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The Kindness of Strangers

This past weekend I took a quick trip to Toronto for the wedding of two of my oldest and dearest friends. It was 36 hours of no babies. That’s the longest I’ve ever been away from them.

But here’s what I wanted to say: Holy crap it’s been a long 2+ years!

That thought smacked me in the head yesterday morning as I lounged in my hotel room, sipping my Starbucks latte and watching bad reality TV. I had had an inkling of it a couple weeks ago when I took the day off work to do laundry and grocery shop. I was in line at the grocery store when I noticed a familiar double stroller in the next row. I smiled cautiously at the mom, who was rhythmically rocking the stroller containing two bucket car seats. As a twin mom in a grocery store, you get used to the stares and the smiles. I could tell she was a bit frustrated at how long the cash line was taking, I could see the math being done in her head – how long since I fed them, what time is it now, can I get them home before someone sleeps which will totally mess up the naps …

“Twins?” I asked.

“Yes,” she answered, probably for the tenth time that day, bracing for the inevitable double trouble or you certainly have your hands full comment.

“I have twins, they are almost 2. How old are yours?”

“Six months,” I could see her relax a bit. I peeked into their car seats, four big eyes staring up at me.

“Six months is hard,” I said, fighting my impulse to be shy, knowing that there are things twin moms need to tell each other. “It really does get easier though.”

“Really? How did you get them to nap? Are they in the same room? I can’t seem to get them on a schedule!” The questions came pouring out. We chatted, I told her my experiences, how Thea would never nap without me, how Jude was up every two hours in the night until he was 18 months, how frustrating it was when Thea was ready to switch to one nap, but Jude needed two, my “car nap” trips to drive-thrus and empty parking lots.

Our lines moved ahead and we parted ways, “You’re doing an amazing job,” I made sure to add. When I got back to my car, I felt emotional. I felt like I had managed to transport back in time and that I had just had a conversation with myself. There was something cathartic about it. I guess because it’s over, the baby part anyway. I don’t underestimate my toddlers and the challenges that are ahead, but I really did make it through the hardest thing I have ever had to do in my life so far.

I remember when Jude would be up 4 or 5 times a night, I would rock him back to sleep after a little milk, and I would just tell myself over and over again that this was not forever, that one day he would sleep through the night, but I was never very sure if that was true. It certainly didn’t feel like it was. And now it is. Now I can take a trip to Toronto alone and know that they are fine. I can slowly start to put myself back together, remember who I am and what I need.

Maybe this post isn’t just about having kids, but about challenging times in general. Maybe what I’m trying to say is that I understand faith now. I understand trust. I get it that survival is really just knowing that everything changes, the good and the bad. Survival is holding onto the good, and knowing that the bad will soon be just a memory. Survival is believing that there is a path we are on, even if we can’t quite see it. Survival is checking out the bird’s eye view every once in awhile, and recognizing how long and winding that path is.

One time last year, after a particularly harrowing night and equally disastrous day, I was wandering around the grocery store really just for something to do when a woman approached me.

“Twins?” she asked. I fake smiled and said yes. She leaned in closer, clearly ignoring her husband and child behind her.

“I am a twin,” she said, her eyes glistening, “My brother and I have the best relationship. I was really hoping that I would have twins, because we had such an amazing childhood.” I stared at her in disbelief, trying to imagine hoping for twins. “I know it was really hard for my mom sometimes, it is not easy.” She peeked into the car seats. “You’re doing an amazing job.” She said. It was what I needed on that day. It got me through to the next day.

Yes, it’s been a really long 2+ years. And as much as friends and family have been instrumental in supporting me, I am in awe of the kindness of strangers. Sometimes just a few kind words can make all the difference.

If today is your rough day, know that you are doing an amazing job. You really are. Check out your path, and know that you are right where you need to be. You’ve got this.

 

P.S. Now that I DO have two kids who sleep through the night, I’ve started working on an epic sleep post, so stay tuned!


Life is Messy

I realize I do not write here often anymore, but that’s okay. This is for me now, and if someone else reads it, then that is okay too.

The house is a mess. I have two toddlers, and I was not very good at keeping it clean to begin with.

My relationship is a mess. Two babies will do that, although I do not blame them. Babies come into the world and they create parents, and those parents have babies inside of them, who maybe were not held enough, who maybe watched their parents struggle, who maybe still want to be held and loved. These new parents look in the mirror everyday and worry, that they are making mistakes, that they will stumble and fall just like their toddlers. These new parents do not remember what their relationship used to be like, do not remember when times were easy and they could fall into each other at the end of the day. New parents can forget how to lean on each other or how to dream about the future, when the everyday is a sea of stress and details.

