Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Going Through the Big D (and I Don't Mean Diapers)

I am a statistics kinda gal.

I analyzed statistics for virtually every aspect of my pregnancy so I'd know the likelihood of various outcomes. For example, there was only a 12% chance of both Cassie and I becoming pregnant. Babies conceived through IVF are 5% more likely to be boys than girls. Ten percent of women develop preeclampsia during pregnancy. Ten percent of those develop HELLP syndrome.

Based on my experience with statistics, the more probable an event, the less likely it is to happen to me.

I managed to land on the improbable side of all those statistics, but one can't always be so lucky.
Parents of multiples are 17% more likely to divorce. And here, I'm just another statistic.

After 13 years together, Cassie and I called it quits. This happened over a year ago, and it is old news to most everyone. I have no desire to air all the dirty laundry, but my new status as a single parent changes nearly everything in my little family. It's the next page of our journey and it will inevitably be full of its own challenges and delights.

The long and short of the "cause" of this break up:  we forgot to take care of each other. Amidst the baby bottles, sleep deprivation, constant sniffles, headaches, backaches, toothaches, and heartaches, we lost sight of one another's needs and wants. We treated each other as co-workers, and after three years of that, we couldn't get back to "us". I mention this not to point fingers, make anyone feel uncomfortable, or stir up conflict, but as a word of caution. Whatever life situation a couple discovers themselves in, that relationship absolutely must remain a priority. Hectic work schedules, sick children, financial struggles, or just the mundane of life can all overshadow a marriage. How quickly it happens! When the dust clears, the resentment and apathy are all that's left standing.

So here we sit, figuring out a parenting plan, financial arrangements, division of assets, division of debt-- and we have five girls with broken hearts. All of us for our different reasons, but no one is unscathed.

Take care of one another. Be respectful. Be understanding. Be careful with the hearts of the ones you love. The loss of a relationship has far-reaching effects. Especially on the little ones.

Friday, July 27, 2012

All I Really Need to Know I Learned Before My Kids Went to Kindergarten

I let this blog go for over a year. Seems my head fell off for a while, but I've re-attached it and am excited to get back to hearing myself talk.
The girls are 2 years and 9 months old (give or take).Since I last checked in here, our household has celebrated 6 birthdays. What a difference this time has made!

The last 18 months have been a time for learning: learning about myself, my children, my life, my past, my future. But most important, I've been learning about the present. And I want to share  some of the things I have learned.
I've learned that children are the carriers of joy. They see the world as it truly is; the way we have forgotten it should be. We can learn so much by adopting their lens to view everything: the good, the bad, the terrifying, the remarkable.

I've learned that the too-often-used-as-a-Facebook-status-quotation is true: People come into your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime. I've learned we never really know who's whom. So enjoy them and learn from them while they are here.

I've learned that three 2-year-olds with the stomach flu really IS my biggest nightmare.

I've learned that cultivating relationships is a daily process. It requires conscious, selfless, dedicated effort. And while a truly symbiotic relationship is worth the work, it is decidedly a two-way street.

I've learned that my emotional resources are valuable and finite. I will not waste them on those who do not appreciate them.

I've learned that triplets + carnival = inevitable financial ruin.

I've learned that there is a fine, fine line between selfishness and self-preservation. I've learned that I don't walk it well.

I've learned that forgiveness is vital. If it is requested, do it willingly and quickly and without condition. If it is not requested, do it willingly and quickly, but be no one's fool. Move on from those who take your forgiveness for granted.

I've learned sleep is like money. The more you have the more you need.

I've learned that the human heart's capacity to love is truly limitless. So is it's capacity for pain. Adjusting the way we love to avoid the pain leaves us numb. It's no way to live.

I've learned there's truly nothing a two-year-old girl won't try to put in her nose, or mouth, or vagina....

I've learned that the more company you have, the more likely that girl is to try the latter orifice.

I've learned that crying in front of your partner is bonding. Crying in front of your kids is cathartic. Crying in front of your friends defines who your friends are.

I've learned that a child unabashedly laughing her head off is the best mood-improver in the world. That and Damn You Auto-Correct.

