Friday, May 27, 2011

Twin Treatise

I was warned.

Truly, I was.  Good friends of ours have twins and several colleagues of mine have multiples as well.  All of them tried to tell us, to prepare us for this new reality.  At the time I thought I was listening... apparently I failed to grasp quite a few key concepts.

I thought that we could handle it.  As you know, this is not our first parenting rodeo.  Our first born, Quinn was a bit of a handful.  He was a big baby and came after a long, hard, drawn out delivery.  We had the usual sleepless nights, the usual adjusting, the usual first time parent panic attacks,.. we also had the baby whose cries could unravel your spinal column from your skull.


Case in point: one of our first trips to Mother Goose.  I was still a little shy about breastfeeding in public so I brought bottles with me.  If you have never been to Mother Goose, you have to picture a bunch of Mommies (and the occasional Daddy) sitting on the floor with their babies.  After the program is over there is a half hour of chat time where parents network and socialize while the bigger kids crawl around and play with toys.  Generally there is quite a few babies being fed and there will be several crying at any one time.  Just after the program ended, Quinn became hungry so I whipped out his bottle and started to feed him.  Naturally, we had to stop to burp and I did so about a third of the way in.  As I removed the bottle he uttered one of his better soul-rattling screams as I briskly tapped him on the back to hurry this process along.  I could feel my face getting redder and redder as I realized that not only had the other babies stopped crying, but everyone (and I mean everyone) had turned to stare at us, mouths open.  One of the Mothers finally broke out with "Does he do that a lot?".  "Every time", I managed to get out through a gritted smile.  Finally he burped and I jammed the bottle back in his mouth and silence reigned supreme once more as the eyes turned away (and a few heads shook).  Once the middle third was done, the bottle got pulled out again and he was almost purple as I repeated the process to my unwilling and unbelieving audience.  A few watched fascinated as the last third disappeared and he turned more bright colours and threatened to make our ears bleed.  Those not gaping were hurriedly gathering bags and babies and heading for the door.  I don't really blame them.  Eventually he burped, ceased his unholy wail and immediately fell asleep on my shoulder.  We would repeat this dance until he started on solid food.  It's a wonder I have any hearing left.  It is also no wonder that I conveniently "forgot" [read:  blocked out]  most of this until Zoe came along and reminded me with her own brand of caterwauling.  Sean and I started calling him "Banshee" as his sonic screaming threatened to unhinge our minds on several occasions.  He was something else.

I guess the thinking went along the lines that if we survived that, twins couldn't be so bad.  Now that they are here and three months old, I look back at that and wonder if I was actually thinking at the time.  Zoe has her own sonic scream that sounds like cats fighting and Wyatt yells "Waaa!"  in clipped bursts until he gets really mad and then threatens to stop breathing.  Since my prayers of additional arms (or even tentacles... I'm not picky) have yet to be answered, I usually have to attend to them one at a time.  I've started wearing my Zen a lot.

The celebrity status with twins is a truism.  You can't go anywhere without being stopped, complimented and the babies cooed over.  Even a simple trip to Rona takes twice as long as we have to visit with a few twin fans along the way.  When we had just Quinn, no one helped by opening a door for the stroller and you can imagine the dirty looks I occasionally got on the bus... and this is with Quinn, the baby who, when not screaming, was drawing people from the far side of the mall over to be mesmerised by his bright baby blues.  Well, not any more!  Now the bus driver helps me get to the flip up seats (if they don't flip them up for me themselves) and complete strangers move out of the way to accommodate us.  That part is pretty cool, actually, given that a twin stroller is a bitch to operate on a good day.  I've also been asked by the driver if I'm trying to make a connecting bus as they would be happy to call ahead.  Yes, really.  At any other time, if you have the audacity to suggest such a thing, they stop just short of telling you to go f☠ck yourself.  Now I'm riding Air Force One and they are clearing the tarmac for me, baby.  I never expect it, so it is pretty awesome when it happens.

