Sunday, August 28, 2011

Back to Work & Losing my Shit...Twice.

Warning: I consider this a sacred space where the four of us are together as a family, and so I normally try to steer clear of any offensive language. However, this post, as indicated by its title, has broken this "rule", I hope justifiably so. Profane language ahead.

Tomorrow, I return to work full time after having the entire summer off. And I honestly don’t know how I feel about that. Most of my anxiety stems from thinking time is really going to start flying, and then suddenly the one year birthday of our twins will be upon us, and nothing will have been planned or organized because I find it all to be extremely overwhelming for a number of reasons. Let’s face it; it’s only a little over three months away.

I still cannot believe this.

I cannot believe that in a little over three months, I will be a mother to a one-year-old daughter.

I can not believe that in a little over three months, it will mark one year since saying goodbye to Elias and all our dreams of raising twins, one boy one girl, same-aged siblings with names specifically chosen to go perfectly together.

I don’t know what’s more difficult to believe, honestly. I can’t decide which part of my reality is more difficult to process, as I still to this day find it hard to believe I have a living child. Is that messed up?

The mind, it performs some very mysterious tricks to protect itself, doesn’t it? I think mine is still recovering from my traumatic miscarriage in 2009. Some days I wonder if I have PTSD from my miscarriage, and if that’s why Elias died. Because I never got help when I needed it, and then I got pregnant again eight months later. I just pushed on with life after hearing, “Oh, miscarriages are SO common!” Why was that relevant? It wasn’t. I don’t care how common something is, if I’m fucked up from the experience, I deserve some fucking help. I will always feel partly to blame and wonder if my stress during my subsequent pregnancy caused something to go wrong, even though I have heard that women who lost their husband on the WTC attacks on 9/11 went on to all have healthy living babies despite their overwhelming anxiety, stress, and grief.

So tomorrow is my first full day of work. And just to clarify – no, this is not my return from maternity leave. I already did that, back in February, and yes it was brutal but also a blessing for me at that time. However, I welcomed summer when it came, and literally left work at work for over two months. Never even checked my email all summer long.

I figured I had a lot of other things to focus on, like my grief.
And spending quality time with my daughter.
And not being pregnant, which for me at the moment is a very good thing.

The past two summers have been horrible. Last summer I was pregnant and felt very isolated, depressed, anxious, and lost. The summer before that, I was pregnant, then I miscarried, and my world was literally painted black for a few good months before I even saw a sliver of light.
So this summer, while there is darkness in that I miss my son, I wanted more than anything to just revel in the normal pleasures of life. And I chose to do that as much as possible, I believe. I grieved, I blogged (though not nearly enough), I cried, I sobbed, I screamed, I went to therapy, and I even went to a pregnancy and infant loss support group that I had previously written off.
But more often, I went for walks with my daughter, I went shopping with friends, I laid out in the sun while she was napping (ohhhh, how I missed doing that the past two summers), I met people for lunches, I chugged iced coffees all day and sipped wine at night when I felt like it, I planned and coordinated get-togethers and parties at our house. I LIVED.

And what an odd feeling, to be missing someone so terribly, more than I ever have before, and to have a greater pain than I ever imagined myself knowing…and yet feel more alive than I have in years.

At any rate, inevitably, summer has come to a close, and I've had to get some work done in preparation for the upcoming school year. Leaving my daughter with my dad while I went up to school to prepare my classroom was brutal, for a number of reasons. First of all, I realize that this is going to be far more difficult than returning from my maternity leave. When I returned to work back then, the opposite would have about killed me. NOT getting back to some type of “routine” or new normal would have literally landed me in the loony bin or worse. I had to get back to work, I was desperate to keep busy and distract myself, not only my well-being but my very life depended on it.

Now? Not so much.
My therapist says that work will be good for me, as it will keep me from “ruminating” too much, and I think she does kinda have a point. But. What she’s not understanding is it’s different now. My daughter is a little PERSON now. She’s a child. She interacts with me, she lights up when she sees me, I can read her like nobody else can.
This wasn’t so back in February, when she was only two months old and I was in a complete daze most of the time.
I also worry more now than I did back in February. So much more. I know the SIDS risk goes down after six months, but Evelyn has been crawling since July. She wasn’t even seven months old yet and started crawling, which brings about a whole new set of fears. Just today she demonstrated her ability to crawl up two steps to get into the kitchen level of our home. Thanks, babe, just what I needed before returning to work, another “milestone” for you to hit and for me to worry will get you into something you shouldn’t be into.

This is just so hard.

Driving to work last week in order to prepare my classroom, my mind drifts to our loss and more sick ironies. The irony of my having “the perfect body to carry twins – nice and tall, thin but not too skinny”. No one was worried; my long torso meant I would not likely have them too early. We made it so damn far. DAMN IT. We overcame prematurity, damn it, that should have been the only thing we needed to worry about!!!
But no. So terribly naïve.

A green light becomes yellow, then red, so I stop and decide to stop obsessing and focus on the day ahead of me. A bright flash of color catches my eye, and I immediately notice that the car in front of me has a yellow sign hanging in the back window, “Twins on Board!!!” FUCK! FUCK FUCK FUCK!!!! Are you fucking serious?!?!?! I pull closer, peer in the back seat, and see two car seats…The same ones we have. Er, HAD. I literally start yelling at this woman, “FUCK YOU!!! YAY YOU HAVE TWINS, YOU WANT A FUCKING COOKIE? DOES THAT MAKE YOU SPECIAL SOMEHOW?!?! FUCK!”

Not a proud moment.

