CC Review Game

I enrolled the boys in the Foundations program of Classical Conversations this year and they love it! They are eager to learn and memorize all of their lessons every week. However, I am running out of enthusiasm for the flashcards that I have written to review their weekly facts. So, after a few cups of coffee last night, I harnessed one of my more productive boughts of insomnia and created a review game.

I cut index cards in half and wrote the review questions on one side of each new “playing card”. Then, I pulled out our old Chutes and Ladders game board that I love so much that I refuse to throw away. The objective of the game remains the same: to get to the top of the game board first. A child picks a card off the top of the stack that is laying face down. If they answer the question correctly, they get to spin and move that many spaces on the game board.

Game cards What we used to play

The boys seem to enjoy this way of reviewing at home, so we will try this out for a little while. I am also thinking that you can adapt this to the Twister game, Candyland, etc. The sky is the limit.

How could you modify this idea for your students?

Boys playing game

VIDEO of the Game in Action

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Reading Comprehension Activity

Over the summer, I took two courses on Middle Grades Reading Comprehension. They were both very challenging in the amount of work that I had to complete in a small amount of time, but I learned A LOT about reading strategies. I was very excited to be able to modify some of the strategies and bring them into our (home)classroom immediately.

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One of the strategies that I studied was from a very good book, “Strategies That Work”, by Harvey & Goudvis. It was to have readers make connections with their reading passages in order for the reader to gain more meaning. The connections were: Text to Text Connections (connecting ideas from one book to another), Text to Self Connections (connecting things about the story that are like their lives), and Text to World Connections (connecting things that are happening in the book that are happening in the world).

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Today, we discovered Text to Self Connections. I explained that we would be reading a short story and that they needed to find things in the story that reminded them of things in their lives. We attached sticky notes with reminders of what the connection was as we went along in the story. Then, I modeled what a journal entry about the connections would look like. Finally, the boys wrote their own journal entries. We will do this exercise three more times this week.

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The short story was about twin boys that had a cat that only came home at night, and a little girl that had a cat that was only home during the day only to find out that they had the same cat. Ironically, neither boy made the connection that there was twin boys with a cat! I had to suggest that connection both times.

This is a great exercise for homeschool moms to use to teach reading comprehension because you can use the short stories that are in your children’s magazines. We used “Highlights”, but any children’s short story would do well for this exercise.

Nature Journals

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I am a hard core Classical homeschool educator most of the time. However, like most traditional educational philosophies, something can be taken from all homeschool educational philosophies. Today, I was excited to try an idea that I borrowed from the Charlotte Mason philosophy. My friend, Lorrie, had picked up this great idea of a “Nature Journal” that she had shown me recently. I customized it to meet the needs of two active boys and then gave it a try today.

I bought two small, spiral-bound sketch notebooks, a box of color pencils, a pencil sharpener, and a pencil eraser. In addition, I cut out two big squares of clear plastic floor covering for the boys to sit on outdoors. Then, I stuffed all of the goodies into two drawstring backpacks.

Nature Backpack Items     Image

The idea is to let the child choose something in nature that interests them, or something in nature that they have never seen. Today, we stuck close to home and the boys chose the pear trees. The child draws a picture of their subject and then writes a paragraph or two on the subject matter: what it is, where they found it, descriptive sentence about what it looks like, what they know about the subject, what they wonder about the subject, etc. The ideas are really endless and can be differentiated as needed per child.

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What I like the most about “nature journals” is that they are portable. We can take them on the Silver Comet Trail on bicycle rides, we can take them to state parks on field trips, we can take them on camping trips and hikes. It is no problem to pack them up and ponder God’s wondrous world where it strikes the child.

Here are our results (and other amusing photos of our nature walk). Enjoy!

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What I did on my Facebook vacation…

What I did on my Facebook Vacation

This past year has been quite busy for me as I pursue a Masters Degree in Teaching as well as homeschool my twin 8 year old boys. Both of these pursuits came to a head at the end of March as I was trying to complete all of the projects due in graduate school as well as prepare the boys for a standardized test* that they need to take at the end of this school year. I became overwhelmed and found myself running to Facebook for a quick brain vacation. Before I knew it, I had been sucked in for 30 minutes or more and had not accomplished one of the gazillions of projects that were looming overhead. I made the decision to deactivate my account for the month until I had finished everything so that I could focus my efforts on school. The results have been quite telling. Since I have spent the past month writing paper after paper, it is only appropriate to write another paper on how my Facebook vacation went. Before I get too far, I want you to know that this is no suggestion for my friends to deactivate their accounts. Just a personal narrative writing (yeah, teachers, I’m paying attention in class!).

The first thing that I noticed after I deactivated my account was that I was coming up with catchy status updates in my head every time that something funny or interesting happened in my life. I was compelled to take pictures whenever we did something fun while homeschooling or really ever. I still am not sure how I feel about these habits. It’s a little funny, but how are these beneficial habits?

It was a little uncomfortable for the first week of my FB vaca. I wanted to pick up my tablet whenever I sat down to watch television. I wanted to check my updates whenever I was on the laptop and had to go online to look up something. I felt a little blinded when I thought about my friends and how things were going in their lives. Conversations with people felt a little selfish since I had no news about other people to talk about. They simply were to the point.

But then, something clicked and I noticed small, positive changes that I was making. Instead of “checking in” during small breaks in the day, I would pick up a book and read. Instead of Saturday morning binges on FB, I would solve a sudoku puzzle or try to solve a crossword puzzle. I could pay more attention to computer tasks at hand instead of clicking the FB tab every five minutes when I ran out of words. I could even pay more attention to television plots because I was not as distracted (pitiful, but true). Time management became so much easier.

I remembered my psychology professor referring to these tasks as active brain patterns whereas playing a computer game or watching television is considered passive brain patterns. It is the same as contracting your muscles (active) or not using them and allowing the muscle to atrophy (passive). This was quite interesting to me.

As we went on little trips around town, I realized that they were just as significant to me even when I did not share them on Facebook. I had gotten so used to immediate feedback and judged my activities by the “Likes” that I got. Similar to the saying, “If a tree falls in the woods and no one is there, does it make a noise?”, in my case it was “If I participated in an event and did not share it on Facebook, did it really happen?”.

That said, I have some genuine relationships on Facebook with people that I would not otherwise get to share life with. I have missed them quite a bit this month. Also, as a stay-at-home mom (that hardly gets to stay at home), Facebook is my anchor in the adult world. I sometimes need adult conversation and do not have the time or ability to get out and chat with my friends. I knew that this would not be a permanent deactivation.

Now I have all of my papers done and the boys will be taking their standardized test in 2 weeks, I am ready to reconnect with my FB friends. I logged back in and….like a wave, I felt a like a wave of information rushed towards me. So much stuff going on!

An hour later, I remembered that I needed to feed my children. ;-D

*Homeschool students don’t take the CRCT, but take a standardized test at least every 3 years beginning in the third grade. It is not a pass/fail type of test. Just a tool to see what they have learned.

Story Time

So Mother’s Morning Out didn’t work out for us and I needed to find something else that we could do together. Cheap. That requires us to get out of the house. The problem with country living is that you don’t see other people unless you go out of your way to see them. I became a regular at the local library at that time. It had become my free place that I could go and hide in books while Kevin watched the boys for an hour or so. I thought of it as a Barnes and Noble without the coffee shop. OK. Not quite, but it was free and most of the time it was quiet.

One afternoon I had to return some books. I hated to bring the boys into my personal zen place, but a girls gotta do what a girls gotta do. I went to the front desk and laid the books that I needed to return on the desk. I had special ordered some books on how to run a marathon. Running a marathon was something that was/is on my “bucket list” that was free that I could try. The librarian looked at the books and looked back at me and the two boys tugging on each arm. I just half smiled and said, “It turns out that I run a marathon every day.” The librarian chuckled. She leaned over the counter to admire my little angels.

“You know we have a story time every Tuesday for the children. You should bring your babies.”

Ooh! That sounded fun…but how much?

“How much does it cost?” I asked hesitantly.

“Oh! It’s free.” My favorite price!

“That sounds fun. What time should we be here?” I asked the librarian over the now screaming babies crawling up my legs.

“Ten o’clock.” her voice went lower as she continued, “Now, if the boys get rowdy or don’t sit still, I don’t want you to worry about it. This is for the children. We want them to associate the library with fun.” She gave me a knowing look and reassured me that no matter what, I would overcome this.

 

Because I was home with the boys, I always chose the luxury of the boys sleeping as late as humanly possible. It was the only quiet time that I would have to myself for the majority of the day. However, on the morning of story time, we did what is rarely accomplished…we, all three of us, were up and dressed and out the door by 9:30 a.m. Of course, I had no makeup on, but we all had to overlook this detail.

We walked into the children’s section of the library and assessed the situation. It seemed like a lot of people at such an early event to me. Really, there were probably ten mothers with their toddlers, but as I assessed the potential chaos, twenty plus people seemed like a lot of people to maneuver around to manage my toddlers.

The librarian warmly greeted us and started to gather all of the children onto the circle rug to begin the story. I gathered both boys into my lap in the floor and listened just as attentively as the children around me. It was no surprise to me when my boys became wiggly only five minutes into the story. They wanted to go explore. I unfolded my legs and followed closely behind.

The first thing that Anakin and Luke discovered was the puzzle table. It was a table that had about five large wooden puzzles on each side that toddlers could play with as their parents perused the children’s books. They crawled up onto the bench by themselves, one on each side of the table, and got to work on the puzzles. The problem was that their idea of working on the puzzles was different than mine. They both began tossing the large puzzle pieces in all directions. It was a hazard to us all! The parents looked around to see who’s ill tempered child was not paying attention to the story. I smiled as I quietly chastised both boys and began to try to solve 10 wooden puzzles as quickly as possible. Let me tell you, that should be an IQ test in and of itself. That’s not as easy as it sounds!

Now that I was flushed and sweaty from the embarrassment of my children causing an interruption in the story, I smiled and followed a little closer behind the toddling explorers.

The librarian had set up about six tables with a craft that the children would do after the story was told that was associated with the story. The tables had neatly laid out newspaper coverings, pre-cut construction paper, crayons, cups of glue, and paintbrushes to dip into the glue. Glue? I was going to have to work with toddlers and glue?! As quick as a cheetah, one boy was at one table pulling over the cup of glue and sticking his fingers in it. I grabbed him before too much chaos could ensue, only to look at another table and find my other child chewing on a blue crayon!! I stumbled over a chair as I lept to rescue the crayon from the toddler when I heard behind me, “Look Mommy! A craft!!!” One of the other toddlers that had been enraptured by the librarians story had turned to see what all of the noise behind her was and found the craft tables. Suddenly, all of the toddlers were jumping out of their parent’s laps to run to the craft tables, mid-story. The mothers were, of course, perturbed by this diversion and were quickly behind their children herding them back to the circle rug, shooting annoyed looks over their shoulders at me.

The librarian never missed a beat and continued her story. She inconspicuously nodded her head reassuringly at me and winked at me as I tried to regain some sort of composure. She pulled me aside before we left that morning to tell me that this was very normal behavior and to please bring my children back next week. I was so encouraged by this patient, older librarian that I did make it a point to wake up at the crack of dawn (ok, so it was really 8 a.m., but that was pretty early for me) to submit myself to more chaos-by-toddler every week.

Hey, that was a good start to becoming immersed into a new community, wasn’t it?!

Expelled

Mom had picked up on the fact that I was becoming overwhelmed between the boys becoming more mobile, trying to unpack the new house, and trying to sell the old house. She had suggested that I look around for a Mother’s Morning Out Program. I had never heard of such a thing, but it sounded like heaven after Mom described it. You drop your kids off in the morning, and then go run errands in peace and quiet and then pick the kids up on the way back home.

I looked around town and had found a great Mother’s Morning Out Program at a local church. I had spoken with the director that assured me that they could handle Luke’s breath holding spells. She showed me around the church and introduced me to the ladies in charge of the 18 month room. They were very sweet and gentle. I knew that the boys would be in great hands.

The next Monday we got up early (nine was kind of early in the morning for us) and headed to the church. It was raining, but that was ok. I was excited about grocery shopping by myself. This is a luxury that I still enjoy. I got my double stroller out of the car and loaded the boys in it to cross the street. The boys were in the pulling their legs up when they didn’t want to hold my hand stage. Does anyone remember that phase? Well, imagine how fun it is when both boys are pulling their legs up while you are trying to cross the street. No thanks. I prefer my babies to be restrained as I cross a rainy street. We get to the church and I realize that we now have to go upstairs. *Huff* Out the boys go from the stroller. I heave one boy on each hip and start up the stairs. I didn’t have to work out a lot during that particular phase of their childhood.

I joyfully dropped the kids off with the nice ladies, had a quick conversation to get to know them a little better, and then off I went to enjoy a lovely day at the spa…er…Kroger. I had just enough time to grocery shop and unpack the groceries before it was time to pick the boys up again.

I was very apprehensive when I arrived back at the church, but was pleased to hear that Luke had only had one breath holding spell and that Anakin had played well with the other children.

 

The next Monday rolled around, and we once again packed up for another try at Mother’s Morning Out. It wasn’t raining, but it was very cold. I dropped the boys off in the classroom. However, this time the boys knew that I would be leaving. Luke tugged at the knees of my jeans crying, “Hold you Mama! Hold you!” Which meant, “Hold me, Mama”, but they only had heard my perspective. “Do you want me to hold you?” I slowly started to back out of the door as the chaos began to grow. The nice ladies assured me that they would be fine as soon as I left. It certainly did not feel like they would be fine as soon as I left. But I somehow managed to escape the room and ran down the hall while I tried to ignore the boys banging on the door yelling, “Maaaamaaa! Maaaaaaamaaa!”

Well that certainly put a damper on my day out. I could not get the boys cries out of my head as I found my zen on the cereal aisle. I just grabbed a few things and checked out. I didn’t even unpack my groceries. I just went straight to the church to see how the boys were doing.

The ladies looked relieved to see me walk through the door. Both boys pulled at my legs excitedly saying, “Hey Mama, hey!” The older lady tried to very tactfully explain to me that Luke had scared her to death with his breath holding. He had done it twice in the short time that I had been gone and had cried inconsolably the rest of the time. I checked him out and hypothesized that maybe he was getting sick and was just being cranky. Either way, the ladies packed me up as quickly as possible and sent me and my cry babies on our way.

 

I decided to toughen up and try the Mother’s Morning Out Program one more time. I realized that it is very normal for children to be upset the first couple of times that they are separated from their parents if they are not used to it. I took a deep breath and heaved our way up the stairs one more time. The boys were clingy again, as I expected. This is normal. I’m okay. I backed out of the door, once again ignoring the pitiful cries from the boys. This is normal. I’m okay.

This time, I just went home and put a load of laundry on to wash. I had just sat down for a little Y&R time when the phone rang. It was the director of the Mother’s Morning Out Program. Luke had passed out three times in a row since I had left. She had suggested that I come pick the boys up since he was so upset. Of course, I dropped everything and went straight to the church. The director was in the 18 month old room rocking Luke as I walked in the room. The ladies had already had the boys cups and diapers packed up when I arrived. Of course, I was disappointed that this was not working out, but I didn’t want to force the boys into something that they were not ready for yet. I rarely had a babysitter, and even when I did, it was one of my parents.

The director walked out of the room with me and walked with me to the stairway. “It is normal for children to be upset when their parents leave.” I nodded in total agreement with her. “But Luke had completely dominated the room with his breath holding spells. One of the ladies spent the entire time rocking him while the other lady watched over the other children in the room.” Uh, oh. I don’t like the direction that we are going in. “Perhaps you need to wait a little while before you try this again.” The sweet director nodded her head as she said this in hopes that I would be in agreement with this statement. I was wide eyed and speechless as I slowly nodded back to her and walked down the stairs with a toddler on each hip.

When we got into our truck, I sighed and looked into the rear view mirror.  The boys gave me their big chunky cheeked smiles and squealed, “Mama!”  

Toddler Beds

Just like winter, we had settled into our new home. It was a daily goal to empty one moving box during the boys’ nap time. Sometimes I even reached that goal. Most of the time, I just crashed on the couch and enjoyed the only quiet time that I had all day long. I had a new obsession. The Young And The Restless. I am sure that it was tied into my need to socialize more. I could not wait to find out what Nick and Phyllis were going to do next! Sad. I know.

The boys were becoming more like toddlers every day. I was so grateful that we had so much room for the boys to run and explore. I really enjoyed living in a ranch style home so that there was no longer a need for baby gates. However, the boys had learned to climb EVERYTHING.

Luke had started to climb out of his crib in the night and crawl into our bed. I was perplexed on how exactly he was getting out without getting hurt.

One afternoon, I was walking down the hallway and heard the boys jabbering to one another in toddler-speak. I peaked around the corner and saw Luke standing in his crib while Anakin stood in the middle of the room looking up in awe. Luke carefully climbed over and straddled the railing, swung his other leg over the side while wedging himself between the crib and the wall so that he wouldn’t fall, and then gingerly stepping down onto the floor. Then, he pointed to Anakin’s crib and said, “You.” to instruct Anakin to try climbing out of his own crib. It took some practice, but Anakin caught on to this trick also. Oh, it was so cute to see the boys figure this out together!

The next evening, I was making dinner before Kevin got home while the boys played in their room. Anakin came running into the kitchen yelling, “Mama! Mama! Luke huuut (hurt)”. I dropped the pan of frozen fish sticks that I was about to stick in the oven onto the counter and ran down the hall to the boys’ room. Luke had crawled into his crib to practice climbing out again. He had gotten his chunky leg caught in between two slats of the crib while wedging himself between the crib and wall. I found him just before he passed out. He would have been hurt badly if he had passed out with his leg stuck in the crib.

Luke would always wake up from a breath holding spell crying and mad. This time was no different. I rocked him and settled him down enough to go back to the kitchen to start dinner. I was making a mental note to myself that we were needed to convert the cribs to toddler beds when Kevin got home. I walked into the kitchen and was shocked to find Anakin and Misty, our dog, sitting in the floor eating frozen fish sticks together. Anakin looked up and smiled, “Hi Mama!” Ugh!

 

Kevin and I converted the cribs to toddler beds that night. I was too traumatized by the events of the day to be sad that my only babies were growing into toddlers. The boys were so excited to be sleeping in big boy beds. We sat on our knees and tucked our big boys into their toddler beds. The boys would kiss us and say, “Nee nop” for “I love you.” I don’t know where “Nee nop” came from, but it was heartfelt none-the-less and I will always cherish those sweet kisses and gestures of love.

We went to bed that night, full of the expectation that the boys would climb into our bed that night, but were pleasantly surprised when we woke in the morning with no child snuggled in between us. I eagerly ran across the hall to watch my angels sleeping.

To my horror, I ran in to see…two empty beds. I looked in the den. No boys. I looked back into our room. No boys. I looked back in their rooms. No boys. Panic began to rise in me as I screamed, “KEVIN! The boys are gone!” I had heard of children walking out of their homes as toddlers, but I had the security system set to chime whenever a door or window was opened and I certainly would have heard that.

Kevin came running into their room and looked in the closet. No boys. He hit his knees and looked under one of the beds and pulled one chunky leg along with the rest of a sound sleeping toddler. It was Anakin sleeping under Luke’s bed! I went down on my shaky knees and found Luke sound asleep under Anakin’s bed. I let out a hysterical laugh as tears ran down my face. My crazy boys!

Needless to say, we bought guard rails that very morning to go onto the open side of the toddler beds.

The Transition

The move to Dallas was just as long and traumatic as any move can be. Especially with 19 month old twins. We moved right after Christmas and had some really good friends help us with the move. Christy and Brian were especially instrumental in the move. Always hooking us up with the grub whenever they made the long drive to the country. Mom and Sidekick were ever watchful over the boys to keep them out of harms way. We even had some friends from the neighborhood come and help us paint one weekend.

One of the changes that I did not expect was how lonely it was living in the country, and not knowing a lot of people. It was cold outside, so we did not get out of the house a lot. If you know me, you know how social I am, and this was not a change that I was comfortable with. Being a stranger in a strange town is not easy for me. I was carefully balancing my time between keeping the boys occupied and unpacking boxes. If I ever see another Wiggles video in my life, it will be one too many. I kept it on loop to hold the boys attention while I would run and paint a wall here and there.

I would take the heating vents off of the walls in the den to paint while the boys were occupied with, yet, another round of “fruit salad, yummy yummy”. The boys were in a very curious and mobile phase. Often, they would put their toys in the heating vents to see them disappear into the dark hole. The first thing that I would do when I was getting ready to paint was to take my watch off and lay that and my cell phone, that was in my pocket, on the dining room table.

On one particular day, I painted the wall, stood back to look with satisfaction at my work, and went to re-garb with my watch and cell phone. They weren’t there. I looked everywhere for them. Nothing. I even looked in the (you guessed it) heating vent holes. They weren’t there. What was I going to do without my cell phone?!

They were missing for two weeks when Mom and Sidekick came up to watch the boys while we moved more boxes from the old house. The phone had long been dead, so there was no chance of calling it to hear where it was coming from. I had mentioned it to Sidekick who immediately went to the heating vent. She knew the boys well enough to know that they would have absolutely thrown my stuff into the heating vent. As she stuck her little 9 year old arm way down into the vent, I was exclaiming that they were not down there. I had already checked. She snaked her little arm in an unnatural position and smiled as she pulled up my extremely dusty cell phone and favorite watch. The boys faces lit up as the shouted, “Mama! Mama!” pointing to my cell phone.

One of the unique features of Dallas is that the funeral homes post the person’s name on the the marquee that is having their viewing at the time. It was a curiosity to me when we moved here, and I would take the long way through town to see who was dead that week at all three funeral homes. That is how lonely and bored I had become! I know! It was one of my all time low’s! Kevin asked me one afternoon why it had taken me so long to get home from the grocery store, and I had reluctantly admitted my new, grim habit. Instead of laughing at me (OK, maybe he laughed a little bit at me), he kept his game face on and nodded his head at this weird, new fascination. He now knew that I had a bad case of the new girl in town blues.

The following weekend, we were returning from yet another trip to the old house to get another load of boxes. Instead of coming directly home via “the four lane” or the highway that was near our house, Kevin turned early and went through town. “Kevin, why are you going this way? It’s quicker to go the other way.”

Kevin smiled sweetly to me and said, “I thought we’d go through town today.”

“But why?” I asked quizzically.

Kevin shrugged and said, “I thought you’d want to see the funeral signs.”

Sigh.  That is when I knew that I was going to have to make some changes and re-engage with the living.

Boy Novel – Chapter 3

Chapter Three

Okay Gloria, it’s time to go,” Mama said, breaking the staring contest between me and the old lady.

“But…” the old lady said.

“No, you have done quite enough this morning by showing up unannounced. Do not come into our home and expect for me to allow you to change things without even talking to me about it privately first.”

Mama stormed to the door and held it open for the old lady.

The old lady looked like she was going to argue with Mama, but then she kind of drooped her shoulders and hung her head down before she started walking towards the door. She stopped right in front of Mama at the door before she left and whispered something that I couldn’t hear clearly, but I think she said, “Expect to hear from my lawyers.” The the old lady stepped out of my sight and was gone.

I was still in the kitchen doorway all wide eyed with my mouth hung open thinking, “Did I just dream this?” But, when Mama slammed the door real suddenly and turned back towards me, I realized that this was no dream. Her face was a kind of mad that I had never seen before. I looked at her hands and they were shaking real bad. I saw a tear run down her face, but she wiped it off real quick. This side of Mama scared me because I think she was scared a little too. She went to her room real quick and closed the door. I was relived that I couldn’t see her anymore like that.

I went back to my room, turned on my TV, and started playing my PS3 games. Mama only lets me play for an hour on Saturdays, but I thought that she was a little too distracted to notice and I wanted to think more about Star Wars and less about the mysterious old lady that just upset my Mama so bad.

She was in her room for about an hour before she quietly came back out. Mama was acting like everything was normal, but I could tell that she had been crying real hard by her red nose, red eyes, and crazy looking spots all over her face.

She started cleaning up the burnt pancake mess in the kitchen.

I came in real quietly so I wouldn’t upset her. “Mama, can I go play with Tim?” That is my friend that lives two floors up in our apartment complex. We are in the same class at school. I like playing with him because he makes me laugh and he is the best basketball player that I know. But Mama doesn’t like me going over to his place because she says that she doesn’t know his “family situation”, whatever that means. So I was really surprised when Mama just said “yes” to me going to Tim’s place without calling his mom or playing twenty questions with me first. Mama almost sounded relieved.

I wasn’t going to hang around to see if Mama came to her senses. I just grabbed my basketball and a video game and ran out the door yelling, “Bye, Mama!” over my shoulder as I slammed the door and ran to the stairs.

Tim’s older brother took us out to the basketball court at our complex to let us play. There were a lot of bigger kids playing on the courts because it was a Saturday so Tim’s brother, Shane, told us to wait on the bleachers until a court opened. Shane ran off to play with the big kids.

“This ain’t right! I can play better basketball than half these guys out here!” Tim was insulted that his brother made him sit out, but the truth was that it was me that Shane didn’t want out there embarrassing him. I didn’t say anything to Tim’s outrage.

He continued, “I mean, my little sister could play better than that joker over there!” He pointed to a short, clumsy guy in glasses struggling to guard his teammate. I still said nothin.

