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Monday, May 20, 2013

I Was the Best Mom Before I Had Four Kids

Before I ever gave birth I was the most amazing mother. Just the greatest really. You could have bottled me with a hand stamped, recycled label that would have read "zen momma". While I still hold on to oh so many of those pre-conception hopes and dreams (most of them have to do with sleep), my fragrance is now combined with an even more overpowering one that I like to call "reality".

It is human nature to think about the type of mother we aspire to be or perhaps, even more prominently the type of mother we do not want to be. Of course my children will be born without the help of drugs (I had an epidural every single time). No sugar, no thank you (I once watched my kids lick a jar of spilled sprinkles off the floor while thinking "one less snack that I have to prepare"). Cloth diapers seem like a very smart choice (um, laundry is my nemesis, pampers became my bffs). Of course, my children will be by my side at all times (where the f--- are my twins?!). I will be on time for everything (I always knew that would never really happen. It just sounds so good).

For awhile there it really did feel like we were floating in a Johnson & Johnson's commercial. I gave birth to Lucy at 24 years old and she was the sweetest thing I have ever laid eyes on. She immediately took to breastfeeding then to organic homemade baby food. She loved being carried like a kangaroo in any carrier I put her in for walks or shopping or lattes or baby and me yoga. She was and I hope will always be my saving grace.

It was a no-brainer to have a second. In between my first and second, I suffered a miscarriage which is one of the deepest things I have ever had to grieve. Even though everyone knows someone who has had at least one miscarriage, it does not stop it from being an isolating loss. I felt like I had sadness in my veins. The thing is, the pregnancy gods are always there to make sure we always keep everything in perspective and never get too comfortable with wherever we are in life.

When I was ready, full of hope and peace once more, I became pregnant with Niko before I could even blink. I went through an intensive yoga training with him inside me and graduated from the program two weeks before my due date, secretly hoping I would go in labor with all of those inspiring yoga teachers that could remind me how to breathe. Alas, he was late but he was still destined to be zen. His birth was exactly what I imagined a birth should be- a stunning miracle. He was born happy and his six year old self hasn't stopped making us happy since.

And then came the twins. Remember that those pregnancy gods attempt to always be fair. Sometimes people have a challenging conception or pregnancy but then are rewarded with an easy labor. Or the challenge can come with toddlerhood (I am sure that it typically always does) or even school age with bullying or anxiety but then you can have less insane teenagers. And sometimes people have special needs children or sometimes go through such unimaginable loss to which I am not going to get into except to say that sometimes God chooses certain parents to be angels on this Earth and sometimes He (or She) wants his angels in heaven early. Thank you to the angels among us, you heal and bring such light.

So we knew we wanted to have more children, we just weren't expecting two at the same time. From the moment they were conceived those two have been destined to be wild. It was actually a relief to find out two were sprouting in there because my pregnancy symptoms felt like they were quadrupled. During that first exhausting trimester, I could have curled up in a parking lot and fallen asleep. I don't mean in a cushy car, I mean directly on the pavement. The slight smell of anything (chicken, flowers, perfume) made me want to throw up my saltine crackers. Then later in my second trimester came full bed-rest because I was at risk for pre-term labor. I told the midwife, "No thank you. I really need walks and prenatal yoga for my sanity and you see I have these other two toddlers to take care of." Midwife: "No. You need people to help you. You are only allowed to get up to go from the bed to the couch if you want to have healthy babies. This is not a request." After I shed a fountain of tears, Steve and I enlisted the help of people that we are so lucky to have. My best friend who is my sister, flew in from Texas with her family to play with my family. Friends brought me snacks and celebrity magazines. My generous mom and mother-in-law rearranged their work schedules so that every waking shift was covered so that Lucy and Niko could have the best summer and I could follow my bed to couch regimen. It was extremely difficult to be a mom from the couch but I am so grateful that without hesitation or complaint those beautiful beings were there for us.

