If I had a fireplace, I’d be sitting by it tonight. Coffee in hand. Multicolored lights from the tree reflecting around the room. It’s Christmas Eve, a time for reflection, especially this year.
My wife and I brought home two kids this week, a boy and a girl, after a 29-day stay in the NICU, the shortest of our two sentences. That makes five kids – one deceased and four by scientific means – in a shade under nine years. Five kids. I never thought I’d be that guy.
We nearly stopped at one only to wind up with a set of twins through IVF. Except Breley passed away at two days old due to complications from extreme prematurity. She’s been a huge part of getting us to this point, first helping to save twin Kailey by bearing the brunt of an in-utero infection and in passing encouraging us to grow our family one more time. It felt incomplete. Another round of IVF, another set of twins.
And this time, we’re on track to get the full twin experience – simply driving them home in our packed-to-the-gills minivan felt like an accomplishment. Double diapers, bottles and clothes, although I’m just cheap enough to force our little man – the only boy in the bunch – to use a few girl items such as pink sleepers. Then again, I do own multiple pink shirts myself. For now, they’re sharing a crib with a divider down the middle for safety sake and there’s a double stroller in the mail. Also on Monday, I opened an account on Diapers.com. Haven’t decided yet whether to include that on my Twitter bio. (Side note: I also downloaded the new Wale mixtape, hoping that one action offsets the other.)
What we’ve learned so far is that feedings take forever – probably an hour per kid even with both parents contributing. Multiple that by eight times a day. What do we do in between? Feed the other two kids, one of them a g-tube user. (That made it sound like some sort of drug habit, didn’t it?) Fortunately, neither of the veteran children have tried to evict either of the newcomers. The oldest is almost too helpful, beginning at every turn to hold a twin despite scoring a smidgeon short on the self-awareness scale. The 2-year-old has started a habit of rubbing their hair and/or using it to tickle her nose. They are, in her words, “foofy,” which seems to be a bastardization of fluffy. It is adorable.
My wife and I are exploring new levels of busy. There may not be enough caffeine in the world to keep us going at the necessary rate. It doesn’t help that I’m narcoleptic; just the other night I feel asleep while dealing with the g-tube, awakening to a puddle of my milk and a bewildered child. I have no idea how long I was out. This terrifies my wife, who has to keep one eye on me and the other on her assigned twin during feedings to make sure the little one isn’t choking and that I’m not going to slump over and inadvertently hurt myself or a baby.
We’re not sleeping much and exercising even less, a combination that can make me a miserable human being. It’s a good thing we’re not gorging on junk food, too. Oh, wait …
For the record, these are not complaints. Not. Complaints. We’re thrilled to be knee-deep in tykes, as proved by the great lengths we went through to have them. I’ve never been so proud of a picture than the one my wife snapped of me holding our four living kiddos on Christmas Eve. That moment felt amazing. Fittingly, however, not everyone in the picture is sitting up straight, looking forward or dressed appropriately – our new norm is something akin to chaos, it seems. Scattered – that might be the word. It’s just that we are realists. Raising a family – like having a job or going to school – is neither easy nor neat, and nobody should feel obligated to pretend that it is.
There will be challenges in managing time and money and attention and personalities. Already, Ty (as in Webb) has asserted himself as being the more vocal twin. He’s also a scowler, something that was noticeable during 4-D ultrasounds. I’m already concerned about that, given the history of depression in his genes. Taylor (as in Rip?) is the most mellow person – kid or parent – in the house. Her hair puffs out after a bath, she’s prone to mousy hiccups and she looks like Breley, thin in the face.
As odd as this sounds, it’s also been somewhat difficult to have them home for Christmas. They’re still vulnerable to illness and infections, and the respiratory virus season has started early this year, meaning we’re all bathing in hand sanitizer three times a day, not taking them out in public aside from doctor appointments and aren’t supposed to have visitors. Telling relatives that they can’t come over for Christmas to see the babies is about as easy as you would imagine. Skype helps, and it’s nice to hunker down as a family even if that meant pasta casserole for dinner instead. (That was an upgrade, actually – we considered tater tot hotdish. Real talk.) But it didn’t really feel like Christmas.
All in due time, I guess. Although it’s likely to come and go, there’s some sense of relief in that our family lineup is set (not that we couldn’t entertain trade offers) and we can focus on moving forward. The whole thing figures to be a trip. Christmastime might be magical, but the middle of February may have us wishing that the Mayans were right.
I’m fine with being in both of those spots. I’ve got to be.