Tim started to notice me staring off at the trees past the basketball court.

“Hey man, look at that girl with the boobs hanging out over there,” Tim said, trying to get my attention. I still kept staring out at the trees with no reaction.

Tim smacked my arm, “Hey, what’s up with you giving the stare down with the sidewalk?” He was trying to make me laugh.

I blinked out of my trance and just looked at Tim, “Do you have a father?”

Tim laughed out loud,”Yeah, I have a father. Why?” I just looked down at my hands and shrugged my shoulders. I was a little embarrassed talking about this with my friend. He was the one that I was most comfortable asking, but we usually spent our time laughing and playing. Not serious talking.

Tim just shook his head,”If my mom ever saw my dad on the street, she would chase him down and beat him bloody.”

“Wow, why?” I asked.

“He’s a deadbeat. He owes her, like, three years worth of child support.”

“The last time I saw him was at my sixth birthday. He had borrowed money from Mama to buy me a bike as a gift from both of them, but he showed up with a high five and a bag of pork rinds. He said that the bike was on back order. Mama made a big scene and threw him out of my party and I’ve never seen him or the bike again.”

Tim was smiling when he finished his story, but I could tell he was hurt by what his father did.

“Why are you asking?” Tim looked at me curiously.

“Well, I didn’t think I had a father.” I said, looking down at my hands again.

“Have a father? Sure, you have a father! Everybody has a father. How you think you got here?” Tim asked.

“Huh?” I looked up puzzled.

“Um, never mind. Ah hem, you said ‘didn’t thin’. Did your Daddy find you or something?” Tim asked.

“Well, non, we had this lady come to our door today saying that she is my grandmother.” I said just as astonished as I was this morning.

“She could be your Mom’s mom. Is she for real? I mean, do you think she is legit?” Tim says as he tries to put it together so that it makes sense for me.

“No, Grans is my mom’s mom. I don’t know who this old lady is. Mama seemed to know who she was but I have never seen this lady before.”

“Ah ha! So this is your father’s mom. I get it now.” Tim puts it together for me. “You didn’t know you had a father?”

I shrugged, embarrassed at how dumb that sounds now. “Yeah. I guess.”

Tim asked, “Did she say anything about your father?”

“The old lady didn’t. Mama just said that he wasn’t always nice to her.”

Tim nodded his head like he understood exactly what I meant. He stared out over the trees now. For a minute I thought that he was done talking about this with me. But then, he started talking while he was still looking so far away, “When my father lived with us, he used to hit me and my brother with a belt so hard it would leave marks. I wouldn’t ever know what I had done to make him so mad. Sometimes we would get home from school and the apartment door would be locked so we would be stuck sitting in the cold hallway for hours until Mama would come home. He’d be on the couch watching TV like he hadn’t heard us the whole time.” Tim’s face looked so hurt and disappointed.

“One time, Mama and him were playing a stupid card game. Mama had laughed when she beat him. He got so mad that he turned over the kitchen table and hit her in the face.” I looked at Tim and saw the tears roll down the side of his nose. “The police came and took us away for a week and a half. I had to stay with strangers.” Tim wiped his face with the back of his hands. I patted him on the back, the only thing that I knew to do and said, “Aw, Tim, I am sorry. I shouldn’t have brought this up.”

Tim looked levelly at me and said, “Sometimes it’s not a bad thing to not have a father. I wished I had never seen my dad before either.” He hopped up off the bleachers.

“Shane! It’s our turn, man!” He yelled across the courts. Shane reluctantly waved us into the basketball game.

We played and laughed until it was dark and the Super closed the courts for the night.

When I came home, Mama was in her bed watching TV like a zombie. She only said, “Take a shower before you go to bed,” without even looking up.

When I went to sleep that night, I dreamed that I was stuck in a strange country and couldn’t get out.

The Help

After the decision was made to move to “the country”, many other decisions would have to be made regarding the selling of our house, the downsizing of our stuff, the cleaning out of my grandparent’s house, the fixing up of both houses. Many renovations needed to be made to upgrade our new home and our old home needed some minor repairs in order for it to be ready to be on the market. Mainly, both houses needed painting. I asked around for a recommendation for a painter and got a very professional man to paint our current home. He was a middle aged man that decided to go into painting houses after being downsized from his executive position. He gave me a reasonable price and was in and out painting my house in a day and a half. He didn’t even stop for lunch saying that it took too long to clean his equipment. He would rather leave a little early at the end of the day.

During his one of his days working at our house, I had turned Sesame Street on the television for the kids while I washed bottles. I was entertaining myself by trying to do the entire Count segment without missing a word. “One. One wonderful one. Ah ah ah.” I was using the count’s accent and everything. I looked up from my dishes in the sink and was face to face with the painter painting the outside of the kitchen window. Nice. I have now hit an all time low not only entertaining myself with Sesame Street impressions, but getting all of the words right in the bit. My finance degree hard at work.

We quickly moved on to working on the Dallas house and needed to hire a painter there as well. I had my professional painter come out to give a quote and had about four other painters come out and take a look as well. It was a trickier job because the paint was peeling badly and as an older house needed some repairs.

One painter that stood out from the rest drove up on his Harley Davidson. He was a well chiseled piece of art wearing Doc Martins, cargo paints, and only a zip up sweat jacket unzipped just enough that his tattoo on his peck was peeking out. Delish!

We received a variety of quotes on the house and it came down to the professional guy and smokin’ hot Harley man with a difference of $50 between their quotes. What is a girl to do? Think. Think. Think. Well, we’ve already given the professional guy a try, why not throw some work to Smoky? Hired!

So began the renovations of the Dallas house. Apparently Smoky was a bouncer at one of those strip joints on Fulton Industrial by night and a painter by day. Me and the boys would pack up three days a week and come out to the house to paint the inside of the house while Smoky spent the three days working on the outside of the house.

By the end of the first week, I realized that this was taking entirely too long, but the guy was getting paid a set amount, he was easy to look at, and it was nice to have someone else on site while I was there by myself with my two little 16 month old toddlers.

He called on the second week and said that he had been in a fight the night before and had been hurt pretty bad. He would have to take the week off, but he would start back the next week with hopes to finish it. He asked if it would be ok if he hired some help to speed the work up. No problem, just make sure that they are not dangerous, crazy people. You never know the background of some daytimers. Hmmm. Scrappy fella, that guy?!

The next Monday, sure enough Smoky was at the house bright and early with his helpers working on the house.

I called Kevin from the truck sitting in the driveway.

“Um, Kev, you might want to consider having lunch with the boys up here today.”

“Why? Is everything ok?”

“Well, yeah. I guess. There is a stripper on a ladder at our house power spraying.”

“WHAT?!?”

Smoky apparently hired one of his “co-workers” to come help him finish up the work. It was quite a bizarre sight to see. I felt like I was in a bad Motley Crue video. “Girls, girls, girls….”

It turns out that the fight that Smoky was in was not a bar fight. His girlfriend had apparently broken into his house and beat the living daylights out of him. Smoky said that she had found out that he was cheating on her. This is like a low rent soap opera! How fun! We even had one girl come knocking on my door looking for him one day. That was kind of scary. In an exhilarating kind of way.

By the third week, I was ready to kick Smoky and the Strippers to the curb. I wanted the job done and him to take his drama elsewhere. I could not even communicate with him because I was so over the whole scene. I had to have Kevin talk to him and encourage him to be done by the end of the day. Thank goodness that Kevin’s message came across and Smoky FINALLY packed up his brushes and drove away on his Harley.

Two years later, I am watching the Fox 5 Investigates while we are eating dinner. I was shocked when I saw Smoky’s name show up on the story. Turns out that Smoky wasn’t caught cheating on his girlfriend at all. Smoky was slipping the strippers the date rape drug and recording himself doing horrible, unthinkable things to them. One of the strippers realized what had happened and beat the living daylights out of him. She was not taken seriously by the police because of her occupation so she took the recording to Fox 5. Smoky is now doing 30 to life for 5 counts of rape. Rapes that he was committing at the same time he was painting our home. It chills me today to even think about how God protected us from such near and present danger.

 

More Decisions

After we returned from “vacation”, the boys had really made the turn from baby to toddler. They were expert walkers (pun intended) and often wanted to play outside. This proves to be quite a challenge with one mommy and two toddlers. One would start running as fast as he could towards the road and one would start running as fast as he could towards the rocky, poison ivy infested, snake loving green space behind our yard. In desperation, I would shout to the little boy next door, “Grab a baby!” I didn’t care which one, just grab one. He would grab the closest child and carry him back to me, shaking his head declaring, “Miss Betsy, these are wild boys!” Oh, child, you have no idea.

Kevin and I have always been lovers of the outdoors and wanted to foster that same love into our children. I wanted them to be outside as often as possible, but it was so dangerous for them to be so fast and running in so many directions at once.

We decided that we would take a picnic to my grandparent’s house in Dallas, GA on one really nice weekend. My grandfather had died while we were expecting the boys and his house had been vacant since then. It was modest, brick ranch on a hill with beautiful fields and trees all around it. This had always been my favorite place to be as a child and just being there with my family made me feel closer to my grandparents. It was soothing to the soul.

We found a place to picnic under two pear trees facing my great-great grandmother’s “dog trot” house that my grandfather was raised in. It was still in pretty good shape considering how old it was (a dog trot house has two big rooms on either side of the house with a big hallway in the middle that has the front and back doors on either side. That way, when the doors are open, the dogs can trot right through without going into the rooms).

It was so peaceful! There were no cars passing by. The boys could walk as much as they wanted to and not find any dangers. They were teething badly at that time so Kevin took a pear right off the tree, peeled some of the skin off of one side, and the boys worked on the pear while they walked around. Not once did I have to worry about what or who was around my children. They could just be. Kevin and I laid on our blanket under the pear trees and watched them toddle around.

I took a long, cleansing breath and leaned my head on Kevin’s belly and said, “I could live like this.”

Kevin said, “Yeah, me too.”

We sat like that for a few minutes. I was almost asleep when Kevin said, “Why don’t we?”

“Why don’t we what?”

“Why don’t we live like this?”

“Um, cause we live in a neighborhood?”

“Why don’t we move out here?”

“What?”

“Why don’t we move out here and raise the boys in the country where they can run around?”

I sat up to face Kevin, “Are you serious?”

Kevin smiled, “Yeah, why not?”

I cocked my head to the side, “Because I am not a country girl!”

“You can be.”

I looked around. Watching my boys toddle 100 feet away from me knowing that they are still safe. I looked into the future to see two energetic boys climbing trees and riding bicycles down the very long driveway. How much fun would it be to share the same experiences that I had as a child here with my own children every day of their lives? They would be the eighth generation of our family to live on this property. The legacy would be passed along. Something felt very right about that idea.

I nodded my head looking around, “OK”

Kevin leaned in towards me, “OK, what?”

I looked at him and said, “OK, I could do this.”

He smiled and hugged me, “Well….OK!”

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The Incident

OK moms of multiples– you know how painful the nights when both babies are sick feel, right? Just as soon as you get one croupy, coughing, crying, sneezing in your face baby back to sleep, the other one wakes up and starts again. Rinse, repeat. Or even better…synchronized!

Well, the boys were about 14 months old when we were experiencing such a night. Before I go any further in this story, I have to make a confession. On normal nights when the babies would wake up crying, I would pretend that I did not wake up. Kevin couldn’t stand to hear the babies cry, so he would get up and rock them back to sleep. 😀 It worked for me.

Anyway, there we were, up in the middle of the night. Rocking sick babies back to sleep. At one point, one baby pulled himself up on his arms, looked pitiful at me and sneezed right in my face. Ewwwe!

So, the next morning, we came downstairs to the den and my only ambition was to sip my large pot of coffee and take it easy. Of course, the boys felt much better in the light of day. They were ready to go! They were old enough, and the downstairs was baby proof enough that they could go crawl around and explore without me being right there next to them. So, I cozied down on the couch, propped my feet up, sipped my coffee, and read my “Parenting” magazine (of course I didn’t need to read such basic parenting suggestions since I clearly was a seasoned parent by this time).

Just as I was finishing up an article on being mother of the year, I realized that I had not seen or heard the boys in several minutes. Such a seasoned mother knows that if they are too quiet or if it is too funny, they probably should not be doing whatever they are doing. Not only that, but Misty, our dog, was missing in action. All three could only travel from the living room, den, breakfast area, and kitchen. I could see three of the four areas from where I sat which only meant that they were behind the kitchen island.

I snuck up to the kitchen island when what do my wondering eyes do I see?

 

 

The boys had gotten into the stacked kitchen drawers. The only part of my kitchen cabinetry that I had not put baby guards on. They had gotten all of the bags of flour and powdered sugar that I used in my cake making and had enjoyed throwing it up in the air to watch it snow! While Misty was furiously licking up the powdered sugar from the floor as fast as she could, the boys were patting the flour on her coat to make her turn white. The three amigos were having a blast. My kitchen was covered in white.

They saw me peeking around the island and squealed, “Yook Mama! Yook!” and patted some more flour on the dog. Poof! White clouds of flour blurred their vision.

So what does the mother of the year do in such a situation? Why, go get the camera and video camera to document such stinkin’ cuteness, of course! I wish that I had a digital copy of the video to share with you, but you can settle for the picture that I took.  They don’t really do the situation the justice that it deserves. 

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Boy Novel Chapter 2

Chapter Two

The older lady sits on our couch all wide eyed and looking around as she waited for Mama to get off the phone.

“I know,” Mama said over the phone in her normal cheerful voice, “that’s what I get for trying to be Martha Stewart. Sorry for your trouble.” Mama hung up the phone. She was smiling and acting like everything was alright, but her eyes were red and she was looking panicky. Like it was o.k. for this old lady to be sitting in our apartment now. Like she was trying to change the subject on her. Like she was willing the lady away from us.

She looked at me and mouthed the words, “Stay. In. Here.” I nodded and backed up to sit at our little two seat kitchen table. Mama calls it the dinette because it looks like a cozy little booth from the Waffle House or something. She put on her fake smile and kept on with that weird brand of happy as she walked back into the den.

I heard her sit down in the chair across from the old lady. “Sorry about the interruption. I had to have my weekly talk with the alarm system people. It seems like I am always setting off that darn smoke alarm. They are going to have to take my stove away if I keep this up.” Mama said in a fast, chattering way.

The lady didn’t say a word. I wondered if she was still looking around.

Mama said, “So…what do you think?” I guess she meant the apartment. She has always been real proud of how she decorated the apartment and is always bringing her work friends over to see what she’s done.

The lady said in a cold, serious tone,”I think I want to see my grandson.”

Mama sniffled,”Gloria, what is this about? What do you want?” and in a weepy, quiet voice she said, “Please don’t do this.”

‘Who is this lady?‘ I wondered in the spooky, quiet kitchen,’and who is her grandson? Why does she think Mama has him?’ I kind of know the answer but it just doesn’t all fit together for me. Grandma lives in Atlanta. I didn’t know who this lady is.

I tip-toed to the doorway of the kitchen so I can peek around to see what in the world is going on. Both ladies are staring at each other so hard that they don’t hear me move.

The lady didn’t look like anybody I had ever seen before. She had pure white hair that curled all around her head. She was tall and thin sitting straight up without leaning against the back of the couch. She had one ankle crossed under the other one. It didn’t look comfortable to me. Her face looked nice with make-up on and little wire rimmed glasses that looked like the political lady on TV that lives in Alaska or someplace like that. Her hands were neatly folded in her lap. I could see that her fingers were long and thin. She had perfect nails, not too long, with perfect red polish on them. On one hand I saw a plain, gold wedding rind and on the other hand she had the biggest ring I have ever seen on a person with piles of diamonds on them! She had a serious, determined look on her face as she starred back at Mama.

The lady started talking like she was about to tell a story.

“Three years ago, Bill decided to sell the business and retire. He had always wanted a working farm just like the one his grandparents had when he was growing up. He still has family in Dallas, GA so there we go building a house. So many changes for us. So, one day we were at the hardware store in town getting some things for our new house when your friend, Ellen comes up to say “Hi”. We chatted friendly talk for a minute just being polite. I really didn’t expect to see anyone I knew in a different town. I guess she didn’t either was the reason why she came up to me. I asked how you were doing since I knew the two of you were friends. She said that you were working hard at your job to move your way up in the company, but you struggled to keep up with all of the things in your life as a single mom. I said,’Wow! Janie is a mother?’ Ellen looked at me as if she didn’t understand what I had just asked her. That’s when she told me. I had no idea.”

The old lady just shook her head in disbelief.

“It took me several days for the news to really sink in. By then, Ellen was gone. I didn’t know what her last name was so I couldn’t go back and ask her where you lived. I tried to look you up on the internet, but you have hidden yourself too well. There is nothing online about you.

“I finally couldn’t keep the news to myself so I told Bill. He immediately insisted that we hire a private investigator. That brings me to here. Now. With you, Janie.” she said quietly.

Mama just listened to her with no expression on her face. I thought that she was holding her breath for a minute until she suddenly inhaled, patted her legs, smoothed a couch pillow and said, “Well…I never liked that big mouthed Ellen. She was always into other people’s business.”

The lady chuckled at such an absurd comment. She nodded her head, “Yeah, I guess you are right.” She watched Mama get up and walk over to the TV cabinet. Her back was to the lady as she picked up the framed picture of us from Christmas last year. The lady looked like she was waiting on Mama to say something, but Mama didn’t look like she planned on saying anything.

After a few minutes, when me and the lady had given up on Mama, she surprised us both by speaking in a quiet voice, her back still turned away so that I had to crane my neck further than I should have so that I could hear her.

“God, Gloria, you know what a mess it was when Randy and I were together. You can’t be blind to the problems that he has. Or at least had. I loved Randy deeply, but I just never knew what I would find every day when I came home. On the good days I would have my prince, all happy-go-lucky and ready to take me on our next adventure together. When he was like that, man, I would follow him anywhere. But I was just as likely to come home to the house trashed, my jewelry missing, the back door wide open and Randy gone for days at a time. I’d be home worried sick that this time he wasn’t coming home. Oh, and my favorite: Randy finally home in a bad mood, a black eye, and go straight to bed to sleep for eighteen hours. No explanation, nothing.

“So when I found out that I was pregnant, I was not exactly excited. I did not want to raise a child in that environment. I never told Randy. I waited until his next binge and packed up while he was gone. I drove as far as I could and decided to stay here in Chicago.

“Gloria, we are fine. I am doing this all myself. Jeffery is a good, smart boy. He doesn’t want for anything. I have a good job to support us. He is in a good school and does well. We are safe and stable. I don’t need help. Please, just leave us to our lives, Gloria.”

The lady spoke reassuringly to Mama, “Janie, I can tell by looking at you that you are doing all of the right things. I can see what a strong, capable young woman you are. I can see how capable you are of raising him alone, but that is not why I am here. I am here because I have a grandchild that I have never seen. A flesh and blood part of my family that I want to know. Can you understand that?”

Mama shook her head, “Gloria, this is not the healthy way to do this. He could be affected for the rest of his life if we don’t introduce him to you the right way.” She covered her face with her hands, “Gloria, I can’t do this.”

The lady patiently waited for Mama to stop crying and face her again.

“Janie, honey, I know that this is scary, but he is my grandson. I have a right to see him. I have already spoken to a lawyer and I don’t want it to come to my forcing this into a courtroom.”

Mama looked at her and yelled, “No!” as she stepped toward the lady, she looked up and saw me frozen in the doorway looking at her. The old lady’s gaze went from Mama to me. She stood up from the couch and walked toward me. She was looking at me like I was a ghost.

“Are you Jeffery?” she asked in a whisper. Mama quickly said, “Jeffery, don’t answer her!” But it was too late. I nodded my head as she took my hand in her long, cold hands.

“Jeffery, I am Gloria. Nice to meet you.” She said with a polite smile although she was still looking like she had seen a ghost.

Boy Novel – Chapter One

Chapter One

Mama and I were in the kitchen making pancakes Saturday morning when the doorbell rang. I looked at Mama to see if she was expecting anybody, but her face had a scrunched up confused look. She had always told me to never answer the door even when she was there so I just waited to see if she as going to answer it. At first she kept pouring the batter on the griddle, but she finally walked towards the door huffing and all aggravated like. When she tippy-toed to look through the peep hole I saw her whole body tense up. She still didn’t answer the door. She just real quietly leaned her forehead and hands against the door. I had never seen her act like this and guessed that she must have been saying a little prayer eve though that’s not normal for her.

“Janie,” I heard a voice say on the other side of the door. It was a woman’s voice. It sounded old to me.

I heard Mama choke back a sound. “Mama, aren’t you going to get it? Do you know who it is?” I whispered.

Mama jerked her head around to look at me. At first I thought I was in trouble for saying something when she wanted me to be quiet. But then I saw that there were tears in her eyes. She had a real sad look on her face. I didn’t know why the person on the other side of the door could make Mama so sad.

Mama looked hard at me, took a long breath, put her fake happy smile on, and turned back to answer the door.

She opened the door just enough to talk to the person, but I couldn’t see them.

“Gloria!” Mama said in her fake surprise voice, “What on earth are you doing?” she asked. I could hear her voice just crack a little.

“Janie, I came to talk to you,” the older voice said gravely.

Mama just stared at her a minute before she said kind of clumsy-like, “How did you find me?”

The older voice kind of laughed this mean, sarcastic laugh. “Well, you certainly made it difficult. I went through three private detectives before I could even find ut what state you were in.”

‘Why didn’t Mama want to be found by anybody?’ I wondered. It’s not like she is the bank robber type. ‘And who is this lady that just went to all this trouble to look for her? Maybe Mama won the lottery somewhere and this lady came to give Mama her fortune.’ I looked hard at Mama’s face. She’s not looking like she just won the lottery.

Mama’s face went real hard like right before she takes my Gameboy away when I’ve done something really bad. Like she’s T-minus ten seconds from loosing her calm.

“Gloria, why are you here?” Mama said in a way that makes me think that this lady has brought Mama trouble.

“Janie,” the older vice says like she is about to make an important announcement, “I came to see my grandson.”

“What the hell?” I said under my breath.

I smell the smoke and realize that our pancakes have burned.

A Summer Vacation To Remember

We were preparing to take our first real family vacation for a week in Gulf Shores, Alabama. To appreciate this particular change in lifestyle, I need to tell you about how we vacationed in pre-parenthood years. In the years past, we had always gone with our close friends for vacation. For years, it had been Kevin, his best friend, Earle, best friend’s house mate and equally close friend, Dennis, and I. I was usually the only girl and was the self appointed “activities director”. Our activities usually consisted of sitting on the front porch drinking beer, sitting on the beach drinking beer, laying out at the pool drinking beer, movies at night that had to have some frontal nudity, and large seafood dinners. It was always the “best vacation ever”.

This was the first vacation all of us had taken with children. Kevin’s best friend had married the year before and we had both had babies in the two years in between. In fact, Kevin’s best friend was expecting another child on this vacation.

As I told my neighbor, Susie that we were planning our vacation, she looked sagely at me and said, “You know that this is not going to be like the vacations that you were used to before babies.” I nodded my head. “Oh, I know.” I didn’t know.

In order to even get to the beach with some sense of sanity, we had to make a few vehicular changes. First and most importantly, we switched the infant seats to front facing baby seats. It was not even worth the trip if we were going to have to listen to the boys scream non-stop on the way. When we installed the the forward facing seats and put the boys in them for their first ride around town, Anakin literally did a happy dance in his seat. Exhale. No more screaming.

Next on the list was to install Dual screen DVD players in the back seats. People, if you have children and do not have DVD players in the back seat of your vehicle, do so. Now. This is money WELL spent. We dropped in a Baby Einstein DVD and chose repeat play where it just ran and ran and ran. There was no telling what kind of subliminal brain washing they were doing on those videos and I didn’t really care. My children silently rode in the truck for 6 hours. God bless you Einstein makers.

All was well on the way to Gulf Shores until we stopped at a tiny gas station in a little exit that had a big brown exit sign pointing the way to a state penitentiary nearby. We had all gotten out to stretch our legs. I had been standing in line with our friend when I looked down and Anakin was doing “Patty Cake” all by himself. I was so impressed! Those Baby Einstein videos were already paying off!

Just as I was strapping Luke into his new baby seat, I felt the truck lurch. I said, “Kevin! I am not even in the truck yet. Settle down!” Kevin was behind me outside of the truck and said, “I didn’t do that.” I looked around to see what had happened and some pretty teenaged girls had parked too close to us and when they went to pull out of the parking place, they had hit my opened truck door. Good grief! Now we had to call the police and wait on them to write up a report before we could even start our vacation. Did I mention that it was hotter than the pits of hell?

The police came and wrote up the report. Of course, he was so enamored with the pretty teenaged girl of 17 years. Crying. In her super short cut off shorts. That he FORGOT to write down her tag number! It would be two years before we got our insurance deductible back from that little oopsie.

We FINALLY got down to the beach house much later than planned. When we walked into the house with three toddlers, we saw it in an entirely new light. There were so many breakable trinkets everywhere! Earle looked around and said, “Everyone out! We need a game plan before we let the children loose in here.” We all trudge downstairs back outside. The guys got the video camera and went back upstairs to record where all of the trinkets belonged. Then, they took down all of the trinkets and put them up where toddlers could not touch them. We all walked back upstairs and settled in. Dennis declared, “When we are all in the living area, we all have a quadrant to monitor children in.” He appointed each one of us a quadrant of the room to watch, mainly children, sometimes things that children could break.

