A Mother’s Guilt

Sunday was supposed to be a day of recommitting, because I’ve backslid on several things. I haven’t pre-prepared my lunches, meaning I’ve been eating random stuff in our building cafeteria that’s costing me too much money. I haven’t been thinking about my vision. I haven’t been singing, despite finalizing a set list with Jerry that I’m excited about (he chose some songs I wasn’t expecting, including “Kiss Me,” by Six Pence None the Richer – that takes me back, though I’m not quite sure to when — high school?). And while I’ve kept an eye on the blog as integrity buddy, this week it’s been a bit of a lazy eye. Oh, and I didn’t make arrangements for my buddy call.

Friday was rough. I wrote my insurance company and got aggressive about their obligation to pay for Brodie’s $34,000 helicopter ride. I threatened suit, basically, and it wasn’t an empty threat. I researched New York insurance law, searching for ways in which they may have violated the insurance code that I could sling at them (and I found a couple). I also had to retell the story of Brodie’s illness, and that was shockingly taxing. I’ve told it on here, too, but not in the level of detail I had to go into for this letter. It was literally like reliving it all, and it sucked. I cried as I was writing it. I copied the N.Y. Attorney General and the N.Y. Finance Department (who regulates insurers). I included pictures of Brodie in the PICU – those pictures were more for the regulators than my soulless insurance company.

I had to write the helicopter company a nasty, aggressive letter also. I learned from my insurance company that they had sought pre-authorization for the transport (BEFORE taking off) — and that it had been denied. They never told us that very critical piece of information. So I stated our position: if it turns out this transport was not, in fact, “medically necessary,” we don’t owe this bill. You had a duty to tell us the pre-authorization was denied – a fact that would be important to any patient, as it would mean insurance did not intend to cover what was going to be a sizable bill – and you didn’t. That’s unconscionable.

Both letters completely zapped me.

Jimmy thinks I get off on these letters, but I don’t; what I have to access to write them is a lot of righteousness and anger. Sometimes it’s purging, but most of the time it just gets me deeply mired in feelings I’d rather not experience.

This happened after a week of no sleep. The boys are rolling over in their sleep now, waking themselves up. There’s nothing we can do about it but wait for them to get used to it. I’ve was up with Brodie from 4am on every night this week, including Sunday morning.

The difference though was Sunday morning I was spent.

The Universe isn’t entirely cruel, though, we had a nice Saturday. Raul came over to take photos. We took a ride out to Port Jefferson, a seaside town, and had lobster rolls. We also visited a woman Jimmy did LP with who owns a restaurant there.

That night, though, Jimmy went to play poker, as he does periodically. Poker and golf are his main recreational activities. I don’t mind either one; I know he enjoys them, he usually comes back feeling good, having gotten a chance to get out and do what he likes to do.   Those breaks allow him to his best for me and the boys, and so I’m all for it.

This time, though, it had been a very long week for me, and Saturday night, Brodie did not cooperate. He did at first; they both did. They slept from 8:30pm until Brodie woke at 4. He woke up on “my shift,” because Jimmy covers the first half of the night until 3, then it’s me for the rest of the morning. Of course, this night, I had covered both our shifts, since Jimmy didn’t get home until 1 or so and needed to sleep.

If it were just a wake-up, I could’ve weathered it fine, but he woke up screaming and he did not stop for four hours. Four. Hours. At the end of hour four, I woke Jimmy up. I can’t do this anymore, I told him. You have to take over.

For non-parents, what that means is I knew that, mentally, I was hanging by a thread. My patience was gone. I was no longer soothing Brodie; I was holding him like some foreign object that wouldn’t stop making noise. I had already put him down several times and went into the back bedroom to scream into a pillow. I know this is hard to understand if you aren’t a parent, because I sure as hell didn’t before I was one. It isn’t the moment itself that’s difficult; it’s everything that’s led up to it, all the moments you kept your cool and stuffed your frustration down, that suddenly crash down upon you like an avalanche.

Jimmy took over, but then he had to go to his morning AA meeting, and it was just me and the boys again. They were fine, for the first 10 minutes. Then: a twin mother’s worst nightmare. A double meltdown. Jayden has three levels to his crying. The first is sort of a whiney cry that fades in and out. The second is a steady cry that goes up and down in volume. The third level, what I call “total meltdown,” is when his face gets super red, he squeezes his eyes shut, clenches his little fists, and starts letting out high-pitched screams. Jayden reached a level 3. Brodie only has level 0 and level 3, so he was also at a level 3. What could I do at that point?

I started crying, too. Level 3.

Imagine this scene with me if you will: Jayden, Brodie and me, there in the living room together, all three of us with red faces, eyes squeezed shut, clenched fists, wailing.

I honestly really let myself go, I thought it might help.

It didn’t. I told Jimmy he had to come home. He did only after asking if his mother was around to help instead, which I didn’t appreciate (she wasn’t).

When he got home, the boys were, of course, out cold asleep. I took the opportunity to talk to him about the frustrations I was facing.

I commute to White Plains every day but Friday. The drive is about an hour and forty-five minutes, each way. My life during the week thus consists of commuting, working, then commuting some more. When I get home, there is no rest. Jimmy has been with the boys all day and needs a break. I help him feed them dinner and put them to bed, and sometimes, he goes to a meeting in the evening – meaning I take over completely. On Friday, it’s a struggle. It’s great to work from home, but Jimmy can’t help but ask me to chip in with the boys when I’m there (because I’m there), when the truth is, I need to work. I feel competing pressures, I’ll admit self-imposed, between being a good wife and mother and being good at my job. I mean, I feel those competing pressures all the time, but working from home it’s like you EXPERIENCE them play out right in front of you.

