For as long as I live I will always remember the day we heard the word "twins" for the first time. It's amazing how one little word can completely change your life forever. Even after the sleepless nights, the endless diapers and the continuous crying, I thank God that the word that changed our lives was a word packed with blessings and wonder - when everyday so many people hear words that are devastating. It never ceases to amaze me that perspective makes all the difference in the world. Even when you have two infants who play tag team throughout an endless night, and after counting to 16, you lose track of the number of times you've crawled out of your bed, you can still count your blessings.
Our first two children were adorable, healthy little girls born 23 months apart. But after delivering our second daughter, I had some complications that lead to an emergency surgery and a blood transfusion. I wasn't all too excited to get back into the baby making game for quite a while after that experience! It wasn't until our second daughter was about three that we decided if we were going to have more children, the time had come. We were out of the diaper stage at that point and I knew if we didn't get back into it soon, we wouldn't want to go back at all.
In August 2009 I found out we were expecting again! We were so excited. It had taken us about a year to conceive our first daughter, and about 3 months to conceive our second, so it took us by surprise when we got pregnant the first month we tried with our third pregnancy.
Two things stood out to me about this third pregnancy. One, I had morning sickness - which I was fortunate enough to by-pass the first two times. And, two, I began to show before I reached my second month of pregnancy.
When I was 9 weeks along we took the girls with us to our doctor appointment. I knew we would have an ultrasound and I thought it would be great for them to see the baby. At this point I had started to suspect that there was something a little different about this pregnanacy. Other than the morning sickness and the early showing, I had no other signs, but, nonetheless, I had a feeling. I even told Dave the night before our ultrasound: "I think we're having twins." But he just smiled and said there was no way.
I think every person who is pregnant asks themselves, what if I am pregnant with twins? And when you look at the ultrasound you might be just a little (teeny) bit disappointed that there aren't two there. So when the nurse turned off the lights and the ultrasound image popped onto the screen and I immediately saw two little blobs come into focus, my heart started to beat like crazy! The image that flashed on the screen is seared into my memory. At precisely the time I noticed, the doctor said: "Bonus!... You're having twins!" I still amazes me to think about that moment.
I remember looking at Dave in complete astonishment (because even though I had a feeling we were having twins, it was still very surreal to actually know that we were). I fully expected one of those "moments" with my husband where I look at him and he looks at me and amazement, love and wonder fill our expressions. However, my husband's eyes were still glued to the screen - and, instead of wonder and amazement, I saw something more like scepticism and incredulity on his face. That's when he said to the doctor: "How do you know?"
The doctor smiled and said, very simply, while pointing at the screen: "Because here's one and here's one."
A week before delivery! Everyone was so excited!
What a day - what an experience! 28 weeks later I delivered two healthy, beautiful baby boys. They each weighed almost 7 pounds and were three weeks early. I think the pregnancy experience is wonderful. It is such an indescribable feeling having a child grow inside you - but to have two at the same time is beyond words. I grew fairly large, but I still had people telling me I didn't look big enough to be carrying twins. I topped the scales, but still only gained about 40 pounds. It really was a great pregnancy... - Okay, towards the end I was absolutely miserable - and at one point Dave found me crying like a baby at about 3:30 in the morning after I had tried unsuccessfully to fall asleep in every possible position on every possible piece of furniture in our house - and I could barely stand because of the pain between my legs because Baby A was so low and I could barely sit because of the back & rib pain baby B's head was jammed up into my ribcage, but, I knew it could be worse! Two babies for the price of one pregnancy isn't a bad deal. Like I said - I think the pregnancy experience is wonderful...
The boys only a few days old. Boy, was I tired!
