the club that I don’t have the words. As a mother of multiples, terms like “singleton,” “NICU,” “mono/di” and “fraternal” just slip off my tongue, but I’ve never really lived in the infertility world.

So I did my best as an outsider.

“… many of us have suffered from infertility.”

No, that’s not right. Suffering is a passive state. I know many of these men and women. They’re fighters.

Backspace. 

“… many of us have fought infertility.”

That doesn’t work either. Do you fight infertility? Treat it? What about parents who went straight to adoption after trying to conceive didn’t take? They accepted infertility for what it was and came up with a Plan B.

Backspace.

“… many of us were infertile.”

Ew. No. Being infertile isn’t a core human characteristic, like being blonde or short.

Backspace.

“… many of us walked the path of infertility.”

Okay, Sadia. You’re a wordy kind of girl, but this is getting ridiculous. And is the past tense even appropriate? Do you really stop living with infertility when you finally have your child? Do you begin to consider yourself to be in the fertile camp? Are “parent” and “infertile” opposites? I imagine that for some parents, they are. For others, they’re not.

Backspace.

“infertility has been part of the journey.”

 

That’ll have to do. It gives infertility too much agency, but perhaps that’s right. Perhaps infertility becomes the third wheel in the relationship. And “journey” is good. It doesn’t require an end to have been reached yet, but allows for it.

Walking around the world as a mom of twins, it’s impossible to be unaware of infertility. Even if I never hung out with other MoMs, the strangers on the street would never let me forget. “Are they natural?” they ask, so often.

It’s such a loaded question: “Are they natural?” I know it comes from a place of curiosity. I know it comes from a vague knowledge that fertility treatments have led directly to an increase in multiple births. I know they don’t mean to ask whether I’m part of the Infertility Club. If they knew anything about the Club, they would have chosen different words.

Because children conceived with medical assistance are as natural, as miraculous, as extraordinary as my spontaneous little ones.

I don’t even know what to call myself. I don’t know what those of you in the Infertility Club call those of us on the outside. What do you call those of us who conceive spontaneously, easily, some even by accident?

I can love you. I can support you. I can cry with you. I can even lend you my womb. But I will always be on the outside looking in.

My Kids’ Peers

My kids have some really great friends. I get to hang out with a bunch of insightful, kind, thoughtful, civic-minded 7- and 8-year-olds every week. There’s the little girl who approached the “bad” kid in her class to tell him that she thought that he was lonely, not bad, and that she was going to be his friend. There’s another girl who spent her entire day between early school release and our Girl Scout meeting raising over $300 for cancer research by selling baked goods and T-shirts. And my own daughters asked friends, when they were turning 5, to bring canned goods for the food pantry to their birthday party instead of gifts.

I encourage these friendships. These girls’ parents and I have made an effort to get to know each other, and were lucky to find great compatibility. We’ve all become good friends. We arrange play dates. We let each other know when there’s a fun kid-friendly activity available in town. We watch each others’ kids and encourage them to develop relationships with the adults as well as the kids. We ask after how these friends, in particular, are doing on a nearly daily basis, since they see each other at school.

Here’s why I think having deep friendships with exemplary children is important for my kids. Ultimately, it’s their peers who will shape how my children turn out. I can do my best to drill my values into my kids, but if these values are completely foreign to the social interactions they have out of my view, out of my control, they won’t stick.

For parents, the idea that peers have a greater influence on how kids turn out is an uncomfortable one. I’ve certainly met people who flat out refuse to entertain the thought. We put so much into our children that we need to believe that what comes out will be proportional to our effort.

I believe, very deeply, that my job as a mother is to give my children the tools they need to not need me any more. I hope that J and M will choose to spend time with me, to confide in me, when they’re adults, but I hope that they don’t need me. I know that adolescence is, by definition, a tearing away of the individual from the parent. This separation has to happen for child to become adult. I want my daughters to have the right peers and mentors around them to turn to when it is developmentally appropriate for them to turn away from me.

I think of the immigrant experience and how seamlessly first generation children blend into their peer groups. Children don’t adopt their parents’ accents if there’s a peer accent to be emulated instead. I’ve rarely seen adults keep their parents’ religion unless there’s some interaction with other children with similar beliefs in childhood. Both my children and I are examples. My parents grew up in Bangladesh, I in the UK and Bangladesh and my children in the US. People who don’t know our biographies just assume we’re American through and through. We learned these things from our peers.

