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Those Women

Don’t you admire those women, the ones who have their shiz together? The ones who open their purses without ritz cracker crumbs falling out; the ones who walk down cobblestone streets without scuffing their boots; the ones who wear classy pendants, not peanut butter fingerprints, around their necks.

The ones who have never, ever, run to catch a bus.

Maybe they were born that way, maybe they weren’t; maybe they’re mothers and maybe their not. Maybe their lives are ridiculously easy, maybe they live a secret hell—I couldn’t say; I’ve never dared to ask one.

But I love to watch them. There are so many here. It’s not a peasant thing, no French revolution brewing, nothing unjust in their perfection. I don’t hate, resent, or even envy those women. I just appreciate, admire.

I don’t aspire, not at all, because the truth is, even if I had all the money, help, and time in the world, I still wouldn’t be put together.  I’d love to blame my children for making me decidedly less sexy, but the truth is, I was never a kitten to begin with. Before the kids, there was the art—years and years, and finally a degree, in art, which means I dressed like a dockworker, one doused in smelly paints and chemicals, for quite a lot of my life. Hot.

I have, in fleeting moments, thought that with enough effort, I could become one of those women. Then I would sober up and realize that was never going to happen—that poise, supreme organization, and style aren’t things you can just pick up like knitting. They require commitment, determination, and probably better genes than I possess. This used to bum me out, but now I think it’s kind of a relief—being put together looks exhausting. It’s something best left to the experts. I’ll spend my energies elsewhere.

But still sigh with admiration whenever I see them, like I do for Olympic athletes and Nobel Prize winners. Rock on, perfect sisters, rock on.

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I can hardly believe, or handle, the fact that my babies will soon be turning 2. On Valentines Day.

I’ve been thinking about their birth lately. It was all so complicated, dramatic. There were airplanes and ambulances, teams of specialists, hospital stays spanning weeks and weeks, and parrots. Yes, parrots. I’ll get to those later 😉

I’m afraid I’ll forget something important if I don’t write it all down, yet I haven’t until now because I get so emotional. But I think I’m ready now; I want to try.

It all started with my OBGYN pacing nervously in the hallway outside my hospital room. I’d seen him most every week of my pregnancy, and he was always unfailingly kind, reassuringly serene. Never like this, so burdened. So very worried. I was only 27 weeks.

When I first moved to this island, about a month pregnant, people told me 2 things: 1, it is very difficult to get a doctor here because there are not enough, and 2, the doctors that are here aren’t very good. The former is true, the latter could not be further from truth. I’d like to say right up front that while I have lived in big cities and seen fancy physicians in very high ranking hospitals, I have never in my life met such smart, compassionate, dedicated professionals as the doctors on this island. My OBGYN, the one pacing outside my hospital room, is the best doctor I’ve ever had.

He finally came inside. “I have to send you away.” he said. Another island, with bigger hospitals, NICUs. He paused, pressing his fingers together like a fan. “We can handle you here… but not the babies.”

The next thing I remember is hearing the rain above me, resonating like a tuning fork on the roof of the medevac airplane. I am strapped to a gurney. A crew of medics sits around me, all men, along with my husband and the pilot. No females but for me, and the twin girls in my womb. The men are cheerful. They try to convey calm, routine. I am panicky, and desperate to pee. They offer me a bedpan if I “really, really need it.” Their eyes plead with me not to need it. This makes me smile for the first time in hours.

They wisely separate my husband and I before we can whip each other into a frenzy; seat him next to the pilot. The man next to me asks questions, trying to distract me from my worry. His voice is so pleasant and upbeat, like we are sitting in a hot tub, not rattling around in a tiny plane, with only the turquoise Pacific below. I stop him. “We’re almost there, right? We’ll make it, won’t we?” He opens his mouth to answer, but is cut off by my husband’s joyful declaration, “Hey look, there’s Maui!”