It’s just very uneven right now, and I have no idea what to do about it. When I tried to talk to him about it, I couldn’t do it in a way that didn’t sound like I was accusing him of something. The truth is, I don’t begrudge him getting to do the things he likes to do – I know that’s important for him to stay sane.

Because, here’s the thing: we have two babies. All those twins clubs exist for a reason. This shit is really hard, and it’s really different from having one baby. It’s on a whole other level. The only people who get that are other twin parents, which I think we need to connect with ASAP.

But, to get back to the point, of course he needs breaks, and help, I’m gone a lot. But, I need those things too.

What makes this feel frustratingly impossible is even if Jimmy supports me by saying do whatever you want to do for yourself on the weekend (which he has said time and time again), the weekend is the only time I have with the boys. Can I really go off and do things for myself without feeling like I’m missing too much at home? I will be rehearsing with Jerry soon, and perhaps that will work as a test case for how possible this is and how much it ends up supporting me in being my best when I am with the boys.

BUT my solution for the moment is for us to go see our marriage counselor, which we haven’t done in months. I mean, on some level, that’s great, because when this parenting thing started my god we were a mess. We would show up on her couch a lot, in different stages of clusterf*ck. The fact that we got to a point where we’ve been feeling that things are under control – especially as I was about to go back to work – is fantastic. But, when issues surface like this that we can’t work through on our own, I realize that there is something to “preventative medicine.” Better late than never, though, and I feel confident she will help us untangle this. I partly want her support as a marriage counselor – and partly as just an older wise woman who can help us find a solution.

The title to this blog post is for a reason in addition to the above, though.

On Sunday after I went full meltdown with Jimmy, he decided to do what men do. “Fix” it. He called his sister to come and take the boys for the afternoon so I could have a “break.”

So she came over and carted them away and I felt terrible.

I remember at Lenox Hill the nurses would wheel your baby into you every few hours so you could feed him. For the first two days, it was just Jayden they’d wheel in, because Brodie was in the NICU. At the end of day 2, the pain medication was wearing off and I felt horrible. They wheeled Jayden in, and I said, no. The nurse looked back at me, confused. “No? No baby?” No, I snapped. Stunned, she wheeled him back out, and I can still see his two little eyes, blinking at me from afar as he rolled away.

After Jimmy’s sister took the boys, he left too, to give me “space” or whatever.

So there I was alone in our eerily quiet house, and I felt like the Universe was saying to me: “There, your family is gone. Satisfied now?”

No, I wasn’t. I was sad.

It got worse. Jimmy’s sister brought the boys back a couple of hours later. Brodie hadn’t stopped crying since she picked him up and would not take his bottle. Jayden had vomited up his entire bottle. Jimmy’s sister speculated that they might be sick, even giving me the number to an emergency pediatrician – but I knew they weren’t.

They just needed their mommy. When she dropped them off to me, they suddenly seemed peaceful, smiling and fine, as if the events she described hadn’t happened. Now that mommy wasn’t “rejecting” them, they were feeling much better.

That’s the really, really hard part of all of this—the realization that babies need their mommies. They just do. I mean in many ways, it’s nice to feel that, but it comes with a lot of responsibility – and fear, about what my absence may be causing.

To get help – before the counseling session, which is not until next week – I reached out to my mommy. And boy did it help. Sometimes you do just need your mom, to tell you it’s all normal, that everyone goes through this, that twins makes it all so much harder, that I’m doing a great job, that I’m not alone, that she has my back, that she’ll ble here soon, that we need to give ourselves and each other a break.

She also is willing to tell me the truth. She said my priorities are out of whack. It’s not the boys, jimmy, then me – or Jimmy, the boys, then me – it’s me, the boys, then Jimmy. That’s the only way I’ll be able to be my best, for myself and the boys and Jimmy. And I think she’s right.

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3 thoughts on “A Mother’s Guilt

  1. All Moms have moments of meltdown…..not our proudest moments, but we are human. Our way of being that happens more consistently is what affects them over the longer run. This parenting business is a lot tougher than I ever imagined it would be…..totally worth it, but taking everything you got at times. I also think you should be giving yourself a break on the weekends too….a couple of hours of you time or time with friends will pay out in dividends for everyone…..don’t let it be an all or nothing thing on the weekends…

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  2. I love how well you’ve coached yourself though this, how you reached out to your own mom (I will always need my mom). I think how this is laying you out- how of course, you could only have twins- you’re Kyla; One baby would have been too simple for you, and I think that life is absurd… this is your biggest stretch and you are on the rack with every fiber of your being pulling in opposite directions. And you are doing it. They need you. And you will do the absolute best you can in every moment which will change each day, and no matter how good a job you do or how accessible you are (even if you were to quit your job and home school them and breast feed until they left for college (eeew) they will still make their own choices and you will wonder if you should have done something differently.
    Hope you find a wonderful community of twin parents. And a babysitter. Find some college kid to come over on fridays. It would be worth it.

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  3. I can’t imagine having to take care of twins, but I do come from a large family and know we drove my mom crazy sometimes. It is important that you give yourself sometime on the weekend, even if it’s just for an hour, to concentrate on you. Happy to hear your mother is coming to visit soon.

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