At first, we were most worried about Reid. Before we knew about Madeleine’s hemorrhage, before the hydrocephalus, and the surgeries and the shunts, all we knew was that Reid wasn’t doing so great. He needed a lot of help to breathe. He had a heart murmur and a PDA, and it might need surgery. From the get go, we saw Madeleine pushing back against the ventilator, getting frustrated at the technology needed to keep her alive. We saw a spark in Madeleine since the moment she came into the world much too soon – impatient from the very start. But with Reid, we didn’t really see that. And that concerned me.
I often think that the best part of having twins is realizing how little I actually have to do with who they are. With one baby, I would imagine you would feel a lot of pressure to do everything perfectly, to not mess up your influence on your blank slate of a child. That’s what I expected, anyway. But when Madeleine and Reid were born, it became clear from day one that they were very different people. They had their own personalities, their own needs and sensitivities, their own way of experiencing the world, even though I was doing everything the same. I realized pretty quickly that my job as a mother wouldn’t be to mould or influence them at all, but just to try to stand by them and try not to get too in the way of who they were naturally going to become.
This has been easier to do with Madeleine. She’s naturally curious and talkative and pushy and determined – things that, as a mother of a child who endured fairly significant neurological trauma, make me think, thank goodness. We need her to be all of those things. Those things will help her try to overcome the obstacles in her way. But with Reid, it’s always been a struggle. He’s so relaxed, happy to just be held and fed and snuggled. Happy to just lie there and watch his sister squirming and scooting and reaching for things. This is who he is – it has always been who he is – but sometimes I think, “c’mon little guy. Try a little harder.”
Madeleine is talkative. Reid, not so much. Madeleine grabs her toes and sticks them in her mouth and rolls and grabs her toys. Reid, not so much. At our most recent follow-up appointment, we were told this was probably a bad thing. His muscles are tight, his core is weak, he needs physiotherapy. He’s getting stuck in his patterns, it’ll make it harder for him to sit and stand and progress. He’s not making clear sounds, maybe he’s having trouble hearing. It was exactly the thing the anxious mother inside of me wanted to hear. I was right! There’s something wrong! But I was forgetting something else very important about Reid, which is that he has his own schedule. Reid takes his time. Reid does things when he is ready to do them, and pushing and prodding him to go any faster makes no difference whatsoever.
Eventually, Reid did come off the ventilator. Eventually, he began breathing room air. Eventually, his PDA closed without surgery, and his murmur became faint. Eventually he passed his car seat test, on his third attempt (compared to Madeleine’s ‘one and done’). And now, eventually, he is making sounds and grabbing his toes and laughing and screaming, and not showing any signs of caring that his sister did it first.