Friday, January 29, 2010

Turning One.

The babies are one today.

I am one today.

Lately I've been feeling sympathetic towards babies. So much to learn so quickly. They shame us adults and our slowed pace of learning, and I can't help but wondering if humans would be able to fly if we continued to learn and grow at the rate of babies. As a mother, I feel painfully aware of my slow learning. As the babies are learning to walk, to eat, to use words, I am focusing on my own necessary new life skills. There are some things that mothers and babies come hard wired for. For babies, the ability to nurse. For mothers, overwhelming and intoxicating love.

And it is intoxicating, that love. It is beautiful and wild and scary. It is the rawest thing I have ever experienced, trying to walk through the world with composure as I carry in my hand the most vulnerable, the most delicate, the most screaming and hysterical and brazen emotion - love for my babies.

I try to smooth out the edges. Try to believe that with a warm, clean house and successful nap times and nutritious meals, this thing, this love, will not upend me or knock me down with its magnificence. How do mothers walk through the world? How do we not take over and make the world what we need it to be for our children? How are we not overwhelmed by the amazing beauty of everything wonderful - mountains and oceans and sunsets and big trees with strong branches, deep midnight skies that would swallow you whole if it weren't for a thousand bright stars, warm sun on your back and a cool breeze against your face, first kisses, first crushes, first loves. How do we contain ourselves in the face of all things terrible that threaten our children? How do we not march ourselves out there, grab all the bad things by the scruff of the neck, and use that rawness to make things right in every way we know how?

As the babies are learning to maneuver through the world, I struggle to keep pace in my learning as a mother. I work to be as gentle and tolerant with myself as I am with them. I try to shake off the fear that I will fail them and walk confidently, knowing that my crazy love is the only guidepost I need.

The babies are starting to let go when they walk. They are so brave. They've never walked before. They don't know what will happen. But they do it again and again. Sometimes they fall. They get up. Again and again. I am inspired.

I will walk confidently. I will hold this amazing love proudly and strongly, and I will trust myself, knowing I am the mother they need.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


We have four frozen embryos.

The leftovers.

The ones that weren't chosen. If the doctors had chosen differently, Rhys or Quin could be neatly preserved in a medical freezer in Boston right now, instead of playing happily on our living room floor.

At first I was thrilled with our four frozen embryos. I felt so lucky - to suddenly be pregnant with twins AND have four more embryos sitting quietly in wait should we need them.

And now the thought sickens me. Haunts me.

My four little embryos. Waiting. With uncertain futures.

I am a card holding member of the National Organization for Women. I will always stand up for, support, and believe in a woman's right to choose. I hate the way pro-lifers make the right to choose about something other than a most basic human right. They make it about "when life begins" and the "rights" of a fetus. Or an embryo.

It's not the pro-lifers who have gotten to me. I don't care what they think about infertility or infertility treatments or frozen embryos. But I have gotten to me. The mother that I have become has gotten to me.

When we chose to freeze them - or back this up even more - when we chose to create them or maybe have them created for us, I understood what we were doing. What I didn't understand was how it feels to be a mother, or the painful pull of the love I would feel for my children.

I feel that painful pull for our embryos.

I let my mind go all of the places that logic tells me not to go. I wonder about the children they might be. Would they coo like Quin? Give big open mouthed kisses like Rhys? Or have their own endearing traits to make me fall helplessly in love? Do they have souls yet? When does that happen, that an embryo, a fetus, a baby grows a soul? Why do I sound like I should be standing outside of an abortion clinic thumping my bible?

We don't know if we want any more children.

And if we do want more children, maybe we would want to see if it could happen without medical intervention this time.

But what about our embryos?

I consider donating them to "the right" couple. And believe almost immediately that I love them too much to chance that. To chance that they wouldn't be loved enough, or that I couldn't live knowing they were out there, mine but not mine.

I consider how selfish it would be to try and have a baby "naturally" when we have four we already started just sitting there waiting for us. I consider what that would say to Rhys and Quin about how they came into this world.

