By Brandy Black
I should have known what direction my 40th birthday trip was going when I woke up the morning of our flight with a terrible cold. If I knew then…
Our first day in Hawaii was spent at the pool with all the kids. I hadn’t quite thought through how challenging, even with three adults, it would be to manage twins and a five-year-old. Just getting out of the room was exhausting, the sunblock, floaties, diapers, wipes, bottles, snacks, the list was endless. Then I had the bright idea of purchasing an oversized (literally as big as I am) turtle for Sophia to float around on. I wasn’t thinking, didn’t consider that we would be toting that damn thing around for the entire week. I just saw the smile on my daughter’s face when I agreed to her plea. Once all kids were finally in the pool and on our floats, we quickly realized the water was freezing cold. I know it’s always warm in Hawaii but on the occasional 70 degree day it sure would be nice if the pools were heated! Our water is warmer in California and frankly the weather too! My oldest said “I thought it was supposed to be like summer in Hawaii?!”
“Me too baby.”
After about an hour of freezing our asses off in the pool just to say we did, we decided to have lunch and that is when it all began. Sophia complained of a tummy ache. At first it was minor but it continued to escalate and by the end of the day she just wanted to be in the room. We scrambled to think of what might have caused this and came up with the natural solution- constipation. She has struggled with this in the past because of her deathly fear of pooping (that’s a whole other blog) but all was typically resolved with a little MiraLAX. And shit! I didn’t bring it! I brought the entire house in our three suitcases but didn’t think to bring the MiraLAX! So off Susan went on a 40-minute walk to the nearest grocery store while I juggled three kids with the nanny. When Susan returned she happily held up a box of ExLax! ”Why did you get that?” I say, with an instinct that five is a little young for Exlax. It turns out that’s all the market had and there were no other stores anywhere near us. I asked to see the box, convinced it wasn’t safe and Susan read aloud ”Yep, it’s fine, it says half a pill for five.”
Reluctantly I agreed. Suddenly a few hours later the pain was worse. Our daughter was officially not enjoying the vacation. We eagerly awaited a poop to make it all better. The next day, no poop and still serious belly pain. By the afternoon we had to call the resident doctor onsite and she advised us to race to the hospital for fear that it was appendicitis. Now I was in a panic. Not only had we discovered at this point that Susan read the box wrong and Exlax is not for young kids but it can also make appendicitis burst! We left the twins with the nanny and called a cab to the hospital which was 40 minutes away. Sophia at this point was screaming “take this pain away, please why aren’t you fixing this?” and I in a full-blown panic. On the way to the hospital Sophia finally fell asleep spread out across my lap. What a relief -until I realized that I was wet, she was wet, the cab was wet and it really smelled! Yep, she shit all over everything and get this: I didn’t bring back up clothes.
We finally pulled up to a small driveway and I was convinced we weren’t in the right place. It looked like a Veterinary Hospital. We finagled our daughter out of the cab and walked into a dingy little waiting room full of a family of Hawaiian people sitting around talking. We signed in and then had to wake our finally peaceful daughter. She began yelling “What are you doing? Why are you doing this to me? My belly. My belly.” I insisted the doctor give her something for the pain but logically they wouldn’t, they needed to see what the problem was first. They wanted Sophia to pee in a cup but she refused to drink water because she knew the pain it would inflict. After much yelling and getting transferred into a private room because we were bothering the other patients, Sophia finally fell asleep again. I began calculating the hours that we were going to sit by her side watching her sleep with no real answers since she was certainly not going to wake up and pee in a fucking cup. After convincing the doctor that she had to come up with another plan she decided to do x-rays. Sure enough we identified the problem, Sophia was 100% constipated. The nurse came in a few minutes later with an enema and handed it to me.
“Do you want to do it?”
“What? No, I don’t know how to do it!”
We agreed that she should do it while Sophia slept and I would be standing by on the gurney in case she woke up. I was above Sophia and with no warning from the nurse, shit came spraying out of my daughter, all over me! ”Well that happened fast” the nurse says with a friendly tone.
We got back to the room at 3AM and hoped to wake to a better day.
Suffice to say, the days didn’t get better. Sophia still struggled through pain, our twin daughter threw up on me, I think because the food in Hawaii was a bit different for her. The wind was howling, making our beach trip a disaster that culminated in our double stroller toppling over and hitting a woman in the face. We were dying to go home early from our never-ending trip but the doctors actually advised staying because travel only makes constipation worse.
The final leg of the trip, a red-eye flight which had been recommended by veteran friends with twins, was a nightmare. The kids didn’t sleep well, Sophia shit all over herself in her sleep on the plane and I swear the flight attendants sent in a Hazmat team to clean up after us. Oh and after arriving back at our house at 7am, I had scheduled a work meeting at noon that same day. I think I’m still recovering.