We land, and they carry me  to another ambulance, then another hospital room. In my new hospital bed they tell me I have severe preeclampsia, that I won’t be going anywhere, least of all back to my island, my home. They say the only cure is to deliver the babies, but they are still too young. They start to manage my condition with medication; tell me to sit tight, hold on as long as possible. The longer I can hold out, the better it will be for my girls. The weeks go by and I am cranky, tired. They draw my blood most every day; wake me at 5am to weigh me. I have so much time on my hands to worry about what the preeclampsia is doing to my babies. I can’t bear to think about it. Instead I gather petty grievances in my mind. How could they have forgotten to bring my snack? Everyone knows I have crackers at 3. I’ll starve! How could they have only given me one towel for the shower instead of 2? One towel can’t fit around my huge pregnant belly!

Then one day they tell me it’s time. 33 weeks. It’s no longer safe to wait. The delivery room is a blur. The pressure on my chest, the anesthesiologist holding a pink plastic container beside my face to catch the vomit. Him wiping my mouth. Seeing the girls for only a second before they are whisked away, my husband hot in pursuit. I beg to be taken to the NICU to see my babies. They tell me no; calmly list the reasons for their refusal: my blood pressure is too high, the epidural hasn’t worn off yet, I wouldn’t be able to get into a wheelchair, it’s against hospital policy. I will have to wait until tomorrow, they say. I raise holy hell until they gave in. Somehow I get there, lean over Maddie’s isolette from my wheelchair. She has a breathing mask on. There is a nurse bending down to talk to me. She is in her forties, thin, blond hair, pretty smile. She is speaking softly, smiling, encouraging. She keeps talking but I black out, can’t stop blacking out. There is this searing, burning, horrible pain in my abdomen. I don’t think I said a word back to her, and that’s a shame. She was being so kind. I stare at Maddie’s mask and think “don’t faint, don’t faint, don’t faint.”

A day later I meet with one of the girls’ doctors. She has heard about my holy hell raising and tells me a story about another patient, a homeless woman who had given birth to a preemie. They put her in a recovery room after her
C-section. She had no friends or family with her. After they left her alone she somehow managed to drag herself to the hallway, pull up into a wheelchair, and push it all the way to the NICU. I can’t even imagine it. It’s a long, long way to the NICU. To fight through all that pain, that unbelievable pain, alone. That’s bravery. That’s love. I could never be so brave. A woman like that should give us all pause. A woman like that deserves a home.

I think about the NICU all the time, but always feel hesitant to talk about it- like it’s AA or fight club or something, and I should keep my damn mouth shut. Pretend I don’t see those babies in my mind, those 15 oz babies, heads the size of a heel. Pretend I don’t feel guilt over them, sometimes, watching my girls play, pretend I don’t sometimes haunt micropreemie blogs, wondering what became of them. I’ll be the first to admit I’m a crappy philosopher, so normally I don’t even try- but you can’t look at a 15 oz baby and not ask yourself questions about life. How do we fit a life, a mind, a soul, in 15 ounces? Some people say we can’t. They’re wrong. They’re dead wrong, based on what I’ve seen.

Of course, I didn’t think so much about everyone else’s babies in those early days, I was so worried about my own. The next Neonatologist I spoke to about my girls was not nearly so nice as the first, or rather, much less so than he was prior to the birth. He stands there, barking at me, “We’re not going to feed Lily until you produce some milk.” WHAT? You’re not going to feed my 3lb 2 oz baby? My mouth drops open. I try not to burst into tears. Or punch him in the mouth. My hormones were raging and I want to do both. “We want her first food to be breast milk,” he explains. His voice sounds annoyed, exasperated. “Can’t you just get 2 ccs?”

Now I really want to punch him in the mouth. And also tell him to squeeze 2 ccs out of his own nipples; maybe he’d have more luck than I was having. It had been less than 48 hours since the C-section, and I had been told to pump every 3 hrs. I pumped every 2, but still my body hadn’t figured out it had given birth. My ankles were the size of tree trunks, swollen with fluid. My incision stung. I shook with exhaustion. I thought he was being a real A-hole. What exactly did he think I’d been doing the previous day and a half? Sitting around drinking milkshakes, admiring the flock of parrots in the tree outside my window? Okay, that’s exactly what I was doing when he came to my hospital room to answer my questions prior to the birth. Back when he was nice to me. But since the birth I’d pumped my damn heart out. Why wasn’t he giving me any credit?