I've learned that living in the moment is harder than it sounds. And it's the only way to secure memories. So, I am learning to live wholeheartedly in this moment.
And this.
And this.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

There are No Dumb Questions. Only Dumb People.

Our situation practically begs for questions. Everywhere we go we get interrogated. "Are they triplets?" "How big were they?" "Whose are they?" (cringe). We vary our responses dependent upon where we are and who is asking. If we're in this hillbilly town in which we live, we usually lie. "Oh, they're mine" or "They're hers" or "Dunno. We found 'em". It beats having to outrun angry villagers with pitchforks. If we're in Olympia, we usually release a bit more information. But sometimes I do sometimes feel like we're being given the third degree.

Sometimes when people realize that Cass and I are BOTH the moms, they will just turn on their heel and walk away. Mid-sentence. That's disheartening, but I guess it's better than them saying something in a tone that would scare the kids. Others will approach us and say, "I think your family is GREAT. Keep up the good work and best of luck!" Fortunately, there are more of the latter than the former. And that gives me hope.

We get a lot of questions about the "donor". Gotta be honest, I don't even really think about him. Cassie got a blood transfusion when she had Drew, but we don't spend much time thinking about the person who donated the blood. Before the IVF procedure, we spent a lot of time choosing a donor. We looked for intelligence, values, and, obviously, looks. But the second we conceived, the girls became all ours. And while they inherited genes from the generous stranger who donated sperm, all their traits and habits are uniquely their own. So, I'm always a bit startled when people ask about the donor. Simply because, well, I kinda forget he had anything to do with this at all. I look for characteristics that remind me of Cass or her family. But the things that are unfamiliar just become unique to the child.

Most strangers with questions are well-intentioned. We're an unusual spectacle, and we know it, so we expect some inquiries. But, wow. Some people. It seems that since we have the gall to appear in public, people feel entitled to ask either the dumbest or the most personal of questions:

"Did you have them vaginally?" Dude. Did you just say "vaginally" to me? In Safeway? Who the hell asks that? In return, I usually ask them about their bowels.

"How big did you get?" Well, this is a tough one. Do they want my weight? Our combined weights? A measurement of some sort? I usually say, "even bigger than I am now". A fat girl saying that usually embarrasses them and they move on.

"Are they natural?" How does one answer this? "Yes, but they use artificial sweeteners..."? "They are cyborgs?" I know they're asking if we used fertility drugs, but again, you are a stranger. I am extreme-coupon-shopping for Triscuits. Go away!

"Which one is the smart one/cute one/brat?" I dunno, but I bet I can guess who the stupid one is in YOUR family!

"Are they identical?" I realize I see them all the time and can easily tell them apart. But, seriously. Drew is 3 inches taller than the other two with green eyes, while the others have blue. So, um?

Most of our friends and family are pretty well-versed on the whole situation, so they've had their questions answered. And we don't mind their questions because they know us. But there have been some comments that blew me away.

One friend said, "Now that you've been pregnant, don't cheat on each other with men. You'll be much more likely to get pregnant." I'm SO glad you told me. I was just waiting for a free weekend so I could cheat with a man. But now I won't. You saved me a lot of heartache...

One incredibly ballsy friend said, "The girls are old enough now for daycare. It's time for you to get a job." She has not been invited back.

I'm always amused (and not-so-amused) when people tell me they know "JUST what we're going through!" They say, "Oh, my two sons were born 2 years apart, so I know JUST what you're going through!" or "I raised FOUR kids, so I know JUST what you're going through!" (Of course, those four kids took 12 years to all be born...) Actually, you don't know what we're going through. Don't get me wrong, our kids are miracles and our worlds revolve around them. But, having three newborns, then three infants, then three toddlers is just not the same as having a 12-year-old, an 8-year-old, a 4-year-old, and a baby. Not saying that isn't insanely hard--it undoubtedly is. Nor am I saying this is necessarily harder. It's just different and it comes with challenges (and joys!) that are unique.

Generally speaking, I really enjoy answering people's questions. I am so proud of my girls and, to be honest, with us! It's a story that's hard to tell in soundbites, and I worry about some fools' reactions, but overall, it's my favorite subject to discuss!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

She Ain't Heavy; She's My Sister!

