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This past Sunday my twins turned one. I can hardly believe it. The year absolutely flew by.

I had been planning to write a little post on surviving your first year with twins, but as I started thinking about what I would say, I started to realize something. This year wasn’t just about survival. Sure, in the beginning, it was a seemingly never-ending cycle of feed, burp, nap, diaper change, repeat. And we did it all in a sleep-deprived haze. There were also the sleep issues and many, many ear infections, and bouts of bronchitis, croup, etc. Maybe THOSE parts were about survival.

But this year was so much more. This year absolutely changed my life. As a mother, as a wife, as a daughter, as a person. Here’s how:

  • I no longer procrastinate. In my pre-twin life, I was a master procrasinator. I find that since becoming a Mother of Multiples, I no longer have that luxury. If I have 5 minutes to do laundry, I better do it. If I don’t, it may sit there until next week. Act now or forever miss your opportunity. Things are actually getting accomplished around my house and often in advance of when they need to be done! I’m also more productive in the office because I never know when I’ll need to take an emergancy sick or vacation day to tend to a child.
  • I am learning to be flexible. (I’m still working on this, but getting much better!) In life, things happen. Even with the best of intentions, schedules and routines, there is bound to be a kink in the plans at some point. In the not-so-distant past the unexpected speedbumps in my routine would have thrown me so far off course I couldn’t recover. With twins, the bumps come frequently. I have no choice but to adjust and keep moving forward. We are all happier and more relaxed as a result of Mommy’s new abilities.
  • Immediate family now comes first. Growing up, I saw my immediate family (mother, father, brother and me) as one unit. Our unit was part of a bigger, extended family but I knew that the four of us were our own, standalone group. When I got married and even when I had my singleton, I still saw myself as part of that original core unit. It was only with the arrival of the twins that I’ve realized: we’ve now become our own unit. And I finally feel comfortable scheduling, planning, and standing up for what I think is best for this immediate family.
  • I appreciate the female body (even) more. Pregnancy and childbirth is an amazing experience. But carrying and delivering multiple babies goes beyond words. Then, watching my body provide nourishment for the two babies at the same time…I’m speechless.The female body is an amazing, amazing thing!
  • I am much more patient. I have developed a much higher tolerance for noise, hair pulling, eye poking and monotonous play. I am content to sit on the floor for 45 minutes and let the kids climb on me; I no longer worry about what’s NOT getting done when I sit there and I no longer worry about moving on to the next activity. This one is fun? Let’s stay with it. As a result, I’m more patient with my husband, my dog and my co-workers. I am not any more patient while driving, but I’m working on that.
  • I want to be there for other people. Having been through the high-risk pregnancy and the NICU experience (twice), and ending up with all of these beautiful, healthy children has made me so very thankful for all that I have. As a result, I have been finding joy in helping others – even others I don’t know. My charitable donations are up, I’m donating more time (yes, time!), I’m just generally more involved in the world around me. And I enjoy it.
  • I love my husband (even) more. I’ve made no secret about how involved my husband is. I didn’t think before the twins arrived it was possible to love him more. But watching him step right up and help with them and our daughter and with me…I guess it was entirely possible. Ditto that feeling for my mom and dad.
  • I consider my situation to be my own and don’t compare it to those around me. I no longer compare my life to the lives of those around me. I feel more free as a result. Is my life crazy because I have twins? Yup. Is your life crazy because you have one baby? Or six? Yes. And Yes. Our situations are not the same; we are all different. There is no point in comparing whose life is harder or who has it better. I just make the best of what I have and I don’t worry about what others are doing.
  • I find the humor in things. Two little boys alternately projectile vomiting at a 3-year old’s birthday party? That would have made me cry two years ago. Now, what choice do I have but to laugh?

So, Happy Birthday Aaron and Brady. You have made me a better person. I can’t imagine my life without you little monkeys!

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After telling my husband I would not watch the season premiere of Jon and Kate Plus 8 last night, I ended up tivoing it anyway and watching it. I was sad after the show and stayed up way too late thinking about it. What really got me was when Kate said divorce rates are so much higher for multiple parents and they thought they would beat that statistic. The other part that was very hard for me to watch was the kids asking Jon when he was coming home and telling him they missed him. I am a total believer the majority of reality tv is scripted, but those moments still took my breath away.