I watch Rhys and Quin play. I listen to them babble together. I look into their big blue eyes and am awed by their simple innocence. Behind the love is a layer of guilt.

Four embryos, waiting.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

And here I talk about poop again.

Holidays, fork-mashed with sweet potatoes and breast milk. Part three.

After the initial incident with the fireflies, our first real away-from-home stint with the babies was a success. An exhausting success, but a success all the same. By the time we were packed up and ready to make the journey back home, I was drooling over the idea of a four hour date with my pillow in the front seat of the car while Kyle drove. We had the babies in clean diapers, cozied up in pajamas and ready to be tucked into their car seats for some quality car-slumber. As we said our goodbyes, Kyle's mom held Quin up and made a face. "I think he pooped."

"Nope," I said, offering an optimistic and perhaps slightly desperate smile. "We just put him in a clean diaper. It's probably gas."

She gave him another sniff. "It's poop."

I took Quin from her, ready to prove the gas theory. I took a deep breath in. It didn't smell like gas. It didn't smell like poop - at least not any baby poop I'd ever been acquainted with. It didn't smell like anything that should be coming out of an innocent and squishy little baby. I sent Kyle to dig the diaper bag out of our warming and packed car, and set Quin down on the floor. Within seconds, one of the dogs ran over to him and started sniffing and licking. It was as I reached down to intervene that I noticed the green soupy seepage coming through the back of his pajamas and making a trail on the floor behind him. I flashed to the image of my soft and warm pillow in the front of the car. I wanted to be there. So tired. So close to making it home without major incident.

I picked Quin up and held him out at arms length in a feeble attempt to remain sludge-free. He swung his legs and cooed. Where the hell was Kyle? Hadn't I sent him for the diaper bag, like, five minutes ago? I looked around the kitchen at Kyle's family. I offered an "I'm totally relaxed right now" smile. Quin cooed and kicked. My arms burned. Where the hell was Kyle? I attempted a casual yell to Kyle's brother who was heading out to pack up his own car: "can you ask Kyle to hurry up? Maybe let him know that Quin has poop running down his legs and all over the place? Maybe remind him that I'm waiting for a diaper?" I offered a totally non-desperate smile. I scanned the room again at the smiling faces of Kyle's family.

When you try to have a baby for years, it's easy to fall into the thinking that when it finally happens, you'd better be damn good at it. Like you have to prove your worthiness. That all your heartache and pain and wanting was well spent because LOOK at those parenting skills that are finally able to be put to use. I try to ignore these thoughts, and in the privacy of my own mind, I usually can. But in front of other people? I am a crazed woman on a mission to prove my worth and competence as a maternal figure.

Holding Quin out at an increasingly weak arm's length, these thoughts took over. Must do something competent! screamed the nagging little voice that had convinced me of fireflies the previous evening. I shot a pleading glance toward the doorway, willing Kyle to walk through. No Kyle. I looked around and weighed my options. Remove the pajamas. Simple. Efficient. Necessary.

I unzipped Quin's pajamas and pulled his arms out. Without his arms to hold them up, his poop-laden pj's slid off his legs and landed on the floor in a squishy, sopping heap. Poop splattered on the floor. It splattered the cabinets next to us. It splattered the wall in front of us. It ran off his legs and landed in heavy wet plops below. The room started to spin. Must look competent. Do something! Do something! More plops. I saw the smiling and expectant faces of Kyle's family. More plops. As if the heavens had opened in a festive holiday poop storm. Do something! I shot a last desperate look to the door, and there was Kyle. His eyes wide, taking in the scene. Me, standing in the middle of the kitchen, holding our now mostly-naked-save-for-the-copiously-poop-filled-diaper baby out at arms length, a puddle of mushy poop below us, totally frozen. Seconds passed, our gazes locked. Plop, plop, plop.

"I DON'T KNOW WHAT TO DO!!!" The words burst out of me, louder and harsher than I'd probably have chosen if I'd had any warning that I was about to speak. And without warning I repeated it. "I DON'T KNOW WHAT TO DO!!!"

