Three Pictures and Some Pants

A few months after the boys were born, I wrote a piece about fatherhood from my perspective that the awesome site for awesome dads, dads.co, was kind enough to share. At the time, I was still coming to terms with the changes that were happening in my own life and hashing out how I felt with regards to the two new lives that I was responsible for.

Now, looking back from their first birthday, it’s amazing how much I’ve changed since not just since the boys were born, but even since I wrote that post.

Yes, I’ve decided to make their first birthday all about me.

I don’t want to talk about the past several months by yammering on about growth and the triumph of the human spirit or whatever. To that end, I am going to sum up my feelings with three pictures and two pairs of pants.

Babies are babies. Our babies are like your babies are like their babies. For a large part of their first few months they are basically dazed-looking, crying balls of human excretion, resembling a Play-Doh playset filled with swamp mud. Babies are, by and large, loud, gross and dumb. Get mad if you want to; you know it’s true.

Our babies certainly fell into this generalization, and the farther we get from their birth, the louder, wrinklier, spewier, sleeplessier, and generally ickier we remember them having  been. I’m not trying to insult the lights of our lives, but I guess I have to call a poopy spade a poopy spade; they were mostly cranky and squirty, regardless of how much love and adoration we had for them.

This notion of the boys was mercifully retired one day when the boys were a hair over a month old and I took a few pictures as they lay next to each other in a Twin Z pillow. There was nothing extraordinary about it; just some more baby pictures among the thousands I’m sure I’d taken by then, but this picture really impacted me.

Partly this pic had such an affect on me because of the look C is giving his brother, and to the fact that they’re holding hands. I know, I know, at their age in this picture, it takes a bit of anthropomorphizing to read much into this. The hand-holding was coincidental, and C was glancing all around him with that same look; he could have been staring at a teddy bear or potted cactus for all it mattered. No thoughts in those heads but the entrance and egress of food.

Bros.

“You look like a very young Winston Churchill. Oh, and I just pooped.”

Yes, the boys are adorable here, but what really struck me was the juxtaposition of these two kids. M is mellow, sleeping, peaceful. C is wide-eyed, alert, awake, and anxious-looking. Before they were born and continuing to today, that has been more or less their respective “personalities”; M is the more calm, relaxed, thoughtful of the two, while C is more the go-go-go, alert, excitable, and “look before he leaps” type.

That said, it was in this picture that I first saw our sons as people; real, honest-to-God, fleshed out people. It’s hard to explain, but there was something in me that switched from viewing these babies as just babies, or as screaming crap dispensers, or as the reasons sleep was becoming a distant memory. Suddenly I saw them as “people”, as my boys, as individuals who didn’t just need to be taken care of, but that needed to be nurtured and raised to be good men.

If the boys’ personalities hit me in that photo, they clobbered me in this one:

4 months

“Your naiveté is silly, Daddy!”

There was no epiphany this time, it’s just…look at those smiles! I had never in my life seen (or at least noticed) any person look as overflowing with pure, unadulterated joy. I fell in love with these guys all over again. There’s a difference between seeing a person as a human and seeing a person as a person. Smiling and laughing because their old man was acting the fool behind their mommy while she took so many pictures the camera’s memory card was praying for Judgement Day, I saw these guys as full-blown little boys, and reveled in what was (and is as of this writing) the only example of anyone ever laughing at me when I was trying to be funny.

Because chronological order can go screw, this last picture is from the very early days after we brought the babies home.

Kat and I have known each other since 1997. We’ve moved in together, gotten married, been on adventures, overcome struggles, and gotten pregnant, but this, THIS, is the happiest I’ve ever seen her. She’s not grinning ear-to-ear or holding her sides from guffawing, but trust me, she is at the maximum threshold of human happiness. After our ordeals with infertility, miscarriage, and the deterioration of my emotional and physical health during her pregnancy, here she stands, holding her new babies and old husband. Her smile in this picture is beautiful and sweet and.it totally says “Screw every single other thing in the world. Screw all the struggles and problems, screw worries about the future, this is all I’ve ever wanted.”

Or she might just have fallen asleep...

Or maybe she just fell asleep…

Winding back the clock even further, while Kat was pregnant I was having some health issues, and they made it hard to know exactly how to feel about – or at least how to deal with – the pregnancy and impending role as a dad. When I found myself in an REI one day, I looked at children’s stuff and came across little convertible (zip-off lower legs) hiking pants. They were tagged as being for six-month-olds, they were more money than I should have spent at the time, and hiking pants are basically useless for babies. But we love hiking and I wear convertible pants when we do, so against all logic I bought two pairs:

Look at 'em. Yep, takes an awesome looking guy to make convertible pants look good.

