I tried to be prepared for you, my precious little boys.
I bought the book, When You’re Expecting Twins, Triplets, or Quads, and read it cover to cover.
I researched the pros and cons of co-sleeping, baby bumpers, and binkies. I practiced swaddling, learned how to set up a high tech video baby monitor, and tested out all the settings on your sound machine until I decided that “rain” was the most soothing one.
I chose two perfect themes for your nursery: forest and jungle animals. Like the names I settled on, they were similar enough to complement one another, but different enough to remind you that you are unique individuals. I found the cutest crib sets and the most adorable stuffed animals.
I stocked up on diapers in every size from newborn to three. I bought a breast pump and figured out where all the tubes and doohickeys went. I stocked up on lanolin and purchased the nursing bras that got the best reviews on Amazon.
I talked to my “mommy friends.” They told me horror stories of “blow outs,” and the importance of covering up little boys during diaper changes to avoid the “fountain of youth.” I bought extra burp cloths and lots of baby wipes. I was ready to face it all—literally and figuratively.
I thought I was ready. I thought I was prepared.
But when you came blazing into this world at 29.5 weeks—like two tiny, explosive firecrackers that just couldn’t be contained anymore—I realized that I wasn’t prepared.
I wasn’t prepared for the emotional moment when I came face to face with the lives I created. I wasn’t prepared when the doctor lifted you from my womb and brought you close to me. I wasn’t prepared for the overwhelming joy I felt when I touched my parched lips to your red, wrinkled cheeks—still damp with amniotic fluid—and you anointed me with the liquid of your life.
I wasn’t prepared for the high pitched wail of your cries, and the mixture of relief and anxiety that it resonated in my heart. They were cries of life and cries of need. They were cries that I was now responsible for soothing, and would be for the rest of our days together.
I wasn’t prepared for the pain I felt when they whisked you away to the NICU and wheeled me back to my room, nothing but my tears, a notably looser belly, and your absence to show for the battle we’d just fought together. I wasn’t prepared for that helplessness, that unwelcome sense of involuntary estrangement. I never want to feel those things again.
I wasn’t prepared to see your fragile bodies in the isolettes, glowing an unnatural shade of indigo under the light of a UV lamp, its artificial warmth replacing that which my body once gave you.
I wasn’t prepared for the first time they finally allowed me to hold you, the miraculously miniscule features of your face pressed against my bare chest, your tiny toenails tickling the skin just above my navel. It was both the most natural and most surreal moment of my life.
I wasn’t prepared for the first time I nursed you, and the pride I felt when the NICU nurse told me you latched better than her eight-month-old son. I felt so much satisfaction in my ability to nourish you, yet so much apprehension at the thought that it would be my job to keep you healthy and fed from now on.
I wasn’t prepared for the day we brought you home, 42 days after we first laid eyes on you, your diminutive bodies strapped into the car seats like delicate porcelain dolls, rolled blankets packed in all around you. I never imagined I could have so much love for—and so much fear of—something so tiny.
I wasn’t prepared for our first night home together, or for the peace I felt in the serene, intimate silences the three of us shared once I’d soothed your cries. I didn’t know that I would use my foot to rock one of you to sleep in your Rock n’ Play while I nursed the other one, singing you Christmas songs and the theme song to Winnie the Pooh.
I wasn’t prepared for the hard nights, or the feelings of frustration and failure when I couldn’t stop your tears, calm your cries, or ease your pain. I wasn’t prepared for exhaustion, or the feelings of defeat and inadequacy it brought with it.
I wasn’t prepared for the immense relief when you finally started sleeping through the night, or the slight heartache when I weaned you.
I wasn’t prepared for your first laugh, your first words, or your first steps. I wasn’t prepared to collapse under the gentle weight of your delicate arms when you wrapped them around me for the first time.
I wasn’t prepared to watch you, my babies, grow into toddlers.
I’m still not prepared.
I’m not prepared to kiss you goodbye as you board the bus for your first day of kindergarten, or for the moment you wave at me happily from the window, perfectly content to leave my side.
I’m not prepared to wipe away your tears when other people hurt you, or when life doesn’t go the way you want. I’m not prepared for the guilt that will come when I make mistakes—as I know I will—because I’m not the perfect mom you deserve.
I’m not prepared for high school, girlfriends, baseball games, summer trips away from home, or whatever other paths your futures hold.
We’ve had two-and-a-half extraordinary years together, and here is the truth you’ve taught me about “preparation” in that time:
You can prepare to have a baby. You can prepare to take care of a toddler. You can even prepare to raise a child.
But you can’t prepare to be a mom.
You just…dive in.