(I had the windows up, and there’s no way she heard me or even noticed, so relax.) Yeah the sign she had was tacky, and I never would have flaunted my mother of twins "status" so blatantly as to hang a sign in my vehicle, but she didn’t deserve my anger directed at her.
But then again, it wasn’t at her.
It was at the universe.
The universe that handed us this hand, one that I didn’t deserve, my husband didn’t deserve, my daughter didn’t deserve, our parents and sisters didn’t deserve, and my son certainly didn’t deserve. The universe that decided that all of this loss wasn’t enough and decided to place a car with that stupid freaking hangtag right in front of my van.
A tiny compact car full of twins, while I drive my empty minivan to work with one car seat in the back.

At work, more triggers. I go to sign out a video from the library and notice I signed out the exact same video on the exact same day one year ago, to the day. I remember last summer and all the anxiety of having to set up my room (I had moved classrooms) while five months pregnant with twins. I was TERRIFIED that something I would do would trigger preterm labor and I’d lose them. Or I’d have incompetent cervix and randomly lose them like some women do, no warning.

Sure, a year ago, when I moved classrooms, I had people helping me move things around and lift heavy books, but it wasn’t enough. Nothing was ever enough to keep me calm and feeling like I was doing everything to protect my babies. I was fiercely protective. Overprotective. And then one died, and maybe, just maybe, if I hadn't worried so much about the logistics of moving classrooms, Elias would be here. ((See the shit that runs through my head? Why do I do that to myself? It doesn't even make sense!))

Needless to say, my classroom was not properly organized during its move last year. I had been SO excited about finally getting a new classroom and being forced to actually go through all my stuff and make it clean and nice and neat (I had signed up for the task well before knowing I was pregnant with twins, btw), but that wasn’t going to happen with other people moving all my stuff. And it wasn’t going to happen when all I wanted was to go home and lay down on my left side and keep my babies safely inside where they could grow, grow, grow, and I could just be left alone from a world that didn’t understand what I was going through psychologically, being pregnant after a loss. They say with twins you worry times two; I say you worry times twenty. Factor in a previous loss, and, well, you get my point.

After signing out the video, I went to my room and saw how messy everything was. Materials strewn around haphazardly, no rhyme, no reason, no organization, period. And I just got pissed. I got so freaking angry. Resentful, even. I should have been able to get all of this organized before, but I couldn’t, because I was stupid and thought I could control things and chose to stay home and be a hermit to keep my twins safe. Then, when I came back from maternity leave, I should have been able to get all of this organized, with all my happy new mommy vibes and renewed zest for life, but I couldn’t, because my son died, and I was a freaking mess myself. I could barely remember to shower or brush my teeth much less go through file folders at work and alphabetize my materials.

A few days later, my husband had a day off and came up to work with me to try and help me get organized, and I just lost it. Hot tears rolled down my cheeks, and he just stood there looking very confused and frustrated. I said, “I shouldn’t have to DO this!!! All of this stuff should be organized already, but it isn’t, and I don’t know why this is such a trigger for me, but it is. I feel like I’m repeatedly being slapped in the fucking face, and I just really need to get out of here and go home!"


My classroom is still not the way I would like it, although I made progress on my subsequent visits there after those two extremely difficult days. Please wish me luck tomorrow as I venture back there. And please, please, please universe, if you’re listening, don’t let any students ask me about my “twins”. I realize there are some students who probably don’t know what happened, who only knew I was having twins but didn't hear about our outcome, and I have no faith in prayer, but I PRAY that none of those students end up with me as their teacher this year.

And please, just this once...No twins in any of my classes. I've had about enough of your cruel jokes, Universe. You owe me a break after that whole hangtag thing. Capiche?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

August 19th Day of Hope

I know not all of you are friends of mine on FB, so in case you didn't see my post there, I will put it here. Apparently I can't put the FB event page link here for some reason, but if you log into FB and do a search for "August 19th - Day of Hope" there is a "community organization" page and also an event page for "August 19th - Day of Hope 2011". You can change your profile pic on FB in support of the cause to spread awareness about all forms of babyloss and to let others know that you are not only comfortable talking about it but encouraging people to talk about it. There are albums for aunts, uncles, grandparents, friends, godparents, and parents of babies lost. Such beautifully peaceful photos...and such an important message. Please take a few minutes to check it out. And if any other BLMs who read this would like to "friend" me, let me know and I will try and find you. I am finding it common for BLMs to delete their FB accounts, but not me...(Although I admit my settings on FB are pretty private; they've always been that way due to my profession...And I don't believe my full name is even posted on this blog, so you'd have to help ME find YOU...) XO

Waves of grief, expected, unexpected, accidental, and self-inflicted.

So, overall, things in my life have been improving. My husband and I have had some recent epiphanies about ourselves and our marriage, and I truly think if we both put forth the effort to fix things, we will be fine. More than fine, because if we can get through this, then we can get through anything. Right?

So I’ve been feeling hopeful for the future, and I’ve been feeling good. I’ve even had moments of what I suppose they would call “acceptance” of what happened and of our reality. (?!?!)

However, yesterday I had what I would call an intense wave of grief that came on, but thankfully lifted within a relatively short period of time. I wanted to share it so that those of you who feel intense grief most of the day may have hope that some day you will have days that are mostly good but with a wave of sadness mixed in.

So I met my friend M and my sister-in-law A at Panera for lunch, which was great. I had some fleeting moments of sadness, like when I said, “We’re outnumbered” counting the kids and the adults, as my friend and I both had our daughters there and my SIL had her two girls there with her. I thought to myself, Every day I should be the one outnumbered. I should be at home with my two babies. And here, we should be outnumbered by even one more. Then, I looked over to see M and A’s girls (both two years old) jumping on the booth together and having fun, and my grief wave grew a little taller when I thought about how Evy will have to jump on the booth by herself when she’s two. How she won’t have Elias holding her hand to walk through life. How even if we have another child or children, she will still be lonely. Even if the “twin bond” thing isn’t real for all twins, even if it's usually something twins impose on themselves to feel even more “special”, and thus something she won’t “miss”, she will still be lonely, because she won’t have her same aged sibling to move through each milestone with.

