When I found out my wife was having twins, I knew I wanted to chronicle their lives. I didn’t know if other people wanted to read it, but I wanted to write it. I got a little bit more than I bargained for.
The end of their innocence (4-15-13)
(April 15, 2013; 9:12 p.m.): About eight hours ago, the world changed for the worse again. It changed in the way the world changed on 9/11 or during Oklahoma City or during Columbine or during Sandy Hook. The two explosions that occurred more than four hours into the Boston Marathon were world-changers on a planet filled with world-changers. It was a domestic bombing, like 9/11 and Oklahoma City, that has scared and saddened us. The death of a child, like in Columbine and Sandy Hook, has made us weep for the future’s loss and the loss of their future.
Seven hours ago, my 3-year-old children went to bed for their daily nap. I kept the TV off when they were downstairs, but as soon as their bedroom door closed and their turtle night-light flickered to life, I immersed myself in the news coverage. And the anger. And the sadness. And the goddammit-what-the-hell-is-wrong-with-this-world of it all.
I seethed and I teared up and I tweeted, and my children slept, blissfully unaware that the world outside our doors had changed once again.
The next step (8-23-12)
The letter below fills me with pride. And makes me a little sad. And makes me excited for the kids. And me. And my free time. But also a little lonely.
Yes, I have mixed emotions about the twins finally heading off to preschool.
The twins are destined to crush us (7-26-12)
Every day, my twins, Stella and Noah, make more and more conversation. Noah will say something like, “I’m sitting on the potty backwards,” and even though he’s not actually doing anything on said potty, Julie and I will look at each other in amazement. How did he learn how to say that? We, of course, don’t have the answer. We have no idea.
Or Stella will pull out the most heart-warming version of “thank you” on record, and we wonder, is there anything in this world that’s possibly cuter than those two words emanating from the mouth of our adorable toddler.
Stella has been smiling more lately, and during music class a few days ago, she started rocking out with sticks and a drum. Noah can almost have a near-conversation, and when I come in the room and he says, “Oh, hi, Dada,” it’s all I can do not to burst (with laughter, with pride, with everything).
My first conversation with my son (5-16-12)
Stella and Noah just woke up from their naps, and as I was changing Noah’s diaper, I noticed a wound on his left elbow. It looked red and angry, and obviously, it was fresh. I had worked today, so I wasn’t around for most of the morning.
It was certainly something new.
“What’s that on your elbow?” I asked.
“I hurt it,” he said.
“Does it hurt?”
“Yes,” he said with a definitive nod.
“I fall off.”
“You fell off what?”
“You fell off what?”
“I fall off.”
Then, Noah: “Outside.”
“You were outside?”
“Take-a shoes off.”
“You were outside and you took your shoes off and you fell?”
“Yes, I fall off.”
“You fell off what?”
“Picture!” he squealed as he noticed me slipping my iPhone out of my pocket in attempt to record our chat.
And that was the conversation Noah and I just had. It was exhilarating, if not altogether enlightening. But the fact it was somewhat informative is, I don’t know, incredible. The fact he can string together six words in a sentence is, like I imagine it is for any first-time parent, a stunning marvel. The fact Stella is not far behind fills us with pride. The fact we can have some semblance of a conversation for the first time is a marvel.
We try not to be overly-complimentary with the kids as they develop with rapid speed in their day to day lives. We don’t praise the heavens every time they accomplish a new task or simply repeat the same ones they’ve done before. But man, sometimes it’s hard.
Sometimes, the words, “Great job,” escapes before you can bottle them behind your lips. I didn’t let Noah know I was blown away by our conversation, but I was.
I never did find out what he fell off (though we later surmised he probably tumbled to the concrete when he was playing in the backyard), and I guess I never will. I’m just stunned he gave me even the faintest idea of what happened.
My First Year with Twins (10-18-11)
Sometimes when I’m reading in bed or surfing the Internet—or when I just happen to be watching old highlights of the 2010 Winter Olympics—I think back to the day when everything changed.
It’s not often that your life switches so suddenly from one sundown to one sunset, from one heartbeat to the next. This, however, was one of those days, one of those moments. It was freezing outside, and my wife and I were vegging around the house on a Monday afternoon as the city shut down because of a snowstorm. Inside, we were warm and lazy and relaxed, watching the Opening Ceremonies from Vancouver and thinking about mostly nothing at all. My wife had a glass of cranberry juice on the coffee table. I had my legs stretched over the arm rest of our easy-chair.