In the multiples community, you can’t help but hear of two very sad realities: children dying and divorce. Every time I hear of a sick or dying child, I hug my kids close and gain some perspective. After watching that show last night, I’m going to hug my husband close and gain some perspective. My husband and I have been through some very tough things together: his back problems and surgery, double unemployment, my hearing loss and surgery. Yet having twins was very hard on our marriage because there was so much to do, so much stress, so little sleep, so much worry, so little money, and so little time. As joyful as those early months were, they were also some of our hardest together.

My boys are three now and I can say that my marriage is as strong as it has ever been. Yet last night I realized I can always do more to show my appreciation, work on my marriage, and commit to staying happy together. I don’t think I’ll watch the rest of the season but for that perspective, I am thankful. I am just sorry the perspective had to come at such a high price for them.

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While paging through the May 2009 issue of Ladies Home Journal, I came across an article titled “Workplace Wars.” The author, Carol Mithers, wrote about the cultural clash occurring between the Baby Boomers (born between 1946-1964); Generation X (born between 1965 and 1980); and Generation Y or “the Millennials” (born between 1981-2000.) A small but shrinking percentage (about 8%) of the workforce is composed of the “Matures” (born between 1922-1945.)

Mithers speaks candidly of the various workplace differences that crop up when four generations with very different perspectives of the world work together. One paragraph in particular struck me:

Then there are the Millennials-at a whopping 83 million, the biggest generation of all. Millennials are techno-kids, glued to their cell phones, laptops and iPods. They’ve grown up in a world with few boundaries and think nothing of forming virtual friendships through the Internet or disclosing intimate details of themselves on social networking sites. And, many critics charge, they’ve been so coddled and overpraised by hovering parents that they enter the job market convinced of their own importance. (emphasis added)

The article continues:

Cultures also collide over such basics as how to work, what hard work means and what it takes to get ahead. For people in their 40s and 50s, dedication to a job usually means coming in early, staying late and doing nothing else during work hours. To young workers, who’ve been multitasking their whole lives-instant messaging friends, while watching TV and checking MySpace, all while doing homework-a single focus is a waste of time.

I was born is 1980, and as such skidded into Generation X by the skin of my teeth. I was raised in a rural area on the East Coast that could probably be considered a little behind the times. I was raised in a strong Christian family with my step-father, mom, brother and adopted sister. My step-dad is a carpenter and his hands bear the scars of exhausting hard work. My mom is now an insurance agent, but cleaned houses when we were school-aged so she could be home with us. My parents are extremely hard workers.

My parents modeled tough love, a strong faith in God, integrity, hard work and dedication to the family. I learned a lot from them. Specifically, the high value they placed upon family.

I wonder what my children, and their generation will say about us, their parents? Will they say we were always too busy multitasking to truly pay attention? Will they say we cared more about productivity than people?

I certainly hope not, but I find myself being pulled toward the computer to check my email or update my blog when the kids are awake (I try to save my computer time for nap time.) I find that I get frustrated with all the messes and although I try, it is hard to relax when my environment is messy. Perhaps I value technology and productivity a bit too much?

My other concern is in over-praising or coddling my children.

“…they’ve been so coddled and overpraised by hovering parents that they enter the job market convinced of their own importance…”

In this day and age, technology is so easily utilized, that we have our children’s entire lives recorded in blogs, virtual scrapbook pages, on You tube and dvd recordings. I adore my children, and am so glad that I have blogged about their lives as a way or remembering and preserving our memories…but at what point does it cross the line? Is it possible that in this documentation we over-inflate our child’s sense of worth, there by doing them a disservice when they enter the job market?

I would love to hear your thoughts on Generation Z…what are your hopes and dreams for the emerging generation? What values/beliefs/hopes do you wish to pass on? What would you like to see change? What values from the “Matures” and “Baby Boomers” would you like to see continue in our society?