Pacific Northwest slacks

The boys are a year old now, yet those pants still fit in what is apparently a sort of “five-small-barley-loaves-and-two-fishes” deal. On paper, I shouldn’t have bought them, but they stand as one of the only “wrong” decisions I made during that time that ended up being OK. The boys have been wearing them double the stated age, and, like their old man, they look awesome in hiking pants. I bought these pants in a sincere if ill-advised moment of impulse shopping, but they wound up being a great purchase from a practical standpoint and one of the few “silver linings” that came out of an otherwise pretty terrible time.

It’s such an oversimplification to try and sum up this past year with a few photos; we’ve had so many ups and downs, we’ve watched the milestones come and go, we’ve been humbled, we’ve been empowered, and we’ve both been given purpose in some different ways. Our boys won’t remember this year, but we’ll never forget*.

Bonus picture:

Pictured: personalities at 1

Pictured: personalities at 1

*Except actually we’ve forgotten big swaths of the first few months.

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Guilt and Depression

A few days ago, somebody sent me this article by Jenny Chen for The Atlantic. You should really read it, but I’ll sum it up by saying that more and more they are linking adult depression with childhood guilt.

Every once in a while – especially since I started dealing with and learning about emotional disorders – I find out that something I thought was unique to me is actually more common than I thought. When I read this piece, I had one of those “holy crap, it’s not just me” moments that are always a bit of a relief while being another thread to follow.

Throughout my entire life, there have been those actions – either taken or not – that for whatever reason left an indelible splotch of guilt on my conscience. I’m pretty sure everyone has those: that mean thing you did that you never got to apologize for or that time you were told to do a math problem in front of the class and couldn’t. The difference is, most people don’t think much about those things. I think about them. All. The. Time.

Worse, most of the things that I feel guilt or shame over are nothing more than minor mistakes or things that I was too young to have known not to do them. Granted, there are plenty of things from my adult life for which I feel this persistent guilt over, but even then, some things are so petty I shouldn’t even remember them.

What kills me is that there doesn’t seem to be much I can do about this. Therapists like to make with the “get over it, not your fault, no one else cared so neither should you” advice, but I already know all that and still have these feelings. On top of that, I have actually gone to people and apologized for things I’ve done or attempted to make amends in other ways, but it doesn’t erase that guilt, and has sometimes added to it because I’ve dredged things up for other people or because I now feel bad that I still feel bad. It doesn’t make much sense, I know, but cyclical b.s. is the name of the game with my mental health.

Maybe the craziest oddest thing about this is that I have had people tell me that they don’t even remember whatever it is I feel bad about, or they’ve told me that I’m forgiven. Other times, when I should otherwise feel like the burden should be gone, it’s not. I should note, too, that with very, very few exceptions, none of these guilty memories were the result of someone else doing or saying something; I go all Libertarian when it comes to shame and take care of it myself.

I think about these things at some point pretty much every day, and if one pops into my head, it usually begins a montage of real and imagined douchebaggery. These fun little trips down memory lane have done everything from ruin a decent afternoon to triggering panic attacks. I see why this seems to lead to or worsen depression; it’s a heavy burden to feel awful about so many things, especially when so many are minor, imagined, or irrelevant.

As I continue to face, learn about, and struggle with depression and other emotional issues, pieces like this are threads that are coming together to make a tapestry of my psyche. This tapestry will probably end up looking like a collaboration between H.R. Giger Jackson Pollock.

Again, please check out this article by Ms. Chen: http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2015/01/childhood-guilt-adult-depression/384176/

Fits and Starts

Last night I came to a realization: almost every other dad/parent blogger out there has kids older than hours ours*. Their stories, while often entertaining, educational, and inspiring, are often hard to relate to on a “molecular” level. Kids are a challenge, wacky, and worth it. OK, I get that, but I can’t yet share stories of adventures of school, funny things they’ve said, how they react to each other, etc. I can pretty much just post pictures and update on milestones, poop/eat/sleep, etc.

That said, I feel a lot better about the neglect with which I’ve treated this blog; obviously it’s a challenge for every new parent to squeeze time in for writing.