Kevin and I were assigned the master bedroom since we had two pack n plays to set up. Earle and his wife took the other upstairs bedroom. It took about 4 trips to the truck to unload all of the equipment that was required for two toddlers.

That night, when it was time to go to bed, I put the boys in their pack n plays and crashed in the bed. Within minutes, I remembered a little detail about Anakin traveling. He doesn’t like it at all. He spent the whole entire night screaming and writhing. I tried everything. I rocked, I walked, I put him in the bed with us, I shoved him on Kevin’s side for him to take care of. Nothing worked. Day one of our vacation began with me having zero sleep.

On the first morning, we were all so excited to see the beach through the eyes of our children for the first time. We loaded all of our children up in their carriers and walked to the beach. All of us piled high with beach paraphernalia. We unpacked on the sand and walked all of the boys to the water for their first experience in the gulf water. For the most part, our boys enjoyed it. They did cry when the salty water got in their mouths and when they stuck sand in their mouths, but all of this was expected. It was still hot, but the water was as calm as lake water and cool. We picked up with the normal alternating of beach and pool that we used to have. We just put a nap (for most) in there between venues.

Things got a little blurry in my memory of the next day. Anakin and I were still getting no sleep. This makes me have a short temper and very emotional. It was difficult for me to be the happy Betsy that everyone is used to all of the time in front of friends. I just kept telling myself that this was just another adjustment and it just took time to get acclimated.

I do remember that we went to LuLu’s Bait Shack for lunch on that day. This is Jimmy Buffett’s sister’s restaurant. It has a very fun, family vacation atmosphere. They had a gigantic sand pile for the boys to play in while we waited to be seated. At the table, I was looking over the menu and I saw out of the corner of my eye, Anakin squirming in his toddler chair. I turned to see what he was doing and…he was dancing! For the first time ever, Anakin was trying to move to the music. Jimmy Buffett, of course! My little Parrotthead that would dance to Jimmy Buffett en utero was now really dancing to Jimmy Buffett at the dinner table! It was a full circle moment for me.

On the third night, we all decided to go to my very favorite restaurant in Gulf Shores. “The Original Oyster House”. We had left later than we had planned (that happens when you have three toddlers to get ready). The wait was close to an hour. Have you ever tried to keep a gaggle of toddlers occupied for over an hour in a crowded waiting area? Let me tell you, it is not easy! Fortunately, it was outside so we could let them toddle a little while we waited. And waited.

We finally were seated at a large table in a very crowded area of the restaurant. Three toddler seats were strategically placed between adults. It was getting progressively difficult to keep the boys occupied as they had already been waiting for an hour at this point. I still was going on zombie sleep. The adults were served their salads and began nibbling. We cut up little pieces of tomatoes and cucumbers for the boys to nibble on before we got our real meals.

As usual, Anakin began choking on a piece of tomato. He began turning purple and all of the patrons around us were staring. I yanked him out of his toddler seat and held him up to my face one more time to see if he was going to cough it up by himself before I began the dramatic Heimlich in front of all of these people. Just then, Anakin took one deep breath and projectile vomited all over me. How do you gracefully exit after that? .

I took the keys from Kevin, loaded both boys up and went back to the house. I was so tired. I was so miserable. That was the last restaurant experience that we would have for nearly two years. Anakin would stop choking shortly after that. Some part of his wind pipe finally matured enough to stop food from coming down. We still had Luke passing out at will, so we just decided to stop the madness and eat at home from there on out. They would be three years old before we took them out to eat at a restaurant again

Kevin later came back to the house with the other’s. I was in full sobs, “Can’t we just go home now? This is not fun!” We had always enjoyed spending this week with our friends, but I could not stand this any more. We negotiated and stayed one more full day and left one day earlier than we had planned.

We left Gulf Shores, Alabama on Friday, August 19, 2005. Hurricane Katrina would make landfall on Thursday, August 25, 2005.

The Birthday Party

July rolled around and it was time for the boys’ first birthday party. I’ll admit that I made a MUCH bigger deal about it than was necessary. First, we had never planned a child’s birthday party before. Second, in my eyes, this was not “just” a birthday party. To me, it was a celebration of my children’s improvements to our lives. A celebration of our family’s completion. They had made our lives so much richer in just one year and I wanted to acknowledge that.

The boys were mesmerized by trains at this phase, so we decided to have a trains themed birthday party. We booked a room at the local city park that had a children’s train that would ride around the park. I made two train themed birthday cakes: one for each child. Kevin designed, drew, and decorated two mini birthday cakes for the boys. We were up to our eyeballs in birthday cakes. Kevin and I stayed up all night long decorating the cakes for the boys. Clearly, I had not discovered the joys of the Sam’s Club bakery at this point.

Mom had gone to every Dillard’s department store in metro Atlanta trying to find two 12 month sized outfits that looked like train conductor suits. It took some persistence, but after a full day of running all over town, she won the treasure hunt with two adorable outfits for two adorable boys.

The day of their birthday party was the hottest day of the year. The kind of heat that hits you in the face when you open the door. We were pleased that the room that we had reserved was big enough that the kids could play inside.

The party was a success! As I look at the pictures now, I don’t see any real food and I don’t remember making food, but we had plenty of cake for the guests to eat! A ton of friends and family came to the party. The boys were overwhelmed with all of the attention. They made a mess eating their first cakes, however they were quite used to the sweet treat of frosting by this time. 🙂

It came time for the group to ride around the park on the train. It was hard to leave the comfort of the air conditioned room for the heat of the outside, but for the sake of a train party, we pushed through. All of the children had a blast going around the park on a children’s train. I think that it was the first time on a “choo choo” for many of the kids.

We came home loaded down with new toys for the boys to play with, two exhausted one year olds, and two really exhausted parents.

Prior to the birthday party, Anakin had started choking on certain foods. The first time that he choked, he was in his high chair eating tiny pieces of apple (about the size of confetti). He started coughing, but I thought that it was no big deal. I stood next to him and patted his back, thinking that this was your standard coughing fit. At the point that he started turning purple and looking panicked at me, I realized that it was time to take action. I had never done the Heimlich Maneuver, but I had been trained as a Girl Scout (get your girls in Girl Scouts – you never know when that stuff will be useful) on how do do it and I HAD to do something.

I yanked him out of his chair, held him by his chest, kind of between my legs, and pulled up. In two tries, the apple came flying out of his mouth. He started crying a little and I was startled by the whole incident. About the time that I started to console him in my arms, the doorbell rang. I went to answer it. It was my sweet neighbor Dorie. “Hey Kid, I haven’t seen you guys in awhile and wanted to see how the boys were doing.”

I looked blankly at her and said, “Anakin just choked on an apple and I had to do the Heimlich Maneuver on him.” I was still shocked at the whole scene.

She looked at me and looked at Anakin and back at me, “Just now?”

I nodded, pale and shaken.

“I can’t believe you aren’t crying. I would be a mess, crying right there at the table if I were you.”

I had thought that I would be a big puddle of tears also, but I was still trying to comprehend what had just happened and push “what could have happened” as far back in my mind as I could. She held him and assured me that he was fine. She made me feel better about the situation and that I handled it all better than I really did.

It turned out that this was a phase that Anakin was going through. For several weeks forward, he would regularly choke on something and I would have to yank him up and do the Heimlich on him. It was bizarre. The pediatrician had said something about this being a side effect of his prematureness. I just thought it was one more weird thing in my weird family.

At the birthday party, we were waiting for the children’s train to come around and let our passengers on. There were other park patrons that were waiting also. A family with small children waited along side Kevin and I as we held the boys. I had stuck an ice cube in Anakin’s mouth to keep him cool while we waited. Of course, it went down wrong and he began to choke and turn purple. Kevin yanked him up, gave him a couple of pumps, and out came the cube. We checked him out to make sure that he was fine, and went back to waiting for the train to arrive for our guests like it was no big deal. A moment later, I happened to turn to see the family that was waiting with us. The parents eyes were as big as saucers and their mouths were wide open in shock. I thought that I explained it all when I said, “He does this all the time.” Somehow, that didn’t do it for the family. The dad just said, “Huh” as he looked on wide eyed at us.

Summertime Fun

The end of May brought on lots of summertime fun for us. These were all new experiences for the boys and it was so much fun to see the everyday things through the eyes of a baby.

We had been invited to a pool party at our neighborhood pool on Memorial Day. I was a little nervous for safety reasons, but my friends assured me that there would be 50 eyes on the boys. The water was too cold to get into the pool, so someone brought a kiddie pool for the boys to play in. They were in hog heaven! It was like being in a bathtub outside! I thought, “This is easy. I probably could do this pool thing.”

The next week, I asked one of my neighbors if she would go with me to the pool. She had kids that were school aged and I thought that between all of us, we could manage the boys pretty easily. You should have seen all of the equipment I brought with me! Two pack ‘n plays! The boys were quite the momma’s boys once we got settled in. They wanted me to hold them the whole time in the water. I could hold them both for a little while, but my arms would get tired and I would have to pass one child off to someone else. They would cry “Mama!” and hold out their arms while someone else held them. I would put one of them in the pack ‘n play to have some one-on-one time with the other child and they would really cry! This pool thing was tricky! Fortunately, the boys had become the neighborhood mascots, so lots of little girls were waiting for their turn to hold the boys. When one girl got tired of holding a screaming baby, they would pass them off to another girl.

We decided to sell some of our old infant items at the neighborhood’s yearly garage sale. I had never participated in a garage sale before, so preparing for one with two babies crawling around me was an adventure. We put both boys in the back of the truck that was parked in the garage to play together while we set up all of our wares. When I turned around to check on them, they had put all of my garage sale stickers on each other’s faces!

The next day, during the sale, I put the boys in excersaucer’s behind me while I handled sales. One lady asked how much for the saucers. I looked at the boys and replied, “Oh, they are not for sale. I am just keeping my boys penned up right now in them.” She gave me a stern look and said, “You shouldn’t put items out that you don’t intend to sell.” and walked off. I got so tickled at her!

I was well into my cake decorating classes by this time and spent some time in the kitchen practicing my skills. This was the first time that I was spending large amounts of time on something that was not baby related. The boys did not like that one bit. They would both shimmy their way between me and the cabinets and push me away from the counter. “Mama! Mama! Maaaaamaaaa!” It was exhausting! A better woman would have ignored them and gone about their business, but I have never been able to listen to my babies cry for very long. It took me a long time before I figured out what would pacify the boys while I was decorating cakes. (You’ll love this)

I found out that they loved cake icing as much as I did. I had gained 15 pounds while I was taking these cake decorating classes just from the icing. So, I would put the boys in their high chairs and wheeled them into the kitchen with me. After I was done with a particular color of icing, I would squirt a little into their mouths. They would open their mouths like little birds and smile the biggest smile with their mouths full of icing. The sugar high would ensue, and we would all be happy. This was our little secret that nobody had to know about.

One night, while I was in my cake class, I had left my cell phone in the car. When I got into my car, I checked the call log. It showed that Kevin had called 5 times while I was gone. Oh Lord! Something must be wrong! I immediately called the house. Kevin answered, “I think something is wrong with Luke.” I held my breath. “Why?” I managed to eek out. “Because I just changed his poopy diaper and his poop was bright green.” I went through my mind anything that they had eaten in the past day. Then I remembered. “Um, I think I know what it is.” I meekly replied. “What?” Kevin was on pins and needles. “Icing” There I said it. “How much icing does it take to make his poop fluorescent green?” Kevin asked. I was silent a minute. “A lot.” I replied and waited for my appropriate reprimand. After a few moments of comprehension, Kevin just started laughing at me. “What?” I ask, not believing that he was letting me off the hook. “Nicely done, babe. Nicely done.” Whew!

 

Mother’s Day

May brought in Mother’s Day. If you only knew how I had suffered through so many years of Mother’s Day celebrations. It was the worst holiday of the year. And now suddenly I got to celebrate it too! It was like being inducted into a special sorority.

Luke was in full teething mode and would bite anything that he could stick into his mouth. Hard. He would smile and lean in to give you the sweetest baby hug and then, CHOMP! He would bite a hunk out of your shoulder or arm or neck. Whatever he could get his little teeth on. You would scream “Owww!” and he would sweetly look up at your face and laugh.

The morning of Mother’s Day, Kevin handed me a jewelry box. When I opened the box, there was a beautiful gold locket necklace. The front of the locket had “Mom” inscribed with a rose. It was perfect. I’ll be honest. I got a little verklempt (talk amongst yourselves). Kevin took the necklace and put it on my neck. This is the best Mother’s Day ever! My sweet little baby climbed into my lap and held the locket in his fat baby hands to inspect. I turned my head to tell Kevin “Thank you” again when CHOMP. Luke bit into the locket. It left a permanent dent on both sides of the locket. Instead of having the locket fixed, I decided to keep it just like it was because that is a reminder of my children being babies. They are only babies for a little while.

Mom, Amy, Sidekick, and all of us had a lovely Mother’s Day lunch. Anakin had decided that he loved tomatoes. We would give him a tomato from our salads and he would suck on it. The first bite would bring a precious sour face and then he would go to work on it. That day, he choked on his tomato. Not badly, but enough to turn red faced and scare the patrons around us at the restaurant. We decided to get the vegetable mesh bags after that meal so that he could teeth and suck on apples and tomatoes, but not choke on them.

Mom had given me cake decorating classes. It was a good excuse to get out of the house once a week and frankly I was in need of a hobby. We had a first birthday part that was coming up in a few months so I was super excited to take these classes.

One morning, the boys and I were enjoying our usual lazy morning routine. I would sip my coffee and the boys would pull up on the couch and cruise up and down it. They were gearing up for their first steps. Oh Lord, I was bracing myself for two babies walking!

I was in the kitchen fixing my coffee and taking my vitamins when Anakin fell backwards and had hurt himself. I walked over to him to make sure that he wasn’t badly hurt and without thinking, laid my vitamins down on the couch to pick him up. He was fine. I calmed him down and propped him back up against the couch for another cruise when I went to pick up my vitamins. They were gone! I looked over to Luke and he was making a gross face with my multivitamin in the back of his mouth trying to scoot it out with his tongue. I felt around in his mouth, but there was no fish oil pill anywhere. I used both hands to double check. No fish oil pill. Oh NO!

I grabbed the phone and called my pharmacist (the one that got me pregnant). I tried to stay calm as I told her the story. I totally expected her to tell me what to do and fix everything. She told me that I would have to call Poison Control to see if it was toxic. Really? They were not even 10 months old yet and we are already calling Poison Control. There goes my mother of the year award.

I called the Poison Control operator and told her everything. I read the type and amount of fish oil to her. I braced myself for having to make him throw up. That would certainly call for a breath holding episode. She looked up the records and came back on the line. “Ma’am, there is no reason for you to take your baby to the hospital. He will probably have a stomach ache for the rest of the day, but once he passes it, he will be fine.” Exhale. He will be fine. Thank you God!

A few hours later, the stomach pains began. He was pitiful, but never threw up. The next night, when we were giving the boys a bath (this is a two man job with twins), I said, “What is that smell?” Kevin looked around, “What smell?” I sniffed. “Something smells like dead fish!” We both sniff around trying to find the source. Then we found it. My sweet baby smelled like dead fish. I took him three weeks to get that awful smell out of his system.

 

Chaos Control Manager

 As the weather warmed up, the boys development warmed up as well. In the first week of April, I look over my shoulder to the back of the couch and Anakin had learned to stick his toes in the rungs of the baby gate and pull himself up onto the gate. Then he would scream for me to get him to the other side. It was only a matter of minutes before Luke saw this new found talent and followed suit. What was I going to do if they could crawl over the gate?

We spent the weekend revamping our game plan. We ended up moving the loveseat couch into the basement altogether and investing in yet another gate to block the entrance to the dining room. This way, we could see all the way across the main living areas of the house.

My job title had now become “Chaos Control Manager”. Just when we thought that we had everything secured, the boys would work together and conquer something else. One Saturday, Luke had moved an entire package of paper towels out of the pantry and slide it across the kitchen to climb on top of so that he could play with the salt shaker. You can imagine how stern we appeared to them with the video camera in one hand and the camera in the other.

Their favorite place to hang out was the dish washer door. They worked together to figure out that they could grab stuff off of the counter if they pulled down the dishwasher door and stood on it. We went through 2 dishwashers that year.

This was one of my favorite baby developmental stages. They were into everything, but they were so darn cute about it! Tupperware, flour, dog food, it was all fair game to the boys. I never knew what kind of mess I would find. They would just giggle at me and smile their precious smiles when I would catch them in the act.

We started venturing out a little more than we had previously now that the weather was warming up. The screaming had not totally subsided, but traveling was a little more bearable. The trick was to wake them up from their naps and throw them into the car before they knew what happened. Mom and Sidekick had come up one day during spring break and we had a picnic. We went to our friends, Todd and Emily’s one day for one of our first play dates.

Nap time was cute because I was letting them “self sooth” until they went to sleep. The problem with that was that they would stand up and talk to each other instead of lay down and take a nap. Luke still wanted a nap and would eventually lay down. He would shout some baby command to Anakin and then they would both settle down and go to sleep. This time was heaven to me because it was the only part of the day that was mine. If a baby was sick and refused a nap, I would get panicky. I needed that time every day!

Something that I had figured out at this time was if the babies woke up crying in the night, Kevin could not stand it for very long. He would get up and take care of them. Sometime in this phase, I learned that if I pretended that I was asleep when the boys were crying in the night, Kevin would get up instead of me. It worked like a charm every time 😉

I had picked up watching soap operas for the first time since I was a teenager. I would usually fold clothes during nap time and watch my “story”. I would yell (softly), “Girl, you stay away from him. He is trouble!” Kind of Mr. Mom style. When Kevin would tell me about his day after work, I would tell him what Victoria did on Young and The Restless.

For some reason, Kevin took this as a hint that I needed to get away from the everyday. We asked his parents if we could spend a long weekend at their cabin. It was so beautiful up in the mountains with spring in the air. We had gotten hiking racks for the boys so that they could sit securely up on our backs on hikes. It was good exercise and the boys loved looking around at the pretty trees in the mountains.

One afternoon while we were in the mountains, Luke was pulling himself up on the sliding glass door to look at Kevin grilling on the porch. Of course, he fell backwards from being unstable on his legs (they had not started walking yet). When he fell, he had bent one of his fingers in the heating vent below him on the floor. It looked like it hurt badly and I immediately rushed over to him to console him. I knew that we were going to hear from him about it because he was doing that silent cry until he ran out of breath. His face was turning red, so I braced myself for the howl that he would let loose once he took in that deep breath. The problem was, he didn’t take that deep breath. He turned purple and then gray. He started clawing at the air and then bowed out like he was having a seizure. I was terrified as I held him in my arms while this went on. I was too frozen to even call Kevin in to help me. Soon he went limp in my arms. I laid him on the couch to decide if I needed to start CPR or the Heimlich maneuver. As soon as I laid him down, I saw that the color was coming back to his face and his chest was rising, but his eyes were closed as if he had fallen asleep. Just as I turned to call for Kevin, Luke took a deep restful breath like babies do when they are asleep and opened his eyes howling. What was that? I tried to describe it to Kevin, but he looked like nothing out of the ordinary had happened. We gave him some Ibuprofen and put some ice on his finger. We watched him closely to see if we needed to head to the hospital, but within 15 minutes, he was happily playing on the floor with his brother again.

This was the first episode that we had encountered of Luke’s breath holding. He would only do it if he had hurt himself badly for the first three months. By the time that he turned a year old, he had mastered it and could control when he passed out and it became a regular part of a temper tantrum.

**I had a hard time choosing pictures for this phase, so I have a lot this time.

The New Normal

They say that it is always darkest before the dawn. That was the case for us when I had quit my job. Things were scary for a month or so as we figured finances out. Just like the babysitter had told me, our priorities changed and as a result, the numbers changed. I remember February being very cold and rainy that year (isn’t it always?). It was easy to overcome the chill when I spent my days interacting with my boys. We would all be so excited to hear the garage door come up and know that Daddy was finally home and we could just sit in the floor and play. Ironically enough, all of the illness that we all had experienced when I had gone back to work had disappeared. No more ear infections or croupy coughs from any of us.

The hard part for me was shaking off the label of career woman that I had defined myself by for so many years. I had always seen myself as a working woman so to be in my pajamas all day long was a drastic change for me. As Sidekick had once imitated me with my purse on her little shoulder, “My name is Betsy. I’m fancy and wear high heels and I scream at my sister.” OK, so the sister thing is irrelevant here, but that is how we all saw me. It was difficult to relate to my friends that were full time working women because I was seeing things from a completely different light. All of these things would level out, but it did take some transitional time.

One of the ways that I had learned early on to feed both boys a bottle at the same time was to sit them each in a bean bag in front of me and I would sit in the floor facing them and hold each bottle in each hand. The bean bags became their favorite hang out chair.

I had sworn that my babies were not going to watch television. Ever! That’s what all of the studies had said and so that is what we were going to do. But then I discovered a little thing called Baby Einsteins. Those things were a Godsend!

If I ever had to run upstairs and put the laundry in the dryer, I would sit those babies in the bean bags with a bottle and turn on some Baby Einstein. They would not move the whole time that I was gone. It was a beautiful thing! Of course, they were old hands at crawling and moving around so being in the bean bag chairs were not really a safety issue.

Penning the boys up into safe parts of the house was starting to be a challenge. With the boys learning how to crawl and wanting to explore everything, we had to invest pretty heavily in baby gates. I would go every Monday to half price day at our thrift store and buy every descent baby gate that they had for weeks. The downstairs was starting to look like the locks of the Panama Canal. We had a baby gate from the den to the living room (which was really their downstairs nursery), one across the back of the couch to partition the open concept kitchen from the den, one from the kitchen hallway to the half bath, and one on the back staircase in the kitchen. Kevin and I could have been Olympic hurdlers after we learned how to hop over those gates fast enough to prevent calamities. The dog would just look at the gate that she wanted over as if she was using the force to move it for her. In the end that would work because we would notice her and let her through whichever gate that she wanted past.

Towards the end of March, we decided to get some spring pictures taken of the boys. Of course, professional pictures were no longer in the budget so we went the the city park to get some cute pictures of our own. We worked and worked and worked to get both boys situated for a picture and as soon as we thought that they were settled enough to snap the picture, somebody would start crying or start crawling off. It was frustrating at the time, but when I look back at those pictures, they are so cute. It captures the essence of that development period for the boys.

On the way home from the park, we decided to stop at a restaurant to eat dinner. We were seated at a booth and each had a baby to entertain while we waited for our food. They were at that phase where they wanted to stand on our legs and jump up and down while you held them up by their arms. We would make silly faces at them and make them laugh at the same time. This was fun until our food got to our table. The boys still wanted to bounce on our laps while we wanted to eat our food. We would both try to balance our baby in one arm while we would try to shove a fork full of food in our mouths with the other arm. Sometimes we were successful, sometimes we weren’t.

Apparently, we had become the dinner entertainment to the people in the booths across from us. They were laughing at this circus balancing act. Two older women that were sitting in two separate booths back to back finally stepped in, “Excuse me, can we hold your babies while you eat your dinner? I know that you are not supposed to give your baby to a complete stranger, but we promise not to walk off with them and we will sit right here in your sight the whole time.” I looked at Kevin and raised an eyebrow. I know that this is a major safety no-no, but it sure sounded nice for both of us to eat with both hands. He shrugged his shoulders and we handed over the boys. One baby for each booth. They didn’t know each other, so I figured that if we separated the boys, the safety factor would improve just a tad. Those women had so much fun playing with our boys while we ate our food!

They got their grandmama fill of babies and handed the boys over when we had gotten done with our meals. They have no idea what a blessing that they provided to us that night.

The next Sunday was the boys’ first Easter. They got an Easter basket full of homemade teething cookies from the Easter bunny. We did the whole family tour ending with a visit to the boys’ great-grandmother’s house. It truly was a weekend of miracles because for the first time in months and months, both boys fell asleep on the ride home and we had a silent, hour long trip in the car!

 

Turn And Face The Strange Changes

 I sat in the lobby of our building on the marble bench for what felt like 3 hours crying. I wasn’t crying because I was sad about staying home with my babies. That was a relief. I was crying because I was disappointed in myself that I couldn’t make it all work out like other working women. I couldn’t make the job that I loved coincide with the family that I loved. It felt somewhat like failure to me.

I sniffled as I called Ginger to tell her what I had done. She was not surprised at all because she had heard me struggle for months about this. I think she may have been a little impressed with the kahunas/stupidity that it took to just walk out of my job. Either way, she assured me that I would live to see another day and that we would find a way to work it out.

I sniffled as I called my mom to tell her what I had done. She practically cheered when I told her the news. She knew that home was where I had wanted to be and wholeheartedly supported me. In our conversation about the future, Mom puzzled me when she said, “Why don’t you think about moving to Granddaddy’s house?” I sniffled and was silent. Why would I want to live at Granddaddy’s house? “It’s a one story house which will be easier when the boys are toddlers, and think about it: that is the perfect place to raise two little boys.” I liked my house and really could not fathom any more change in our life anytime soon. “Maybe I will think about it,” I told her. That house was way too far away from a shopping mall was what I was really thinking.

