Nesting and Know-It-Alls

Black Friday was expensive, but I bear no guilt. Babies need cribs, and the cribs we chose were 30%. Babies need mattresses, and Ubiquitous Baby Store ran a buy-one-get-one-free promotion that seemed uniquely designed for an expecting twin-mom like me. (Who else buys two mattresses at once?) Babies need clothes, and Gap marked their entire website down 50%. Land of Nod discounted some of the sheets I picked, and Pottery Barn doubled their rewards just enough that I felt entitled to splurge on the diaper bag I’ve been coveting with a mottled guilty desire, but my shame disappeared in the face of its stunning beauty when it arrived on the porch. Here is it:

natural-linen-classic-diaper-bag-c

And it is prettier in person. I rationalize the indulgence this way: I have to carry this thing with me virtually everywhere for literally years, and it still cost less than the black leather Kate Spade I use for teaching. Given how physically miserable this pregnancy has been (not to air my various complaints, like the fact that I would still throw up every night at 22+ weeks if it weren’t for the meds, or the frequent nosebleeds, or this three-weeks-and-counting bout of post-nasal drip and viral laryngitis, or the early onset of edema in my feet from a uterus that is already measuring in the third trimester) I deserve generousΒ  chocolate and retail therapy.

The anatomy scan really catapulted the shopping and nesting into high-gear because it was the benchmark we needed to survive in order to separate the anxieties of this pregnancy from the jarring tragedy of the last one. The MFM gave the girls “two A+s” and sent us home with ultrasound pictures that, for the first time, look unmistakably like babies with noses and fingers whom I can now feel squirming and bumping from within. On Thanksgiving, emboldened by the security afforded by the scan two days earlier, we went “Facebook official,” attaching a message of profound gratitude to this little gem of a snapshot:

babies

We announced gender to our families at dinner that night, and since then life has been a flurry of shower-planning, gift registries, small construction projects to make room for everything that currently lives in the second bedroom (my husband’s climate-sensitive guitar collection has been challenging to relocate) along with work and general holiday hubbub. But the tree is up, my belly is big, dresser drawers are filling with sleepers and tutus.

dresser

Things are moving along in a spirit that smacks decidedly of relaxed contentment with the exception of one small detail: my mother.The babies unsurprisingly dominated the conversation at the Thanksgiving table. It is the first time our families have really seen me since my belly popped, and the gender announcement sparked much talk of “little girls” and “sisters.” With that came lots of questions about maternity leave and sleeping arrangements, plus all the veteran mom stories that start, “When _____ was a baby…” Most of that warms me because it is a product of their excitement about the existence of these two new little people, but my mother’s interjections always turn toward the dark side, and she seems compelled to take up the cause of scaring the expectant mom with grave warnings about the difficulties of parenting. She’s not alone. There seems to be a whole troupe of these sorts. One friend went in on me via text when she learned that I was in the process of registering to fight me on my choice in double strollers. “Who cares about width,” she said, “just worry about weight. Those things are heavy,” followed by an ominous “You’ll see…” when I asserted that I had confidently chosen a stroller that was celebrated as light, slim, and agile after exhaustively reading reviews. My mother, who has never cared for twins, needs to constantly reiterate how “crazy” my life is going to be, focuses on how little sleep I will get, how bad my stretch marks will be, how few showers I will take, how exhausting children are. With the world at large, I am sometimes tempted to say, “Granted, I have never cared for a newborn, and I know it will be a challenging adjustment, but you have never cremated your baby and had to find a way to keep breathing, and, umm, that’s way fucking worse.” Of course, I do not say this out loud because my social graces always prevail, but I am saying it here to illustrate a point, which is how little the fortunately naive understand about pregnancy after infertility and loss. I am under no delusions about the rigors of raising children, while I am simultaneously humbled by the recognition that this is something I will not concretely understand until I am inside the experience, but treatment and miscarriage are also exhausting, except they are of the soul-sucking sort and entirely bereft of the joys that make parenting gratifying.

My mother, however, cannot claim the same leniency afforded by ignorance to the situation; she has been here these past seven years and seen us suffer, but why should I be surprised? My resentment toward her has historically been rooted in her complete inability to step outside of herself and make choices in word and deed that stem from the empathy that evolves out of perspective-taking. Instead, she has procrastinated for years a knee-replacement surgery that now looks like it will converge with the arrival of her first and maybe only grandchildren, and, in the meantime, she squanders this precious time by filling the air with doomsday prophecies about life after birth. Truthfully, my gleeful anticipation of this new era is impervious to her gloom, but with every clumsy, clueless prognostication, she widens the cavern between us, which is mostly sad because we had just started building a fragile little bridge. I will, however, concede that she surprised me once before, so I am still holding out hope that flesh-and-blood babies in her arms will inspire her to rally for her role as Grandma.