In some ways, I feel that my greatest responsibility to my children, beyond meeting their physical needs, is providing them with the right peer group. I didn’t handpick M and J’s best friends. I did, however, make an effort to get to know their parents, as their parents did with me. I did handpick their school, a public school that would allow my kids to meet a cross-section of our community, an academically strong one that would have high expectations for children’s self-discipline. I advocated for my children to be in the selective dual language program, putting them side-by-side with other children whose parents advocated for Spanish immersion as well as children who speak Spanish at home and require English immersion. I chose the neighbourhood to be a culturally and politically diverse one that has, by necessity, a great tolerance for diversity. I’ve chosen a church where my kids’ peers and mentors will provide for them what I cannot.

Picking Peers for My Kids

Thus far, I haven’t contended with my children picking friends who consistently make choices with which I disagree. I have helped them navigate conflict within their friendships, but I have yet to deal with “bad influences.” I may very well discover that I have a lot less to do with who my children’s elementary school friends are than I think. I know that come middle and high school, I will have completely lost any such control.

I just hope that while I still have a say in the matter, I’ve shown my kids how to choose great friends to spend time with and to emulate. That may be the greatest gift this mother can give her daughters.

What relationship do you have with your children’s friends?

Sadia (rhymes with Nadia) has been coordinating How Do You Do It? since late 2012. She is the divorced mother of 7-year-old monozygotic twins, M and J. She lives with them and their 3 cats in the Austin, TX suburbs and works full time as a business analyst. She retired her personal blog, Double the Fun. She also blogs at Adoption.com and Multicultural Mothering.

What It’s Really Like Out and About with Multiples

A big thank you to Lesa Rhoton for sharing this video. Her daughter shows what it’s like to be out and about with multiples, infants in particular.

On behalf of all twin moms, I apologize for the “bad enough” comment.

Yes, some of the comments are just lovely. We all love hearing how adorable our babies are. But the rest? The negative stuff, in particular, the profanity, the horror, and getting into our reproductive business? Being a celebrity when you want a nice day with your family? It can get tiring. We do get used to it, and we find our defense phrases. Mine was usually, “I’d rather have my hands full than empty.”

Can you relate? What’s your defense phrase?

Sadia (rhymes with Nadia) has been coordinating How Do You Do It? since late 2012. She is the divorced mother of 7-year-old monozygotic twins, M and J. She lives with them and their 3 cats in the Austin, TX suburbs and works full time as a business analyst. She retired her personal blog, Double the Fun. She also blogs at Adoption.com and Multicultural Mothering.

Both Mine

Both Mine

My friend Rhema is just about every kind of wonderful you can imagine.

She leads our daughters’ Girl Scout troop. She elegantly walks the line between being a role model to the girls and providing structured activities and giving them a sense of freedom and ownership over their own troop. She’s a stay-at-home mom who spends much of her time volunteering at our daughters’ school, and she is a great mother to her charming 7-year-old daughter and 3-year-old son.

This week of Spring Break, she offered to watch my girls so I wouldn’t have to put them in the YMCA program that left me so unhappy last summer. She won’t let me pay her. I told you she was wonderful.

When I went over to her house to retrieve my daughters the other day, a friend of Rhema’s had stopped by. This friend started to tell me a story about how M had reacted to discovering that this friend had almost the same name as M herself. Before she started, though, Rhema’s friend had a question.

“Is M yours?”
“They both are,” I said.
“Oh! I guess they do look alike.”

And she told me how M, riding a bike, quite literally left a skid mark on the driveway on hearing Rhema’s friend’s name.

I didn’t realize until later that I hadn’t volunteered that M and J were twins and hadn’t felt any need to do so. Maybe we are outgrowing the twin focus after all.

Do you feel the need to point out your kids’ multiple birth when they’re mistaken for friends?

Sadia (rhymes with Nadia) has been coordinating How Do You Do It? since late 2012. She is the divorced mother of 7-year-old monozygotic twins, M and J. She lives with them and their 3 cats in the Austin, TX suburbs and works full time as a business analyst. She retired her personal blog, Double the Fun. She also blogs at Adoption.com and Multicultural Mothering.

Again with the “You’re Not Identical”

If I ever do a standup comedy routine, this will be my opening joke.

