01 February 2006


Went to visit friends with boy/girl twins over the weekend. The twins were eight weeks early and spent nearly a month in the NICU, although thankfully with no major complications other than a need to develop the lungs a little more and learn how to do that whole suck/swallow/breathe thing. Both are doing well now and are so cute!

But I had issues while we were visiting.

First, a short list of things I try really hard not to do:

1. Compare my situation to the situation of others. It's not worth it! Their sorrow is their sorrow, even if it feels inconsequential to me. Their pain is their pain. Their joy is their joy. I try to leave it at that.
2. Judge parents. I try not to judge anyone, but especially not parents. I don't want people to judge my parenting, so I try to return the favor.

(I have other rules to live by, but these two are pertinent right now.)

A short list of my issues during the visit:

1. No one other than the parents was allowed to touch, much less hold, the babies. We could stand next to the crib and look at them (they were sleeping), but no touching or holding. Personally, I tried not to breathe too much. I got the impression that I was not to breathe on or near the babies. This no holding/touching/breathing thing seemed extreme to me.
2. My friends told us that, other than doctor's appointments, the twins will not be leaving the house for six months. WTF? I was told that the NICU nurse had recommended this. Premature or not, my kids are going to daycare at four months, to if this is some kind of normal recommendation I'm FUCKED. Also, it just doesn't make sense to me at some gut kind of level. My kids will be born in the summer, all the windows will be open in the house (no A/C for us), so we might as well go outside . . . I mean, OK, don't take the baby outside naked in freezing weather, but to not go out at all? Huh?
3. Most troublesome, on a purely personal level, my friend was complaining that next week her husband would have to go back to work and she'd be home alone with the babies and she wasn't sure how she was going to deal when he wasn't home. Let's put this in perspective, shall we? By "go back to work," she means that her husband will be gone for about four hours on Tuesday and four hours on Thursday. That's it. I don't even know if my husband will be ALIVE when our twins are born. (This is where the comparison thing comes into play.) I'm sure she's nervous. I'm sure I'll be nervous the first time I'm home alone with the twins. But eight hours a week? You gotta start somewhere, and that seems pretty manageable to me.

There are so many reasons that I should cut her some slack. Her kids were in the NICU. She's a first-time parent. She's a perfectionist (um, not that I'm judging, right? Right.) She's dealing with a stressful situation, to be sure. But from where I'm sitting, she's dealing with it under nearly ideal conditions. She's home until September. His work hours are minimal until June, then he's home all summer. They have tons of good friends falling all over themselves to bring over food, etc. They are both healthy. They are not rich, but they don't need to worry about money. They have excellent health care.

It's not that I don't have any of these things going for me. I have excellent health care! I, personally, am healthy! GH and I don't really need to worry about money! And we do have lots of amazing friends. Amazing. I am grateful for them every day.

But it's hard for me to listen to my friend complain and not feel jealous. GH would do anything for me, anything. But he might not be able to when the time comes. And if he is, he's going to have to work while I'm at home, and not just eight hours a week. I need to assume that I'm on duty for nighttime feedings every night--people with terminal illnesses need to rest. I need to assume that I'm on my own to handle being a parent.

Again, let's face it: I'm jealous. I am choosing to go into this situation knowing that the odds are tremendous that sooner rather than later, I'm going to be a single parent. I wonder if I can handle it. I fear I can't, but I'm sure I will; what choice do I have? I fear that the joys will not outweigh the difficulties. My heart knows that GH and I are making the right decision, by my head still has some doubts.

Life is just scary right now.


Leggy said...

I find it ironic that you titled this post "annoyances" when you are dealing with some pretty weighty issues. Your friend does have a right to have her own issues, but I still can't believe she talked about being worried that her husband going back to work in front of you- hello clueless! It reminds me of the time one of my friends said shortly after my brother died, in front of my mom no less, "well, I guess I better call my mom so she doesn't think I'm dead." Ugh!

Thinking of you...

lct said...

Leggy is right: your fears are far from trivial "annoyances." That being said, I'm annoyed on your behalf. I imagine this friend's accidental insensitivity was brought on by her no-doubt all-encompassing need to focus on her new children. Understandable. Given who she is, I'm sure she would recognize that she took a misstep, if she were to pause and look back.

I realize none of that really helps you, though. And I don't blame you at all for bristling at the encounter. I don't really understand the no-holding/touching rules either. But, like you said, judge not.

There's a specific term for the whole complaining about one's circumstances thing. Something about how humans adapt very quickly to better conditions and as a result set a new baseline, which they then want to surpass. I think this may be where your friend is at right now, given the big changes in her life. Still, it doesn't excuse the insensitivity.

Recently, I was listening to someone complain, and I thought about your situation and got very impatient with the complainer. We (the general we) are so privileged and lucky that we complain about the silliest things. Personally, I'm trying to break myself of such habits.

Once again I want to tell you that I'm thinking about you every day, and I hoping with all my might the twins and their father get to meet one another and spend much time together. Should the day come when you are facing single parenthood, I will do my best to help how and where I can.

I love you, my friend.

margalit said...

I'm a single mom of twins. I've been doing this alone for 13.5 years now (in Boston, too!) and I'm certainly not alone. I've met quite a number of single moms with twins and one with quads. You can do it. Nobody is more pathetic than I was when my twins were born, and I was petrified to be alone with them, but after the first few weeks I got it down and it just was. I didn't know any other way, so this has been my life ever since.

When I am feeling particularly down I think of my friend who has breast cancer and her husband has stage 4 colon cancer and they have a severely emotionally disturbed autistic son. My life is greaat compared to hers. I've got another friend with autistic twins and an autistic singleton. I'm telling you, it's a bed of roses for us, even though we're poor and I'm sick and exhausted and need a vacation so badly I could scream!