The down side to this of course, is the stupid human tricks or as I like to call it "Sh☠t Complete Strangers Say..." (I should start a twitter account for that).  I know people mean well, but man!  I'm sure they don't intend to be this daft, but I guess they just can't help themselves. Just to give you an idea, here is what I hear most often.  It's like the shuffled twin play list from hell. You can't help but get sarcastic after a while. Keep in mind that each of these have come from complete strangers:

"Two babies? Are they twins?"                       (No, I got the bulk pack at Costco) 
"Are they both twins?"                                   (No, just that one...)
"Awww, a boy and a girl.  Are they identical?" (No, they have different parts) 
"Have you got two in there?"                        (No, the other is a dummy for balance) 
"Do twins run in your family"                         (They do now) 
"They can't be twins, they don't look alike"    (Are you calling my flabby stomach and Section scar liars?)
"Are they yours?"                                         (No, I'm just leasing them to start)
"You must have your hands full..."                 (Occasionally.  Sometimes I put them down.)
"Do you sleep?"                                            (Are you kidding me?) 
"Did you take fertility drugs"                          (No.  Should I have?)
"Twins.  Wow!  You must be busy"                 (Yes, I have my hands full.)

My all time fave: 
"Did you two have help?" [meaning conceiving] (No, we were the only two there at the time).

As I said before, people mean well, they just express it awfully.  One of my other favourites is the twin dreaming...  I get quite a few people after the initial contact/once over, come out with "I always wanted twins".  Their hands may or may not be clasped as they say this.  I usually reply with a pretty taut "No, you don't".  I'm usually talking through my teeth again as it's all I can do from bodily shaking them and screaming "Are you fcking nuts?!" .  Sure, we all dream of the perfect two little peas in a pod that beam out at the world from their stroller, but this isn't the case.  Assuming you live through the pregnancy (all symptoms are at least twice as bad) and the actual birthing process, there is a litany of stuff most people don't think of.  The prematurity.  The cost.  The work.  The guilt.  The laundry.  The time and the utter exhaustion.  As a Mom and a nurse who frequents both sides of the clock I thought I had the sleep deprivation and exhaustion thing down pat.  Nay, nay!  There are levels of exhaustion that are only open to parents of multiples and most days I am doing my best to keep this drunken half spin going so I don't just simply drop to the floor.  Ever heard of microsleeping?  I hadn't either until I had to look up why I was losing blocks of time.  I knew that I was really tired, but I'd be at the sink doing dishes and clean dishes would appear in the tray that I had no recollection washing.  For a bit there I thought I'd become Tara.  Sometimes I would have the feeling that a bolt of electricity had gone through my head; there was almost an audible zzzzzzzt! sound.  After being assured that my eyelids had closed on a few of these occasions, I did some reading and figured out I was having microsleeps.  Scary.  That was one of the major reasons I switched the kids to a four hour schedule from a three hour one, before I became a total hazard to those around me and burned the house down or something equally as terrible.

Another common conversation piece is the "-------, so I know exactly how you feel". Let me just stop right here and say that unless you have twins (or triplets or any other amount of multiple birth), you have absolutely no idea what you are talking about.  Ever.  Don't try.  Don't.  No offense, but there is no experience that is even close.  "My kids are 10+ months apart, so I know exactly how you feel".  Nope.  I have two babies that are exactly the same age and doing exactly the same things.  Yours are at different levels and you can reason with one of them.  No.  As I mentioned before, knowing twins isn't enough.  Being a twin doesn't even cut it as you will not remember most of the stuff that you did to your Mom that made her want to shave her head and join the Krishnas.  The only person that truly gets a twin parent is another twin parent.  Even before most pleasantries have been exchanged, there will be that long look with a nod and half smile; the "we understand one another" look.

I've avoided most multiple support groups and organizations as they strike me as a bit cult-ish.  Maybe it's the lack of sleep and the overwhelming desire for grown up conversation mixed with a sense of organized fellowship, who knows?  I generally take my twin communing where I can find it (or rather, where it finds me).  One delirious Saturday morning found me in Babies R Us, slowly wafting the babies through the store as I alternately remembered and then forgot random items on my shopping list.  I looked up as a deep African voice stated "I said, you have twins too!".  I smiled reflexively and saw a young couple with a 3 year old girl and 18 month old twin boys.  The Dad must have seen something in my bloodshot eyes as he launched into a twin tirade that had to have lasted at least 6 minutes.  I nodded and smiled and tried not to burst out with hysterical laughter as this poor man described how tired they both were and how little his wife slept the first year (she just nodded along as if the conversation was the only thing keeping her awake).  He went on to describe the feeding schedules, what it was like to have all three kids sick at the same time and numerous other things that were a little inappropriate to be telling a complete stranger at 10 am in the morning, unless you are in the twin club I guess.  I must have a sympathetic face or that poor guy needed to get a lot off his chest.  We parted company and as I rounded the next aisle I heard "Awww twins, are they yours?".  I looked back for my new Kenyan friends with a chuckle and caught his eye.  His expression clearly read "we understand each other" and then "you're on your own" as he sped for the door and I turned to face Zoe and Wyatt's latest admirers.