NPGS: Are they identical?
Me: Yes.
NPGS: No, they’re not!

I understand where this comes from. I really do. The vast majority of the time, I take it with grace and give a short explanation about how “identical,” when it comes to twins, really means monozygotic.

My children aren’t always with me though. They attend public elementary school and after-school care. They’re 7 years old and not yet ready to defend the identicalness that is near the core of their senses of self. They’re okay with handling kids, but when adults question their claim to being identical, they’re put in a tough spot.

This week, my daughters had a substitute teacher who made them feel very awkward about their claim to being identical twins. J, she told them, had larger eyes, so they couldn’t possibly be identical twins. Interestingly, she made no such accusation to the other set of identical girls in their class. They have a much larger height difference than my daughters, but their faces are far more similar than my girls’.

J and M were pretty upset about this interaction when they got home. I offered to print out my post on how identical twins might not look alike to give to the sub’s son at recess to pass along to her, but they declined.

As a brown-skinned Brit, I can’t help noticing the parallels between people’s own sense of ethnic identity and people who try to argue with them about it. Living here in the US, I frequently encounter people who try to tell me that I’m not Asian, because “Asian” here means from the eastern and southeastern parts of the continent. But I don’t consider myself “Indian”, which is what people want me to call myself. Bangladesh, where I lived for 10 years of my life, and India have been distinct countries since 1947. (Bangladesh split from Pakistan in 1971). If I’m going to generalize, “Asian” is my preference.

And yes, people will try to argue with me over my self-identification, but identity is personal. No one but you gets to say who you are. And no one gets to tell my kids they’re not identical twins, not if that’s the identity they choose.

Again with the, "You're Not Identical."

Sadia (rhymes with Nadia) has been coordinating How Do You Do It? since late 2012. She is the divorced mother of 7-year-old monozygotic twins, M and J. She lives with them and their 3 cats in the Austin, TX suburbs and works full time as a business analyst. She retired her personal blog, Double the Fun, when the girls entered elementary school and also blogs at Adoption.com and Multicultural Mothering.

Twinfant Tuesday: Singleton Moms… and Me

moms group
While my twin boys just turned 7 last week (crazy to believe!) I think about those first few weeks often; especially because I recently had my 3rd son and I’ve been re-living those infant days all over again. Of course, this time around, things are admittedly much easier. I often return to my twin blog (gathering dust since 2011) and recently I ran across a post that generated quite a bit of heat at the time, about the paradox/oddities of a “Moms Group” meeting.

I had attended my first moms-group meeting when the twins were just 6 weeks old. I felt so isolated and desperately ready to connect with other new moms. Upon arrival, I noticed roughly 16 other new moms and their babies who were less than 12 weeks old sitting around in a circle. I also quickly noticed that we were the only trio in attendance.
Once I sat down and got situated with the kiddos on my boppy in front of me, I was immediately met with comments such as:
I am in AWE of you!
How do you do it?”, and
I thought one was bad enough!” (um – did that mom just say her baby was ‘bad enough’?!!)

As all the other moms were openly breastfeeding around the circle, I too started to tandem breastfeed my babes. Once they were both latched on, I glanced up to notice that everyone in the room was staring at me! Some of members of the group even felt the need to applaud! It was humiliating.

Now, let me be clear…my intentions of participating in a new moms group was to chat with moms who share common parenting concerns, discuss breastfeeding, infant care, sleep patterns, etc. I had a strong desire to feel ‘at one’ with the other parents. Unfortunately, this was not what happened at all. And it may seem overly-sensitive and irrational, but all the unwanted attention I had received made me want to pack up my troops and run out in tears.

I admit that sometimes I felt jealous of the other moms who easily maneuvered their small strollers around the room and casually popped out one breast to feed their child while taking a sip of coffee with their other hand. But for the most part, the lack of solidarity I felt with them was due to the fact that it was just plain weird to have all the other moms treat me like some sort of “other”.

Parenting infants is hard, bottom line. If it weren’t, there wouldn’t be a need for a moms group. At the time, I had no experience parented a singleton, so I hadn’t really known the difference between the experiences. And while I’m sure these moms meant well with their flattery, what I really hear them saying was, “your life must really suck, how do you even get out of bed each morning?!”