It was really taking Kevin a long time and it was getting harder to be inconspicuous crying in the lobby. My former co-workers were leaving for lunch and saw me still waiting. They were coming up to me and hugging me which just made me cry a little harder. I had grown attached to so many of these women.

Finally, Kevin drove up to the turn-about in front of the lobby. I was so relieved to see his car, but was really worried about how mad he was going to be at me. He knew that I was having a hard time balancing it all and knew that I wanted to stay home, but I did not talk with him or anything before I just quit my job.

He was really nice about it. Before we left, he gave me a hug and said that he wasn’t mad at me. It is in Kevin’s nature to lighten a situation that is too heavy and this certainly qualified as a heavy situation. What can you do? We laughed and came up with new occupations for me to start anew.

Since we were both off work at the same time and the babysitter still had the babies, we took the opportunity to go buy a new washing machine and dryer. Yes, after the loads and loads of laundry that we had acquired since the boys were born, it had gotten the best of our washing machine and dryer. What’s a few more hundred bucks after walking away from an entire job?

Next on the list of this never ending, lackluster day was to fire the babysitter. I felt really bad about this. As much as I didn’t like her being a second mom to my babies, she really loved them like her own and I never worried about their welfare when they were with her. Fortunately, she wasn’t surprised.

“I honestly didn’t think that you would have lasted this long. I had told my mother that I gave it a month when I started keeping the boys. You will enjoy staying home with your babies.”

“Thanks. I am not sure how this is going to work because I have ran the numbers and they don’t match up when my salary is not in there.”

The babysitter smiled because she knew a secret that I did not know yet. “I know what you mean, but the numbers are different when you stay at home. The priorities change. You won’t go out to eat as much anymore and you won’t buy as many clothes and shoes. You will find cheaper ways to do things and you will make new numbers. You are going to find a way to make this work.” She made it sound so simple, but time would tell if the numbers would change.

I gave her a tight squeeze and she helped me load the babies into the car. She will never know how grateful I was for her love and care for my boys. It would be years before I would see her again.

I was exhausted as I loaded the kids into the house from the car. This was a skill that I was proud to acquire. I could hold both infant seats in one arm and push the garage door button closed with the other. Now that is talent!

When I walked into the kitchen, the smell of clean wafted through the house. Oh, great. I was going to have to fire the housekeeper too. Man, this day was really starting to hurt my feelings.

It was fantastic to wake up the next morning to my babies wide eyed and awake. Goodness I had missed these moments! I spent the whole day just watching my boys play. We would work out the details on another day.

The next Tuesday, I was sitting on the couch watching the boys play in the floor when I looked over and Luke was grinning like the Cheshire cat. He had pulled up to standing position by himself. It was 10 am.

Yes, this was going to be a good change.

Built In Best Friends

One of the things that I love the most about having twins is that they have always had a built in best friend. It is a joy to see them interact with each other every day. From the time that they were infants, they have loved to play with one another.

I remember when the boys were about nine months old, Anakin had woken up about an hour earlier than usual. I took him downstairs and put him in a jumpy toy to entertain himself while I nursed my hot coffee. Normally, this would have been an amicable enough situation, but for some reason Anakin was not happy. He screamed and cried. Even after I picked him up and sat in the floor with me, he was loud and unsatisfied. An hour later, when Kevin brought Luke down from the crib, Anakin immediately settled down and started laughing and jabbering to his brother. All he wanted was for his brother to wake up and play with him.

Most of the time in social situations, the boys will interact mostly with other people. However, they always have each other’s back. Once, a child was trying to take a toy away from Anakin. When he wouldn’t let go of the toy, the child started acting like he was going to hit Anakin. Before I had a chance to intercept the hostile situation, Luke was at Anakin’s side. “You leave my brudder alone!” he screamed. If you are messing with his brudder, you are messing with him. I was so proud of him!

Sometimes we have “Day O’ Fun” where each parent spends the day doing fun stuff with just the one child. It is a nice change to have a one on one conversation with the children. We will do whatever the child wants to do and eat lunch at the dreaded McDonald’s per the child’s request. Usually toy shopping is somewhere in the plans. Whenever we buy something for Luke, he automatically asks, “Can we get one for Anakin?” no matter what the “thing” is. He wants to enjoy it with his brother.

It is fascinating to watch the two outside playing and discovering the world together. They will take turns being the leader. One will make up a game or a story and the other one will play along for a little while. Then they will lose interest and the follower will come up with a different idea and become the leader. It is so natural to flow back and forth for them. It captivates me.

This weekend the boys asked if they could camp outside by themselves. I had put this request off for several weeks. I had finally been worn down enough that I said yes against my better judgment. Kevin got them all settled in and came back in. “They’ll be back inside in an hour, tops.” I said to him as he walked in. Surely they would get scared and come back inside jumping in Mommy and Daddy’s bed for comfort. We waited. Nothing. No coming inside for bathroom breaks, or snacks, or argument meditations.

We went to bed and I laid there for hours. They were going to need me at some point in the night. I was sure of it. My ears were perked for the first sign of alarm. Crickets and tree frogs were all I heard.

They never came inside one time all night long. It wasn’t until 8:15 the next morning that the boys came bounding in the door ready for some pancakes.

As I think about it, their relationship is a little different from a older/younger sibling set because there is not one of them that was trying to scare or tease the other one in the long, dark night. It was an equal situation and they were in it together. Fun was the only thing on the agenda for both boys.

Simply put, they didn’t need me because they had each other’s back. Sigh.

It’s The Holiday Season!

By Thanksgiving Day, Anakin’s cold had hung on and was passed on to all of us. We were all so exhausted from trying to keep up with some kind of work schedule and quality family time that we were pooped. One thought of all of us sickies piling in the car for an hour and a half scream-fest and face a long day without naps did not look appealing to any of us. I know that our families were disappointed, but our “get up and go” had “gotten up and went”. We stayed home and snuggled up in a big Walker pile on the couch. We improvised our Thanksgiving meal with sandwich ham, a can of creamed corn, and a baked potato. Mmmm.

Mom came up on Saturday. Here in Georgia, the Saturday after Thanksgiving is a big deal. It is the annual Georgia/Georgia Tech football game. My mom had gotten the boys UGA outfits at our family baby shower, and my aunt had gotten the boys Georgia Tech sweatshirts. We are a house divided, so I dressed one baby in each outfit for the game.

Mom and I decided to feed the boys their first taste of food before the game. They ate applesauce. I had long been beefing up the formula with rice cereal, but the applesauce hit the spot. It would soon become a favorite to both boys.

While we were watching the game, Luke stuck Mom’s finger in his mouth and bit her! “Ouch!” she said surprisingly. She stuck her finger back in his mouth and felt his gums. He had just cut his first tooth. The boys had just turned four months old the week before.

The boys were starting to sit up with a little help and could cackle when we would make funny faces at them. I never imagined the hours that I would spend just making silly faces to my babies to catch a taste of those sweet smiles and hear their baby laughter. We were very stingy with our time after work. All we wanted to do was go home and love on our babies. It made the ridiculous Christmas commute in Buckhead worth it to see my babies smile at me when I picked them up at the end of the day.

The night of my company’s Christmas party was a big deal to me. I had officially reached my pre-pregnancy weight. I did not wear a sexy dress to celebrate like my mom had suggested…mom’s don’t do that! Looking back, the sexy dress would have been fun had it not been so cold that night. When our friends came to find us, I was sitting at a table by myself eating crepes. I had never met a crepe before, and now we were practically best friends. Christy asked, “Where is Kevin?” I did not look away from my new love. “I don’t know. The casino tables I think,” I mumbled through my bites. She laughed, a little puzzled, “I figured that you would be together tonight enjoying a romantic night together.” I inhaled, finishing the last bite of this cuisine fatal. “We are just so happy to have both hands free that we decided to go do our own thing.” I got up, headed back to the crepe chef for my next round with my friend, the crepe. It was a great evening for us both.

We decided that we were not going to travel on Christmas Day that year. We had always gone across town to see many family members in all of the years past, but we wanted to set the precedence in the first year that the boys would stay home and play with their toys on Christmas Day. Instead, Mom, Sidekick, and my sister came up and had lunch with us. We all had a great time playing with baby toys that the boys were not quite old enough to appreciate yet.

We had dinner with Kevin’s family the next day. I relished the tradition of our yearly picture under their Christmas tree. We have taken a picture of the two of us under Kevin’s parent’s Christmas tree every year that we had been together. A total of 12 pictures under their tree. I keep them all in a special photo album that only have these pictures in it. That year we had a picture of four of us under the tree. My how things change in just the span of one year!

January came and the boys’ development really started to pick up. Anakin and Luke both crawled for the first time within three days of each other. They were both on weekdays.

I became more aggressive with people at work. The job that I loved became the one thing that separated me from my babies. It was a big deal when I had to work late because that would mean that my babies were going to be asleep when I got home. I would go days sometimes not seeing my babies awake. This was not what I signed up for.

Things came to a head in the last week of January. The babysitter’s family had gotten a stomach virus on the week that I had a big deadline coming up. It was imperative that I had to be at work and to be there as long as necessary on the week before this deadline. I had come into work that Monday and within a few hours, the babysitter called me.

“I just want to give you a warning on what is happening here. The school just called and my son has a stomach virus. My husband is on his way to pick him up. I don’t want to expose the boys to this, but I can’t do anything from here.”

Of course, my mother instincts kicked in, “I am going to try to beat him home,” I said as I packed up my computer and as much paper work as I could hold. I hung up the phone as I walked out of the door.

I barely beat the babysitter’s son home. She was standing at the door with the bags packed for us to evacuate as soon as possible.

I spent the rest of the day balancing two newly crawling babies with a laptop and a huge stack of papers that I was trying to go through. It was clear that working at home was not an option. When I was at home, I needed to be “at home”. Present and focused on my children. It was hard enough to be present and focused on my job when I was in the office.

Kevin and I scrambled for plans for the rest of the week. I HAD to be at work. Kevin stayed home the next day. Mom did us a heavy and drove across town in the dark hours of the morning for two mornings to watch the boys. We asked a neighbor for a huge favor and she watched the boys on Friday. It was mentally exhausting for me that week to press through on my job’s deadline while worrying about how my babies were doing while I was away. Our week was capped off with an ice storm that Saturday.

Later the next week, I was called into my boss’ office. We were discussing a report that she had maintained while I was on maternity leave. The discussion got heated and my boss commented on how hard she had to work on it while I was away. This struck a nerve with me after all of the sacrifices that my entire family had made the week before so that I could do my job. It just seemed so silly at the moment. These were reports. We weren’t saving lives or influencing our community or anything. It was Excel for goodness sakes! My babies needed me and this was stupid.

I laid my pen down on my legal pad on her desk and said, “I’m done. I’m going home to my babies.” and got up and walked out of her office. (I slammed her door really hard on the way out)

I walked into my office and sat down at my desk. CRAP! I had ridden the van-pool into work that day. Not only did I have to call my husband and tell him that I had quit my job, but I had to tell him that he had to leave his job and drive an hour and a half in the rain to pick me up.

“Um, honey? Can you come pick me up….”

Dancing Backwards In High Heels

I had been back at work for about a week when I realized that Halloween was coming up that weekend and I had not gotten the boys their first Halloween costume. I picked the babies up one evening and went to Party City to get costumes. I don’t know if you have ever been in Party City during the Halloween season, but there is a line that goes down the entire side of the store of patrons waiting to choose costumes. Here I was in heels, with a double stroller full of tired, unhappy babies, standing in a never ending line. I had no idea what to choose. Should I pick out a cute pair idea for the twins’ first Halloween or do I just pick out two individual costumes because they are two individual people? These are decisions that plague a new twin mommy sometimes. Set or individual? Finally, I was called to the counter. The pressure was on. I seem to remember that there were not a lot of choices in infant sizes, so I settled on one Eeyore and one Blue’s Clues costumes. Hey, they weren’t original, but I was lowering my standards, right?

Halloween came on a Sunday. Mom, Sidekick, and my sister came up to trick or treat with us. Kevin had invited the babysitter’s family to trick or treat with us also, so that we could get to know each other better. Kevin was very concerned that I would use the babysitter as an excuse to quit my job and was going to extremes to make sure that the babysitter and I were on amicable terms.

The boys were so cute! They would laugh and kick and the floppy ears would go flying back and forth. It was hard to look like you are having a serious kicky fit in an Eeyore costume.

Halloween was an unseasonably warm night and the boys could not stand to be in the hot costumes for very long. The boys finished the evening sound asleep in the strollers in onsies. It was nice to be a participant in Halloween and not just the candy giver.

Kevin and I hunkered down and concentrated on getting our new schedule down. We both knew that there would be lots of emotions for me. We both knew that it would be hard and that we would be tired. We both supported and encouraged each other. This was just something that we would have to accept and overcome.

One November night after work, Kevin was going to meet me at the grocery store. I can’t remember why I didn’t just meet him at home and leave the babies with him. Looking back, that seems like such an easy solution. Whatever the reason, there I was in the Kroger parking lot waiting on Kevin. He called and told me that he was running a few minutes late and would meet me inside the store.

I got out of the car and loaded the infant seats in a buggy just as the drizzle started to come down. Oh, this will be fun. I walked into the grocery store and got started. Halfway through the produce section, one of the babies started crying. I got him out of his infant seat and held him while I continued to grocery shop. I can do this. I pressed on down the bread isle. The other baby started to cry. This is normal. I can do this. I strap on my baby Bjorn, and load the other baby in it so that I had one hand left to pick up groceries.

There I was, wearing my new black business suit, black knee high boots, two babies hanging off of me, getting groceries in one hand, when Kevin calls me on the cell phone to find out where I was. As I add the cell phone to the insane situation, a woman comes up to me and taps me on the shoulder, “Excuse me, I am sorry to interrupt you, but I have to tell you that this is the funniest thing that I have ever seen.” She points at me from head to toe. The whole thing is funny to her. Sigh. I am glad that she found the humor in the scene. I saw it more as overwhelming.

It was inevitable: the baby illnesses began. I got a call one morning that Anakin was not feeling well. It didn’t take a lot of symptoms for me to leave work and come home. I was expected on a conference call that afternoon, so I brought my laptop and work home with me. It was really just a stuffy nose, but I was happy to be home with my babies none-the-less.

I thought that this would be a good exercise to see if I could work from home sometimes. Maybe that would be a solution to this whole problem of being away from home. I put the boys in their bouncy seats and called into the conference call. It was a little daunting to sound professional while giving goofy faces to my babies to see their eyes light up. I managed to do what I could to participate in the call. At one point, I had turned away from the boys to check some paperwork. When I turned around, Anakin had somehow gotten his hands on a baby hanger and stuck it in his mouth. He had gotten it stuck in the back towards his throat. I was mid-sentence when I turned around and found him pulling on it. Thankfully, someone else spoke up in the conference call while I pulled the hanger out of his mouth and tried not to freak out. He started crying and I had to hang up from the call to console him.

At the beginning of every week, I would write down my goals to accomplish for that week. The first goal of every week was to work all 5 days in the office. I never once accomplished that goal. Someone always got sick.

On their four month birthday, we went to Kevin’s parent’s cabin to ride the Christmas Train with the whole family. It was still a week before Thanksgiving, but we enjoyed the Christmas spirit anyway. We had all had babies within the year, so it was something to see all of us and 4 infant seats board the train. We had so much fun, just passing around babies and kissing the one that was in your lap at that moment. We got our first picture of the boys with Santa holding them. Anakin could not take his eyes off of his big, white beard. It was a really nice get away for a few days.

When we returned, I took the boys to their four month doctor’s visit. It was normal for me to take them by myself at this point and I had no problems with it usually. This time, the boys both got shots and continued to cry after the nurse left the room. Usually, the boys would stop crying pretty soon after the nurse administered the shots, but these must have really hurt. The nurse told me that I was welcome to stay in the room until the boys settled down. I rocked, and I held, I walked them, I hummed. I tried every trick in the book, but nothing was settling them down. I was starting to get a little stressed from all of their screaming.

The doctor heard the boys in the room, still crying and came back in to check on us. She was a mother also, so she knew when she saw me that I needed someone to rock a baby. If we could just settle both babies down, this would go a lot faster. She took a baby out of one of my arms and started rocking the baby as she walked back and forth in the little room.

“We need to sing. That’ll calm them down,” she says loudly so that I can hear her.

“OK. We can sing,” I tell her.

“What do you want to sing?” she asks me.

At that point, I was so stressed that I couldn’t think of the songs that I sang to the boys. I wildly thought back to any song that would pop into my head. Out of the blue, and really, I have no idea where this came from, I started singing, “We all live in a yellow submarine, yellow submarine, yellow submarine.” She looks at me a little puzzled, rocks the baby once more and joins in, “We all live in a yellow submarine, yellow submarine, yellow submarine.” We had to sing it loud enough to cover the babies cries so I can only imagine how it sounded to the people down the hall hearing us sing “Yellow Submarine” to the babies. I got a few funny looks from people as we left the doctors office. I needed to work on my baby lullabies.

 

Big Decisions

Halfway through my maternity leave, we began talking about what childcare to use when I went back to work. This is something that is traditionally settled before a woman has her baby, but I was in pure denial that I was going to have to make this decision. I put this task off until it was very necessary. Really, how do you choose a stranger to take as good of care of your children as you do? These are your babies! Talk about a leap of faith!

We both preferred an in-home child care facility over a bigger daycare set up. A nanny was entirely out of the budget. The problem was that we didn’t know anyone in the area that had an in-home child care business. We had put all of our “feelers” out asking if anyone knew of a trusted in-home child care business. Our pediatrician had recommended a woman and I called her to see how I felt about her and if she could handle twin babies.

She was a mom that decided to stay home with her last child that was now 14 months old. She seemed like a sweet, caring woman that I automatically connected with. We decided to go meet her and her family that week.

The lady quickly welcomed us into her home. Her family was sweet. Her house was clean and neat. She was really good with the boys. I was immediately at ease with her. She was the one. She could love them like I did. My heart fell a little.

I called on an old friend that had been my boss a long time ago. She had given birth to twin boys about 18 months before I did. She was also a career woman and made it all look easy. I wanted to know what it would feel like to be balancing a career with family. What were the tricks? When would it get easier? She invited me and the boys downtown to eat lunch, coo over babies, and talk about what was in store for me.

I drove downtown in the car with the umbrella stroller in the trunk. The boys had not let me down and had screamed all the way downtown. I parked in the underground parking lot, set up the umbrella stroller, packed in the boys, and headed towards the elevators. I immediately realized that I was going to have problems getting into the building. The umbrella stroller would not fit through the heavy glass door. How was I going to get in? Every door that I had gone through up until then had either been automatic opening or Mom or Kevin had been there to hold it open for me. I stood there agape at the entrance trying to figure out what I was going to do. Just when I was starting to get discouraged, two people dressed in business suits each opened one of the large glass doors and held them open for me to come in. This was the moment that I realized that I was going to have to rely on the kindness of strangers every once in awhile. I had always been an independent person prior to motherhood, and it was hard to ask of others; especially if I did not know them. However, when you have two screaming babies, a baby bag the size of an overnight suitcase, and either a double wide stroller or the monstrosity to roll with, you are going to need some doors held. It was simply something that I would have to accept.

When I finally made it to the lobby, my friend was waiting, smiling at us as we rolled in. She cooed over the babies for a minute and asked where I wanted to eat. After some discussion, we decided to go to the food court. Where we had just come from. Oh no! We are going to have to go through all of that again! She saw the concern on my face and laughed, “Don’t worry. I’ve got it.” She took the stroller from me and expertly whirled through the doors backwards, spun back around, and took off through the crowd. I was a mess! She was going to have a collision with my babies! But, that lady knew what she was doing. It took her no time to get us to the food court. I was in awe.

Over lunch we talked about what she does to take care of her home, the kids, the laundry, the dishes, the food, the shopping, the job, the overtime, the pressures. Everything. She said, “I am going to give you a piece of advice: Lower your expectations.” She looked at me and let that information sink in. “Do you understand what that means?” She asked me. “Um, like my to-do list?” “No, everything. Your house is going to be a mess. So what? The laundry may not get out of the basket. No big deal. You may not match your outfit everyday. It’s ok. We all understand. Lower your expectations of what life is going to be like for right now. It’s not going to be perfect.” Wow. I will never forget that piece of advice. It is still good stuff eight years later.

She listed off several people that she knew that were working moms and said that they were all going to be on stand by whenever I had any questions or just wanted to sound off. They had all been where I stood and would be happy to help in any way. I was relieved. I was starting to feel a little better about going back to work.

A few days later, I left the boys at the new babysitter’s house for a few hours to run some errands and for the boys to get used to being at her house. I went shopping for new work clothes and ate lunch with both of my hands, uninterrupted. It was divine, but I felt a little naked without my boys at my side.

I rushed up her steps to see how my babies did at their new babysitter’s house. I was anxious and excited at the same time. I peeked through the glass door and saw one of the boys sound asleep in the baby swing. They hated baby swings. They never fell asleep anywhere except in my arms or in the bed. They simply refused to fall asleep while moving. Unless they cried themselves to sleep. I put the scenerio together in my head. He had cried himself to sleep. Oooh. I wouldn’t have done that.

I started back to work the next week. I worked from 7am to 4pm to avoid the rush hour traffic. This meant that I was up by 5am to get my day started. Kevin woke up closer to 7. He got the boys up, got them changed, and took them to their new babysitter’s house. I didn’t get to see them in the mornings for fear that they would wake up and mess up everyone’s schedule.

The day went well. I did not cry at all (mainly because I was too tired to cry). I enjoyed eating lunch with my friends again and talking adult talk all day long. I was way too overwhelmed at getting back into my old schedule to be overly emotional. I called the babysitter to check on the boys just a few times throughout the day. I left promptly at 4 and sped back home to see my babies. I walked up the steps of the babysitter’s house and was so relieved to see them up and happy and playing.

“I went ahead and fed the boys dinner, bathed them and dressed them before you got here so that all you had to do tonight was play with your sweet fellas,” the babysitter said, kissing the cheek of one of the babies and setting him in my arms. I tried to hide my disappointment. That’s what I had been looking forward to doing all day long.

A week after returning to work, Luke rolled over for the first time. He was at the babysitter’s house.

Chick Magnets

After six weeks of breastfeeding the boys, I decided that breastfeeding was not for us. I had struggled all along to produce enough milk for both boys, but they had finally become a healthy weight; therefore, I felt comfortable giving it up. I was most looking forward to a big old cup of Starbucks coffee. These crazy hours were starting to wear me down.

My best friend, Ginger, was coming into town for the Labor Day Weekend. She had not gotten a chance to see the boys yet, and I was dying to show them off to her. We decided to meet up at Lenox Mall for lunch.

As we got the monstrosity loaded up and into the mall, I saw the Starbucks kiosk. I think it had a spotlight shining down on it and angels were singing, “Halleluiah” on high. The line was kind of long so we pulled the monstrosity over to a tall table and Kevin sat down to wait on me while I got my cup of heaven.

After waiting for about 5 minutes, Kevin came into my line of sight from where I stood. I said out loud, “Oh. My. Gosh.”

The boys had started crying while I was in line, so Kevin had gotten the milk bottles out and started feeding the boys. One bottle in one hand and the other bottle in the other hand. Crowded around him were about ten “Buckhead Women”. You know the ones that look like they had just walked out of a fashion magazine? The high maintenance ones? Yeah, they were crowded around my husband gushing over him and his adorable twin sons.! “Oh, look at you feeding those babies.” “You are a pro at this.” “What a man!” Kevin could hardly contain himself. He made eye contact with his very sleep deprived, milk engorged, barely-got-herself-together wife (who shot him the evil eye) and broke out in a big, dimpled smile.

An old man was standing near the counter and saw me looking at Kevin. He turned to me and said, “Are those your babies?” Oh! Here’s my chance to get the kudos too! “Yes!” I quickly admit. The old man points to Kevin and says, “You need to hold on to that one. He’s a good egg.” He pats me on the arm and walks off. What was I, chopped suey?

Kevin was still eating up all of the attention when I met back up with him and we started walking towards the restaurant. He was grinning ear to ear. The nerve! Looking straight ahead he said, “Who knew that these babies were such chick magnets? I should have had a pair of these guys when I was in college.” Ugh!

Poor Anakin was in full withdrawals by Labor Day. We went to my family reunion (to show the boys off some more, of course). As he was passed from woman to woman, he would just get a handful of boob and not let go. He would scream and cry when they would move his arm. Bless his heart!

When the boys were almost two months old, I decided that I would be brave and drive across Atlanta by myself with the babies. It was an hour and ten minute drive to our hometown. I would eat lunch with my in-laws and then go to Mom’s and have dinner with my family. How hard could that be?

Hard! Infant seats face backwards. I can’t see anything that’s going on back there. We were going through Atlanta traffic which means that I had to be at full attention at the wheel. And the babies did NOT like the sensation of moving backwards.

