Thirsting for community

There are so many days when staying at home is a joy.  And there some days when I just feel alone and isolated.  I say this not to complain about staying at home with my children, which I love, but to acknowledge and share something that I feel is missing in our society.

Awhile back, my husband and I started a documentary called “Bela Fleck: Throw Down Your Heart” about the American banjo.  I never finished it, so I can’t tell you what I think of the whole thing.  But there was one scene that has stuck with me, and brings a longing to my heart every time I see it.  When I saw it the first time, I was in such a lonely place I was trying not to cry.  (Yes, leave it to me to find something to cry about in a documentary about banjos!)

In this scene, women in the Village of Nakisenyi in Africa are gathered outside around some pans laid on the dirt.  Some are crouched over the pans, washing dishes.  Others are standing or sitting around, singing a lively call and response song.  Nearby, the children are around, playing together. What strikes me is that the women are not holed up in their homes, doing their own dishes after eating by themselves.  They are working together.  It is a community job.  They work together to do a task that we do on our own.  They are sharing each other’s daily burdens.  And what better way to get something done than to sing while you do it?

The next scene is in the same village, of a big group of villagers singing and playing instruments.  There is a HUGE marimba made out of logs.  The marimba must be 10 feet long, resting on the ground.  It is so long there must be five men playing it, each with two sticks.  Standing around them are more people singing and playing other instruments.  Some are clapping if they don’t have another instrument.  Everyone seems to be enjoying themselves.  The children are nearby in a group, dancing and clapping.

Something about that struck a chord in my heart.  These people do not have fancy houses, the newest gadgets, or in-style clothes.  But what they do have is something I crave – a true, ever-present community. We are so busy in our individual family lives, we miss out on the joys of living in a community.  

Think about it.  We wake up in our own little houses, get in our cars with the windows up, do our business, then drive back to our houses.  Our evenings are spent doing things for our individual families – grocery shopping, dance lessons, softball games.

When we finally get together with another family, it usually involves this complicated dance around each family’s schedule – so much that a simple dinner requires families to reserve a date several months in advance.  Even play dates can take weeks to plan out. Some days I wish for a simpler life.  A life where I know my neighbors and they know me.  A life where we don’t have to work so hard to get together.  

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How we survived twin newborns: Part 1

Exhausted, but happy to be taking the girls home.

Never EVER, turn down help!

We wanted to spend the first few days by ourselves with our new babies.  No help.

Towards the end of my pregnancy my husband and I decided we wanted to have the first few days at home with the babies by ourselves.  Looking back, I can see how insane this idea turned out to be, because as it turned out we had so much help, starting in the hospital, that there is no way we would have made it without the generosity of others with their time and food.

This crazy idea to spend the first few days alone as a little family was something I had read on the internet as a suggestion from another mother.  It was supposed to help you be able to establish your own routines and figure things out by yourself without the added stress of having anyone else around.  <insert evil laugh here>  Now, we told this to a few people and they were very polite and said, “Oh, that sounds nice.”  But I think they knew just how much craziness ONE baby can cause, let alone two.  And now, all I can say to this idea now is  “What a dumb idea! ”

Reality – The Hospital

Our beautiful baby girls were born weighing five pounds each, a bit premature at 37 weeks.  Our care in Labor & Delivery was wonderful.  I wish we could say the same for our postpartum care.  We didn’t have any help with the girls, and by the time we left Sunday evening (we came in on Friday evening), we had only slept a total of 4 hours since Friday morning.  We were exhausted.  The nurses never offered to take the girls for a few hours because it was the weekend and they were short staffed, and there wasn’t a nursery.  We also were having trouble getting the girls to nurse, so Layla was constantly hungry and tired and did a lot of crying.  I remember bawling when visitors were there out of pure exhaustion.  The greatest gift was when a couple of our friends came and just offered to hold the babies for awhile so Eloy and I could rest.  Eloy slept for like 3 hours.  I was so wound up I couldn’t sleep.

We also didn’t eat very well.  You had to call and order your food, but with two newborns crying at opposite times and eating at opposite times, we kind of forgot to do this.  My husband ate maybe twice while we were at the hospital.  We were so grateful when someone brought some snack food, and another brought us a lasagna – Eloy was so hungry he ate the lasagna straight out of the pan!

We were hoping to stay in the hospital until Monday morning, but at about 8PM Sunday night, the nurse came in and said we had to be out by 11 because insurance wouldn’t pay for anymore time in the hospital.  At this point, the girls were still not nursing, and not having wet diapers, and not sleeping but a few minutes at a time.  Thank goodness a couple of my cousins were there to visit!  They encouraged me to shower (I hadn’t showered since Thursday night…eww!), and they organized getting my prescriptions called in, and took everything out to the car.  Two of my cousins even drove us home.  I don’t think we ever would have made it home without them.

