Newborn Twins. Enough Said.

Photo credit Boston Photography

By: Aimee Tafreshi

The fact that I am writing this blog is a miracle in itself. I cannot make any guarantees about proper grammar or a logical progression of thoughts. You see, my husband and I welcomed twins approximately five weeks ago. We were not “trying” for twins, and we did not avail ourselves of the latest medical technology seeking out two bundles of joy. But Mother Nature laughed, thought “I’ll show them,” and here we are with a boy and a girl.

We had a “pleasant” enough hospital experience. We were lucky to be at an excellent medical facility with great nurses and doctors. The nurse anesthetist deserved a gold medal as she seemed to be the face and main brains of the anesthesiology portion, and she also played DJ and took excellent photos post-delivery. I was so excited when she told me that she would play music in the OR, I immediately began thinking of songs for an impromptu playlist before being wheeled in for my c-section. “Sucker for Pain,” Ludacris and Snoop Dog with a touch of the Texas Fight Song seemed like a great soundtrack to welcome these babies into the world. The rap started blasting, and a member of the medical team said, “It’s like we’re in the club.” We were off to a promising start.

And then the spinal block wasn’t quite working one hundred percent, and my blood pressure started tanking. I then threw up on the operating room table. They were ready to put me under general anesthesia, a plan I initially welcomed, but then a part of me thought, I don’t want to miss this, no matter how miserable I feel. They injected some more drugs and voila, my blood pressure stabilized, and the doctor proceeded. He finished sewing me up with some chill Jimmy Buffett playing, his choice, which I appreciated.

I felt like I was on that table forever. My mom paced in the hallway wondering what was taking so long. At 2:33 p.m., we welcomed a beautiful baby girl with a healthy set of lungs, a feisty 5 pounds, 7 ounces bundle of attitude, whom we named Marin Elise. One minute later, we met Rhett Wortham, her younger but larger brother, weighing in at 6 pounds, 5 ounces. I always suspected that Rhett was siphoning all of the food in utero, leaving his sister crumbs. No wonder she seems so angry now and screams incessantly until fed.

I don’t remember too much from the recovery room, other than telling the nurse that I was so happy to be here. “Why?” she asked, clearly confused by my comment. “Because I’m no longer on that operating table,” I replied. They brought the babies in, none of them requiring any NICU time, and Marin latched on right away. Rhett seemed confused but would learn how to nurse with the help of a lactation consultant who was a baby whisperer of sorts. Unlike past lactation consultants at other hospitals, she wasn’t the kind to pressure you to exclusively breastfeed. “Tandem breastfeeding twins by yourself will be very hard,” she said, “especially with other children at home.” Another nurse told me, “Fed is best.” I appreciated them planting these seeds of wisdom in my head, so I would later not be so hard on myself if I couldn’t live up to my own expectations of how feeding twins should go.

Recovery in the hospital was painful, as is typical with a c-section and tubal ligation. I felt massive pain, vomited many times and could barely walk without crying or hunching over in agony. They let me stay an extra night and even offered more time, but by day five, we were ready to split, as ready as new parents can be. On the day of our hospital departure, we loaded the twins into their new baby carriers and tried to take a photo together as they bawled their eyes out.

We were able to get settled in at home before our other three children traveled back from their summer trip to Alaska with my mother- and sister-in-law. It’s hard to predict how siblings will react to a new baby (or babies), but our kiddos were at least excited to meet them. Our daughter was ecstatic to finally get a sister, although she mistakenly believed Marin might be ready to play with toys right away. I explained that babies are a little boring at first; they basically eat, poop and sleep.

There has been an adjustment period for the kids and us parents. My husband had to take over school duties, such as attending the new school year “meet and greets” with the teachers and taking the kids to the bus stop in the mornings. I have felt some guilt about missing out, but then I thought how neat it was that my husband was able to participate in some events that he had missed in the past due to work. We have been fortunate with help from family members and neighbors for rides to activities and hot meals. Eventually we will be on our own, but hopefully by then we will be ready.

Life with newborn twins is not for the faint of heart. We have had our share of hiccups and off-color jokes at 2 a.m. We may have referenced North Korean prison camps and crack houses. (Don’t ask.) We have felt like mistreated livestock kept just enough alive to pass muster before the inevitable slaughter, popping Advil like bovine antibiotics and growth hormones. About two weeks after first meeting the twins, my youngest son looked lovingly at Marin, and sweetly asked, “What is her name again?” Ahh, the pitfalls of a large family. I guess he can simply refer to her as “Twin A.” Just yesterday, I looked at my baby girl and said, “Well that’s a funny face Marilyn.” I then realized I had called her by the wrong name and prayed no one had heard me. In my defense, an HGTV show taking place in Maryland played in the background.

