“What happened to your stomach, mom?” the kids ask me.
Henry happened, is what I tell them.
Henry was twin B. My stomach became a wrinkled, stretch-marked mess during that twin pregnancy. Tom used the lines as international borders and drew the globe. My mother-in-law and sister-in-law tattooed the universe. Tom drew a sea dragon. The doctor never knew what to expect. The aftershocks are raisin-wrinkles. 95-year old woman wrinkles. There is a six-pack under those wrinkles. A six pack that has been smashed, drunken frat-boy-style, against the forehead.
Henry was delivered by c-section. So my stomach also has an extra side-long flap that hangs down like I’m storing a hot dog for later. I have a scar, hidden by the flapping hot dog.
I gained so much weight I couldn’t wear my wedding ring. I had braces. Braces. Tom came to my first prenatal appointment and the nurse said, “It is so nice when the boyfriends come along.” I was married. I was 21-years old. I was terrified.
Being pregnant with and giving birth to twins pretty much wrecked my stomach. Raising them and loving them pretty much wrecked my life.
On the eve of my twins turning into teenagers, here is a letter to that younger woman with ugly glasses, a terrible haircut, and far too pregnant to care about fashion…
You might not believe me now, but one day you will sleep. All night long and late and with only two people in the bed. The other person in the bed will be your husband, not the sick toddler with whom he traded spaces so the toddler could puke on you and he could sleep. That toddler will learn to aim the puke into a bucket or toilet bowl.
When you don’t sleep in late you will make breakfast, for yourself, sip coffee and read. The children will still be sleeping, or reading in bed, and when they wake they will make breakfast, for themselves. You will not be surprised by the quiet, you will not think that it is too quiet and wonder who is silently finger-painting the living room walls.
One day you will go to the bathroom alone, without needing to lock the door and because you need to pee, not because you want to read Runner’s World without someone spilling cereal milk on it. There will be no tiny person beside you to announce that, oh childhood joy, today you are wearing the same color underwear! There will be no tiny person beside you to wonder whose poo smells the worst, who takes the longest and why. No tiny person beside you to exclaim about the size of the poo or compare it to their own or to wonder what went into making it that particular color. There will be no one in the house who still calls it poo.
They do still love you, even though they let you pee, poo, shower, and pluck alone. Its just that the fascination with why daddy wants a beard and why mommy doesn’t want a beard has faded and there is no longer the need to analyze your chin hair.
You will run again, further than into the street to rescue a bewildered toddler. You will run alone, or maybe with your son but he will be beside you. You will not push him in a stroller and he will challenge you to a race over the last two blocks. That baby you pushed out (or who was sliced out) will push you and he will beat you.
You will not always play Candy Land and you will not always stack the deck so your daughter gets the Queen Frostine card and you get the Jolly gumdrop. Settlers of Catan will be the new game of choice and there will be no mercy. You might win and they won’t cry. They might win and you didn’t let them.
Conversations will no longer be recitations of complicated dinosaur names and facts or about how your daughter wants to be a bunny when she grows up because she can jump really good or about why one twin has a penis and one twin has a vagina. You will talk about farts (which runs the very high risk of being a life-long topic) instead and you will have a pet bunny and you will still talk about penises and vaginas but in a totally different way.
They will no longer ask to put on their swim soups and go in the hot dog. While wearing swim suits (which they put on themselves) and sitting in the hot tub (fully immersed, not just dipping the toes) you will remind them that they used to say this and you will laugh together about how cute they used to be. You will know that they are still exactly as cute as they used to be but you won’t say this out loud.
You will no longer kiss booboos or put bandaids on imaginary, bloodless wounds or kiss the kids on the way to school. You might get away with blowing kisses but they will not blow back. There will still be booboos and now there will be broken hearts and hurt feelings but instead of kissing scraped knees you will hold them (because they still need to be held and always will need to be held) and listen and have a conversation.
They will not smell like baby powder or baby shampoo or the dried and crusty breast milk you forgot to wipe from their neck rolls. They won’t have worm guts caked between their fingers. They will smell like locker rooms and moldy socks and, faintly, of your deodorant.
