When new parents are ready to leave the hospital, they sometimes look like this:
In addition to a newborn’s aptitude for sleep for the first week or two (they don’t have much else they can do), parents are lulled into complacency by the wonderful nurses who swoop in to take care of their infant’s every need. When you get home, that job belongs to someone else.
Over the months, our daughter has regained her ability to sleep for long stretches. Sure, she’s regressed once in a while, but I’d put her up against anyone in her age class in a sleep off. Our son, who wishes to remain anonymous for this post, has not.
A typical night includes the traditional delivery-of-the-babies ceremony:
- I finally reach slow wave sleep.
- My lizard brain registers the sound of an impending threat. Is that a carnivorous dinosaur I hear?
- No, I’m pretty sure that’s a tea kettle. Who left that on at this time?
- Maybe our neighbor bought a puppy who is whimpering next door.
- Ouch! An elbow in my side notifies me that one of our children (who are we kidding: it’s our male twin) demands attention.
- Somehow the covers on my side are untucked and shackling me firmly to the bed.
- I’m free, but I’ve stubbed my toe.
- The dino-baby is now seriously angry. He always wakes up with a grudge against the world.
- Dirty diaper? Check!
- Somehow, I’m back in bed, Joy is feeding the baby, and I’m asleep.
- Oh please don’t tell me my other child is awake too.
The next morning, Joy and I are drained from caring for our children. But they are smiling and content. For better or worse, this too shall pass.
So it’s been a busy few months and this blog hasn’t exactly been on the top of my list of things to do. Here are three things I’ve been taking care of:
Actually, it’s been so long I hardly recognize the twins and I can’t tell right of the bat which is Kathryn and which is Isaac. Most of that time, we’ve had only a few hours of uninterrupted sleep at night and Joy skipped her last semester of nursing school. So it’s been tough to raise twins.
But I want to reassure this guy that it hasn’t been a nightmare. It’s true I find myself coming up with excuses to stay at work so I don’t have to change diapers (my duty when I’m home) and I know that the fall is going to be a challenge when Joy goes back to school. But the good outweighs the bad.
And I don’t think twins are so much worse than a single baby that a person should be thinking this way:
As horrible as this might sound, we found ourselves wishing these twins away.
We considered a reduction for about 30 seconds. (That’s essentially an abortion of one twin, not both.) If you thought that IVF involved playing God, a reduction felt beyond brazen—Machiavellian, even. Give us a reason, we thought, as we had the twins tested for genetic anomalies. None came.
I recognize that if you had one colicy baby (as the author had) you imagine how much worse it would be with two. Twice the misery, right? I’m not so sure. For one thing, odds are you won’t have two colicy babies; it’s more likely you won’t have even one. Our oldest son had a serious problem with spitting up his food, so it was a bit frightening when Isaac started vomiting. As it turns out, Kathryn eats and digests like a champ, so it doesn’t really add up to twice as much puke. On the other hand, we can’t enjoy her sleeping through the night since her brother wakes us up for comfort feedings a few times during the night.
Each baby is different. One will be giving you a hard time just when the other starts giving you a break. Even if both are making things hard, they are likely to do it in different ways. That can be a relief actually. When one child is screaming and refusing to be comforted, it’s not so bad when the other one starts fussing—especially if it’s easy to solve her problems. To be honest, there’ve only been a few times when I wished we only had one child because two is overwhelming. And those times would probably have been just as overwhelming with only one.
But the parents of twins have a not-so-secret weapon: everybody is fascinated by multiples. It’s hard to overstate how excited people are to see our babies and how easy it is to get help. Early on, I was waiting in line at the pharmacy for some medication for them. One of the guys behind the counter saw me with two car seats and called me to the front of the line. We have constant offers for baby sitting from our friends. My mother-in-law has come up almost every Thursday and Friday since they were born. We’ve been busy, but Joy and I are also getting regular lunch dates for the first time in years. I won’t say these things wouldn’t have happened with a singleton, but I’m pretty sure having twins has helped.
For everything that really is twice as tough with twins, there’s something that is no worse because of economy of scale.
Let me be honest for a moment: I’m not really sure there are twins coming. Sure, Joy is in the visually uncomfortable stage of pregnancy and I’ve seen ultrasound images, but that’s just some strange observations to my lizard brain. My rational brain has put together the pieces, but so far the main emotions I feel are concern for Joy and hope that Joshua will benefit from having some siblings to be partially responsible for. So, to answer the question I put in your mouth, “No, I’m not at all prepared”.