Now that I’m parenting my singleton baby, I think about the learning lessons from that experience. I learned that well-intentioned praise can sting like an insult, and sometimes it’s best to just give a smile instead. I also learned that many of the new moms with only one child tended to be more uptight about issues that, with the twins, I was forced to be more relaxed about. I listened as moms went crazy with their over-protective concerns about the smallest things. I realized that as new mom of twins, I was forced to make hard decisions much earlier on, than moms of singletons. And that I’d rather be too busy caring about the important stuff than worrying about what’s not.

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?

Am I a Special Needs Parent?

I read this exquisite piece by Sheri Dacon on the very particular grief that comes with having a special needs child. I hope that when I see a child with the facial features of Down Syndrome or the electric wheelchair that indicates some sort of mobility challenge, both the child and her parent see my smile as genuine, not strained and feel seen, not ogled.

I read a list of special needs parent characteristics that Marissa shared on Facebook, and was moved to tears by numbers 18 and 19:

  1. Your biggest fear is your child will outlive you.
  2. Your second biggest fear is he/she won’t.

What must it be like to fear or know that your child will never be self-sufficient? I felt it for a very short time. For a few months, early in my daughters’ lives, I felt the fear that I would have to bury my child. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone. Later, I feared that she would never be able to care for herself. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone either. But we’re past that now. M is doing great.

special

I’m Not a Special Needs Parent

Certainly, like every other responsible parent, I have a will that specifies who should care for my children if I die while they are still young and life insurance to minimize any financial burden on their care providers. I don’t, however, worry about their long-term wellbeing. Barring some unforeseen tragedy, both my children will be able to provide for themselves beyond high school. At age 7, they’re already talking about college, planning to get an apartment together as upperclassmen so they can have pets.

Compared to the parents I mentioned above, I am not a special needs parent. Not even close. The closest my kids come to being having special needs is in needing to be treated as intellectually well beyond their years while being emotionally and socially still just 7. J’s concern that it’s “rather risky, don’t you think?” for her father to mail her health insurance cards deserves a complete answer. Her question about the similarities between the recent Great Recession and the historic Great Depression, inspired by the Kit Kittredge books, required a nuanced response. I need to warn M to be careful about sharing her enthusiasm for the Fibonacci series because it might be perceived as bragging. These were just three topics that came up in the hour before I wrote this paragraph. My girls keep me and their teachers on our toes.

But I Am a Special Needs Parent

There are other measures, though, by which I am very much a special needs parent. We weren’t always so certain that my daughter M’s birth defect wouldn’t affect her life expectancy.

When the principal calls me into her office to discuss how children at school are teasing my child for her appearance, I am a special needs parents.

When my child’s teacher reads her whole class the beautiful book Wonder to help them have compassion for her, I am a special needs parent.

When I need to discuss with my 7-year-old whether she wants corrective surgery, I am a special needs parent.

When I ignore the stares of others because my daughter is panicking at the sight of a grocery store mascot or ballet dancer, I am a special needs parent.

I Fall In Between

My family is not shaped by M’s particular challenges. I do not have a severely disabled child. Nor are my children typical. M’s frontonasal dysplasia isn’t something I can afford to ignore. My daughters’ extreme intelligence is a parenting challenge.

I don’t pretend to understand the life-altering realities of families further down the special needs continuum. Nor should parents with neurotypical children or those whose appearance falls within our societal norms think they understand my reality.

There are things in my life that are hard for me. I can look around and see what appear to be easier lives and those that are much, much harder. Compassion beats comparison. “Hard is not relative,” says Ash Beckham around 3:40 in the video below, “Hard is hard.”

What’s the hard thing in your life? Do you feel guilty for finding it hard?

Sadia (rhymes with Nadia) has been coordinating How Do You Do It? since late 2012. She is the divorced mother of 7-year-old monozygotic twins, M and J. She lives with them and their 3 cats in the Austin, TX suburbs and works full time as a business analyst. She retired her personal blog, Double the Fun, when the girls entered elementary school and also blogs at Adoption.com and Multicultural Mothering.

We Are Not a Tourist Attraction!

In our past life, as non parents, my husband and I loved to travel.  Now, it is just too hard.  Frankly, it was hard with just one child, but add twins to the mix, and we are staying home a lot more!