Your purse will not be filled with hand-sanitizer, random Legos, or graham crackers. You will no longer be able to dig for stray Cheerios if you get hungry at work. You will not have to wonder whether or not you fit inside the PlayLand tunnel at McDonald’s because your son conquered his fear on the way up but can not conquer it to slide down. You will not have to push swings or constantly count children at the playground. Yes, one day, you will bring The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion to the beach and it will not be wishful thinking, you will actually read it.
Your shirts will no longer have circular milk stains around your nipples and your breasts will no longer see the light of day or the light of a shopping mall bathroom. They will stay put, happily, in your bra. And your bra might have lace again. And your breasts might have lift again.
This, I know you do not believe. But they will regain some of their original glory. Your body has been forever changed, there is no doubt of that. But your breasts will not always swing like half-empty Christmas stockings. Nor will they suddenly and alarmingly swell like blowfish. Nor will they leak like the dripping faucet your husband forgets to fix.
You will, one day, lug only your own piece of carry-on luggage and it will not be filled with diapers. You will not board planes early because you are no longer a family with young children. You will not cram an adult and two toddlers into an airplane bathroom designed for less than one human. You will have no excuse, like a barfing child, to stand up while the plane is landing. You will buckle one seat belt, your own. You will not worry about putting on your own oxygen mask before securing the mask of a young child.
You will once again listen to real music with real singers who don’t sound like chipmunks and don’t sing about wheels on busses. You will once again read real books that don’t use words like zizzer-zazzer-zuzz and don’t have cats wearing hats as the main character. You will even share music and books with your children.
You will remember how tired you were but you will also remember, with a fading memory you cling to ferociously, how these babies fit in the palm of your hand. How they fit in the crook of your elbow. How they fit on your lap. How they fit standing, beneath your chin. You will always make room for them to fit.
You will fear you are forever ruining your children by bringing them to Africa. And later you will fear you are forever ruining them when you return to Minnesota. The response to these fears is yes, you are ruining them. Think of it as revenge-ruining for how, in all the best ways possible, they have ruined you.
You will remember that people told you, this too shall pass. And that people told you, it gets better from here. And you wondered why someone would want these years of miniature toes and holding hands to pass. You wondered why someone would want things to get better, how could they get better than snuggles and hot sloppy kisses and rolling down grassy hills?
And you will say to yourself when the babies are born and toddlers and in Kindergarten and biking out of eye sight and going into junior high: remember this, never forget this. This will be hard because it is so beautiful and it will hurt like hell because that’s what life is and you will be thankful for every moment.
Now, as I enter the season of parenting teenagers, I wonder what I will tell myself in seven years, when these teenagers exit at the other end, turn 20. I don’t know. But what I am telling myself now is this:
Being the mother of these two kids (and the one that isn’t a teenager just yet) is one of the best things in your life. You’ve known it from the minute you saw the ultrasound screen and wondered why your baby had two heads. You’ve known it since one was born by ‘natural’ childbirth without pain medication and one was born by c-section with lots of pain medication. They split you open more ways than should be physically possible and, like Humpty-Dumpty (which you will not read again until you have grandchildren), you cannot be put together again.
You don’t want to be.
We’ve made it this far, my lovelies. I think we’re doing pretty good. Happy thirteen.
Oh how I loved this! My twin daughters are almost 12, so I was nodding my head, laughing out loud, and relating to every single word. Well said, Mama. Thanks for writing.
And then before you know it, joy of all joys, you become a grandma and you are once again counting toes and cuddling beautiful babies, reading books that have been sitting on the shelf for years waiting for this very moment, restocking the snack drawer and saving up Dairy Queen coupons in anticipation of a visit from those far flung grandkids who are coming to visit for a few days and you begin to search the emails and facebook every day for glimpses of those children and your heart is overflowing with love and pride for who they are and who they have become.
Happy Birthday my lovelies – Grandma Loves you and misses you!
It seems so far away that I’ll be a grandma but 13 years old seemed a lot farther away than the 13 years we’ve had them, so I guess its coming, isn’t it? Are you saying I should post more photos? :O)
Love love love this, Rachel
Thanks! Can you believe how grown-up our girls are?
Thank you so much for sharing!! I cried & laughed the whole way through reading. I have 19 month old twins and this was such a good reminder to enjoy every second!!