I get told almost daily "I don't know how you do it".  I don't know either. Really, I don't.  I will let you know once I suss it.  I do find satisfaction in the craziest of places...  Figuring out another thing that I can do one handed while holding a baby.  Managing to get the largest of tasks done in the smallest amount of time.  Figuring out how to get two babies and a kindergarten-er to the bus stop in the rain without the twin stroller because we left it in the van which is now in Mississauga... and so on.  Twin motherhood is like a bubble in the space-time continuum where the boundaries of energy and time are perpetually tested.  The amount of energy and time may remain finite, yet you will manage to find a way to bend them both.  You also get double the rewards for your efforts; two smiles, two sets of hands grasping yours.  You get to stumble into the nursery all blurry eyed and find things like this:

Dozing Twins
Dozing Double Cuteness

You get to celebrate the milestones twice and in two unique ways.  With twice the pain, twice the heartache comes twice the joy and twice the love.  You can't have one without the other.  Just like the babies themselves.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Mother Goose and Mother Guilt

Yesterday marked a milestone in my twins lives for two reasons. One, we managed to get out of the house ourselves for more than a Doctor's appointment. Two, we made it to Mother Goose.

Mother Goose is a program by the Ontario Early Years Centres for babies up to a year and their parents. The program facilitates bonding and communication with your child through song and activity. Quinn is a graduate of this program, as is the rest of my Stroller Posse (who as, you may or may not know, met in prenatal classes). I know that our weekly trips to Mother Goose certainly made a difference in my life. The networking with other Mommies was invaluable ("yours is doing that too?"), as was getting out of the house at least once a week for lunch with friends. The program itself helped me become more comfortable with Quinn as I learned how to soothe, stimulate and educate him using song. It sounds silly at first (it did to me too when I was initially encouraged to go), but it helped our connection along. His language skills are phenomenal (and always have been) and I attribute a lot of this to the program. Having my own lullaby set list saved us on more than one occasion. Whether his profound love of music and art came from Mother Goose or us or both is debatable, however he still has the CD and we still sing the songs to this day.

A Sleepy Little Monster
A sleepy little Quinn monster after a Mother Goose nap...

I haven't been able to do much of anything up until now with Zoe and Wyatt. The weather has been crappy, I'm still trying to catch up on the housework and it's only been recently that I've been getting more than 3 hours total sleep a day. Which brings me to my next topic...

The Mother Guilt. For my childless friends and family, I will explain... Mother Guilt is a real thing, as real as stubbed toes at 3am and diapers that leak. These things occur without fail and every Mother goes through it. It is not a stage, it is not a process, it is an almost daily occurrence and it never goes away. Mother Guilt is also largely unfounded and flies in the face of logic but nevertheless it perseveres. Your child hit their head on the door frame? You didn't childproof enough. Guilt. Child develops diabetes? It's your crappy genes. Guilt. Child not doing well with his or her peers? You didn't socialize them enough. Guilt.

Guilt, guilt, guilt. No therapy, class or time will diminish this; it is an integral part of the job description.

Talk to any parent with twins or read any twin book and you will be warned that you will have a lot of [additional] guilt and not feel fully bonded to your babies. As an added bonus, they caution, you may feel closer to one or the other for a variety of reasons and that this too is a normal thing. I can attest to this. Unlike with my first born baby, with whom I had time to cuddle and coo, these twins are work. Most days it feels like they are a series of jobs I have to complete. With twins it's all about task completion, schedules... and the myriad of other little things that you have to do in order to "get things done" or, more importantly "remain sane" (the last being debatable). I love my babies to pieces, but I envy the other Mommies with singletons who have more time to spend gazing into little eyes and stroking little hands and getting out to explore the world at large. Guilt. Wyatt needs extra time to help develop as much as possible and Zoe is a colicky mess most of the time... and I don't feel like I am spending any quality time with either of them. Lotsa guilt.

