True Mommy Confessions 8 – Sometimes I Hate Having Twins

In honor of Dr. Suess's birthday, and out of control twins...

Sometimes I hate having twins.  There I said it.  Computer did not explode, nor did I.

Every week, while I’m enjoying my “vacation time” at work, I tell myself, this weekend, I’m going to really commit to spending quality time with my kids, rather than dreaming up ways to avoid them.  The funny thing is, I really WANT to spend quality time with them.  Part of me genuinely longs for them, when I’m away.  So why don’t I rush home Friday night looking forward to spending a weekend in twin-toddler-land?

Let me tell you why…

This weekend, as I often do, I planned an outing with my children.  I do this to avoid the inevitable consequences of staying home; including trying to impress upon them the oven is not a toy, general destruction to my home, repeated tantrums, and finally, me hiding in another part of the house with my laptop, overwhelmed, and convinced I’m a horrible mother.

After careful research, I concluded the best-timed outing this weekend would be to one of the many story-times that were being run for Dr. Suess’s birthday.  After the usual lengthy period of getting ready, including pleading with them to let me get ready so that we can leave, we drive off.  Mind you, by “me getting ready” I mean brushing my dirty hair, putting sneakers on, drinking a cold cup of tea that I’ve microwaved three times, and making sure my pajamas can pass for “sweats”).

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It Shouldn’t Feel Wrong to Admit I’m Alone and Happy in Hawaii

Hawaii Surf... Ahhhhh

Today, as it has for the past two days, the calendar on the wall in our house says Mama Away in blue magic marker.  “Mama go Auntie” my kids would say as I rehearsed with them that I would be leaving and when I would be returning.  I never expected my newly two year-old twins to get how many days I’d be gone, or even that the blue marker means mama is away and the green means mama is here.  The big takeaway was supposed to be mama WILL be back.

“Mama go Auntie” is toddler for me flying to Hawaii to sing in a close friend’s wedding.  Because that’s why I’m here, to sing, right?  It would be wrong to disappoint a close friend.  I’ve found myself doing a lot of rationalizing over the past weeks when the topic of my trip has come up.  But I’ll tell you the truth – as I sit here in a quiet hotel room listening to waves crash outside my window.  I am not here on some kind of mission of mercy, to throw myself on the sword, leaving my babies to fend for themselves with no one but their totally capable father, as well as grandfather, grandmother and babysitter.  I am here because I won the fucking twin mommy lottery.  At the perfect time, just when I need it most, just when I thought I was going to explode with restlessness and tedium, a close friend asked me to sing in her wedding in Hawaii.

Two days ago I walked through the airport all alone, boarded a plane for a ten hour flight, which I spent deliciously, luxuriously unplugged and alone.  No internet, no phone, no patients, no demanding toddlers, no husband wanting to know why I’m so “prickly” lately.  I can remember 5 hours into the flight, after I had done a crossword puzzle, napped, and read, thinking to myself how happy I was that I still had five hours left.

The last time I rode a plane without toddlers was before my pregnancy.  It felt completely unworthy of comment at the time, even inconvenient.  You would think I would have been eager to arrive in Hawaii, but the funny thing is I don’t think Hawaii was even real to me at that moment.  All that was real to me was time.  This long, delicious stretch of uninterrupted, unplanned time with no demands.

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Twinpocalypse (True Mommy Confessions 6 – Hurricane Sandy Edition)

Flooding from river a few blocks away last year during Irene.

As super-storm Sandy continues her collision course with our area, with storm surges predicted to travel straight down into the river a few blocks from my house, I’m sitting here trying to figure out how to whether the storm inside.

The generator is ready to go, sump pump tested, water jugs are frozen, bathtub is full, flashlights on the counter, fridge filled with milk, and most importantly, a new book uploaded on my fully-powered kindle.  Now who is going to save me, my husband and our property from our children?
I heard a lovely little report on NPR this morning about how to keep children occupied during the storm.  She told me to make tents.  I do plan to make tents, to hide from my children in.
You know what really burns me?  Having to keep hearing about using the storm as a time for quality family bonding.  I get literally all the bonding I can handle.  Typically, tomorrow morning, my babysitter would arrive, and I would skip off to work after three full days of family “bonding.”  Tomorrow, that’s not going to happen, and that, my friends, is a state of emergency.
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Independence Day (True Mommy Confessions 4)

Footprints on the heart can never be washed away...

