Twenty-one Weeks, 6 Days ~ July 23, 2004
~ Mapping New Territory
Well, this week has been a serious of huge adjustments. BIG ones, for all of us.
Gabe has probably had the easiest adjustment. After all, he already knew there were two babies in there.
Brendan has had a larger adjustment to make - he has been weaned, which did not make him happy. Him not being happy didn't make ME happy, either. It broke his heart the first time I said he couldn't have his 'yala', even though it had been a good three days since the last time he'd asked. His face crumpled, and silent tears leaked from his eyes. He was on his way, but he wasn't quite done yet. His heartbreak was enough to make me cry, too. Poor little bean. He's had some nice cuddles with his yalas a few times since then (resting his face against them, mostly), and that has helped a bit. He's been a bit more fragile
(emotionally) in the last few days, perhaps as a result. Not terribly surprising, I guess. I hadn't planned to wean him, but if even La Leche League says to wean in a twin pregnancy (DEFINITELY by 22-24 weeks), then wean I shall. Not to mention that I did get a really strong contraction the previous time I'd nursed him before that. As sad as weaning unexpectedly can be, everyone's lives would be FAR more disrupted if I went into preterm labor.
Will has had a big adjustment, also - I need more rest, and the need for it has hit fast. He teased me that as soon as we found out it was twins, I was twice as pregnant. Twice as big, twice as tired, twice as moody, and probably twice as stressed. He's had to pick up more slack, but he's also learned (after I had one very rough evening) that I really do need more rest than we thought I would, I really do need more breaks, I really do have to be more careful. And it isn't all about me sitting with my feet up eating bon-bons, either. My feet may be up, but I can still direct things, I'm not hiding away. It also isn't all that fun for me - I am NOT used to being a periodic invalid in pregnancy! I'm the one who was loading logs into the back of my dad's truck at 7 months pregnant with Gabe, tossing them over the side without a second's thought. I remember carrying Gabe on my belly (on top of his little brother, as it were), when he was nearly 3 1/2 (though I had to stop carrying him up and down stairs). I'm not used to this. I don't really LIKE it, either. Still, it is better than getting borderline-too-many Braxton-hicks contractions when I overdo it.
This is all new territory for me. It shocked me how much I felt alone in the process of this pregnancy, early this week. I always had a history to draw on, before. Even with my first pregnancy, I had the stories from my mother, my grandmother, my great grandmother. They were my lifelines
- or more, they were the map to the territory I was moving into. They were the women who had birthed at home, who had birthed HUGE babies, who had done things their way, trusted their instincts and charted their ways through the perils of pregnancy, birth, and motherhood. I had these landmarks drawn for me all my life, what to expect from pregnancy, what to expect from birth, what to expect from my body. Nobody else's stories had any impact on me, no dire warnings of how awful or dangerous or difficult childbirth would be could edit that map that had been drawn in my soul. I was strong, as my foremothers were strong. I was able to birth with passion and joy and trust, as they were. I was just plain ABLE.
But now, here I was, with a map that was useless - I had passed the boundaries of the known. My mother, grandmother, great grandmother. none of them have had twins. I have no stories of twin births done well to sustain me, nor even twin births with troubles to guide me away from the hazards. I had only a blank space before me, no path, no direction, nothing. Suddenly, I was really and truly alone.
I didn't realize how terrifying that can be.
Without a usable map, I turned to books. The first one I read was a shock. Preterm birth risk, NICU risk, dietary needs, rest needs, all were way beyond what I expected. I jammed too much information into my head at once, and could not digest it, couldn't integrate it, couldn't
(yet) make it fit with me and my experience.
I panicked. But in panicking, I reached for other guides I have trusted before - my HypnoBirthing instructor was one of the first. With her help, and the help of another one of my alternative practitioners (and good friend), I managed to get myself together, take a step back from the rather scary map drawn by a specialist I don't even know, and start over.