A friend of ours recently told us that it's magic and wondrous how much we will love our children. But when they start to love each other, it will change everything.

Being natural twins, Devynn and Delaney have always had an innate, somewhat creepy, connection. They often awaken within seconds of each other, even when at opposite ends of the house. They become agitated and upset when the other is sad or distressed. They certainly have a bond unlike anything I've seen. But the relationship between all three has now blossomed into a fasinating sibling alliance.

The rivalry and infighting is already in full effect. They bicker and tease and torment. While I was a bit disconcerted when it began so early, I wasn't shocked to see it. There's a fair bit of triplet violence, and at any given time, each kid has at least one bite mark and a sisterly bruise. Despite the fighting, there is a lot of affection. And I am happily surprised by their love and concern for one another.

Devynn and Drew have strong attachments to their blankets. In fact, I wonder sometimes if they have actually grown into the webbing of their hands. They drag these smelly, grossness-encrusted shrines around like Linus, and we have to sneak them away for the occasional surreptitious laundry date. Delaney has no real interest in the blanket phenomenon. However, whenever she's having a meltdown, Drew will bring her every blanket within reach, trying to somehow comfort her. Eventually, Laney will just take one out of pity and pretend to be mollified. What she really wants is a binkie for each hand and one in her mouth. So, if Drew or Devynn seems the least bit out of sorts, she will find a binkie lying around and forcefully insert it in the screaming sister's mouth. It's an effort of love, but it rarely has good results.

Occasionally the constant crying and whining even gets to the kids. If Laney has had a particularly rough spell, Drew will walk by and casually toss a binkie in her lap. In other words, "Stuff this in your pie hole. I'd like to have some peace and quiet around here!"

Yesterday, Delaney was sitting in the arm chair and Drew was trying to climb up to sit by her. She'd get halfway up and slide back down to the floor. Her frustration was building, and she was on the verge of a Drew-sized tantrum. Ever-helpful Laney finally intervened. She reached down, placed one hand on each side of Drew's head, and pulled as hard as she could on her hair. She simply was offering assistance! But again---ended badly.
We are suckers for a cheap laugh, and we will do nearly anything to elicit a giggle from the girls. Mainly this is done by tickling. So whenever Drew spots an unattended sister on the floor, she drops down next to them and "tickles" them with great ferocity. Unfortunately, her efforts often leave blood blisters and scratches. But she means well.

The other morning, Dev was laying on the floor with her blanket--just chillin'. Drew came over and petted her back for a moment. It was simple and sweet. Just a bit of affection struck her and she showed her sister some love.

All this love can cause some problems. Delaney can barely stand it when Drew is napping. She points to the bedroom door about every 90 seconds and says, "Dew-dew?" Since they usually sleep in the same room, if she awakens first, I have to grab her and get her out of the room quickly before she realizes Drew is still sleeping. She will give an ear-splitting shriek of excitement to attempt to wake her sleeping sister. And will not stop until Drew is as happy about the situation as she is.

The kissing...can get a bit out of hand. Kids this age haven't quite figured out the whole "pucker up!" thing. So they give huge, gaping, open-mouthed kisses. When Laney is feeling lovey, she'll come at one of her sisters with her jaw practically dislocated looking for a kiss. Now, since she has been know to be a biter, her sisters typically turn tail and run. But occasionally they'll chance a smooch. And if it goes well.... soon the drool soaks the carpet, their tonsils are involved; it's really quite gross. I don't want to discourage their affection, but it does require intervention after a while. When their teeth start clacking together, I usually break it up.

I've always admired and somewhat envied the bond between sisters. I sincerely hope that our daughters will always be there for one another, be each other's best friends, and just love one another to pieces.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Expecting the Unexpected (And Unexpecting the Expected)

Kids are unpredictable little buggers. They have more emotional and mental juke moves than imaginable. Working around the daily surprises keeps life interesting.

Sitting on my butt for 8 months, cooking these little wonders, I had a lot of time to plan. I planned how a day in the life would go. I planned when bedtime would be, what they would eat for meals, what adorable outfits they would wear, who would be with us at the births, who would help us in the first years. But babies don't care about plans. The better planned out an idea was, the more atrociously awry it went.

