Lights on, don’t know what time it is. “I peed my bed” says Jack. For a minute I suggest he sleeps in our bed for the rest of the night. We both think thats a bad idea. I get up, take off the peed sheets, blankets, and pillow, remake his bed and go back to sleep. Sore throat keeps me in bed longer than usual. I hear laughing and screaming, it sounds like it’s coming from outside. Pry myself from under the covers. What are they doing? Go upstairs, cold air rushing in, patio covered in white. Jack and Fiona naked, freezing. Alan yells, how bad what they’ve done is. The whole carton of new milk empty, splattered all over, whip cream container, six yogurt drinks all empty. Take Fiona and Jack in, put them in a warm bath. “I put milk on my body, mommy, we poured it on our whole bodies, our butts, my penis” Jack says. “On my butt and on my vagina” Fiona says. “Will Daddy still be mad?” Fiona asks. “What you did was very bad” I say. I dress them and we go upstairs and have breakfast. We might need to put a lock on the fridge. Alan says we don’t need to have candy in the house, they don’t need it to survive and they do this sorta shit when they’re spoiled. It all started with a game, Pie Face they got for Christmas. I may have put the idea in their head yesterday about a food fight. We were talking about pie face and I said I was going to get them each a can of whip cream and they could have a whip cream fight. They loved the idea. I think its my fault they got into the fridge this morning and had a food fight.
“Momma, momma, lets go look at the fig tree” Jack says. I’m following him out to the backyard as he tells me this. “O.K. Jack I’ll be right back, wait for me”. I run into the house to tell my dinner guests, Alan, and Fiona I’m going with Jack to look at the fig tree. “O.K. Jack, here I am”. We walk out the gate and Jack says “sit here”, so we sit down on the first step that leads to the fig tree. He looks at me, “Shhh, hear that?” with a twinkle in his eye. It’s the crickets, “we can’t see them, but now we can imagine what they look like, remember we saw one on our picnic blanket when we went hiking?” I say. I’ve been using that terminology a lot lately, imagination. I appreciate this break with Jack, this moment when I can follow him, I am not telling him “no, it’s dangerous”. It’s been a particularly hard week, exhausting, a few days I wasn’t sure I could make it till the end. I was intensely fatigued, yesterday at naptime I even fell asleep with Jack and Fiona. I haven’t been in my studio since Monday, or written. The first naptime this week I watched a movie, the next day the babies fell asleep in the car and I just drove. It was surreal, I’m usually being bombarded with questions from the back seat, but I found myself just driving in quiet, it was suddenly easy to drive. I drove until they woke up and we went to a second park! That night I fell asleep in their room putting them to bed. “Come on, lets keep moving” Jack says. We get up and he leads me the opposite way of the fig tree, we walk over the little bridge, along the path at the very top of the yard. My feet walking on the steps after his little feet, both of us barefoot. I realize this doesn’t have to do with the fig tree, Jack just wanted to spend time with me alone, I am grateful. It feels good, I am relaxed, I am following. We climb down the rope I strung between two trees on the steep hillside. Jack loves this. Alan comes out and I ask where are guests are, he tells me they left, “did you expect them to wait around?” I run out front to say goodbye and luckily catch them before they leave.
This week everyday felt intense, everyone needed my attention all at once. When I didn’t have enough to give, the baby who felt they weren’t getting enough attention from me would “act out”. I didn’t have a chance, or the energy to study for my CSET. I started questioning if I could even do it, take the test, have the energy, have the energy for a “real job”. It’s hard raising twins. That doesn’t mean it’s not wonderful and filled with the gift of self-knowledge and discovery. Jack and Fiona fill my life with love that is so big, so pure, so solid, but it’s grueling work, it’s not just physical or mundane, it’s extremely intellectual, brain fatigue, especially now, now that they can talk and ask questions, their quest for knowledge in insatiable. Their quest to push the limits physically keeps me on my toes, keeps me in fight or flight mode with my heart racing, worried they will crack their heads open. Woven into the intense moments are the quiet, sweet, moments like walking in the yard with Jack or reading a book with them snuggled up beside me, or hearing their breathing change as they go from awake to sleeping at bedtimes. The thought of Jack and Fiona going to school, being apart from them for any extended period of time scares me. I will miss them so much. The thought of them growing up and not being little kids anymore makes me so sad, even with this being the hardest, most challenging job I’ve ever had.
