Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Waking Up

My baby brother (who now has a baby himself so he really isnt a baby anymore... Perhaps I should call him my little brother and get that image of him as a 2 year old out of my head...) and I had a Christmas tradition growing up. Whoever woke up first would walk the long way to the other person's bedroom (the short way would require going into where the Christmas tree was, which was a no-no) and then crawl into bed with the other. We were always awake, of course (after all, it was Christmas!). We'd lay there and sometimes wonder aloud what was under the tree. And then, usually, we'd fall back to sleep for a few hours (or minutes...) before finally hearing Mom or Dad (usually Mom) stir and taking that as an invitation to start the day. When I came back home after my first semester at college, I laid in bed, remembering that, when I heard a small knock on the door. It cracked open, and Jimmy peaked in. "Hey," he said. And then, wordlessly, this teenager slipped under my comforter and we laid there, in a twin size bed, wondering aloud what was under that tree. It's a great memory. Something I'll always treasure. Growing up, we had our issues (after all, what big sister/little brother combo doesnt) but I always felt like he "got me". As we got older and I married and moved away, our communication skills didnt increase and, sadly, we've grown apart. I mailed him a letter recently and dropped a card in the mail this morning. I'd like to get what we had back. I dont expect him to crawl in bed with me anymore (after all, Peter'd probably be a little freaked out...) but I'd like to know that, in spite of the distance, we are still close. He could call me and I'd be there in a heartbeat. I want him to know that. To know that nothing could change that.

The reason this is so clear in my mind is that, over the last week and a half, I've really seen the bond that siblings have. Watching Bobby and Maya, I realize that the bond they share is twins is so much greater than anything us non-twins could have. Jimmy and I are 4 years apart; my toddlerhood was over when he was born. We didnt have my formative years together, the way we would have if he were my twin. They are with each other all the time. And it shows.

If one is awake and the other is asleep, the awake one will chatter nonstop, touch the sleeping twin's face, anything to try and wake them up. (And what usually happens is that, as the sleeping one wakes, the awake one falls asleep and the game starts over in reverse!). At night, as Peter and I try to drift off to sleep, we hear the nonstop talking between them. To us, it sounds like a mishmash of sounds and grunts. But they answer one another and perfectly understand the other. A cure if one isnt sleeping well? Put the other next to them! They fall asleep and sleep so peacefully together, usually holding hands or spooning. This morning, Peter actually pushed the snugglenests together in the cosleeper so that they could hold hands. Crisis averted.

Watching them together, I cant help but be reminded of Jimmy and watching him grow up. And growing up with him. I know Peter is also reminded of Robert. Perhaps even more so, since their age difference is only 22 months.

I have no doubt that Nicholas and Sophia shared this bond in the womb. Alexander, who wasnt a twin, I believe had the benefit of his older siblings in there with him. Which I guess means these two were like quints... Not alone.

Never alone.


The other day, someone told me that I really have it together. If they could see the inside, they might disagree. On the outside, right now, they would see a woman, cross legged on the couch with her daughter resting on the couch next to her while she feeds her son, nestled in those crossed legs, with one hand and blogging with the other, all the while drinking on her cup of coffee. She fed babies this morning, snuggled with her hubs, showered, and made breakfast. Her house is mostly clean and laundry is caught up.

But if they could see her from the inside out, they'd see that she overcompensates (or tries to) to alleviate her guilt: her guilt of failing her miscarried babies by not giving them a chance at life; her guilt of failing her dead babies by not carrying them long enough to give them a fighting chance; her guilt of failing her healthy, happy twins by not giving them loner than a 27w5d gestation, for making their first months full of alarms and tests and needles, for no longer being able to exclusively breastfeed them. They would see her crushed heart being held together by the sheer love of all her children, by the eyes of the infant son that are looking up at her right now, by the fingers of the infant daughter that hold her like there is nothing- or anyone- else. They would see her eyes constantly searching for the children she has lost: for the eyes she never saw opened, for the laughs she never heard, for the cries she never was able to comfort.

If they could see her mind, they would see her living from moment to moment. Praying to God that this moment- this moment RIGHT HERE- wont be the last. That she will live to see her children old and, possibly, with children of their own. That when she puts her son down to feed her daughter, that he will be breathing when she returns. That her daughter will awaken when she is picked up to be changed and fed. Praying that her husband will come home to her, safely, every night until they are 100 and die together in their sleep.

They would see that she worries **something** might be wrong because her son spits up after eating if he isnt held upright for 15 minutes. That she is concerned her daughter would rather sleep a long stretch than wake up on her own to eat.

