Today

My skin and hair look terrible. My shoulder and neck hurt with a horrible dull ache that I know will last for days. I feel disgusting for eating ten times as much dinner and dessert last night than I should have. Work is boring and yet anxiety inducing. And I’m on my own tonight with the kids.

At this moment, I want to make myself small, so small I disappear. To not eat. To take something, a drink, a pill, that will make all of this disgust and discomfort fade away, or at least dull it to the point I feel not so bad; like I can keep going.

I know this feeling will pass. I know my brain is fucking with me. But that doesn’t make it feel any less real. This is what it’s like in my head these days, more often than not. It is misery and it is my life and I have got to figure out a better way.

I’m trying to stop numbing. I’ve calendered my first AA meeting for next week. I’ve told my husband and my shrink and my best girls. I’ve scheduled therapy. 

Given that the twins are nearly 9 months, it may be time to stop chalking this all up to post partum hormones. Maybe I’m just broken. I thought this might happen. That having multiples would break me. I just hope I can be fixed. That I can fix this. Soon.

I quit.

Those two little words used to haunt me. I was paralyzed by shame when telling my parents I wanted to quit piano after five years at age 10. I played every stupid ball sport every season for at least two years before I finally found the guts to quit and thus put myself out of my misery because I was terrible and terrified of every minute. Until recently I simply could not quit reading a book until I had finished it, even if I wanted to throw it across the room out of boredom or disgust or both. 

But today, today I have decided to embrace quitting. To tell the type A people pleasing I can do it best myself airline stewardess to other people’s lives living in my head that she can take a flying leap, because I quit.

I quit pretending like I have any idea what the hell I am doing as a parent or a wife or a daughter or a sister. I quit wondering when all the answers to being an adult are going to show up. I quit wondering when I’m really going to feel comfortable in my own skin. What does that even mean, anyway?

I also quit shame.

And I quit all of the things the make me feel ashamed. I don’t want to feel ashamed anymore.

I’m not asking to be happy.

Just to be here in my life, to be present without fear or crippling self-doubt or fantasies of what might have been had I made different choices decades ago. 

I quit everything that’s in the way of simply living my life in gratitude and with hope. 

Like letting go of the monkey bars half way across, I’m just done and ready to try something else now.

Anyone?

Does anyone ever really know what they want to be when they grow up? How this is all supposed to work and be good? Do I work? Do I stay home? Is there something in between? Can we afford it? What if it doesn’t change anything to make that sort of change? What if I still feel sad and stuck and unsure and not myself. What if this is just how I am; how I will always be. Trying so hard to want what I have and wanting to run like hell at the same time, with no idea why or where I would rather be. So many questions. Never any answers.

We clean up nice

Gah! Family photo shoots are so stressful. They’re expensive and involve your family. And with kids especially, you just never know what you’re going to get (and not in a yummy box of chocolates kind of way).

I put our post-twin shoot off for months, rationalizing (out loud) that the babies would be more fun and awake and on a better schedule and (in my head) that maybe I wouldn’t look quite so newly not pregnant anymore. 

I didn’t love every single shot (mostly because I’ve yet to figure out what in the hell to do with my newly curly hair — thanks pregnancy hormones, you can F off now), but overall it was a great experience with some pictures we will definitely treasure always: 

when did he get so big?!

yeah, H might have a favorite twin.
  
but seriously, how can you not fall in love?
 

Truth in Science

I propose the following questions be added to any sort of substance-abuse related questionnaire intended to gauge whether you are in fact an addict (be it alcohol, narcotics, whatever you can get you damn hands on):

  1. Are you the mom (meaning are you per-disposed by evolution to have a near heart attack whenever you hear you child cry, stir in bed, or make some noise that may appear non-threatening but that you’ve never heard said child make before)?
  2. Do your children nap well/at all?
  3. Do your children sleep through the night? Does your husband?
  4. Relatedly, it’s not really drinking alone if the babies are just napping, or hubby is right upstairs sleeping, right?
  5. Are you a SAHM? Congrats! Doubles all day long.
  6. Working mom? Let’s save the doubles for the evening (absent a power lunch).
  7. Do seemingly benign accidents (spilled breast milk, spill formula, spilled anything on freshly cleaned floors) bring you to tears?
  8. Do you sometimes (often) wonder if perhaps you and your partner aren’t actually so well suited for one another, especially as co-parents?
  9. Do you think about running away (often, sometimes, incessantly)?
  10. What is your drink of preference and why? (e.g. wine, because it socially acceptable and high in alcohol content; preferably white because it’s not. such a dead give way on my teeth)?
  11. Do you generally feel like a good/competent parent unless your co-parent is around, when even untended observation feel like attacks or your fitness as a parent (as if the internal attacks experienced just about every minute or every day weren’t enough)?
  12. Do you have multiples (sister, do what you gotta do). End of survey.