It’s a hot summer day, we’ve been playing outside in the water, my night-shirt wet from sitting on the ground. Fiona has gone into the house, is standing on a chair pushing the button that turns on our speakers, but the music’s not on. She’s singing really loud and moving her shoulders and arms. I walk in the house, take off my top, and turn on some music, I flip through a few stations and when I get to teen beats both babies ears stand to attention. Fiona doesn’t have her hearing aids on, I turn the music up loud. The doors are open, they are filming a Netflix movie down at the park, I wonder if they can hear us. We all start dancing, Jack and Fiona run out onto the deck and back in again, I’m tempted, but I would be seen for sure, not that I really care. After the first song is over Jack says “More”. We listen to three more songs dancing away, arms, legs, bodies flowing with the beat, the Teen beat. The music’s not bad for this sort of thing. I’m enjoying this, my naked body four decades old dancing with babies, boobs bouncing, I catch a glimpse of my reflection on the glass door. My body looks pretty good, I watch myself dance, I started watching myself dance in Elementary school. I would pretend I was sick, stay home from school. After my mom and brother were gone I’d dress up and dance. I don’t know where I got the idea, but I loved doing it. In my twenties I went out dancing every chance I got, especially to REGGAE. I loved dancing, since getting married I haven’t gone to see music and dance very much. There’s been family parties where everyone started dancing, my body wouldn’t dance, it’s as if the dance was buried, like the words sometimes, or the creativity. A self-consciousness takes over. But as I’m dancing naked, my oldish body, bouncing boobs, in front of my two-and-a-half-year-old twins, as they dance naked with me I feel a freedom that I haven’t felt in a long time. I almost danced naked out on my deck, I can hear the neighbors now, “Mommy they’re naked” I heard this the other day as some neighbors walked by and Jack leaned up against the railing naked, pushed his body up against the railing as if he was showing them his willy or going to pee on them. I was laughing so hard, I guess I wanted to do the same thing today, then I thought what if we all just walked down to where they’re filming, naked, with shoes on only and hats. We’ll just sit and watch with the other neighbors like nothing is unusual. Tempting. I realized last night at dinner, having so much fun with my sister in law, great conversations, then seeing an artist friend I haven’t seen in forever, who I look up to, love her work, she tells me she was a teacher for seven years and it was the best, she loved it. If you can help one person, if you can make a difference in one person’s life, that is the theme. What I realized was we may not be able to change anything, the people with the guns and the anger and the hate will always win over peaceful people. I used to get mad when I saw people posting on Facebook to pray for Paris or pray for Orlando or Sandy Hook, or the Refugees from Syria, or the kids being shot in gang crossfire, praying won’t do anything I said. But now I get it, all we can do is pray. We can try to change laws and make the world a better place, but it seems like there’s fifty percent of any given population that wants guns, or are racist against this group or that, that aren’t peaceful people. I can’t change them. I can only be myself, I can only help myself, and maybe a few more along the way. I want to go to Pride today and dance naked in the streets of San Francisco.
I’m sitting here at my kitchen table looking out the window at the giant Sycamore tree, full of leaves fluttering in the wind. I’ve been watching this tree grow for eight years. I was training for the Folsom Olympic length triathlon the year the Sycamore was planted. I would ride my bike up the steep hill, seeing the Sycamore as I approached the top. My legs would be weak and my skin salty from sweat. I felt strong that year. It was right before I received the diagnosis of “Infertile” and six months before my mom died. The tree started growing in a five gallon bucket to what it is now, HUGE. Things have changed so much since then. Now it’s late July and within a month the leaves will begin to turn orange. Fall is always an exciting time, it reminds me of my anticipation about a new painting class or about obsessing over projects I want to start. I looked forward to critiques and meeting new artists. I have a collection of work in folders and frames from all the semesters of classes I’ve taken for the past eight years I’ve lived in this house. Many of those semesters I felt I was living a double life, trying to get pregnant and start a family, never talking about it to anyone. Consumed with “next steps” on the road of fertility treatments. When that wasn’t taking over my entire existence I focused on developing my portfolio to get into grad school. Sometimes I would also be training for a 10K. I’ve been working on something, some kind of major project all these years. Last year I didn’t take a class, but felt like I was in school with my six month old twins. I read all the books about development I could and taught the babies everything I was learning. I had to learn all about Fiona’s hearing loss and how to teach her language. I was also busy working on myself, going to therapy, healing from all the trauma I had been through and becoming “Me” again with my new responsibility. Now Jack and Fiona are enjoying spending more time with other kids away from home. In the fall they will be at Early Start three mornings a week. (Fiona’s school for hearing loss, vision loss, and mobility issues) Jack gets to go too, as a sibling. I’m done with therapy for now. I want to take an art class but I looked through every school and art center’s catalogue in my area and found nothing. I am ready to connect with my art life outside these four walls. But maybe it’s not time yet. I will miss that new class feeling this fall and meeting people. I always feel like I need to have a plan, to accomplish something, finish something. Maybe I need restraints and restrictions, somewhere or someone to be accountable to and now that’s me. Life is different today for me than it was when that tree was planted, I’m different now, but I still want to learn and grow. I am learning and growing as a mom though. Jack and Fiona just woke up from their nap. I change their diapers and for now, I will enjoy lunch with my biggest project. We eat quesadillas, three bean salad, raspberries, apples, and chocolate chips. I turn on the wiggles and we sing while we finish our lunch. Next we play, I read Dear Zoo, and later we will take Billy for a walk and continue watching the sycamore tree grow a little bigger and the leaves turn orange.