That, even though their pediatrician and their NICU doctors tell her they are perfect and fine and healthy, she worries they may be wrong.

But, of course, they dont see that person. They never will because I can keep her well hidden, behind the woman who has it together. My husband sees her because he can see past the smiles and the chores and the lists of what to do when. You see her because you understand where she is coming from and what it means to live two lives, intertwined: the life of an orphaned parent and the life of someone living so that her dead children live through her. But to the rest of the world, she is one of them. One of those mothers who seem to be able to do it all.

Because, as my dad says, I dont know how to fail.


Mother Knows Best Reviews said...

I am just moved to tears by this, Michele. I don’t have any words, but to say how very beautiful this is. God bless all of you.

cheryllookingforward said...

I see you as an inspiration, Michele. I understand how you feel so crazy on the inside, and I appreciate you saying so. Everyone who is struggling needs to know that we all are not what we seem on the outside.
I had a coworker tell me that he thought I'd be a great boss. Little does he know that I'm insecure in everything I do and constantly questioning myself and sometimes feel like I'm barely squeaking by. I know that's nothing compared to raising children, but I get it.

k said...

The image of the babies holding hands and chatting, so attached is so touching.

I think many of us are mothers with two minds. one joyful at the present moment, and one mourning and second guessing the past. You're not alone.

Jill said...

What great memories of you and your "little" brother. I think there is a special bond that all twins have and I just adore the pictures of Bobby and Maya together.

From what I see, you are a wonderful mother to all your children! I think after experiencing this heartache and loss we all experience two lives in a way. xo

quadmom said...

You are seriously amazing, Michele. I admire you.

Unknown said...

You are one amazing mother, wife & person. I hope you know that right down to your core.

sarah said...

sob. (((hugs)))

Barbara said...

I wish I could take away those feelings of failure for you. You didn't, you aren't, you won't be. Circumstances beyond your control have led you along this path and you navigate it with grace.

Hugs Michelle. You are a beautiful light in this community.


Anonymous said...

Michele, this was a beautiful post. reminds me of my years with my younger brother, but listening to the way you describe Bobby and Maya is beautiful.

*huge hugs* we can all relate to some of those "inner" feelings on some level. You are awesome and really an inspiration in how you handle everything.

Busted Tube said...

What a beautiful post! My brother and I had the same Christmas morning tradition, except we never fell back to sleep and always went to wake our parents up :-)

Thank you for sharing your inner feelings. It helps me know that I'm not alone or crazy (because you're definitely neither of those!) and that there's just a whole lot to work through when the loss of a baby occurs. I wish you peace.

Christmas with Kasey said...

You are a great mom. I think as baby lost mommas there are other things going on in our heads. Thank you for sharing!

Catherine W said...

I can't say it better than Sonja, you ARE seriuosly amazing.

Your description of the relationship between Bobby and Maya made me smile and broke my heart at the same time. I'm sure it must do the same to you and Peter, as you remember their big brothers, their sister and their uncle. Even though my twins did not have long together, I know they had a special bond. One that I can never understand. I like the idea of your quints, never alone.

I wish I could take away your guilt and your anxieties. I know that nothing I say can help. Although I am certainly not a mother who even gives the appearance of being able to do it all, I have an idea of what it is like to try and live two lives. xo

Sophie said...

Gosh what would we do without our blogs to express how we really feel inside? What a release!

I always say that I am not a perfect mother, but I try to be and that makes all the difference.

I love that Bobby and Maya hold hands. That is just gorgeous. I hope they continue to be close.


Holly said...

I def think twins have a special bond from the beginning. :)

And really, who actually has it all together? We all just do the best we can and I think you do a really great job.

Lisa said...

Every mother goes through those feelings. We really do.

On a side not, does Bobby have reflux? My son did and he too had to kept upright after eating.

mrsmuelly said...

I understand. I see too. And I'm that way too - busting myself and somehow overcompensating. It's definitely something I've struggled with because there just aren't enough hours in the day. BUT we didn't do anything wrong...we have nothing to make up for. One day we will see all of our children and be a complete family again.

This was a beautiful post.

Sprogblogger said...

As always, you inspire me. And I'm in awe of what you have done, what you continue to accomplish with your love and devotion to all your children.

As far as the rest of your post goes - which brought me to the brink of tears, btw - I'm sure people have told you this before, but I'm going to say it again - I have no doubt at all that the reason your babies got through NICU as "easily" as they did is because of you and your husband. Your devotion to them while you were still carrying them, your devotion to them while they were in NICU. I have never heard of such early preemies doing so consistently well as Bobby and Maya have. And that's something you should remind yourself of, when the crazy and the guilt and insecurity take hold.