And then time started again. Kyle's sister came to me and gently ushered us into the bathroom. We got Quin washed up, re-diapered, into clean pajamas. The asshole in my head kept us company the whole way.

Into the bathroom. You bring a poop-covered child into the bathroom. Bathrooms have water and soap.

Kitchens are a bad place for poop.

Weren't you the one who wanted babies more than anything in the world? You, who doesn't know how to handle a poopy diaper?

Nicely played. Way to show that you're a natural.

And so on and so forth. We said our goodbyes. I attempted some casual laughter and smiled and offered seventeen feeble apologies for the poop-covered kitchen.

We drove home. I drifted in and out of sleep, stewing in my mortification and carrying on quite the internal dialogue.

Nobody noticed.

Are you kidding? Everyone noticed!

This sort of thing happens all the time.

No. No it doesn't.

You're a new mom. Of twins!

And you did a bang-up job of demonstrating your motherly prowess.

And so on and so forth.

I later learned that as a last show of competence, we accidentally left the poop covered pajamas sitting in a mushy bundle on the floor, leading to Kyle's sister having to wash the pajamas and Kyle's mother having to transport them back home for us. Which I believe kind of seals the deal on everyone remembering this for a very long time.

Monday, January 4, 2010


Holidays, fork-mashed with sweet potatoes and breast milk. Part two.

In my first holiday season as a mother, I decided I would sail through in a completely stress-less state, laughing and snickering at the ease of it all in a most festive holiday spirit. My strategy involved completing 98% of our Christmas shopping in one morning online, and cramming 98% of our holiday erranding into three insane days of babies-in-tow mayhem.

By day three of our festive erranding, my state of stress-less-ness was hanging by a very wispy little thread. Despite the seventeen degree weather and whipping wind, in and out of the car went the babies and I - unbuckling car seats, hoisting babies onto hips, using my feet to open doors and enter buildings, and maneuvering my wallet with my one free pinky finger before re-buckling car seats, tightening the straps, and heading to the next stop.

It was at our third-to-last stop where things started to get hairy. First was the fact that the store I chose to complete our shopping in did not have shopping carts as I'd hoped, leading to an unusual shopping experience that entailed wearing one baby on my front and holding the other on my hip, using my one free arm to shop, select, pay, and be done with it. And then there was the issue of the babies requiring nourishment. I had planned ahead and brought bottles of pumped milk to give the babies so I wouldn't have to tandem nurse in public. I was feeling quite satisfied with my forethought as I leaned into the backseat of the car with their bottles. It took me about four seconds to notice a bizarre, rotten cheese sort of smell. Almost like rotten milk. Rotten milk. Shit. I took the bottles away. The babies started to scream.

I got into the driver's seat, turned the key, and weighed my options as I drove to the next stop. All I had left to do was purchase a bottle of rum and go grocery shopping. On the plus side, the liquor and grocery stores were in the same mini-mall. On the negative side, that meant at least another two hours before we'd be home. And two babies screaming in the back seat, scorned by a mother who first fed them rotten milk and then had the gall to steal it away. I pulled into the parking lot and the babies' continued screaming made my decision for me: boobs. Lots and lots of boobs.

Getting the babies out of their seats and into the front of the car was challenging. Even more challenging was getting the three of us settled into the driver's seat, removing the babies' hats, mittens, and jackets, using my feet to kick the keys out of the ignition, and then not dropping the babies onto the floor as I pushed the seat back as far as it would go, unzipped my coat, and inched up my shirt in the most discreet parking-lot fashion I could muster. Keeping an eye out for overly curious cart-collection boys, I fed the babies, and all was well. Time to buy that rum, get those groceries, and get the hell home.

