Expectations VS. Reality

tired

Things have been challenging in this house over the last couple of weeks. The twins have been little twin-somniacs and are not allowing much sleep for mommy and daddy. This whole mess of zombie-like states and days running on fumes (and caffeine…lots and lots of caffeine) have had me thinking a lot about expectations.

We haven’t had much trouble with the twins and sleep up until this point so I never really expected that since we had it so good (and I was so grateful) that things could change so drastically and bedtime and overnight would become, only how I could describe, as hell on Earth.

That’s the thing about expectations; they really screw with you.

So over the last couple of weeks… six… six long weeks of babies waking up all hours of the night and my trying to function as a productive human being aside from this, I came to realize I have been wrong about A LOT of things.

I was the perfect parent…

…before I had children.

 

There were many things I expected as I fantasized about my role as caretaker of tiny humans. I set standards in my head I was determined to maintain. Guidelines I would not stray from. Have a look at these (now laughable) assumptions naïve, non child-raising me had.

  1. My baby(ies) would not be exposed to “screen time” before a reasonable age.

Reality: I was dumb. I love television, my husband loves television, and prior to having kids there was often a TV on even if it wasn’t being watched. That was just the world we were living in. So I did some revising and came up with a new standard…

  1. My baby(ies) would only have access to television shows that are educational in nature and “age appropriate.”

Reality: If the same episodes of “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse” on repeat allows me to get a shower in the morning before work, clean the house so that I don’t feel like we live in a pigsty, or prepare a meal for the twins and the rest of us, then I bow down to you Lord Mickey the Mouse. However, there are other shows that are on pretty regularly because adults still live her and I would be lying if I didn’t disclose that it doesn’t matter what kind of tantrum these toddlers are throwing, the intro to Law and Order: SVU stops them in their tracks and quiets them instantly. Guilty as charged.

  1. I wasn’t going to try that hard to breastfeed.

Reality: The twins are 14 months old and continue to nurse multiple times a day. 17% of women continue to nurse their baby(ies) after returning to work full time. This is the biggest commitment I’ve made to anything in my life, and while it has exhausted and, at times, tormented me, I am empowered by what my body has been able to provide for these two.  Even if it has meant that I am a glorified cow.

  1. I would listen to all advice provided by my baby(ies) doctor.

Reality: Nope.  There have been things I’ve had gut feelings about and ways I’ve wanted to do things that the doctors advised against, or didn’t have a lot of insight to provide. It’s easy to feel bullied in to doing things with my kids as directed by a doctor. But after conversations had between my husband and I, we decided that we would consider all information provided to us but that we would also make our own informed decisions because these are our kids, and we have the ultimate say. As long as our children are healthy, happy, and thriving, we will make the choices that we see fit as their parents.

  1. I would not return to old, bad, habits I engaged in before parenthood. Like smoking.

Reality: Spare me the lectures on how bad smoking is for my health and livelihood. I know. I’m human. It isn’t rational, and it isn’t healthy, but this is a habit that has been difficult to give up 100%. Sometimes I feel as though I am split in to two halves. There’s who I am as a woman, and there’s who I am as a mom. And sometimes the person I am outside of being a mother needs a minute. My minutes occasionally include a cigarette.

  1. My children would be read to, daily.

Reality: I wish I could go back and hit pre-mom me in the head. Have you tried reading to an infant? Here… face a wall and read aloud a book that has bright pictures and short sentences. Go on, I’ll wait. That’s what reading to an infant is like and it’s a much better experience when the kid is a little older and can respond and react.

7. There would be no scenario that included a child sleeping in my bed.

Reality: We didn’t consider this for a long time; the twins were sleeping well. And when they were sleeping well, we were sleeping well in our sanctuary of a bed that was our own. By the time it’s 3am and you’re up with Twin A for the tenth time, and you know Twin B is going to wake up if they hear Twin A screech for the umpteenth time and you’re mentally clocking the amount of hours of sleep you can get if this kid passed out RIGHT NOW; options seem limited. Survival mode kicks in and you rationalize your kid sleeping next to you because 1) they will sleep and so will you, 2) if for whatever reason they do become restless they have easy, open access to your boobs which are magic and will instantly calm them. Bed-sharing for the win!

 

This is just a quick, ever-evolving, running list. I’m sure as we continue down this road as parents, more and more things that I expect to happen will turn out not quite as I had planned. I guess this is something all new parents come to realize. This epiphany has also made me more aware of mothers outside of myself. Never again will I be able to, in good conscience, judge another mother for how they parent their child (with the exception of neglect and abuse, of course.) There are so many unknowns when you’re raising kids and you’re ultimately responsible for how they turn out. There are too many variables and no handbooks. There’s a part of you that’s left constantly open and vulnerable to ridicule, judgment, and guilt and it’s exhausting. Even more exhausting then two toddlers trained by the CIA in torture via sleep deprivation. We are doing our best. We deserve to feel pride in our mothering capabilities. And we need to remember that even when things don’t turn out quite how we had expected them, often times, they turn out better.

“Oh…We’re Going To Be Parents Today.”

I’ve begun to believe that a multiples pregnancy has left me somewhat shell shocked. For starters, it’s taken me one year and eight months to finally open up about it. It’s clear how the story ends; I mean, the twinadoes are 13 months old now!

I previously referenced a new language I was forced to learn while I was pregnant with the twins.  From that first ultrasound on, I was no longer a woman experiencing a typical pregnancy. Now, this was a “multiples” pregnancy. All of a sudden I had gone from contemplating being a mom, to totally nailing this pregnancy thing, to all of a sudden being a mom of multiples. I also came to learn of the word “singleton,” in other words, the kind of pregnancy I wasn’t having; the one where the mom-to-be is only cooking one bun in the oven.