It’s July 4th, and I’m sitting alone in an old Victorian office building, waiting to see the 1/4 of my Wednesday night patients still willing to come in on Independence Day.  The building is deserted, except for the owner, typically a suited-up lawyer wielding a portable phone, who is spending the holiday scraping the front porch in the sweltering heat.  I walk up to him as I leave, asking if I should lock up, and immediately feel badly.  He seems embarrassed as I stand there in my work clothes watching him drowning in sweat.

I had scheduled two patients that day about four hours apart.  In between I sat in my office working on this blog, doing paperwork, and knocking things off my to-do list I haven’t been able to get to for months.  “Why are you working?” so many people had asked me.  Sure, there are patients for whom it’s tough to miss a week of therapy.  But I am still entitled to days off.  If I don’t maintain my own sanity, I can’t be expected to help others.  The truth is, I worked today because I preferred it to the alternative.

I’ve learned there is no such thing as a vacation for me since having twins a year and a half ago.  I spent our last actual trip fantasizing about coming back to my office and relaxing while kicking my feat up and helping people work through their emotional problems.  This week, my nanny and I mis-communicated.  She assumed she would be off on the 4th, I assumed she would have asked if she wanted off.  When we realized the mistake, I told her not to come in, but she insisted.  Seth left early this morning on a three-day back-packing trip with some friends.

The thought of being alone with my babies for three full days in a row made my organs tremble.  I know myself, and I know I don’t have that in me.  I used to think that made me a horrible, incapable mother.  Now I think it’s just something I need to know and accept about myself.  I reach a threshold before which I’m a totally fine, responsive, loving mother, and after which, I feel like I’m completely shut-down.  The truth is, I’m not.  I do what I need to do for my kids.  But I do it saddled with the feeling that I’m drowning – like someone’s slowly pouring my soul out my ears, and every moment that passes I have to consciously resist the urge to claw my way out of the house.  Needless to say, three full (we’re talking 12 hour) days was way over that threshold.  Thank-you nanny for your mercy!!

After the nanny left tonight, another babysitter came over to relieve her, as Seth normally would.  Two babysitters so I can see two patients.  I think I probably lost money today, but what I gave up in earnings, I more than made up for with maintenance of sanity.

After work, I drive home slowly, stopping at the grocery store, where I spend quite a long time browsing the organic chocolate shelf, and then pile a large quantity of organic chocolate bars into my cart.  These will keep me company tonight, I think to myself.  As I drive, I hear fireworks going off.  The roads are empty, and my neighborhood is eerily quiet.  I pay the babysitter and put my chocolate in the freezer (yes, I know, I’m a freak).  As the fireworks continue, I start thinking about “independence day,” and the years of independence I took for granted.  I always felt tied down to something.  My parents.  Grad school.  But now that I’m a mom, I realize, I wasn’t tied down at all.

After my mom died when I was in my mid-twenties, I packed up a hiking backpack and walked from my apartment to a commuter train.  I got some funny looks and questions due to the backpack.  “Where you headed?”  “Africa,” I replied, like I had said I was going to Staten Island.  I returned after travelling around southern Africa with a friend for a month.  Now, taking that same train into Manhattan feels somewhat exotic.  The term “vacation” has a cruel irony to me.  It means hours on end of hard, manual, emotionally draining childcare labor while also trying to do maintain the illusion of doing the “vacation-like” things I would have done in the past.  No thanks!

Allow me to provide an example.  I spend a week organizing and packing so the family can go to Florida, after which I will spend a week washing and unpacking and re-organizing.  While in Florida, I complete all the usual baby tasks I would as a part-time, stay-at-home-mom, but in addition, I spend the mornings packing up and organizing for the beach.  Food for us.  Food for the babies.  Bottles for the babies.  Baby suits, diapers, change of clothes, towels, tents, sunscreen, hats, beach umbrella, chairs, toys, books, baby chairs, jogging stroller, kill me please.  Between the babies’ naps, we head to the beach where they eat sand and get too much sun for 20 minutes.  We then pack up the hundred tons of stuff and head back home, where we proceed to bathe the babies, wash all the stuff, and put it away so I can pack it up again the next day.

