Why is it that sincere thank you notes are so much harder than ones you’re indifferent about?
Today I sat down to write the most grateful thank you note I’ve ever written, probably ever will write, and the words just would not come.
The note was for the NICU staff at the hospital where the twins were born. A year ago St.Matt was on the first floor watching football and I was upstairs bedresting and reading — and my water broke.
The Schmidtlets were two months early. They were tiny. I wasn’t ready and they weren’t either. Nothing in my years of babysitting or in our baby care classes had prepared me for incubators and feeding tubes and picc lines and lungs that kept collapsing and collapsing. Tubes and tubes and tubes taped all over my babies. Babies I wasn’t allowed to hold. The Wild Imp – who wasn’t wild, he was medicated and sedated into oblivion — I wasn’t even allowed to touch because he was in so much pain.
And the NICU staff somehow held me together, gave me strength, taught me about gavage feeding, and breast-feeding, pneumothorax, and infant CPR. What every bell, alarm, and squiggly line on their monitors meant — how to tell a false alarm from an apnea or bradycardiac event. How to touch a preemie so that he wasn’t over-stimulated and didn’t hurt.
They were there to clap when St. Matt changed his first diaper. And to laugh when Asher managed to pee out the porthole on his incubator. They cheered with us when the boys began to self-regulate their body temps and we could finally dress them. Clothing, snaps, laundry!– this seemed like such a major victory at the time – and we all looked at the too-big size-preemie outfit and said “he’ll grow into it.”
And they’ve grown so big. They’re so healthy. They’re so happy and giggly. They’re so mischievous and chatterboxy –– no clue where they get that from.
I’m so blessed.
So appreciative of all the help, support and love the NICU staff lavished on us during our month-long stay.
I thought, way back a year ago, that I couldn’t possibly love anyone more than I did those palm-size babies.
Last time I wrote that the twins were starting to crawl. At that point it was *wobble, wobble, move a few inches, beam at me.*
Now it’s ZOOOOOM, CLIMB, STAND, FALL, WAIL – in the same amount of time.
Plus, The Wild Imp is stubbornly convinced that he can stand unassisted. He SO can’t. He also believes it’s a brilliant idea to hang from the top of the babygate and then fling himself backward.
I spend much of my day diving across the room trying to prevent traumatic head injuries. As a result I wear the bruises instead of him. Many, many bruises.
But, there’s bedtime and naptime and my writing stays alive in these snatches of time. SEND ME A SIGN’s revisions were approved and it’s been moved on to copyedits (HOORAY!) and I just finished revisions on my second book as well. (Lots of Revision Skittles were consumed in the past two months. LOTS).
And my work in progress is a thing of love. I adore it. Everything about it. Even its writing playlist, which I have to stop myself from listening to when I’m not working on it.
The song I play most often is this one:
And while I won’t tell you what it’s about just yet, a HUGE hint is that this band’s name would be a fabulous title for the book.
Bargaining with babies is hard. I thought the Schmidtlets and I had a deal: no learning to crawl until after I turned in my revision.
The Wild Imp had other ideas. And he is fast.
Baby A isn’t yet crawling, but he’s still mobile: rolling around like a top, scooting backward across the room, and calling: “Mama. MAMA. MAAAAAAMMAAAAA,” if I dare to leave his sight. Better yet, the little wombat would like me to constantly be within reach of his chubby little paws.
Chasing and clutching aren’t the best revision-companions. But that’s what PEI was for. That’s what the hours between bedtime and sunrise are for.
And I finished last Thursday.
Pressed *Send* on the e-mail to my editor – and then, before I could even gulp a panicked breath or sigh in relief:
THE WAILS OF TWO WOKEN NAPPERS
Have I mentioned that one of the major threads in my book is superstition?
My first thought was one very like my main character, Mia, would have had: That was a very bad sign.
Later, after the twins had been soothed, the power restored, and my confidence petted by some Twitter support, I revised my thinking: That was a very good sign – if the power had gone out even a minute sooner, I would’ve been prevented from sending.
And we all know how little I like to wait.
Apparently the Schmidtlets have inherited that trait from me: The Imp is extremely IMPatient, and Baby A is currently calling my name.
Maybe we’ll strike a new bargain: Ten more minutes of naptime in exchange for peaches at every meal.
Yesterday the boys woke up at 4:45. They were fussy all morning, feeding off my own nervous energy.
We were visiting the elementary school where I’ve taught for the past seven years. My first visit since I left in October to go on bed rest. My first visit with the twins.
