Saturday, July 30, 2016

Two came, too fast.

It seems like only yesterday I found out I was pregnant with you, and then just like finding your soulmate you were here with me.. just as you were always meant to be. The past year is impossible to wrap up in a few words because both of you have grown into such amazing, vibrant, smart, beautiful people. How could I put this transformation into words and do justice to either of you? Even your most challenging days are always filled with moments that inspire awe, and I feel so blessed to witness your life unfolding.

You started your second year of life barely able to crawl and still months away from walking.... but by some act of heavenly grace, I managed to be sitting with each of you when you took your first steps.

Samantha, seeing you walk for the first time is a memory that will be forever etched into my mind. I will never forget you sitting in the rocking chair, then looking down at your feet. I could see the determination in your eyes. You knew this was it, you were going to do this! You put your feet down, pushed up from the armrest with your hand and lifted your other arm for balance. I can still see exactly what you were wearing as you stood balancing for a moment: a t-shirt that said "I am made of awesome" and a fluffy pink skirt. One at a time, you lifted your legs, one foot in front of the other... and you did it!! Those thoughtful and deliberate first steps have led you quickly into a running, jumping, climbing, somersaulting little girl, ready to take the world by storm.

Summer, you started walking in the same way you approach almost everything: a little less like jumping in head first to the deep end more like getting your feet wet one toe at a time, until you blink and suddenly you're soaked and you wonder when that happened. You do things with sincere intention, you know what you want and on what timeline you want to do it, period. You are mindful, specific, thoughtful, and extremely creative. The other day I pulled out the paints for the first time, I poured some paint into a container and handed you a brush and you didn't just lost yourself in the brush strokes, and your creative voice took flight. You dad has started to hang all of the art in our family room... I can see already we're going to need a bigger wall.

Each of you is talking, narrating, describing everything, all the time. At the beginning of the year I could tell you how many words you could say. Now, we can almost have a conversation. When did this happen? I try really hard to speak to you like the young intelligent people that you are, often wondering if you understood be long before I realized you really heard what I was saying. Of all the things I love the most over the past year of growth and changes, getting to hear your thoughts and voices has been the most rewarding. Recently, you've started saying "night, night mama... I love you" I lean in for a big hug, kiss each of your heads and then and you kiss my cheek in return... no matter how hard the day has been, it is the moment I live for each night.

Samantha, the entire family has started calling you a tornado. You have some serious talent at making a room look really, uh, "lived-in." This past year you've helped me to let go of some of my cleaning habits in favor of just letting you live a little, and I've learned making the mess is certainly at least half of the fun! You also LOVE music and dancing! If music is playing, you're always wiggling your hips... you can't even help it, music is just in your heart.  
Summer, you are the anti-mess maker, a girl after my own heart. You put all your toys away, stack your dirty dishes neatly when you're done eating, and (though you love being barefoot and playing in the sand and water) you aren't actually to keen on getting dirty. When you look around, you seem to view the world in categories and order. You observe everything and file that information away for safe keeping. If I ever forget where something is or who an item belongs to, you always remember. "Mama's juice" (aka wine), Sammy's diaper, Mae's baby bottle... you know it all. "No, this is Summer's!" You love helping keep everything where it should be, and it brings you tremendous joy to learn and remember as much as you can about everything and then share your knowledge with others. 

This year you both became big sisters to baby Mae. Your dad and I spent the better part of six months talking to you about the new baby that was coming, and you both watched as my belly grew, wondering what was happening. But soon you two started pointing to my stomach, saying "baby," and I still wonder if you really understood or not? When your sister was born, you came into our room and climbed up onto the bed, and were surprised to see a baby, but really you weren't particularly interested. As the days have passed you've each found your way to love and connect with Mae. I'll admit I wasn't sure how things would go with three children under 2 in our house, but I under estimated you both. Even just barely two, you are patient, kind, loving, gentle and fantastic big sisters to your little Mae. I can see what an amazing life you all will have because you have each other.  

It's been an incredible year. A challenging year, but incredible. I wasn't sure it was possible to love anything or anyone as much as I love both of you. I am in awe of the people you are becoming. Each so unique and yet better because you have each other. I've said it before, but it's true. You are gifts to one another. 

As I sit here now, tearing up over the fleeting moments that you're still my babies, and you occasionally still let me snuggle and hold you as long as I want, marveling at the journey we have taken and so much yet to come as you grow into your big kid selves. I thank the heavens for how blessed I am to be your mommy. I didn't know if I'd ever get to be a mom, but the stars aligned and you two were our gifts. When I learned at my first ultrasound I was having twins, when I heard each of your hearts beat, I knew it was destiny. You were meant to be: it wasn't random or by chance, you were always destined for this world, ushered in to waiting, loving arms. Nine months later you both were born, bright red and screaming your hearts out, ready to take this life by storm! 

You're two years old and already such incredible people. I hope as you grow, neither of you lose your courageous spirits, and I hope you remember to love one another, and find joy in everything possible. There is an extraordinarily beautiful life for each of you being written every single day. Remember that it is your one and only extraordinary story. 

"I would have given anything to keep her little. They outgrow us so much faster than we outgrow them." - Jodi Picot  

Sunday, April 17, 2016

A little more about Mae

I have been terrible about blogging for the past several months in part because I've been crazy busy with three munchkins running around. Jon and I are now outnumbered two-to-one if you count Dahlia in the mix, so it's been a steep learning curve to grapple with managing the day to day craziness of raising our three daughters.

I've really struggled to decide if I wanted to write a blog post at all about what's been going on, but after reflection I think it's good to talk about the pieces that we don't really share openly on social media or with others in passing (mostly because it feels like people don't want to hear anything other than good things).