Thanks Megan. Sometimes I tell people I can barely remember the first couple of years. But even if you can’t remember them, you can still enjoy them. And I did (mostly!).
I was in stitches reading this and I don’t even have children. if I did, I might have done myself a permanent injury from laughing. I love reading your articles Rachel (shh! don’t tell anyone, but you’re my favourite writer on the internet!)
THIS made me laugh this morning! Thanks. And I love that we are in close time-zones.
I’m reading this and I’m in tears. I’m a mom to a three year old and a nine month old and just this week I felt so swallowed up by motherhood. I just wanted to run away. I wanted to my old self back, my free time, the ability to read a book or pee by myself. Regretting and wishing away where I am at the same time. Your writing struck a chord. My little ones are so precious to me and their littleness is so quickly slipping away. I’m so grateful for where I am, you’re writing reminded me of that. Thank you!
Now it sometimes feels like I have TOO much time to read or be alone. I guess I’m never satisfied, am I? It is an exhausting stage but so precious and fun too. So is this stage – now we read some of the same books and have such amazing conversations. I love it.
BEAUTIFUL! And hilarious. Which is usually my favorite combo. 🙂
LOVE this Rachel! And i heartily agree with the commenter that said you’re her favorite writer on the internet! Thank you.
You guys are great, thanks!
What a wonderful message. I, too, have twins (two girls). They are just over two-years-old, and they are a joy. So much of what you’ve described is exactly where my little ones are now, and your message is a wonderful reminder to enjoy every moment. Thank you!
Glad to hear it Susanne. Overwhelming sometimes, and such a joy too.
This made me so teary eyed. I’m happy sad. Happy that one day hopefully, my children will grow into beautiful independent adults and sad about all the Joys of raising them I will sorely miss.
That’s exactly it, isn’t it Hoda? Both/and.
I recently found out I’m having twins… I have to say this made me SOB! What did I sign up for? I am gestating people I will live and worry about every single minute for the rest of my life… Every day they grow I will hope for tomorrow and ALSO miss yesterday?? It sounds exhausting, and overwhelming, and also really amazing and totally worth it. I can’t wait. And I’m also scared shitless.
Great read 🙂
Oops- I meant that I will love and worry about haha 🙂
Ha! I love your comment Molly, typo included. :O) I want to say that you should be scared, I was, I still feel scared and pretty stinkin’ clueless. Are most mothers if we all actually admitted it?! But also be excited for all the riches they’ll bring. Best of luck on your pregnancy and all the adventures following.
Thank you Rachel this came at a great time. I was forgetting to enjoy my 2 1/2 year old girls a little (potty training and general 2ness are getting to me a little). Molly you hit it right on the head with “It sounds exhausting, and overwhelming, and also really amazing and totally worth it.”
Ah, the 2-years…we were right in the middle of them when we moved to Somalia. One unexpected benefit was that potty training became a lot easier – we had a hole in the ground toilet so our son thought it was cool to just stand and aim!
As my own twins approach 10 years of age, I too can empathize with most of what is written here. My older boy embodies some of that too. He’s 13 this year. I have enjoyed every moment thus far, and they are speeding towards adulthood one moment, and crawling into my lap the next. As for the part about what life long imprint my parenting style, and my husband’s too, will leave? Therapy is my best answer for what I couldn’t fix. And seeking God in all things. Yup, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it! <3
This made me smile, thanks Diana.
I loved this, Rachel. I have three year old b/g twins and am raising them in Africa. Today I read your other story on Babble about remembering things from the first year, and your comment about not remembering the first six months rang so true with me. I would say that had it not been for the enormous amount of pictures I took on my cell phone while holding a baby with the other, I would not have much to help me remember those first months.
Now that they are a little older (ha!) it is getting easier. And I hear that around age four, it gets much easier. Can’t wait! But am also loving this stage, though. Laughing at the funny words they make up, that whoever didn’t make it up immediately adopts. They have this way of communicating with gestures and looks… it’s pretty amazing.
Thanks for your funny and insightful words! Keep writing!
It does get easier around 4/5, when they can start doing things themselves – seat belts or shoes or food…Thanks for the encouragement about my writing. I love the record it has helped me keep over the years of parenting.