By Susan Howard
Crouched down by the bedroom closet I am hiding from my one-year-old twins. I hear them crawling and screaming; they are inside the house, coming closer and closer. My dog betrays my trust by bounding beside me loudly and noisily wagging his tail, basically giving me away. Both children have ear infections and both are certain to let me know how miserable they are by yelling, rubbing their snotty faces into my shirt, and needing to be held incessantly.
All I want to do is change clothes. The fantasy of a glass of water is a distant dream. I have to pick up their sister from school and I refused to go in slopped on sweatpants. It’s after 2 and I have not had lunch. After suffering multiple stomach issues I made it a goal not to eat meals during stressful situations. At this rate I am on the Gandhi diet.
Let’s face it. I am not good with babies. I don’t get them. They don’t get me. We agree to disagree. For the next three days we have no Au Pair, so I am trying to pitch in and take on the front lines. I had no idea how relentless the enemy was. The enemy is abound.
They come in one behind the next, invading on all fours like a pack of mini wolves. “I need to get changed. You gotta give me a second,” I plead. But my voice is drowned out by their wails. These guys are professionals.
I do have a new shirt and jeans on so perhaps I have triumphed, good over evil. In a moment, a slobbery sweet potato snot face is embedded in my new shirt and I smile, really I cry.
By: Brandy Black
By: Brandy Black
It’s all about perception. If you think life is hard, it will be. If you think life is unfair, it will be. If you think three kids will beat you down, they will. This isn’t to underestimate the power three children have to exhaust you in ways you didn’t know possible, but rather to examine state of mind. I was warned by some that we probably wouldn’t go out of the house much with a four-year-old and twins. I was told that we would finally have no choice but to slow down. I was advised by others that we would just do it, life would go on but it would become a new reality. I told myself (when I was pregnant) that life was over. There would be no vacations. No dinners out. No extra circular outings of any kind because I could not fathom how it was possible.
On Christmas eve 2011, nine days after having twins, I was faced with my first challenge. I wanted to take my entire family to church, to sit together and be grateful for the incredibly blessed lives we have, to be reminded that love and family are all that matters, but when I suggested it I think my friends and family thought I was crazy. Newborns and a kid at 5:30 at night in a quiet church, she must be insane! I almost didn’t do it. But my wife said yes. She knew I needed to feel like we could do things, that I didn’t want to fear the changes that were happening, that I needed a sense of normal and most of all that I don’t stop. Sleep or no sleep I like to be active. We piled in two cars and off we went to a candlelight service. With babies bundled in carriers wrapped tightly on our chests, we sat holding hands, singing Silent Night while we watched my parents help our daughter light her candle off theirs. It was in that moment that I decided I would listen to no one else but us and we would determine the “struggles.” Fear holds so much power in our lives and I wasn’t about to give in to it. So three weeks later when I was advised by another mom with a newborn that I shouldn’t go out to the dinner I was invited to because I would be exhausted the next day, I kindly listened and ignored. Off I went for one hour to say hello and feel like me for a moment. I have been “exhausting” myself for the last 6 months. All five of us jumping in the car at 6PM on a Friday for dinner and a movie, BBQ’s on Saturday, swimming all day on Sunday. Life hasn’t stopped. Sure at the end of the night I’m tired and I wonder why I push myself around so much but at the end of the day, I’d feel like a ton of bricks hit me either way so why not have fun doing it?
Why are we so precious with ourselves? Why does it have to be so hard? Why do conversations have to start with “Wow, you guys are really doing it” and “It must be so difficult, you must be so tired”? While we appreciate a stranger’s or even a friend’s acknowledgement that yeah this is fucking hard, it’s also not -it’s us. It’s our life, we have three kids. So what? Don’t rain on our parade. Life is better. Life is rich. We have been given the gift of laughter on the kitchen floor while our twins battle for toys and we cheer them on. We exchange videos via text of the adorable things that not one, not two, but all three of our children do. We need our dates, we love our dates, we celebrate our time together because it’s all ours.
So here is my unsolicited advice back to those that give it to me. Let go. Relax. Embrace the chaos. Free fall. This is my life and this is my version of jumping out of planes and I plan to enjoy it every fall, trip, toddle, jump, skip, leap, step of the way.
By: Brandy Black
By: Meika Rouda
I really wanted to write about Father’s Day, to commend the wonderful dads out there but I am obsessed with this story of the single American mom, Ellie Lavi, living in Israel who conceived twins with a donor egg and sperm and now the US won’t recognize them as citizens. Why won’t they recognize them as US citizens? Well because there is no proof the donor eggs or sperm were from US citizens. What? There are so many issues revolving around IVF these days, so many ethical questions, but this one takes the prize for me.
First of all, is it common for people to do IVF using donor eggs and sperm? Did they ever hear of adoption?- hello, it is the same thing. Yes I understand you don’t carry the child, a mother doesn’t bond with the child while in the womb or go through the joy (and pain) of pregnancy and birth but honestly, for a woman in her 40′s who is single, to put her body through the process of IVF and the risks of a pregnancy is curious to me. Did she really want to be pregnant that badly? Is there research that by being your own surrogate you decrease potential emotional issues associated with adoption like abandonment, primal wound etc.?