So I'm starting from a blank page - okay, an almost blank page. I've marked out the major hazards, borrowed from the (now three) books on twin pregnancy and birth that I've read cover to cover (hooray for being able to read VERY fast). In the largely blank spaces in between, I still need my foremothers as guides, but this time, what I'm seeking in my history is not direct analogue to what I'm going through now. I'm not seeking some ancestress who had twins. (Nor the stories of my peers who have had twins - their stories are no more relevant to my experience than the birth stories of other women were before - they were notations in the margins, not the main markers of my internal landscape.) Besides, there aren't any twin moms in my history that I know of (I've got the family genealogy on my computer, too!). Instead, I'm seeking the pioneers. The women who went forward into the unknown: sometimes for the joy of it, and sometimes just because they must.
Once I started looking for them, they were everywhere. There are a lot of pioneers of various sorts in my family tree. I didn't have to look far. and sure enough, standing front and center amongst them are the very same women whose birthing stories drew the map for my past pregnancies and births. Great grandmother Nana, who came from Sweden as a young girl, her mother dead and her father gone ahead into the new world. uprooted into an unknown world, she made a life for herself, learned a new culture, and raised a family of seven sons. This time, it isn't her home births that resonate, but the quiet humor with which she greeted the indignities of life (and birth). Then there is my grandmother on my father's side, whose smallest baby was 10 pounds. only this time what matters is that she raised her three sons during the Depression, alone - she did not let adversity stop her. And of course, right in the front is my mother, who refused to let society define her into a box that did not fit, who stepped outside the roles she was raised to fulfill, and made her own way in the world in so many ways that it would be impossible to list them all. Persistence, focus, and creativity in the face of obstacles is what she gives me. Even my grandmother Esther, who was not a nice person in general, was still a woman of guts and wherewithal, a girl who as a teen drove across country with her little sister, from New York to California, to start a new life
- that was around 1920, when the roads West were mostly dirt, and there weren't handy rest stops or towns at easy distances! Plain old fashioned gumption is what I learn from her. These women are my guides, my resources, and my advisors.
They're my resources and in some ways my guides, but now, I am the map maker. I am the pioneer. Suddenly I am like them, stepping into the unknown. I am leading on my own trail, instead of following on theirs.
Like any pioneer, I need a compass, the advice of experienced guides, the right supplies, and a sense of my destination. I need the courage to continue even when I'm scared, and I need the good sense to stop and conserve my resources when going forward would be foolhardy. (Figuring out the difference will be both something I work out from the sketched out hazards borrowed from books, and something I learn on the way - as I've already started to do.) I do have a companion, too. Will is headed on this road with me. Figuratively speaking, he's my horse. Don't laugh! Having grown up in the West (Colorado), I was raised on the idea that your horse is your life. Lose your horse, and your life is seriously at risk. Your horse is your strength, your endurance, and at least half your instincts. Neglecting your horse is the highest of idiocy - it simply is not done. And in turn, your horse carries you farther, faster, and with less impact to your own reserves than if you had to carry on alone. Yeah, Will is my horse, and I'll be working on taking care of him as much as he's taking care of me. Without him, getting to my destination will be immeasurably more difficult.
I still am the one who has to make it to the destination - healthy babies, full term or as close as possible. I'm the only one who can do that part, and the only one who can truly map the details of this trail. But at least I'm not as alone as I thought.
So, here I go. Mapping new territory. Dealing with the realities I face today, right now. And at the same time, conserving and planning against what I might need tomorrow. No resource will go untapped, and no offer of help will be refused.
There's a vast territory out there, and a long way to go. But we'll make it. Me, Will, Gabe and Brendan, and the babies who are right now turning around and poking me with so many elbows and feet.
I'm sure there will be some grand vistas at the end of the journey, and some along the way as well.
At the end, there will also be a map, drawn of my experiences and my stories, for those who come after me. And for those who ask, "Do twins run in your family?" I will answer: "They do, now."