All that said, since I’m trying to divide this between babies and mental health (and other topics as they peak my interest), and with those being such fluid topics, I’d like to do better on posting. To that end, I’ve been working more on jotting down notes, reminders, and ideas as they come to me for later use. This has always been one of my biggest challenges. I always think “I’ll remember that, how could I forget such a great idea?”

So I’m not going to sweat my stalls as much and remember what my moniker means and why I have it. The only distraction isn’t laziness (although it pops up), but babies and work and other things that come between anybody and their writing.

*First, this was proofread by two people. Second, technically, TECHNICALLY, those children ARE older than hours. Months or years even.

A Quarter of a Year: Gone!

The 12th of July marked the three-month birthday of C & M, and what an insane three months they’ve been. From induction to c-section to homecoming to lactation consultants to families to jobs to pediatricians to nannies…it’s a lot of “real life” to cram into 13 weeks. Looking back, it’s a combination of feeling like things only happened a few days ago to feeling like we’ve been doing this forever.

One of our biggest milestones was reached last week; Kat went back to work, meaning that both of us are working full time and that the boys spent their first time since birth with someone other than family. Although we really like the nanny we hired, it was hard for both of us to leave the boys at home in someone else’s care. We survived the first week without too much heartache, but I think we’ll both be relieved when I work fewer hours and Kat begins working fewer, longer days and are both able to be with the twins more.

Our nanny will probably be leaving at the end of this month, as our new schedules won’t provide her with the hours she needs, so the hunt is on again for a very part-time sitter. I don’t mind saying I am entirely happy to let Kat man the helm on this task.

This first week of dual income earning also marked the first significant amount of time I spent as the solo caretaker of the boys, as I’m in charge from the time Kat leaves around 6:00 a.m. until the nanny gets in around 12:00 p.m. This typically involves me getting up to feed them around 8:30, changing and playing with them until 9:30 or so, and putting them back to bed for a nap while I attempt to shower, dress, eat, and do anything else I need to do before work. This part has only been partially successful; C, in particular, likes to get up earlier than he “should”, which sees me trying to get him back to sleep or entertain him until the nanny arrives. Still, we all survived, and I admit I enjoyed it more than I thought I would. I’m looking forward to the upcoming weeks and months and years of care-giving.

Both boys continue to enjoy good health, and although we still haven’t made it off of the wait list to get an appointment with a physical therapist for M’s torticollis, his neck control and strength have been improving day by day. That said, he is still the first to smile, will probably be the first to laugh, and is working on mastering reaching for and grabbing onto specific objects. Today’s item of focus was daddy’s beard.

C is far ahead in the mobility department, lifting his head high and rolling over during tummy time and making the motions (if unsuccessfully) of crawling. He seems to be a bit ahead of the curve as far as three-month-old babies go, and we’ve been told that his knuckle-gnawing and sudden persistent drooling might even be signs of teething. It would be a bit early, but our kids are the beneficiaries of some awesome genes, so why not?

In case you missed it, Washington State is in the midst of its annual early summer heat wave, where temperatures usually reach the mid-nineties at most. In some parts of the country this isn’t that bad, but since we only get about a week of these temps, very few people have air conditioners, meaning our houses – designed to catch as much light as possible the rest of the year – can become sweltering boxes of misery. Our second floor hit the upper eighties the other day, and temperatures are expected to go higher. With twin babies needing their comfort level to stay somewhat steady, I spent time setting up an intricate network of fans to optimize airflow into and out of various areas as deemed appropriate. I even went so far as to tape aluminum foil over the “skylight” windows in certain rooms that let the sunlight come streaming in. I’m also in the final stages of a DIY “air conditioner”, the idea of which has become all the rage around here.

Our dilemmas on how to incorporate our desires (both personal and familial) and needs (both personal and familial) into our daily routine continue. New jobs for either or both of us would be a tremendous help, but who has time to apply? It helps my emotional well-being if I can get some writing/blogging in, but during the day when I have to choose between writing and errands/chores/baby care/meals/work/commuting/etc., the writing takes a back seat. Personally, I’d love to start working on getting healthier, but I don’t have time to work out and we both find that we run out of time to cook and prepare healthy foods, so we wind up with takeout or food from boxes or cans.

A quarter of the way through the boys’ first year. Wow.

Three months old!

Three months old!

Updates, Week 10-11.5

In some ways, I’m shocked by how little our babies have changed in 2+ months. They’re still small, they still communicate by crying, they still can’t read and astrophysics is just outside of their comprehension.