The unexpected started at the beginning. Triplets were about as unexpected as it gets. I really hadn't imagined it was possible. Twins, possibly. But three? Huh-uh.

As I've mentioned before, the pregnancies were ugly. They were the Murphy's Law pregnancies. We tried to be flexible and roll with the punches. But at the end, when Cassie and I were both on bedrest--alone and terrified, we got a taste of what was to come.

I "expected" to be able to do this on our own. I thought, "yeah, it'll be hard. But we can take care of three infants/toddlers/kids by ourselves." It may be legal for one person to care for three infants, but it isn't very safe, and it certainly isn't the most attentive of environments. We needed a lot of help.

I "expected" my kids to sleep through the night at 4 months. Even typing this, I'm actually giggling out loud. We have yet to experience a night where all three kids slept 8+ hours without requiring a bottle, rocking, binkie, or some other sort of interaction. Now admittedly, they sleep a lot more than they used to, and we can expect large chunks of rest that, even 4 months ago, were rare. But my expectation was blown out of the water by a painful, sleepless reality.

I "expected" we'd have more company than we could handle, and I "expected" I knew who the majority of visitors would be. I've always thought myself a good judge of human behavior. But I admit, I was astounded by the people who came through for us (and, to be perfectly honest, the people who were obviously absent) through the first year. Cassie's co-workers provided delicious meals and bags of groceries while we were on bedrest. My wonderful brother, who had four school-age kids of his own, came out while we were pregnant and completed a "honey-do" list as long as my arm. When the first round o' kids came, his amazing wife came to town. She stayed at our freezing little cabin with questionable cable and very little phone service. She tidied and readied it. She washed all the kids' bedding and clothing. She picked up our dogs from the kennel and took great care of them. Then when I was released from the hospital, she came and helped me with the twins while Cassie was in the hospital with Drew. She moved all of our stuff from the cabin to the Tree House, from the Tree House to a friend's house, from that friend's house to another friend's house, and then back to the cabin. She was our hero. It is quite possible that one or more of us would not have survived without her help. And her kids and husband were so patient to let us borrow her for such a long time. We also had wonderful help from Danielle and Cassie's mom and sister in those first few weeks of settling in. They really came through for us in big, unimaginable ways. And, of course, Nanny/Auntie Cathy has been invaluable. Without her, we really could not have done it. Not sure what we would've done. Go on welfare so Cassie could stay home? Sell drugs? Not sure, but I am not exaggerating when I say, we could not have done the last year without her.

I get melancholy reading my family and friends' Facebook statuses which say, "Had a great dinner with three generations of family!" or "Thanks so much to so-and-so who stayed with my kids so we could go out on our weekly date!" or "Had my brother and his kids over for movies and popcorn!" I so wish I was geographically close to friends and family. Our friends in Seattle and Tacoma like to remind us that we live "SO far away!!". So, for the most part, folks aren't likely to make the hour long trip to visit. I understand. We all have busy lives. Oh, but how I CRAVE adult conversations, changes of human scenery, and diverse energies in the house. A friend from Billings visited this month and it was heaven! It was just so refreshing to have someone new around. The kids were happier, they slept better, and so did moms!

Our kids love meeting new people, but without a lot of help and planning, it's very difficult to take the whole posse out. If Drew doesn't need a nap, then Dev just fell asleep. If Delaney is feeling well, then Drew is catching a cold. So we have no choice but to rely on people to come to us. But, sadly, the novelty of us wore off quickly. And now, I am forced to turn to Sesame Street for company.

Damn, lovable little Elmo!

I can't blame folks for not being more involved. Truth is, I had no idea what the reality of triplets in a tiny town with no friends or family around would be. So how can I expect others to know what it's like? Fortunately, in a few months, I anticipate (not expect...I dare not use THAT word again!) our kids will be a bit more flexible and able to handle outings. And, as our beautiful Northwest weather dries out a bit, that will at least allow for some fresh air!

Expectations are funny things. We place so much emphasis on our arrogant projection of how others will behave. We have full control of these projections. But we have no control over the behavior we've convinced ourselves to expect. Inevitably, we are disappointed or unprepared or otherwise surprised.