A moment later, pandemonium. One of the sacs containing one of my twins—Stella, as it turned out—had burst at 29 weeks (in effect, my wife’s water broke) and we needed to get to a hospital as soon as possible. When I think back to that moment—even now as I’m writing about it—my mouth goes dry. I was a different person back then, didn’t really know what I was doing. I didn’t know the horror and the joy that was to await me for the next week.
Where are the role models for my daughter? (10-4-11)
But what about my twin daughter, Stella? Who can she look up to when she’s feeling down? Who can make her feel comfortable about her self-image? Who can inspire her to be the best Stella that she can be?
Not movie stars, because often those actresses are soon headed to a) rehab, b) a mediocre country singing career or c) the unemployment line when the beauty fades.
And certainly not supermodels.
Long Absence (6-3-11)
In the dark night, with the runway lights illuminating little stretches of land and with airplanes screaming overhead, I searched the crowd of people waiting for the rides that would take them away from the airport.
Finally, I found her—a pretty brunette with a Baby Bjorn carrying another pretty brunette. I hadn’t seen my wife in a week, and as a result, I hadn’t seen my twins.
Organic Baby Food (5-27-11)
My wife came home the other day from the grocery store, and as I peered inside one of the recyclable bags, my eyes grew wide.
“They were on sale,” she said by way of explanation, anticipating the lift of my eyebrows. “It was buy one, get one free. Plus, they won’t last very long.”
I slowly pulled the tiny jars from the bag, and I began to stack. And stack and stack. There were peas and carrots. There was squash. There were bananas. There were fruit mixes and vegetable-pasta mixes. And there were a ton of them.
Two Weeks in the Life (3-8-11)
Here are two weeks in the life of my wife and me as we raise our infant twins, Stella and Noah. Three short vignettes equate to a long, but satisfying fortnight. Three short vignettes that create memories which will last a lifetime.
Saturday, the 3rd: I had a strange dream last night. I dreamed about my kids – I think for the first time – and I guess it makes sense. For the first time since the twins came home from the hospital, I spent an entire day and night away from them.
Four of them actually. Four days where I couldn’t give them a bath or hold them in my arms or smother their faces with my kisses.
Knowing Each Other (3-1-11)
Stella started it with a right hook to Noah’s midsection – a real good kidney shot. Noah countered with a left to the jaw, and from there, the fight was on.
Bella missed with an uppercut, but Noah clocked her in the mouth. While she distracted him by attempting to eat his fist, she caught him in the right eye with a solid cross.
This was a video we took about a month ago, and the outcry from our friends and family was nearly immediate: it was, they crowed, hilarious. The reason: it was like watching a fight in super-slow motion. The punches wouldn’t have dazed a fruit fly. Stella’s missed uppercut created no extra movement in the atmosphere. It was hysterical because, though it was their first fist fight, it could not have been a more ineffective display of boxing.
Sleep Schedule (2-22-11)
In the first month after our twins came home from the hospital, life, as I could have expected, was filled with lots of feeding, lots of diaper-changing and lots of caffeine-guzzling. And not much sleep.
This, of course, does not make us unique. Parents of singletons don’t get sleep, parents of triplets don’t get sleep, we don’t get sleep.
But you adjust. You drink your coffee, you force your eyes open while working and you grab a cat-nap whenever you can. In your car on your lunch break. On this very chair in front of this very keyboard. After a while, you can live on four hours of sleep a night. Sure, every once in a while, the thought hits you like a grenade to the temple where you groggily discover, “Holy smokes, I’m tired.” And sure no sleep equals no fun, but this is one plank nearly every parent has to walk.
My twin babies turned four months old the other day. We celebrated by staying home and … well, doing nothing. That, of course, is what Noah and Stella usually do.
This stage of their lives, we’re finding, is a bit strange.
The kids are more awake these days, more alert. They make it clear that, if they’re not sleepy, they’re not interested in hanging out in their crib with no stimulation. But, at the same time, if you dangle a toy in front of them, they’re either not interested or they’re not sure what they’re supposed to do with the bait.
A Parent’s Frustration (1-5-11)
I had a revelation the other day, and it’s not something I want to admit. Actually, it was two revelations. It honestly made me question myself as a father. No. 1, I don’t like being the one to bottle-feed my kids. No. 2, I’m getting a little more frustrated than I’d like with them – particularly when I’m the one bottle-feeding.
