My daughters came into this world 8 weeks early. I remember the car ride to the hospital like it was yesterday. Between every sharp and stabbing pain that I understood to be labor pains, I moaned, "They're not ready. They're too little."
The doctors fought for 4 days to hold back the dam, but in the end my body wasn't strong enough to keep them in. On day 4, my water burst and Jane and Emma were ushered into the world one minute after the other.
The truth is, for 3 months I had been worrying about this day for a myriad of reasons. Was I going to be a good mother? Was I going to be strong enough to handle twins? Were my babies going to be healthy? At 20 weeks the doctors found that Jane had a defect in her intestine that could be a marker for Down's syndrome. Would I be able to handle a baby with Down's AND another baby?
When I looked into the neonatologist's eyes upon being rolled into the NICU for the first time and managed to squeak out, "How's Jane?" to which the doctor replied, "She's perfect", a flood of emotions washed over me. I knew we had a long NICU stay ahead of us, and probably some unforeseen battles to fight, but I was so relieved that they were healthy, for 3 pound preemies.
A couple of weeks ago, I brought them to a Christmas in July story hour at the community center at the beach. As they burst into the room and excitedly ran over to Mrs. Claus to simply be near her and give her a hug, my eyes welled up with tears and I fought back a full blown meltdown next to the Toys for Tots collection table. But why?
And this ain't the first time this has happened to me. Hair cuts, movies, swim lessons -- any situation that requires just a little bit of courage on their part and I'm a blubbering mess.
What it comes down to is that I remember every single day of Jane and Emma's hospital stay. I remember every trip to the hospital. I remember waking up to pump every 3 hours and then carting my meager stash of colostrum to the hospital in the morning. I remember getting to the hospital to get the update: a step forwards for Emma, a step backwards for Jane. I remember crying in my glider in the empty nursery, holding onto my swollen and empty belly and praying that my babies would come home soon. I remember the excruciating pain of saying goodbye to Jane in the NICU and bringing home Emma 2 days early. I remember every single time a heart monitor alerted us that a baby had stopped breathing in the middle of the night in our little 2 bedroom apartment, and holding my own breath waiting for that big deep breath in she would take when I tickled her feet. I remember the first time I gave them solid food. I remember their first belly laughs. Their first steps. Their first words. I remember the looks on their faces when they got their big girl beds. I remember every single scraped and bruised knee and ego.
All of this, and they're only 4 years old.
So when they take brave little steps into the big world, I wonder when I'll stop holding my breath. Will I ever get over all of the painful things that we have gone through to get here? Or will I always feel as if I'm one baby step away from catastrophe?
I guess for now I'll just have to be along for the ride, and hope that others will be kind enough to look away when I lose my shit. I mean, we've all been there, right?