This Thursday marks the 2nd birthday of my fraternal twins, James Russell and Emma Jane. To say it has been an incredible ride so far is the quite the understatement, something I’m sure many of you can relate to if you’ve been in the throes of parenthood. And like most, I’ve learned so much through the unique challenges I faced as parent.
Unplanned Can Sometimes Be the Best Plan
My twins were not a planned pregnancy. My husband and I had been married for over a year and a half when we found out we were pregnant. We knew we wanted kids, just not right now. I was working full-time in a career I really loved, but I still had dreams of going back to school full-time and getting my degree before embarking into motherhood. My husband was in his 3rd year of a Ph.D program so our income was not high. We still lived like college students in an 800 sq ft apartment amongst a sea of other college students in a very college student-orientated town. It was not exactly what we pictured. But when the pregnancy test was positive, our plans were changed, but definitely for the better. Fast forward ten months later, I was going back to work after 6 weeks of maternity leave, and Ryan was staying home with our new babies. My days were student housing management while Ryan’s were infant management. My nights were spent with the babies while Ryan’s were spent with his dissertation. Looking back we couldn’t have planned it better. If both Ryan and I were working full-time jobs, we would have had to send the kids to daycare. Or I would have stayed home, and Ryan wouldn’t have had the opportunity to spend so much quality time with his children.
Live a Little Before You Purchase
When the excitement of pregnancy subdues, it’s normally from the realization that this whole experience is going to cost you. Not just your physical body or your sleep, but your money. As the self-proclaimed Queen of Excel Spreadsheets, it was time for me to start planning how much this whole experience was going to cost us. And start doing something online window shopping and mommy blog reading to determine what were the baby must-haves. A crib, diapers, a couple onesies, these were all obvious. But then there were the not-so-obvious items that I kept seeing on everyone’s list: special, hypoallergenic baby detergent, a wipe warmer, receiving blankets, my God, all the receiving blankets. And I would I need two of everything? Dollar signs were spinning in front of my head. I looked around our small 2/2 apartment and I wasn’t sure how we were even going to fit two babies and all their stuff. I knew I needed to take a step back and just start with the basics. If we needed more of something, we could always go out to Target and buy it. Everyone always tells you that babies require a lot. Actually, they don’t. But we like to think a life change like a having a baby, going to college, or getting married requires a lot of new stuff. Bringing two new beings into our life that was already full of stuff reminded me to just stick with the basics.
The Only Thing You Can Control is Your Reaction
The twins were born via caesarean section on a Monday evening at 6:38pm. The procedure was quick and (dare I say) painless. Not how you normally hear people describing the both of their child(ren). But a couple of hours later, the nurse discovered a spike in my blood pressure. And my white blood cell count was extremely low. The doctor commented that it appeared as if there had been severe hemorrhaging during my surgery (which there hadn’t). My invasive surgery, which had gone perfectly, was now followed by a pretty dangerous complication – postpartum preeclampsia. My ability to even attempt to take care of my children was completely hampered. Get out of bed to help change a diaper? I could barely lift my arms, I was so weak. The day following my surgery, I was administered 2 bags of blood to help compensate for the white blood cell count. The day after, a full 24 hours on a magnesium sulfate drip to address my high blood pressure. I was never someone to want to fully control every detail of my pregnancy and birth experience, but this was just not what I imagined my first couple days as a mother would be like. I had two new babies and zero ability to care for them. I wanted to just lay in that hospital bed and cry (which I did a little bit of), but I knew I needed to stay focused on a quick recovery. I did my best to not push myself as I regained strength, letting go of the fact that I wasn’t go to be able to get up every time one of the babies was crying. Friday evening I was finally up walking again, taking my time, but staying dedicated to the process. Saturday we were all of our the hospital and headed home. My last challenge was to conquer the stairs up to our 3rd floor apartment. Then I was finally able to focus on caring for and enjoying my new babies.
You Are Still A Good Mom Despite….
One of the biggest internal struggles I dealt with in the beginning was my inability to breastfeed. With the difficulties associated with postpartum preeclampsia and the constant stream of visitors, nurses, and doctors into the hospital, I just couldn’t get muster the time and energy to put towards breastfeeding. Three days into our hospital stay, our nurse suggested I try formula feeding. “Don’t beat yourself up, honey, they’ll still turn out just fine”. I knew she was right, but I hated that I had failed at something so many women were able to accomplish. Fast forward three weeks later, and I had been pumping a couple of times a day since returning home from the hospital. But one day, I sat down to pump and nothing. An hour strapped in to that contraption and not even a drop. I tried a couple of hours later and still nothing. After three days of attempted to pump every couple of hours, everything just flattened. For some reason, my body had just decided it was time to stop producing milk, and from then on babies were exclusively on formula. I was once again heartbroken and extremely frustrated that I was going to be able to provide my children with breast milk. But when I noticed how much easier things were, and how much less stressed I was, I knew it was time to move on. I decided to look at the positives – no pumping at work and all the coffee my heart desired! I was not in control of my breastmilk drying up so instead I changed my attitude towards it.
With just two short years of parenting under my belt, I know I have so much more left to experience and learn. I am beyond grateful to have a front row seat to the exhilarating show that is James and Emma’s childhood.
Thanks for reading.