For the first twenty minutes of the ride, both boys screamed. I mean, SCREAMED, without letting up at all. Then the sound died down for a little while. One of the boys finally fell asleep from all of the trauma. Oh, but there was no respite for me! The other boy really started hit the high notes then. I was starting to get a little frazzled. After about thirty minutes, that baby fell asleep. And, yes, you guessed it: The other one woke up and took up the slack. I truly felt like this was not safe. My hands were shaking from the screaming getting on my nerves. My head was pounding and my ears were ringing. I had hoped that this was a one time occurrence. Maybe they were just not feeling good. However, every time we put the boys in the car from that particular ride on until they were one year old, they screamed. It became such a problem that we did not want to go visit people when they invited us over. It was nothing personal, we just didn’t want to have to hear our babies scream for the entire ride.

Because it was halfway through my maternity leave from work, it was time to start talking about child care and the logistics of having two babies with two full time working parents. A knot permanently settled in my stomach.

On The Road

The boys first social event was at about three weeks old. Dorie, our neighbor, was having a summer get together and asked us to come by if we felt like it. I felt like it. I was still shaking off my giant case of cabin fever and was ready to go talk to people. We were a little apprehensive about feedings, but I pumped before we left. It was funny, how much stuff we had to bring with us just to go across the street. We were still learning what we needed to keep in the baby bag at all times. It was so neat to watch all of the people coo over our sweet babies. I really enjoyed talking with the mothers and hearing their funny stories about motherhood. They made me feel at ease about the how crazy things can get and that it is ok to not be “the perfect mother”. We also celebrated me wearing a belt for the first time after the pregnancy!

Our other baby came home that weekend. Christy and Brian had heavy hearts when they returned Misty. I honestly expected them to run out and get their own puppy right away, but they didn’t.

Misty was really surprised to see the two little babies when she came inside. What were these little moving people looking things? Misty instinctively knew to be gentle around the babies. She simply sniffed their little cheeks and went about her business of running our house. She was really surprised when she found out that those little things ran the schedule now. Within a few weeks, Misty started losing patches of her hair. We were concerned that she was sick, so Kevin took her to the vet to find out why. The vet asked Kevin if we had had any lifestyle changes. Kevin chuckled. Yep, just a few. It turned out that Misty was going through a little bit of shock from the change in lifestyle. She was not adjusting to having two little brothers as well as we had hoped. She really started to forgive them for invading her home several months later when they started throwing their food down on the floor for her.

The weekend after Misty returned, we decided to meet Kevin’s parents at their cabin in Blue Ridge. It had only been six months since our cruise, but it felt like five years and we were ready for a little get away. We packed up the truck and got ready to go. We put the infant seats in and turned to Misty to get into the truck. Um, where were we going to put her? We had a four door, compact truck. There was just the tiniest amount of space between the two infant seats and Misty had a big butt. Leave it to Kevin to find a solution. Misty shimmied between the two car seats, and Kevin had put a “pack n play” on the floor board so that she could have space to lay down. Poor girl!

My in-laws were watching my sister-in-law’s baby while they were in a wedding that weekend. My new niece was about the same size as our boys, so everywhere we went that weekend, it appeared to strangers that we had triplets.

We found out the night that we arrived, that Anakin did not like to sleep anywhere, but at home. This is something that we dealt with for three years before the poor fella could get past this issue. He cried, and he cried, and he cried. I was up all night long with him. He was so pitiful looking up at me and crying. The cabin was completely wooden inside so the cries were echoing from the rafters. I was afraid that his cries would wake Luke up, but thankfully he slept on through majority of the night. It was a loooooong night.

I don’t know who was more relieved to be home after that trip: me or Anakin. I was particularly looking forward to Mom coming over that next week for her last week to help with the babies. I was going to get my last few nights of uninterrupted sleep in before I was fully responsible for my own children 24 hours a day.

The next weekend was our family baby shower. Between my grandfather being sick, me being on bed rest, and Mom fitting chemo treatments between all of these things, there had been no time to have a baby shower before the boys were born. I thought that it would be more fun anyway to get to show the babies off at the same time. We were really looking forward to this!

I woke up on the morning of the baby shower feeling like I had the flu. Oh, this was not good! I had a fever, chills, achy, and was just generally gross feeling. I didn’t know what to do except call my OB/Gyn. At this point, I felt like she knew me better than I knew myself and could help me out. I described my symptoms: I felt like death warmed over. She asked if my breasts were painful to the touch. My everything was painful to the touch so it was hard to isolate any particular ache, but once she mentioned it, yes, they were kind of painful. She explained that I had a breast mastisis. An infection in a milk duct. She called in an antibiotic and said that I would feel better within a matter of hours.

I had already told Kevin that he was going to have to go on to the shower without me. I simply could not go out of the house feeling like this and the shower could not be called off so close to the time of arrival.

Kevin went to pick up the prescription and I loaded up on that and Tylenol and pressed on to the shower. It was amazing how fast the antibiotic took effect. By the time that we got to the shower, I was feeling 80% better.

We had the baby shower at a restaurant so that no one had to worry about cooking or cleaning. It was a great place. I was concerned about the boys safety with so many people passing them around, we were in a side area where there was only one way in and out. Everyone assured me that the boys were fine and so off they went. Into the arms of everyone else. It was a different baby shower experience having the boys at their own shower. The spotlight was gratefully on them and not me.

A family friend was in the neighborhood of the baby shower while we were there and decided to come by and crash the party (these were older people – not the bad kind of party crashers). They asked where the baby shower was and was led to our party area. No one but my mom and aunt knew who they were at the shower. But, just as my fears had suspected, when they walked into the party, someone that they didn’t know said, “Aren’t they just precious? Here, do you want to hold one of them?” and handed her a baby! Thank God that our family friends were good people and not freaky strangers!

 

 

 

I have to start this post by saying what fantastic neighbors we had. Even before the boys were born, we had a sweet neighbor, Dorie, that brought us dinner when I was at home on bed rest. She would come sit with me sometimes when I was lonely and just chat about her experiences as a parent.

I had another neighbor, Susie, that had mowed our lawn whenever she mowed hers because she knew how well manicured Kevin kept his lawn and that he wasn’t able to do it while I was in the hospital.

When we came home from the hospital, the neighbors had put together a meal schedule and for the first two weeks that we were home, someone brought us a home cooked meal every night! It was unbelievable. We thought that they would want to sit down and play with the babies when they brought the meals by, but they would briefly coo over them and then leave so that we could eat our meals while they were hot.

After we were home for about a week, Christy called to see how everything was going. After we had a lengthy discussion about feeding schedules, sleeping schedules, and diapers, I remembered to ask about Misty, my dog. “Oh, she’s great! She looks forward to her walks every night. We even took her on a road trip last weekend.”

“Well, I was thinking. Would you mind keeping her for one more week while we get a better grip on our new schedules?” I asked her.

I think I heard Christy give out a sigh of relief. “YES! Um, Yes, it wouldn’t be a big deal for us to keep her one more week. Well, I’m glad everybody is doing well. I’ll call you next week. Bye!” she quickly wound up the conversation and she had hung up. She was having so much fun with Misty that she didn’t want to give me a chance to change my mind before we hung up!

Because the boys had been small when they were born, we had been told to wake them up every three hours to feed them. Even though I was breastfeeding them, it was still a two man job to get both babies and load them up. When one baby would cry near feeding time, I would just feed that one and then wake the other one up at the scheduled time later. This way, I would occasionally have one on one time with a baby.

On one particular night, one of the babies woke up about 45 minutes before feeding time, so instead of waking Kevin up, I picked the baby up and put him in the bed with me to feed him. This went exactly as planned and I put him back in the bassinet with his brother. Forty five minutes later, my alarm went off and I picked up a baby and went back to the bed to feed it. Halfway to the bed, I realized that this was the same baby that I had just fed. I tried to gently lay him back down before he was completely awake, but to no avail. I just shook my head at myself for mistaking my own children already. We now had two babies crying and I had to wake Kevin up to rock the one that had just been fed.

On the nights when Mom and Sidekick were with us, we were treated with a full night’s sleep. I would pump before going to bed and they would stay downstairs with the babies. It was wonderful!

It was time to take professional newborn pictures. Another neighbor had just opened a photography studio and had invited us to use their studio. I was so excited! They were so professional and creative with their pictures. I had wanted to get a picture of Kevin holding both babies naked (babies – not Kevin) so off went the clothes. The problem with naked newborn boys is that the minute the diaper comes off, they start peeing. Everywhere. Before we even got a chance to take one picture, I had pee on my dress from head to toe. I even had to pull my hair back so that I wouldn’t get it in my hair! We finally got the kids situated and just before he started to take the picture, Anakin started crying because he was cold. I stepped in and tried to calm him down. I leaned over to kiss him on the head and the photographer snapped a picture. Little did we know that we had just had our first family picture made. That is my all time favorite picture from the boys as babies.

I worked everyday on having a little more independence with the boys. I knew that soon, I would need to be able to handle the babies on my own. It was actually fun to challenge myself to see how much I could do by myself.  I remember the day I was able to pick the babies up, one in each arm, by myself. Rocking them to sleep by myself. Feeding them by myself. Mom and Dorie cheered me on. Hear me roar!!!

Mom and I decided to go to Walmart one afternoon after a baby appointment. We had been using the truck to go around town thus far, but today we had our sedan. Kevin had loaded the monstrosity (stroller) in the trunk the night before. We had picked up some cute clothes (of course) and after a little while, we decided not to push our luck and to go back home. It was getting close to feeding and nap time and a terrible rain cloud was coming in quick. The babies started to cry as we loaded their infant seats into the tight back seat and I took the monstrosity to the trunk to load it in. It was heavy and long so I had a hard time picking it up anyway, but this time, I could not fit the thing into the trunk. The rain started to come down. The babies were screaming. I was frustrated. I picked the big hunk up and threw it in the trunk, scratching the bumper on the way in. I didn’t get it  in all the way. What was I going to do? I didn’t have any rope to hold the trunk down on the way home, and how redneck anyway. Just when the rain really started to come down, an angel of mercy walked up to his car next to mine. An older man saw me trying to not melt down right there in the Walmart parking lot and asked if I needed help. I meekly explained that I had a new stroller and couldn’t get it into the trunk. He looked at it and without very much effort at all, re situated the stroller and closed the trunk. He shook my hand and got into his car.

That night, Kevin and I switched vehicles.  He didn’t dare say a word about the scratch on the bumper.   And I got a double umbrella stroller which has it’s own limitations, but at least I could lift it on my own.

Free At Last!

On the first night, I wanted Luke to stay in the room with us. I simply could not get enough of my sweet baby boy. Kevin had brought an air mattress and slept next to my bed on the floor. He was zonked after the sleepless night before and the long day that we had all just had. By nine o’clock, Kevin was out like a light. I stayed up holding Luke in my hospital bed. I was afraid to fall asleep holding him because I was afraid that I would drop him. At about 11 o’clock, I tiptoed to the bassinet and put my new sleeping baby down to sleep. Just as I started to tiptoe back to my bed, Luke began crying. I was not about to let my baby cry! So, up I went and placed him back in the bed with me. I rocked him until he fell asleep and my eyes were rolling into the back of my head. Up I go, placing him back in the bassinet. Cry. Up. Rock. Down. Cry. Up. Rock. Down. Cry. All night long. I understood that this was a new environment for him. I was really sympathetic to the fact that he probably was missing his brother. I was too. But goodness gracious, I was tired! At least, I thought I knew what tired was at that point.

By the next afternoon, Anakin was returned to our room and we had our two babies to coo over. We had lots to get used to. I was learning how to breastfeed them. (Did you know that you have to breastfeed both babies at the same time? This is a true balancing act!) We were getting used to holding such small babies and comforting them. My sister changed their first dirty diaper while she was in for a visit. We sent both babies to the nursery every night for the rest of the stay. We figured that they could handle it for the first few nights while we caught up on our sleep. We would handle it from there on.

The nurse from the Antepartum Hall that had dealt with me on the day that I wouldn’t wear my monitors came by one day to rock the babies. She got a little misty eyed and said, “This is what makes my job so rewarding. To hold the healthy baby that I helped into the world, makes everything else worth while.” It was then that I understood why she had been so strict with the rules for me while I was on bed rest.

On the day before we FINALLY left the hospital, the nurses took the boys and their car seats to have them fitted and tested for the ability to breathe while strapped in. They came back strapped in the car seats and Kevin and I both laughed. They looked so tiny in the big infant seats. They looked so miserable! The straps seemed tight on their little delicate bodies, but the nurse assured us that they were supposed to be this tight.

It finally became time for us all to be checked out of the hospital. Walker, family of 4, was on the way! I was beyond excited. Kevin pulled the car around the front of the hospital and the nurses helped Kevin snap the car seats into the back seat. I was taking in the fresh air. It seemed like something I had not taken in very much of for many months.

I had a moment of panic right before we drove off. Were both car seats in the car? Did we forget one of them? Did they remember to put the babies in the car seats? One. Two. Check. OK. We were finally ready to go home. For good. I told Kevin to get us outta here!

Kevin’s parents called him as we were merging from I-75 to the 75/85 connector. Oh my gosh! He answered the phone! He should have his eyes on the road at all times. We had BABIES in the car for goodness sakes! I could not contain my anxiety.

We arrived at home and it was a quiet, peaceful bliss. We put the infant seats with the sleeping babies in front of us on the couch. What now? We just looked at the sweet sleeping babies. No TV. No phones. Just babies.

Mom and Sidekick arrived a few hours after we got home. They came in with banners and signs for the front yard. After we set them out, we were entertained with the cars that stopped at each sign to see the announcements.

I sat down with Sidekick and explained that I was going to be breastfeeding the babies. I wanted to break it down into seven year old terms so that she would not be surprised if she saw me feeding the babies. I would try to be discreet and feed them upstairs, out of sight, but Sidekick followed Kevin and I everywhere we went, so she was going to see it at some point.

“I just want you to know that I am going to be breastfeeding the babies for awhile. Do you know what that means?” Sweet seven year old head nods like she is keeping up with this information. “That means that I am going to be feeding them with my boobs,” I am good with the seven year old tactic, right? Sweet head nods again with a little chuckle. I said “boobs”. “Are you sure that you understand that?” I ask once more before going upstairs to feed the babies. Sweet head nod.

Mom helps take the babies upstairs to their nursery for me to feed them in the glider rocking chair. I had this huge Boppy looking contraption that went around me, but it was designed to hold two babies to make it easier to twin feed. With a little work, I get the babies latched on and start feeding. A few minutes later, I hear footsteps up the stairs. I am guessing that it is Mom or Kevin, but am a little surprised when Sidekick opens the door without knocking. “OH MY GOSH!” she screams, covering both of her eyes up tight, “COVER THOSE THINGS UP! I’M BLIND! I’M BLIND FOR LIFE!!” the poor girl screams as she runs down the hall. I guess she understands now.

Kevin had saved up his vacation time for the year and had arranged to be home from Friday to Monday every week for six weeks. Mom and Sidekick stayed with us from Tuesday to Thursday every week for six weeks. That way, I always had someone with me to help until I could get the hang of everything.

A few days after we came home, Mom suggested that it was time to give the babies their first baths. I was a little apprehensive about this since I had never given an infant a bath before. We got the baby bath contraption out and Mom showed me how to fill it up with warm water. She put the mesh seat in the water and we carefully placed Anakin in the seat for his first bath. She gently drew water over his little head. I was not prepared for his reaction. He screamed bloody murder! That little baby tried to crawl off of the seat! He crossed his arm over his body and grabbed the opposite side of the chair. He was trying to pull himself off of the chair. It was hysterical! When we finally finished washing him and bundled him up in his blanket, he nodded off to sleep, whimpering about the trauma that he just partook of. It was adorable. Luke’s bath was the same way, but he was not quite as adamant about getting out of the seat. He just stretched his lanky little arms and legs out like he was free falling. With both babies clean, warm, and bundled up, we just held them and smelled the sweet baby smell.

My doctor had suggested that I keep the babies at home away from germs for a month before taking them out. However, I had cabin fever and quite honestly just wanted to show my babies off. At a week old, we decided to take the boys to Target to show them off to the pharmacist.

Our pharmacist had been awesome throughout the past year. She had learned to order the fertility medications over night so that I didn’t have to drive across Atlanta every week to get my shots. She was very informative when we had to begin taking oral Terbutaline when I was at home on bed rest. She even helped Kevin pick out stretch mark cream when he broke the news to me that I did, in fact, have stretch marks. We thought that we would stop by and show her the end result of her dedication to us.

We got out the monstrosity of a baby stroller that held both infant seats. It was HUGE! How can you go unnoticed with a baby carriage that was almost 5 feet long and 4 feet high with both infant seats attached? We proudly showed off our babies (being careful not to let anyone touch them) to anyone that would look. We made our way over to the pharmacy and the ladies that worked in the pharmacy department came running over to see our sweet babies.

There was a lady that was waiting in line for her medication when we came over to the pharmacy causing such a stir. She asked me, “Are you friends with the pharmacist here?” trying to understand why they were making such a big deal over the boys. I just smiled and said the obvious, “Oh, no! She got me pregnant,” and smiled as I turned away from the confused woman.

The First Day of the Rest of Our Lives

“Your blood pressure is getting higher. I asked your doctor what course she wanted to take, and she said to start you on a Magnesium Sulfate IV. You might remember that medicine from your contractions earlier,” the sweet nurse explained to me. Yeah, I remember Magnesium Sulfate.

In my best “I know what I’m doing” voice, I whispered to the nurse, “I am not going to take the Mag again. I will sign whatever waiver that I need to, but you are going to have to find something else that will bring my blood pressure down.” I nodded my head to her like I was confident in my decision. She just blankly looked at me, trying to comprehend what I had just told her. She sighed and left the room.

Kevin asked me what she had just said and I shook my head, not believing that they were going to try to give me that dratted Magnesium Sulfate again. Kevin said, “If you need to take it, you need to take it.” I quickly replied, “I am not taking it.” I was done with this conversation.

People were happily chatting around us passing Baby B around. I had not named the children because I wanted to see them together to decide who get’s what name. My sweet niece that was nine years old came to my bedside and gave me a picture that she had drawn for me. I still have that picture in the baby book. We all commented on how Baby B looked like Kevin’s family and how he was the tiniest baby that we had ever held.

An older nurse quietly came to my bedside and whispered, “You are getting closer and closer to stroke range. We need to give this Magnesium Sulfate to you as soon as possible.”

“I’M NOT TAKING THE MAG!” I screamed at her.

The entire room went silent. I looked around at the family, a little embarrassed at my outburst and a lot panicked at the thought of going under the spell of that medicine again. I was breathing hard, trying to hold back the tears in front of everybody.

My mom broke the silence, “I think that we ought to leave the room while they talk.” The group quickly left the room.

I looked at the nurse and broke, “You don’t understand. I have waited my whole life for this day. The day that we could become parents and I will not remember one damn thing about it once you give me that IV,” I was sobbing through the words, trying to tell her how important this day was to me.

The nurse took a sympathetic tone with me, “Look, you have the rest of your life to spend with these sweet babies. If you don’t take this medicine, you could stroke out and leave Kevin to have to raise these babies by himself. You don’t want that, do you? After everything that you had to do to have these babies, you don’t want to end it like this?” I saw her point, but I still felt like there was something else that they could do without this medicine.

I whimpered, “Can’t I see if I can just settle down and bring it down without medicine?” this was my Hail Mary. She closed her eyes and sighed at me in frustration. I was not fully understanding the seriousness of the situation. As coolly as she could, showing great restraint, she said, “I will give you a few minutes to see if it helps. I am not letting this go a lot longer,” She turned down the lights and left Kevin and I in the silent room. Baby B was sound asleep next to my bed. I wanted to hold him and take his very presence in, but it was more important at the moment to bring my blood pressure down. I closed my eyes and tried to relax. I took several cleansing breaths to settle down. After a few minutes, I looked over to my blood pressure monitor. It was still going up. I was devastated.

My no nonsense doctor briskly walked into my room and walked to my bedside. “You are going to take the Magnesium Sulfate. I have a anti-depressant in my pocket. Are you going to take the Mag with or without it?” She stood in front of me waiting for an answer.

My chin trembled and silent tears ran down my face, “Can I name my babies first?” I was not going to remember anything else.  At least I could give my babies names before I was down.

The doctor looked at the clock, “You have fifteen minutes.”

The nurse quickly came in with a wheelchair and we were directed to the NICU room. Kevin was told to scrub in, but for some reason, I don’t remember scrubbing in for the first visit. I looked around at all of the incubators, but could not look into any of them. All I wanted was to hold my baby at least once today and give him his official name. A NICU nurse was waiting for me next to Baby A’s incubator. He had on a knitted hat and a shirt. There were wires coming out of the shirt. This frightened me a little. To see my tiny, little baby with wires and monitors hanging from him was not what I was prepared to see. I cried in frustration of the situation. The nurse put a pillow in my lap in the wheelchair and then gently placed him in front of me.

Baby A started crying. I was crying too. We were a sad pair. I held his little hands, “I know. It’s been a hard day hasn’t it?” I whisper to him. He had the prettiest, most delicate, tiny ears, and the smallest amount of fine, blonde hair on his head. Now that I had a chance to compare the two babies, I declared to Kevin, “This one is *Anakin, don’t you think so?” Kevin was on cloud nine, looking over his son for the first time. I think that he would have agreed to anything at that moment. I reluctantly passed Anakin over to Kevin to hold. I tried to get myself together while Kevin held the baby, but it is something to see a man hold his child for the first time. I was a snotty, weepy, lost cause.

Soon, the nurse came in and said that it was time for me to go. We put Anakin back in his incubator and wheeled back to the room. I was sobbing and my heart was racing as we left. I got back in my bed and they hooked the IV in. Kevin left me for a moment to tell the family that Baby A was Anakin and Baby B was *Luke. At least we got to name them.

The medicine did what it was supposed to do and my blood pressure went down. They moved me to a normal room for my recovery. There is very little that I recall from that moment on, but at least I was not on a bad trip this time. I was woozy, but not completely out of the realm of reality.

What I do remember is my mom coming by the room once more before she started to leave. Children under the age of twelve were not allowed in the room, so she left her sidekick, my 7 year old niece, sitting in the hall waiting for her. I heard the nurse stop and speak to her before entering the room. She asked her what was wrong. The nurse popped her head into the doorway and said, “I know that we have a rule about children coming into the room, but we have a little girl that wants to see you. She looks really healthy. Do you mind if she comes in to see you?” Of course not! It was their stupid rule, not mine.

My little red headed niece was crying. I thought that she was upset because one of the babies was in NICU. I pulled her into the bed with me and asked her what was wrong. It took a minute to understand what she was saying behind her sobs. I finally got it out of her, “They said… that… you…could… have…a…stroke…and…it…scared…meeee,” she started crying on me. Bless her little heart. She saw her aunt acting like a fool and it scared her. I held her tight and told them that they had given me medicine and that I was getting better. I showed her the numbers on the monitor and showed her that they were going down. I promised her that I would get better. She stayed by my side until she started feeling better.

The doctor came by my room later and said that between Anakin being in NICU and me having postpartum preeclampsia, they were going to keep us all in the hospital for another 4 days. How ironic. We were still going to have to stay in the hospital. Were we ever getting out of here?

I think that they took me off of the IV at some point that evening. I really am not sure, but I know that I was getting hungry and that was a very good sign. Hospital food was just not an option. I called Christy up at work, “Hey, are you going to come by here tonight?” I was cutting to the chase. “Um, I can. We were going to wait until things settle down before we came by. Do you want us to come by?” she asked, trying to figure my angle. “Oh, of course we want you to come by! Hey, can you stop by Wendy’s and get me a big ole greasy cheeseburger on the way?” She laughed at my subtlety. I love that girl!

 

*For the safety of my children, I am using obvious alias’. As absurd as they might sound, I will begin using them at the beginning. I’m sure that we’ll get used to it.

It’s Time!!

On the night before we were scheduled to be induced, Kevin and I decided to sneak out and have one last date night out as Walker, party of 2. We went to Williamson’s Barbeque. They sat us at a booth which was hilarious because I could not fit into a booth. I had to sit sideways on the seat. On the way out of the restaurant, we were walking on the sidewalk towards the car and I got too close to the side and fell. I managed to catch myself with my hands, but it took all the strength that I had to hold myself up long enough to get help back up. My knees were both skinned up pretty bad. Baby B (the one further up and closest to my ribs) was furious and pushed himself outwards. It was quite painful and he did not stop pushing for several hours.

At about ten that night, I thought that my water had broken and so we called the doctor. I felt really bad for her because she was on a date with her husband.  They were at Fat Matt’s Rib Shack. If you have ever eaten there, you will know that it is a sin to interrupt someone’s meal for any reason. She told us that it was only a matter of hours before we were due to be at the hospital anyway, so just go on and check into the labor and delivery room.

It was weird being in a different room with an entirely different staff at Piedmont. They put me in one of those beds that can transform into a labor bed (I guess that is what they are called). The problem is that I am 5’9” and the bed was made for people that were no more that 5’5”. Now I know how Abraham Lincoln felt. It was a long night, but we managed to get a little sleep.

At about 6 a.m., the nurse came in and began the Pitocin drip to begin the labor process. The anesthesiologist came in shortly afterward to give me my epidural. Kevin was so nervous that he was chattering along with the anesthesiologist. I think that he was just so happy to see a man somewhere in the process. They laughed and joked about some South Park episode while this man was sticking a needle that was the same length as my arm into my spine! Not cool!