But shortly after Christmas, Connecticut had a little heat wave, as in 50 degrees, and on a whim, we took the kids into the city to see the lights.  For someone as OCD as me about planning, this was a huge deal.  Major credit goes to my husband for suggesting we bring a second stroller for our 4 year old.  I do periodic “head counts” and having all three kids in 2 strollers made that so much easier!

The kids all loved the city!  And eventually we made our way to the tree.  Personally, I was not a huge fan.  They have done better.  Just saying…  But that is not the point.  You all know that when you go out with twins (or triples, quads, etc), you attract a lot of attention.  Stares.  I have felt like a circus freak many, many times.  But this was our weirdest yet.  A woman turned away from the tree and decorations to stare at us.  And make all those comments like, “Oh look, twins!”.  And then she took a picture of my kids!  Seriously, I saw her raise the camera and point it at us and click.  And the Rockefeller tree was behind her.  Behind me was traffic.  There is not a doubt in my mind she was photographing my babies.  I was stunned!  To stunned to react really.  I turned the stroller and walked away but inside I was seething.

I am imagining that she is from Kansas (no disrespect to anyone from Kansas, I just decided to imagine Kansas) and in the city on vacation.  I am picturing her showing her friends pictures of her trip and saying, “Look!  I saw twins!”.  Why on earth would she even want a picture of my kids?  I get that they are super cute, especially with those hats, but really, what does she plan to do with that picture?  Will it get put in a scrapbook?  framed?  hung in her wall?

How do you all handle things like this?

Beth is known as mommy by a 4 year old and boy-girl 17 month old twins. She blogs about life, kids, and DIY, at Pickles in my Tea and in my Soup.

Twinfant Tuesday: You Are Not Alone

This is based on the first blog post I ever wrote, Me…Start a Blog? when my fraternal twins were 1-year-5-months old. Reading blogs like HDYDI and other MoT, MoM blogs gave me a sense of connectedness, of support and of resources that helped get me through the first-year-and-a-half of parenting our prematurely born twins, who did NICU time in Hong Kong, for 3 and 6 weeks, and then “house-arrest” time for another 5 months.

Once I started the blog, I updated it consistently while in Chengdu, China and even wrote as an author for HDYDI for a while.

For the last year we have been living on a Thai island, a dream come true. Rahul and Leila are 4 now, swimming and running around barefoot with their friends. They go to pre-school and I am doing my yoga practices and teaching again.

I don’t update my blog as frequently anymore, still enjoy it, but there isn’t that same need to get past the difficult, painful experiences of the the NICU time, to express every moment or milestone, to compare with others, or to validate my parenting choices. There continue to be many stories, but for the moment they feature less frequently on the blog.

I have great blogger friends whose ideas and thoughts inspire me, and I found solidarity with many of them at a time when I needed it most, and now I hope some of these posts can do the same for others.

A mother of twins talks about how MoM blogs made her feel less alone in the first year of twin motherhood. from hdydi.com


Me…Start a Blog
Written end of March 2011

Over the last two years my world has revolved around taking care of Leila and Rahul, my almost year-and-a-half twins. So to start a blog now, seems a bit strange. What could I possibly have to say? And when?! I don’t know which regimes are being toppled over, I haven’t seen photos of the effects of the recent earthquake in Japan, I don’t know what yoga workshops are on in the region, don’t know if Federer is still kicking ass, or who presented at the Chengdu Bookworm literary festival; or anything for that matter. Outrageous, I know.

Only a few years earlier I didn’t even know what a blog was until friends in Chengdu complained that they couldn’t access blogspot. Facebook, YouTube, and a number of blogging sites are blocked in China.

After some complications in my pregnancy while in China, I ended up spending 4 months in bed including 7 weeks in hospital, split into 4 different hospital stays.

A number of foreign doctors here, in Shanghai, and Beijing recommended that we leave for the birth, due to the high risk of going into preterm labour and possible lack of high level care for premature babies.

So we went to Hong Kong at 26 weeks gestation. L and R came at 31 weeks, and were cared for at the Queen Mary NICU.

The bed-rest, high-speed internet and open access to all sites meant lots of time on the internet, and my initiation to blogs. But it was only when L and R were five-months-old, after my mum who had spent 9 months with me left, and both of those things coincided with our return to Chengdu that I really got into it.