The next day he sent a lactation consultant to my room with the stern words “Don’t leave until you’ve gotten some milk out of her.” She laughed. “Those men,” she whispered conspiratorially to me. “They think it’s like flipping a switch!” She was one of the nicest women I’ve ever met. She showed me what I was doing wrong, rubbed my back, and told me not to worry, the milk would come. And it did. The milk came and it did wonders for my babies. Healed them, comforted them, made them grow.

Then it was time to leave. Time to return to our island. I don’t think I realized until after I passed through the heavy double doors of the NICU for the last time, the lesson I’d been taught. Riding to the airport in our rental car, thinking about my beautiful, healthy baby girls, riding in their carseats behind me, a month before nearly all babies their age had even been born. I thought about all that had happened the previous 8 weeks. About my kind, worried OB, pacing the hallway, and the words that he said. I thought of that homeless woman. I wondered again how she managed to endure such pain in those long, long corridors. Then I knew how. She wasn’t thinking of herself at all; she was thinking of her baby. It wasn’t about her, just as… it wasn’t about me. If it were, my OB would never have paced those halls. I would never have been carried onto that plane, never sat in that hospital for 6 long weeks, never had my feelings hurt by a Neonatologist who was just doing his job. No, he wasn’t just doing his job; he was doing it bloody well.

Boarding that plane, flying back to my island, I realized 2 things: that it would never be about me again, and that it is an astonishing  blessing to leave with your hands full. More than full.

All Mothers of Multiples know that part of our job description is dealing with people who feel compelled to call us out on having multiples. Some of these strangers are nice, many are well- meaning, a few are quite obnoxious, and some are downright crazy. As the only Mother of Multiples on this island (that I know of) I thought I’d seen it all…

Turns out I hadn’t. I recently met the craziest, most offensive old hag on the planet. I knew from the get go she was trouble, smelled the crazy on her and would have gone out of my way to avoid her, but she outsmarted me- jumped through the elevator doors as they were closing. At a resort. We were having a mini getaway thanks to a killer hotwire deal. It was 10am, and my husband and I were returning to our room after a refreshing dip in the pool, to put the girls down for a nap. Suddenly BAM! There she was. A woman well into the grandma years, wearing a string bikini. Serious breech of resort etiquette. One wears a cover up in the hotel. Always. Sometimes newlyweds like to wander around the resort in their hotel bathrobes, bless their little hearts, but that’s as informal as it gets. By all means let it all hang out at the beach, but no one wants your bits in their face inside a cramped elevator.

The second the doors close, old elephant skin starts yapping away, asking if the bar is open. We say we don’t know. Its 10am, were holding babies, we’re that last people who’d know bar hours. She says she’s dying for a Coors. Goes on to explain the differences in the price of Coors at the various resort bars. Coors, Coors, Coors, yap yap yap. Who is this woman? She’s got this resort thing all wrong. Champagne with breakfast? Bien sur. Mojito with lunch? Muy bien. Pimms and lemonade in late afternoon? Capital! Coors at 10am? Hell to the no.

Just when I’m starting to think that this is the longest elevator ride I’ve ever been on, it gets worse. The alarm goes off. The elevator stops. I full out panic. I CANNOT stand another moment with this woman. The elevator starts again. The hag blames Mumu, accuses her of hitting the alarm button. Probably true, but not polite to say so, and I hit the button for the next floor, knowing this woman is going to a higher floor, just to get the hell away from her. My plan is thwarted. She actually follows us off elevator, and waits with us for the next one. Gets off on our floor, and follows us. I know she’s following us, because I deliberately take a detour to a side lobby/sitting area, and she follows us in. She points to Lulu, whom my husband holding, and asks him if “That’s a girl too.” He says yes, and the crazy old hag seizes my arm and lets out a huge sigh. Then she gives me this deep, pitying look and says, “Well, I guess those are the breaks, huh?” Say WHAT???

