About Me

My photo
Learning and trying to be kind and living my life as fully as I can stand it.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Working hard

At the end of most days, I am absolutely whipped. My body is sore and all I want to do is sit down on the couch and watch TV. I'm tired of being needed. This is nothing new--I've heard parents, mostly mothers but that's who I tend to talk to or read, say similar things.

I think I complain a lot. I hope I don't whine--one of my kids has been whining pretty much non-stop through the past couple days because of teething pain--and I seriously can not stand whining. It's like something scrape, scrape, scraping away at a tender, irritated spot. Constant. Low-frequency. Argh.

I don't mean to complain--I feel grateful for the chance to stay home with my kids and spend the days with them. I'm glad my husband works and can support our family so that rather than go into an office, I can be with my babies, watch them grow, help them learn. To me it doesn't feel like a complaint; I'm not asking anyone to solve a problem for me. I just need to say it out loud.

"This is so hard."

Raising twins is hard ass work. What do I compare it to? And really, how does "hard work" get defined? Who gets to define it?

My husband is one of the hardest working people I know. He rarely stops. He works hard at the office and is very conscientious about taking time off. He makes sure to put in the right amount of hours, even though no one is looking over his shoulder questioning him. He fixes things around the house--especially now that we're in a new house with an ever-growing list of broken things. He'll work on a project hours in a row without stopping or complaining, go to sleep for the night and then go to the office where he works all day. Then he comes home and picks up right where he left off, working until it's done. He also cooks and cleans. The man does a lot.

I take lots of breaks. Even when I'm not pregnant, I work in fits and starts. Sitting down, zoning out by scrolling through my phone. I'll start a project and then walk away, pick up something else, watch a TV show, write a letter. I was the same when I worked 9-5; I'd beat myself up about being lazy, not getting enough done in a day--and then the next week I'd hit my stride and work without noticing the time passing, feeling the ideas flow and producing work I was proud of. After years as a student and then years as an employee I was finally starting to just own it. Accept it. This is how I work. My work is good. I work hard. Not all the time, but a lot of the time. It's o.k.

And that's the thing. No one has ever told me I wasn't working hard enough. I told myself that. The voice in my head that almost never shuts up would (and still does) constantly kick my ass, shaming me for not doing more.

"You shouldn't sit down and watch TV. There are a million other more worth-while things you should be doing."

"When are you actually going to sit down and write something?"

"If you spent 15 minutes a day picking up around the house, the place would not be such a mess and you'd like it more."

"You need to start that project NOW."

We moved into a new house three weeks ago. My husband has been working quite literally around the clock to get us moved. He's the kind of guy who likes to do things on his own rather than ask for help or wait around for someone else to show up. Actually, I'm that kind of guy too. This is probably why God and the Universe are sending us two sets of twins a year apart--to bash us over our collective heads until we bow down and admit that we need help. We talk about it but I can't say we've made much progress yet.

So in these three weeks, he's been moving, cleaning, fixing, making trips to Home Depot, finding tenants for the old house. I've been taking care of babies. Not quite around the clock but pretty damn close. We talked about it in the beginning and I agreed that my main contribution to this move would be childcare because I'm not lifting much these days and because someone needs to watch the kiddos. The reality of it has been completely draining. I wake up with them, I spend all day with them, I put them to bed. By the end of the day I am just toast. Throughout the day I make plans of what I will do in the evening--work on a project so I can earn some money, put things away in our new bedroom so we can eventually sleep in it, write a thank-you note. I cook dinner and clean up afterwards. I do some laundry. And then it is over. Couch time. Dead time.

But in that dead time that voice has been kicking my ass. Telling me I'm not working hard enough. I should be doing more. My husband worked in the office all day and he's out back fixing the water heater--what am I doing?

Even though many of my friends tell me:

"What you're doing is hard. So hard."

My parents tell me:

"You guys need to find childcare. You need help."

I tell me:

"You are doing a lot. You need to rest. You need to take care of those babies inside and help them stay in as long as they can."

It hasn't been enough. I haven't felt like enough. Even as I've sat aching and drained, patience gone, mind fuzzy. Even as I've felt the other voice inside me, the one that's kept me so healthy these past thirteen years since getting a liver transplant, that voice telling me:

"Rest. You need rest. You are pushing too hard. Enough."

I haven't been listening. I got sick last weekend and I was so sad and mad. I hardly ever get sick, despite being immunosuppressed. I know how to take care of myself. True, it didn't help having two little people coughing directly into my face and rubbing snot in my mouth. I've generally avoided those things in the past order to keep myself healthy. And because those things are gross. But I also felt myself getting run down and I didn't rest enough because it didn't feel okay to do. I realized I was waiting for my husband to tell me I was doing enough, that we were even.

Last week it occurred to me that I get to define hard work for myself and rest when I need to. I use outside measuring sticks--either people telling me I'm working too hard or observing people working harder than I am and feeling like I come up short. This is decidedly bullshit and needs to stop.

So I'm working on it. I'm off to sit on the couch, feeling pretty damn accomplished for getting these words on a page after taking care of two teething babies all day.