That said, I’m amazed at how much they’ve changed since birth. C has filled out, no longer looks perpetually pissed off, has grown a good swath of hair, and can hold his head up (for a bit) and roll over (once, as of today).

M (who, BTW, retained his glorious patch of spiked-up birth hair) is holding his head up for longer than ever (as of today), is cooing and beeping, reaches out for us (though he doesn’t seem to know what to do when he grabs us), and has a vice-like grip. C managed a roll-over at just past 10 weeks, can hold his head up for longer and longer increments, and is making a mockery of the ages listed inside his clothes.

Both boys are following us with their eyes and heads, kicking their legs, and – best of all – smiling. C is the quickest to smile, especially when mommy is singing him the Alphabet Song. M is a bit more reserved, saving smiles for when you least suspect it, but unleashing them with a genuine glee that blows me away each time. (I’ve also discovered that tousling his hair usually elicits a smile.) Either way, damned if those smiles aren’t cuter than a hamster climbing into a fleece mitten while wearing a little bunny costume and nibbling on a candy heart that says “Hmstr Luv”.

Where was I…?

Oh, right, updates. Aside from those above, we’ve had a few things going on since my last post. (Author’s note: I’ve been trying to get this post written for about two weeks now, but, you know, busy with babies.)

I’m almost definitely going to go part-time at my job. I’m still looking for another local and/or WAH job, but until then, I am stuck where I’m at. After crunching some numbers though, and considering the cost of child care and commuting, it looks like we can (barely) cover expenses with me working PT. I’m looking at working three days every other week and four days the other weeks. This is still unconfirmed (technicalities at work need to get hammered out), but it’s looking like I’ll be a stay-at-home dad (SAHD) three or four days a week.

On our two-month pediatrician appointment, the boys were both in pretty good shape. The only concerns were M’s reflux and constant head-tilting to the right. Rice cereal was suggested to increase the viscosity of his formula, but we’ve reached an impasse as to whether or not to use it. The Internet seems to be pretty much split down the middle when it comes to using cereal at this age, and we’re erring on the side of caution. As for his neck, he was diagnosed with Congenital Muscular Torticollis, known in laymen’s terms as “scrunched neck from being crowded in the womb”. We’ll be seeing a physical therapist soon to straighten him out before he looks like he’s perpetually shrugging.

Vaccines were given, and C had a slight fever afterwards. Some people have concerns about vaccines causing autism or other problems, but we felt pretty comfortable both in getting vaccinations and in broadly labeling anti-vaxxers as total mass-hysteria suckers.

The question I get most at work is “Are they sleeping through the night yet?”. The answer is “no,” but they’re doing better than they were. They’re getting up less frequently, and when they do, a quick diaper change and or short feeding at the breast is usually enough to get them back to sleep without much fuss. They barely wake up to eat (if at all), and don’t start getting truly fussy until five-ish in the morning. We’ll see how this goes when Kat goes back to work and has to feed them early and get them back to sleep until I get up to take over their care before leaving them to the sitter or staying home myself. We had a practice run this past week, and it went mostly smoothly. Kat is all about schedules, and I’m all about letting them eat when hungry and sleep when tired, since they seem to do what they want anyway.

Speaking of Kat going back to work, yesterday (Monday, June 30) was her first day back, sort of a practice run before returning full time next week. I was in charge of the boys for a whole day, and I’m happy to say we all survived unscathed, if off schedule. Our bachelors’ day out took us to the mall, a sandwich shop, and a park for a bit of fresh air before ending at home where we waited for mommy to arrive. Considering it was her first day away since the boys were born, I think she did pretty well. I’m proud, in fact, that she wasn’t panicky, texting or calling every half hour, or sending me constant reminders of how she’d do things.

Once she goes back to work, we’ll have a sitter/nanny who we found on Care.com, a site for finding…well…sitters and nannies. Kat interviewed a few women, and after the first pick was unable to meet our scheduling needs, we called our (close) second pick, and she was able to work with us…at first. This was about the time we decided that I would be going to part time at my job. Add to that K’s new schedule which will allow her a day off and two days working in town each week, and we didn’t have the hours she was looking for. She’ll be taking care of the boys for the next month or so, but when I switch to part time, we’ll need to renegotiate or find someone new.

