Tuesday, April 27, 2010

this is how we do it (insert tune to the awesome 90's song here)

Besides the "are they twins" question, (no, they are half sisters), the two things I hear the most are, "I don't know how you do it" (my pills are better than yours) and "How do you do it?" The truth is, I'm not sure I have a really good answer for that because, well, I don't really know. It has taken 9 long months to get to where we are today and I'm still trying to figure everything out.

The first 4 months after the twins were born were literally the most challenging and stressful of my entire life. Even though I had a lot of help from our families there was so much going on and too much to adjust to for even the strongest person to be able to cope well.

Being the sole physical parent to 2 preschoolers and newborn twins was brutal. Between the night feedings and wakings and having to pump in the middle of the night, I was getting about 3 hours of sleep a night. Add to that the normal everyday stressors and responsibilities and you pretty much have a recipe for disaster. There's a reason they use sleep deprivation as a form of torture. It messes with your mind and can make you think you are losing it. You see things that aren't there, you hear things that aren't being said and you just plain can't cope.

In addition to the sleep deprivation, I was also dealing with postpartum depression. It was no surprise to me, as I had been through it twice before, but this time I swore it was going to be different. Even before the girls were born I made a promise to myself that I was going to get help. And when I finally worked up the courage to get help at about 12 weeks postpartum, my doctor told me he really didn't think it was "that bad" because I was "functioning" and that I should wait it out a couple more weeks. I told him that was fine, but in the meantime if I happened to drive my car into a phone pole, he would know why. Of course I was "functioning". I didn't have a choice. If I didn't function, no one else would. The babies weren't going to feed themselves, the kids weren't going to take themselves to school... It was then that he took me seriously and helped me get help.

About a week later I ended up having to go on a total elimination diet (again) because both babies stomach issues had gotten so bad and all of the proteins that were passing through my breastmilk were causing them to have severe pain and lots of spitup. That meant I got to cut out dairy, soy, wheat, eggs, corn, beef, caffeine, citrus, nuts and chocolate. I remember pleading with the babies to at least let me have caffeine, if they were going to insist on being up all night. Fair is fair, right? They didn't agree. I had done the elimination diet, for 10 months, with CB, so it was nothing new for me. I was just praying so hard that it would be different this time so it was a big letdown, and a major change, when the last resort became the only option.

It was very hard living in that dark place. I remember laying in bed crying, wanting so desperately to love my babies the way I thought I should. Of course I loved them, but I wanted to really feel it. I wanted to see their beauty, instead of just seeing them as a responsibility. When they were about 13 weeks old I called a photographer and begged her to take the twins' pictures. I just kept thinking about all I was missing out on, how hard it was for me to see who they really were and how guilty I would feel if I couldn't remember their newness and sweet babyhood because I was so wrapped up in my own head. I needed someone to capture those days before they were gone. The day of their photo shoot was literally transforming. I got to spend 4 straight hours with just them, finally getting to see them for who they were, both as a unit and as 2 completely different personalities. I got to focus on their little toes and noses and the fine baby hair on the sides of their heads and really look at their sweet baby lips. I just got to be with them.

And for the first time I started believing it was going to get better, that I could really do this. I could be a mom to 4 kids and love and nurture them and teach them and grow with them, without completely screwing them up. While life was far from being in control and "normal" in any way, shape or form, I started striving for some kind of normalcy. I started getting dressed everyday and going out more, started cooking again and finding things that made me happy. We took some day trips and shopping trips and for the first time, I started to feel in control.

Over the next couple of months my confidence grew, my patience expanded and my sleep hours increased, all leading to a much happier person. I actually decided to make a quick trip with W and A to where we were going to be moving to find a place to rent and see my husband for the first time since he had left to go back to Germany 4 months earlier. Everyone asked me why A and W got to go while MJ and CB stayed back with the grandparents and the answer was simple: A couldn't live without me, MJ couldn't care less if I exsisted. W is a great traveler, CB would much rather stay back and hang out. After we found a place to live the the 4 of us flew back to California and spent 2 weeks getting adjusted to life as a family of 6 and preparing for the next big move.

We moved cross country the day after Christmas. Probably not the best decision but it worked out ok. Taking a 4 day road trip with 4 kids ages 4 and under isn't exactly on the top 10 list of things I want to do again in my lifetime, for sure. When we finally got to our house we realized it wasn't the "great place" we thought it was when we chose it, and over the past few months I have spent well over 55 hours cleaning up the messes and nastiness the previous occupants left behind while fighting the management company to make simple repairs. I don't even want to talk about it, I'll start dry heaving.

Sometime in February I got a headache. Normal pain meds didn't stop it and after about a week I went and saw a doctor. She gave me something stronger and after 2 weeks of that not working I saw another doctor. They did some labs and after 2 more weeks of pain meds not helping and having a constant, raging headache, I finally called the doctor in tears, begging her to fix me. She pulled my labs and asked me why I hadn't come in earlier as my test results, from 2 weeks prior, showed I was extremely dehydrated and severely anemic and was very deficient of a few essential vitamins. The next morning I ended up getting 2 liters of IV fluids, some vitamin shots and a shot of pain meds, and it still didn't help.