41 thoughts on “Nesting and Know-It-Alls

  1. I’ve never commented before but have followed your blog for a while as a fellow infertility survivor, currently pregnant with my second child. My first is 3 years old. I can so relate to your feelings about the know-it-all Debbie Downers who love to go on about how hard it is to have newborns, etc., but as an experienced mom, can tell you that you are right — it is all a bunch of bunk. There’s nothing hard about it. Yes, you lose some sleep and you have to put some effort into it. My daughter was extremely colicky and I often slept only 1-2 hours a night, sitting straight up, for the first 4-5 months. She was latched on literally 18-20 hours a day, and cried nearly every minute she wasn’t. So I didn’t have an “easy” baby. And still, so what? Every minute I felt awash in gratitude for the chance to care for her, and you’re repaid a thousand times over with all the joy they give back to you every day. And it just keeps getting better as they grow. Maybe it is the infertility and struggle of how hard it was to become a parent, but I think all the complaining parents are nuts and truly just whiny. The “hardships” of parenting are NOTHING in comparison to the hardships of infertility. And the joy is incredible. So be excited, be elated – it’s ALL good from here on out!

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    • Thank you! I suspected as much. If this long drag through hell has given me anything, it’s the confidence that my husband and I can weather virtually any challenge and come out the other side intact. Parenthood, thus, feels pretty doable.

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  2. First, I wanted to say that I totally splurged on a diaper bag as well (Kate Spade) and never regret it. It makes me happy every time I pick it up, still after two years of use. Cost per use would also probably have it as not much of a splurge at all, actually.

    Second, your comment about what you would like to say and how you “do not say this out loud because my social graces always prevail” struck me. Why is it that others can lose all sense of social grace, especially when it comes to pregnancy and child-rearing, but the person at the receiving end of this is expected to contain themselves? Just once, it would be fun to respond in-kind to any of the inappropriate comments I have received.

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    • Oh, for sure I would be entitled to abandon the niceties. I’d like to think it’s all about holding myself to a different standard, which allows me to feel superior and self-satisfied in the face of ridiculous comments πŸ˜‰ With my mom, I do go back at her, but I always end up looking like a bitch, blah.

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  3. I am excited beyond words for you and the twins! Ive been waiting and crying with you all these years through our joint IF journey. It’s just amazing you will land with twins. And 2 A+s…Can’t beat that! Isn’t the universe an ironic piece of work! So glad you are beginning to enjoy the planning stage! Keep us updated!! Much love to you!

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  4. So pleased to see you making purchases for the girls. And what a gorgeous bag!!! I am drooling all over it. I know that some people may be telling you things out of love, but it sucks to have to hear about how tired or whatever you may be in the future. Just celebrate with you. Some people are just filling the space or making conversations.

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  5. I don’t comment often, but have been following your journey for a while. I am a IVF mom to donor-conceived twin boys, and found your blog while going through my own IVF journey.

    I wanted to say that I am so sorry you are dealing with nay-sayers, particularly from your own mom. As a mom to 17- month old twin boys, I won’t lie – it IS hard. I had moments, mostly when they were newborns, where I cried, stood in my shower and screamed in frustration, and wondered if I would be able to get through that day. But those moments pale in comparison to the gratitude, love and adoration you will have for these two little girls. You get twice the love, twice the hugs, twice the kisses. When you have two sweet girls crowded on your lap, and you smell those sweet baby heads, and feel their warm cuddly, snuggly selves next to you, your heart will feel so full that you will be unable to understand how it isn’t bursting out of your chest. There are so many more of those moments than the hard moments. And dare I say… you will appreciate them more given everything you have gone through to get to that moment.

    Thank you for allowing me to go on this journey with you.

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    • Thank you for this. I look forward to facing challenges that have an actual bright side (for sure I have already had decidedly sadder bouts of shower-screaming and shower-crying) and what better than a lap full of kiddies ❀

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  6. Glad things are going well!

    Tell people to stuff it and then blame it on the hormones. Yes it will be hard – you’re not stupid, you know that you’re going to be tired and stressed and some nights will feel like they will never ever end. But so what? You have two beautiful children to love and snuggle and be with every day. It’s hard, but it’s so so worth it.

