Thursday, October 16, 2014

The First Week Home (re: Twins Aren't So Bad After All)

Surprisingly, twin newborns are not as life-shattering as I expected. We have our moments of chaos, to be sure. But these babies together are actually way easier than either our first or second kid!

It's not that there are fewer diapers, less laundry, more sleep, or easier work. I just think our parenting philosophy has relaxed a little, and now we can enjoy our kids, instead of freaking out to get every detail of family life "right" (whatever that is).

Here's the plan that's currently working in our houseful of crazy:

I will drink coffee every morning. And still nurse the babies. I might have a beer after the preschoolers go to bed. And still nurse the babies. I could eat nutella and crackers for dinner with ice cream for dessert. And still nurse the babies. Or maybe, if I get tired of nursing the babies, we'll switch to homemade formula (not to be pretentious, just because it's cheaper than store-bought formula). But actually we won't, because --
Seriously, you know why we breastfeed? It's not all the research that guilts exhausted moms into more and better motherhood via "breast is best." (And really super moms should buy this breastfeeding/pumping system of $18 nipples and $120 bottle warmers, because it will make you the best breastfeeding mom ever, and help you love your baby best of all and then register for a thousand-million necessary accessories to go with it, because how did small humans ever get fed before corporate America?!!) Seriously, we breastfeed because it's free. And I like a good deal. That's it.

We will let our kids stay up after 8 pm for special events. 

We might skip a nap for a playdate. 

We might co-sleep, if I'm too tired to put a baby back in the crib. We might not co-sleep, if I'm too tired to get the baby from the crib.

We'll probably eat the same thing for every meal, because it takes zero brainpower, and the kids like it. And take daily vitamins to make up the difference. 

We'll cloth diaper once their little bottoms are big enough to fit the cloth diapers. Again, not because they're better (maybe a little), just because it's cheaper. Unless the laundry gets overwhelming, and then we'll stop. 

I might "sleep while they sleep," but I also might use the downtime to take pictures of my cat with the tiny babies. 

And we'll all be just fine.

Because Everyone (Apparently) Wants To Know

As the admitting nurse in the Labor & Delivery wing of the hospital filled out my paperwork, she casually asked, "Do you want your tubes tied?"

It took me a moment to realize this is a real question, on the admitting paperwork for moms in labor, about to give birth. "Have you had prenatal care?" "Will you want an epidural?" "Do you want your tubes tied?"

WELL, GEEZ! What woman in labor, in her right mind, after 9 months of carrying around baby(ies) and extra hormones, and an inevitable future of no sleep and more budgeting DOESN'T want her tubes tied?! What a terrible time to ask someone to make a life-changing, long-term, irreversible, expensive decision!!! 

It's like asking a marathon runner at mile 25 if they're ever going to run again. It's like asking the winner of Nathan's Famous Fourth of July Hot Dog Eating Contest if they'd like another hot dog.

Congratulations! Do you ever plan on eating a hot dog again? You know where hot dogs come from, right?
I guess if I'm audacious enough to have two kids at once, I shouldn't take offense to strangers wanting to know about our future family plans. 

And they all ask. Every nurse through 3 weeks of bed rest. The anesthesiologist giving the epidural. All our usual best friends around town -- grocery store checker, post office clerk, other parents at the park, the pediatrician, the pediatrician's wife (whom I don't know, but happened to be at the office during the babies' first wellness visit), and the random neighbor I've talked to twice (the second time about whether or not we're "done.")

After giving birth to the twins, my mid-wife reminded me every single day for four days straight that there should be no sex for four weeks. I heard her on the first day, but I guess I laughed too many times about Irish twins and how funny it would be if we had two sets of twins nine months apart. So I got the "no sex" talk for three more days in a row.

So here's the deal. Since everyone (apparently) wants to know, I will share our future family plans right here, on my blog, for the world to see! 

Today, this 16th day of October 2014, having no assurance of anything for the future (as no one really does), we will uncompromisingly commit to the following as the definitive and right number of children for our family (also with the clear intention that no more of them come as sets):

I don't know. We'll see.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Some Questions About Domestic Abuse and The Whole Ray Rice Thing

I don't follow sports. Wally keeps me updated on the interesting stuff, and I never hesitate to share my amateur, detached, layman's opinion, usually very strongly. 

Which might be the case here. 

But please help me sort out this Ray and Janay Rice thing*, because right now, it feels like the NFL is unsuccessfully chasing down public opinion, attempting to placate a crowd that can't make up its mind and likes drama for the sake of drama. It feels like middle school. Or election season. 