You're incredible, and not because you keep a tidy house or because you're seemingly getting through the whole "mother of twins" stress thing without melting down. You're incredible because of the love you have for Robert & Maya, but also for their brothers & sisters. You inspire me, and I'm not all that easily impressed.

Be gentle with yourself. Please.

Debby@Just Breathe said...

((HUGS)) Your journey is certainly not an easy one. I do believe that allot of woman look put together when they are falling apart on the inside. You don't have to be perfect infront of us.
Fear, oh yes it's big time and that is sad. How else can baby lost mothers live, fear is their reality. The promise of forever with our children is always a mothers fear. I pray to God everyday to take me first and I haven't lived in your shoes. I pray for your comfort as Bobby & Maya grow up. I just love the story about you and your brother.
I know my kids must have had a plan and I will ask them about it this Christmas. I pray that the bond will continue with him. I love the way Bobby and Maya relate to each other. We can only dream, us single births, of what it is like to be a twin! God Bless.

Terri Jones said...

CJ had reflux, he didnt keep a thing down for months. He couldnt be put down flat for atleast 15 min after a feed.
You're awesome & I've known that for years. And one of the things that makes you awesome is that you put the truth out here. I bet you are helping countless women who read your blog but never comment. Also you are opening the eyes of those who have never lost a child by providing a glimpse of your reality.
Received the announcements last night & they are taped to the fridge. Love & Hugs from far away.

sara (Angel Anthonys mom..with Alyson on the way) said...

might I also add that . my husband is an I.Twin... even though he is here in Germany and his brother is in Cali .. they still get sick on the same days! they have been insinc since birth!

sara (Angel Anthonys mom..with Alyson on the way) said...

this is exactly how I feel ... my first born, my son .. was stillborn at 31 weeks and I now have a 2 1/2 month old daughter ..
the guilt of my sons loss and everything else...even though the drs caught Alysons placental failure and delivered her 2 weeks early, even though she is normal and nothing is wrong .. I get scared, I get worried too!
She is sick with a cold and I find myself praying that it doesnt become something more (most moms would just think of it as a cold, I think of it as something that could go wrong) ..
I am so afraid of SIDS too!
I just wish that I could write my feelings with such elegant words as you do ... although, I dont think anyone would care.. so I have my own private "fits"...

very well written!

Reba said...

i choked on a cookie when you said you were showered and the laundry was caught up!

then i had tears in my eyes when i got to the part about hoping the one twin is still alive when you're doing feeding the other. that's how i feel still, every time i check on naomi. even with her angelcare monitor happily blinking away.

you are a WONDERFUL mommy and as for the constant worries, the i wonder if they're wrong thoughts...those are part of the "fun" of mothering living babies. i still worry all the time, but it gets easier as time passes and you can tell for yourself that they really are doing well.

[email protected] said...

Your writing is so moving! I know too many that are living this life! Life doing what they have to on the outside, while being someone different on the inside. Missing the children that went to be with the Lord too soon. I too hope to be in that category in March with the baby I carry now at 24w3d! Yet, I am also scared of what it will be like.

B said...

I think guilt and anxiety are just part of this road. But I've heard, both fade over time.

But it stung my heart to read that you had been carrying all that guilt, and then warmed it to hear that you have a place to put all that love. bittersweet.

May the burden grow lighter each day - or maybe not - maybe it is what we need to keep our dead child/ren alive to us.

With you and thanks for your beautiful comments.

love Barb

Crystal said...

I have been keeping up with your blog after meeting you on cafe mom--bereaved moms share. Your strength and faith has always inspired me. The way you stated the person people see and the person people don't is so true and painfully beautiful. People think that we are over the loss of our little ones because we have joy again. The joy of a new baby cannot be masked but that joy, that undeniable joy does seem to mask (at least to the world) the forever pain and fear from losing our other child or children. Thank you, you continue to inpire and strengthen me. I thank God for your little ones and your happiness. I have come to trust Him, not just with the little things but with it ALL. The biggest thing, the life and lives of my children. God is Good All the Time and All the Time God is GOOD. God Bless, Crystal

Heather said...

This is such a beautiful post - you put into words so eloquently some of the emotions so many feel. I know that one day I will have a living baby, and those are the thoughts that will be crossing my head. I also love what you say about your shattered heart being held together by your love for your children.

I wish I could somehow erase all the guilt you feel about things, because it wasn't your fault. But I also know that hearing that from me doesn't change how you feel about it. Just know I am praying for you and I think of you often. I think of every single one of your babies often too.