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Divas and Dudes

Contrary to popular lesbian stereotypes, the majority of our friends are straight with most of those having kids. We’ve been to exactly one gay bar exactly one time and it was about as both appealing and appalling as any other bar. Neither of us are man-haters. I won’t leave the house without lipstick. We’ve been together nearly nine years, we’ve both been highly involved in our church, and many of our straight friends have been to more Pride Parades than we have, primarily because we’ve been to exactly zero of them. As if that doesn’t raise enough eyebrows, we went about embarking on a journey to get pregnant.

For we same-sexers, getting pregnant is a deliberate, planned, and oftentimes prayed for occurrence. “Oops!” is never a part of our conception story. We correct the doctor’s estimated delivery date because we know Exactly. When. It. Happened. Being a new mom turns your world on its ear. Being a mom of twins presents its own unique challenges. Being a lesbian mom add several layers of trickiness.

One thing I’ve learned as a mom of twins is that we have to anticipate as much as possible, plan as best as we are able, and be prepared for the unexpected. One thing I’ve learned as a lesbian mom is that you pretty much have to do that in almost every area of your life due to the often-experienced discrimination against same-sex couples.

Medical care, for example. None of my straight friends had to first interview their fertility clinic, their OB/GYN, the pediatrician, and the daycare to determine their level of openness and willingness to help me get pregnant, deliver, treat, and care for our children. The conversations often went something like this: “Hi, my name is Rachel and this is my partner, Jennifer. I am pregnant with twins and after they are born, Jennifer will also adopt them. We will both be their moms. If this is an issue for you personally or with the staff in general, please let me know now so that we might find a more open and professional provider. Your clinic/practice/school comes highly recommended but with all the other things that will come at us with twins, we need to know that those we entrust for the care of our children are supportive of our family structure.” I am grateful to say that we chose the best providers and all of them stayed on board. Not so on the spiritual front.

Do you know how hard it is to find a church that is open to and accepting of a two-mom household? Try locating a couple of those in your area that isn’t the “gay” church or some one-off splinter denomination. And once you do, does it have a good children’s program? Does it have a children’s program at all? Does the worship style fit with the ways you feel most connected? Do people avoid shaking your hand during the giving of Peace because a husband isn’t around to make them comfortable? As open as our mainstream Methodist church is in general, there was a small but palpable sense of displeasure that the pastor baptized the children of a same-sex couple in their church.

Godparents & Pastor

Growing up, I was very involved in my youth group and Young Life; I was the President of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. I received my undergraduate degree from a southern Baptist university, where I was also a Young Life leader. So it’s no wonder that I’m surrounded by many people for whom my coming out kind of threw their preconceived notions of what a gay person was like through the cross shredder. I am so blessed that many of those friends have come out in a way themselves: more accepting, more open to others unlike themselves. A handful in my life did not, particularly after I decided to get pregnant.

One of the favorite questions of the disapproving is “who will be the male figure in their lives?” asked with the connotation of “Gotcha, bitch!” and the inflection of shards of glass. Unsurprisingly, my friend whose husband was killed in a tragic car accident when she was five weeks pregnant has never been asked that question. Ever.

Still, it’s a fair question – one that I’ve thought about ever since we decided to get pregnant. More so once I knew that one of the twins was going to be a boy, and particularly since our son is outnumbered 3 to 1. Which means that he is four times more likely (I’m counting the nanny) to see a woman do an activity to model from than he is a man. Take, for example, the benign fact that we often put a bow in our daughter’s hair because (a) they’re super teeny and cute, and (b) she’s got long bangs that need help staying out of her face. About half the time, though, she yanks the bow out of her hair and tosses it to the ground. Last week, I saw my son go pick up the newly discarded bow and put it to his head, holding it there and looking up at me.

I think for most diversity-inclined, open and reconciling folks, his action might be understood as mimicking behavior that he observes, maybe even seen as cute. For the homophobes, it would be precisely the reason that gays shouldn’t have kids because a 12 month old putting a bow to his head wouldn’t have happened if there was a man around and gay people are just breaking down families across the country leading to economic depression, terrorism, and swine flu.

When it comes to clothing and appearance, yeah, I’m a little sensitive to gender stereotypes. As a lesbian mom, I think twice about putting Mateo in his pink Ralph Lauren boys polo shirt that is friggin adorable because omg how would that LOOK? So when he wears it, I’m sure to pair it with rugged blue or otherwise clearly boy shorts or pants, all the while telling myself how absurd the logic is.