I’d be lying if I said idea of housing two kids over the next nine months didn’t scare me.  Of course I was f***ing scared. I wasn’t even sure I’d be able to do this with one baby and now there was a second one along for the ride. I wondered how this was possible; wasn’t it supposed to be hard getting pregnant?  I’ve been known to be an overachiever but this was much more of an undertaking than I had imagined.

For the most part, my pregnancy was pretty unremarkable. I had the usual complaints one is allowed when playing incubator to a growing human(s). William and I did the typical things parents-to-be do when eagerly awaiting the arrival of their baby(ies.) We found a place to live (our tiny, two bedroom second floor apartment was no longer an option,) we researched items for a baby registry, we named our babies, hell we even took a twin prep class! (Highly, highly recommended by the way- let me know if you want further details about this.) As things moved along, I was thrilled to get to feel my babies tap dancing in my belly, exhausted as sleeping was beginning to be non existent, and sick with heartburn.     For almost the whole time, my son sat contently, in prime birthing position, his head crushing my pelvis while my daughter sat breeched with her head in my rib cage. Little jerks.

I was diligent in my prenatal care, attending all of my prenatal appointments like a good mommy, but my OB sent me to labor and delivery QUITE OFTEN “just in case.” On one occasion she sent me because I was a little “crampy,” (a completely normal pregnancy symptom) and they didn’t have the necessary equipment to monitor me and the babies. Another time after a freak thing at work which included a carbon monoxide scare, it was suggested I go and get checked out just to be safe. While in labor and delivery, Baby A, was screwing around and they kept me overnight. So, when I went to a routine appointment at 31 weeks pregnant and my doctor suggested again that I go to L&D I was really pissed.

Here’s another vocabulary word I learned: shortening cervix. Apparently this is something common with multiples pregnancies. The thin membrane protecting my babies from basically dropping out of me was shortened from the pressure of exactly that; carrying two babies. This was brought to my attention early into my pregnancy and watched closely. At this particular appointment my blood pressure was a little high and that, coupled with my shortening cervix, was enough to be told to get my butt to the hospital. This time I was told that I’d most likely get steroid shots to mature the babies’ lungs in the event that I did go into labor before the marked day.

I reluctantly went to labor and delivery, bitching the whole drive there and commenting on the phone to my dad that it couldn’t be anything too serious as they were having me drive myself to the hospital. I sat in the valet line (I was far too big already, and lazy, to walk from the parking lot to the entrance) and I furiously shoved everything I had brought with me to work that day for lunch because these people were notorious for telling me I couldn’t eat while I was there. I was going to get one over on them this time.  Plus, the last thing these guys wanted was an angry, pregnant, and HUNGRY Nicole on their hands.

I got checked in, my blood pressure was normal. I rolled my eyes; pissed again. They got me set up for the first steroid shot. I knew they were going to admit me because the steroids are given in a two shot series; the second being administered exactly 24 hours after the first. They also hooked me up to magnesium because, apparently, I was having slight contractions which I didn’t even know. I met the doctor on call, who proclaimed that I would never be seeing him again because “we weren’t having babies today.” I begged to be released by Friday, two days later, since my baby shower was scheduled for that weekend. William met me, got me settled in a room and sat with my while I got ready for a long, uncomfortable night in the hospital.

I felt really messed up from the magnesium and it was giving me an awful headache. I continued to have contractions but was not in, or anywhere near, labor. Around midnight I was put on oxygen and was told one baby wasn’t being very cooperative and they were going to have me lay in a different position to get a better reading on baby. I tried figuring out how they keep track of two babies heart beats when I could feel these kids moving around like my uterus was their own private bounce house. Around one in the morning, a doctor came to talk to us. She explained that something was happening to one baby, their heart rate was rapidly decel-ing and the possibility of a c section was being discussed.

Panic ensued. “O….K.”

I thought that the doctor was suggesting that other options of how to keep me pregnant were going to be explored before surgery. But before I could ask what they were, a nurse was throwing scrubs at my husband and telling him to get changed. We locked eyes and he said “this is happening, we’re going to be parents today.”

The next moments moved SO fast but in my head I still see them in slow motion. Nurses began to rip my clothes off of me, and they shot something into my IV. I made the mistake of asking what they gave me and they said it was something to prevent me from throwing up with the anesthesia.

I don’t do vomit, remember?
I started hyperventilating.

The same doctor, the one I wasn’t ever supposed to see again tonight, came with paperwork I needed to sign, consenting for the c-section. I tried to ask one hundred questions. “Are they worried about the health of the babies? They’re so early.”The doctor responds, “of course.” He went on to explain the neonatal intensive care team would be standing by.

It’s explained to me that I may, or may not, hear my babies cry. All of a sudden my idea of what the delivery I had planned for these twinkies goes out the window. The doctor then presses me to sign the consent because “he doesn’t have time to explain the ins and outs to me, he needs to get my babies out.”
They separated William and I while I got the anesthesia. I try to figure out how not to lose my shit that a man is going to shove a needle in my back and I can’t stop shaking. I was numb, exposed, laying on an operating table and finally William was allowed in the room and was by my side again. There’s tugging and pulling and pressure and finally the faintest cry, the sound a newborn kitten would make. One little yelp at 2:02am followed by another at 2:03. The babies are were taken out of the room immediately. I asked if they were okay, and no one answered because they’re with the neonatal team and the only thing the people care about in the room with me is how I’m doing. I started to feel some pain and they give me the good stuff; the rest is very fuzzy but I know I became awfully chatty. That was it. In a matter of 60 minutes, I went straight from a multiples pregnancy, to multiples.

Baby A – Sullivan James
Baby B – Jennifer Estelle

And there’s plenty more to come about them later.