Except. I now had two babies in the front seat. Both needing to be re-bundled for the cold, both needing to somehow be carefully carried into the store, and me feeling perplexed about how to accomplish anything other than sit there and wait for a second set of arms and hands to sprout from my body. But I did it. I used my knees, my feet, my elbows, and my teeth. By the time I emerged into the parking lot, my car safely locked, both babies carefully bundled, Rhys happily on my front and Quin in the front of our cart, I felt really damn proud. Okay, so maybe Quin was precariously balanced in the cart because I couldn't get the seat belt to buckle and it was just too damn cold to mess with it any longer, but I had a death grip on him and we were on our way into the liquor store where I planned to buckle him in for real.

As we crossed the parking lot, I noticed an old woman break from her hurried path to bolt in my direction, yelling. I couldn't hear her at first, her voice lost in the wind. As she got closer, her shrill advice slapped me in the face. "YOU NEED TO BUNDLE YOUR BABIES!!!"


Perhaps it was a beautiful display of motherly decorum that led me straight into that liquor store without another glance in her direction. Perhaps it was my complete inability to think of an appropriately feisty response.

And so just in case it was the latter, let me take a minute to respond now.

Because I kind of think I've got this thing down.

Because not only were my children both wearing wool hats and mittens, not only were they wearing fleece lined pants and warm jackets, not only was I wearing one of them snugly on my chest and holding on to the other with every cell and muscle in my body, not only had I just whipped out my naked breasts in front of the entire parking lot to feed them, not only that, but have I spent my entire life waiting to love them and mother them. And maybe I'm not quite as perfect as I'd hoped to be, or wanted to be. Perhaps I am a bit sleep deprived and perhaps I have days where I NEED A BREAK. I am still doing the best that I can and have finally realized that I am a competent and fairly good mother to these two perfect babies. And I get it, parking lot lady. It breaks my heart and tears at my soul but I get it. I realize that as much as I love them and try to hold on to every bit of them and every second of every day, I know that life will go on and moments will pass by and sometimes it will be seventeen degrees and we will still have to leave the house and the wind might bite their sweet little noses and make them cold and I get it! I get it! I cannot always keep them warm enough. No matter how hard I try, life or the weather or some shrill stranger will butt in. And so I'm just doing the best that I can. In spite of life, in spite of the weather. And that is why being a mother is hard. Really fucking hard, parking lot lady. It is wonderful, and break-your-heart beautiful, and really, really hard.

My babies are bundled, parking lot lady. Bundled, and bundled, and bundled.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

bed bugs.

Holidays, fork-mashed with sweet potatoes and breast milk. Part three.

So we've kind of spent the last eleven months staying within a 90 minute radius of our house, since eventually somebody is going to poop or need a nap or a boob, and that 90 minute radius just seems safe. We knew it couldn't last forever.

The week before Christmas we made the trek North to visit Kyle's family. We made the genius maneuver of travelling at night, starting off just before the babies' bedtime so that they would be none the wiser, travelling in sweet peaceful dreams while Kyle and I played twenty questions. Well, while Kyle drove and I slept. We were a bit perplexed to find our strategy successful.

We arrived at Kyle's sister's house, set up the babies' beds, and after a brief nursing, settled them down for the night. Cake. Maybe travelling wouldn't be the end of the world.

Quin has a habit of waking up for a midnight snack three hours too late, and despite our unfamiliar surroundings, he stuck to this routine during our visit. I picked him up and brought him into bed to nurse him back to sleep, begging for just a little cooperation. I was just settling into bed with him when I noticed a flash of light near his foot. Odd. I chalked it up to nothing more than a harmless little hallucination and continued about our business. Another flash, and then another. My mind raced to put the pieces together - a flashing, glowing foot? I settled on the only solution slightly logical: a firefly. Not being one for insects, I threw a hard elbow in Kyle's direction.

"Get up! Get up! Quin has a firefly in the foot of his pajamas and it is biting him! It is flashing and burning his foot. Get up! Get it out! I'm not putting my hand in there, it's going to be crunchy!"

And from Kyle: "???"

"Hurry! It's flashing and biting him!" I ripped open the leg of Quin's pajamas, pulled his foot out, and instructed Kyle once again. "I am not putting my hand in there. It's going to be crunchy!"