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I am also a very practical person, however. We (very gratefully) receive lots of hand-me-over’s from friends and from Jennifer’s clients, so there’s lots of clearly boy and clearly girl clothing in the closets and drawers. If I’m doing the shopping, more often than not, I economize on the bottoms by buying boy clothes (like sweatpants and cotton shorts) that our daughter can wear as our son grows out of them. I mean seriously, it’s gray sweatpants! Does she really need pink ones or gray ones with a pink flower to let the world know they’re for girls? My checking account says no. I’ll differentiate with the tops, thanks. Plus, have you seen how short the summer shorts are for little girls? For crying out loud.

Diva

Harper is more cold-natured and will still sleep in poly/fleece footed pajamas. The pajamas that were given to her brother. The same ones that have footballs all over them. Just two days ago I was going to return some pajamas that I had purchased for Harper because I had looked in their closet and found that she still had all of Mateo’s 18 month pajamas she can still fit into for a while(on average, there’s a two inch and two pound difference between the two). But then I thought “you know what? She doesn’t have any of her OWN pajamas and I am going to keep this cute lady bug ruffled sleeve pajama set for her after all.” So in my practicality, I still aim for fairness. Right now, we generally have a no-dress rule in the house. Not because we don’t want to put Harper in the girl box, but because quite frankly, I think it’s just cruel to put a little girl crawler in a dress which invariable gets caught under the knees.

I was once asked by a co-worker “which one of you follows the man’s role in the house?” I am not even kidding. He was referring to household chores such as mowing the lawn and changing air filters and taking out the trash, but still. If I were step back and watch us in motion, it would look a bit of a dance: Each of us alternative which baby we bathe each night, putting the kids down together, then one of us cleans up the bath area which the other gets dinner started while the former cleans up the kids’ dinner area, then eating dinner together, then one of us tidying up the play room while the other cleans up the kitchen. On a Sunday evening, one of us restocks diaper stations while the other takes out the trash. I’m better at the bills. She’s better able to accommodate the lawn during the day due to her flexible work schedule. Because we both share in all the responsibilities of our household and child-rearing, our children will witness a sense of balance because of it.

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For us, navigating the waters of gender norms with boy/girl twins reaches far past clothing selection and chores and their play. The key will be to grow two children that are independent, confident, and respectful of themselves and others. And I think most parents would agree with those goals, regardless of what their gender profile is.

I’m not minimizing the role of a man in the everyday life of a child. And for us, both our children will be afforded generous time with their grandpas and uncles and our male friends. Our situation isn’t perfect. But neither is anyone else’s.

Being same-sex parents certainly accentuates our concerns for fairness and equality for our children, both in terms of teaching them how to respect those around them and in terms of our hopes for environments that will be supportive of their family. We are fortunate to be surrounded by people in our lives who have been forging well worn paths of fairness and equality long before we came out and long before we decided to have kids. And those folks are straight! In addition, we don’t have to look much further than some of the contributing writers here on HDYDI to gain perspective on the fact that a little boy trying on something of his sister’s doesn’t necessarily have to be a big fucking deal.

So how do we go about handling the gender norm stereotypes? It’s day to day. I’ll keep letting you know how its going. For now, I’m off to finalize the order for two dolls I’m purchasing, one each for Mateo and Harper. None of the dolls’ clothing will be dresses. And none of it will be pink or blue.

Mother's Day Lunch

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Picture this:

Our family of six is out for our nightly post-dinner, pre-bedtime walk.  I am pushing Brett in the single stroller, Brian is pushing Aaron and Brady in their side-by-side, and Alaina is riding next to us on her big girl bike. A&B spontaneously burst out into song. We’re not sure what words they are singing, but the melody sounds a bit like “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star”. Brian and I take a moment to smile at each other and share a “Yup. All of this is ours.” proud moment. And then…

Screaming! Terror! A chorus of Brady’s “NOOOOOOOOO”. Aaron’s silence (because his mouth is otherwise occupied, full of his brother’s arm.). In 1.1 seconds we’ve gone from a Norman Rockwell painting to an audition tape for “Nanny 911”.

Sadly, we have no idea why.