My career is a mess. I have not worked in almost two years. My French is leaving me, my drive is dwindling, I am forgetting the government-speak that I used to relish throwing around.

My body is a mess. It folds where it used to stretch, it hangs where it used to perch. It tires easily and feels sore most days.

My eating is a mess. I feed my babies, breast milk and organic vegetables and whole grains, and when it comes time to feeding myself, I am exhausted and boring. I am eating Halloween candy and take-out sushi and yoghurt by the tub-full.

But – Life is messy. This is life, truly dirty, messy life. It is full of tears and snot and poop and sleep, or the lack of sleep. It is hurt, and anger and it is laughter and joy. My babies are growing. A year ago I was swimming in the new-born phase, and now we have wrapped this new reality of walking/talking/climbing around us and it is equally scary and awe-inspiring.

For all the mess, it is so raw, so real. It is creation, it is art. It is beautiful.

I know someone who had a baby yesterday, and there are a few more on their way in the coming months. I am not nostalgic for those early days, but I would like to offer a bit of advice: Let it be messy. It will take awhile for order to return, and when it does, let it be new and different. Let everything fall into chaos, and know that something new is coming out of it. A family; whole and perfect in it’s insanity. Be okay with the mess, the mistakes, the past and the future. Just let it go and trust that life will continue whether the dishes are done, whether your husband hugs you before he leaves in the morning, or whether you give your son Advil for the 20th day in a row to combat molars. Hug your babies, be kind to yourself, feel every minute that passes. And breath, breath, breath.

Love and kindness,

Sarah

Climbing into toddlerhood, here we go!

Climbing into toddlerhood, here we go!

 


One Year Update

I figured if anyone is still following me, I owe you a one year update. Because yes, one full year has come and gone. I now get to play the “this time last year” game, which currently is, This Time Last Year I was in a non-sleeping newborn psychosis. I was told it got better…but I did not believe that. I now realize that my babies were not good sleepers, aaaand I had twins. I also insisted on demand feeding, so I co-slept those little buggers, and I would nurse from side to side all night long.

And then they started moving. Jude went into his own crib, and one night, fed up, I put Thea in her own crib and…after 2 minutes of cries, she slept. All night. And has every night since. I have one sleeper! It was a miraculous night.

Jude still wakes up, I’m not going to lie. Once is a good night, three or four times is a bad night. But hubby and I are back in our own room, and I feel like a real person again. So yes, it does get better. Slowly, and without warning, but it does.

When I first started breastfeeding, I told myself to just make it to six months. Then I decided to go for a year. We are still going strong, and I often think about all the people who told me breastfeeding twins was near impossible. It took a lot of determination, and as I’ve discussed before, it was so so difficult in the beginning. I credit the amazing twin moms of my local La Leche League group, as well as a fear of having to wash and prepare a million bottles every day.

The best thing about this year? Getting over my fear of twins. I was so scared that I would be overwhelmed (and some days I was), that I would sink into a depression (and I did have those days too), that I would never have a life again, (ok, some weekends I still feel pretty lame), that I wouldn’t LIKE being a mom…but I did not account for actually enjoying being a twin mom. They play together, they make each other laugh. They are now napping on similar schedules and they go to bed at the same time. I can now appreciate how hard two DIFFERENT ages must be, and even though I mourned not being a mom-of-one, I am so happy that my children chose to come at the same time. This is our little family now, we are complete.

Over this past year we have moved twice (with a third time pending!), we have faced financial uncertainty, hubby and I have definitely had relationship struggles…our lives have been irrevocably changed.

But in the evenings, after dinner, when we play in the living room before bath time, sometimes they give each other these big wet kisses…sometimes, they hold sticky hands between their high chairs…sometimes Thea helps to wash Jude’s hair, and they always wave hi to each other when they get up after nap.

It really makes it all worth it.

Happy Birthday little people!

Cake!

Cake!


Catfish

Last night I watched the documentary “Catfish”, about meeting people through Facebook. My husband was very skeptical about it, often exclaiming “who would believe anything from Facebook?!” The thing is, I’ve made a lot of new friends through social networking over the last year, and so I want to write down a few thoughts on it.