Vacation is an evil to be avoided at all costs.  Give me my nanny, my part-time job, and my mother-fucking computer!  This blog is my version of lounging on the beach sporting a carved-out coconut full of pina colada with a little umbrella poking out.  As far as anyone else knows, I’m on the computer writing testing reports for work.  I like to keep it that way.

So when’s my independence day?  When do I get to rejoin humanity and take a vacation or even a day off where I don’t choose one kind of work over another?  Perhaps in 16.5 years when I drive a U-Haul up to a college campus and leave my children to fend for themselves until Thanksgiving?  Well that doesn’t sound like a vacation at all.  And therein lies the catch-22 of parenthood.  We want the vacation, and yet we don’t want the vacation.  I could take a trip. I could leave Friday when Seth gets home.  He’s gone for three days.  I could do the same. But I won’t.  Because as much as I don’t want to be with my kids for three days straight, I don’t want to be away from them for three days straight either.

When I’m with them, I want my life back, and when I’m away from them, I realize, once again, that they are my life.  Freedom takes on a new meaning when you are a mother.  It’s something you remember longingly, fantasize about, and crave, but in the end, you’d never choose it, because the truth is, for mothers, there is no such thing as freedom anymore –  only life without your babies – and that’s a kind of independence none of us would choose.

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True Mommy Confessions 3 – Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

I clipped four fingernails this week.  Four out of forty, and they were all on the docile one.

There was a poop incident.  J pulled his own diaper off and tasted what was inside.

I dropped O one day as the nanny was walking up.  I think I was just so done my arms gave out when I saw her.

The babies have a hit out on a mole on my chest.  They take turns trying to rip it off.  Today O found another one on my neck… damn!

We go outside now.  I’m just letting them eat dirt… and basically anything else organic, unless it is large enough for them to choke on.

There was another poop incident.  This time with something that didn’t go down when the toilet was flushed – still experiencing post-traumatic stress over that one.

Incidents involving shit make me feel the most like shit.

There’s this sweet moment when you think a baby wants you to pick him/her up to be close to you… but almost immediately an inevitable little hand points in the direction he/she wants to go and a guttural noise accompanies it, which probably roughly translates to “go now” or in some cases “go now bitch!” Is this what it feels like to be a horse?

Three calls to poison control… that makes my record one every 5 months.  Could be worse right!  They were all for her.  He doesn’t waste time eating toxic substances when he could be eating actual food.

Three baths in 15 months.  That makes my bath record the same as my poison control record.  Eek!  Everyone else just seems to be better at it than I am.  It’s fucking scary bathing the two of them!

I’ve had a prescription for fluoride in my wallet for three months.  Perhaps when they’re in high school I’ll make a decision about whether to give it to them.

I honestly don’t think my shoulders are going to make it.

I leave a lot.  The more I leave, the happier I am when I return.  Whoever said “absence makes the heart grow fonder” must have been a parent.

I am writing this from a tent in my backyard.  I have been sleeping here.  It is the only quiet place I can get any real rest.

A room of one's own?

O’s idea of kisses is biting my chin as hard as possible.  Other forms of affection include putting her fingers (keep in mind the razor-sharp, refusing-to-let-them-be-cut nails) in my nose and trying to rip it off, shoving her whole hand down my throat, poking out my eyes, and pulling large chunks, small wisps, or single strands of hair.  Then there is the face scratching.  My patients must think I’m being abused at home.

J’s approaches to affection include “mount and hump” and “nuzzle and squeeze.”  “Mount and hump” involves climbing up my body, finding a position guaranteed to cause maximum discomfort, and then bouncing up and down as hard as his little body can muster.  “Nuzzle and squeeze” starts out okay with him nuzzling his little head between my breasts, however, to make sure he has me right where he wants me, he tends to grab my nipples and squeeze mid nuzzle.  He also tries to rip my ears off.