“Can I leave at 4 today?” Ramona asks me. “Umm, I’ll try and get everything done on time.” I say. I’m losing two hours, I have to let her go early, she’s excited, needs to finish packing for her trip home. I was just counting on the time to finish my chores and get organized for the month. As I write this Jack and Fiona have broken into the fireplace childproofing gate. A new thing to climb on.
I decide while Ramona’s in Mexico I’ll do Yoga and take the babies to Play Center as much as I can. The 12 O’clock classes are amazing and it’s the perfect time for the babies to go to Play Center. I try to make online reservations, 12-1:15. It tells me 1-1:15 is booked so I can’t make my reservations. I call and leave a message. I’m in my room feeling bummed I don’t have very much time today, no painting. Then I get the call back from Play Center. The woman says they’ve made a decision this week to close Play Center from 1-3 because of the low volume of kids during that time. “Whoa, Whoa, Whoa, I joined this fancy, expensive, gym because it has childcare and a great Yoga program. I finally found our fit, a good class and a good time for Jack and Fiona. I need this!” I say. She asks her manager and gets the O.K. She tells me I should just book from 12-1:00 and they will stay open the extra fifteen minutes for me, until I get downstairs. “Thanks” I’m really upset though, in fact I cry like a baby, like a little baby I’m so upset. I had the whole thing planned out. The perfect plan. It’s still gonna work, but now I’m going to feel weird. When I’m doing Savasana, I’ll worry and feel guilty, like I’m getting special treatment. “Assholes!”
I decided I really want to write more pieces about creating families in alternative ways. I’ll talk about my experiences getting to where I am. But also what is the experience of the children? I’ve really been thinking a lot about what Elizabeth Howard said, when she found out at the age of 15 she was donor-conceived. She said the discovery resulted in “Loss of identity”, “disenfranchised grief” and left her feeling “like a freak…uniquely weird and uniquely isolated.” She goes on to say “ But the solution for their ( People who can’t have children naturally) grief is not by creating grief for someone else by depriving them of the experience of being brought up by a biological parent,” she said. “Donor conception is wrong and should be outlawed by any country which respects human rights.”(Excerpt taken from: The Irish Times, “No- Vote group alleges misleading public on child issues”, written by Pamela Duncan. I included a link in my article yesterday)
There are a lot of problems with her argument. First: would she have preferred to not have been born at all? Second: what about adoption? Third: What about conception through sperm donation? There are many questions to ask. There are many unknowns. What is known, a healthy loving family is just that. It doesn’t matter how the family is made up. The structure, the struggles, the love, of having a family and being in a family trump everything else.
I’m getting so mad. 4:44, I put the babies down for their nap at 3:00. They’ve been whining the whole time. This is one of the hardest situation, the times I really need a break and the babies really need a nap, but it doesn’t happen. We went to a new park today. It was a good one, it even had a big tree giving some shade. There were two nannies, one with a ten month old baby. The other, a young nanny watching two kids. Theo, a three year old who I coaxed into saying scared over and over because it sounded so cute and his five year old sister, Nia who was the most mature out of all of us. There was one mom of three, her son Jackson is around the same age as Jack and Fiona. She was really cool, but I felt insecure again. She looked so put together and way younger than me. I don’t know why I have that hang up. It’s weird. I just feel so tattered. Immediately aware of my red face from allergies, my wrinkles, and my undone hair. My clothes covered in food and paint. The nannies once again talked to each other in Spanish the whole time. Theo and Nia seemed desperate to talk and have interaction with me, Jack, and Fiona. I guess the nannies job is just to supervise, make sure no one gets hurt or hurts another child. To feed and take care of all the basic needs. I haven’t seen nannies playing with the kids they watch so far. I’ve seen a lot talking on phones. As I yell “You be careful now” from behind my laptop. Fiona and Jack are playing on the sofa. I’m a firm believer they need to play together without me, of course. Maybe the nannies get crappy pay and feel they do enough work for what they get. I guess it just seems like they aren’t very engaged with the kids they watch. Do they love kids? Do they love their profession? Or is it just a job? And why do I even care?