Daddy and his boys right after delivery
Over the past 19 months, since the boys were born, I wish I could tell you how many times I have heard the same expressions and questions: "Wow! You have your hands full!" and "What is it like having twins?" and "How are you doing?" and "Are they good babies?" and "Are you getting any sleep?" I love when people ask me these things and comment on my babies - because I really am proud of them and proud of what Dave and I have accomplished these past two years - but I have to say my favorite comment came from a friend of ours who also has four children (but no twins). When we saw him for the first time after the twins were born he opened his mouth and I expected one of the previous statements to come out. Instead he said: "Is taking care of twins pretty much what I imagine it's like?" Yes! If you've had a baby, you can get a general idea of what it's like to take care of two at the same time, however, you can't really know - I mean, really know - until you've lived through it. Because as much as I tried to prepare myself before they were born, I really didn't know.
My second favorite comment came while I was in Wal Mart one day when the boys were about 6 months old. I had both babies in their infant seats. One was in the front facing me and the other was sideways in the back of the cart. A middle aged gentleman came up to me and looked at the baby in the front and said: "Wow! Isn't it amazing! My son has a little boy about that age and, boy, is he a handful. It's so much work having a baby, isn't it?" I nodded and smiled, then he moved on and for the first time noticed the second baby in the back of the cart and his eyes grew huge and he said: "Holy S--t! You have TWO of them!" Yes, sir, I do. :)
Diaper changes, clothing changes, bath time, feedings (I nursed them until they were 10 months old), lulling to sleep - all of it you do for one baby, then turn around and do it for the next. You get one baby to sleep and the other wakes up. For the first 9 months it was almost a constant go, go, go. We just did it. People have asked me how we did it and I just tell them, we don't have a choice, we just do what we need to do and try not to think about it too much. My best advice to parents of multiples is to take things one day at a time - because whenever I lost that perspective I became so overwhelmed I didn't want to face the next day. Thankfully - THANKFULLY - we've moved past that stage. Now we are in the fun stage. The one where we get to know these two little people and caring for them is so much easier. We are down to 8 diaper changes a day (if we're lucky), instead of 12-16. Sleeping 11-12 hours through the night (hallelujah!), less crying (more words!) and walking on their own. It is still a lot of work, but it is so much more manageable, and getting sleep at night makes all the difference in the world.
When everything is said and done, I wouldn't change having twins for anything! My boys are so unique and so special, but even more so because I couldn't imagine one of them without the other. I know that God never gives us more than we can handle and if He gave us twins than He also gave us everything we need to raise them - and to do it well. Our girls have been great little helpers along the way and we've had so much love and support from our family and friends - it wouldn't be possible without all of the people in our lives.
There are times - many of them - that Dave and I still look at those two little monkeys and are so shocked that we have twins. One of us will say out of the blue to the other: "Hey - we have twins! How did this happen?" And the other one will say: "I know - isn't it crazy!"
Life in our Little House on the Big River is, in a word, full. Ten years ago I married my best friend and since then we have been carving out a life together. This life building thing is an interesting endeavor. As we make each decision, or carving, we are always trying to keep in mind what we want the big picture to look like. What do we want our life to be, to represent? I thank God that He gave me my hubby. He challenges me, encourages me, lifts me up and brings me back to Earth. He is all the things I need, but didn't realize I needed before we were married. We met when we were sixteen years old and I marvel that at such a young age, we were able to recognize in each other the same goals, desires and passions we had for life. In a lot of ways we've grown up together and we are constantly growing still. At the time we were really just children (although it didn't feel that way then), but now I look back and am amazed that we made such great decisions in our lives for being so young. Sometimes I don't know where I begin and he ends, which reminds me of Genesis 2:24 - a man shall leave his father and mother and be united to his wife and the two shall become one - I see this everyday in our lives. As we have been carving our life for the past ten years, we have had an over-all, big picture we are working at, but the little things in life are what keep us the busiest. The trick is to use the little challenges to make the big picture come into focus better.