Picture Source

Are women a weaker sex? Is it men's job to protect them?

If the answer is "Yes, and therefore, men should never hit women," then why is the Ray Rice assault just now becoming an issue? Why would we even need to see video footage to demand justice? Ray Rice told NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell back in June that he hit Janay, and we all saw the video footage of him dragging her unconscious body out of the elevator. 

When Goodell acknowledged the initial 2-game suspension wasn't sufficient, NFL policy changed to penalize domestic abuse with a 6-game suspension, and everyone seemed okay with that (at the time). Now we see new footage of the same event, and act shocked that he actually hit her. 

Where was the public outcry back in June or July, when this was all over the media? Why is Ray Rice just now being terminated from the team? Why is the National Organization of Women just now petitioning for Roger Goodell's resignation? Why should seeing a video of an event we know occurred make any difference? Unless we all got it wrong in the first place -- not just Roger Goodell, and not just the NFL. And shame on us for needing a video to realize how awful domestic abuse is.

But back to the question -- Are women a weaker sex? And is it men's job to protect them?

If the answer is "No, we're all equals, and men don't have an innate obligation to defer to women," then should it be taken into consideration that Janay Palmer allegedly hit Ray Rice first? Should this be a case of disorderly conduct or fighting in public instead? Should they both be charged with assault? Or just the person who's not as beaten up? 

Be assured, I'm not advocating domestic abuse here. I just wonder where the line is between two people getting in a fight, and domestic abuse. 

- Is it dependent on one person being physically larger than the other? 
- Or one person having a more powerful weapon? 
- Or is it dependent on the moment when the fight turns from verbal abuse to physical abuse (whoever throws the first punch)? 
- What if they're both sized equally, and the fight looks fair? Would it still be more the man's fault? 

That an intimate relationship even reaches the point of physical violence is tragic. But I don't think domestic abuse is as simple as media and public opinion are treating it. Things usually escalate through stress, disrespect, resentment, anger, verbal abuse through to physical abuse. And I don't think it's a men-versus-women issue. I think it's a people issue. 

I'm not advocating that victims of abuse stay in an abusive relationship. In fact, I think anyone who's even in a disrespectful friendship should just walk away, if it can't be repaired. Oftentimes, children are involved, and I'll clarify in advance that never in any circumstance would I think child abuse is explainable or acceptable. Child abuse is never a fight between equals that got out of hand. I'm glad we have shelters available for domestic abuse victims, in particular the children who are caught in the middle. 

I don't know what happened between Ray and Janay that night. I don't know them. I don't know their relationship. They haven't asked for my help or my opinion. For now, they've asked for privacy. 

So for now, can we back out of their business, back off the public opinion ping-pong game we've been playing with the NFL, and just wait patiently together for the next big social media scandal? I'm sure it won't disappoint. 

Post from Janay Rice in response to the release of the elevator video in September, and the public outcry that followed.
Picture Source

*Last February, Ray Rice got in a fight with his then-fiance, Janay Palmer, and punched her unconscious in a casino elevator. In July, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell gave Rice 2 games suspension. It made the news, everyone was upset that domestic abuse was obviously less an issue to the NFL than substance abuse (myself included), which carries a 4 game suspension, and come August, the NFL increased the penalty for domestic abuse to a 6-game suspension. Things calmed down, and football season commenced. In September, the video was released from February of Ray Rice punching Janay Palmer in the elevator. It's a violent clip, people got angry, the NFL terminated Ray Rice from the League, the Baltimore Ravens cut him from the team, and the National Organization of Women is demanding Roger Goodell's resignation. 

Monday, September 8, 2014

When Dreams Aren't Really Broken

The radio DJ says God wants to fulfill all my greatest desires, and at inspirational conferences, I hear, "Dream big!" and "Do something great for God!"

I got my 10,000 hours of dance in growing up, and there was something really satisfying about getting to join a company and perform after college. It felt like the first real risk I'd ever taken, the first time I'd admitted to having a dream.

So there were plenty of questions and doubts when I left three years later, looking for love, a job that could pay the rent, and some kind of healthcare coverage. Was I selling out?

I've spent a lot of years mistaking big dreams and godly ambitions for financial stability and health insurance

But I've also spent a lot of years thinking spiritual highs and shining in a spotlight were God's signs of favor in my life. 

After leaving the dance company, I picked up a couple of jobs teaching dance. I realized I enjoyed it, and started grad school to get some credentials in it. 