At 37 and a half weeks, I was roughly the size of a beached whale, had daily soul on fire heartburn and no longer held the lung capacity left to breathe. It was time. I was supposed to be induced but kept getting bumped so Steve and I walked the mall to enjoy our last moments of freedom while we waited for the doctor's phone call for when we could head to the hospital. Correction: he walked, I waddled. We had to stop about every 10 feet so that I could pee (did I mention I no longer had any bladder capacity either? Those babies took up every centimeter of real estate from my throat to my knees). With my stretched out maternity shirt that didn't quite reach my maternity capris with beads of sweat running down my pale cheeks on this crowded mall August day, I might as well have been handing condoms out to teenagers along the way. Those teenagers were looking at me with genuine fear in their eyes. That is what happens when you get knocked up? Yes, my dear ones. This could be your future. You are welcome, mothers of teens.

This could be your future.

All things considered, their labor was fast (thank you pregnancy gods). I arrived at the hospital at 4 centimeters and went ahead with the epidural so I could dilate and we could both seize this last opportunity in years to sleep. The last time my twins had agreed on anything was to both be head down so I was fortunate to be able to have a vaginal delivery. Three pushes in a few minutes and Sophia was born with a full head of hair and all features radiant. I held her while it was Micah's turn at birth. I didn't realize until afterward that I really had been in labor with her. Micah wasn't quite so ready to enter the world. I had no idea that the cord was wrapped a few times around his neck and his heartbeat was dropping rapidly. Steve told me later that they used forceps to get him out even though he was a pound lighter than Sophia; the doctor had to be faster than what nature could do. The nurses had to pound on his small back to get him to breathe and they asked my husband not to take pictures. I couldn't hear any of the stress of that moment. I just remember not hearing him cry.

Notice the clock? She was born at 4:42 a.m. and he was at 4:52 a.m.
Sleep would never be their thing. 

But he was okay. He was a born fighter and she was born to be ten minutes older and full of fire. Together, there is nothing that they can go after and accomplish (or destroy... whichever). I admire their tenacity.

After NICU visits and extreme jaundice that had us first in the pediatric hospital with Micah and then Sophia and a whirlwind of tandem breastfeeding and minutes of sleep a night, we came home. Life felt like a tornado except that I could never reach the eye of the storm. The calm always felt unattainable. I knew we would get there but knew a lot of survival had to happen in between.

There are two things that got me through those (long) days:
1. Try to laugh before crying.
2. Fake it until you can own it.

That is what I know for sure. When you are (strongly) outnumbered, covered in baby food, unsure of the last time you brushed your teeth while someone is painting the white carpet with red nail polish, it helps to be wearing cute shoes. Wine with girlfriends is ridiculously important too.

My twins (now 3 years) still challenge me on an daily  hourly basis but at least they can now dress themselves. Just this week, Micah spray painted our kitchen chairs a smurf-colored blue and Sophia poured a bottle of super glue all over her sister's desk (which led to her having random glue polka dots all over her hair and body... awesome). If I can keep them from burning down our home, I know that they have the potential to do great things. There is awe-inspiring strength and glory and happy within them. They are exactly who I was meant to have. And I will never be bored.

It will, in fact, work against you to have it all figured out before you are a parent. All you really need to approach it is to have an open mind. One of the greatest things that my children have taught me is that life has other plans. Roll with it, baby. And try not to judge the mom at the store with the four wild kids looking like she needs a drink and a prayer. She most likely needs both.


  1. Wow, I think this is my FAVORITE post of yours, ever!!! And you know, it made me cry!! :)

    Laura Currey

    1. That makes me so happy that you liked it! I can't thank you enough for reading and sharing and just all around being there... so much love to you.

  2. It made me laugh out loud, too!!

    Laura (again)

  3. So open, raw, and honest...loved it! So true how we (or society) makes us believe that we should have it all figured out, and having an open mind is such a great way to embrace motherhood!