At this time, eight years ago, I was being wheeled into an operating room. I was 36 weeks to the day, pregnant with twins. Two little girls that surprised me by coming at the same time, two little girls that surprised me by coming at all. But there I was, my nerves and emotions jangling, skeleton keys in ill-fitting keyholes.
At 7:10 in the morning, my first daughter was born. She came quietly, a graceful ballerina making her way onto the stage of the earth. Two minutes later, at 7:12, my second daughter, and mini me, arrived. She was alert and vocal, neither of which have changed in the eight years since.
I laid there, feeling overwhelmed. Overwhelmed by emotion, overwhelmed by relief, overwhelmed by hormones, and deferred pain. I remember being so worried that I was incapable of loving them as much as I already loved my then three year old son. There was no way, and I knew it. Except, like so many other times in my life, I was wrong.
As the surgeons stitched me back up, nurses brought over my little 5 pound miracles and introduced us. We all, my husband, about 20 medical staff members, and I, sang them Happy Birthday. I told them hello, and that I love them so much. And that’s when it happened. Some veil in me was torn. Some hugely selfish part of my heart broke open and spilled its darkness out of me, onto the sterile linoleum floor, then righted itself and filled back up with love. My heart ached and hurt, the same way my shins had in fourth grade when I grew over five inches in a year. Growing pains. And thank God, because I needed to change.
Soon they were whisked away, up to the NICU for a full diagnostic, and I missed them. I mean, I missed them. In the way that you long for your best friend as your family drives away to a new city, your house still in the rear view mirror, missed them. An hour later they were back in my arms, sweet and warm, and always needing to touch each other to feel safe.
I felt joy and panic weave together into some kind of tapestry or rug, one that I would walk over many times. I was not ready for them. I was too selfish, too immature, too used to only having one little sidekick that I could take on any adventure. One boy, who went everywhere with me, Canada, Disney World, Seattle, Colorado, Montana, Oregon, etc.. All at the drop of a hat. Usually his. I probably left baby/toddler paraphernalia in 7 different states. At least. And suddenly, there were three of them. Three children that I had to take care of. Three children that I had to raise. Three children that I had to be an example to, and keep safe.
To say that I was terrified, would be a monumental understatement. My two weeks of postpartum depression looked like postpartum anxiety. I rocked them to sleep, swaying wildly between new mommy bliss and barely contained panic. Icantdothis, Icantdothis, Icantdothis, became my empowering mantra when the two were asleep. Gloria Gaynor was wrong, I would not survive.
And then my father would say, just get some rest, just go lay down, it’ll work out. And so I would, and then I would wake up refreshed. My father, who I had still not forgiven by then, for all of the cracks in our relationship that started when I was three. He, who was so hurt by his parents, that he did not know how to love me. Except, suddenly he did. Because it wasn’t about me, and it wasn’t about him, it was about them. And isn’t that the only way to love fully? To have it be all about the other person?
For us, it was. And so, in loving them, my father and I found a way to come back to each other, as much as we could then. It was unexpected, and shocked me, to have the voice of reason and calm be the one I spent high school and college defying. But, there it was, and so were they, and suddenly I had my own family.
The last eight years have not flown. They have crawled, and walked, and sometimes run by, in a flash and flurry of changing so many diapers and doing a million small things that make me worthy of the title Mommy. There have been tears, and whispers, dreams shared, and fears overcome. There have been hurts, and joy, hopes, inside jokes, and so much laughter. But always, always, love.
Today, we celebrate the birth of two of my babies. The day that the sky cracked open, and the whole world became better. The day that love decided that I would become something better than myself, and that our whole family would learn to love better than it knew it could. We celebrate eight years, so far, of experiencing the miraculous, wrapped up in everyday clothes. We celebrate their lives and their journeys, all the ways they have taught us, and all things that they have learned.
And while I can barely remember life before them, I remember that it was their arrival that taught me that love won’t keep us waiting. That love sometimes comes before we are ready. And that life is surprising, but can also be twice as good as we were expecting.