I married a wonderful man, we got pregnant 18 months sooner than we planned, and I dropped out of grad school to get a "real job." I still wonder if these were the right choices, or how life will turn, or if I'll ever return to something that was such a big part of my life for so long. 

It's easy to feel that the busy seasons of life are more important, or that seasons in the spotlight are more esteemed, or that a season on bed rest is just a big waste of time. (My current full-time -- hopefully temporary -- job is hospital bed rest.) 

But I'm seeing that life is less a Disney movie and more a miniseries, and what I see as drifting from the storyline might just be a new episode. 

And the Author of all of this is pulling together our stories into something bigger and greater than we could ever imagine or write for ourselves. 

A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps. Proverbs 16:9 

Saturday, September 6, 2014

A Very Unexciting Update

The whiteboard in my room told me it was "Monday, 9/1" all week, until Thursday, when it was updated to "Monday, 9/4." It currently reads "Friday, 9/5." I think today is Saturday (9/6?). I guess it doesn't matter. 

I think the nurses have a secret chart at their station that makes fun of how many times I think I'm in labor. I buzz the call button at least twice a day to alert them: "I'm having real contractions." You would think after birthing two kids naturally, I could identify labor. Nope, no idea. If we have future kids, at least one will be born in the van on the way to the hospital. Hopefully we can make it to the van, because if I give birth in the driveway, we'll have to move.

I don't know what medications I'm on. Morning and night, I'm handed a medicine cup of brightly-colored pills, and I take them.  

The bed rest crazies started getting to me when I almost lost it over a brownish banana I got on my breakfast tray. Until I realized that every day, someone delivers a hot breakfast to my bedside, after I've been drinking Ensures and half cups of coffee for months, so I should shut up and be grateful. So that's what I did.

Wally took care of checking me in, while I got changed and evaluated upon admission. One of the nurses got annoyed and frustrated when Wally wouldn't list my social security number (because they don't need it, and their systems aren't secure, and stuff happens.) Anyway, all the nurses are super nice to me, except this one. She seems exasperated by stuff like taking blood pressure and temperatures. My Southern instinct is to be super sweet and compliant to win her over, but I'm pretty sure she just hates me. Thanks, Wally, for protecting my identity. 

Picture Source

My "big" kids: I love it when our preschoolers call me at the hospital. But I love it even more that they can't ever stay to talk, because there are more exciting things going on in their lives, like sandboxes, hiking, and Texas high school football games. I think, if Joe and Josh weren't getting such good care from Wally, Mommom & Poppop, I would have to get myself back home to give them Mama love, and just let these baby twins be born in the driveway. 

Last night, after my latest girl-who-cried-wolf-contraction-drama, the nurses gave me Ambien. I hear it's addictive and has crazy side effects, but wow, that was the best sleep of my life. 

And I guess, most importantly, babies: still inside and doing great. 32 weeks on Monday!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

How I Should Have Quit My Job: Case Studies on the American Workplace

I hate to be jaded (who am I kidding - I relish a good critique of capitalism at its worst), but based on six years of quiet observation at a small, successful financial investment company, it really doesn't pay to be the responsible employee. 

Without further ado, I present, case studies on quitting your job: 

Case #1: Getting Fired

My coworker doesn't get along with the boss. One day she's pushed over the edge, and loses it. When she comes in the next day, she's fired. For signing an agreement not to sue the company, she leaves with: 

- 2 months' pay 
- 2 months' family health insurance 
- 401(k) intact 
- a guarantee that her unemployment insurance application will be approved

It's worth it to the company to avoid any litigation or bad publicity.
Case #2: Leaving Without Notice

My coworker isn't a good fit for the office. She gets stressed easily, which causes her to get sick and miss work. The office doesn't have paid sick leave, but on the good faith that she's going to make up weeks of time missed, her paychecks continue as usual. One day, she picks up her paycheck and just doesn't come back. She leaves with: 

- 2 weeks' advance pay (due to the company's payroll system) 
- 4 weeks' paid sick time (which technically doesn't exist)  
- a year's worth of paid vacation, despite only working half a year 

It's not worth it to the company to pursue the 8 weeks of overpaid wages.

Case #3: On-Call Unpaid Maternity Leave With 7 Months' Notice

Four years ago, with my last pregnancy, I gave 7 months' notice of maternity leave. I prepared a manual for the position, trained my temporary replacement, worked until my due date, and then spent six weeks of unpaid maternity leave constantly coaching the temp through basic job duties via my personal phone and email. When I returned, my benefits were cut, as was my year-end bonus, since I was only on-call (daily) and not in the office during maternity leave. At the end of the year, all of my comp time was cut without notice. 