And then there is the question of citizenship. If you are an American citizen and you adopt a child from another country that child is granted American citizenship automatically. I agree with this 100%. So why is the Ellie Lavi situation really any different? While there is no biological connection, she is their mother and her name is on their birth certificate. Is this some precedent the US is setting to dissuade American citizens from going abroad for fertility treatments? By the way, fertility treatments are free in Israel. Which I think they should be in our country as well but that is another story.
So good luck Ellie. While I don’t understand your choice to be your own surrogate, I do think your children should be recognized as US citizens.
By: Brandy Black
By: Brandy Black
I come from a family of three. I have no siblings. I’ve always wondered what that life would be like. My wife has a brother and sister. One of the first times I hung out with all of them together Susan and I were sitting on a bed and her sister plopped next to us, then her brother jumped on and I was feeling a bit crowded and legs were touching me and I wasn’t sure what to make of it and then her sister’s kids hopped on and suddenly the entire family was on the tiny little pull-out bed. I had a small anxiety attack trying to keep my cool, feeling completely claustrophobic. It was foreign to me. My friend Troy, also an only child, describes big family households as “always smelling like syrup.” Growing up it was never the kids that took over my house, it was the grown ups. I didn’t know anything else unless my cousins came to visit and I guess I liked it that way. So when I was pregnant, coming into THREE children, I kept thinking of that “bed” incident or the times when I go out to dinner with big families and everyone is eating off each other’s plates; I never understood that. I worried that my own family was going to crowd me. I was sure that I would need to escape from my house for solace. This is why I fought Susan so hard to sell our house in a down market in search of something bigger and perhaps with a corner I could crawl into should my family overtake me.
This morning I woke with three kids in my bed. No part of that bed felt my own, all my kids wrapped into me and I loved it. It felt safe and comfortable and what a Saturday morning should be. I realized that even though I don’t care for pancakes, I love the smell of syrup. Don’t get me wrong, our children will sleep in their own beds and I don’t want them draped all over me all the time but I quite like the way family feels. I like that when no one else in the world can get that close without throwing me into a tailspin my family can. As I get older and especially as I watch my children grow I realize that I am a guarded person and there are few I let into my world. I’ve always been this way. My close friends have become my family; I would do anything for the ones I love. I pride myself on being a protector of all that’s mine. I am loyal to my friends and will be for life because they have given me the gift of a brotherhood and sisterhood that I never had. I adore that my children have this built into their own family. I feel so lucky that now at 39 years old I do too.
By: Brandy Black
I made it through my first two weeks of work after maternity leave. Susan even got me flowers congratulating me on what felt like the hardest weeks of my life. I juggle well. I always have, I like to have a million things going on. But this has surpassed the challenge that I suspected it to be. I’m spent. Overwhelmed. Missing. Lacking. Aching. Worried. Exhausted. I miss the weight of my children on my chest. I miss their cries and babbles. I miss my oldest. I hate pumping.
I’m trying to keep it all together. It’s not an option to fall apart. The worst of it though is my lack of patience and newly found temper with my four-year-old daughter. Suddenly, I forget to take a deep breath and count to ten before reacting to her high-pitched voice or whining. It is the terrible combination of her jealousy and feeling of neglect and my exhaustion and feeling completely overwhelmed. The other night she was yelling at the top of her lungs for no good reason and I asked her to stop. She kept yelling. I asked her again. And then I did a terrible thing or it felt like a terrible thing as I was doing it. I told her that if she kept screaming I would take her stuffed animals one by one until she stopped. She kept screaming so I began violently throwing her stuffed animals in the hallway. I was so furious I didn’t stop until she sat silent with tears running down her face. We made up and of course two days later her animals were back in her room having tea parties again. Am I a sucker?
I’m at my breaking point. She’s at hers. She’s over the babies, she wants them to “go to our old house and stay there.” I understand her frustration. I worry about her little heart every day. When I’m feeding the babies at 4AM, I think of her and how hard this is on her but each morning I wake up and expect her to rise to the occasion, to be a big girl, to be a good big sister and to act her age, which I desperately need. By the time I leave for work I’m discouraged all over again that she has literally taken 2 steps back, asking to be carried, wanting to be fed, not wanting to be helpful. And when I come home from work I remember how hard this is for her, how I need to be patient because this is a huge change. It’s a vicious cycle. I need advice. Am I expecting too much? Or do I stick with it and she will eventually step up? I am the same amount of strict as I was before the babies but somehow I have to enforce far more often than I prefer.
I’m all over the place and trying to be everything to everyone. I realize aiming to be a “perfect” mom is out of the question at this point. I was schooled to give that up when I got pregnant with twins but I’d love to be a good mom, a present mom, an alert mom, a patient mom, and a mom that isn’t relieved when the kids go to sleep because tonight, don’t tell anyone, I am.
PS- Happy Birthday Mom! I love you so very much and am so lucky to have your love and support.