When the day begins to spiral out of control, we have developed different coping strategies. I started watching Outdaughtered on TLC, a show featuring a couple with the only all girl quintuplets in the country. If anyone can make me feel better about having twins, it’s a family that is dealing with five two-year-olds. Plus I have learned some helpful strategies from watching them, and the fact that the parents are still alive and sane is reassuring. We are also thinking of buying stock in Nespresso and Blue Bell Ice Cream, given our massive consumption of their products. I couldn’t survive at this point without a large stockpile of caffeine and refined sugar. Looking for more natural remedies, my mom gifted me a lavender stress ball, which I often squeeze and vigorously inhale like my life depended on it.

My husband made the helpful suggestion a few weeks ago that when our older children act unruly, we should play a song to redirect them and release some tension. I started brainstorming and chimed in, “Oh yeah, we can find some Native American tribal music, grab hands, and run in and out of a circle,” envisioning a kind of spiritual coming together. My other half looked at me amused and said he was thinking more along the lines of Lady Gaga. Regardless I’ve already found a song with a great tribal beat. Sometimes you need to reach out to the universe or a higher power for guidance.

When my husband and I used to hear of someone having twins, we used to caustically remark, “How terrible! Can you imagine?!” Then twins happened to us. It’s called karma. I can confidently say that caring for twins is the hardest thing either of us have ever done. It’s harder than law school, studying for a bar exam, taking a bar exam, practicing law or going on a submarine deployment. I don’t know what would be harder. Oh yes I do—triplets. In a recent nightmare, I dreamed I was tending to three babies, running around the house, trying to stop the crying. The next day I remembered this dream and felt gratitude that there were only two of them. We think it will get easier once they turn three. Until then, I will live vicariously through the Beachfront Bargain hunters on TV and dream of a kids’ club on a cruise. And I will try to pause during the chaos, breathe in their baby smells and memorize their funny expressions before they sprout up into independent big kids.

 

Aimee Tafreshi is a mom of five, freelance writer and attorney who also contributes to Nameberry.com.

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When ‘Just One More’ Becomes Two

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By: Aimee Tafreshi

It’s the question that simmers under the surface among friends with kids. Are you done having kids? Will you have one more child? Part benchmark, part sheer curiosity, both close friends and passing acquaintances have murmured this seemingly casual but loaded question at a game night, at a park, in a bar.

My and my husband’s answers were usually similar in response. We already have three children. I didn’t want to go through a pregnancy again for health reasons. When I hold a baby, I don’t feel any strong desire to hold another one of my own. I’m almost 40! I remember meeting a Pilates instructor at a local watering hole on a rowdy night out with friends who seemed especially dialed into other’s feelings. If you don’t know, she said with her wise gaze boring through my soul, then I think you will have another one. I shrugged her words off. Maybe . . . but highly doubtful.

The encounter with the empathetic Pilates instructor was several years ago.  During that time, I merengued into some of the best shape of my life as a Zumba instructor. I was dancing so much that I couldn’t eat enough food to stay full.  I was dancing so much that the annoying pain in my right foot turned into a broken sesamoid bone, which took away my ability to walk for the good part of a year and required surgery to remove the crumbled bone. I hung up my dancing shoes and suddenly had to make an effort to eat healthfully and relearn how to walk so I wouldn’t pack on the pounds.

Post-foot surgery, I discovered two blood clots in my arms, which led to testing to determine the cause. I found out I had a genetic blood clotting disorder and immediately had to end my twenty-year relationship with birth control pills. My husband and I discussed vasectomies, an option I couldn’t quite commit to in the past, because I wasn’t one hundred percent sure. We decided he would undergo the procedure following the holidays, as his work schedule was conducive.

We were in a good place in our lives. Our children were 4, 6 and 8, and all of them slept through the night (mostly), toileted independently and could attend school or daycare while I worked at my new remote desk job. They had activities that required early Saturday mornings and weekday practices, a schedule that is not conducive to a needy newborn. How could I bring a baby to a five-hour swim meet in the Florida heat?  There was something liberating about being “hands-free.” I could fly on a plane with three children or take them to the movies or restaurant solo. Why would I want to disrupt this careful balance we had finally achieved?

It was the height of election season, so crazy was in the air. I got tired of watching CNN as I wanted to hear about anything other than Hillary and Donald.  I’m a news junkie, but this was twenty-four seven saturation. My husband and I threw caution to the wind and figured we’d leave the last few months of his virility to fate, God, whomever. This wasn’t a major effort, as we both strongly felt the pros and cons of adding another child to our family. I was settled into my new job, and we weren’t certain if he would continue on his current career path or make the leap into the private sector. Economics would dictate that we were finished, but our hearts were still open to one more.