About a week later, after much discussion and some tears, it was decided that I needed to stop pumping for the babies because the elimination diet was literally going to kill me if I didn't. I was burning at about 1000 calories a day making milk for the babies and was probably only taking in about 1000 calories a day from the food I was eating. My BMI was officially considered "underweight" and my body fat percentage was off the charts low. Making that decision was so hard. I wanted to give my babies the best I could offer them, but in the end, if I'm not healthy, I'm not going to be any kind of good to them.

By stopping pumping I did gain 3 hours a day to do other things, like clean the house and actually play with the kids. We were finally able to unpack all of the boxes and settle in. I had more freedom to go places and do things and joined the gym, making my gym time part of our daily routine. Pretty stupid on the gym's part, including child care for ALL of my kids for up to 2 hours a day in my monthly fee... they are really losing money on me!

Yeah, sometimes life can be a challenge, like when all 4 kids start screaming at once or when they all decide that they want something from me THAT MOMENT when I've just sat down for the first time all day or when the older 2 decide to jump on the couch that has all of the nice, neat little piles of clothes from the 3 loads of laundry I just folded and sends them all FLYING into the air... deep breaths, mama. Deep breaths. Or when they all take turns waking up all night long... ever had 2 babies teethe at the same time? Or be sick at the same time? Or have 4 kids be sick at the same time? Not so fun. Sometimes even just getting 4 other people dressed and out the door in the morning can be a huge challenge.

But if having 4 kids and dealing with food intolerances and sleepless nights and sensory issues are the worst things that I have to deal with, then rock on! If having a husband who is gone a lot is the hardest part of my life, then boo hoo, cry me a river. At least he's coming home. The truth is, and this might come as a shock to some people, I'm really not anything special. There are millions of other women out there facing challenges that I can't even imagine.

So how do I do this? I guess I just do it. I take it one day at a time and try really hard not to sweat the small stuff. I try to focus on the things that are really important and enjoy the baby laughs and preschooler squabbles. And I don't take myself too seriously. I don't expect perfection and allow myself to mess up. When I mess up, I learn from that experience and move on. We do what makes us happy and keeps us healthy.

We have a system down and it is far from being perfect, but it works. I'm still not "supermom", heck, I'm sitting here typing this instead of doing the dishes and putting away the morning's mess. I make to do lists and try to check things off but my to do list from last Monday still doesn't have any check marks on it. But I'm in a good place. We are in a good place. My kids are happy and for the most part healthy, we have fun and we have dance parities and snack picnics and lots of cuddle time. And at the end of the day, that is really all that matters.


Name Nazi said...

Great post, Joanna.

People ask me this all the time ... the "I don't know how you do it." Listening to your story, I'm reminded that I'm really not doing much. Although I suppose that anyone secluded in their own little world and worries is always doing a lot.

My answer is always just like yours ... one day at a time, one foot in front of the other. And then you get "I could never do what you're doing." and the answer to that is always "Yes you could, if you had to."

I'm so happy that being a single mom of two and some financial struggles because of no child support is the worst I've ever had to deal with. I'm blessed. And obviously, so are you!!!

So glad you're feeling better.


Anonymous said...

As a fellow PPD suffer, I totally get you!! Great blog, Jo!

Sara, Carter and Camryn's Mommy

Moore Musings said...

Keep writing... I'm a big fan :)

Jen and I are DEFINITELY going to have to work out a visit once you get to SC

supercommonname said...


i like you friend. and have i mentioned lately that i'm proud of you...because i am.

that's all.

p.s. "this is how we do it" is now stuck in my head. i'm sure that was your real goal in this posting. well done.


I heart said...

Dude, you rock! Just keep on doing what you're doing! :)
But seriously you make my life look like a piece of cake! HA

Liz said...

Oh, but you are special! Keep writing...the laundry will get put away sometime...or maybe not, but you're doing an AMAZING job.

xoxoxo--I've missed your amazing blog entries! ;)


EntertainingMom said...

Wow... just wow... you continue to amaze me JoJo!!! XOXO

Lanie said...

You're amazing! Thanks for sharing!

Thank you also for putting a link to my little shop. I appreciate it!

I put you in my blog roll so that others can enjoy your blog as much as I do! :)

Marie said...

I've got that song stuck in my head now! LOL! You know, you are awesome b/c you make a wonderful life for your family. It may be easier for you than some and it's certainly harder for you than some but it seems that no matter what comes your way you face it head on...and manage to laugh about it all the way.

Anonymous said...

You're SO wrong. You are a good friend - I know this because I'm proud to call you mine :D

And I'm sure you will forever be The. Best. Neighbor. EVER! Hands down....
Just wish you'd been HERE, so I could have helped out.

And you're still my hero!

Miss you, guys!


mommy-medic said...

For some reason the mommy and me post wont let me comment to it, stupid computer...

I bet a frozen bag of hot tamales across the face would leave an impression :) and heck, then you have a bag of hot tamales in your hand. double yay.

Kudos, props, high five, and double mocha lattes to you. You're amazing. You're my hero. No seriously. I'll take burning buildings over four domestic terrorists any day. Well, almost any day. Yours are pretty darn cute. (And when did W get hair!!!!)

Happy to see you back in the swing of things! Shoot me an email sometime. and where is it you are living now??? Is it close enough for a mock-mommy-and-me afternoon of, um, I dunno, martinis and goldfish crackers? :)

Glad to see you back.

The Beachcomber Studio said...

oh my...
my eyes are like dinner plates as I read your post. I'm constantly shaking my head like, "wow." just wanted to say that i'm amazed! :)