Begging for my Mom’s help

Before we left the hospital, Eloy and I decided that perhaps we needed a little more help than we thought we were going to, so I called my mom asking for her to come and stay the next few days with us.  She said, “I was wondering if you would need some help, so I already have my bag packed.  I will do the supper dishes and then come on down.”  And of course, I bawled.  I was crying so hard I couldn’t talk, so I said goodbye to my mom.  Eloy looked at me  strangely, and asked me if she said no.  Crying even harder, I wailed, “No, she said yes <insert hysterical cries>.”

Letting others fold our underwear, do our dishes, and other household chores

Live-in help.  For the first two to three months of the girls’ lives, we had nearly constant live-in help.  After we got home, my mom stayed with us for several weeks, followed by a two week stay by my older sister Natalie.  When she left, Eloy’s mom Trina visited for almost a month.  After that, my mom came down and stayed for several days at a time, or I had a cousin-in-law who also stayed for a couple nights.  It was an absolute necessity.  The girls were not strong enough to get enough milk by nursing and lost too much weight, so I would nurse one girl for ten minutes and someone would take and give that girl a bottle.  As soon as the first baby was done nursing, I would nurse the other girl for ten minutes, who would get a bottle afterwards.  Then, I would pump for fifteen minutes.  Doesn’t sound too bad, but it was a 15-20 minute battle to get the girls latched on properly sometimes.

And by the time I was done pumping, I had a couple minutes break before it was time to start all over again because they had to eat every two hours.  Getting a single hour of uninterrupted sleep was rare at this point, even at night.  We were sleeping for 15-30 minutes at a time, every few hours.

My job at this point was to nurse the girls, then eat, drink, and rest for a few minutes so I could keep producing milk for the girls.  All other household chores fell on the shoulders of whoever was staying with us, or my husband.  We had so many people who just stopped and offered to help either hold a baby, throw in a load of laundry, or help fold the clean clothes.  They even folded our underwear!  This would have embarrassed me before, but it became the norm.

We loved when people brought us meals.  With twin newborns, there wasn’t time to cook or clean up, so this was a big help.  Helping with dishes was another big help.  One friend would always make sure the kitchen was clean before she left. Another helped me fix and freeze meals.

These are just a few things that people helped us with.  All of this support from friends and family was crucial because it allowed my husband and I to focus on the most important thing – our new baby girls.  I’m not saying it will make your life easy.  Ours sure wasn’t, even with the help!  We barely slept, I only got a shower once every three days, and walked around with puked on clothes.  But I don’t want to think about how it would have been without these friends giving so much of their time and resources.

Moral of the Story

Be humble.  Accept help from anyone and everyone who offers.  Because in the end, you will realize that this extra help is what helped you survive.

 

Click here to read Part 2 of “How we survived newborn twins.”

No more Cheerios until you eat the ones on the floor!

Cheerio Face
This week I was trying to get supper in the oven and my twin girls, who are almost 18 months old had different plans. I gave them both some Cheerios in a bowl and turned my back to them to work at the counter.  Pretty soon I heard, “More, more!”  I went to toss some more Cheerios into their bowls (which at times feels like I am giving food to a pet) when I noticed all of the other Cheerios, scattered on the floor.  Before I could think I said, “You can’t have any more Cheerios until you eat the ones off the floor.”

What am I saying?!? What am I teaching these kids?!?

And then I start rationalizing it. Here’s my reasons.

1. It is a lesson in not wasting food. Forget that I just encouraged them to eat them straight from the floor, which probably has a million different germs.

2. Speaking of germs, eating off the floor helps build their immune systems.

3. Considering the girls never used to eat, I am grateful they just eat something!

Housework never gets done until guests are expected.

Dust

Photo by Denise Chan, iDenise.net

Mom?  Or Housekeeper?  This is a question I battle with every day – I want to be successful at both.  I want a house like what you see in the magazines where everything is spotless.  Who am I kidding?  I’d be ok with a floor that doesn’t have the perpetual cracker crumbs that are always sticking to my feet, and where the toys get picked up every night.

I know there are things that have to be done often, like sweep, dishes, laundry.    You have to have clean dishes to eat from, a clean floor so the girls can eat Cheerios from it, and clothes on our backs.  But there are other chores that I sometimes choose not to do just because they aren’t that pressing.  Who cares if there are papers lining the railing on our stairs, or if there are some misplaced drill bits sitting on my hutch?  I know my girls don’t care.  They won’t remember that!

I want them to remember if I stopped to read them a book, give hugs and kisses, or a play a game of “Ring around the Rosies.”  In life there are things that matter and right now those are my two beautiful daughters.  So dust bunnies, you can stay for another week, or maybe two, or maybe until I decide to have some guests over for supper.  But for now, just keep me and my daughters company.