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  7. Ugh. I think you have great perspective on your mom and the negative Nancy types. (And you are a very eloquent writer!) unfortunately the negativity continues with “mom friends” as well – the one weaning will tell you that that is harder than nursing and the ones potty training will tell you that that stage is the hardest, etc. Sometimes they are right, too. But infertility and loss (in my opinion) put rose colored glasses on parenting that make even the longest, sleepless, vomity, etc nights with newborn twins feel like a joy to behold. Because you have two babies, so how bad can it be?!!!!

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  8. Never commented before. I accidentally stumbled upon this blog and stayed for the interesting writing and the thought-provoking things you say. πŸ™‚ I will confess that I don’t have fertility problems, so I’m probably a bit of an interloper, but I’m still rooting for you. Generally I’d have nothing sensible to contribute, but this time (rather unexpectedly) I might do…!

    First off, NO ONE is prepared for children. Certainly not in this day and age, when people don’t usually spend their childhood bringing up their eleven younger siblings! For many, the first baby they meet is their first child, and most will admit that those early months are a steep learning curve. But just because no one is prepared, that doesn’t mean it will be an awful experience. I wasn’t prepared, but it was actually okay. Some good days, some difficult days, but we pottered along and it was alright. Don’t be put off, people just love sharing horror stories, it’s normal. In fact, sharing awful tales of parenthood can be quite bonding at times, or at the very least entertaining…

    Truth be told, you probably have the advantage over those who’ve have an easy pregnancy. You’ve had bad morning sickness. I had it with both children, so I speak from experience. When my first child was born, even though I was just recovering from an emergency c-section and was exhausted, I still felt so much more myself than I had in nine months! It was GREAT!!! No more feeling spaced out or queasy. That wonderful relief is something that easy pregnancies don’t experience. The pay off to all that nausea and discomfort.

    I was also fortunate enough to meet an amazing and very experienced neo-natal nurse/midwife during my first stay in hospital. She got me into a great routine before I left. I clung desparately to my pad and pen for those first few months, keeping track of feed times and developing a schedule.

    It sounds a bit OCD, but again it paid off. Not only for my own piece of mind, but also because it turned out that babies quite like dull predictablity in their everyday lives. Both my kids ended up sleeping through an eight hour night by the time they were four months old. It was sooo worth the note-taking. You’re a teacher, I bet you’ve got a notepad too. πŸ™‚

    Also, with the first child it’s easy to get overpowered with those boring parenting groups, filled with people who you have nothing in common with – except for the fact that they happen to have a baby too – and who spend too much time passing out guilt-inducing or undermining ‘advice’, like how they’re going to turn their child into the next Beethoven by enrolling them into a ‘baby orchestra’ (which, just in case you didn’t know, is really just sitting in a circle and singing ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’ while banging a drum) or how you already damaged your child’s long term emotional wellbeing by feeding them the wrong vegetables.

    It is far better if you have a good friend with kids, they’re much more likely to prove helpful in the long run, even if they say a few silly things now. And you might even be allowed to have some entertaining conversations that aren’t about babies (after all, stranger things have happened at sea…)

    I suppose that what I’m really trying to say is don’t be put off. It will be fine. You’ll quickly gain the confidence to discern between advice that is genuinely helpful and advice that can be ignored with gleeful abandon.

    And looking on the brightest side of all, small children grow and change very quickly. Some problems you don’t even have to solve. It turns out that just as you’re getting worried, they grow up a little bit more and the problem disappears on its own! πŸ˜‰

    Anyway, I think you’re doing very well. Good luck and I hope you have a very Merry Christmas xx
    p.s. That’s a nice bag. πŸ™‚

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    • Thanks for all this encouragement! Unfortunately, most of my friends moved on and then lapped me with second babies years ago. I have had a little anxiety about cultivating a mom-circle as a result, but, honestly, my history gives me confidence that my husband and I can handle anything that comes my way. Merry Christmas to you too!

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  9. So glad you are starting to shop and plan for your two treasures…I so know the feeling of waiting until that 20 week scan…I don’t think I dared breath until we has passed that test. You so deserve to enjoy this time (awful pregnancy symptoms aside) of ‘normal’ happy expectation.
    Frustrating that your Mom doesn’t have much insight into where you’ve come from with her doom and gloom predictions of child-rearing. Compared to the joyless pummeling we go through with our infertility battles, becoming a mother is unbelievably joyful (not taking away from the lack of sleep and distress we feel when our little ones are unhappy – and the stress of trying to do our best in previously unchartered territories).
    I still cannot believe I have a little 4 week old lying on her beanbag as I write this. The colic episodes pale into insignificance.
    So incredibly happy and excited for you and the amazing Mother you will be.

