So apparently West Africa has the highest number of twins per capita relative to anywhere else in the world. If you give birth to twins there, you’re given special status, a special nickname, special treatment. Because twins are considered a wonderful, yet difficult thing.
In the US, I have found that people just ask you inappropriate questions about how your twins came to be and generally expect you to get on by yourself just fine.
Well, I’m here to clarify the twins are fucking hard. I mean, we are talking about TWO babies at once.
For all of you who’ve had one baby at once just let that sink in–two babies at the same time. All of their baby needs, all of the diapers, the witching hours, the up all night crying for no apparent reason, the spit up, the blow outs, the baths, the need to be held, to be carried, to be bounced, times two. All. Day. And. All. Night.
I know there are women out their with triplets and more. Girlfriends, I don’t begin to understand how you do it. I have six month old twins and a three year old singleton and I am slowly losing my mind, even on the good days.
It’s just so much need to be met, mostly be me, and I’ve never been that good at taking care of myself, let alone me plus three vulnerable, small children. It’s terribly rewarding when it goes well but also terrifying pretty much all the time. So far my screw-ups have been small but I’m so scared of what might happen if I’m not able to keep all of these balls in the air at once. If I fuck up, do we all come tumbling down? I hope we never have to find out.
Around age 31 (post-law school and first home purchase), I decided I wanted a baby. Badly. Unfortunately, it is not nearly as easy to get pregnant as we have all been lead to believe (middle school health class teachers are LIARS!)
After 12 months of trying, including a couple rounds of clomid, we decided to bring in the big guns (or ultrasound wands, whatever). There’s science for this sort of thing and, thankfully, we had the money to use it. After some testing, dietary changes and just one IUI, I got my baby. And he was (and is) the most scrumptious thing I have ever see:
When our oldest got to be around 18 months, the sibling talk began. I had always pictured myself as a mother of two (just like my mom, my MIL, and just about all the other moms I know of that same generation). But birthing and raising our first had taken its toll. Infertility is soul crushing and my post-partum anxiety nearly killed me. I mean, my house was spotless and the baby was thriving but I was living my life one small crisis away from a complete and likely very public breakdown (think sobbing in the checkout line at Target because I couldn’t remember my debit card pin – yes, this actually happened and, yes, I had another card with me I could use instead, but my brain had failed me and I can only imagine it getting worse from here).
I floated the idea to my husband of having just one. That the three of us could be a very happy little family, with more free time and disposable income, less poop and public meltdowns (by me and the babies). He was not convinced. I was torn.
I wanted our son to have a sibling but I wasn’t sure I wanted to go through another pregnancy plus 12 some months of nursing. Also, I wasn’t really sure I could love someone as much as I loved my baby boy and that just didn’t seem fair to anyone.
After weeks of back and forth, discussions with friends, family and even strangers, I came to the conclusion that it is relatively unlikely that someone would ever rationally choose to have another baby; that a pro-versus-con list will ever come out in favor of less sleep, less free time, more poopy diapers, more visits to the pediatrician, more college expenses, etc. etc. So, I put away my lists, stopped trying to talk myself into it, and irrationally decided I wanted to have another baby. Because love.
Given our history, we decided to go straight back to the fertility clinic. We figured one IUI and we’d be good. We were wrong.
Three failed IUI attempts over the course of three months and I was truly crushed. My body had failed me. It didn’t want more babies. Maybe it could sense my ambivalence. Maybe I did too many drugs in college. Maybe I wasn’t healthy enough, physically or emotionally, to bring another human being into this world.
After the third failed IUI, our doctor insisted on a “regroup” to discuss our “options.” Basically, we could move on to IVF or we could try one more IUI, but this time with me using injectable hormones to increase the likelihood of follicle growth and egg drop. IVF would mean a boatload of meds, two surgeries and a whole lot of money. An IUI with hormones would cost only slightly more than a regular IUI but come with a 20% risk of multiples. The likelihood of success at all though was just 10 to 20% given my age and other risk factors.
“I can’t have twins,” I said to my husband matter of factly as we left the doctor’s office. “I just can’t. It will kill me.” I said this again and again, to myself, my husband, my mom, my friends, my therapist.
