I don’t leave the house much these days. It takes so much coordination just to get out the door, and then, if I finally make it to my destination, I actually have to…be there. Do things. Feed the babies and change their diapers and pray that they don’t cry, and oh, it’s just so much harder when I’m not at home with all the STUFF. Home has such a nice, familiar routine to it, and taking two babies out just feels like asking for trouble.
Thankfully though (and like most things with parenting, I think), when we do leave, it’s usually never as bad as I think it’s going to be. I am getting fairly skilled at getting the twins in and out of the stroller, I’ve made it through one massive, in-public poo blowout, and I’ve managed to feed both screaming babies in a random school parking lot without having an anxiety attack. WIN.
Finally beginning to do these things – going out in public like a regular mom – was a big deal, and something I’m pretty proud of. But it’s about so much more than just having it together enough to leave the house. Even though we knew when the twins were born that the goal was to leave the hospital eventually and live a normal life, the fact that we did that, that we are doing that, still feels jarring to me. I know how to exist with my babies at home, but taking them out into the world feels so foreign. We are doing something totally normal and completely abnormal at the same time. Nobody looks at us and sees it, nobody senses how much of an accomplishment it is to do this normal stuff. Nobody realizes that being out in the world like this is something that was never guaranteed to us when our babies were born fifteen weeks too soon.
Out in the world, at the doctor’s office or the deli counter, I feel really, really proud of these little babies. These little babies, who lived in a hospital for the first three-and-a-half months of their lives. These little babies who never looked like everyone else’s babies, who never seemed like they belonged out in the world where the ‘normal’ babies lived. My babies are PREEMIES. They hang out in the NICU with the nurses, not at the grocery store to be cooed at by the checkout girl. My daughter has a shunt! She sees a neurosurgeon! SHE HAD A GRADE III INTRAVENTRICULAR HEMORRHAGE! She’s not a normal baby.
People are fascinated by twins, and they love to stop and ask questions when they see a second baby hiding away at the bottom of the stroller. “Yes, yes, twins,” I want to say, “but look at my babies! Aren’t they beautiful?! They could have died but they didn’t and now here we are in the grocery store! Isn’t it amazing?!”
When we were still in the hospital, I remember thinking that I didn’t want to become a ‘preemie mom’. I was a mom of preemies, sure, but I didn’t want that to be who I was. I didn’t want my experience as a mother to be limited by the abnormal circumstances of my children’s entrance into the world. And while I do still feel like I can find common ground with moms of full-term, typical babies, there is still a very large part of me that feels so very different. A large part that can’t let go of what happened. A large part that doesn’t want to just yet.
I know one day this will matter less. Madeleine and Reid will grow up and our lives will progress and change, and their prematurity won’t be such a defining aspect of who they are. One day, hopefully, it won’t be such a definitely aspect of who I am either. But, for now at least, it really, really is.
Having dinner at an actual restaurant. No big deal.