To me, the above paragraph sounds horrible. What kind of a jackass dad doesn’t like feeding his children, the most important gift a mother could give? What kind of heartless bastard doesn’t like to watch their children enjoy the nectar – the very thing that gives them life and gives me so much joy?
I guess I’m the jackass. I’m the heartless bastard. I’m the one who’s frustrated, because if I had a choice between 20 minutes of diaper-changing or 20 minutes of bath-taking instead of 20 minutes of bottle-feeding, I’d take the first two any day of the week.
Newborn Development (12-7-10)
After weeks of research, I have discovered the answer to the question of “Where does the term wide-eyed innocence come from?” Obviously, I know now, it comes from my daughter, Stella. I’ll be changing her diaper or burping her on my shoulder or brushing her hair, and suddenly, her eyes – like a Cabbage Patch Kid that has just come to life – open from eyebrow to cheekbone.
She looks at me with those blue eyes, and I melt.
The First 48 Hours (11-24-10)
We had just arrived home from the hospital for the final time. My twins, 47 days after they had been born 2½ months premature, finally had been released from the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. The wife and I had spent the last five days putting together the bassinets, installing the car seats and nailing the changing table to my dresser.
We were ready. The cell phone in my pocket buzzed. A buddy of mine, whose newly-born daughter had just joined their family of five, had sent me a text.
“Hey Chief,” he wrote, “those kids are going to eat your lunch, aren’t they?”
I laughed. 30 hours later, I finally felt like a real father, because my twins had, in fact, eaten my lunch. And then they had kicked my ass.
NICU Guilt (11-16-10)
I wake up every day in my own bed after a good seven hours of sleep. I eat my breakfast, and my day continues like usual. It’s work or it’s buying more baby gear or it’s on the couch with my wife picking our way through the DVR. I’m also at the hospital every day, visiting my children in the N.I.C.U., as they gain weight and prepare to come home after arriving more than two months prematurely.
But mostly, my routine is pretty normal. And I feel guilty about it.
NICU Emotions (7-27-10)
We were two weeks into our twins’ stay at the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), and our babies were making good progress. Their breathing had improved and both no longer had a need for their intravenous lines. They had begun to gain weight one ounce at a time, and their faces were filling out. They began to look like real, live babies. Only a little thinner. A few days earlier, a new premature baby moved across the aisle from where our twins were staying. The father and I had nodded at each other a couple times, and a couple of “How are you’s?” were exchanged.
Which, now that I think about it, is an absolutely absurd question in this environment. Most likely, unless your kid is improving rapidly and only has to spend a few days or a week in the NICU, the answer is the following. “How am I doing? I’m terrified. I’m alone. I’m sad. I’m desperate. I’m helpless.” But we were polite, and we said, “How you doing?” and the other said, “Doing pretty good.”
I won’t forget the panic that crept into my soul. I won’t forget the struggle to keep my hands steady as I called my parents – and her’s – and told them it was happening. I won’t forget my frenzied breathing as I forced the booties over my sneakers and pulled the scrubs over my hips. I won’t forget having to take off my pants and pull them on again after discovering the drawstring mistakenly was in the back.
And I won’t forget the result.
My twins were supposed to be born May 11, but because there were two of them inside my wife’s uterus, we figured they’d peek out their heads in mid-April. That’s what we hoped.
Instead, on Feb. 15, the amniotic sack keeping my twins warm and healthy and bacteria-free inside my wife had burst. And, four days later, with doctors scrambling to find an operating room so they could deliver them on 30 minutes notice, my twins, Stella and Noah, entered our lives.
There we were, sitting in the sterile, white room. I was upright on an uncomfortable chair, studying the sonar screen and trying to figure out what I was looking at and where it would be. My wife, meanwhile, was lying on her back, sticky goop covering her belly as the doctor – in his crisp jacket which further white-washed the room – waved the magic ultrasound wand across her body.
Having kids was a subject we had talked about for months before. After six years of marriage, kids were what my high school sweetheart and I really wanted. Now, we were here, in a slightly-cold doctor’s office with the Eagles playing “Heartache Tonight ” (or possibly “Life in the Fast Lane”) inoffensively from the speaker above our heads.
Our fates were in his hands.
The doctor’s hands. Not Glen Frey’s.