But OH how I would long for that pain…  It is, after all, the sweetest pain in the world.  I’m reminded of Giles Corey in The Crucible as he was being pressed to death exclaiming, “More weight!”  The crushing self-doubt, the paralyzing ambivalence, the ever-present anxiety, the physical attacks… Isn’t that what parenting is…

“…to bleed willingly and joyfully.”  (Kahlil GibranThe Prophet:  Love)

 (DO NOT respond to this post with the advice that I bite off those goddamned nails!!  Don’t do it!)

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My Husband Does Do That – My Journey out of the Equal Parenting Closet

Seth holding the twins.

Originally Posted on, also featured on, and Offbeat Mama:

The first time it happened, I was at a Mothers of Multiples Club welcome brunch.  My fantasy was that my terror at the impending birth of my twins would dissipate as soon as I met the wise kindred spirits who would be guiding me through the transition to multiple-motherhood.  Much to my surprise, however, brunch soon descended into a husband-bashing session, replete with the kind of ominous warnings I would receive over and over during my pregnancy.

“Make sure you leave the house when they’re a few months old.  I waited three years to leave my kids alone with my husband, and now he refuses to babysit,” one mom insisted.  My initial response was confusion.  I was planning to leave the house the first week.  I had written my doctoral dissertation on equally shared parenting for frig’s sake!  Caught totally off guard, I responded, “That’s not going to be a problem for me.”  Several of the women chuckled sweetly, shooting me the pitying “you’ll see” glance I would receive time and time again.

What was this strange land I was entering?  These were smart, accomplished moms –some working, some stay-at-home– all of whom swore that when kids came into the picture, roles changed overnight.  Were the brilliant, creative, feminist women I’d known in college really now accepting such arrangements?  My twin terror was quickly compounded by the fear of losing the egalitarian marriage I so valued.

Well, fourteen months into motherhood my marriage is as egalitarian as ever.  However, the “our husbands suck and don’t do anything” motif turned out to be rampant at the mommy meet-ups and play-dates that were supposed to help maintain my sanity during the first year with infant twins.  Now don’t get me wrong, my husband can be an ass.  Then again, so can I!  But the truth is– (hushed whisper) I like my husband.  He is a fantastic husband.  No one has the perfect marriage, but it was the gendered aspects of the husband-bashing which eluded me most– husbands not “helping” around the house, never “watching the kids,” oblivious to routines and childcare tasks.

Despite my relief that my own marriage hadn’t followed this path, my own parenting experience felt utterly erased during these conversations.  I would feel like a total asshole if I sat there repeating, “My husband does do that,” and adding obnoxiously, “My husband cleans more than I do.”  So instead I just passed, keeping my identity practicing equally shared parenting hidden.  I was also a queer mom passing as straight at these gatherings, but amazingly, stating, “My husband taught me how to swaddle,” orSometimes Seth is more comfortable with our kids than I am,” felt more threatening than announcing I was queer.

When I really examined my fear, I realized it felt like I would be “coming out” as a bad mom.  Had we somehow gotten the message that fairness and equality were okay for us to enjoy in our marriages but to be good mothers, we had to be the ones drastically rearranging our lives to make room for children?  If my husband was parenting as well as me, must I not be parenting well at all?

Seth Wearing Babies

I desperately want to be accepted by my peers.  After all, this mothering thing is hard, and I am going to need them.  Then again, am I really even there if I just hide out at playgroups , nod and pass, not only as straight, but as June Cleaver?  And the truth is husband-bashing isn’t the kind of support that I need anyway.  What about adult stimulation?  What about moms who can talk politics, who are activists?  What about discussing how the hell we are going to give our kids the space to explore flexible gender identities and orientations toward love and sex while media and culture steer them onto narrow, limiting paths?  What about the massive, profound transition that is becoming a mother?  Let’s talk about the guilt, the ecstasy, the terror, trying to find balance, trying to hold on to ourselves!  Some moms I’ve met seem so burdened with the lion’s share of childcare that they’ve had to lose the rest of themselves to manage it.  Is this the culturally-accepted ideal of motherhood?  No selves allowed?

I’m still trying to work out why my husband and I never walked through that time warp back to the 1950s that all those couples who “swore it wouldn’t happen to them” walked through.  I ask myself if these women complaining about their male partners’ traditional responses to parenting were themselves willing to be flexible in their own gender roles.  As long as we have the attitude that we can do it better, men probably won’t step up, because what man enjoys feeling incompetent?