It was rough, and it sucked, and it made me wish I could be M or A and not feel the pain I was feeling, obviously. It made me wish I could just eat lunch at Panera and enjoy the company of my daughter and friends.

After lunch, we went to Carter’s. I glanced over at the boy’s section and thought, “Nope, you’re not making me upset. Screw you, boy’s section.” Obviously there will be boy’s clothes at a clothing store for babies, and I know that, and I decide to not let it bother me, as obviously there will be baby boys being born and without them the future of our population would be gravely endangered.

I went immediately to the girl’s section and glanced around, feeling so grateful that I am a mother to a living child and can buy cute clothes for my little girl. (This reminds me of a rant I have for later…A Babies R Us rant…I’ll save it for now.) So I walked around looking at all the clothes, and chose very selectively, as money is a bit tight. I decided to try and find a rainbow onesie for my IRL BLM friend who is having a baby girl any day now (in April 2010 she lost her fullterm baby girl to a placental abruption). I walked all around the girls’ section, all the way to the back and then to the front, and I couldn’t find anything. Disappointed, and some irrational thoughts creeping, like “Us BLMs always get the short end of the stick, why can’t there just be the perfect onesie just waiting for me to buy it for this woman who absolutely deserves the perfect gift?” I went to go find my friend M and my SIL A.

Except there were customers literally standing everywhere I went to turn. I tried going this way and that way, until I was FORCED to walk THROUGH the boy’s section.

Are you for real?

Yup, the Universe hates us BLMs.

I managed to walk through staying calm, but of course in the back of my mind wondered if I would ever have a boy of my own to shop for (although I do realize girl’s clothes are way more fun to buy). I got to the clearance bin and started sifting through, and I found onesie after onesie that said “Grandpa’s buddy” and “Grandpa’s little slugger”, and it literally felt like knives going into my chest.

Flash back to the early weeks after we came home from the hospital and the day we decided to go through Elias’s things. My MIL had packed up his portion of the nursery (with our permission, of course), because we wanted our “homecoming” with Evelyn to be focused on her. Well. Going through his things wasn’t really too emotional for me, because let’s face it – he hadn’t USED any of those things. Plus, I was already a wreck, so how could it be any worse? Sorting through his things left me feeling angry, ripped off, robbed.
We decided to keep some clothing for a potential future son (it felt comforting in a way), and donate some of the other things to a store that raises money for cancer research (not any relation to our loss, but a good cause no less). The “Grandpa’s buddy” onesie someone had purchased for our boy about broke me in half when I came across it. I literally lost it.

The unfairness that my father will never get to hang out with his grandson still breaks my heart every single day. My dad was so proactive during my pregnancy. As my appointments became frequent and I was on bedrest, my father drove me to my weekly (and sometimes bi-weekly) ultrasounds. He was there every step of the way and bonded with those babies more than any other family member. He was the worrier, and even when doctors said things looked normal, he thought something was really wrong. It kills me, to this day. To think that my father spent the last days of Elias’s life pacing his home worrying about his grandson, and he was right. Elias needed saving. But none of us knew that. None of us really knew that. If we’d known that, we would have gone to the hospital. If he’d known that, he’d have done more than just pace. Of course none of us knew. We worried, but I’m sure there are countless families who worry or feel that something is wrong and everything turns out perfect.
Just not this time, but that doesn't mean anything.
I hope in my heart of hearts that my dad doesn’t blame himself for anything. One day we talked about it, and he told me that he doesn’t feel guilty, and that I shouldn’t either, because we did what we were supposed to do which was get things checked out. Even if we had begged for a c-section, which would have been irrational at the time considering the nurses said the tests were all within normal ranges, it wasn’t our decision to make. We weren’t the doctors. We weren’t in control. I could tell he meant it, and I was relieved that he wasn’t wrapped up in guilt. Anger, yes, but not guilt. I wonder if I will ever get to that point. I still feel like maybe I chose the wrong doctors, and that's why my son died, so it must be my fault because I chose them...but then we consult with others who say they would have made the same decisions based on the data. And at the end of the day I know my OB went above and beyond for me during the course of my pregnancy. If I had chosen different doctors, what are the chances they would have seen something wrong or guessed that I would be experiencing a one in five thousand pregnancy complication? And even yet, what are the chances we would have brought him home after the fact?

F*CK, the cards were stacked against my boy from every direction, weren't they?

I have tried to help my dad with his anger by explaining how fast FMH is and that either the doctors were right that everything was okay at that point or they were wrong, and a c-section might have meant he would have been born alive but with a massive bleed wouldn’t have likely survived. What we don’t know and will never know is if the bleed was happening at that point, how much blood had been lost at that point in time? Just impossible to know. But if it was acute and massive, as it was described to be, and as all the evidence points to, then I have to believe our end result would have been the same. The heartbreaking thing is to imagine that things may have been fine, and if they had done an emergency csection he likely would have been fine, but then why would they do an emergency csection at 36.5 weeks without an emergency being present? Why would they put me through major surgery with many risks without having a clear reason to do so? This is the fight inside my head of rational versus irrational thinking.

And all the woulda coulda shouldas are quieted for the most part when I pick apart rational from irrational. But oh, this battle is messy and painful.

I still get sad when I see my father. I love him so much that it hurts, and when I look at him and think of how this impacted him, it kills me. For awhile, it was really impacting our relationship. I felt I had failed him. I still do sometimes. I want nothing but happiness for my amazing parents, and I am so glad that they find such joy in Evelyn, because at least I know I did something right. See? There I go again, clearly still blaming myself. I fear I will always feel that sense of failure in that my son isn’t here, that he isn’t napping upstairs with his sister like he should be.

So Carter's basically sucked, and that's why. That stupid clearance bin full of triggers.