I’m too stunned to answer, and in my silence, she follows up with “8 papaya seeds.” I don’t respond, because she’s obviously lost her mind, and she grabs my arm again, saying ever louder, “8 PAPAYA SEEDS! NOT NINE, EIGHT. Take them every night. Best birth control in the world.” Then she pats my hand. I totally want to punch her in the mouth. Yeah, why don’t I just eat 30 papaya seeds and sterilize myself so god forbid I don’t have any more beautiful, wonderful, incredibly sweet baby girls? Crazy, skanky old ho.

So I’m steamed about this conversation for a few minutes, walking back to our room. Then, I’m oddly grateful. It occurs to me that this woman was bothering us because she was all alone. All alone and desperate to drink. Based on our conversation, I don’t think she had any children of her own (those papaya seeds served her well). I pity her, because when I’m her age, if I play my cards right, I’ll have two smart, happy, well-adjusted adult daughters who will pat my hand and say “Mom, we love you… but you are way too old to wear that bikini.” That is, if I suffer from dementia and convince myself that I could, at any age, pull one off. And a husband to pour me a morning mimosa, and walk with me on the beach. So thank you crazy old hag, wherever you are. Its always good to be reminded how lucky we are.

 

tw1001

In the words of Bono, “desperation is a tender trap,” or harness, as the case may be. There you have it ladies. A little device to tell the world that you have given up trying to manage your multiples. Well if you’re going to go there, I say go whole hog. Hook those babies up to a sled and brush up on Inuit dog commands. Rig up a cable  in the backyard and clip em on. If you don’t have a cable, just tie your twins to a tree and try to keep the cat from provoking them.

If you’re of a greener persuasion, why not have them power the backyard wind turbine on a windless day, or better yet, attach a yoke to them and they can plow the fields. Gotta harness the power of your twins!

All these options are available to you for the bargain price of 21.99 sterling, 29.99 for the triplet version.  Yes, there is a triplet version and I am dying to see it.   The “Twin and Triplet By My Side Harness Reins” retails in the UK, where the public is completely devoted to free range chickens but not so much free range babies. They take the short leash thing literally over there.

The harnesses come in a wide and curious array of colors including “butter cup” “mystic purple” and “smokie blue,” where smoky is spelled with an ie for unknown reasons.  I’m not sure if they ship to the US of A, but if not, just raid your local pet store.

My husband has been gone a mere 3 days, and already I am half blind and in desperate need of one of those Styrofoam neck braces. Oh, and I have a huge egg on my forehead. I turn 30 next week. I don’t think I’m going to make it.

The crazy thing is: mentally, I’m fine. But physically, the girls have literally kicked my ass. The eye thing is really annoying, especially since I don’t know how it happened. The babies are always poking, clawing, pulling on me (the necklines of my t-shirts are at my belly button) so I’m sure that’s how the eye was injured, and it was probably Mumu – she always goes for the eyes. I just have no recollection of that particular poke. The result of the dirty baby finger going where it doesn’t belong is a very red, sore, constantly streaming right eye. I’m squinting with one eye as I type this, the other clamped shut. I’m officially Pirate Mommy. Aggrrr me hearties, the scallywags’ done it again!

My twin shoulder has migrated upward to become twin neck. If I turn my head to look over my shoulder I have an overwhelming urge to scream obscenities, it hurts so flippin much. Also my head aches because I accidentally whacked it on the corner of the windowsill in the nursery while I tried to simultaneously unplug the brookstone baby lullaby maker (if I don’t unplug they suck the end of the cord) and balance Lulu on my knee. The end result : a big egg on the forehead and a constant state of befuddlement. Lulu and Mumu have undoubtedly sensed my new frailties and seek to exploit them. With only half my vision, a head injury, and no use of my neck, I have become much slower to see/catch on to naughty baby behavior. I have been spending my days picking bird poop, clumps of grass, mud, and my personal favorite, a caterpillar cocoon, out of the girls mouths. I need to procure a parrot for my shoulder as soon as possible to compensate for the lack of peripheral, back, and right side vision, as well as the obvious diminished mental capacity. But for now, I just need to survive…

Yes, its true. The “Baby Ruth” incident cometh, brought on by my very own twinnies. It was broughtin’. Someday they will murder me for blogging about it, but for now, I’m singin like a canary. Tweet freakin’ tweet.