That mom who didn’t leave the children with her husband for three years obviously didn’t see him as a competent caretaker, but now seems bitter that he’s not one.  We have to believe men can care for children and manage homes, just as we believe we can run companies and nations, rather than expect them to “help” while we maintain control over the private domain.  How would we react to that kind of attitude toward our work in the public sphere?  Imagine men expecting to supervise and micromanage our works as CEOs?

So why are moms so hesitant to view their male partners as full, competent parents?  Is it just that hard to picture?  I don’t think so.  I think it’s because deep down there is a part of us that believes if we demand equal parenting, if we demand holding onto ourselves– as our husbands do when children come into the picture– then we are not good mothers.  I can understand this fear.  When I really sit and think about it, I have it, too.  When I work, when I take time to write, when I keep up with friends, go out with other adults, and spend time fantasizing about things I’m passionate about, there is always this little nagging feeling that a “good mom” would have let go of these things.

I’ve held onto my egalitarian marriage and my sense of self, but I haven’t managed to not beat myself up about it.  So my husband has all the parenting skills and responsibility I do, but I still look at him and he seems unburdened, free of the guilt and self-doubt that plagues me.  If he can be a full person and also believe he is a good parent, why can’t I be out and proud as an egalitarian mother?


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Baby Brain Made Me Do It (True Mommy Confessions II)

If I wasn’t a person with unusually high self-control who tends toward over-thinking and extreme caution, I’m quite sure I would have left my husband or at least be cheating on him by now, and my only excuse would be “baby brain.”

What is “baby brain?”  Before having children, I would often hear new moms referring to “baby brain,” mostly when they were forgetful.  I read that mothers actually lose brain cells in the more logical, memory –oriented parts of the brain and gain them in areas related to emotion and instinct during pregnancy.    But it wasn’t until after my babies were born and I was well into severe sleep disruption that I had my first full-scale encounter with “baby brain.”  For me it was an awkward sense of being unable to think.  The only comparison I can make is with feeling like you can’t breathe.  It is only when we feel short of breath for some reason that you are suddenly aware of trying to breath.   I would have the distinct sensation of having to actually try to think, usually with poor results.

It was particularly apparent in the area of memory.  I could only hold onto a thought for a few seconds, and then it would just be gone.  I would be aware of some mental empty space, but I just couldn’t get it back.  I would think, ‘I need to clean the bottles.’  I would lose it.  Then I would go through the same mental process I had just gone through in the first place.    The babies are crying, it’s feeding time, they must be hungry, there are no clean bottles, I need to clean the bottles.  Then I would lose it again and start all over.

For months I blamed this on the cognitive deficits that have been well documented in the sleep deprived.  Adequate periods of REM sleep are required for the brain to function optimally, and I was sleeping 2-3 hours at a time.

At the end of that sleep deprivation period, I felt my first urge to make a grave error in judgment.  All of a sudden it came over me – the powerful, undeniable urge to buy a house in the town where I grew up (a place I would normally NEVER want to live).  I took it so far, we were under contract before my husband sat me down and got it through my head that we couldn’t afford it.  A few months later the whole incident felt utterly surreal.  I could no longer understand those powerful feelings that left me driving around in tears looking at houses I couldn’t buy while my babies napped in the back seat.

It is now just about a year later, and aside from some temporary bouts of insomnia, my sleep is normal, but my brain is most certainly not.  There was the sex-crazed phase in the fall when I became super-horny.   I then decided I could no longer stand being in the closet, and needed to out myself as a pansexual.   Urges to make grave errors in judgment also continued, including the very strong desire to respond to my husband’s and my marital stress by having an affair with a woman.  In my defense, I did become pregnant again four months ago and miscarried, so my brain has been hit by a double whammy.

So what the heck is going on up there anyway?  Sometimes I think they should make public service commercials to warn women.  “This is your brain…  This is your brain on hormones.”  For me the hormones were like some kind of trippy drug that exaggerates everything.  That combined with having been cooped up for so long, first going through a nightmare infertility situation, then pregnancy with twins, bed rest, and childbirth.  All those parts of me that had been hiding out, de-prioritized while all my energy was focused on trying to make my kids, and then trying to keep them alive, were suddenly screaming, ‘Hey, I’m still here!’  Take that cooped up brain and bath it in a cocktail of sexually-charged, impulsivity-driven hormones!  By the time my babies were born I was like a caged animal ready to claw her way toward a martini and a hot piece of ass.