Our church had a shower for Joy. I hung out with an old friend who was visiting from the bay area with his two daughters and my son at a park. It seemed odd that Mike kept looking out for his girls to make sure they were safe, until I realized that that’s what you do with toddlers and preschoolers. In the next few years, I’m going to be worried about inquisitive youngsters wandering into traffic or falling off of park equipment. At least with Joshua, I lacked the knowledge that I could successfully raise a child.
Now that we’ve gotten a bunch of gifts for the nursery and Joy’s sister has painted the walls (pastel green and purple), it’s been my turn to assemble Ikea furniture. I recalled the preparations for Joshua and how everything seemed so safe compared to what my parents used. The new changing table has even more heavy-duty braces and even heavier-duty warnings. Industrial design can reduce, but not eliminate accidents.
This time, we are going to put earthquake straps on everything. We hadn’t done that enough with Joshua, for some reason I don’t recall, and he nearly crushed himself trying to climb our dresser. The only reason we avoided a trip to the emergency room, or worse, was that our bedroom in Pasadena was so tiny the dresser hit the foot of our bed. We heard the crash and found him safe, if terrified, in a dresser lean-to. You’d think he’s learned his lesson, but when he was showing off the twins’ dresser in the nursery this weekend, he pulled out all the drawers and the whole thing tipped over. This time we can thank Jeni for more than just painting.
If, the good Lord forbid, Joy went into labor today, we’d be totally unprepared for that. And paradoxically, we’d be as prepared as we could ever manage at the same time. When our new additions come (and it hardly seems right to imagine what their coming will be like), we’ll adjust.
The traditional blog contains two posts: the hopeful introduction that sparks some interest in the author and the followup a few weeks later apologizing for not updating more often. I’m pretty sure when people wrote their intimate thoughts on paper, the pattern held. But since diaries and journals never get published until they have accumulated plenty of interesting content, we don’t know about the majority of them. Thanks to Google, WordPress, et al we can find every attempt at introspective writing in the blog format, which skews the results a bit. Let this serve as the introduction and let us agree never to write the second type of post: either by filling these virtual pages or by never apologizing for not doing so.
This picture is where I want to start our story. What a happy bunch of people we are! I’m the fellow in the center with a white bow tie and Joy is standing next to me looking especially radiant. It’s been 10 years and she looks even better today. I want you to hang onto this picture in your mind, since it’s real and true and a foretaste of glory. We are in a church, surrounded by friends, before God, Joy just became my wife, and I just became her husband. From here on out, we are, to use the Biblical metaphor, one flesh.
It’s a mystery really. God grants married people a special connection whether you know Him or not. I admit that I’ve lost sight of the picture at time, but somehow God did not let me drop out of our marriage. If it were by force of my will or of Joy’s, I don’t think our bond would have endured. I attribute the miracle of our marriage to God.
When a man is newly married, he shall not go out with the army or be liable for any other public duty. He shall be free at home one year to be happy with his wife whom he has taken.
—Deuteronomy 24:5 (ESV)
That was our vision. For one year, Joy and I would enjoy each other. After that, life would begin for us. We honeymooned on Catalina (with plans for Spain when we had saved up), we rented a dumpy little two-bedroom guest house, we bought a wonderful bed, we went out to eat as a couple on Saturday mornings. Joy got a temp job that had real potential to become full time. I starting riding my bike to work, which was busy and challenging and fun. The past was fading and the future was hazy but hopeful.
Then we discovered that despite waiting until marriage to have sex (exceedingly difficult) and using effective birth control, Joy was pregnant. It was at this moment that I discovered that my picture of marriage was all wrong. Joy had deep struggles that I had never explored. I had deep struggles that I had never explored. What sounds lovely in theory (two hearts beat as one), turns out to be terrifying when you realize that:
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?
—Jeremiah 17:9 (ESV)
But for me and I hope for Joy, the best thing we could have done with our lives is to commit our deceitful hearts to each other. My sick heart wasn’t getting healthier on it’s own. There’s little doubt in my mind that without Joy, I would have sunk into a comfortable, but deadly bubble of my own making. She’s the one who talked me into trusting God more than myself. She’s the one who convinced me that I can’t serve God expect in the context of the church. She’s the one who asked me to confront my calcifying heart. And if you ask her, I had similar effects on her. The best part about marriage isn’t that we are right for each other, but that we are wrong for each other in just the right ways.
My story will (probably) wander into happier times and if you don’t happen to be happy yourself at the moment, that might be painful for you. But know that human happiness has never depended on humanity. Rather we are happy at times despite our desperately sick hearts.
Further up and further in!