I stumbled upon this quote and thought it had remarkable wisdom for parents:

"I do my thing and you do yours. I am not in this world to live up to your expectations, and you are not in this world to live up to mine. You are you and I am I, and if by chance we find each other, then it is beautiful. If not, it can't be helped."
--Gestalt prayer

Being an effective, happy parent requires a great deal of flexibility. No one would ever accuse me of having an overabundance of such. But I'm working at it. Hoping for the best, preparing for the worst and viewing the unexpected not as terrifying, but as exciting.

Friday, October 22, 2010

525,600 Minutes

Never has a year of my life flown by as quickly. In some ways the most difficult year of my life, but in most ways, the best. Where did these minutes disappear? I miss my babies. But I love my little girls.

For this, the "Birthday Blog", I want tell you about each of my little angels. The change and growth which has occurred in the first year has been exponential. So though I've described them as babies, I want to introduce them to you as little people.

Delaney Jill
For so long, you were the tiniest, the frailest. Since, you've come roaring forth to become a healthy, strong, willful little gal. Still gentle, your personality has exploded in recent months, making us smile, laugh, and, occasionally, gasp.

You love music and have some wicked dance moves. You hang on to your little music table and shake your booty, wave your hands and twist your hips. Such a girlie-girl!

You prefer to play independently, but love to mimic your sisters--even mimicking some of their strangest behaviors (like banging your head against the couch?).

You learned quickly how to endear yourself and you work the cuddle-bug angle. I love holding you, feeling you mold into me and doze into a perfectly relaxing sleep. You are so trusting and mild-mannered. When you meet someone new, you flirt and coo--showing off all your cuteness. Everyone gravitates to your cute nature and you have developed quite a fan base.

You crave the skills your sisters have mastered, but are tentative about risks. Besides, why walk when you can bat your big blue eyes and be carried?

You overcame overwhelming odds to meet and exceed developmental milestones. You are a fighter--tiny but mighty! And not so tiny anymore... Born underweight, underdeveloped and at risk, you now are the biggest of the three. You are my little miracle, and I'm humbled to have you in my life.

Devynn Jane

When you were born, you seemed so strong and ready for the world. Within an hour, though, it became clear you were struggling to breathe on your own, and I was so worried when they took you to join your sister in the NICU. However, you thrived and soon I was able to do your caretaking--changing your diaper (the size of a pack of playing cards), taking your temperature, and feeding you from a bottle scarcely larger than an eyedropper. Since Delaney was not in the condition to be held and Drew was still inside Mommy C, I was able to spend all my time with you. Sitting next to your little incubator, I sang you songs, told you stories, and tickled your tiny arm. When I left you at night, I'd stare at your picture on my phone until I dozed off.

You were, and continue to be, my little mystery. Each day you let me in on some of the secrets to your personality. So sensitive, easily overwhelmed, with a cry that rips me in half. Oh, but such a big girl! You walked first (at 10 months!) and are viciously protective of your "little" sisters. You show an intuition and instinct which is endearing and surprisingly mature. You're particular and occasionally daring.

You "sing" yourself to sleep and throughout the night, much to the chagrin of those trying to sleep near you. You laugh with zeal at the smallest things. When you run to me, arms outstretched, it is nearly more than my heart can bear. How I love you, my darling.

Drew Jessi
You were born kicking and screaming, and your energy has never diminished. You wake each morning laughing uproariously and jump up and down in your crib until we join the party. You are my little pal.

One day, when you were about 6 weeks old, your Mommy C was holding you. I came in to the room and said, "Hi, Drew-Drew!" You raised your head and your eyes opened wide in recognition and excitement. That was our moment. We've been joined at the hip ever since. You look at me from the corner of your eye, (so mischievious!) and I am excited for the practical jokes we will play on your mom and sisters.

You feel so deeply--whether it be joy or sorrow. When your feelings are hurt (and how easily they can be), your beautiful green eyes well with tears and I want to wrap you up in my arms and protect you from everything forever. When you are overcome with love, you come running, grab my face with both hands and shriek with joy. You are so filled with passion and intensity. Learning to walk was a bit of a challenge for you (even though you did it at 10 1/2 months, rockstar!) because you couldn't get your feet to slow down. Why walk when you can run?