Today (Tuesday, July 1), Kat took the boys to Poma Fertility, the fertility clinic where we had our successful IVF to show them what a success their painful intrusions into our nethers had netted. I’m mentioning this mainly as an opportunity to plug Poma; you won’t find a nicer, more caring, more dedicated team of outstanding fertility experts anywhere. We felt then and feel now like part of a family, and if you’re in the greater Seattle area (or anywhere else; what’s the cost of a plane ticket at this point?) I couldn’t recommend any place more.

This also brought the fam within a few miles of my work, so they dropped in, causing an hour-long cessation of any sort of productivity. In perfect stereotypical fashion, a few men came by and nodded approvingly and mentioning that C looks like me before wandering off again, and every woman available crowded around to behold the fruit of our loins.

To be filed under “cherish every moment”, I offer the first (almost) two months of our babies’ lives. We’ve been elated, exhausted, happy, angry, sad, optimistic, drained, and more. We’ve cooed over our boys one minute and sobbed when they wouldn’t stop crying the next. We’ve bonded tighter than ever but also had fights. I’ve been more focused from the stress and more discombobulated from lack of sleep (and also that same stress). In this short time, every single aspect of our lives has changed. Long story short: HOLY CRAP!!! OUR BOYS ARE ALMOST TWO MONTHS OLD ALREADY!!! WHERE DID THE TIME GO??? Kat is going back to work in a few days, and someone we found on the Internet will be taking care of them. We won’t be spending as much time with them, and suddenly the last several weeks seem gone just like that. A portion of this time loss can be blamed on lack of sleep and the flurry of doctors, family, and periods of adjustment, but the bottom line is the warnings were true: it goes by so fast.

The Good News Is…

When I launched this blog (and this Tumblr and this Twitter account), the goals were threefold:

  1. Keep family/friends updated on our lives
  2. Have a place for me to get some writing done, with family eagerly awaiting news as my motivation
  3. Help me connect with other parents, folks with ADD and depression, and possible leads on jobs

The good news is that I’ve actually managed to do some of each of these, and will continue to get posts in as I can.

The other good news is that due to the amount of time the twins demand, I can’t get as much writing done as I’d like. Yes, I think that’s actually good news; it means I’m spending lots of time with the boys, so much so that other activities have been neglected.

The bad news is that the overall point of having these accounts is to work towards a better life for the boys via my improved mood and new job. See how it’s cyclical? 

That said, the other other good news is that I have been hired by a transcription company. Before you send me the congratulations cards, the work is limited to what they have available and how quickly you can do it. The pay is by the audio minute (the length of whatever I’m transcribing), and obviously I’ll be slow in the beginning. The average for a “rookie”, says the welcome email I received is $40.00/month; not exactly a living wage. Ideally, I’ll get pretty fast and move up the ladder relatively quickly and start earning more money. I’ll get more into this when I get started, so stay tuned.

The good news in that is that I got hired. Specifically, I got hired for a WAH position based on the results of a test I took that required writing, listening, grammar, and paying attention. In other words I got hired based on skills I have that don’t involve putting potato salad into plastic tubs. This provided a big and much needed ego boost, low-paying job notwithstanding. It also opened up the idea of this type of work; I’ve found more companies that I’ll be applying to over the next few weeks. The ultimate goal is to work from home while earning enough to not need to work in a retail establishment for the first time in my life. I don’t know if transcription is going to do that, but it’s a step in the right direction.

One unexpected benefit of having twin babies is that I have been more focused, less distracted, and better able to organize and plan ahead. Please note that I’m not saying I’m great at any of these, but I’m better than I was a few months ago. I think that being on edge with regards to the boys’ needs keeps my brain on task better than it had been. Knowing that I have two hours before the babies need to eat keeps me focused on the task at hand. I’ve always been a “work better under pressure” person, and this is that. I just need to work on getting to bed earlier; I tend to get home, help with a feeding, do some work, and be ready to go to sleep just when the boys are waking up. Depending on my level of exhaustion this leads to anything from a shrug of mild annoyance to downright “Of COURSE they’d be hungry right when I’m ready for bed!” anger. I absolutely have to adjust my sleep patterns, but I’ve been going to bed at hit-a-wall o’clock for the better part of the last 20 years, so making a permanent change is daunting. I’ll get there, though, because Kat says I have to.

So the blogs aren’t being kept up like I was hoping, but there have been other benefits of this “father of baby twins” thing. Like I said earlier, this stuff was supposed to make me better, therefore making life better for the boys. Turns out they flipped that on me; they’re not letting me get to everything I want, but they’re improving me in their own way.