My family began arriving by about 7 or 8a.m. When you put mine and Kevin’s families together, we make quite a large group of people. The staff quickly realized that we were going to need a bigger room to accommodate all of these people. They moved me to a much larger room that had two couches and several chairs. We were just in waiting mode for the majority of the morning.

At about 1p.m., everyone decided that nothing was happening, so they all decided to go downstairs to eat lunch. Kevin went with the crew to show them how to get to the cafeteria. He was going to grab a quick bite and come back up. The nurse agreed and went to heat her lunch up as well. Of course, you know that is when I realize that the boys are coming! I call the nurse back (I am sure that she was thrilled that I interrupted her lunch). When she checked me, she looked surprised and said that it was time. She went into action and I immediately called Kevin to tell him to come back. Our family crew was walking down a corridor, not even at the cafeteria yet. You could hear Kevin turn around and start running towards the elevator.

Kevin saw my dad behind him coming towards the elevator, but he was not in the door holding mood. He was in a rush back to my room. When Dad went to take the next elevator, the elevator stopped running mid floor. Someone had gotten a baby too close to the elevator and it’s “Lo-Jack” alarm locked everyone down for several minutes. The elevators stop running until the alarm is shut off by an administrator for safety purposes. I just think back to “what if” Kevin had waited on Dad in that elevator. He would have missed his children’s birth. Thank God for small miracles.

In the meantime, they had moved me to an operating room. While we were planning to have a vaginal birth for both babies, there are lots of complications that can go along with a twin delivery. They deliver in the operating room in case of an emergency C-section. I was disoriented and a little frantic because I had not seen Kevin yet. I felt like Baby A was about to come out without anybody there with me. I kept warning the staff as they buzzed around me getting all of the equipment set up. “I think he’s ready. You better hurry. Where’s Kevin?” I would say over and over again.

Just as they were hanging my feet by the chandelier (not really, but it is quite a vulnerable position that they put you in with the stirrups), Kevin rushes in with the goofy looking scrubs on. I was so relieved! They placed him next to my side and the race was on. In what seemed like a few pushes, Baby A was born! A beautiful, pink baby boy! Screaming his pretty little head off. It was so breathtaking to see him. Finally! There was so much chaos around us that it was hard to take it all in. I looked at Kevin and just lost it. I cried and cried. The journey of a thousand miles was finally over. We were parents! We lived happily ever after! We made it! It was so overwhelming.

I looked over to the nurses working on Baby A and…he wasn’t breathing. They were rubbing his chest trying to get him to start breathing again. My heart dropped. Is this a bad dream? Why isn’t he breathing? I ask the staff. They downplayed the situation and said that he had inhaled some amniotic fluid on the way out and needed a little help to start breathing again. I didn’t understand. He was breathing when he came out. Why was he not breathing now? I could not take my eyes off of him. I was willing him to breathe. This is not real! Time stood still. I held my breath. Just as I saw his chest begin to rise again, another contraction hit me. I had to deliver another baby in the midst of this chaos when I wanted to be by my child’s side. They assured me that he would be fine and resumed cleaning him.

I started pushing Baby B before it was time to start pushing. “It’s not time yet,” they told me. “GET THIS BABY OUT OF MEEEEE!!!” I screamed to the nurse. Within ten minutes (ten of the longest minutes of my life), Baby B came into the world. Oh, he was beautiful too! He was so long and lanky with those tiny, little arms and legs stretched out for the first time. I was sobbing. So many emotions were going through me. There was a tone of celebration in the room. The associate doctor grabbed Kevin’s camera and took still pictures of both babies while Kevin took movies. To this day, I have only seen that movie one time. There is a lot of emotion in that tape. I certainly can’t watch the part where Kevin zooms the video in to Baby A before he realizes that he is not breathing.

The nurses brought Baby A to me and said that he needed to go straight to NICU for treatment of his lungs. I was not allowed to hold him, but they put him next to me for a picture and shuttled him away. Soon afterward, they presented Baby B to me. He was wrapped up so tightly that it didn’t seem healthy, but they told me that babies like the closeness. OK. They let us hold him and coo over him for a few minutes and then had to take him to the nursery, to do nursery stuff to him.

Within twenty minutes of the nurse taking me back to the operating room, I returned back to my labor and delivery room. I was shaking uncontrollably and could not get warm enough. They told me that this was totally normal after giving birth and they put several warm blankets on me to settle me down.

The nurse came in from taking Baby B to the nursery and laughed, “I have never been rushed at at nursery window before. Your children have a lot of fans.” She was hooking me back up to the blood pressure monitor as we chatted about the babies. She frowned and casually commented that my blood pressure was a little high. That was strange because high blood pressure was one of the few problems that I had not had during the pregnancy. The nurse left to go retrieve Baby B from the nursery so that I could hold him and show him to the family.

Our family poured in the room shortly afterward. It was the first time that I had gotten to see Maw Maw since Paw Paw’s death. I also got to see my new niece for the first time. She had been born while I was in the hospital. Everyone passed the new baby around, and I told them the weights and sizes. Baby A was 5lb 14 oz, and Baby B was 5lb 4oz. They were the smallest babies that Kevin and I had ever held. It seemed like there was a big hole in the room by not having Baby A to show off as well.

Grandparents were allowed to visit Baby A in NICU, and so my mom and Kevin’s mom quickly left to hold Baby A.

I didn’t even notice the young nurse come in while we were celebrating our beautiful twins. She came and tapped me on my shoulder, “Your blood pressure is getting higher. I asked your doctor what course she wanted to take, and she said to start you on a Magnesium Sulfate IV. You might remember that medicine from your contractions earlier,” the sweet nurse explained to me. Yeah, I remember Magnesium Sulfate.

The Decision

 

It had come to 35 weeks and I was still on bed rest at Piedmont Hospital. Miserable does not start to describe how I was feeling. I couldn’t walk…hadn’t been able to walk for any distance for a month. I now couldn’t eat. Heartburn ruled my life. It was so bad that it made me cry. And the contractions persisted. We were all still waiting until the babies had healthy lungs and weighed over 5 pounds.

My doctor, after arriving back from summer vacation, decided that we would run a course of tests to decide whether we were going to deliver the babies on the following day. She called in an ultrasound and ordered an amniocentesis. Kevin frantically went out to buy a digital camera. That was a detail that we had forgotten about in all of the chaos.

The ultrasound tech came in and while she sat up her station, the doctor introduced her as having four year old twins. She also carried them all 40 weeks working up to her due date. I was in complete awe of this short little young woman. I asked her, “How old were your twins before you took them shopping with you?” I was concerned about germs that babies could get if they went out in public before their immune systems were set.

The tech sagely looked at me and said, “I still don’t take them shopping with me,” and chuckled to herself. I didn’t really get the humor in that until I had four year old twins. Currently, I still don’t take them shopping with me 😉

The ultrasound machine was set up and we all awaited weights. One looked like he was in the 4 pound range while the other baby looked like he was on the upper side of 3 pounds. Not the sizes that we were hoping for.

I looked to the doctor for direction after the ultrasound was finished. She said that we will look at the lung development through the amniocentesis and make a decision from there. I had already set my heart on a delivery, but she was very cautious and let me know that there was no way that she was going to allow a delivery unless the lungs looked healthy. She said that there was a small chance that they were ready since they had given them a steroid shot a month ago.

The associate doctor came in to do the amniocentesis. She had become quite a good friend throughout my stay. She would always stop by my room after surgeries because it was the coolest place in the hospital. She would sit and hang out with me until she cooled down and then went across the complex for the rest of her work day. She told me the geeky science stuff behind pregnancy.

My nurse came in and after everything was set up, she simply held my hand while the humongous needle was stuck into the side of my stomach. She knew how scary the procedure was and calmly talked me through the whole ordeal. They both were very hopeful that the test would come back with good news about the babies’ lungs. Now all we had to do was wait until the next day.

I woke early the next morning and was anxious from the start. In my head, I was going to have some babies that day. My doctor was late coming in that morning which made me more anxious. I drove everyone that walked in my room by asking them, “Have you seen her yet?” Mom came up with my special decaf Caramel Macchiatto and we still hadn’t seen the doctor. Kevin came in and was showing me the new camera which looked way too complicated for me to run. We had never had a digital camera before now. Still no doctor.

FINALLY, the doctor came in and nonchalantly said, “The tests came back that the lungs still aren’t developed so we are going to wait another week or so to give them more time.” Noooooo! That was not how I had planned the conversation to go in my head. I know that I was supposed to be happy that we could wait another week so that my babies could get healthier, but I could not stay in that one little room for one more day. I was devastated.

All three of them looked at me, Mom, Kevin, and the doctor. They waited for my reaction. I am not sure which one that they were expecting, but I am pretty sure that crying like a 5 year old was not on their radar. I wanted out of there!

The doctor came and sat next to me on the side of the bed and asked me why I was so upset. I told her that I was tired of being stuck in the hospital. I was tired of not feeling good and not being able to walk, or do, or see. I was ready to have the babies. She was very respectful and understood that I was really miserable. She suggested that we all go out to lunch somewhere off campus and talk about whether it was wise to send me home for the rest of the pregnancy. That was not really the decision that I wanted to be making, but it was something different at least.

I got dressed…it was the first time that I had put on anything other than pajamas in weeks. I sadly discovered that I had out grown my second, bigger pair of maternity jeans. I was going to have to go with them partially unzipped. Fortunately, my belly hung down so low that nobody would have noticed. Kevin drove the car around the front of the hospital and off we went. One block down to Longhorn’s on Peachtree Street. I was still miserable, but at least it was around people.

We ordered our food and the discussion was short. I was not staying in that hospital anymore. In the spirit of my inner 5 year old, you couldn’t make me so nanny nanny ha ha. We ate…not me as much as Mom and Kevin and I waddled back to the car. Excited to tell the doctor and the nurses that I was going home.

The doctor was not surprised when I told her so and scheduled an induction for 5 days from then. I thought that after all of this time, it was ridiculous that we were having to induce these babies.

I was exhausted from all of the energy that I used getting dressed, going to lunch, and coming back to my room. When I realized that I had to pack everything up, I was even more so exhausted. Fortunately, Kevin and Mom did most of it.

The associate doctor came in with the paperwork for me to leave and went through it all in a very professional manner. She knew I was disappointed that I was not delivering on that day and was trying very hard to make me laugh. As we all started to walk out of the hospital room, she turned back as an afterthought and said, *“You know, you can try to induce yourself by going home and having sex,” she gave an evil grin and walked away.

 *Sorry Mom and Dad!

Perspective

It was very difficult to mourn for Kevin’s grandfather without being with Kevin or his family. Kevin had spent the last three days with his parents and the funeral was coming up over the weekend. My heart was especially going out to his grandmother.

The funeral was on Sunday. Kevin spent the morning with me knowing that I had been missing him. He dressed in his suit at the hospital and left from there to go to the funeral. The whole staff on the hall was so sympathetic towards Kevin. I really appreciated that. Mom went to the funeral and Dad stayed with me to keep me company. One of our friends, a single guy (that detail so that you would appreciate how thoughtful he was), also came to hang out with me during the funeral.

After the funeral, someone had catered a lunch for Kevin’s family at his grandparent’s house. He had called me to let me know how everything went. While he was on the phone with me, his grandmother asked to speak to me. I was so surprised. I knew that she had been through hell that week and currently had a house full of people to greet and she stopped everything to speak to me. We just exchanged pleasantries. She asked how I was doing and I asked the same. I asked about what they were eating and she asked about how much longer we had. In my mind, and I could be completely wrong, I felt like by her taking a few seconds to talk to me on the phone helped feel like I was with the family at such a crucial time. It was not until weeks and weeks later that I realized that I needed time to mourn Paw Paw also. But we’ll get to that later.

 

I’ll admit it. After several weeks of being on bed rest at the hospital and at home, I had become accustomed to people doing what I asked promptly. I am not proud of it, but it did happen. Entitlement mixed with feeling sorry for yourself is not a pretty combination. It all came to a head at some point the week after Kevin’s grandfather died.

The nurse came in early in the morning and said that they had another patient that had checked in. They were working to get the woman stable and that they would not be able to check on me as often that day. Just buzz if there was an emergency.

On that particular day, I wasn’t going to have any visitors so I was a little bummed that I was going to be stuck in my room all day by myself. My skin was getting irritated from having the gel on the monitors all of the time (and they were moving often still thanks to Baby A). I was having to wear ugly, white compression hose since I was not moving around as often anymore. They were squeezing the top of my legs and that was irritating too. I was at this point 34 weeks pregnant. HUGE and uncomfortable.

I decided that since the nurses were busy and they weren’t going to be in and out of my room as much that day, that I would take the monitors off my stomach and give my skin (and Baby A) a break. I forgot that they could see my stats from the monitors in other rooms. My nurse came in and asked my why I didn’t have my monitors on, so I told her that it was bothering my skin. She looked at me in astonishment. “Do you see that monitor? It was blank when I checked on you a second ago. Your doctor can pull this up on her computer in her office and she would see nothing. We have those monitors on you so that we can check your contractions, which you still have. Please, put them on,” she was polite, but you could tell that she was at the end of her patience with me. I rolled my eyes and dismissed her argument, but put the stinkin’ monitors back on my stomach. Baby A exhibited his opinion as well.

That afternoon, as the room was warmed by the sun despite the fact that I had the a/c on as low as it would go, I decided that I couldn’t handle those compression hose anymore and took them off. The same nurse came in and as coolly as she could, explained that I had been in the bed for more than a week and that I needed to wear the ugly hose so that I would not develop blood clots. Such a long shot in my opinion, but I relented and put the ugly hose on.

By late afternoon, I had a plan to at least have Pookie come in and talk to me for a minute. I called the desk and ordered an afternoon snack from the cafeteria. Chicken fingers and a caffeine free Diet Coke. But all Pookie did was put the plate of chicken fingers in front of me and put a six pack of caffeine free Diet Cokes in my refrigerator. She shot me a look and huffed at me as she walked out the door.

The nurse came back in my room late in the evening before the shift was over and gave me a review of how her day went. “I spent all day in the room next door trying to stabilize a new patient. I am sorry that we didn’t have enough time to check on you today, but we were having a hard time with her,” she could only say so much due to patient confidentiality. I said hopefully, “So, you got her all set up and stable?” The nurse’s shoulders just dropped and she sadly looked at me and shook her head “no”.

It never occurred to me for one minute that anything could happen to my babies other than an early delivery. The thought that I could lose one or both of my babies simply refused to go through my mind. When my nurse indicated that someone had lost their baby, everything was put into perspective for me. My contractions were under control. My babies were healthy and probably would be healthy if we were to deliver at this point. There was a woman one room over that was now dealing with the loss of her baby. It was sobering and I was ashamed of my selfish behavior that day.

The next day, I kept my monitors and compression hose on and did whatever the doctors and nurses told me.

The Long Weekend

After I started feeling better and the contractions were controlled, thankfully, by the terbutaline again, I started to accept the fact that I was going to be in the hospital for several weeks before the babies were born. It was the Fourth of July weekend and the antepartum staff had sent as many patients as they could, home for the weekend. My doctor, herself, had gone on summer vacation and her associate was going to be supervising our case for a week. My nurses told me that there were only two of us on the hall for the long weekend. They were so sweet and brought me a plate of goodies that they had made for a work fourth of July celebration.

We had some experience with the associate doctor, but not nearly as much as with our usual doctor. This lady was young and tall and just didn’t seem to have as much experience as my doctor. She came in late on the fourth. It had been a ghost town on my hall. She started by giving Kevin and I biscuits from The Flying Biscuit. That’s a nice start! She said that she was not able to get there earlier because they had closed down Peachtree Street for the Peachtree Road Race that morning. Oh, I forgot about that. She said that everything was stable for now and to relax together for the weekend. Kevin would alternate between sitting on the uncomfortable pull out chair and squeezing in next to me in the hospital bed.

Lots of our friends stopped by over that weekend to see us. I think that it was a fun reason to go to downtown Atlanta. Some would stop by and then go to Ted’s Montana Grill next door afterward. Some would go see a movie after visiting. One friend came visiting with a big bag of books that she knew that I would enjoy reading. We had had a baby boom within the year among our friends and family. Two of our closest friends had babies that year, one of Kevin’s sisters had a baby in March, and the other sister had a baby within the last two weeks. It was great to see the babies that our friends brought in.

My parents were both so thoughtful and made the long trip dowtown every day to sit with me and keep me company throughout the next week. Dad brought me framed pictures for my shelves and several different flower arrangements in antique vases and beautiful clay pots. Dad is where I get my sense of humor. He would sit next to my bed and tell me jokes.

Every morning, Pookie would weigh me to make sure that I was not retaining fluid that would indicate if we were having other problems. They went out of their way not to tell me how much I weighed. I was grateful. I will never forget the day that Dad and I were cutting up and he pressed the button on the side of the bed the would display my weight. I guess that this is for people that are not able to stand up at all. Dad said, “Good Lord, Bets! You weigh 200 pounds!” Ouch! 😉

Mom would stop by the Starbucks on Peachtree Street everyday and get me a Caramel Macchiato. It would not be until the day that I gave birth that she would find out that there was a Starbucks on the main floor of the hospital, bless her heart.

I have had the same best friend for my whole life. I was born in March and Ginger was born in July. We lived next door to each other for our first 15 years. Her mom, Johnny, babysat me when I was two and my mom went back to teaching. Johnny, or Zhonny as I would call her when I was little, made the BEST chicken and dumplings. She always made a point to save me a bowl whenever she made a batch. In my mind, no on else even made a decent second place chicken and dumplings. When Johnny heard that I was in the hospital, she called my mom and asked her to stop by her house on the way to the hospital. She had made me my very own special batch of chicken and dumplings. That was so thoughtful! Let me tell you how good they were compared to the hospital foods that I was used to eating.

Kevin came by the hospital on the Thursday after the holiday weekend. He was so excited because his company had just upgraded his cell phone. We spent the evening playing with it and learning how it worked while we ate dinner together and watched our television shows. It became dark and Kevin decided to go home. He kissed me and left. About ten minutes after he left, his father called me on the hospital phone and asked for Kevin.

“Oh, he just left here. You should try him on his cell phone,” I told him expecting this conversation to be short and to the point.

“I already tried and he didn’t pick up,” This problem seemed simple to me, keep trying his phone. Why the persistence? I wondered. “Is everything ok?” I asked, trying to help.

“There has been an accident. Paw Paw has fallen and hit his head really bad. I need to get in touch with Kevin.” Paw Paw was Kevin’s grandfather on his mother’s side. He had suffered from Alzheimer’s disease for ten years.

“Oh no! Let me see if I can get Kevin,” I told him and hung up and immediately started dialing Kevin’s cell phone. After several tries, I realize that in the transition to the new cell phone, he forgot to turn the new phone on for the ride home. He was going to be out of pocket for an hour. That is a long time during a family emergency. I kept phoning and receiving phone calls from my FIL for the next hour trying to find out what was going on and kept him updated with how much longer it should be before Kevin got home.

In the middle of all of the chaos, my nurse quietly knocked on my door. She saw me on the phone so she silently pointed to the monitor that graphs my contractions. I was having contractions. Often. I sigh. Of course I am going to have contractions while I am in the middle of such a stressful situation. As soon as I got off the phone with Kevin’s father, the nurse tried to reposition me in the bed to help stop the contractions. The phone rang again. The nurse walked in again. She was holding a new vile of Terbutaline. It was later in the night and my heart rate was high already, I did not want more Terb. I explained that we were having a family emergency and that if she could just give me 30 more minutes, I promised that I would lay down, settle down, and try to get the contractions to stop without the medicine. She reluctantly agreed. Shortly after that, Kevin got home and saw my message on the answering machine. He called back in his normal happy voice.

“Hey babe, I am afraid that I have bad news for you,” I tell Kevin. “Paw Paw has fallen and hurt his head really bad. It does not sound like he is going to make it. You need to call your parents right now. You probably also need to pack a bag and go on down to your parents’ house. They need you right now.”

Paw Paw died before Kevin had a chance to get there.

It is strange how the circle of life works sometimes. When we had become pregnant with the boys, we knew that we would honor our grandfather’s with their family names. We even got a chance to tell both living grandfathers how we would honor them. Before, our babies were born, both grandfather’s had suddenly left this world.

I did exactly what I had told the nurse and after I had gotten in touch with Kevin, I turned out my lights, did some relaxation breathing exercises as well as some meditation and managed to get the contractions to wane for the night. We did not need those babies to come on that night while the family was mourning the loss of a great man.

The Baaaad Trip

The nurses hooked me back up to the monitors and gave me a larger dose of Terbutaline. It was not working. The contractions were not improving at all, but at least they were not getting worse. The babies could survive a premature delivery at this point, but there were lots of concerns that go with a premature birth. Most certainly time in NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit), underdeveloped lungs, lack of sucking ability, long term affects were just the short list of concerns from a premature birth. The bottom line was that we were going to keep those babies in the womb as long as possible.

My doctor came in the room and said, “The Terbutaline is no longer working for you. Sometimes when you take this medication for a long period of time, the response weakens.” I braced myself because I was not sure what that meant for this pregnancy. I was not ready mentally or physically to have these babies. “There is another medication that we are going to try on you. It has been shown to stop the contractions. It is called Magnesium Sulfate.” That was the first time I had ever heard of that cursed word. “It is an intravenous medicine that we will hook into your IV.” I asked her, “What will this do to my heart rate?” The doctor kept her information very vague, “People react in different ways to this medicine. Some people get drowsy. Some people get nauseous a little. Some people just don’t feel good while they are on it. You may be different. We won’t know until you are on it.” Wow, she was really talking this stuff up. “What it will do is relax the muscles in your stomach and around your uterus and that will hopefully stop your contractions.” She reassuringly smiles and pats my arm. I ask, “How long will I be on this stuff?” She shrugs, “Oh, about 48 hours or so. We will check your progress and see how it is working.” She types in the instructions to the computer and leaves.

The nurse puts the Magnesium Sulfate bag on the IV stand and hooked it into my IV. That is where my memories start to fade. The only way to describe the feeling of being on “Mag” as they called it, is to say it was like a really, really bad trip. I have never had a trip that did not involve transportation, but I am pretty sure that it was like a really bad non-transportation trip. Literally my vision started to streak when I moved my head. Things were waving around while I was not moving. I felt like Dorthy in the tornado. This, in turn, made me very, very nauseous. I will save you those descriptions.

Somehow, night ran into day and my mom came to sit with me. The only thing that made me feel stabilized was when I closed my eyes and held onto her hand. Things stopped spinning as long as I had her hand as my lifeline. I think she watched some television. I have memories of hearing garbled voices in the background. The trip would not end. It became nighttime and she had to go home. I really didn’t want her to leave because I knew that I was not under my own control and with the nausea.  I wasn’t comfortable being alone. She had to leave…keep in mind that she was still having chemo treatments herself and was worn out all of the time. I cried when she left. It was miserable.

Shortly after she left, a night nurse came in to check on me. It was not my normal night nurse. I knew all of the nurses and she was not one of them. She said that she was covering for the other nurse because she was busy in another room. Odors were one of the sensitivities for the nausea and this lady had on perfume. It was strong and made me sick. She was distracted with recording our stats when I felt another wave of nausea come on. “I think I am going to throw up.” I told her. She shrugged and said to go to the bathroom to throw up. WTH?! Not only was I going to have to unhook all of the monitors from the computer, I was going to have to get out of the bed, waddle across the floor, AND GET ON MY FAT PREGNANT KNEES TO THROW UP? The choice was to throw up on myself or do what she said. In hindsight, I should have thrown up on her, but this was an emergency! I slowly got out of the bed, unhooked the monitor wires, dragged my damn IV tree to the bathroom and got down on my knees (after two tries). I was PISSED! And drugged. I really was not in the frame of mind to handle the situation.

My normal nurse came in a few hours later and checked on me. I mumbled out what happened with the other nurse and told her that she was not allowed in my room anymore. What was she doing with perfume on anyway? I felt helpless.

I finally lived to see daylight even though I didn’t think that I would. My doctor came in at about lunchtime and checked me and the babies. The contractions were gone, but now the babies heart rates were low and they were not moving very much. She explained that sometimes, that is one of the side effects of the medicine. She ordered for me to be unhooked from the cursed trip medicine. She also called in an ultrasound to see what the boys were looking like. We were ultimately waiting for the boys to be above 5 lbs. The ultrasound showed that the boys were on the upper side of 3 lbs. We were to continue waiting. She put me back on Terbutaline and kept me in my room.

The medicine wore off and I began to feel like I was on solid ground again. My vision became clearer. I realized that I was STARVING. I had not eaten in two days. Does The Varsity deliver to this hospital? No. Dang. I wanted two chili dogs and a big old greasy order of onion rings. STAT! Kevin was already off of work and in my room. Anyway, he had no idea how to get to The Varsity from there so that was out of the question. So, I called my friend, Christy, that was surely getting off of work at about that time and was out on the town with her boyfriend, Brian. “Hey! What are you doing?” I ask all bubbly like. “You sound like you are feeling better. Are you still on that stuff?” she asks suspiciously. “No, thank God! I feel SO much better. I am starving now.” I say. “Is there any way that you can go by The Varsity and get me something?” I ask her. Now, let me tell you, that girl is a good friend when she stops her date with her boyfriend, goes waaaay over to midtown to get a friend some grease, and then goes waaay over to Piedmont Hospital, pays to park, and delivers at 8 or 9 pm at this point.