Picture Source

Case #4: Resignation with 4 Months' Notice and Replacement Training 

Seven months ago, I found out I was pregnant with twins. I gave four months' notice at work that I wouldn't be returning after the babies are born, provided referrals for potential replacements, put together a manual for the position, and offered to simultaneously train an additional position that was unexpectedly vacated (see Case #2). There is no paid maternity leave, no paid sick time or vacation days, no unemployment insurance. There's usually a generous year-end bonus, and I think perhaps, I'll receive a portion of it, since I've been a responsible, over-achieving employee for more than half the year. No bonus is given. My replacement is hired at 160% my wage. 

But, see, I was thinking...
It would seem meritocracies are only for Silicon Valley and cock-eyed optimists. Nonetheless, at least I collected many stories for future telling, and some great blog material while on the job!

"But I'm only a cock-eyed OP-ti-mist, 
and I can't get it intoooo my heeeeeeeaad..."

Post-script: I have a couple of coping mechanisms: laughing awkwardly, detachment and introspection, and if all else fails, a good cry session. I tried to make light of this situation -- my leaving a job to which I really felt committed and accountable for many years -- but the truth is, I'm disappointed and perhaps unreasonably disappointed that a good job with good colleagues and friends with whom I genuinely enjoyed working, seemed to come down to capitalism and the bottom line in the end, more than the people that make it successful.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

On Hospital Bed Rest

Following 24-hours that Wally and I would be okay not re-living, I'm now on full-time hospital bed rest, indefinitely suspended halfway through labor. The gestating of babies and cocktail of drugs hasn't left much mental capacity, so I'll just describe my current home:

The Bedside Cache

Meds: I brought my own CVS-brand saline spray, but the hospital pharmacy replaced several of the drugs I brought with their own versions. (I guess they missed the self-pay disclaimer on my admissions form!*) Anyway, now I have fancy sea salt nasal spray. I wish I could tell you it's made all the difference. But I can only conclude salt water is salt water.

Phone: Our boys are spending a good amount of time at Mommom and Poppop's house now, a marvelous place of more toys, fewer rules, and the great outdoors, pretty much utopia for preschool boys. Mommom taught Joseph, our 4-year-old, how to auto-dial me at the hospital, so I've enjoyed several stream of conscience phone calls, interrupted by the 3-year-old's one-sentence updates ("I found a rock today!") as the phone gets passed back and forth. 

Laptop: I have found the end of the internet. 

The Stage Lights

Yes, stage lights. Because if you haven't lost all sense of privacy through the birthing process to this point, let's gather an audience of nurses, residents, doula and doctor to the foot of the bed and flip on those spotlights. I felt like I should break into song and dance. 

The Video Camera

I'm pretty sure that's a video camera -- the little black circle between the stage lights. So no matter how closed the partition is, no matter how few people are in the room, I can't get over the thought that a crowd is gathered at the nursing station monitors watching me live out life in a hospital bed.

The Leg Cuffs

Since I can't get regular exercise or blood circulation, the hospital has air-filled cloth balloons that alternate inflation on my calves. It's supposed to prevent blood clots. They don't work well with bed pan use.

The Baby & Contraction Monitors

There is nothing sweeter than the background noise of babies' heartbeats overlaid by kicks and hiccups.  But the little ultrasound discs that are gelled and tied all over my belly can only work as long as the babies aren't moving, which is just not Jonathan and David's style. So the nurses are constantly having to come in and get them back on the monitor. Thankfully, I don't worry about heartbeats when I've got babies rolling around like crazy. 

The New Hobbies

Everyone's biggest concern seems to be boredom. Even the nurse tried to help me come up with a new hobby while I'm here. Honestly, doing nothing is great. The last couple years haven't budgeted enough time for staring out the window. And reality, bottom line: all the reading and crocheting in the world can't replace the only thing I want to be doing, which is living life at home with Wally and our boys. All the other options seem pretty lame.

Things I'm Missing At Home

The Challenge

As mentioned earlier, I don't have the mental capacity to do much more than describe my surroundings, but there is a very serious need in hospitals everywhere that maybe you could help with. I'd like to extend a challenge and a plea to everyone who reads this: design a better bed pan. 

At this point, a coffee cup from Goodwill could be considered an improvement. 

*Don't panic about our self-pay status. We're part of a healthcare co-op that's pretty awesome. They've got us covered.