I believe he sighed. I believe he rolled his eyes. I suppose the past eleven months have also taught him enough about the level of crazy I can become on little to no sleep. He reached his hand in. "There's nothing in there. You do know it's December, right?"

"Kyle. It was flashing. I saw it. I SAW it. Your fingers are just too fat. Feel again. I don't want to touch that crunchy bug."

Repeat the sigh. Repeat the eye rolling. Repeat the pajama-foot-sweep.

"April. There is no firefly."

Exasperated and contemplating the victorious scorn I would shoot in his direction upon proving my right-ness and accompanying lack of insanity, I shoved my own hand into the pajama-foot. I braced for the crunch.


I swept again. Nothing. My next sweep was frantic. Nothing.

My heart raced. Is this how it ends for me? At Kyle's sister's house, away from home? This is where I will finally lose it? This is where the men in white jackets will come and take me away? This is where the real world and the world of pink elephants and phantom fireflies come to haunt me and then disappear when I run to prove myself?

I put Quin's little foot back into his pajamas. I re-closed the snaps. Spark. Flash.

The messy swirling in my brain stopped. The dust settled. Sunlight and moonbeams shone on reason.

Static. Just static.

"Oh." I tried a sheepish giggle. "I guess it's really dry in here."

Kyle was already asleep. I nudged another elbow in his direction.

"Pssst. It was just static! I'm not crazy! Static!"

"Uh huh. Night."

You really never can be too safe.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

The one with the gorgeous chin.

Holidays, fork-mashed with sweet potatoes and breast milk. Part one.

I have a loose and unwritten rule that aside from Kyle and the babies, I don't blog about friends and family in a direct manner. Sure, they pop up as bystanders in certain posts, but for the most part, I leave well enough alone. Because.

Loose and unwritten rules, however, beg to be broken. So really, it's been a matter of waiting for the right occasion. I'm not sure I can think of any better occasion than one that takes high expectations, joy, anticipation, alcohol, copious amounts of food, stress, and goodwill toward all - stuffs them together in a cramped and overly warm living room, throws on some decorations, and presses play on Silent Night. If David Sedaris serves up his holidays on ice, I suppose this year I served ours not on ice, but fork-mashed, with sweet potatoes and breast milk.


A week before Christmas, my parents were at my house helping me get ready for a big family dinner to celebrate my sister's arrival from the West Coast. While my mother and I cooked ridiculous amounts of food, my father played with the babies. Holding Rhys, he commented how much Rhys looks like Kyle. "Actually," I told him, "lately I think he looks a lot like I did as a baby." He looked at Rhys and then back at me. "You know, I can kind of see it. He definitely has your chin." My chin, I thought. "I didn't realize my chin was all that distinctive." I stopped chopping vegetables for a moment to consider this new piece of information. Am I known for my chin? When describing me, do people say, "ahhh, yes, April. The one with the gorgeous chin." And what is it about my chin that makes it so distinctive? Its graceful curve? Softly jutting point? "Well," I asked, "what about my chin? In what way does he have my chin?"

My father blushed a little. He rarely blushes. He cleared his throat. Made a little cough. "You know. Your..." and then he made a little waving motion in front of his neck. "No." I said, perhaps a bit pointedly. "I don't know." And so he waved his hand again. A neck to chin and chin to neck sort of wave.

"Are you saying I have a double chin?"

He shrugged a little and grinned sheepishly. "Well yeah."

Don't be alarmed if you just heard a loud crash. It was nothing more than my illusions of a graceful chin shattering on the floor.

"I do NOT have a double chin! And neither does Rhys!"

"Well," he said, "his is just baby fat."

My father is a kind and loving man. A bit generous with his honest opinions, perhaps, but kind and loving. And so I chose my response carefully.

"You" I exclaimed, jutting my chin out ever so subtly "just earned yourself a spot on my blog."

And so here we are.

I'm sorry. Were you having a hard time reading this? Was my enormous double chin blocking your view?

Oh, and happy holidays. From Kyle, the babies, me, and my grotesquely fat chin.