My brother and I had gone out to our sister Jenny's for something. Maybe it was a dinner or a cookout. Maybe we were helping move some furniture. It might have been any number of things. We go out to our sister’s all the time. It was on the way back as we drove on the old country roads in the rapidly diminishing sunlight that my brother Jeremy turned to me.
“When is Jenny going to be Jenny again?” he asked.
This was a few months after waking up to a phone call that got me to throw clothes on as quickly as I could and hightail it to the hospital. Something was wrong with the twins, apparently, and Jenny was delivering early. That was all I knew.
By the time I got there, they knew more. 20-something weeks. One twin was stillborn. The other made it a few hours before we lost it, too. It was crushing for all of us, but obviously mostly for my sister, who had made it her life mission to have children. She had even found a guy and gotten pregnant with the twins before they made it to the altar.
A few months after losing the twins Jen was pregnant again, this time with Vienne, who as I write this is a beautiful little girl who just turned 7. Less than a year after Vienne came Carrver, and Jen had two kids.
Obviously, they don’t, didn’t, and won’t replace the twins. I do think, at least to an extent, Jenny is Jenny again. But it took a while.
I’ve been thinking of that story a lot lately. We found out my wife, Laurie, was pregnant in January. We found out it was twins in late March.
I’m often silly. Not immature, not incapable of real emotion, but silly. My Facebook page generally has one of three things: Political arguments, complaints about the awful trend of putting pickles everywhere (seriously, pickle smoothies?), and awful puns and spoonerisms, like, “My friend Annie got a switchblade, but the safety catch was really tough to use. It truly was a Hard-Lock Knife.” So when I’m serious, people are taken a little off guard.
I got worried when we found out Laurie was pregnant. When we found out it was twins? It sent me into a constant state of paranoia. The first thing the doctor said to us in our first “hey, we’re pregnant” appointment was, “Twins are automatically high-risk”. That didn’t do much to calm me down.
Laurie wakes up at night to pee. The further she gets into the pregnancy, the more often that happens (crazy how that works). I’m usually a heavy sleeper, but I’ve taken to waking up almost every time she does to make sure she’s okay. She is a restaurant manager, which means several hours at a time without her phone, which means sometimes, pregnancy or no, we just don’t talk for a while. I imagine all sorts of crazy scenarios.
I’m scared. That’s the only word for it. After 32 years of just having to worry about me and occasionally my sick father, I'm now married with a 6-year-old stepdaughter and twins on the way. I never had to worry about anything before, and now I have to worry about everything.
Things go wrong sometimes. They just do. Jenny didn’t do anything wrong that caused her to lose the twins. As people, we want to blame something or someone when things go wrong. That car crash was caused by people were texting. That cancer was caused by personal vices or lifestyle choices. We want things to have a cause, a blame, because the alternative is that a tree could fall on you any minute, for no reason, and that’s even scarier.
As I write this, we’re a week away from our third formal appointment, about 17 weeks into the pregnancy. There’s a gender reveal party in just over a week. We’ve started registering for gifts and talking about where we are going to move when our current lease runs out. At the same time there’s that specter lurking. Laurie gets a headache and I’m worried. She’s not hungry, and I’m worried. She is hungry, and I’m worried. Sleeps too much? That’s the worst. Can’t sleep? Disaster looming.
My experience as a parent is limited to just under nine months as the stepdad to a 6-year-old girl. In that time, she’s gotten sick twice. Once was a pretty run-of-the-mill bout of “I don’t feel good”. The other, however, was a full-fledged flu – crying, desperate to feel better, wanting to hug mommy, for-real sick. It was torture.
I know that doesn’t make me special. I know that every parent worries about their kids and every husband worries about his wife. If I didn’t have these worries I’d be heartless.
I'm scared. I remember when Jenny wasn’t Jenny and I always want me to be me. I definitely want Laurie to always be Laurie. There’s nothing wrong with fear, of course, but … man. It’s a lot.
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Just about all of us had a few wrong ideas about raising kids before we became parents ourselves. Some of these ideas might have been based on our own wacky ideas of how we would do things differently than everyone else. Other ideas we take for granted as new parents, only to realize later how laughable the idea was.