I will consider making a hole in the ground toilet for our son next spring, I’ve learned between baby 1 and 4 that I don’t give a damn why things work, I just like systems or processes that work.
Thanks Rachel for the walk through twin parenthood, I am fortunate enough to have both 9 month old twins of my own(with two older sisters) and 13 year old twin niece and nephew. The older set belonging to my older sister and spent most of the first 6 years only a few blocks away and as she was a single mom at that time I spent a lot of time popping in or helping with the odd favour.
They trained me fairly well for my own kids but still there is always more to learn.
I wish some moms, not necessarily of twins, just moms in general could get a letter through time like yours to affirm from the future that all, or most, of their amazing efforts they put in every day, the loss of certain core features, the ability to pee alone and so much more was all a well chosen trade off for all the benefits of being a parent and eventually grandparent, a letter that would explain the values of their sacrifices in terms of an investment that pays out in spades when you eventually get to get those same sloppy hugs and kisses from grand kids or great grands. Then of course, drop them back in your kids laps and go for a nap, then a pee, alone 😉
Seriously, raising 4 kids is not easy, but if we can do it with one Autistic child and twins, anyone can. My wife does more of it than I ever will, I just hope I do enough to keep my place in the bed, or barring that the dog house.
Absolutely, it isn’t easy, but is so good. In a deep way. I’m glad you had some preparation for the twins – when mine came I didn’t even know how to change a diaper! Had a lot to learn and it is so fun to celebrate their 13th with them and remember back over the years. And dream forward too.
[…] liked (or will like) celebrating the thirteenth birthday of my twins today. We’re going to have pizza and swim and open presents from grandparents because, though […]
I’m so glad I recently discovered your blog (via Marocmama); I love it! This article is beautifully written, thank you for sharing! HB to your twins!
We’re also a “global” family: german, french and moroccan, as well as jewish, christian and muslim roots. 3 children aged 9, 6 and 2, currently living in Paris, France.
The blog is the one of our interfaith families (christian/muslim) families.
Wow, you are a beautifully global family. Thanks for sharing your blog, its gorgeous.
interfaith families “association” of course!
My twins are three and I showed this to my husband and we laughed that some day this will be us. Right now I am still enjoying the other phases (thankfully diaper free). I don’t think I am ready for the teenage years yet but thank you for this. It was beautiful and helps me to remember that one day soon it will change.
Yeah for diaper free! That is a big deal. Its a good thing they grow slowly because I wasn’t ready to be a mom until they were born, wasn’t ready for toddlers until they were walking, and wasn’t ready for teenagers until…well, today!
This is lovely. I think I will bookmark it for those harder days! My twins are 3.5, but I can already see the light at the end of the tunnel for some things. Having 2 at the same time is never predictable! It’s a wild ride some days. 🙂
It IS a wild ride. The easy/hard parts seem to just change instead of go away. Trying to attend two teacher meetings when the grade holds them all at the same time…trying to navigate boy-girl things with one of each (who know all each other’s friends)…
Your sister has been begging me to read your blog since 1. We just moved back overseas and 2. We have 3 year old twin boys. I took her advice and have truly enjoyed the wisdom and wit you write. As for my first year with twins (and a 1 yr old and 3 yr old), your sister and her family helped us in every way possible. I’m thankful that family is not limited to the people we are related to by blood but also those to whom we chose to include in our innermost circle.
Great to hear from you, I feel like I recognize your name from my sister. I know she has been thankful for the exact same thing. As am I, since we are all spread out.
[…] like admitting my weakness and proving to the world that I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. If I couldn’t handle infants how was I going to handle teenagers? This was my chance, these were my babies. I was in control and I was on my […]
So beautiful, it’s like you plucked the words right out of my heart – like tweezing chin hairs. 😉 I can’t put my chin on my son’s head anymore, but I still play the “hand me all my stuffed animals” game. It’s all fading with the season, as it should, to make space for the new season, as it should. Still hurts. Still beautiful.
Great comparison with the chin hairs! Hurts and beautiful – yup.