Being a new mother in this day and age is very, very isolating. Especially being a twin mom, taking those two little babes to a play group, or even the park was extremely difficult in the beginning. Being a mom in my 30’s – ie: I was quite set in my ways when the bubs came along – and being the first of most of my friends to pop babes out, my days and nights radically changed. It was lonely. When my husband kisses us goodbye in the morning and that front door bangs shut, a sort of terror can come over me as I look at my two infants and envision the day ahead…a day of diaper changes, breastfeeding, soothing cranky pants, kissing boo boos, and reading books filled with one syllable words. Self doubt can creep in, wondering if I’m doing this right; it can seem like the strangers I meet on the street are handling things so much better than I am.

Fifty years ago, we would have had our neighbours all around us, commiserating and living side by side. Without air conditioning, everyone’s windows would have been open, and we wouldn’t feel like it’s only OUR children who are up all night. My grandmother did not need to travel across town to find other stay-at-home moms. She shared recipes and house cleaning tips over the fence while literally airing out the laundry!

Yes, I’m idealizing and simplifying things…but social networking, and Facebook in particular, has served a purpose for me. It has created a community for me, so that I don’t feel quite so alone. When I have a question about something, I can post it on a wall, much the same way I might have called over a fence in days past. I know I’ll get a thoughtful and helpful answer from other moms, no matter how far apart we are.

Social networking can be a wonderful tool, I think, and the great thing about it is that we can control it’s presence in our lives. I overlook mama-drama, I choose the groups I join carefully, and I don’t over-share personal info. In this way, I have found the support I needed to make it through this first year, while my real-life community has been continuing their lives – working and going out for dinner and doing all the things a used to do – and my online community has been a touchstone while I transition to Mom-of-two.

That’s not to say that I haven’t had the support of those around me (you know who you are!!!), but when you’re in the fish-bowl of the first year, sometimes you just need to talk to those who get it too.

I’ve met a lot of moms online who are now my real life friends, and I’ve met a lot of moms who I might never meet. Are those moms real?

Does it really matter?

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Nine months in, nine months out

Well the baby carrots are 9 months old. They have officially been out for as long as they were growing inside of me! They are changing everyday. And so am I. So this is a post about how I have changed.

I am really raw. My emotions live riiiight at the surface, and I know what I’m feeling all. The. Time. There is a running dialogue in my brain that is pure emotion. My husband might also describe this as “overly sensitive,” but I like to just think of it as raw.

I feel more authentic. I am making friends with other mamas. Making friends is hard, and isn’t something I’ve really had to do since I moved to Ottawa in grade 5 and started at a new school. And making friends without the social lubricants of a pub and a pint – like how I made friends in my 20’s – is challenging. So, I am keepin’ it real. Just finding confidence in myself that people will like me for who I am. And it’s been great, getting to know people in our homes surrounded by our children. Sometimes talking about things I wouldn’t even share with my husband. Meeting people who understand where I am on this crazy twin journey. 

I am an eternal optimist. I have had some dark times in my life, but the last nine months, I have never felt more confident and SURE that life will turn out okay. I have bad days, and sometimes the stress level is through the roof (we have moved twice since the littles were born!), but there is something inside of me that is…happy. I didn’t know that about myself.

I am ready to simplify. As one year is fast approaching, the decision to return to work is looking less and less likely. I think I will make that scary transition to Stay At Home Mom. Which means budgets and planning and not spending money whenever I feel like it anymore. And I’m excited for this challenge. I am excited to simplify and teach my children what is really important in life. I am excited to scout out deals; plan our meals and grocery shop efficiently; live with less – clothes, furniture, stress. I have been earning a paycheque since I was 16 years old, so this will be interesting…

I have given up on life going back to the way it was. There was a time when I thought that the first year of having children would have it’s ups and downs, but you would eventually be able to fit those children back into how you were living before. Ah, so naive. Life will never be the same. If I am still awake at 10pm, it’s a late night for me. If I watch more than one hour of consecutive television, it’s a luxury. If I work out at the gym once a week, I’m a rock star. Yes, we have taken the littles to the pub for dinner. Twice. But it usually interferes with bedtime, so it’s unlikely to happen often. Life as I knew it is over. 

But I think my new one will do.

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Grocery shopping!Image


Baby Carrots: What I’m feeding them

My blog has been on a bit of detour while I’ve been pregnant/nursing, because I honestly haven’t really been thinking about food. I know I should have been a pillar of health consciousness, but I haven’t been. I’m human. And I like cake, and french fries, and cream cheese. So I’ve been giving myself a break and I haven’t been thinking about it.