These are the things they don’t tell you.  And it looks different for every mom.  Some have no sex drive at all but experience a burning desire to become a scuba instructor.  Some decide it’s time to follow their lifelong dream of riding motorcycles, or obtaining multiple tattoos.  I’m not saying these urges aren’t real, (I certainly take seriously my desire to be out of the closet), but they are, at the very least, heightened.  How can I be sure whether a given hormone surge is a good trip or a bad one!  I feel all I can do is use caution and wait until I’m certain my brain is back to “normal” before making any sudden moves.

For most moms though, from what I have witnessed, the most dramatic aspects of baby brain, those that might entice us to cheat on our husbands, embezzle money, becomes strippers, etc., go deep underground.  I don’t believe new moms lose their identities simply because they are so wrapped up in their babies.  I think giving up our identities is a reaction to the frightening degree to which our selves are screaming for attention, louder than ever.  Already feeling neglected by the time our babies are born, and driven like motors by brains bathed in hormones, sleep deprived, and perhaps having shifted around some key neurons from the logical to the emotional arena, our brains are screaming for us to be wild.  The screaming is just as loud as the screaming for us to pro-create (screaming that for many of us became deafening somewhere after age 30 to the point where we would have flushed our doctoral degrees down the toilet and eaten our left arms to get pregnant).  The same brains that made us crazy with the desire to parent are now making us crazy with the desire to be everything else we are!

Armed with being an extremely anal, over-controlled person, I found myself able to dabble in real estate transactions and hang out at gay bars fantasizing about lesbian affairs with relative confidence that I wouldn’t do anything I really can’t reverse.  My guess is a lot of other women, who perhaps allow themselves healthier levels of personal freedom, fear these impulses so much that they drown themselves out all together becoming ultra focused on the their babies.  This prevents any problematic mischief from occurring, and has the added benefit of helping us fit the societal image of the devoted mother who is in a state of complete bliss in early motherhood.  Thus, we can squelch temptation at a time when society is telling us we should be desperate to rock our babies to sleep, not desperate to run out of the house dressed like a hooker with a flask hidden in our bang-me boots.

There is one aspect of baby brain I have not yet touched upon.  Dissociation is a clinical term related to trauma.  When human beings experience trauma, in order to protect ourselves, we split ourselves emotionally into different parts.  The most extreme example would be someone who actually develops alternate personalities that do not remember the trauma.  More simply, anytime you realize you’ve arrived at your destination without having been conscious of the drive there you are dissociating.  In essence one part of the brain does not know what other parts are doing.

Let’s be real people, motherhood is traumatizing.  Yes, it’s natural, the most natural thing in the world.  And yes, it’s traumatizing.  Ask women to tell the stories of their attempts to get pregnant, their pregnancies, their birth experiences, and the first year with newborns.  Find me the woman who doesn’t relay a single traumatic event.  Then there are the intense feelings and images from our own childhoods that come flooding back in ways we may or may not be aware of.  Finally, simply becoming a mother is a traumatic assault on the self.  Having our lives go from all about us, to all about another being is a massive, jarring alteration of consciousness that even the healthiest among us will be utterly thrown by.

Further, we are offered no cultural context or preparation for this assault on the self.  As we look around, we see other mothers denying, whether consciously or unconsciously, that they are experiencing trauma.  For some, the denial is blatant.  They are experiencing postpartum depression, their marriage is falling apart, they have urges to hit their children, they scream and lose patience, but they show up at play-dates appearing totally fine and together.

For others, the denial is hidden, even to themselves.  They no longer experience a self, thus shielding themselves from the trauma of losing it.  That part of them has been split off, dissociated, and all that is left is the devoted mother part.  These are the mothers who offer the biggest mind-fuck to those poor fools among us who are actually painfully aware of how fucked up we really are right now!  But these women’s selves will re-emerge, and they will do so with a vengeance.  We can only go underground for so long, and imagine the trauma of realizing one has been keeping herself in captivity for one, five, ten, or even twenty years!