I came upon some blogs that MoT’s wrote. For the first time in a long time I felt like I could relate. They wrote how exhausted they were, how they only bathed their babies a couple of times a week, rarely dressed them in anything other than pyjamas. I didn’t feel as guilty anymore that L and R didn’t go out everyday. They weren’t the only ones. To have them both ready to go out meant nappies changed, both well fed, not too tired, and a big diaper bag full of provisions.

I remember a post by a father of twins about how his two-year-old girls were finally sleeping through the night, most of the time, anyways. So my two waking up a few times each and every night means I can still be considered in the norm.

One mum wrote about her birth story; similar to mine – it included flights, hospital stays for both mum and babies, pumping pumping pumping, stress, fear, pain, relief.

Then there was one couple that blogged about their micro-preemie twins birth, NICU stay including all the medical details, the obsession with weight gain, the monitors, breathing, digestion, good days, bad days. It wasn’t the most fun blog I ever read. They were born much earlier than L and R, but I could relate to much of it and realised that I would have to deal with this part of R and L, and in fact all 4 of our lives one day, and to be at peace with it somehow.

Reading these stories was like holding a mirror out in front of me, a way to see what we had been through, a way to realize we were not alone – and importantly to let go of it.

There were honest, touching posts as well like the one HDYDI MoT, rebecca, who wrote One Baby Envy. Others complained about the silly questions they got when they took their twins out. If I get started on the questions and comments I got in Chengdu it would never end.

Sometimes the comments on the blogs were funny – MoM’s bitching about how J Lo (on the cover of People Magazine, March 2008) could possibly look as perfect so soon after she had her twins.

I related to these parents and it helped with the isolation I sometimes felt being in China without my family and with no experience with babies whatsoever. Neither of my brothers or brothers-in-law have children. One of my childhood friends has a son in Zambia who I haven’t yet met. I had held one of my friend’s tiny new born baby in Lebanon a couple of times last year feeling clumsy and incapable all the time. So yes, I had that experience.

I had a few parenting books. They only briefly covered twins if at all.

But, we were together again after my 6 month stint in Hong Kong, the 4 of us in Chengdu. That was our main source of strength. I had help from people here. L and R’s nanny or “ayi” meaning aunty as she is called endearingly is a superwoman, a great source of real support and help.

A friend as close as I imagine a sister to be was strong and present when I needed her most.

Another friend lent me lifesaving books at every stage along the way. And there were many others who made up my “village”, both in real life and in my blog life. The crazy thing now is that sometimes my kids both sleep for a few hours at the same time, but silly mama stays up to blog.

In addition to relating to other mums and dads on blogs, I found tips, such as this post that gives advice about choosing a double stroller that works for you depending on it’s use, tips like store big quantities of diapers, wet -wipes, food etc. so you don’t need to go out to the stores until really necessary. Obvious, but hey at least I don’t feel crazy when I walk into my pantry and see the hoarding.

There were videos of calm mums simultaneously feeding their babies. R and L were rarely on the same schedule, so it didn’t apply, but still nice to see how others do it.

So even though I live in this tiny world of eating, playing, bathing, trying to schedule, exploring and sleepless nights, I feel like I am above water now, some of time at least.

I now have the privilege to share my own stories and maybe get some interaction going. Perhaps a new mum, even a MoT will come across it and feel she can relate, find some useful information, or just have a laugh. I would be glad to contribute to that somehow.

These are stories for R and L to read one day if they want to. And if nothing else a way for friends and family to keep up with our lives in China, or wherever.

The other day I read a blog about the therapeutic effects of blogging. That did it for me, a few minutes later I signed up! Not really, I’m exaggerating, but it made me realise that every time I put down my thoughts they rarely came out negative or depressive, but rather I manage to find the “funny” in things, now that I am not sinking all the time, of course. It reminded me of a phrase from a song my dad often used to say to his not so smiley teenage daughter,

When you smile the whole world smiles with you. When you cry, you cry alone.

L and R out in Chengdu. 13 months old

L and R out in Chengdu.
13 months old

 

Natasha is mum of 4-year-old fraternal twins Leila and Rahul. She moved to Koh Samui, Thailand, with her children after spending 7 years in China. Her husband Maher, travels back and forth because work is in China. She has started practicing her yoga more regularly again, and even teaches a few classes a week, after a three year break. She blogs at her personal site Our Little Yogis and at Multicultural Mothering.