Yet somehow, over the next few weeks, it began to seem less and less likely that I actually would end up with more than one baby. I mean, at this point we couldn’t even get one egg and one sperm to meet under relatively favorable conditions, plus the general statistics said there was an 80% chance it would not be multiples. And, if somehow we ended up with three or more fertilized eggs, then we would have the option of selective reduction. So, statistically speaking, our most likely outcome was no baby, next most likely was one baby, and least likely was our worst case scenario – twins.
We did the IUI on a Thursday. Everything felt the same as it had the three times before. Around day 12 of the tww (two week wait in infertility speak; there’s a whole secret language, I swear) I started having some major cramping. Being the total pessimist that I am, I immediately informed my husband and close friends that I was cramping, getting my period, and thus the IUI had failed, again. My husband was away on business at the time so I told him all of this by text, which, in retrospect, was not the kindest thing to do. It seemed especially brutal when I texted him two days later with this:
That’s right. We were preggers. I was thrilled and yet terrified as we still had four more weeks to wait before we could confirm how much preggers.
My initial blood tests came back with extraordinarily high pregnancy hormones. “But still within normal range for one right?” I asked the nurse. “Yes, still within normal range,” she assured me. Even then, I had my doubts/fears.
Then a few days shy of my six-week ultrasound I started dry heaving on a Saturday morning and basically couldn’t stop for three days. This was not good. Morning sickness is notoriously worse with multiples.
By the time we made it to the actual ultrasound, I wasn’t really surprised to see Baby B along with Baby A. But that doesn’t mean I wasn’t devastated. I was. I tried so hard not to cry until after we’d left the clinic but I couldn’t keep the waiver of fear and disappointment from my voice as we discussed next steps with our nurse.
Then I went to work, locked my door for most of the day, and cried like a baby, like two babies.
As I write this I can’t help but imagine our twins reading it at some point in the future. Please know that you were not unwanted and you were not unloved. Mommy just needed a little time to grieve. She needed to grieve the loss of her life as she had always pictured it-husband, two kids, dog. Never once had she imagined having three kids, let alone two at the same time.
I am predisposed to all sorts of non-parenting friendly disorders, including OCD, depression, and anxiety. Needless to say, all of these things basically explode when you have your first child. I made it through relatively unscathed, but I just couldn’t imagine doing it again times two and surviving.
But after a few weeks of wallowing, I realized that there was nothing I could do except just do this, do this thing that was going to be the hardest thing that I have ever done.
And it is. It is so hard. We are three months in and there are days when I am barely holding it together and days when I am simply not holding it together at all. But we keep going because that’s what you do.
And I know that someday it will be easier. But I also know that it’s never going to be easy. There will be days when I want to run away. There will be a lot of tears. But there will also be joy, so much joy. I really believe that.
Everyday I listen to the voices in my head. They tell me what needs to be done and how, what can wait and until when, how I’m feeling and why, whether life is good, just okay, or fucking awful.
Trouble is the the voices have a nasty habit of sending mixed messages (like your maybe middle school boyfriend who called you last night but won’t look at you today). Even more disturbing, I have no idea which, if any, of the voices are mine: my authentic voice reflecting my true wants and needs. So much of my personality and approach to life has been shaped by my perception of other people’s expectations, my desire to please, to be praised.
Do I find my job intrinsically satisfying or do I like it because I’m good at it and recieve regular positive feedback?
Do I work out almost daily because I want to feel strong and healthy or because I want to be perceived as attractive by others and fit into clothes of a certain size?
It seems like it must be mostly external motivation because the things that will be good for me but won’t necessarily earn me praise from others are the ones I always put off or avoid all together: taking that nap, being still, leaning in to uncomfortable feelings, just doing nothing for a day (not that that’s really an option right now but maybe it is and I just can’t fathom it).
But how, after 36 years, do I figure out which voice to listen to? What if they are all wrong? What if it’s not a voice that I’m looking for? What if it was, but it died of neglect years ago?
Sometimes I don’t recognize my own life. I look around and think, “How the hell did I get here?” “It wasn’t supposed to turn out like this.” Or maybe it was. I honestly don’t know. It’s like missing something you can’t remember ever having.