I hope you always embrace every aspect of living with verve: storm life, fear no feeling, and soak it all in.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

...And then there's Delaney.

When little Delaney was taken to the NICU with noticeable urgency, I made her a little deal in my head: you survive this, you can have anything you want. Always. A pony at 3? Okay. A new car at 12? Done.

Well, I guess she was listening. And my behavior in the subsequent months did a great deal to reinforce her status as a princess.

Let me be clear, I don't mean to imply that I felt favortism toward her, just an unreasonable protectiveness. I rarely let anyone else hold her, I fed her nearly all her bottles, she slept in her car seat next to me in the bed, etc., etc., etc. I was terrified that her fragile beginnings would make her more susceptible to illness, injury, or another malady.

Infants are brilliant. While some of their systems are just jumbles of disconnected information searching for order, their base intuitions are very sharp. For example, when they handed me Drew in the operating room, she immediately calmed and fell asleep. For two days, she was inconsolable unless Cassie or I were holding her. She knew her mothers, and I believe this was only partially from memories in the womb. Humans have thrived for thousands of years because of such instincts.

Well, Delaney picked up on this little chink in my armor... and exploited the hell out of it.

We started the kids on "supervised tummy time" at about one month. Devynn wasn't a fan, but usually just dozed off. Drew would enjoy it for a while, then whine until we moved her to another position. We would place Delaney onto her tummy and she would unload in a heart-wrenching, soul-splitting howl. Giant tears flooded her eyes as she looked at us af if we had betrayed her at the deepest level. That effectively ended that day's tummy time.

She worked this little routine for months. And months and months. When she was six months old, she still freaked out within minutes of being placed on her tummy. She hated it, and only the most cold-hearted could allow such suffering to continue. Drew was rolling from front to back. Devynn was rolling from back to front. They were beginning to scoot around on their butts and tummies. And then there was Delaney. Perfectly content to sit quietly on Cathy's lap or in her bouncy seat, or in an Exersaucer, Bumbo, or any other contraption which kept her out of harm's way.

When we visited the Mary Bridge Neo-natal follow-up program initially, they expressed only mild concern about Delaney's gross motor skills. She seemed a bit behind, but nothing terribly unusual for a preemie. However, at her second visit, they were alarmed at her delay. They scheduled a follow up to track her progress and see if more frequent physical therapy was required.

When we brought her in again, the physical therapist worked with her for a few minutes, and next thing I know, she's got Delaney wrapped around her waist, koala style, with Laney in full cuddle mode. I smirked a bit. I thought, "Huh. Guess we're not the only ones who can't resist her charms." But she wouldn't let go. The therapist tried unsuccessfully no less than 5 times to set her on the floor, but Delaney held on like hot duct tape. Then it was the therapist's turn to smirk. She said, "I believe I see the problem."

Turns out we (okay, okay... I...) had literally SPOILED Delaney into a gross motor skill delay. She had all the skill sets and musculature to perform the tasks in quesiton, but absolutely no desire to do so. The physical therapist told us enough was enough. We were to stiffen our upper lips and let this kid do some growing up.

Well, she's a stubborn one. While she did begin scooting just a few days after this appointment, she still refuses to crawl in the traditional hand-knee formation. She uses one foot, one knee, her butt and one hand. It's cute, but quite inefficient.

Devynn began walking at 10 months, 8 days old. Since preemies are often considered by their "Corrected Age", this would make her 9 months old on the nose when she started walking. Dang impressive! Drew began walking at 10 months, 23 days. Also remarkable!

Then there's Delaney. She'll stand from time to time, but then gets stuck in standing position and can't figure out how to get down. She just stands there and cries until one of us comes to her rescue. Now, this is not terribly unusual, and her development is catching up exponentially. But she lets us know that she is working on HER time schedule, and we need not hurry her along.

I think Delaney will always do things in her little way. There are times when she gives me a little sideways glance, I suspect she remembers our little negotiation, and she'll always know how to work me...