Honestly, it’s not that I’m particularly pro-drinking. I hardly drank at all in my twenties. Ironically, I didn’t like feeling out of control. Now, I drink because I’m too much in control, have too much to be in control off, and it scares the shit out of me . . . every single day. And so I drink, more on some days, less on others, to make it all feel doable. Because it needs to be doable. There’s no other choice.

Nonalcoholic parenting 

Constantly I come across jokes about this topic: basically, this parenting gig ain’t so bad so long as I don’t have to do it sober. Part of me fears that we are all raging alcoholics. The other part finds comfort among like-minded parents who apparently won’t judge me for needing a glass of wine, or three, to make it through my days at home alone with the twins. It’s just that my anxiety basically goes through the roof whenever it’s just me in charge. I want to peel off my own skin. Instead, I drink. Not too excess but enough to feel it. Am I a horribly irresponsible parent or just one among thousands taking measures to make it all work? I hope the latter but fear the former. Am I an alcoholic? I honestly don’t know. I don’t think so. But I also don’t feel like my drinking habits are particularly healthy. Maybe it will all pass as they get older? Maybe not. Fuck this shit. Who knows the answer to anything?

Problems on re-entry

Evenings are the hardest time for me. Mornings can be rough, but they are finite. Babies might be up early, but by 7 a.m. H and I are generally out the door. So, an hour or so at most of balancing responsibility for three kids and my morning self, then done. Done for hours on end of work, which used to be such a drag (and can still feel that way at times) but is generally great because it is calm and controlled and doesn’t involve other people’s poop or nap schedules. Work is where I can (mostly) let go; breathe in breathe out; stare at the wall and sip my tea and use my brain for entirely non-child related purposes.

But then, eventually, it is always time to go home. I’m usually anxious for it. In a good way, sort of. I want to see me kids; I miss them. But also anxious in the “oh god, I wonder how everyone napped and who will be screamy and what on earth we are having for dinner” sort of way.

My therapist calls it a problem with re-entry. Transitioning from my controlled work world to my relatively uncontrollable home life tends to send me into a downward spiral of anxiety that can only be cured by Ativan or wine or both (usually both). My therapist suggested I try planning out the evening in my head on the drive home so that I can feel more in control. But hello, I’m OCD. I plan every moment of my life ahead of time in my head, in slow motion, repeatedly … you get the idea. The problem is that the babies and H aren’t so interested in adhering to my plan. In fact, if I didn’t know better, I’d think they were intent on thwarting it.

If I need to cook, babies need to be held. If I need to hold babies, H wants me to play. Or, H needs to cuddle and use the nebulizer because he seems to have another cold coming on (his 88th of the season; but who’s counting?).

So I take my meds and I have a drink (or three) and I carry on like a good little  warrior. I make dinner. H refuses to eat most of it but drinks 3 adult-sized glasses and milk and a bowl of raisins the size of his head. The babies attempt to pinch tiny cereal puffs with their tiny fingers and then direct said fingers into their tiny mouths, mostly without success. Sometimes somebody gags or chokes or throws up or all three. Sometimes they all just sit there like little angles while M and I have an actual adult conversation about our days.

Then it’s time to clean up. I love cleaning. Cleaning is my jam. It is a relatively easy, relatively quick process resulting in a visibly cleaner and more organized environment. Clean and organized outside makes me feel more clean and organized inside which makes me feel happy, or a least a smidgen less freaked out.

Unfortunately, post-dinner clean-up is generally one-handed because it is now  early evening which means babies cannot be put down. Ever. Even for minute, or 30 seconds, even to go pee. A baby, or both of them , will be hanging around (literally) until bed time.

But that’s okay. They are still pretty light and downright adorable and so we make due. One-handed table clearing, one-handed dish scrapping, one-handed dishwasher loading and one-handed bottle prep before we head up stairs.

Now is the time we divide and conquer.  Daddy herds H into the bath and I cajole babies through diaper changes and more bottle so that they don’t get too hungry during the night.

After, we read. Sometimes together as a family. Sometimes just with H, as the babies are down for the count before he finishes bath. Then its H back rub time (a mommy only job) during which we discuss all sorts of Oedipus Complex issues, such as the fact that I shouldn’t go downstairs to talk to daddy, or go on dates with daddy, or generally do anything with daddy that doesn’t also involve H. Preferably, I should just do things with H, dates included.

I’m getting better at extracting myself without making unreasonable promises, or returning every 15 minutes. Then, it’s mommy-daddy time! Sadly this usually just involves eating ice cream while watching television, but sometimes there’s cuddling, too. Then bed, where we go to try to re-charge so we can do it all over again tomorrow. 

None of this is perfect or easy, but we are doing it. And we are (sometimes) laughing along the way. And that is enough for me. That is living my life as best I know how, maybe not for always, but at least for now.