Judging by the looks we receive as we venture about the city, you’d think my family was a sideshow circus act.
We see open gaped mouths, wide eyes and hear comments such as “Better you than me!” or “You have your hands full!” Honestly, I do feel like a freak of nature, pushing my two-and-a-half year old twins in the longest double stroller you’ve ever seen while babywearing my two-month-old infant.
Somedays I embrace the crazy with a toddler on my back, infant on my front, and second toddler in my single stroller. Witnessing everyone’s reaction is totally worth the back-ache.
With all these babies swarming me, they must think I’m ridiculously fertile. The thing is, for seven years, almost a quarter of my life (okay, maybe a fifth) I was told having a family would be nearly impossible.
My husband and I got engaged after three months and married less than a year later. Some might call us impulsive. I say adventurous. Keeping in line with this fast pace, a baby was next on my list. After a few months of doing a lot of what you expect newlyweds to do, and only one measly pink line to show for it, we decided to call in reinforcements.
I endured needles, blood draws, a torturous procedure called an hsg, and many pants-down ultrasounds with a lovely device people in the infertility world refer to as a "dildo cam." My husband had to "endure" five minutes of Assablanca. I’m not sure who had it worse.
My diagnosis was crap ovaries. His was low sperm count; all of them misshapen, slow, lazy little assholes. The only consolation was that I couldn’t blame just myself. Not that I should, but infertility is a heavy burden to carry on your own. We were in this together.
Desperate to prove the doctors wrong, we tried on our own for another three years. During that time I completely lost myself in the pregnancy quest. Besides performing the usual trying to conceive shenanigans such as charting, peeing on all the pee-sticks, and sex, I read up on Chinese herbalism, drank tea from leaves that looked like fingernails, and even encouraged my other half to ice his area.
Eventually my laser-beam like focus began to take its toll. I was becoming depressed and my husband was all but drowning in Mega Men capsules. We seriously needed a distraction. So, like any “adventurous” couple in search of new diversions, we purged, packed up, said our goodbyes, rented a very small U-Haul, and left on the road-trip that would take us from our old life in Seattle to who knows the hell what in New York City.
My husband and I seem like very sensible people. Don’t judge a book by its cover, folks. We moved to New York City with no job prospects during a recession. Who does that?
Luckily, I landed a job fairly quickly with a prestigious law firm that had an incredibly generous benefits package, including 15k for infertility procedures. I had found my own personal holy grail!
However, like any rational person I chose to acknowledge it and then promptly forget about it. Instead, I tirelessly researched and used my own body as a fertility experiment. My husband allowed this nonsense to continue for about two years, then he finally put his foot down and said he had brewed his last cup of fingernail tea; it was time for the big leagues.
Long story short: After months of daily self-administered shots to the belly and ass, an IVF and subsequent miscarriage, we tried what I thought to be a hopeless frozen embryo transfer. Surprisingly, it actually worked.
Six weeks later, I about fell off the table when the doctor pointed out the second baby on the ultrasound. I was too stunned to even process this information and think about the ramifications of gestating multiples. Unfortunately, I experienced your typical high risk twin pregnancy complete with gestational diabetes, pre-eclampsia, and intrauterine growth restriction. During a routine ultrasound we discovered the boys’ growth had considerably stalled and I was quickly wheeled to the OR for an emergency C-section at just 33 weeks.
Because of their prematurity, my tiny three and four pound babies were whisked away to the NICU before I could even catch a quick glance. This was not how I imagined my first day of motherhood. They were attached to so many tubes and wires; holding them was like an exercise in rhythmic gymnastics. I needed permission to touch my own babies; it was heart-wrenching.
However, after a month, the doctors pronounced our now four-and-a-half pound babies healthy enough to ride home in the back seat of a yellow cab; New York truly became the city that never sleeps. Being a twin mom was mind-numbingly exhausting and most of the time I absolutely loved it.
We grew content with our small, rowdy brood. There wasn’t any talk of additional babies. I’m sure it would have eventually come up, but life with twin boys is quite the undertaking and another one just wasn’t on my radar.
Nonetheless, 18 months after their birth, while we were having way too much sex (boys were finally sleeping through the night!) and laboring under the misapprehension that we were still shooting blanks, I found myself expecting again. Want to see a twin toddler mom go crazy? Tell her she’s pregnant. Or tell her: “See? All you had to do was relax!”
Yes, it’s relaxing, so very fucking relaxing RAISING TWIN TODDLER BOYS! The boys were challenging me on everything. I was struggling to deal with their daily, seemingly unending tantrums...how was I going to handle another?
On the other hand: FREE BABY!!! Here was my Get Out of Jail Free Card. Who knows, maybe the boys would be well behaved in nine months? (No). Or maybe I would be better at dealing with the mayhem? (No). Either way, in between feeling terrified and overwhelmed, I occasionally allowed myself to be excited.
The pregnancy sailed by pretty easily. Thankfully, besides exhaustion from chasing two very spirited toddlers, I didn’t have any of the complications I experienced with the twins. Everything coasted along as was to be expected, until at 36 weeks when my water broke a wee bit prematurely.
I'd been told labor comes on very strongly at this point -- every tiny pang becomes a potential contraction. I was elated to be experiencing hardly any discomfort. “Oh!” I thought, “maybe I’m like those women who have such a high tolerance for pain, they hardly feel anything!” Spoiler: This wasn’t the case.
At the hospital they confirmed that my water had broken, but I was not contracting. At all. After about 24 hours of pitocin-induced labor, I finally agreed to my second C-section. This time, however, I got to lay eyes on my son right away while being stitched up. It was a life-changing experience to kiss, touch and hold my baby within minutes after his birth.
I had spent a good portion of the last nine months damn near forgetting I was having another child. I was so disconnected from this pregnancy compared to my first. I don’t know if it was because we had worked so incredibly hard for the twins or because I just didn’t have the time to think about it. But it truly didn’t matter. The minute I heard his cries I exclaimed “Oh my God! he sounds JUST like Charlie!” (twin B). I immediately fell deeply in love with my little surprise.
Having three boys under three is just as hard, if not harder than I imagined it to be. Some days I just want to hide under my huge pile of laundry that still needs to be folded. When I lose my patience (which is often), I remind myself how badly I wanted this family; it helps put things in perspective. Sometimes this works so well that I think maybe I want more. I wear the littlest on my front, so I still have room on my back available for another! Who knows…
Now I have everything I've ever really wanted. I'm exhausted, overwhelmed and my apartment is as crowded as the A train during rush hour. Just like New York, it’s chaotic and not for everyone. But ultimately? I'm happy and couldn’t imagine a life less full.