Until now.

Now, I have two little mouths to feed and food choices are a very prickly reality that I find I need to think about. All. The. Time.

So far, my babies are these perfect little vessels that have never had meat, or dairy, or sugar, or wheat, or gluten, or gelatin, or rennet, or modified soy ingredients, or red dye #2. The task of deciding what to put into them is daunting.

I’m typing this sitting on my driveway while they sleep in the car with the windows down, so I’ll be brief. I’m going to outline what I’m feeding them now, and why, and I think I’ll make this a bit of a series as what I’m feeding them changes and develops.

But let’s start at the beginning.

I gave them brown rice cereal at 4.5 months, because my doctor suggested it might help them sleep. It did not. But I was still breastfeeding, so I figured it couldn’t hurt. I’ve since read a lot to suggest it MIGHT hurt – the WHO now recommends exclusive breastfeeding until 6 months – but what’s done is done, and my mom keeps telling me how parents used to feed babies Pablum at 6 weeks back in the day, so I’m not stressing over it. For the first few weeks I fed them brown rice cereal, pureed banana, pureed avocado and pureed poached apple. I started bringing in some pureed vegetables, oat cereal and barley cereal, and by the time they were 6 months, they were also eating sweet potato, zucchini and tentatively, toast wedges.

And all was well. No allergies, no change in behaviour, no diarrhea (although the poop changes. Oh how the poop changes…). So then I got bold and started just giving them food. Broccoli, cauliflower, carrots (all steamed), toast with coconut oil spread on it, oatmeal, vegetable soup broth. Pretty much the plain version of whatever I was eating. I know it’s not exactly baby-led weaning (just google it, takes too long to explain, and EVERYONE has an opinion on it…). I just decided not to stress over it. I’m keeping sugar to a minimum (there was some molasses in the bread I gave them), and I’m steering clear of dairy and eggs for now.

So about meat. I’m petrified of them having it. I know that it’s going to come up, but the thought of them eating dead animal will bring me to tears if I think about it too much. I don’t even think my husband knows yet how strongly I feel about it. No one’s asked me about it yet, and I know at some point in their lives I’m going to have to let go, but it saddens me, and pains me.

And that’s where we’re at. Letting go and not following a particular baby food philosophy has worked really well for us. I’m feeding them three meals a day now, but I’m not being sticky about what time it’s at. They are still breastfeeding like champs, and “food before one is just for fun” so I’m trying to keep it fun. They love to eat, they watch us eat with so much interest, and they get really excited at meal times. And that’s how I want to keep it. Interesting, fun and exciting.

More to come!

Wasn't too sure about broccoli the first time...

Wasn’t too sure about broccoli the first time…

Loves broccoli!

Loves broccoli!


Teaching My Children

Yesterday, by some miracle, I made it down to Parliament Hill to rally for Bill C-464. Being that this bill amends the employment act for parents of MULTIPLES to receive 70 weeks leave instead of 35, divisible between both parents, I was not surprised that not many of us could make it out. Only myself and two other moms were able to bring our littles, and a handful of other parents who’re back at work after their short year, were there.

Telling, isn’t it? Gee, if both parents were able to stay at home for a bit, maybe more could’ve made it out!

In fact, I think the lack of attendance is a statement in itself. Twins (or more…) are HARD. Not that a single child isn’t, but imagine getting a baby to sleep TWICE. Imagine getting a 6-month old in a snow suit and out the door TWICE. I’m just saying, it’s exhausting.

So turn out was low, but we braved the chill and made our point. Nicole Turmel came by to say hello and Minister Sana stood with us (it was her bill). I did organize this on Monday from my iPhone at a park while pushing Thea in the swing…so even the few people who came out were an accomplishment.

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And the bill didn’t pass. But I really really felt I needed to do that. Even if hardly anyone showed up, and the bill didn’t pass, I did what I needed to do. And my children were there to see that, even if they won’t remember it. So we’ll try again some other time, and one day maybe the bill will go through, and both my children will be recognized. Maybe in time for Thea to have twins.

This is how I want to teach my children. By doing what I believe. Getting out the door was a nightmare, and I was exhausted beyond belief, and I had to pull over on the way home to feed Jude in the car, and I forgot his mittens so I worried about his hands, and Thea slept for three hours in a carrier so my back is still screaming. But I feel okay. I feel like I accomplished my goal, which was to stand up for what I believe in.

You haven’t seen the last of me, Parliament Hill!