In late November, after queasiness from the election began to subside, I started to feel a new sort of queasiness. Other than with my daughter, I was pretty lucky during my pregnancies in the morning sickness department.  But this time I felt different, and I knew that night I should forgo that cherished glass of red and buy a pregnancy test the next day. 

I was actually shocked when the positive test result appeared in a millisecond. Wow, there was no doubt, no faint line to scrutinize, no need for a re-test (though I think I did.) At around four weeks pregnant, there was nothing to do but wait. I didn’t know if this pregnancy would progress or fade away as several had. I didn’t even call the OB until six weeks; I didn’t want to waste my time.

My husband accompanied me to see the doctor at around seven weeks, and he congratulated us but recommended we might want to consider banking sperm in case this pregnancy didn’t work out. We assured the good doctor that we were at peace with our family if this one was not to be; we weren’t looking for a medical intervention.

At this stage, the doctor didn’t try to hear a heartbeat or get a visual image. Instead, I was told I would be giving myself a shot every night to deliver a blood thinner that wouldn’t affect the developing embryo. And as the delivery date got closer, one shot would turn into two daily, and then there would be more needles postpartum, to avoid post-cesarean section blood clots.

It took me until 9:00 that evening to give myself the first shot, after religiously studying the package insert, scouring message boards about injection techniques and telling myself it was a matter of life and death. Many months later I am a confident shot administrator (with the help of my nurse/husband who delivers the burning substance) and would feel comfortable injecting anyone in my family, if needed. The only battle wounds are bruises occasionally left by a needle. Once the shots are a distant memory someday, I will notice that witching hour every night, tucked between a shower and snack, and wonder what I am forgetting and then remember the days of the shot.

At ten weeks pregnant, feeling more confident but not out of the woods, my husband accompanied me to my next doctor’s appointment. The doctor hooked me up to his old ultrasound machine (this was his scaled down “island” office), and the unmistakable image of a small bean of a baby in a sac appeared on the right. My eyes scanned to the left (backwards, I know), and I saw a second sac with another blob inside. “Is that two babies in there???!!!” I exclaimed before the doctor had a chance to get a word in. He confirmed my impression and proceeded to talk as we filled out forms while our heads swam. We were now floating in an alternate, undefined universe. I honestly wasn’t convinced there was a viable baby inside of me until its image flashed up on the screen; never in my wildest dreams did I imagine two life forms sharing space in my womb.

Twins could certainly explain the extreme feelings of nausea and fatigue and the sense that my belly was beginning to show before the second trimester. I was immediately referred to the high-risk obstetrics group on account of the twins, blood clotting disorder and that lovely designation, being of advanced maternal age.

Since that time, my husband and I have made progress. We now accept that we are having twins. We were ecstatic to learn that one is a boy and the other is a girl, and my daughter will finally get the sister she has always wanted. My middle child is psyched that he will be elevated to “oldest son” status. And we have embraced the idea of having two newborns. Every time I see them on an ultrasound, bigger and more baby-like than the previous month, these two blobs become more real to me, taking up residence in my heart, each future version with his or her own dreams, talents and hopes. Still, I won’t completely believe this news until they hand me two crying infants at the hospital.

And while on the topic of twins, here are a few myths I’d like to dispel, in case you are considering adding “just one more” child to your family and think multiples could never happen to you.

First, not every twin birth is a result of a medical intervention like IVF or Clomid. In fact, back in the old days, women had twins well before these medical advances. Secondly, you do not need to have twins in your family to become pregnant with them. And finally, if you are an older mother and have already had multiple pregnancies, you are at a higher risk to have multiples. And if I were a mom who had undergone grueling rounds of IVF, I probably wouldn’t want strangers inquiring about whether my twins were “natural” or not. They’re all human babies, people. Growing and nurturing a life in the womb is pretty miraculous, whether one baby or more, regardless of how they got there.

And finally, if you do find yourself blessed (or cursed, depending on your outlook) with twins someday, many people will react as if you’ve been diagnosed with some incurable form of disease. Some of the reactions we have received are as follows: “Umm, congratulations?”; “I’m so glad it’s you and not me!”; and “Wow, we were going to have one more child, but not anymore!” I don’t take these comments too personally, because this is simply others’ reaction to how they would handle the news of twins. Yes, we are scared. And yes, we will be vastly outnumbered. But am I beyond excited to join the sorority of twin moms? My answer is “Yes” times two.

Aimee Tafreshi is a freelance writer and attorney who also contributes to Nameberry.com and her own blog once in a blue moon, aimeetafreshi.com. She is also a mother and professional chauffeur to three spirited, young children.