So what’s a girl to do?  I used to joke that I wished there was a pill to turn off that insanely powerful part of my brain that suddenly, at 32, informed me that having children, something I’d never wanted, was the most important thing to do in my life.  But there is no pill.  Our brains are sophisticated and complex, but ultimately ruled by instinct.  It is that same survival instinct which makes our neglected selves run wild after the brain finally gets that baby it so desperately desires.  After all, we need that self to be strong and healthy in order to help our babies thrive.

The best we can do is be real with each other.  Let’s be real so that those women whose brains can’t think about anything but baby understand what they are signing on for.  Let’s normalize that “baby brain” is more than just a little forgetfulness.  It is feelings of depression, or wanting to flee, or almost making, or sometimes actually making grave errors in judgment.  Let’s normalize thinking 30 times “I need to make the bottles” but never actually doing it.   Dissociation means literally one part of the brain can’t communicate with another.  Let’s tell each other the truth about messing up with our kids and having to go back and weed out what part of our own baggage made us do it.  Because facing our demons, admitting we are flawed and trying again and again to do better… that is parenting.

If there was space in our cultural and in our collective consciousness for selves that are traumatized, battered, confused, bewildered, and also perhaps more passionate and creative than ever, perhaps we could free those women who have gone underground.  Perhaps we could all find a little more balance.

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True Mommy Confessions 1

These are the things no one says. 

I am tired of the color of the playroom walls.

Crying makes my organs moan and my brain ache.

I leave my kids in their cribs as long as I can get away with.

I miss leaving the house whenever I want.

I need a nap.

I need a drink.

Sometimes I wear earplugs.

I’m not always that interested in the things my babies do.

I miss laying around in bed for no reason.

Sometimes I wish I could go on dates, or at least go out, get tipsy, and flirt with people.

Breastfeeding is incredibly hard and takes more endurance and will than anything I’ve ever done (and I have a freaking PhD, wrote a dissertation, cared for my mother for 18 months while she died of a brain tumor, and spent 3 months on bed rest).

My favorite times are when I read books or write.

I am stubbornly refusing to give up my identity, Mommy is just one of many names I call myself.

Often friends and relatives are more excited to see my babies than I am.

Often friends and relatives are way more excited to see my babies than me.

Feeding babies solids is boring, not to mention messy.

My kids want to play with me, but I’m writing this blog.

When my daughter crawled for the first time, I was vaguely aggravated.

I bathe my babies as infrequently as I can get away with.

I spend a lot of time surfing the web looking into events I can’t go to.

I am jealous of my single friends.

I am relieved when anyone else is around.

I frequently feel paralyzed by the terrible, blinding fear that something will happen to my babies.

Still… I have no regrets.

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Maybe we are all Undercover (My Husband Does Do That, Part 1)

There were wonderful mommy play-date moments where I felt like, wow, they get it, and believe me, no one who doesn’t have twins gets having twins.

(Don’t tell me your one and two year olds are “just like twins!”  Don’t tell me you were “supposed to” have twins.  The fact that your aunt’s secretary’s dog lives in a house with twins does not make you get it!  You do not have twins!  Goodbye.)

But a lot of the time in the midst of such gatherings, I felt this ill, empty kind of feeling as though large chunks of my identity had left the building.

Of course I could relate to topics like getting your twins to sleep (please, for the love of God!), dealing with teething, when to start solids, etc.  They may not have been riveting, and yet, I found myself hanging on the every word of those more experienced mommies… until about 6 months rolled around and I started to have this nagging feeling that… this just isn’t all that complicated… and this nagging desire to, oh, I don’t know, talk about something other than our kids for the love of fuck!

This one night, I attended a twin mommy’s night out.  It was AT A BAR – swoon!  I was so excited, I thought, ok, now we’re actually going to get to know each other, the mommies will be loosened up, away from their babes, bring on the slightly inappropriate, sexually suggestive adult conversation.  FAIL.

I remember at one point wanting to stab myself with my fork when they moved off the topic of what’s the best minivan, to a lengthy discussion of how to find baby socks that fit right.  I actually lost the will to drink.  It’s then that I started looking around at these really quite lovely, but not very interesting moms, and realizing just how white, rich, and straight they really were.

