I sent this letter out with our Christmas cards this year. I've blogged a lot of this stuff, but it gives a pretty good update on our year. I would've sent this to every blog reader if I could've - and I'm praying for the greatest blessings for all of you in 2012!
Dear Family and Friends,
2011 has been a roller coaster marathon of a year in our household.
The first big event was in early January, when a 16-week ultrasound revealed that our identical twins - who were due to be born in June - were boys. That ultrasound and further ones found the babies healthy and thriving, thankfully.
While I could still travel, Camilla and I flew to the DC area to visit some dear friends and my sister Miriel who was living there at the time. On the trip we had high tea at a hotel downtown, a highlight that Camilla still talks about months later! It was a treat for me to travel alone with my “big” girl - at four she’s inquisitive and easy to excite; I loved watching her enjoy the trip.
In late February, Bryan took what would turn out to be his only business trip of the year. He’s never had a year with this little travel, and it couldn’t have happened at a better time. The kids and I stayed with my parents for the week, and it was then, around the 25-week point of my pregnancy, that I started having the contractions which would cause my doctors to put me on restricted activity (a modified form of bed rest) for the remainder of the twins’ gestation.
The rest of the winter and early spring passed slowly, although in retrospect it seems to have gone by in a flash. We made it through March, and then April. Bryan handled the household chores; I spent a lot of time on the couch concentrating on growing babies; Camilla and Blaise worked on their self-amusement skills. (Those skills have come in handy since!)
Then came May, our whirlwind month. After a short hospitalization to stop preterm labor and a few days at home on strict bed rest, our twins decided it was time to come, so they did!
Linus Michael, at 5 pounds 7 ounces, and Ambrose John, at 5 pounds 12 ounces, were born at 12:38 and 12:41am on May 12th, at 34 weeks 3 days gestation.
In case you’re wondering about the names: the babies are named for early saints. Linus is traditionally considered to have been the second pope, and Ambrose was a great scholar and doctor of the church. Michael is Bryan’s middle name and St. Michael the Archangel is a special family patron, and John is after my grandfather and St. John the Baptist.
The twins’ birth was a crazy one but surprisingly good, thanks in large part to my doctor, a maternal-fetal medicine specialist who delivers multiples regularly. I credit her with my managing to avoid a c-section, something that was important to me.
Having avoided surgery turned out to be an advantage over the next few weeks, since while I was recovering from giving birth, Linus and Ambrose were catching up from having come early. They spent 15 and 17 days respectively in the hospital’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. While I wouldn’t recommend NICU time to anyone, we had a sort of best-case preemie scenario: our babies breathed well from the beginning and only needed jaundice treatment and some tube feeding until they could get strong enough to eat on their own. And we’re lucky to have a great NICU just 2 miles from home, which made it much more bearable.
Still, the day we brought them both home was one of the happiest of the year. There’s nothing like being forced to spend many nights away from your newborns to emphasize the joy of having them with you!
But then the real work began. Having twins is like Extreme Parenting: all the normal baby tasks, doubled. There’s no way to spell each other, no way to get the breaks you get when you have a single baby. We were blessed to have my mom and sisters take turns staying with us for the first month, but caring for the babies is still a round-the-clock job, and Bryan and I would take turns moaning and blithering at each other as we sat up feeding twins in the middle of the night, near-drunk with exhaustion.
Fortunately, things got better. We got Linus and Ambrose off bottles onto full-time nursing, which simplified feeding. They started sleeping [somewhat] better. They held their heads up, smiled and laughed, and finally at around six months began sitting on their own. It’s two steps forward, one step back, but we are slowly making our way toward the time when (we hope) we’ll be able to really enjoy having twins.
In the meantime, we have two other kids to enjoy, and this has been a great year with Camilla and Blaise.
Camilla turned five in October and I’m casually homeschooling her for kindergarten, with a plan to send her to a local Catholic school for first grade next fall. She loves math and is making great strides in reading, and spends non-school-time drawing and creating all sorts of games to play with Blaise. When the two of them aren’t careening all over the house, she also deigns to help amuse the babies (for a few minutes at a time, anyway). She’s a delightful kid.
Blaise, who will be three in January, is a fireball of a kid, and while we’re working to (ahem) help him learn to curb his aggressive tendencies, we really enjoy his enthusiasm. He loves all things vehicle-related, especially “frucks and frains” as he calls them. He literally runs from place to place around the house, usually with a small truck or train clutched in his hand, so excited is he to find the next piece of mischief to manage. We’ve loved getting to know him as his verbal skills have developed this year, and we expect he’ll keep us laughing (and probably groaning) for years to come.
Bryan is still working at [redacted] and really liking a new project he started working on this fall. I’m still writing sporadically for faithandfamilylive.com, and looking forward to doing more as the twins get older and life settles down a bit. Neither of us gets nearly enough sleep, but we’re grateful for the crazy blessing of our little family, and we can’t wait to see where 2012 takes us.