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    • Yes, utter disbelief. They are moving a lot these days, and that has made it real. Up until the scan (interestingly, I started to feel them right around that time) this was mostly a promise I wasn’t willing to trust yet. I was sitting in a movie theater last night with both babies tapping and prodding inside me, and I am just in awe that this is real life. I had nearly given up hope, and the IVF was almost something I was doing just to be able to say that I had done everything and it wasn’t my fault.

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  10. It’s truly amazing to see you embrace your joy (never mind the bullshit) and hit your stride at long last. You’ve got this. In spades. I too hope she comes around though I can’t hold my breath that long. Enjoy the ride!

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    • I’m good πŸ˜‰ These two extraordinary blessings that I spent seven years worrying would never exist provide an armor against the bullshit. I mostly think it’s interesting that one could know someone went through the horrific tragedy of losing a baby @ 6mo pregnant and, through some strange amnesia, still say these kinds of things about parenting. People, go figure.

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  11. Incredible…I’m so happy for you! Would you mind saying around about when you are due?

    I was (and still am) floored by the difficulty of this job…hardest job I’ve ever had by far! But all of the other yummy, beautiful moments bulldoze the rest.

    You have so much personal insight—you’ll know what you need, and you’ll know how to ask for it.

    It was/is tricky for me—I felt/feel guilty for wanting time-outs from motherhood, feel guilty about the guilt, because I know it’s irrational, and so on. But I’m learning how to just roll with the ups and downs without so much inner editorializing!

    xoxox

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    • I have thought a lot of about your posts from early motherhood. You are always so candid about the highs and the lows, which is the kind of raw picture that I actually find helpful. Your experience, I think, is colored by the fact that you’re far from family and lack the support system that many new moms have. I will have my mother-in-law and maybe my husband’s sister for a time, but because of the nature of my mom’s dysfunction and my brother’s apathy and my sister’s (in Wisconsin) distance, I think I will have less help than the average bear. What I do have (like you) is an extraordinary husband who wants to be a hands-on dad, so (like you) all will ultimately be well.

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      • Tears at the thought of the two of you finally holding your babies. Wow. This journey the two of you have been on takes the breath away.

        Not having that help from outside family so much—yeah, it is definitely harder. I had friend in LI whose mom babysat two or three times a week and I just marveled at that situation. Now that we can go down to my parents in 3 hours, they do help me, but with both of them working full-time, the visits are actually kind of hard on me because I don’t have DH there and have to do so much of the work on my own. Ah, well. At least S can now have a relationship with his grandparents, which is dreamy.

        I am glad that my candidness has shed any light on the messy realities. Writing helps me make sense of the messy feelings I was having/do have…

        One thing that has been pretty interesting: DH and I get a lot of compliments on are parenting from other parents, and we’re like: What is it that we’re doing? What made them say that just then? We’re just being us, doing what comes naturally, and we often feel pretty exhausted. But we are joyous with our boy–that’s the only thing I can say for sure that other parents might be picking up on right away. Not a technique or skill or method or anything—just love and joy. That’s the part I’m betting you and your husband will not have a problem with. (: And that’s really the whole show.

        I wonder how you will experience things like mess and grossness and generally all organization or ability to complete a to-do list taken away for a long time….every mom is different, in my experience, with this one. It was/is painful and humbling for me, but you eventually become a little bit different person, one who does things and feels things differently. The change is very uncomfortable, but then you evolve, adapt, and it’s not so bad. In fact, you start to realize how much time you wasted before, and you can derive a lot of personal satisfaction from learning new ways of being efficient.

        We just had a couple friend and their eight month odl here for the weekend and she has not done any sleep training yet and was asking us about “progressive waiting.” DH and I double high-fived each other when we discussed the month when everything changed for the better and we figured out how to help S sleep through the night in a way we were comfortable with. But some people just aren’t as sensitive to sleep-deprivation as others are. We felt insane and sick. But I know a parent who was fine with three-hour snatches of sleep for years. Another one of those issues that is extremely personal and specific to the specific couple.

        My biggest piece of practical advice, which I can now give with a smile and not despair: Test out all baby equipment with a baby doll or stuffed animal. I so wish I had! I was so used to having the time and mental bandwidth to figure out products—you just read the manual, do the thing, how hard can it be, etc. But I found myself in some miserable situations, trying to figure out my Ergo carrier with baby screaming, or how to quickly do my stroller with baby screaming in car seat…and on and on. Now I can laugh at it, but oh…

        Again, I am so happy for you and your husband!!! I hope you will continue to use the blog to share and explore and connect and hash things out. What a happy holiday season for you. Yes!!!