Parenthood is magical and amazing, moments filled with so much love that you wonder that you can contain it. Your heart bursts with pride at every milestone or simple moment you're lucky enough to witness. Parenthood is incredible, but of course, the reality is: parenthood can also be pretty crappy. It can drag us through the ringer for what seems like weeks on end and, just when we feel like we're reaching for a breath of fresh air, it can shove our face into the dirt again.

Mae is three months tomorrow. She is a bundle of squishy, dimpled cheeks and grinning sweetness who has just begun to find her laugh and absolutely adores being snuggled up as close as possible. They say your heart grows with each child and, while it's hard to believe you could love any others as much as the ones you already have, you somehow just do. It's true, my heart beats for each of the girls, and each of them has expanded my capacity to define the meaning of the word love. Which is why the past two months have been simultaneously the most meaningful and the most challenging time of my life. Raising twin newborns was filled with logistical obstacles that made being a new parent exponentially more challenging. However, in many ways, Mae has been harder than the girls ever were.

When Mae was three days old, I was sitting in my bed nursing her when she suddenly started choking and stopped breathing. Jon was busy putting the girls to bed and my mom was sitting with me when it happened. There was this surreal moment in which you just react, I turned her over and immediately tried helping her clear her throat and putting my ear to her face to hear if she had started breathing again. Jon had called 911, but within a minute or two she cleared her throat, regained color and was breathing again. It scared the shit out of me, and everyone else. The paramedics came, she was fine, my midwife gave us tips on how to help her clear her airway if it happened again... and it did. Mae stopped breathing several times a day for a couple of weeks, to the point that I didn't want to be alone when I was nursing her, afraid that would be the time I wouldn't be able to clear her throat.

Eventually this stopped and we started to settle into a better nursing routine. Things were going really really well, perfect even. Then around 5 weeks, midway through eating she started getting really angry, pulling off screaming, or inconsolably crying. She'd want to eat every five minutes, each time angrier than the last... it was feeling impossible. This went on for weeks and weeks, and throughout, she was crying all the time. Something about what was happening felt wrong to me. Her cries felt like they were trying to tell me something, more than just "mommy I'm hungry/wet/cold/hot/need to be held" needs of a newborn.

They felt like cries of a baby pleading for me to help her because she was in pain. Yet I questioned myself, convincing myself that I was just being moody and "postpartum," that this was a normal phase and would pass. I'd obviously blocked it from my memory of the girls. I felt deep and horrible sadness about my inability to handle her needs, often finding myself just crying while trying desperately to figure out what was wrong. I could not shake the feeling that there was something more than her just "being a baby." She still choked on bottles or on the breast, hiccuped constantly, she was hard to burp and then when she did, it came out like like she was chugging a beer at a frat party. She arched her back in discomfort and just seemed so unhappy.

Then one night I was feeding her a bottle when she choked again, only this time she projectile threw up a gigantic amount. While gross, it was then that a light went off in my head: REFLUX. In my typical fashion, I researched like crazy and confirmed that her symptoms mirrored those of a baby with silent reflux (meaning they don't spit up, much). I called the next day and made a doctors appointment, armed and ready to fight for the help my daughter needed to relieve her pain. The doctor checked her out (yelling over her screaming the entire appointment), agreed she was suffering, and wrote her a prescription, which we filled immediately. I cut dairy from my diet (a known culprit in reflux) and patiently waited for things to get better... and they did, for a bit..  but during the past couple of weeks, she got worse again.

A typical three month old baby cries about one hour a day, sleeps 10 hours at night, and takes 3-4 naps a day. Compare that to Mae's 3-5 hours of crying, no naps, and passing out for 12 hours at night from exhaustion. After two months of endless hours of inconsolable crying, I really thought I was going to lose it. I'd become a big ball of anxious, stressed out energy, sick to my stomach at hearing my child in pain and lost in the feeling of helplessness of what to do to help her, then feeling sorry for myself.

Last week, I'd had enough. I started to dig deeper and deeper into research and found a more optimal dosage pattern and quantity to bring her relief. We're three days into this new schedule and already she's a new baby: finally comfortable enough to take a nap and find more than just fleeting joy in experiencing the world around her. The light in her eyes, just beaming out of her, as she can eat and find comfort again. We're still not through this, but we're finally getting up for some air and seeing that there is hope and light in what's felt like a very dark tunnel these past eight weeks.

As a mother, it can be hard to trust our instincts. I know I questioned mine. Despite being the person that was with her all the time, I still felt like I needed to seek confirmation from others even though they didn't know her as well as I did. When I sat in the doctors office and she confirmed that Mae was in pain, I wept, happy that she was going to get on the path to help, but also that I'd somehow failed her for not advocating for her sooner. When you're healing from childbirth, tired, emotional, and overwhelmed with trying to establish the new normal... it can feel impossible to make heads of tails of anything. You just try to survive, one moment to the next, one day at a time.

I'm guilty of feeling like people only want to see the beautiful ideal picture of everyone's lives. But doing that just isn't being real, and it's not fair to myself, or others who might also be struggling with their own daily challenges of motherhood. I have three kids under two, and yeah, it's insane, messy, and disgusting. Most days end and I feel completely destroyed. Ready to go to bed by 8pm. Wrecked.

But when I lay down in bed, I don't dwell on the struggles from the day, I dream about toddler belly laughs, playing chase in the yard, dimpled baby smiles, and sweet smell of baby lingering in my nose as I rock her to sleep.

One day at a time right now. I'm relishing the good moments and praying we continue on a healing path that brings more good days than bad in months to come.