With Wyatt's DS, you would think that I would be all about the networking right now, but I'm not. I have tried... I really have. I have read the blogs, searched the associated websites... and I can't do it. I can't. They either depress the hell out of me and I close the browser window crying or they try and convince me how much of a blessing/treat/gift from God this is. There are also the "collectors" who, after having a child with DS, are moved to adopt several more from other places in the world. There are some with twins with DS, both identical and fraternal, but none with just one affected twin. I was reading the transcript of a radio interview this morning and the mother being interviewed was asked if she could take the additional gene away from her child would she do so. She responded with an emphatic "No!" and had a multitude of reasons why. Meanwhile, I'm thinking "In a f☠☠king heartbeat!". I guess the PC thing to say here is that I see Wyatt beyond his condition, but the truth is that I would never wish this on him. It's not horrible, it's not a death sentence, there are Rembrandts and tulips here in Holland, but I would still change it, selfish as that may be. (Guilt).

Want to know The Big Guilt? The big Kahuna, the Grand Daddy, the done like dinner item? I realized by reading other blogs and online resources that I'm probably just as prejudiced as everyone else. I can't look at many pictures of other people's DS kids as they look "Too DS-y". I don't find them handsome or pretty most of the time. Despite every resource reassuring parents that DS kids look like other members of the family and not like each other, I think they do. I think a lot of them look the same. I do think Wyatt looks like my family however. I marvel at his normal hands and feet and point out that his physical characteristics are "minimal". It's kinda like saying he "has the good hair". When he's asleep and his tongue sticks out I gently tap it with an index finger to get him to close his mouth. I make sure I take the "best" pics possible of him (ie: less obvious).

Major Guilt. Check please.

Perhaps my perception will change over time as Wyatt grows into the man that he will be. Maybe I need this little learning curve to get over a few things, who knows? Maybe sancti-Mommy does need her little pity party in order to become a true advocate for her son. One can only hope so. I have spent the two months that he has been home trying to surpass this, trying to overcome the gulf that exists between myself and both my babies, especially Wyatt.

It hasn't been easy.

Up until yesterday all I saw were hurdles and tasks to be finished and overcome. Up until yesterday, I felt estranged and angry... and house happy. I was also desperately looking for a solution to Zoe's crying.

Leaving the house with twins remains a big deal, especially if you are like me and have to rely on transit during the day. I started preparing for our foray out Monday night. I was packed and clothes were laid out for all of us (including Quinn) to make my morning as easy as possible. On our arrival it was like stepping back in time; once I was in the group, singing the familiar songs I started to feel better. Oddly enough, it felt like home. Zoe stayed true to herself and cried throughout most of the hour, but Wyatt was a different story. I was sitting cross legged with Zoe balanced against one knee while I replaced her "tookie" (soother) again and again while Wyatt sat on my other knee. He was awake, but dozy, looking around lazily as he is want to do. We started with some bouncy action type songs and rhymes and I looked into his eyes at one point to find them wide open and staring. At me. Watching me sing. Then the most unbelievable thing happened.

He smiled and a connection was made.

You could tell that he was enjoying himself and that even for a brief moment, before Zoe lost her tookie and started screaming again, that we were in tune. We "got" each other. We had started to bond, finally. It was a very short period of time, but it was there. It happened.

This afternoon, after their lunch, I tried some of the songs and rhymes out on him again and the same thing happened. For a second, there it was. Zoe was still pretty nonplussed but Wyatt was on board. His eyes clicked over and he was paying attention. There was wonder in those beautiful blue eyes, and joy.

As with many of my journeys, I went seeking one thing and found another. Mother Goose may not be the answer for everything, but it will sure help. Maybe this level of networking will get me started and help me overcome a few things. Maybe I will find some resources that meet my needs, maybe I won't... or maybe I will be able to tailor what is available to fit and make my own.

I will keep looking, I'll keep shopping for people like me. In the meantime, I will continue to be honest with myself and move forward.

...And sing.

First Day of Mother Goose
First Day of Mother Goose... a little light stretching before we started.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

On Mother's Day

My Mother's Day started like any other day, to the sound of at least one baby crying. Now, as it is the weekend, I've let their schedule slide a little bit which gave me a few extra hours sleep going into Saturday. Last night they decided to take that back; this morning was not greeted as happily as the one before.

Over the course of today, I've received: 1 handmade card (from Quinn), 1 decorated cup full of dirt (that I am assured that a seed lives in), 1 handmade necklace (also from Quinn), and three commercial cards (one from each of the twins and one from Sean). We had to forgo the usual brunch as my husband has been suffering from a migraine all day... which was a bit worrisome as he does not get migraines. The day has progressed like any other day otherwise; dishes, laundry, babies. Meh.