As I said, life in our Little House on the Big River is full. Ten years after we said I do, we find ourselves with four children, two mortgages, a dog, a cat and more laundry than I could have ever imagined! The Big Picture is full of goals, focus and dreams. The little details are messy, challenging and incredibly lovable! As we focus our attention on carving out our life, the most important piece of the picture is our children.
Our oldest is the Dreamer. She's exactly like my hubby and exactly like me at the same time. She has so many of his characteristics and so many of mine, I say she is a perfect blend of the two of us. She is exactly what I thought our children would be like. Not only is she a blend of our personalities, she is also a blend of our physical looks. People are always telling me she looks just like me - and just like Hubby. I don't know how it's possible, but it's true. Dreamer has the most amazing imagination. She loves to read and to write and she loves history (me, me, me). She is a thinker and tends to be very comfortable on her own, or in a small group of people (Hubby, Hubby, Hubby). She doesn't usually stand out in a crowd, because she doesn't choose to. She is comfortable in her own skin and isn't trying to please anyone else (again, Hubby, Hubby, Hubby). We have taught her that God created her exactly the way she is - and God doesn't make mistakes, so it doesn't matter what anyone else thinks about her - God thinks she is perfect just the way she is. Dreamer knows this and lives it.
Our second born, the Charmer, is a beautiful blend of our extended families looks. She is charming, funny and social. She is more like me than Hubby. Charmer loves to visit and make friends - with anyone, no matter what age. She is a mommy at heart (just like I am) and loves to play house. She is also very, very helpful. She loves making people happy. She is noticed in a crowd because she likes it that way! She usually steals the show with her dimpled smile and her contagious laughter. She is also a question asker. Her questions are most often well thought out and amazingly deep, but sometimes they are very whimsical and silly. She has a harder time being alone, so when her big sister is at school she is almost always at my side asking me questions and wanting me to play with her. Charmer is also very comfortable in her own skin, but she tends to care a little more than Dreamer about what people think of her. I am always reminding her that according to Psalms 139:14 she is "fearfully and wonderfully made; [God's] works are wonderful, [we] know that full well." Charmer is a little girl you can't help but love.
My Lion Cub is our third born, and the oldest (by one minute), of our twin boys. He is 18 months old and looks just like his big sister, the Charmer. Lion Cub is quiet, gentle and very sweet. It's so interesting watching his little personality develop and grow. There are some things I have known about him since I was pregnant with him, and some things we are learning each day. Since I was pregnant with him he has always been the more passive of the twins. He stayed in one place in my womb and was usually the bouncing board for his "little" brother - things haven't changed much since then! Lion Cub loves to be loved on and he loves to be cuddled. I can't wait to find out more about him as he grows up.
My little Monkey is our fourth born and the younger of the twins. He is also 18 months old and doesn't look anything like his "big" brother. The little Monkey is taller than Lion Cub by an inch and, by all accounts, acts and behaves like the "older" brother. He is a beautiful child with almond shaped eyes and a heart shaped mouth. He's unlike any of my other children. Since conception he has been busy and active! He is loud, fast and strong, but, at the same time, he is a sweetheart. Sometimes he will take a couple of seconds out of his busy day and crawl into my lap for a little snuggle, then off he goes again. He climbs, crawls and wiggles his way into any spot he wants to go - sometimes getting himself into trouble!
This past spring we bought a new home on the banks of the Mississippi River. We had lived in our old home for over seven years - bringing each baby home to it. But the time came (when we heard the word "twins!") to look for a bigger house to meet our growing needs. This new home has been an amazing blessing - one that fell into our laps. I have much more to say, but I will have to wait until I have more time to write...
Our children, our marriage, our home. Full. By the decisions we've made and the actions we have taken, we have begun to carve out the life that we have both dreamt of. Some things have been out of our control, but the things that are in our control, we have not taken lightly. God's blessings have been poured on us and I thank Him every day. I pray that the decisions and choices we are continuing to make are pleasing to Him - and, in return, pleasing to us.