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  12. I’m really thrilled all is going well. I loved a number of your statements:

    “…how little the fortunately naive understand about pregnancy after infertility and loss.”

    and
    “I am under no delusions about the rigors of raising children, while I am simultaneously humbled by the recognition that this is something I will not concretely understand until I am inside the experience, but treatment and miscarriage are also exhausting, except they are of the soul-sucking sort and entirely bereft of the joys that make parenting gratifying.”

    And the title too. Know-it-alls – yes, it’s hard to get away from them. They’re the ones who always said “just relax” or who have examples of a friend or relative who had a “miracle” pregnancy when you’re going through infertility. I hope you can just roll your eyes, and ignore them. And don’t worry too much if they see your eyes rolling!

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    • Roll my eyes – yes. I remember this being similarly annoying when parents would say we were “lucky” we didn’t have kids and to “enjoy it.” That must really rankle when you’re moving through those excruciating phases of acceptance. One thing about weathering everything we have is that these remarks are mostly curious to me. I am insulated from negativity because I am so astounded by my fortune.

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  13. Oh! That diaper bag…so beautiful. I didn’t get a super fancy one, but I got one that didn’t look diaper-bag-y and was nicer than my purse and my school bag for sure, and it’s been in use as a travel bag for over a year. Because it looks nice and has amazing pockets. So I say, splurge and love up that diaper bag!

    As for your mom…I hope that fragile bridge stands. I do NOT understand whatsoever why people have to make parenting sound so completely awful. I don’t understand why it sounds like everyone who had children would really rather not have because it takes everything from you and you’re covered in poop and you have dirty hair forever and don’t ever not smell like stale milk. It’s very confusing when the same people who tell you you don’t know love until you have kids, that children are everything, that the holidays were crap before they had children, are the same people who tell you the horror stories. And really? No perspective on your previous tragedy, that you already know worst case scenario and so a blown out diaper on 2 hours sleep won’t be fun but won’t be as horrible as everything you’ve already gone through? I hope she can step outside herself to be there for you as you head towards your little girls.

    I am excited for your announcement, for your popping the cork on this pregnancy and starting the preparation bonanza, and so hopeful for everything wonderful for you (including an end to that night nausea, that sounds AWFUL).

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    • I actually had a bit of a blow-out with my mom yesterday morning, which is rare for me at this point in my life because I mostly accept that this is who she is. The prospect of bringing my girls into this dynamic puts a magnifying glass on much of this, and I am struggling. The truth is that she is probably excited for me as much as she can be, but she is such a negative person, even in her own life. This will be another stage of negotiating what changes I can with her, and learning to accept the rest.

      The pregnancy discomforts are annoying, but fortunately the nausea is mostly controlled by meds. What is mostly killing me now is the laryngitis since Thanksgiving and trying to juggle teaching with no voice while saving sick days for leave! I’ll admit that I have been straining it at work and making matters worse, but hopefully the steroid the ENT prescribed will get me through the next five days.

      I also used the diaper bag for an overnight trip to Mass for a wedding 2 weeks ago! It felt a little naughty to break the tissue paper wrap and use it before the babies are here, but it is so pretty and I needed a bag that size. The pockets are great!

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  14. I used a gigantic beautiful Chanel purse as my diaper bag with my twins, and it was the best thing ever. Every time I looked at it, it brought me crazy joy. Plus I always enjoyed people’s reactions, like – you’re crazy. Fun! Enjoy yours. So excited for you !!!

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    • Oooooh, Chanel, lucky girl ❀ I imagine those little splurges are important for remembering bits of your old self while you're covered in poop and vomit πŸ˜‰ No regrets, indeed!

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  15. I’ve never left a comment before (I don’t think?) but I’ve been reading along for a few years. I have 3 boys from IVF pregnancies. 1 singleton who is now 3.5 and 22 month old twins.
    You’ve got this! You are so right; infertility and IVF (not to even mention having to bury a baby…) are infinitely more difficult than actually parenting. Twins are hard, but your days will also be filled with so many moments of pure joy. And 3.5 years into my parenting journey I am still grateful every day because I remember how scared I was I might never get to parent. It sounds sappy but it is the truth. I’m sure you will be fine.

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    • Well, yes, it does seem that no matter how much parenting tests my limits (which I’m sure it will at times) that it is still far better than where I’m coming from!

      On a separate note, you give me courage about the potential of transferring for a 3rd in 2 years or so. We have other embryos on ice, at least one boy, and I had always wanted three. It just took a lot longer to conceive than I ever thought it would (7 years!) and I don’t want to have children much into my forties since I would like to retire some day (lol) and I wonder what the “three under three” experience was like…?

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