There were many other play-date topics to which I couldn’t relate, my personal favorite being why our husbands suck (and let me assure you, some of these husbands really and truly did suck quite hard).

Now don’t get me wrong, my husband can be an ass.  Then again so can I.  Of course I fight with my spouse.  But the truth is, (hushed whisper) I like my husband.  He is a fantastic husband.

But okay, not everyone has the perfect marriage.   It was the gendered aspects of the husband complaints which eluded me most, husbands not “helping” around the house, never “watching” the kids, not “letting them” buy jewelry, etc.  Really?  Am I living the in the 1950s twilight zone?

I was only willing to do marriage if it was going to be the same deal for my husband and me.  The traditional wife/mother role seemed like a much better deal for a potential husband than for me.  I guess it didn’t occur to me that others wouldn’t feel the same.

And who wants to be a total asshole and sit there repeating, “My husband does do that,” and adding obnoxiously, “My husband cleans more than I do.  He’s a much better wife than I am. ”

Then again, am I really even there if I just sit and nod and sip my white wine?  I feel like I’m “passing” in a way. Not in a way that could be clearly labeled, but in a more subtle, and yet poignant way, I feel closeted

I long for the day when I can find a way to be out and proud, but I’m not even sure what to come out as.  There is no magic word for my lifestyle, or the collection of identity bits that make me up.  I find myself wondering if we are all really undercover, looking at each other from inside our closets thinking she’s just a little too normal.

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Postpartum… Party?

Ahhhh..... bed rest.

My twins were four months old. Prior to their birth I spent three months on bed rest, and the four months before that too nauseous to do much. The months preceding those, well, those were spent in the panicked whirlwind that overtakes an aspiring mother when she is told that she will never have biological children. So a few shorts months into motherhood, I had had it, and came to the very ill-timed conclusion that I was ready to party.

Remember college? I am still not over it. If I could go back right now, I would. Oh the debauchery I never engaged in, and oh, the sex I could have had! Where were my priorities?!

So during late-night breast-pumping sessions, and after the twelfth diaper change of the day, I found my mind engaged in this fantasy about, well… partying. Where could I go, and most importantly, what could I drink when I got there? After all, partying really isn’t partying when one is tiptoeing around the house so as not to wake two newborns, rummaging through the remains of bygone barbeques for leftover alcohol. Besides, the one thing I needed more than a drink was to get out of the house!

Some friends were not quite down with the whole baby thing yet, and others just didn’t seem that keen on partying “quickie”-style in between breast pumping sessions with a ragged, un-showered shell of my former self, still recovering from surgery and sporting some nasty stomach rolls and baggy maternity clothes.

Dang! What’s a girl to do? Enter mommies. Kindred spirits who would surely comprehend my unflinching desire to run away and pretend that we can, in fact, go back to college, even for just two delusional hours between feedings.

Thus began my love affair, (and eventual disillusionment) with Mommies. Mommies truly are amazing (even despite being at times mind-numbingly boring). How do they do the things they do? Hell, how do they do anything on that little sleep? And most amazing of all, most incredibly, inhumanly amazing are the twin mommies, many of whom, going it almost entirely alone, devote their every waking hour (and there are no sleeping hours) to the care of not one, but two needy babies.

I had felt “gotten” by these twin mommies in ways that had literally saved my life during a trying, frightening pregnancy, and four months of sleepless twin hell. They taught me almost everything I knew about the logistics of being a mother of twins, as I read hundreds of their posts on our twin mommy yahoo group during my bed rest.

And so I began to attend my new version of “parties” – the playgroup. Yes, our kids were only 4-5 months old. It was us who need the play, we were ravenous for it! So we packed up our double breast pumps and pumping pillows, we gathered our millions of children and their tons of gear, we squeezed all that crap into our Saturns (um, okay, that was just me, for the rest, it was mini-vans) and whether we’d showered yesterday or last week and whether our hair was brushed or not, we met up for some much, much needed girl talk replete with plenty of laughter, and just a little alcohol (shhh!).

And if in my desperation, I left some basic and rather critical aspects of my personality out of it, so be it.

Bottoms up, I would play the good little mommy, for now.

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