Today, because I apparently like to torture myself, I visited the “December 2010 twins” club on Babycenter. I felt like I wanted to see how my old “friends” were doing, the women who I’d connected with for all those weeks while we all feared preterm labor and whether we were eating enough, what we would name our twins, should their names rhyme or start with the same letter or not, should we dress them similar or not, what kind of sleeping arrangements and childcare we would get for two, and what impact multiples were already having on our marriage even before their arrival outside of the womb.


Those women, although wonderful and lovely people, weren’t really my friends. They were just ladies who were scared sh*tless like me. And now, they’re on one path, and I’m on another. A few of the women had left the group after miscarrying one or both of their twins. One had left the group when at her 20 week anatomy scan she discovered her boys had both died after tangling in their cords. I don’t know where those women went, but why would they return? And similarly, why should I? I made one real friend in that group, a woman who lost her girl a week or so after birth, and I still talk to her on loss forums. So really, why should I “check in” on the rest of them? I admit I was curious about whether they were still posting there, and I wondered what their babies looked like. And yes, they were still posting, and why wouldn’t they be? They need each other; they need others who “get it”, as I said before that moms of multiples is a subculture and support group in and of itself. I didn’t stay long but saw posts about napping, schedules, feedings, upcoming birthdays. I thought, “must be nice to have THAT be what you’re worried about instead of dealing with this New Normal.”

I remembered many moms whose pregnancies seemed so easy compared to mine. I remembered that while I was on bedrest for Halloween 2010, many of them were painting their tummies for the occasion and handing out candy. I had been so resentful at the time, and here I am. Nothing has changed. I am still resentful. I get to be the one who had a rough pregnancy that impacted many of my relationships as well as my self-esteem, and I get to be the one to lose one of my twins to something completely unrelated to my complications, something I had never even heard of despite the countless hours I spent reading up on potential complications, while they breezed through their pregnancies and painted their tummies like big ol’ pumpkins to be ooohed and ahhhed at, and most importantly got to bring home two healthy living babies.

I clicked on one profile and saw a photo of b/g twins sitting in a wagon on the 4th of July, and the tears came so easily. In fact, I was sobbing. The girl had an adorable dress with stars on it, and the boy sported red/white/blue plaid. He had his hand clutching her dress, and for some reason that killed me. I cried so hard and so loud that I can’t believe my daughter didn’t wake up from her nap. I looked at the ceiling through my tears and cried, “Why did you have to leave us?! Why couldn’t you just stay?! We need you here with us, Elias. I need you here to be a big brother to your sister and hold her hand through life. I need you to protect her and watch over her. Your sister needs you here!!!”

And I allowed myself to just be sad, devastated, for her. For her loss. To entertain the notion that she may feel broken not having him here, even though I hope with everything in me that she doesn’t, that she feels whole.

I don’t believe in the guardian angel thing, but in my own way, I do hope he is still looking out for his sister, watching out for her, making sure good things happen for her.

My sweet boy Elias.
My forever baby, my son.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Introducing: My daughter Evelyn.

The title of my blog is JOY and sorrow, and yet I rarely come here to share my joy. I am sorry for that. I think I was worried that sharing my living daughter here would upset other women who lost their daughters around the time Evelyn was born. And, well, it might, and if so - I genuinely apologize for any triggers my sharing her may cause for you. Yet I feel that if I only talk about my loss here, then this blog doesn't even come close to representing my complicated life which is full of horrible pain but also overwhelming happiness at times. Another blogger pointed out that my loss is not too terribly different from the loss of any baby while having to parent another living child, and that mamas who lost their first born singleton baby would eventually be in my shoes when they have their next baby...Grieving a child while raising another. Her comments made me feel much less alone in this community. The twin aspect is secondary, but I do think it makes everything seem heightened because the loss and the gain are simultaneous, the major life changes are all corresponding and make the waters of each other murky. At any rate, I can't deny that I am a mother to a living child, a girl who came into this world the same day we said goodbye to her brother. This blog may be focused on my loss, but from time to time, Evy deserves to be shared as well. I know my life and my grief would be very different if she wasn't here with me. And maybe, just maybe, seeing her smiling face will help to make somebody's day just a little brighter.

So here she is! My baby girl, Evy. (Rhymes with Chevy).

She was tiny when we brought her home, and we were afraid we'd break her. Now she's this little person, and I find myself saying, "Where's my baby?!" because she's growing so fast she makes my head freaking spin. 8 months old, she's now sportin' two emerging teeth and loves to crawl, pull herself up to standing and then freak out because she doesn't know what to do next, make farting noises with her mouth, and other such awesome.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

The empty spot on the couch next to her.

When people see my daughter, they often immediately oooh and ahhhh over how blue her eyes are. Lately, instead of just being happy at this compliment, I find myself angry that I don't know what color Elias's eyes were. I find myself angry that Elias isn't here, because HE should be oooh'ed and ahhh'ed over. I see photos of my daughter with her two girl cousins, and I just think, there should be a baby boy in this photo. My baby boy. I look at the spot next to my girl and see where he should be sitting, and I wonder why the hell he couldn't stay with us. And I wonder if my daughter will always feel like somebody's missing. For a while I was doing pretty good with keeping everything separate / compartmentalized, but lately everything just runs together. I'm having a lot of trouble finding any joy in compliments or nice photos, because I am so fixated on how things should be instead of enjoying what is. I guess this is just a low point, but right now it feels like this is my life, like the rest of my life is just going to feel like torture. It is agonizing to have to go on without someone you love so f*cking much. My heart is just so heavy. I still find myself taking in a deep breath and thinking, oh my God, I can't believe this happened to us. It's been 8 months, and I still just can't freaking believe it. I spent my entire pregnancy taking it easy, drinking gallons of water, eating the best I could, following doctors' orders, getting extra ultrasounds, taking prenatals religiously, resting up, and trying to stay positive during a time that for me was pretty terrifying. I literally put everything on hold and focused on being a twin mama. (I can't stand women who say pregnancy for them is so easy they forget they're pregnant - there's NO forgetting when you are pregnant after a loss, and with twins no less!). How the hell does this happen? I still don't understand how I could have so much monitoring and take so many precautions only to lose my son. It's like the cruelest joke in the world was played on me. Does anyone else feel that way? I also feel like I ruined my marriage (we are very distant) and my parents' happiness with my simple desire for children. I broke everybody's hearts. How can I ever forgive myself for bringing so much pain to everybody I love? I feel like my life is just ruined and this world would be better if I'd never been born. The day my son died, he took my heart with him, and there's just this gaping void left. It hurts so bad it has this vacuum effect that makes it hard to breathe.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Can I just go crawl under a rock for awhile?