Sunday, March 30, 2014


It's 10:20 Sunday morning and the house is quiet except for the sounds of the white noise machine raining in the babies' room. I feel like I've been awake for half a day already. I put them down for a nap and tip-toed out out of the house, off to Peet's to get some coffee and breathe on my own for a few minutes. My husband and I keep different hours, more so lately. He is up until very late, fixing the many broken things in our new house, putting away boxes of random stuff that we carted (well, he carted) from the old house to the new. He likes to sleep in as late as he can. I get up with the kids usually between six and seven and try to be in bed by ten so the feeling of being shot from a cannon directly into the center ring of a circus isn't quite so difficult in the mornings. I've never been a sleeper-inner. It usually doesn't take me long to snap into the day, awake and alert. It's different with babies because I go from asleep to being very needed and very not in control. Since they were born I've often thought of waking up earlier to give myself some "me" time--to write or to meditate, or realistically to check Facebook and read blogs. The few times I've set the alarm it's gone off and I've groggily debated getting up, only to sink back into sweet warm blankets, choosing to spend my "me" time asleep.

Time is funny. I sneaked out of the house and drove the mile to Peet's, driving around the block first to re-trace the steps we took with the stroller and the dog, searching for the soft, little brown shoe that fell off somewhere during our walk this morning. Found it. Drove on, feeling how different it feels to be alone in a car. Different even than driving with sleeping babies in the car. The quiet is different.

Everything feels different on my own. I can park wherever I want, not thinking about loading two babies into the double-stroller or trying to carry two carriers inside. It doesn't matter how long the line is. I can look around, eaves-drop or space out without paying attention to the two little people with me. It's stolen time and it's sharp and sweet.

I got my latte in a ceramic cup and scored a table. I sat down to write an anniversary card to my husband
--43 months together. The anniversary of our first date, when we shyly met outside a sushi restaurant after exchanging some promising emails. Three years and seven months.

Met in 2010
Engaged in 2011
Married in 2012
Welcomed our babies in 2013
Preparing to welcome two more babies in 2014

Holy moly. That's a lot. It feels like a lot.

I wrote my card and drank my latte. Got back in line to get a cup of coffee for my man. By this time I was feeling like I'd been gone too long, that I'd come home to everyone awake and cranky. I told myself I was allowed to leave, allowed to take a moment.

I drove home and opened the door to silence. Two peacefully sleeping babies. A sleeping husband. A dog who greeted me anxiously as she doesn't care or can't tell whether I've been gone five minutes or five hours--it's always an eternity.

I reclaimed myself in an hour, with coffee and people-watching and solitude. Time is a funny thing.

Friday, March 28, 2014

A beginning

I am a mama to twins. When I'm out in the world with my babies we get a lot of attention. People watch us as we walk by (which I'm sure is partly because of our giant, high-tech stroller). People talk to us in the aisles of the grocery store, often until I politely excuse myself explaining that we have a small window of time when both kids are chilling during this food-getting expedition so I have to move on to the next aisle in the hopes that food on shelves will jog my memory with an idea of something I might like to make for dinner. The things we hear are:

"Twins! How cute!"
"Twins! Boy and girl? You're so lucky! You're all done now" (Ha! Yes, keep reading. . .)
"Twins! Are they identical or fraternal?"
"Twins! I'm a twin/my neighbor had twins/I have twin nieces, etc"
"Twins! Do they run in your family?" (Which I'm convinced is the polite way of asking if we did IVF)
"Twins! Did you do IVF?"

By far the most common thing I hear is:
"Boy, you sure have your hands full!"

The last time I heard this was from a jogger who slowed down to say it to me as I sat on a blanket with both kids rolling around, eating grass. For the record, I was not eating any grass.

And yes, that is for sure. We're nine-and-a-half months into this adventure and our hands are definitely full. It is hard. As I write this, one baby is loudly protesting about being put down for a nap. I will not be getting said twin because it is nap time and that needs to be that. Mostly. Except when it's not. I digress.

Twin parenting is hard but I think parenting in general is hard. My husband thinks our friends who became parents before we did were less than truthful about how hard it is but I think it's just impossible to understand how different life will be once kids arrive. Needless to say, our worlds have been rocked by the arrival of these babies. We're tired.

With twins, the parents we met said "The first year is really hard but then it gets easier." So imagine our surprise when, six months into our children's lives, we discovered I was pregnant again! And imagine our. . .there truly are no words for this emotion, when I reclined on the ultrasound couch at ten weeks pregnant to see not one but two babies. Ultrasounds are not easy to read, at least not for me. Throughout my first pregnancy I usually felt like I was looking at the surface of the moon as the tech pointed things out to me. But at this new visit I clearly saw two white circles. I blinked.

"There's only one, right?" I asked

"Actually. . . there are two" said the suddenly-kind ultrasound technician.

Our son and our daughter arrived two months early, in June instead of August. These new babies are due in August which means the absolute biggest age difference between the two sets will be fourteen months. So. Yeah. Um.

Hands full, times two.