My first visit since resigning last month.
There were many things whirling in my mind: fears of germs, nap schedules, diaper changes, did I remember binks-Winston-Churchill-teething rings-diapers?
But my mind was most focused on how would I feel returning. Would I sit in the parking lot daunted by the eight months that have passed since I crossed that threshold? Would I feel left out, overwhelmed by all the experiences, jokes, and events I’ve missed while holed up with the twins? Would I remember my students’ names? Would I regret my decision? Would it feel like good-bye?
When I actually pulled in the parking lot I didn’t pause to feel anything. There was a stroller to unload, two sleepy babies to settle.
And it was school. My school. It was a parking lot I’ve crossed a thousand times, a front office I automatically pause to chat in.
School was school. It felt like I’d never left, like I could step through the door of room 202, pick up the pen on the SmartBoard and resume teaching where I left off.
Except my students are a whole lot bigger than they were eight months ago.
I loved my job. LOVED it. Adored my colleagues and felt privileged to work with the students. It challenged, inspired, energized and fulfilled me.
I will miss it.
This morning the boys slept in, we played, cuddled and lazed around and then went to a playdate with the Schmidtlets still in their pajamas. I drove there grinning and so grateful – I love this life. Today and tomorrow and next week-month-year is a combination snow day and summer vacation.
I am so lucky. So blessed. And so thrilled to be able to stay home and saturate myself in baby love and memory-making and writing.
Asher is giggling in the baby sling while I type this. Brad is napping with Churchill and smiling in his sleep – revealing a spot of spinach I missed when wiping his face after lunch.
When he wakes up we’ve got a baby dance party scheduled.
Writing with infant twins is hard. In other shocking news: water is wet, books contain words, new mothers lack sleep.
Maybe it’s that sleep deprivation that kept me from realizing this fact until now. After all, I’ve had the Schmidtlets for six months.
Everything has changed in that last six months – I can spend hours watching little fingers grasp little noses as they try and get their thumbs in their mouths. Or in each other’s mouth. My world fits in the palms of those little hands and I’m wrapped around each of their little fingers. Often literally – they’re both very good at clutching my fingers, shirt, and hair.
It’s not solely an issue of detangling myself from their grasps, and it’s not just a where’s the 25th hour in my day? issue either. It’s an escapist one. It’s a first draft dilemma.
The revision part of my brain isn’t broken. I worked on revisions while I was still in the hospital. But that book is in Agent Extraordinaire’s hands.
And I’m faced with blank screens and ideas that need to be translated from thought bubbles to words on a page – and this is where the hard begins.
Drafting for me was always full immersion. I’d interrupt myself while having a conversation to say “what about…” or “what if…” and then scramble for my keyboard. I’d have 4K Saturdays while St. Matt watched or played tennis. I’d stumble into bed just hours before my alarm because I was being carried along by an avalanche of words. I’d watch my word and page counts rise with delicious pleasure. The real world seemed almost secondary or less tangible than the one in my head – as if it were the layer under which I super-imposed my story.
Well, baby spit up is tangible. And wet and smelly. Baby cries and giggles aren’t to be ignored. And while I’d like to put on my WIP playlist after the Schmidtlets are asleep, it clashes with the ceaseless repetition of the classical playlist on their sound machine. Or the tinkling of their mobile. I can’t tune those out, can’t shut the baby monitor off – and can’t close out this world to escape into one of my own creation.
So I’ve had to work around this, find ways to invite the babies into the world of my head, and find ways to incorporate that world into my reality.
Baby A’s definition of bliss is snuggling in my lap, so I’ve spent hours reading and singing pieces and scenes to him. I just try not to take it personally if he falls asleep. *makes note: scene needs more tension *
Baby B is a mover. He inherited his fidgetpants from me – so I settle both boys in their stroller and we head out on the walking paths. They watch trees and hunker down for naps and I brainstorm, scratching hasty fragments in the notepad I keep in the stroller for this purpose.
And the simultaneous nap? It’s as elusive as a unicorn and just as magical, but when it occurs, I take advantage. I may not be able to fully immerse myself in the world in my head – but with a reality this adorable, I’m not sure I want to.
Speaking of simul-naps. There’s one occurring right now –- time to go unleash some words.
The pictures above represent approximately 0.5% of my photo collection of Schmidtlets with Winston and Churchill. The babies are Very Attached To Them.
Naptime isn’t naptime without Churchill tucked under the chin. And tummy time doesn’t work well unless Winston is within reach.