I know you guys are sick of hearing about it. But literally thousands of twins are in the area for the Twins Days festival this weekend. You know what I have to say about that? Why the hell do I have to live right by the town that hosts this?!?! Any more sick, twisted, cruel ironies anyone would like to throw at our loss situation?! F...M...L.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

A Literal Parade of Triggers!!! Yay!!!

So, my rant on the twin thing partly (but not wholly) was sparked by the fact that this weekend there is a friggin' FESTIVAL devoted to twins not far from my home. (Aren't I oh so lucky?!) In fact, one of my friends/coworkers lives on the parade route. When she moved there, she did not realize what she was in for. Soon, she grew to love living on the parade route (or at least did a good job making the best out of an annoying situation).

Obviously, if we lived there, we’d be moving in a split second away from this PARADE OF TRIGGERS. I can’t imagine much else that would be as horrific to me at this point on my grief journey as seeing droves of parents flaunting their twins and putting them on public display.

My friend has a party at her house every year on the weekend of this parade.
Every year we have gone, mostly to humor her. It is the one big party she has every year, and we don’t get out to her house often.
I remember the first time saying, “Well…I feel kind of odd attending a party for Twins Days when I am not a twin.” What place was it for me to go there and just stare at all the twins?
Seemed incredibly voyeuristic, no?
She said it was her party and anyone was welcome, that there would only be one or two sets of twins at the party. Basically, it was a good excuse to have people come over. She explained that people from all over the world come to Twins Days to participate in the parade and/or see all the twins and that it would be fun to “people watch”.

So, every year, we would go. Mostly to visit with our friend hosting the party.
To be honest? It always made me uncomfortable, but I don’t know if I ever thought through the “why” outside of feeling like a tourist. We just kept going every year as to not disappoint my friend.
When we conceieved twins, this friend was over the freaking moon, obviously. Going on and on about how Twins Days would be so much fun. In her mind it affirmed we would definitely be attending every year. She was so ecstatic.

Immediately, I started to feel even more uncomfortable than I had in the past about this spectacle devoted to twins. I was so incredibly in love with my children already, but in my heart I couldn’t bring myself to get excited about including them in any of it. It really got me thinking about how different my children would be treated simply on account of being conceived during the same ovulatory cycle, and I already started to kind of resent that. I didn't want the label, the extra attention, the early categorization of them as "different". I related so much to the women with living twins who said they hated the very word, that they just wanted their children to be treated as separate individuals.

A parade and festival for twins?
I didn’t get it.
Would I ever get it? If there was a time to get it, it would be at that point when I was expecting twins and could fully participate in these festivities for years to come after their births.
But I felt more annoyed at the idea than anything else.

I wasn’t sure I wanted to go to the parade that year. I was halfway through my pregnancy and wanted to take it easy. My friend assured me that I could lie down or just do whatever I felt was best once there. My parents were invited too (but never attended in the past as they thought the whole thing was odd too), but suddenly it seemed more “relevant” as they were expecting twin grandchildren. I thought it might be fun to go and bring them. My pregnancy was not only stressful and taxing on me and my marriage, but on my parents as well, who had seen their daughter endure the trauma of miscarriage and would worry until the babies were both here kicking and screaming, understandably. I thought, maybe if they see all these healthy twins, they will relax a bit.

Hell, who am I kidding, maybe I would relax a bit.

I chose a very understated dark gray maternity dress to wear and was mostly uncomfortable the entire day. For many reasons. One being, my friend kept pointing at my stomach, taking photos of my little bump, bragging to everyone that I had the youngest twins there. She even told me I should have worn a sign or something to indicate that I was carrying twins.

As I said before, the whole thing just didn’t sit right with me. Sometimes I wonder if I “knew” something horrible would happen, but then I realize that’s ridiculous. Yes, I was worried about my pregnancy, but that's true of most women who are told at their first ultrasound (after already suffering a traumatizing loss in the past),

"This means you are high risk. But don't worry, you are the lowest risk of the high risk."

Oh, ok. *whew?*

And honestly, even if my twins were both napping in their cribs at this very moment, it still wouldn’t sit right with me, and I wouldn’t want them to go. So I don't think my feelings on this point have anything to do with our loss.
In fact, last year during my pregnancy, I was already trying to concoct reasons why we wouldn’t be able to go to future Twins Days.
Wouldn’t the parade be too loud for the babies?...Wouldn't it be too stressful bring two infants out?...Wouldn't we just want to stay home and spend time with them?...

Having living twins, I probably wouldn’t have been able to get out of the feelings of obligation to go. And here I would be, dreading the party and all the ensuing awkwardness. I probably wouldn't be blogging about it (I wouldn't have a blog) but would be feigning excitement and wondering what my problem was. Which would be a hell of a lot better than sitting here missing my son so terribly.

Another point that really bothers me is that my cousin will be bringing her twin daughters in from out of state just to participate in this circus. No one has mentioned to me that they are coming into town, but I figured it out (Facebook makes detectives out of all of us). Am I crazy for thinking it would be really nice if they would just skip Twins Days this one time? (They've only gone one other time!) I feel like it's somewhat disrespectful toward me and my family. Maybe I am just oversensitive. (My husband thinks so. He says they should just live their lives and not worry about ours, basically. And an added point he throws in, is that as much as he would rather have his son here, he must admit feeling relief in that we have a "free pass" getting us out of ever attending Twins Days ever again. For me, it still stings to even hear about it, even though I never liked it to begin with. I know, I'm a hypocrite. Guilty as charged.)