Thank God it happened at home. We did not cause a public health scare; for that I am grateful. And if I’m honest, I am in large part to blame. I over-sudzed the bath. California Baby “I Love You” bubble bath smells so dang good. Well. I didn’t love what was going on under the bubbles, let me tell ya.

The first clue was when Jungledad plucked up a little orb he saw peeking through the bubbles. He said “Hmm, what’s this?” then squished it between his fingers and took a whiff. I can’t even describe the intensity of the look of horror and repulsion that came over his face.

I brushed the bubbles aside with my arm, and will need years of therapy for what I saw. Not 1, not 2, but an entire sea of turd guppies confronted me. I am not exaggerating here. This was a goddam log drive, and they were laughing at me, bobbing up and down in the water and playing Marco Polo.

Why is it that when you become a mother no one warns you that you may have to spend Friday night netting a school of dungfish out of your own bathtub?

My 100th Post!

It’s my 100th post boys and girls, and this one’s going out to Mark Twain. In a roundabout way, I have the twinnies to thank for that. They’ve been keeping us so dang busy we haven’t had time to read all the New Yorkers that have been piling up on our bookshelves- until now. We made a deal not to renew our recently expired subscription until we read said back issues, and I have to say, its been an unexpected pleasure. Without more piling up, I’ve been able to savor the issues I have left, and one of the yummiest things I’ve read recently is Mark Twain’s essay The Privilege of the Grave, from the December 22nd issue.

I’ve long felt the world is a fickle pickle where no one gets to speak their mind. Say the wrong thing, they don’t love you anymore. Say the right thing at the wrong time – same dealio. Mark Twain’s essay addresses this (with far more wit I might add!) when he says that free speech is a privilege only the dead can enjoy. They can’t be punished for it. For those living, he equates free speech with murder :

As an active privilege, it ranks with the privilege of committing murder: we may exercise it if we are willing to take the consequences. Murder is forbidden both in form and in fact; free speech is granted in form but forbidden in fact. By the common estimate both are crimes, and are held in deep odium by all civilized peoples. Murder is sometimes punished, free speech always- when committed. Which is seldom. There are not fewer than five thousand murders to one (unpopular) free utterance.

After several more clever paragraphs, Twain basically concludes that we should all write down our true beliefs in diaries, so that when we’re dead, people will finally know what we’re all about. But I’ve found a shortcut….

BLOGS!

If Mark Twain were alive today, I suspect he’d have at least a dozen anonymous blogs where he could talk smack to his heart’s content without fear of reprisal. His essay has made me realize that I’m not talking nearly enough smack. I’m anonymous (mostly). I should let rip. But I don’t. Much. I can only think of a few entries out of my 100 where true smack talking has been featured. Prius Driving Rich People Diapers are Poop and Dangling Babies over Dobermans come to mind, along with my recent entries about the local Mother’s Group that both confuses and terrifies me on a regular basis, but really, out of a hundred, that ain’t much. I need to work on that.

So let’s see….

Okay, got one! I don’t understand this whole home birth phenomenon, I really don’t. I think its cuckoo for coco puffs. I personally know (not blog know) 2 women who have given birth in the last few years, having both had the kind of uneventful, complication-free pregnancy I can only dream about, who almost died in the process. Loads of bleeding, loads of transfusing, priests were called- that kind of deal. Why on earth someone would want to forgo doctors and life-saving equipment?

On a lighter note, I did once ask a home birth Mom why she felt home births were the way to go, and her answer was….well, priceless. She said:

“Because I labored in my own bed, and I got up in the middle of it and made myself toast.”

Oh, TOAST!!! Nobody mentioned toast! NOW I see!