Speaking of babies, both are doing very well after their excellent medical adventures. We were at the pediatrician 2 weeks ago and they had gained a whole pound each. By last week, they had gained another pound, which puts Zoe over 8 lbs and Wyatt close to 9. Wyatt has actually made the growth chart. Hooray!

Last Monday saw us heading to the Family MD after a trip to the polls. All three kids were due for shots. Zoe cried real tears after her needles (one in each thigh) and Wyatt almost turned blue after his... and Mommy was not far behind. Quinn too needed a jab and he took his like a trooper. He had to: Mommy quietly restrained him for the shot. Everybody got Tylenol and a couple of hours later no one was the worse for wear. Including Mommy.

Big Pout
No more ouchies pweeze.

Tuesday was a trip in the rain to Wyatt's cardiologist. They had called us the day before stating that there was an opening and they wanted to sedate him for his test (presumably for a trans-esophogeal). Needless to say, between the 5 year old, the weather and Brampton Transit, we were very late and had to forgo the sedation (not that I minded terribly about that either). Instead, they did a regular echo and were very pleased to note that the ventricular aspect of his Atrioventricular Septal Defect has in fact narrowed significantly. On top of it, there is a significant amount of occlusion, meaning that part of the hole is mainly blocked. He therefore does not have the gross mixing of blood from the left to the right side, which means it is not overloading his lungs and, as we speak, is mainly asymptomatic. He will still need surgery eventually, but I am very happy to report that it can be held off until he is approximately 3 or 4 years of age. That is fantastic news. It allows his heart (and him) to grow and makes the surgery that much easier for everyone. Especially Wyatt.

Another Almost Smile
Yay for me!

As for his Down syndrome... well, to this humble, non-expert, he doesn't look that far behind his sister and most of that (to me) can be chalked up to him being a boy. He does have more variety in his vocalizations, when he uses them. He's more active as well (when he is awake); he can wiggle across the crib to Zoe. I'm pretty sure she can do the same, but she's too busy yelling. I've connected with Infant Development of Peel, so we're now on the waiting list for resources.

Next on our list of specialist appointments for Wyatt will be an ENT (Ear, Nose and Throat) and an opthamologist, all within the next month or so. The appointments have settled down to part-time status, which is a blessing too. Getting these kids out the door is a major manoeuvre; the planning, the anticipating, the preparations, the packing, the equipment... I swear, it would be easier to annex a small country. I had a Region of Peel nurse through here not too long ago and she was amazed at my "organization". I told her it was do or die, and she laughed. She's the mother of twins as well, which left me scratching my head a bit. But, it was nice to know that the cheese hasn't totally slid off my cracker. It's been pretty close some days...

It's the little things that are keeping me sane these days, I think. Well, I'm not totally sure, it could be the chocolate, so that excuse is as good as any. ;) I received a 1 TB (Terrabyte) drive for Christmas and recently I've been archiving all my photography, etc. I've also been archiving my writing, especially since I stopped by my MSN Page on Quinn's birthday and found it deleted. After that little heart attack/discovery, I set up an account with WordPress and have slowly been moving things over. As an interesting footnote here, there were quite a few pieces that I thought lost forever. I took a chance and relit the fuse on an old dispute with Facebook. It only took a few emails, but I got my original profile reinstated. I was delighted (but also a little disturbed) to see most of my stuff still as I had left it, three years prior. It had switched over to the new format but all the rest was the same. I picked off what I could and then reposted them on the WordPress Archives (and then deactivated the account). We shall see... I like the layout and interface there better, however I can (and am) importing posts from my Blogger account. I guess only time will tell. I gave it a facelift as well as it looked a little crappy compared to the WordPress design. I'm also undecided how to post to Facebook... The RSS feed is flaky (see dispute link above) and it's already given me trouble today. I may just have use an old fashioned cut+paste...

I hope everyone had a Happy Mother's Day. Mine, like most days, had its moments of supreme joy and moments where I wanted to stab myself in the face*. It's the hardest job in the world... but I wouldn't trade it in for anything. Even chocolate.

Zoe and Quinn
Quinn and Zoe (in a rare, non screaming moment)

My Boys
Quinn and Wyatt

*Note: a turn of phrase, not an actual desire. Please, you don't have to call the experts, which would be me anyway, so relax. Really...
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