And then, back to singing.

And so it goes. 22-month old brothers who love each other one second and are trying to kill each other the very next. Over nothing. Brady enjoys hitting and hair pulling, Aaron prefers to bite. Neither have ever turned their aggression towards anyone except their other half. And as quickly as they turn it on, they are over it. Leaving their father and I to scratch our heads and stare dumbly at them – and each other – thinking “What the HELL was that?”

We know they love each other. They play, they cuddle, they bring each other their cups and conspire together. We listen to them on the monitor in their room at night talking in their little twin talk we don’t understand. We hear them waking up in the morning and whispering to each other and giggling before they shout out for “DaddEEEEE”. So what is going on? Why are they so hell bent on hurting each other for what seems like no other reason than sport?

Perhaps it is a function of spending too much time together? Perhaps they are just boys being boys? Who knows. But it is frustrating to say the least. And mind-boggling that after 15-seconds of all out WAR, before we can even react, they will go back to just dancing or singing or building a tower together.

Please tell me we’re not alone!

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This weekend, my husband Jon and I  watched our friend’s son Ben along with our twin boys Nate and Alex.  I learned some valuable lessons, most notably that Jon and I are definitely two-kid parents. I also had a super huge light bulb go off in my head. Twins versus singleton: it is very different, from both sides.

In the past, most of my focus has been on the negatives of parenting two the same age. Nate and Alex always have to share. They always have to wait. They never get alone time. In all of this, I never understood what my twins are GAINING from this experience. They are great at sharing. They have patience.  They have each other. It’s all cliche but it is true.

All of this was highlighted over the weekend when we threw Ben into the mix. Nate and Alex are used to waiting their turn to speak, or when they do speak, they often speak to each other. Ben is used to talking to adults, so even when Nate and Alex talked to him, Ben wanted to talk to the adults. Nate and Alex often have to wait for us to help them, so they’ve learned to try to do things themselves if we are busy. Ben often has the help of multiple adults, so he wanted us to do things for him.

This last point was highlighted frequently in physical activities. Jon and I simply can’t do everything physical for two 30+ lb children, so we rely on the boys to do a lot of the physical stuff. They take off their own clothes, climb into their chairs, climb into the tub, wash their own hands, climb into their car seats, etc. We’ve pushed them into more physical independence because it’s easier for us. It was very interesting to be around another child the same age who could not or did not want to do these things.

In no way am I saying either situation is better. What I took away from this weekend is that it will always be hard for twin parents and singleton parents to relate to one another on tackling issues because parenting multiples and parenting one kid are such completely different experiences. But I’ve always looked at it from the twin mom perspective. As a twin mom I’ve had to do things, so many things, to compromise but I could always justify it because I have twins. I now see things from the singleton mom perspective, where your kid relies on you for so much.

I’m so very glad we had this weekend, for me, for Jon, for my boys, for my friends, and for Ben. I feel like everybody won in some way. Our friends got a much-needed vacation. My boys got to take in another boy like a brother. Ben got to live in a house with “siblings”. Jon and I took away a better understanding of the things our boys have gotten from the experience of being a twin, lessons I will never forget. And I feel like I will be a better friend to my singleton mom friends when they talk to me about their trials and tribulations.

Now who wants to take my boys for a weekend so you can experience singleton versus twins?

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This morning, one of my husband’s college friends sent news that they’re expecting twins. I have heard of a lot of multiples since becoming a twin mom, but all of those announcements have been through my local multiples group. This is my first experience with a real-life friend becoming pregnant with multiples. I had no idea how excited I would be!  I can’t stop myself from making the longest mental list of advice (and assvice). Before responding to their request for advice, I need to narrow down my response. So… what three things would you tell a real-life friend expecting multiples? They already have one kid, so they’re not rookie parents. Here’s my gut reaction advice:

1. Pick up Dr. Barbara Luke’s book When You’re Expecting Twin, Triplets, and Quadruplets. Read the nutrition information, pre-term labor, and prematurity sections. Post the pre-term labor signs on your fridge.

2. Make sure you are going to an OB that specializes in high-risk (or multiple) pregnancies.

3. Line up as much help as humanly possible for after the babies are born.

What do you think? What would be your best three tips?

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