Those chili dogs were eaten in about 3 bites. The onion rings practically sang like angels when I opened my red to-go box. It was payoff for the bad trip.

 

While she patiently sat there and watched her pregnant friend eat like a junk yard dog, she asked about our dog. Misty was like our daughter and everyone knew that it was a big deal for us to be away from her for so long. But Misty had been so busy that she barely had enough time to notice that we were not around. We had sent her to my in-law’s house. My father-in-law had taken her to their cabin in the mountains and she had been fishing with him. (Picture of Misty’s idea of fishing is below) She was having a blast running up and down the riverside and the mountainside with their dogs. It was a doggie style vacation (sorry folks, it was there for the takin’). The problem was that my FIL had to go back to work and Misty wasn’t able to stay up there anymore. Kevin was glad to get her back, but we still struggled with what to do with her since most of the time Kevin was gone. He explained this to Christy…I would have, but my mouth was full of greasy heaven. She offered, “Do you want us to take her?” I didn’t know if they were up to having her because her and her boyfriend both worked long hours. “Sure! It’ll be fun. We’ve been talking about getting a dog so this is good practice,”she cheerfully offers. I knew Misty would be in the best of hands with Christy and Brian.

Kevin met them the next night at our house for them to pick her up. I don’t know who was more excited, Misty or Christy and Brian. They laid out a comforter in the back of their truck and Misty immediately jumped in with her baby, the farting hedgehog, and was ready to go. Of course, I could not wait to hear how it went the next day from Christy. My friend, the 60 hour a week workaholic, was off work at 5 o’clock every day that she had Misty. There was no excuse that could keep her from Misty time. I loved hearing from her and learning about their walks and how Misty only had to be told once to go to bed before she was on her feet, farting hedgehog in mouth (seen in the below picture under Brians armpit), headed straight to bed. Misty was going to be spoiled rotten before it was all over with. I didn’t worry one time about my girl.

Couch Rest

If you have ever watched daytime television, you know what a challenge it is to find something that does not suck the brain cells out of your head. Dawson’s Creek came on every day at 10 a.m. I loved that show! Every day at 10 a.m., I would look forward to more of the teenage drama. I didn’t take phone calls at that time either so that I would not miss anything. That is how exciting bed rest on the couch is.

My mom and her little sidekick, my niece, would come over once a week to take me to my OB/gyn appointments. Did I mention how big I was and that it was now mid-June? The heat was unbearable! My mom had dual thermostats for her car and I would turn my side’s temperature all the way down and the fan all the way up the moment that I got into the car. On our first trip to the doctor, my niece asked me to turn the temperature up a little. I turned around to face her in the backseat and said shockingly, “What? It is burning up in here!” and swung my head back around to face the front. The poor little thing whimpered in the backseat, “But Betsy, I can’t feel my nose.” I turned back around to see her balled up blowing her breath in her hands to warm them. OK, so maybe I was going to have to handle a little heat so that my poor niece didn’t have to go into hypothermia. It was a cute nose after all.

Once in the office, we had a little bit of a wait. It was the afternoon and the doctor tended to be backed up by then. My niece sat next to me playing with her Barbie pony (now that she had use of her fingers again) while I read a magazine. Then I started feeling something poking me in the side nearest my niece. I looked over in time for her to “ride” her pony over my stomach. “Whoa, horsey! You gotta be careful goin’ up this steep mountain.” I heard snickering around me as the other pregnant ladies enjoyed our show.

The nurse called me back and my niece wanted to come with me. I told her that she could only stay a minute and then she had to go back with Mom. She happily agreed and skipped back to my room behind the nurse. I waddled slowly behind them.

My whole family got to know my doctor while I was in the hospital. She warmly greeted my niece when she entered the room and asked my niece how I was doing. My niece confidently gave the doctor each babies heart rate and showed her where the nurse had told her where the babies were laying. The doctor thanked her and told her that she could go back and wait for me in the waiting room. “Why do I have to go to the waiting room?” My niece asked, hating to be left out of all the fun. The doctor played it off and flippantly replied, “Because it’s personal.” My furrowed her brow and asked, “How personal?” The doctor knelt down to my niece’s eye level and said playfully, “REAL personal.” My niece didn’t hesitate. That kid was out the door and running down the hall towards the waiting room before either one of us knew what happened. The look on her face when I came out to the waiting room was priceless!

The babies were standing their ground and the contractions were somewhat under control. I was at home for three weeks when I started getting the squeezy contraction feelings again one night in bed. I called my doctor and after some deliberation, she said that it was safer for me to go on back to the hospital and she would meet me there. The contractions were a little closer together than they had been the last time and now I knew what to look for so Kevin and I were much more concerned this time.

I bet Kevin made the one hour trip in 35 minutes that night. He drove up to the emergency entrance and a night guard at the hospital meet him at the car and told him that he couldn’t park there. If you know Kevin, you know that he does not do conflict, but that night, he was so worried about me that he told the guard that his wife was in labor and if he wanted the car moved so bad, here were the keys. Wow.

The doctor met us back on the antepartum hall and told me that she had another room for me. She said that it looked like I was going to be there for the rest of the pregnancy. I was 33 weeks pregnant.

The Stay

The contractions had more or less been managed by the “Terb” as the nurses and doctors called the medication. Kevin returned to work a few days later and my family was so thoughtful to brave the Atlanta traffic to visit me every day.

On the second day of being in the hospital, my doctor gave me a steroid shot to increase the babies’ lung development just in case they decided to come early. She had warned me that it would cause me to be grumpy or emotional for the next day or so. I felt a little grumpy already from worrying about the babies and not getting enough sleep.

The first night was quite long with Baby A kicking the monitor off and the nurse waking me up whenever I had contractions. The next morning, my nurse told me that she had always wanted to have twins. “But I think that I don’t anymore. They are too much work.” My goodness, I thought. If you think they are too much work right now, I would hate to see how you handled them after they are born. She really was a sweet person. I got to know her really well over my stay. She was just young and realizing how much work babies really are. She was right. Twins really are a lot of work.

Ronald Reagan died the day after I was admitted to the hospital so I watched every…single…minute of the coverage of his funeral. For a diversion, I watched the entire French Open…and I don’t know anything about tennis! My nurse did play tennis so I kept it on my television so that she would come check on me on a regular basis. In the mornings, my LPN, Pookie, would come in and sit with me to watch the morning news before her rounds. I would also chatter on with the janitor until she gave up and started to talk back to me while she mopped the floors daily.

The staff encouraged me to walk down the halls if I wanted a change of scenery or I could get a wheelchair and someone could take me for a walk around the hospital. I really wasn’t interested in either. The hospital seemed like a big maze to me and it just disoriented me when I got out and about. After one short trip around the floor, I was ready to go back to my room. I didn’t like people staring at me being so pregnant in a wheelchair.

My nurse walked in my room that afternoon while I was mid-cry. It was embarrassing to be caught being a cry baby. I am usually a very upbeat person that rarely cries. She asked me what was wrong. It sounded too childish to say, “I miss Kevin,” like I couldn’t be away from him so long. So I just said that the steroids must be making me weepy. I am sure that it was a combination of both.

In addition, the medicine that they were giving me to stop the contractions not only made me have a high heart rate, but also made my thoughts foggy. Friends would bring me books that I loved to read and I was not able to read them because I could not concentrate enough to keep up with the story.

On Saturday, Kevin surprised me with a visit from our dog, Misty. She bounded into my room and hopped right onto my bed. She was so smart that she knew that she wasn’t supposed to get near my belly. She just laid down in a ball right next to my legs and stayed there for the whole visit. It made me so happy to have my girl back with me. We ended up sending her to Kevin’s parent’s house for them to watch until the situation stabilized a little more.

Finally, the day came when my OB/Gyn stopped at my door one morning and said, “I have some good news! How do you feel about going home?” I was surprised that I was not ready to go home. I knew that if anything happened while I was at the hospital, the nurses could handle it immediately, but we lived an hour away. We don’t know nothin’ ’bout birthin’ babies. As home sick as I was, I did not want to go home yet. She told me that this was understandable, but I had been supervised for a week and the contractions had subsided a good deal. I would continue on the “Terb” at home and continue bed rest only to get up to use the restroom. She reassured me that this was a good choice for me and that the babies were not going anywhere anytime soon.

So off we went, homeward bound. My eyes were wide open on the way home to see fresh air and be in the real world again. Kevin opened the door to the house and I went straight to the couch to lay down just like the doctor had ordered. We had an open floor plan so I could see my kitchen and all of my den. The counters needed clearing off, the dishes needed cleaning, and there was a basket of laundry that needed to be folded. In all of the craziness of the last week, Kevin wasn’t able to get to it because he was driving an hour and a half to see me after work on most days. I just stared at it helplessly. Oh my goodness, this is going to be tougher than I thought that it would be!

The Watch

The nurse led me expertly through the rat maze of the halls at Piedmont Hospital. I was trying not to panic while I was calling Kevin’s work number to let him know what was happening. His line rang three times and then went to voice mail. I dialed zero to pass the phone call to someone else. Somebody pick up! No answer. I dialed zero one more time while my anxiety grew. Finally one of our friends picked up the phone. “Hey! What’s up?” he answered with a friendly tone. “Can you go find Kevin? He is not answering his phone and I need to talk to him right now.” My tone was obviously tense. Not like me at all. He immediately picked up on the tension and quickly put me on hold to find Kevin somewhere in the office building. While I was on hold, I was trying to prepare myself to not cry and just give Kevin the facts. He picked up the phone. “Hello?” Kevin’s voice was all business when he picked up the phone. He must have known something was wrong when I had his co-worker find him.

“They say that I am in pre-term labor and they are sending me to the hospital for bed rest here at Piedmont. The nurse and I are on the way to admit me now. Can you come on down here?” Just a quiver in my voice as I conveyed the information. What I really wanted to say was, “They are putting me in the HOSPITAL! I am scared! I need you down here now!!!” but stating the obvious would surely bring me to hysterics and none of us needed that right now.

The nurse spoke with a fellow nurse on the anti-pardom hall (I didn’t even know what that meant) and they both turned to smile reassuringly at me. My doctor’s nurse introduced me to my anti-pardom nurse and assured me that I was in good hands with this lady. She was young looking and naturally pretty. How old was she? Lord, I hoped she knew what she was doing, because I certainly had no idea what was going on or what to expect at this point. I was getting very tired, sore, and hot from the long walk from the doctor’s office to the hospital. It wasn’t really that long of a walk, but it was June so I was very hot. I was so big that any distance would make my hips and knees ache. She quickly took me to a room on the hall down from the nurses station.

She opened the door and the first thing that I noticed was how cool it was in there. It felt refreshing to this rotund pregnant woman. She showed me that the room had a TV with DVD player for my viewing pleasure and a mini refrigerator to keep any snacks that I wanted in there. She even showed me where the room thermostat was so that I could make the room as comfortable as I wanted it. I casually slid the knob all the way down to as cool as it would go. She handed me a gown and told me to put it on. She would return in a few minutes. I looked around the dark, quiet room. A mini refrigerator. How long do people stay here? I had negotiated in my mind that this was a short couple of days stay in the hospital and then bed rest at home. This is not looking like a short visit kind of room. I changed from my maternity office clothes to the hospital gown and crawled into the cool, crisp sheets on the hospital bed and was checking out how the gadgets on the sides of the bed worked.

The nurse briskly walked back in pushing a contraption that looked like an IV stand but it had a computer screen and some wires hooked into it. She said that this was a heart monitor for the babies and we would place one over each baby’s heart to make sure that they were not in any kind of distress. She told me that they could monitor this information from any screen in any room on the hall. She pulled out two things that looked like belts, but instead of buckles, they had metal round disks that looked like the handles that you used in air hockey sort of. She had to totally loosen up the belts to fit them around my big belly and put some ultrasound gel on the buckles. When she placed the buckles on my belly, she looked over to the computer screen and watched the lines to see when they started moving. I knew that the babies were ok because they were moving around like crazy after me moving so much on the walk over to the hospital. She found the first heartbeat and diligently worked on placing the other buckle over the other baby’s heartbeat. “Got it!” she said after working for sometime to correctly place the monitor. You could tell that it was two different hearts because the beats were different and had different rates. Both rates were faster than mine. We both watched the monitor for a few minutes to make sure that all of the beats looked good. Just then, Baby A shifted and moved the monitor off of him. She patiently worked to reposition the monitor to find the heartbeat again. Once again, it was re-placed and we watched the monitor. Baby A moved again, this time moving so much that Baby B shifted also. She sighed and re-placed the monitors. “Stay” she said to my belly. We waited. This time, I saw Baby A’s foot move across my stomach and move the monitor. I giggled. “He’s doing that on purpose!” I was surprised at this stubbornness inside the womb. She shook her head at this and with more resolve moved the monitor back into place. “I think they are fine in there if you just want to check every once in awhile,” I suggest, a little relieved at the healthy baby activity that is happening right before our eyes. The nurse shook her head, “No, we have to have 24 hours of activity recorded before we can take the monitors off so that we have a base line on their heart beats. We can also see your contractions with the monitors which is the most important thing right now.” The nurse over and over again placed the monitors in less obtrusive sides for the babies. They eventually let her have her way. For now. She moved on to hook me into the blood pressure monitor and left the room to check for instructions from the crotchety old perinatologist.

I was again in the quiet room trying to take in the turn of events. I decided to call my boss and let her know that I was not coming back to work tomorrow. She answered her phone on speaker. “So, I got what I wanted and I’m not coming back.” I said jokingly waiting to tell her the rest of the news. “The just put me in a room at Piedmont and I am not sure that they are going to let me go home.” She took in the news and said that they would be fine. Everyone was covering and not to worry about things at the office. “Oh, by the way, I have some other people in here and before we get off the phone, can we ask you about some details of your job before you go?” The nurse walks into my room. I really should go, but some of the people on the phone are higher ups and I probably should answer their questions. “Sure.” I say hesitantly. As they go through the questions and I answer them as best that I can while my mind is certainly not on work anymore. The nurse is hooking my IV in. This is not a big deal to me. During our fertility treatments, I was poked and prodded on a daily basis so an IV is not something for me to get off the phone for her to do. I just shift my cellphone to the other shoulder. As another question is asked, the nurse gets out a syringe and fills it with a vile of clear stuff. She motions to me that she is going to give me a shot in the upper part of my arm. I nod and answer the office question on my cell phone. When the medication goes into my arm, it feels like rubbing alcohol is going into my skin. “Owwww!” I yelp into the phone and look surprisingly at the nurse. That is when I realize that I have made the transition from office worker to patient. No more questions. There was silence on the phone as they wait to find out why I just yelped. “Are you ok?” my boss asks. This is crazy! “Um, yeah. Listen, I’ve got to go.” I say and hang up the phone quickly.

“That hurt!” I said to the nurse. It took a lot to hurt me with needles in those days, so I was surprised at the pain of one little shot. “This is called Terbutaline and we use it to stop your contractions. We call it “Terb” around here. I am going to let that start working and check back on you in a few minutes,” she says and walks out of my room.

My cell phone rings. It’s Kevin trying to get instructions on how to get to Piedmont Hospital. He does not “do” downtown Atlanta and it is now rush hour. I am starting to shake like I have had too much coffee and am chattering to Kevin, but don’t know how to tell him how to get to the hospital. I do the best that I can and tell him to call me when he gets closer. Why am I feeling so jittery?

My heart rate is consistently 60 beats per minute at rest. Don’t ask me why I know this. It is just something that I know. When I started to feel jittery, I looked up at my heart rate on the computer monitor and was astounded when it said 114 beats per minute. I was laying in bed and my heart felt like it was about to jump out of my chest. What is going on? The nurse walked into my room and checked my heart rate then looked at me and asked how I was feeling. Um, like I just had nine espresso’s. She did not look as surprised as I had hoped that she would be when I told her as much. “Yeah, the Terb makes you have a high heart rate. We don’t get concerned until it gets above 120.” This is normal? Did I mention that I did not have enough room to breath under normal circumstances much less with a heart rate that is almost twice what it should be? I was really starting to feel uncomfortable.

An hour or so passed as I slowly passed along the information to my parents. Kevin eventually made it to the hospital and was entering the room at the same time that my normal OB/gyn was coming in to check on me. Good. The only two people that could reassure me right now are finally here. She came and sat on the side of the bed in a very motherly way. She explained to Kevin and I that it is much healthier for me to be here on the anti-pardom hall keeping the babies in the womb then taking a chance of a premature delivery and the boys being in NICU. She told me that it could be awhile before I could come home and that I should try to bring some things that made me more comfortable like a lamp, a comforter, pictures. This made me feel less assured. I never planned on being in a hospital long enough to bring a comforter and lamp. She said that we could even bring the dog to visit me. Now that was more assuring. She gave me a sweet smile, patted my leg and said that she would stop by in the morning after her surgeries. I actually was looking forward to seeing her.

Kevin sat in the chair next to me and held my hand while we watched our television shows together. We were trying to have some sort of normalcy in such an uncertain time. Night came and Kevin reluctantly went home to tend to our dog and sleep at home. He promised me that he would come back in the morning as soon as the traffic died down.

When he left, I was in the room with the television playing on mute, thinking about the health of our children and trying to stay positive. I knew in my heart that everything was going to be fine, but I was worried about a pre-mature delivery. Just when I started feeling lonely and sorry for myself, Baby A reached his foot out and moved the monitor off of him once again. I giggled and closed my eyes to get what little sleep that I was going to get that night.

The Right, But Not the Ability to Say “No”

One of the things I read in the baby books was to “expose the unborn child to a variety of music”. It was supposed to do something about improving brain development. This was something that I could easily do since I like a variety of music. I would experiment in rush hour traffic every morning. I would load up my CD player and turn the music all the way up to see what the babies liked. I played Etta James, Beethoven, The Marriage of Figaro, Charlie Parker, and Metallica. They would move around when some of it would play and just be still when others would play. The one singer that would truly get the babies noticeably moving around was Jimmy Buffett. They would go crazy in the tummy any time I turned on Jimmy Buffett. This should not surprise me since I am a closet Parrot Head myself, but to have in-utero Parrot Heads was really quite funny to me.

The week before the Memorial Day Weekend, I started to really slow down. I wore myself out quite easily just walking from point A to point B. My doctor had told me to go straight home and put my feet up and stay on the couch for the rest of the evening. She was trying to draw out the time that I could work before having the babies. A lot of twin pregnancies do not go all 40 weeks. Most twin moms require some form of bed rest before the delivery. We were all well aware that I was getting to that “danger zone”. I was 29 weeks pregnant.

The Friday of the long weekend, I made the mistake of picking up the office phone at 3:45. It was, of course, an “emergency” that needed to be handled before the weekend. It felt like I walked 10 miles that afternoon trying to put the issue to rest. Everyone had left the office early that day, so I was walking the halls trying to find the right people that could help me. I had started to get the Braxton Hicks contractions where my tummy would get really tight for a few minutes and then it would rest. It was uncomfortable. I was totally exhausted by the time I got home that night and my ankles looked like balloons.

The next day, we left for a fun day in the mountains. It was a long trip because I had to make 3 pit stops along the way. We started the weekend with a train ride. We had never ridden the tourist train in Blue Ridge that drives you to the next town where you shop and look around and then ride back. It is a very fun trip. We rode up listening to the guides give us information about the area in an open train car overlooking the beautiful mountains and the cool Toccoa River. I loved it. When we got to the next town, I wanted to go look in all of the antique shops and walk around exploring the town. My body would only let me waddle through a few antique stores and then I parked myself on a bench and people watched instead. On the ride back, Kevin proudly chatted with strangers about our twin boys that were on the way. I dozed off, tired and hot.

When we returned to Blue Ridge, Kevin wanted to go “scooter-pootin’” or in layman’s terms, riding around old dirt roads. We love riding around all the back roads in the mountains, but my bladder and the boys were not so happy with the bouncing around that the four wheel drive truck was causing. They pushed and shoved me so much that my sides were sore. The Braxton Hicks contractions were in full swing. We got home late that night tired, sore, and swollen. I spent the rest of the weekend on the couch with my feet up.

The next Monday, I had an appointment with my perinatologist. I was sent to the high risk baby doctor because twin pregnancies are, in fact, high risk. I was really tired and was ready to drop the whole daily work routine. When I left the office to go to my appointment, I stopped by my boss’ office and told her that I hoped I didn’t see her tomorrow, in hopes of being given the task of warming my couch for the rest of the pregnancy.

This was my second appointment with this doctor, a male, that was all business and no personality. He was one of the best, but his bedside manner was non-existent. I nicknamed him Dr. Crotchety due to his dazzling attribute. I had his last appointment of the day and waited for a long time in the waiting room. I proudly wrote the last of my thank you notes from the large office baby shower as I waited. At that exact moment, the nurse called me back to the examination room. We went through the normal questions. I mentioned the Braxton Hicks contractions and even had one for the nurse to feel during our session. The doctor came in like a bull, did a quick ultrasound, took my information and told me to wait for him in his office.

He was on the phone having a serious conversation when I walked into his office and sat in the chair across from his desk. He made no eye contact and continued his conversation for several minutes longer. The nurse and I were both ready to go home and I thought it quite rude that he made me wait for him like this. When he hung up the phone, he slowly made eye contact with me.

“The Braxton Hicks contractions that you are having are not Braxton Hicks. They are real contractions. You are already dialated and are now in pre-term labor.”

What? Contractions are supposed to hurt and these did not hurt. What is he talking about? Pre-term labor. That sounds kind of serious. Surely his is just overreacting.

“I have just gotten off the phone with the hospital. I am sending you to the anti-pardom hall to be treated. The nurse will walk you over. I can’t be sure how long you will be there.”

 

 

Can I Just Live In A Mall?

My grandfather’s funeral was a few short days after Mom’s phone call.  His visitation was something that he would have really enjoyed being a part of:  a celebration of his life.  Lots of people from all around came to pay their respects and remember him with one another.  My mom had put me in charge of making the order of flowers from the grandchildren.  I was great big and tired at this point so it seemed like a fast, efficient way to make this happen was reasonable.  I spoke with my sister and my cousins and we all decided on a style and a color.  Later that day our flower arrangement arrived and it looked fantastic.  

The next morning we all met early at the funeral home before the funeral.  My cousins asked me how much they owed me for the flowers.  I told them that they didn’t owe me anything and that they needed to pay Mom.  One cousin looked confused.  “Why do I need to pay her?” she asked.  I explained that it was more convenient to just have the funeral home order them and we would pay it at the end of the funeral.  Mom had already paid the funeral home with the money that our grandfather had put aside for funeral costs.  My cousin started laughing at me.  “What?”  I asked her, looking at my outfit to see if I had anything on me.  “You mean to tell me that Granddaddy just paid for his own funeral flowers?”  Well, it seemed more efficient and less tacky at the time. 

 

A few weeks later, back at the office, a group of co-workers decided to walk across the road to Lenox Mall’s food court for lunch.  It was a long walk, and I really should have driven myself and met them.  I rationalized to myself that I would have to walk anyway to the parking deck, and then if I didn’t get a good parking place I would end up walking again, so it was really a crap shoot on which walk was longer.  I was FAR too proud to ask a co-worker if they would go get their car and pick me up in front of the lobby.  The option of not going with them never even crossed my hormonally hazed mind.  At seven months pregnant, the very act of walking winded me.  Baby B had camped out underneath my rib cage and wasn’t giving me very much space to breathe at all.  My ribs ached all of the time.  To this day, the left side of my rib cage juts out just a little from being pushed out during the pregnancy.  

We walked across the parking lot and got to the main entrance when I realize that for the 1,567 time today, I had to go to the bathroom.  It was no longer a question of whether or not I needed to go anymore.  It was now a question of how badly I needed to go.  I told myself to wait until we got to the food court.  

We got to the food court and it was packed.  I decided that I had better go ahead and get my lunch and find a seat before I went to the restroom.  Once I got to the table, I looked around to see where the restrooms were.  Good grief!  They were on the other side of the food court.  No, I decided that I had to sit down for a minute before walking another step.  I calmly ate my lunch trying not to think about how badly I needed to go to the restroom.  By the time I felt well enough to start walking again, the others started to walk back to the office.  I thought that it was a better idea to stay with them.  My safety was more important than my tiny little bladder.  Oh, I was not feeling good at all.  Between not catching my breath, achy knees, and being tired, on top of that “gotta go” feeling, I started to panic.  I should have asked one of them to go get their car and come back to get me, but that would have mortified me.  Halfway through the mall, I sheepishly asked the others if they would stop and let me sit down for a minute.  Half of the lunch bunch were men, and I did not want to be such a…pregnant lady in front of them, but I was getting physically exhausted.  I was so embarrassed!  I wondered if I could play this off and just stay right there on a bench next to the Sunglasses Hut for the rest of the pregnancy. Could I live in a mall?  After several minutes, I somehow mustered up the energy to waddle back to the office.  That afternoon, I went straight to bed when I got home and I slept through the whole night from the exhaustion. 

I was starting to have limitations that I never had before.  There were starting to be situations that I was not capable of participating in.  I simply could not keep up with the rest of the crowd and I was in denial. 