W & C are exposed to much loving and drooling, so last night unbeknownst to me, St.Matt decided to throw them in with the baby laundry.
This morning I went on the Great Churchill Hunt – called St.Matt – and eventually located both of them In The Dryer.
Winston is fine.
Churchill is crispy.
He must’ve gotten stuck to the vent, because he is definitely dryer-fried.
I took this pretty calmly – much calmer than overdue-for-his-nap Brad. I figured I could order a replacement and have it in a few days. Naptime until then might be a little rough, but it was a short term problem.
I even thought I’d be SMART and order a Back-up Winston and Back-up Churchill.
Churchill has been discontinued.
I can order as many Winstons as I want.
Churchill – crunchy, need-a-replacement Churchill – is discontinued.
And I can’t even find another one on Ebay. I thought you could find ANYTHING on Ebay.
A much-chagrined St.Matt called Pottery Barn Kids customer service. I bet he was calm and steady. The e-mail I sent them included lots of !!!!’s and HELP! and the line: Please save my naptime.
Even as I have this Mommy Crisis, I also have perspective.
It’s a toy. He’s 4 months old. This is more upsetting for ME than it is for HIM.
I know this moment is heightened by having sent my finished manuscript to Agent Extrordinaire, Joe Monti, this morning. Because everything seems more panicked after pressing *send*.
I know that even if Crispy-Churchill can’t be salvaged. Even if Pottery Barn Kids can’t hunt down a leftover Green Frog Thumbie, and even if one never appears on Ebay, Brad will be fine and I haven’t failed as a mother.
Even if it feels like it every time his lip quivers.
You’ll let me know if you come across a Churchill, right?
***UPDATE*** We have a Replacement Churchill being shipped from Ohio and a Backup Replacement Churchill coming from Florida. Thank you so much, Awesome Pottery Barn Customer Service! *exhales*
Almost equally exciting – my cousin-in-law told me about the wash-in-a-pillowcase secret (thanks, Melissa!) now St.Matt can continue laundry-duties without fear!
I discovered recently that not everyone dyes their milk pink for Valentine’s Day, or green for St. Patrick’s Day. This baffles me. Excluding those with dye allergies, why wouldn’t you?
I’m a big fan of celebrations. For big things, I know how to make a BIG fuss… but I like to make a BIG fuss for little things too.
Each year in my classroom I read the kiddos Byrd Baylor’s I’m in Charge of Celebrations because I love the narrator’s mentality of searching out the extraordinary in the ordinary and finding a way to honor it.
With writing I honor the start of each new project by buying a set of my favorite pens – Staedtler Triplus Fineliners. And don’t forget about Revision Skittles — they’re a tiny celebration for every page completed.
Babies are made for celebrating. Everything they do is miraculous; they are snuggle-sized bundles of magic and love. And each day they grow, learn and change. If I don’t stop and celebrate their discoveries as they happen, it will be too late.
So St. Matt expects the phone calls at work:
Today Asher cooed at the ceiling fan.
Brad just rolled over onto his side – twice!
Oh my head, Brad’s learned how to smile, and he hasn’t stopped doing it all day.
Did you get the pictures?
When I sing Twinkle Twinkle to Asher and twinkle my hands, he twinkles back.
Guess what?! I was burping Brad, and every time I patted his back, his wee little hand patted mine.
We celebrate the ounces they gain and the clothing they outgrow. St. Matt celebrates when they sleep through the night… I mostly want to wake them up and cuddle.
And today we celebrate something momentous – they are 100 days old.
I know that celebrating a baby’s 100th day is a Korean and Chinese tradition, but I’m borrowing it. These past 100 days have been filled with more love and happiness than I have any right to deserve, but they’ve also been tinged with some terrifying moments too.
The twins were two months early. They were little. They both had trouble breathing. And maintaining steady heart rates. They spent their first month in the NICU. They’re both still on apnea monitors that go off with heart-shattering regularity and send St. Matt and I flying across the room to check for color changes and chest movement.
That first month left some physical scars on them and emotional ones on me.
It’s not possible to gaze through the Plexiglas of an isolette at the mess of gauze, tubes, wires, sensors and bandages covering your newborn and walk away whole.
After just looking at those pictures and writing those words I had to wake little Brad up, snuggle him close, and reassure myself that he’s nearly tripled in size and is thriving.
So today, we will celebrate. 100 days. They may be little, but it’s no small accomplishment.