The picture above shows a funny story. I give jack and Fiona water in their regular cups. Jack drinks out of it, getting most of the water in his mouth. Fiona is usually able to as well. I’m cleaning up from dinner and Fiona starts Bawling! (Oh I realized I’ve spelt bawling wrong in every other post!! I spelt it Balling!) Her face is super red and she even has tears. I give it a minute because I can’t understand why she’s so upset. I see her top is wet, she spilt her water, but big deal. She doesn’t stop crying, so I go over and pick her up. I realize she’s scared. (The way Theo says scared pops in my head) I think the water spilling frightened her and Jack started laughing.
I’m not sure what’s happening with my dad. I felt so emotionally drained yesterday, so drained I wonder if it’s worth it. Danny is going to send my dad money for the plane tickets. We’ve decided if he squanders the money and doesn’t come then that’s it. We’re done. Clean and simple. If he makes some effort for once in his life we’ll keep him in our lives. My mom would say, “Don’t hold your breath you guys.”
I find myself lingering longer and longer in the nursery at bedtime. Our dinner ate, bottles drank, bath taken, It’s already after seven. I could put Jack and Fiona’s sleep sacks on. They would give me no resistance. Instead, I lay on the futon for just a few more cuddles, so I can watch as they experiment, babble, and learn. They put hats, socks and PJ’s on their heads, look at me and smile. They go from movement, trying to topple over the toy chest, to quiet stillness as they look at baby books, their back curved, heavy head hanging down. I start to sing “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” or “All the Pretty Horses” and they come over and lay next to me. I know they remember these songs, the night they were born I had Jack on my chest, Alan had Fiona on his chest. We did skin to skin with the babies for three whole days, barely separating, only when we were so tired that we asked the nurse if we could take a nap. I sang “All the pretty horses” to Jack all night long. I learned the song before he was born. My mom sang that song to me when I was a little girl.
I just put Jack and Fiona down for their morning nap, its 8:36 on Saturday morning. It seems like they will fall asleep, but I never can tell. We’re going to try the gym and Play center again today. I’m sore and need the stretch. Yesterday I went to the gym early so I could have the rest of the day to paint. I take a class called “More Hard Core.” I’m nervous and I rarely feel this way before a gym class. There is a sub today, I’ve never taken the class before so it doesn’t make a difference to me. We grab a BOSU ball, which I’ve never used. A fit guy with an Australian accent starts telling us, “This is going to be a work out like you’ve never had before, you’re going to work out hard but using correct form.” He makes some jokes regarding his accent, he puts on an American accent, trying to get laughs. He’s all revved up, he makes a list of our workout on the mirror. The music gets turned on, we start warming up, Jumping Jacks (Which I hate because they make me pee) running in place, squats using the BOSU ball, we move into the workout, it’s H.I.I.T., high intensity interval training. Not quite intense as Cross Fit, but close. I am DYING, but it feels good. It’s been years since I worked out like that. It was before the first attempt at IVF. Once I got into the whole “Baby Thing” my workouts became mostly walking and hiking. “No strenuous activity” the doctor told me. I questioned what exactly that meant every time I had a transfer, especially the time it worked. No twisting. I just wanted to have a healthy pregnancy and do yoga and glow like the women I had seen who were pregnant and looked like goddesses.
I didn’t make it to my studio yesterday, I didn’t make it out of my bedroom until it was time for Ramona to leave. My legs were weak and already feeling sore. I felt guilty, like I should use my time in the studio or doing chores. I stopped that train of thought, took a hot Epsom salt bath with lavender, and rented a really strange movie, “Martha Marcy May Marlene” on iTunes. It was the first time I ever watched a movie on my computer in bed. It was the right choice. I was fully relaxed and had no regrets for taking a lazy afternoon. I think the most important thing I’ve learned lately in to “SHUT HER DOWN” (“her” is me) I can feel myself unravelling, consumed with doing, getting a twitching eyelid, dehydration, back pain, a fluttering heart, I can see this now. This is when all the mindfulness training and therapy really come into play. I have the tools to STOP. I have the tools to change and to let go of that anxiety and the guilt. To be present in this life, my only life which is really short and goes by really fast.