I think what bothers me even more than my cousin bringing her twin daughters to the parade (I mean let's face it; it's their choice and their right...) is the thought that they will silently slip in and out of town without even so much as stopping by to meet my daughter. They are staying at my aunt's house who lives literally three minutes from our home. I'm assuming this is what will happen, as no one has said anything to me about their visit, and they are in town TODAY.
Do they not care about Evelyn now that she isn't a twin?
Does she not matter as her own person?
Is my cousin's family forever going to tiptoe around me simply because they have intact twins while I lost one of mine???
Do I deserve feeling like such a freaking outcast?!?!


At any rate, now that my grief is so intensified by the whole “twin thing” being built up by society, this parade of twins literally sickens me. I think back to before we were pregnant and used to attend, and I remember hearing some people talk about how seeing so many twins in one place was “just so freaky”, which really drives my point home, no?

If the festival was about celebrating how much adversity the twins and their mothers had to overcome just to exist, now THAT would be a different story! To be fair, at Twins Days, sometimes I would see twins wearing signs/shirts that would say “32 weeker”, or “Twin-to-twin transfusion survivor”. If in the parade, these people were passing out pamphlets about the risks of a twin pregnancy or something educational / spreading awareness, then I would whole-heartedly agree with the concept of a parade. The subsequent festival after the parade could be a celebration of their lives.
However, not many wear such shirts or are looking to spread awareness.
Few people even realize that at the festival there are tables where people hand out information on some of these issues, because those tables are hardly a main focus.
There are also booths where researchers offer your children a candybar or a free eraser if they agree to be poked and prodded or have some type of testing done.
Mostly, there are vendors trying to make money on overpriced merchandise and food sold to people in attendance.

It would comfort me to know that the proceeds they make for entry into the festival went toward some kind of fund toward improving outcomes for multiple births (and maybe some of it does; I honestly don't know), but what I do know is that some if not all of it goes toward prizes for twins after they compete against one another in front of an audience on stage for "cutest", "most alike", "most different", and a whole host of other categories.

Two years ago I noticed a few people at the festival wearing shirts that said “Twinless twin”, and “Surviving twin” on them. It made me incredibly sad. So deeply sad. I thought, why would they want to come to this festival? I guess to celebrate their twinship? (And, what does that even mean?) I decided that maybe some of them simply wanted to attend in memory of their lost sibling. However, weren’t there other ways to honor them? And what were the parents thinking? Were they there for the “shock factor” of seeing people’s reactions?

I kept asking my friends, “Did you see that girl’s shirt?!”, but no one seemed to notice but me. It really troubled me, and I wondered what their stories were, but everyone else seemed more focused on ogling all the look-alikes swarming around.

I felt rattled, unsettled, and lonely in those moments.

Oh, what horrible foreshadowing.

Monday, August 1, 2011

I just don't belong anywhere.

Warning: This is like three posts in one. If you get to the bottom, I am sorry to say that there will be no cookie. And you may even dislike me for what I have to say or think I am crazy or even find offense to my thoughts, but that is a risk I have to take, because this is where I go to vent and spew my thoughts so that I don't explode in the "real world".

This blog stuff is tricky. Often I want to write here, but I have so much anxiety about putting it “out there” for potentially the entire world to see. (Not that the entire world is actually looking or gives a sh*t.) I wasn't sure where this anxiety originated, until I thought about it for a while. I realized that I feel like I would write so much more if I’d simply lost a singleton pregnancy, honestly. I’d feel much more like part of “the club”. The dreaded “dead baby club” (or DBC), as many in the loss community call it.

My son died. I have every right to be here writing about him. I have every right to grieve him. I am a broken person. Yet I feel like many BLM choose to not follow my blog (possibly) because they don’t want to read about my living daughter. Just as they may not want to read other BLM blogs who have living children from previous pregnancies. Maybe I trigger their pain. Maybe that’s why sometimes I send a BLM a friend request via FB, and it just sits there. They don’t want to see photos of my infant daughter.

I get it, but it is still incredibly and painfully isolating to feel shunned at times by the BLM community.

What I want other BLM to understand is that yes, I still brought a baby home from the hospital. However, that does not mean I'm okay, that I don't need their support, that I'm going to be "over it" more quickly, or that my pain is any less. It is surely a different experience, but not better, not worse. I'd like to think my voice in this community still deserves to be heard, even though I brought a baby home with me.

You may think that I would find comfort in bonding with other mothers who have lost only one twin. And sometimes, yes, I do. Other times, I just feel more alone when I can't relate to what they are saying or vice versa. I wish more of the women I have "met" would blog about the loss of a 3rd trimester or full-term healthy twin, but they don't for whatever reason, and I must respect that. However, I'd be lying if I said that doesn't amplify my feelings of isolation, as there are limited blogs for me to read that reflect my experience. We chat on FB and communicate via forums, which I find incredibly helpful, but I need blogs. If more women who suffered a full-term loss of one or both twins put themselves out there, then perhaps future twinlostmamas coming home with less than two babies from the hospital wouldn't feel so freakish and alone. (I say that to include mamas who have lost one or both.)

* * * * * * * * *

I posted about grief-induced manic-depression and feel that calls for some sort of explanation but am not sure how to convey it here. A stillbirth and a live birth within three minutes. Just try, try, try to imagine that. I know, it’s impossible. I still can’t imagine it, and I lived it. I’ve said before it was the best and the worst day of my life.
I’ve heard other mothers who have lost one twin or triplet say that they felt numb, that the pain and the joy kind of cancelled each other out.
I did not experience numbness. If I ever said I did or blogged that I did, I take it back. This is one of the ways I feel so different than others in my kind of situation.
I experienced extremes, and those extremes continue on a daily basis. That is the polar opposite of feeling nothing.
As a result, I compartmentalize. I put my pain over here, and my joy over there.