This was taken after my grandfather's funeral

 

What’s In A Name

By the end of May, I was six months along. That does not sound like a lot, but when you are carrying twins, that is A LOT. I had passed the “Cankle” phase (where your calf goes straight down to your foot without an ankle indention) and moved on to the “Thigh-kle” phase. My belly had gotten so big that Kevin had to tie my shoes in the mornings. Sleeping was an experience that was never to be forgotten. I would start to fall asleep on my back and Baby A would start shoving Baby B off of him. I would lay on my side and Baby B would start shoving Baby A off of him. It was an amazing sight as my belly would be twisting and turning in all four directions. I wish that I had videoed that image. It was the first of a lifetime of negotiations between the three of us. My face had swollen so that when I laughed I would snort which would make me laugh harder, then I would…well ladies, it’s like sneezing, if you know what I mean. I had gained weight so rapidly that my knees ached all the time. One day, I proudly told Kevin, “You know, I’m doing pretty good with all this weight gain with twins. I don’t even have stretch marks!”. Poor Kevin had to break the news to me that I did have stretch marks, but they were under my belly button so I couldn’t even see them in the mirror. The last of my vanity flew away at that moment. I looked and felt like an Easter Egg.

At this point we needed to come up with four suitable names for our precious sons. A first and middle name for each child. We both come from old, southern families, and so we wanted to go the traditional route and fit our family’s heritage into their names. We knew that we would use three names that had long been in our families, but there was the fourth name- a first name for one of the children- that we were not having any luck choosing. In desperation, I had gone online and done some extensive family research. I would try them out on co-workers before going home and “pitching” them to Kevin. “Nope, that’s a frat boys name.” “No way, you might as well name him Sue.” “You will have a Broadway dancer for sure if you name your son that.”

I emailed my MIL and asked her if she had any old family names that had not been used, and I was not aware of. She emailed me back and said that she had a sweet grandfather that she would love one of us to name a child after…Omar. Umm, no thanks. I emailed my dad the same thing. He responded that I should name the boys Waylen and Willie. Nah, gonna pass on that. Finally, my mom called me on my cell phone one afternoon. “Hey, I think I heard a name that you might like.” “Great! Let’s hear it!” I responded. “How do you like ‘Lucas’?” “Lucas” I tried it out loud to see how it sounded. “I think I like that one.” I told her. We had gone out to eat that night when I decided to pitch the perfect name. “Lucas!” I excitedly told him. Kevin’s voice was flat, “Lucas.” “Yes, Kevin! Don’t you just love it?” “Lucas?” Kevin asks me as if I should know the significance of this name. “What? You don’t like it?” He laughs, “Are you going to make his middle name ‘Sky”? Luke Sky Walker. Oh. “Well, by the time that the kids are in school, children won’t even know who Luke Sky Walker was anyway.

We had had a lot going on in my family as our due date or “target date” got closer. My mother had been diagnosed with lymphoma just before we became pregnant with the boys. She was not going through aggressive chemotherapy, but the type of chemo that she was taking was still taxing on her poor body. Shortly after her diagnosis, her 89 year old father had fallen and broken his hip. Unfortunately, this became a challenge that he just could not overcome. My poor mother balanced her time between chemotherapy and caring for her father in a nursing home. It was a lot for her to handle and I was not there to help her as much as I wanted to.

My company had a baby shower for us at the beginning of May. It was amazing. One lady made a beautiful lemon cake with raspberry filling. She had put a beautiful nursery clock on top as the cake topper. All of my co-workers were so sweet and generous. They truly and fully equipped us for the twins. It still overwhelms me at how well they treated us. My mom was able to attend the baby shower, but was beyond exhausted as she had been up all night by her father’s side. His outlook was getting bleaker by the day. It was hard for her to share this blessed moment with me while worried about her father and tired beyond belief. I was so glad that she could make it to the shower none-the-less.

Three days after the baby shower, Kevin and I were at our new hangout- Babies R Us – when his phone rang. It was Mom. “Babe, Papa just died.”

Confession time: I drank coffee during my pregnancy. I know! I tried to cut back on the amount of coffee that I drank, but I was just so doggone tired. I wanted to have a stimulant-free pregnancy, but I also didn’t want to snore and have spittle running out of my mouth during meetings. In the mornings, I would go into the kitchen galley at work when no one was in there and fill my cup, that some referred to as “the jug”, with regular coffee. If I heard someone coming, I would quickly pick up the decaf carafe and pretend that I was pouring myself a big, hot jug of useless decaf. There, I said it.

The babies had been fluttering around in my belly for several weeks. I was in a large meeting one day. It was a extraordinarily boring meeting and I was starting to dose off and dream of a cup of coffee when WHACK! I jumped and my papers in front of me moved a little. The lady next to me, of course concerned about me, asked what just happened. I tried to play it off while I figured out what had happened. She started laughing and incredulously asked me, “Did they just kick you?”. Had they just kicked me? I didn’t know what a real kick felt like. I had never had my insides kicked before. The babies had just been fluttering up until now. The lady next to me had a child so she knew before I did. I jumped again. What was that? She began to get excited and grabbed my hand. “They just kicked for the first time, didn’t they?” I didn’t want to wake the others in the meeting. Honestly, this was a moment that I had thought I would share at home with Kevin. That’s when it happens on TV, right? I downplayed it and said, “It’s not the first time, but they just surprised me.” Jumping again, we giggled through the rest of the meeting. My sweet little babies were trying to make themselves comfortable. I loved it.

I was truly growing bigger every day. I had read that a pregnant mother of twins at six months is roughly the size of a pregnant singleton mother at nine months. That is a lot of growth in the second trimester. The cruise was in late February and by early May, I had to buy a whole new set of maternity clothes in a bigger size.

One pretty spring morning, I decided that I wanted to walk across the street to Phipps Plaza and get a Chick Fil A biscuit for breakfast. It is a good security policy in Atlanta to walk with a buddy, so I asked around to see if anyone wanted to walk with me. One of my male co-workers said that he would go with me, so off we go. It was a short walk across the road and through the parking lot to get to the mall. We made our orders and waited with several other patrons. The cashier had started a conversation with me about my pregnancy: How far along are you? Oh, twins! Do you know what they are yet? Do you have names? The pleasantries that I had become used to when I proudly announced that I was having twins. The patrons joined in the conversation and before long our orders had been filled. We grab our separate bags and as we turned to walk off, the cashier says to my co-worker, “Congratulations to you both! Take good care of her!”. Awkward. Stiffly we walk away for the food court, not making eye contact. I sideways looked at him and whispered, “Oh. My. God!”. He didn’t even look at me when he states, “There ain’t enough whiskey in this world…” Nicely played, my friend. Nicely played.

The bigger I got, the more the elevator became the place for strangers to make odd comments to me. I truly looked (and felt) nine months pregnant. The doors would open and people would exclaim, “You aren’t going to go into labor, are you?” “How many are you having?” “Good grief!” I decided to turn the tables on these uncouth strangers. On the way back from lunch one afternoon, I was on a crowded elevator with a group of my co-workers. Everyone was following proper crowded elevator etiquette: face towards the doors, no talking. Perfect. I grabbed my stomach and groaned. 15 people turned around horrified at me. My co-workers were horrified. I was pleased at punch with myself. I am leaning over my keyboard laughing as I type this.

We Are Having….

We were five months along at this time and it was time to do the ultrasound that lets us know the sex of the babies. We had decided pretty easily to find out what sex they were going to be. There is a lot of preparation and unknowns that go along with twins, so by finding out what the babies were, we were really just eliminating one more unknown. That is the official answer. Really, I couldn’t stand it any longer! I simply HAD to know!

 

I was a little apprehensive about this ultrasound because not only would we be finding out what the sex of the babies were, but we were also finding out if our children had any birth defects. When we were consulting a fertility doctor, he had told us that sometimes there are genetic deformities and infertility was just God’s way of preventing them. My sister-in-law is one of the best ultrasound techs in the business and had offered to do a 3D scan on us to find out what we were having, but the apprehension of any birth defects weighed heavily on my mind. I did not want to find out bad news from her and be reminded of it every time I saw her from then on. I politely passed on her very generous offer and saw the tech at our regular doctor.

 

The technician squirted me up and ran the scanner across my belly one time. She removed it quickly and smiled at us saying, “Well, I know what you are having.” Like the cat that ate the canary. This was like waiting on your parents to wake up on Christmas morning. Come on people, let’s get this show moving along! More slowly this time, she scanned my belly again and said, “Well this is Baby A and this is his private parts.” A boy! We are having a boy! I knew it! I knew it! More scanning. “And this is Baby B and his private parts.” ANOTHER boy?! Hallelujah! Two boys! I love it! We just stared in wide wonder of the boy parts on the screen. It was truly a perfect moment that I won’t forget. Kevin, in his proud father of two boys moment exclaims, “They are just like me! Look at how HUGE they are!” The ultrasound tech looked confused at him and back at the screen. “Mr. Walker, that is their umbilical cords.”

 

She completes the scan and confidently tells us that we have to perfect, healthy boys on the way. I was relieved. I was elated! I…wanted to see what they looked like now. We called my SIL and asked if we left that minute, could she see us and do a 3D scan of our healthy baby boys. She said yes and within an hour we had a roomful of family wanting to catch a glimpse at the boys that are on the way. She expertly scanned my belly and there they were on the 3D screen. It really was amazing! You could see that Baby B looked like Kevin’s family and that Baby A was sucking his perfect little thumb. You could see their perfect little feet and their perfect little noses. You could even see how jam packed they were in there. They were laying opposite like Yin and Yang. I kind of felt bad for them to be so uncomfortable. While we were staring at our perfect little babies-our one peek before they were in our arms-my SIL was checking them out as the uber-professional that she is. Those were her nephews and she wanted to see for herself that they were healthy. When we were done, I was drunk on the idea that I was going to be a mother of boys. SIL told me that they looked great and if she thought that they looked great, then I knew for sure with all confidence that they were great.

 

Boys. “What do you do with boys?” I wondered to myself all the way home.

The Great Expansion

Big changes were coming to our home! That we knew. We had prayed for it. We were as ready as we were going to get for it. We were even excited about them. We also had some big milestones coming up at the same time. In the spring, I was turning 30 years old. Also, in the fall, following the twins’ arrival, we would be celebrating our 10th wedding anniversary. We knew that the vacations that we were accustomed to were soon going to be a thing of the past, and we wanted to take one last couples only trip before the bundles of joy arrived. After much discussion, we decided to take a cruise to the Caribbean. I was just past my first trimester and the sweet doctor said that it was alright. I even got to dye my hair again before we left. Still sporting the “junk in the trunk” look, I patiently waited for more evidence that the babes were cooking in the oven.

 

So off we go aboard the cruise ship. It was the middle of winter and we were salivating at the thought of bathing suit weather. The first thing that we did when we boarded the ship was eat. We had a delicious gourmet lunch overlooking a beautiful Miami afternoon while our room was prepared. After our room was readied and the ship set sail, I laid down to rest my eyes for a minute. Thirty minutes later, I opened my eyes back up. I had no idea how tired I was! I swore that I had just closed my eyes, but Kevin had taken a picture of me sleeping. I had no defense. By then it was an hour until dinner. Mmmm! That sounds good! We walked around the boat scoping out the twenty-four hour ice cream and pizza bar. We met our dinner mates who were all really nice couples and had a fantastic meal. Did you know that you can ask for seconds at dinner on a cruise ship? They bring you a whole additional dinner plate! We went to watch a show, which I fall asleep halfway through and started back to our room. Oooh! The ice cream bar looks good. I just got a half a cup. Three times. By now it was time for bed. It had originally concerned me that our room was right above the ship engines and you could hear the hum quite loudly. However, I found out that night that the sound of an engine hum makes me sleep like a baby. That was some goooood sleeping. I noticed by the second day that the babies, which were a little bigger than the size of limes, felt like they were dancing in my stomach in the morning when I drank my one cup of coffee. It wasn’t anything definitive, just like butterflies. I pretty much kept the rigorous schedule of eat, sleep, go on an excursion, eat, sleep, eat, watch a show, eat, sleep during the entire cruise. It was fantastic! The best cruise I have ever been on. On the fourth night, I had a complete stranger stop me and ask me when I was expecting my baby. I explained that it was twins and we had awhile to go. She congratulated us and went on her way. I told Kevin that she sure was presumptuous assuming that I was pregnant. It was just a big butt after all. Or was it? We high fived.

 

We returned home to a snow covered car and regretfully endured the rest of the winter. The next day, I returned to work wearing one of my favorite maternity shirts. I was amazed when I put it on that you could finally see my belly touching the shirt. I LOOKED pregnant! Finally!

 

Baby’s Got Back

I survived the first trimester with little drama. Morning sickness was not that bad although I did go through a short phase where all I wanted to eat was greasy burgers.  One of my office besties reminded me that this was hormones and not a hangover.  We had decided to announce to the world that we were expecting twins by the ninth week. My doctor said that I would have a 90% chance of having a healthy pregnancy and, frankly, we could not contain the news anymore.

 

I kept waiting to start showing my pregnancy. I had already bought and started wearing maternity shirts. Not because I needed them, but because by golly I was pregnant and I wanted the world to know it when they saw me. Finally, I started showing. But it didn’t occur the way I had thought it would. I have always been a tall, relatively skinny girl so I made the assumption that I would be like every other skinny girl that got pregnant and have this cute little pooch in the tummy as the only evidence of me being pregnant. WRONG. I started showing in my butt! My behind and thighs began to get thick and I had nothing else to show for it. Every time I walked in a door, I felt like the beginning of the song “Baby’s Got Back” was playing in the background. “Oh my God, Becky. Did you see that girl’s butt?”

 

Add this information to the fact that I was working in an office full of sweet mama-like women who were watching my progress like it was their own daughter that was pregnant. By this time I was sharing an office with another lady that I adored. One day I had a bag of Salt and Vinegar Potato Chips on my desk that I was munching on while I worked. When I was done with it, I threw it in my trash can. She got the bag out and read the sodium intake aloud to me and informed me that I needed to start watching my salt so that I wouldn’t get so bloated. This was followed by a not so subtle glance at my booty. We didn’t talk for a month. That was one very quiet office. The only truce we called on this icy situation was when I told her that another co-worker told me that my butt was starting to bounce like a basketball (I am dyin’ if I am lyin’). We laughed until we couldn’t breath together and then politely turned back around and resumed our muted stand-off.

 

By this time, my fertility doctor had released me and sent me to a recommended OB/Gyn to handle the rest of my pregnancy. I was as nervous as a cat walking into that doctor’s office. These people didn’t know me. They didn’t know how important this pregnancy was to me. Were they going to have time to give me the attention that I needed (i.e. demanded)? The sweet doctor walked in and I started to get out my list of questions: When can I dye my hair again? (you know- the important questions) Can I travel? How many twin pregnancies have you ever monitored? Before I could pull the scroll-like list out of my purse, the doctor started giving me her policies: Bed rest for the last six weeks – that actually sounds pretty good. Laying in bed, sleeping all I want, watching Dr. Phil, getting the last couple of weeks of “me” time in before the babies come. OK, I’m good with that. What else, doc? “I don’t want you to gain any more than 30 lbs.” Um, come again? “Did you say 30 lbs.?” She smiled and nodded. “For all three trimesters?” Surely I was misunderstanding her. I had already gained 10 lbs.! No, she wanted me to gain “no more than” 30 POUNDS for the entire pregnancy. I fired her.

 

So the next week Kevin went with me to a new doctor. Kevin said that he wanted to participate with the pregnancy, but really I think he was just making sure that I didn’t start a habit of hopping doctors as they give me information that I didn’t like. Everything went well. I liked this lady. She was a no nonsense kind of gal. She politely answered the entire list of questions and exclaimed that she felt like she had just taken the doctor’s exam all over again. She began to leave and asked one more time, “Are there any more questions or concerns that you have before I go?” She looked hesitantly at me in hopes that I had exhausted my inquiry on her worthiness for the worlds’ most special pregnancy – in my humble opinion, of course. Kevin shocks us both by saying, “Yes.” Oh, heavens! What is about to come out of his mouth? I wonder. He looks squarely at her and says, “She is afraid that people think she is getting fat.” Really?! Did we have to share my little body image issue with her? The doctor cocked her head a little and states, “You are pregnant. With twins. It’s what happens.” Yeah, I’m feeling foolish right about now. He elaborated on my vanity, “The ladies at her work have been teasing her. They aren’t being mean about it, but she is taking it to heart.” There. Lay it all out there for me, Kev. I will thank you later for that. She smiled and said, “Don’t worry about the weight. Enjoy your pregnancy. Eat healthy. If you want something sweet after dinner, you can eat ice cream. Just a normal half cup serving is good.” She nodded her head as if this is a perfectly convincing solution. A half cup? “A half cup?” I wince as I ask. “Yes. That is a serving of ice cream if you look on the side.” she cheerfully and factually states. “That is just enough to make me mad.” I state my own facts. “Well….” she says, “just try it.” Kevin shakes her hand and she leaves the room. Kevin looks at me proudly because he has helped me solve my body image issue. Deep sigh from me. A half cup. Sheesh!

 

After that, I kept my appointment cards at the my office.

How Many Were There?

A few hours passed before I mustered up the courage to call Kevin back and tell him what else the nurse had said.

“Jackie said that my hormones were really high.”  I said, building up to the unknown.

Kevin laughed, “That’s good!  That means that the embryos really took, right?”

“Mmmm hmmm.  In fact, she said that when we go in next week for the first ultrasound, she wants to count how many fetus’ that we have now.”

A swing and a pitch.

Delay.  “What does that mean?  You just said that they both took.  They know that.  Why do they want to count them?”

“Wellllll…. she said that sometimes the embryos can split once they are implanted.”

“WHAT?”

“Yup”  I snicker a little.

I hear his calculator clicking.  “What are you doing?”  I ask.  Just making sure that he comprehended what I have just told him.

“We can’t afford triplets.”

“Huh?”  We have spent a fortune just to get to this point so “afford” was long passed on the side of the road of life.

“If we have three babies at one time, a reasonable daycare quote will be (more clicking) nearly $400 a WEEK, we will have to buy a bigger vehicle, we have to buy three cribs, three car seats, three vehicles when they turn 16, three college tuition’s, three…..”  WHOA THERE BUCKAROO!!!!

“Kevin, they are not sure.  How about we wait and see what the ultrasound says?”  I admit, I was a little panicky about the thought of more than two babies, but in the words of my cousin “We takes what the good Lord gives us.”

Kevin is most definitely the one who keeps his wits about him in all situations, so I was having to fake serenity to bring Kevin back down to earth.  We decided that we would not get ahead of ourselves and that we would just wait until the ultrasound told us what we were working with. It was a long week.  In the words of Tom Petty, “The waiting is the hardest part”.

The next Tuesday, we held clammy, cold hands as we walked into the doctor’s office for the official head count.  I had already started wearing untucked, oversized shirts so that I would “look more pregnant”.  Little did I know how huge I would get.

The nice ultrasound tech came in all smiles, wheeling in her ultrasound machine.  The teller of fortunes. “Let’s see who’s in there.” she said.  It looked like static on her screen.  Then I heard it.  Shomp, shomp, shomp, shomp.  The heartbeat.  Far too fast to be my own.  “Do they have heartbeats already?”  I asked.  Duh.  What is that I am hearing?

“Yes, babies develop hearts in week 4 of gestation.  You are at week 6 so the hearts are pumping great!” She points to the screen.  “So here’s Baby A.”  That is the most beautiful black eyed pea looking thing on the screen that I have ever seen!  She points to a different part of the screen, “And there’s Baby B”  Another beautiful black eyed pea!!  She looks around some more.  Kevin’s grip is distinctly tighter than before.  We patiently, silently wait while she checks every crevice of my uterus (now that’s something I never thought I would write).  “Aaaaand….that’s all folks!  Two beautiful babies!  Congratulations.” I am pretty sure that I heard Kevin exhale in relief.  I was focused on the two beautiful black eyedpeas that I didn’t care about anything else.

 

It Begins…

This week I am preparing for our boys’ 8th birthday.  The 8th year of our family being complete in many ways.  As I buy Star Wars party favors and Darth Vader cupcake toppers, I am also reflecting on how many miles we have come and how very fast the time has flown.  It seems like it has been only two weeks since we were weaning the boys from their bottles to sippy cups.  I sit here and shake my head at how quickly these years are passing by us.

People would tell us, “You should write this stuff down so that you won’t forget it.” when the boys were toddlers.  I would smile and nod thinking, “That is a great idea!  I will just sit down and record all of this stuff right after I get the boys to sleep at night, cook a homemade meal, change 500 dirty diapers, do the laundry, sanitize the parts of the house the babies are currently and strangely chewing on, and wash the 100 sippy cups.”  Somehow, I never got to write that stuff down.

Now that the boys are closing in on 8 years old and are somewhat self entertaining thanks to Legos and the “Where’s My Water” app, I have decided that I need to finally write this stuff down before they become surly teenagers and I forget all of the precious stuff that my sweet babies did when they adored me above all humans.  Well, after Daddy, but before all other humans.

This epic tale would only be halfway told if I left out what a twin pregnancy is like.  So, I will start at the very beginning.  A very good place to start (in my best Maria from “The Sound of Music” voice)…

I had been nervously typing away in my little half cubical all morning willing the nurse to call me.  She said that she would call me this morning to let me know.  Why hasn’t she called?  Something must be wrong.  I went in this morning at 7 to take the blood test.  The labs should be back by now.  Maybe I should call her in case she forgot.  No, what if she was calling me while I was calling her we missed each other and that would put me at the very end of her “To-Call” list.  Agh!  The suspense is KIL-LING me!!

The phone rang.  I jumped a little when I saw the doctor’s phone number on my screen.  Deep breath.  Here we go.  She’s calling me to tell me it didn’t work.  Brace yourself.  Oh God!  What if it didn’t work?  “This is Betsy.”  I said in my best office voice.  “Girl, you are SO pregnant!”  The nurse didn’t even mess around with the pleasantries thank God.  “Are you sure?”  I said, trying to not act like my whole future was riding on her words.  “Positive.”  I smile.  “How many?”  I ask. Bracing again.  “Well, your HcG levels are much higher than we were expecting which is good.  You are definitely expecting multiples. Come in next week and we will do an ultrasound and count how many fetus’ you have in there.”  She said, simply giving me the run down. I am expecting multiples.  She wants to count how many fetus’ are in there?  Well, duh!  If I am expecting multiples and they implanted two embryos, how many fetus’ does she think are in there?  Wait. “What do you mean count how many fetus’ are in there?  You implanted two, right?”  She casually answered, “Sometimes those embryos have a mind of their own and split once they are in there. It’s probably just the two, but we want to make sure.”  Dumbfounded silence.  “OK”  I reply.  A little quiver in my voice.  We hung up after the administrative stuff was taken care of. I look at the phone as if it just jumped up and slapped me in the face for a second and then grab my cell phone and head to the elevators.

When the elevator doors opened, thankfully there was no one in there.  I walked in and the doors closed.  I looked at my reflection in the door and said to myself, “It worked.”  My reflection smiled back.  It worked!!!!

When the doors opened to the lobby of my office building, I walked as cool as I could across the way to a small, private courtyard that no one would be using this early in the morning.  I sat at one of the tables and took my cell phone out of my blazer pocket and started dialing Kevin’s number.  My hands started shaking and I noticed a tear started rolling down my face.  Press send.  My tear sent his whole friends and family rolling down my face.  By the time the phone started ringing, I couldn’t breathe because I was crying so hard.  Kevin only let it ring one time. “Hello?”  he said expectantly because he knew it was me and I had the news.  “Hey”  I said, by this time he could hear me crying.  “What did they say?”  I took a deep breath.  “It worked”, I tried to say but I guess it came out sounding like a goose honk.  “What?”  His anticipation for a coherent answer was palpable.  I tried again slower this time.  “It worked!!!”  I could hear him exhale.  “How many?”  Trying to speak clear English this time, “BOTH!”  Bigger exhale.  I hear commotion in the background.  “Betsy, get off the phone!  We have work to do.” I hear Kevin’s co-worker, also a friend to us both says through the phone.  “Oh my gosh, that is great news!  Listen, can I call you back in just a minute?”  He is overjoyed and I am sobbing so it is best that we end this moment here.  “I love you!”  Kevin says and he is gone.  We will save the whole “we need to count how many fetus’ are in there” conversation for when I am a little more composed.

The next phone call that I need to make is to my mom.  I hope she answers.  She is having lunch with her high school alumni crew today.  I hope she can hear her phone.  I dial her number.  My hysterics have not diminished at this point.  Ring. “Hello?”  Mom also answers expectantly.  My hysterical goose sound once again honks into the phone.  “What, Honey?  Are you ok?” I can’t hear anyone in the background so she must be in the bathroom.  Good timing.  “IT WORKED!!”  I finally honk out.  She hoots and exclaims out loud, “It worked!”  I hear mayhem now in the background.

I later learn that she had put her phone on the table (a proper southern woman’s no-no) during her alumni lunch and had told the crew of about 12 people why she was expecting this call.  She said that when the phone rang, you could hear a pin drop at that table.  Until she said,”It worked!” and then they all went crazy.  The whole restaurant could hear their cheers.

And so it began.  The long journey to parenthood, family of four.  Everything that we had waited for six long, sometimes literally painful years to occur.  Our babies were coming!