Beautifully written! I love twins! My sister has two sets and one in between. No worries, the first two are both married and have children, and one of the younger twins is engaged. Yes, they do grow up and learn to wipe and feed themselves, and eventually move out and have lives of their own. I have 2 daughters, 14 and 12, and that was challenging enough–I can only imagine what my sister and her husband went through with 5 kids in 6 or so years.
Wow two sets of twins – I think there were two sets of twins in Anne of Green Gables. I love that you wrote “no worries!” Made me laugh this morning. Thanks Judy.
I nodded with tears in my eyes as I read your article. My boy/girl twins turned 22 this summer, but I still remember those first wonderfully overwhelming years. At each stage, I remember thinking that it couldn’t possibly be better than this, but somehow each age was better than the last. Now that they are both seniors in college, I once again think that this the best age ever.
Great article and very much what I am dealing with now. I am in the thick of it and am having trouble seeing the “joy” of this extremely hard phase of life. I do not have post-partum but I guess just exhaustion? I have one almost 4 year old demanding and extremely active (won’t sit an color for the life of me) son and 15 month old b/g twins. I have a hard time being able to enjoy the cuddly moments with one twin bc I have to keep one eye open on the other who is about to leap off the couch. Finding balance between keeping everyone safe and indulging in hugs and kisses seems more than just hard as well guilt ridden. I know I will wish for these days but right now I’m swimming in a sea of chaos. Any thoughts or advice? 🙂
Advice, that’s tough. Sympathy, that is coming your way though. I didn’t have another child until my twins were 5 so can imagine how difficult it is to keep all 3 entertained, clean, fed, and loved! Savor the small moments, even just second of snuggle before jumping to save the other. Let most other things go – like meals or keeping the house spic and span. Love trumps clean, that’s what I like to think! I know that doesn’t work for everyone though. Release the guilt. The kids are loved and they” recognize that, there are just too many things we parents can feel guilty about, but we aren’t/won’t ever be perfect. Blessings as you work and play and love and try to sleep, Meg! Maybe someone else will have better, wiser words for you too.
Wonderful! I too said, “This too shall pass” and my oldest child just started Jr. High as well. I can relate to most of what you wrote. Wish I had grabbed the Kleenex first.
Hi Rachel, were you by any chance in Colorado 3 summers ago? I think I took care of your kids at The Family Gathering 🙂 I started following your blog recently and thought I recognized your name and photo but wasn’t sure until I saw the photo of the twins above. So fun to put two and two together. That was such a wonderful summer for me, I hope to be able to do it again soon!
Probably was me, we had an amazing time too.
My twins are 21 months and my other two are 3 and 6 and I’ve have enough puking and sleepless nights in the past few weeks to last me a lifetime. But I’m sure (hopefully) that it will pass and even in the midst of it they do cute things like ask for their “nammies” (jammies) and say “Happy!” when you give them food they like. 😉
I can’t even imagine them as teenagers yet…
I remember people telling me to enjoy my kids because they will grow up so fast…at that time, with four kids under the age of 6, it was difficult to believe. Today it seems as if time moves by faster and faster! I miss my kids at their younger ages and yet enjoy the present emensely!
He was supposed to grab something and meet me in the aisle, and I couldn’t find
him, was trying to figure out where he went. Or on second thought, it looked more like she had just been busted.
“What you be doin’ here, Doctor, I ain’t starting no trouble on your account.
[…] ninth birthday. This little girl who almost didn’t get made because I was so terrified of having twins again, never ceases to amaze and delight us. Instead of writing about how great she is, I’ll just […]
[…] gave birth to twins via vagisection (see below) over fourteen years ago. I was 22 years old, had my braces removed at the start of my third trimester, and was roughly […]
[…] of the things I want to tell them. Here’s what I told myself as they were turning thirteen: From a Mother of Teenage Twins to Herself, Thirteen Years Ago and some more fun with twins: Parenting Terms and What They REALLY Mean for Parents of […]
I needed this today! My identical boys are 14, thinking your twins must be 15 now. Also have an 11 year old girl. Thank you! I miss those days when they were little. This stuff of growing up is hard! Thanks for making me reflect on these blessings!
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[…] From a Mother of Teenage Twins to Herself Thirteen Years Later […]
Moist eyes. Warm heart. Great writing.