And THAT, my friends, is why I feel manic depressive.

I’m forever in this in-between place, stuck grieving my son while celebrating my daughter. To solely focus on one at the expense of the other would be so incredibly unfair to myself and to them. I must juggle, and in that respect I truly still am a parent of twins, even today as I type this.

* * * * * * * * *

You will probably think this next section stems from my bitterness at what happened to me or think I am denial about what I truly lost. Go ahead and think away. You might be right, but I don't think so. Parenting twins from what I’ve heard from countless mothers is largely a big juggling act. Many twin moms say they never feel they are doing a good enough job. There is this nagging feeling of failure. Any time both babies are crying, they can only comfort one. They have enough love in their hearts for two, as any parent with more than one child does, but they can’t focus on more than one baby at once, and with twins their milestones are in sync and so there is always one baby taking a back seat to the other with any step. The moms express feeling more bonded to the “good” baby, and there’s horrible guilt that ensues from that. Basically, the gist of it is they feel perpetual dissatisfaction at never being a good enough parent to both twins.

It’s the truth of parenting multiples that these moms only discuss with other women in the “twin club” (as outsiders may simply judge them or say they are taking things for granted or throwing a pity party), and I was exposed to all of that for my entire pregnancy. It never diminished the love I felt so intensely for both of my sweet babies. It never made me wish I was only pregnant with one baby. But what I want to emphasize is that most people outside of that community have a hard time “getting it” because they don’t see the whole picture (or haven't really thought about it, haven't heard about it or been exposed to it). The real deal, where you learn what it’s really like from everyday moms, not the romanticized version you see and hear about with celebrity’s twins who have several nannies taking care of them, the matchy matchy clothes, coordinating Halloween costumes, and weekend-long festivals dedicated to twin status.

Society definitely puts it up on a pedestal, but ask any OB, and they will tell you that the womb was not designed to carry more than one baby. Carrying more than one is not what’s best for your child(ren), so no…It’s not a jackpot to land twins or triplets. I don't know where that idea originates. Obviously being able to get pregnant at all is an absolute blessing, but it just stings when people put the twin thing up there as the most "perfect blessing". (I'll admit it; I felt "special" too...Until my son died. Now I will NEVER build a woman up solely on account of her pregnancy - whether it's one or two or six babies, pregnancy is nothing you should say makes someone "special", nor is their pregnancy something you should be "proud" of them for. I'm actual in therapy partially due to people building up my self esteem through my pregnancy and consequent feelings of failure and lack of "specialness" now). Let's stop the hype, people. Twins are cute, fine. But this "perfect blessing from above" means higher risks all the way through the pregnancy, and many times a constant feeling of inadequacy during or after pregnancy (or both). A feeling of so busy you don’t get to stop and soak up their infancy (I hear). People constantly referring to your children as “the twins” with little regard to their names or individualities. Unwelcome attention and ridiculous questions from strangers. For many moms, their twins may be their only pregnancy (as I had figured mine would be, which is a topic for another day), and they find the time flies by so fast with multiple babies that they didn’t have time to breathe, didn’t have time to keep their own sense of identity intact, didn’t have time to stay connected to their husband, etc. I remember on the twin forums reading about the high rates of divorce after twins, and it terrified me. That the loss of identity outside of being a mother to twins was a very real phenomenon. That countless moms posted about having no friends in addition to their lack of identity.

Now, I have to worry about my marriage on account of having lost a child, not because we have twins. Now, I have to worry about my loss of identity because I may solely become "the woman who lost a son", not because my identity is simply twin mom. I've never heard a story with more irony than mine, and it's never a funny irony but one that sinks my heart.

Why I am writing all of this here I don’t really know. I can think of a few possible reasons.

First, maybe I want to “look on the bright side” or find that "silver lining" to my situation, as many babylostmamas tend to try and do (although I’d give anything to have my son back and would suffer those hardships for his sake in a heartbeat because I already loved him from the day I knew about him!).

Or, maybe I want to just put people in check who sit there and idealize the twin thing, because let's face it - it does far more harm than good, regardless of whether the twins survive or not. (And it's a lie anyway.) If one or both of the twins die, you are setting the family up to feel they have even more to grieve; you are making the loss more massive than it already is. And if both babies do survive, their reality won't likely live up to how much you've built it up for them, which (I'm guessing here) could only add to the feelings of inadequacy that many twin mamas already experience.

Another possibility - maybe I want to help other mothers who have lost one twin to “let go” of the twin fantasy.

Maybe I need to let go of that fantasy myself, as I will admit that I am still grieving the loss of my “twins”. I still struggle every day to not obsess over the fact that I should have twins here to snuggle and raise. I have to stop myself from thinking about how perfect it would all be. Again with the romanticizing. I am guilty as charged.

Maybe it's a little of all of these combined, but more so, I think the reason is this:
I am just angry as hell, because I will always feel like if my son and daughter were conceived during separate pregnancies, then I may have been able to avoid this pain. I'd rather them just both be here, alive, than have carried that special twin "status". All of our issues were related to the twin thing. Even though my OB says this wasn't twin-related, I have done my research. Placental issues are more common with twins. Stillbirths are more common with twins. My daughter being small for gestational age is because she had to share my womb. ALL of my pregnancy issues were related to it being twins. The excessive vomiting, GERD, preterm labor, bedrest, and in my non-medical opinion possibly our loss. So when I hear people idealize it, I just want to freaking PUKE. Especially when they know my story and shouldn't be so seemingly ignorant. Especially when they are babylostmamas.

I also find myself thinking a lot lately about what that means – to be a twin, to have a twin, etc. How much of it is real and how much of it is imagined? Is there anything to it beside being born at the same time? Women in the loss community (who have living twins) tell me that in all honesty their twins are no more bonded to each other than they are to their singleton children. They love their twins, just as they love all of their children, but confirm that the picture they had painted in their minds during pregnancy (about what it would be like to have twins) is mostly a lie that society perpetuates. That there is no secret language shared by twins, that it may or may not exist for any two siblings, that having a set of twins doesn't make the family have this perfect balance.

There was a study in which researchers interviewed different twin types and asked them to pick who they would save if they could only save one person on the earth (I forget the actual wording of it or where the hell I saw this…), and most identical twins wanted to save their twin first, while fraternals were much less likely to give that response. Fraternal boy girl twins were in fact found to be least likely to respond that they would save their twin (most of them said both parents first). The studies showed b/g twins to be the least bonded of all the twin types. All of these things help me sort through what is real and what I may have built up in my mind. Or what others built up in my mind about the “perfect family” I was creating. I don’t know what it would really be like, because Elias is not here with us, so I try not to stay stuck in that place of imaginings. I assume that many women with boy girl twins are told millions of times “One of each, ooohhhhh, how perfect!” only to see their fairy tale ending isn’t reality, one way or another.

And I will not sit here and accept that my daughter will forever feel something missing, because that is just BULL and diminishes her being her own full healthy whole person.

* * * * * * * * *

At the end of the day, I have shifted from the twin club to the DBC.
And you know what? I still very much feel that I am parenting twins.
In much different ways, obviously, and I’ve written about that before, but I’m still trying to wrap my head around this.
I struggle between feeling like I am never grieving my son right or raising my daughter right due to one twin pulling me away from the other.
When I am sad I feel like a crappy mother to Evelyn, and when I am happy I feel horrible that my son isn’t around to enjoy it with me.
I feel society is judging me for the way I parent each of my children.
Many people judge me for even surviving this, “Oh I would just die!” while others judge me for being sad, "Oh you should just enjoy your new daughter! This time goes soooo fast; just ENJOY!!!"

And I feel that women in both of these clubs don't truly accept my membership, either, and want me to give my card back.

I.can’ My life is a constant juggling act. This feeling? Sounds a hell of a lot like what those mothers to living twins express. Yet I can't go on a twin forum and vent about it, because I would just be that "horror story", even though I'm not. I'm a human being, not a horror story.

I feel I still deserve my “mother to twins” card, even though only one of my twins is here with me physically, even though other twin moms would probably disagree and say I don’t have it because I only have one child to diaper, bathe, and feed. My heart is constantly being ripped in two, as part of it stays here while another part of it wants to journey afar to find my beloved Elias. I am being pulled apart by the seams, and many mothers to twins (the ones who will tell you the real deal) say that that’s what it feels like to have two babies the same age. I’d obviously rather be in their position than mine, even with their complaints, and I will forever miss that opportunity to have my own twins, but it’s such a strange feeling to try to “let go” of the twin thing (and fully acknowledge that it is a fantasy largely not rooted in reality), while still feeling that I am very much a mother to twins in many aspects of the word.

I always feel like I am and am not something at the very same time. One foot in the twin club with the other foot in the DBC.

The loss of my son, the loss of "twins", the feeling of failure, the insecurities about my marriage, the fear that I will be incapable of doing my job due to my grief - those things have me feeling lower than low. One little thing can set me off. All it takes is the wrong comment from my husband to trigger my insecurities, and I spiral down. Friends around me are starting new marriages while I watch mine seemingly fall apart. I watch women flaunt their twins (or even triplets, which to me just seems like a cruel cosmic joke) out in public, and I feel toyed with. My entire day could be ruined just by a glimpse of a double stroller, and half the time they aren't even twins, but I imagine they are.

Am I still holding on to the twin fantasy? Maybe. Or maybe I just miss my son, and I want my double stroller back, because I wouldn't have had to return it if he'd lived.

Then my daughter smiles at me and cackles, and I feel on top of the freaking world again. I had convinced myself that I would never birth a living child (after my traumatic miscarriage), and so when I look at her and how amazing she is, an incredible feeling grips me. I think about how lucky we are to even have her, as I know how fragile life is. I think about women who lost both twins at term or women who will never have the experience of carrying their own baby ever, and I think okay, this isn't so bad. I think if I can learn to live without my son somehow, then I must be this invincible person with a strength I never knew existed in me. I think, what's the point in ever worrying or stressing over things in life when nothing is truly in our power? And that is so freeing to me. I think about how Elias would want me to live fully and be happy, so I have little tolerance for minor complaints and for a lack of spontaneity. My son has changed me so deeply, and most days I feel that he has changed me for the better. I look at my husband snuggling with my daughter, and my heart just melts. I am overwhelmed by how lucky I am to have them both here and our son waiting for us when it's our time. I fall in love with my husband all over again and think about how solid we are to have sustained this horrible pain. It seems our relationship is shatterproof. I realize we have been together for over a decade, and my insecurities fade (only to return when I am having a bad day, of course, and then I wonder with how much I have changed, are we still compatible? Will this still work?)

I feel more alive than I ever have in my entire life, but my son is dead. That is the single most confusing point to me.

My sister once told me, "I imagine things now will forever be shades of gray to you."

I thought for a few minutes, and said, "No, it's more like when I'm missing him, it hurts more than anything I ever imagined in my entire life, and I feel like I'm going to break in half from the pain. I feel it fully, and then I put it away for a while and try to honor him by enjoying the life I have left. On good days, it actually seems there are fewer shades of gray, and colors shine more vibrantly than ever before."

What I don't know is whether that vibrancy comes from my son or my daughter, and I hate not knowing myself anymore.

I hate not being able to trace the raindrops that form a puddle back to the clouds from where they fell.