Tomorrow my little twinadoes turn 2. It feels like forever ago they were just born and simultaneously as though I blinked and now here they are, two little independent girls with opinions and personalities and likes and dislikes. To say this past year has been challenging is an understatement. Reflecting back on the ups and downs of this year has made me realize how freaking blessed we were throughout the pregnancy and first year. This second year of parenthood has felt like an episode of Survivor and made our first year feel like a cake walk. And then, on top of all that, we are mourning the loss of our first baby, Canoli. [Dog lovers, I know you understand; everyone else, I see you rolling your eyes.]
2017 has been hard. Downright awful at times. And full of unexpected blessings and provision and moments of joy. I’m looking forward to 2018 just so I can put this year behind me. That’s not to diminish the amazing things that have happened this year, but it is to say our hearts are hurting and our bodies are tired from raising these two spunky little girls. I’ve decided to look back on the really hard things we walked through this year and reflect on what I’ve learned.
Prior to having kids I was a model of good health. I drank homemade green juice every morning, went to spin class at 5am, added in some barre classes to stay in shape and loved trying new kale recipes. I kept up the nutrition throughout my pregnancy but after they arrived my diet has consisted of frozen pizza and coffee. [And if I’m being honest, I haven’t touched the gym since I found out I was pregnant with twins- because you know, better to be safe and take it easy, am I right!?]
In January of 2017 I started getting really fatigued, my hair began to fall out in clumps and I would randomly get so dizzy I had to sit down or grab on to something to keep my balance. Lots of medical tests later, I was diagnosed with alopecia, an auto-immune disease which attacks hair follicles due to stress. Thankfully that is all it is; unfortunately, the cure is to reduce stress. Sure…I’ll get right on that.
The blessing of it all? It forced me to write. I started to see a counselor once a month to find ways to reset my expectations and cope with the insanity of twin toddlers. She encouraged me to write, so that I could express my emotions and frustrations in a healthy way. I’m an introvert, so talking it out isn’t my style. But writing has been a powerful way for me to cope and heal. It’s led to me starting this blog, writing for Twiniversity and reaching out to other people I know who have a powerful story to share. [Because the truth is, we all have a story to tell and I’m trying my best to be a better listener and carve out space for the people I’m lucky enough to call friends.]
2. Emma’s Diagnosis
I wrote about this earlier this year, but one day we were encouraging our daughter to walk, and the next day we were scheduling appointment after appointment trying to figure out what was wrong with our precious little EKD. Her official diagnosis, idiopathic toe walking. Why? No one knows exactly. It could be her stubborn personality, her love for being held or the fact that she was the tiny twin who didn’t have a lot of room for movement in my womb.
Regardless of the why, we’ve been juggling three additional appointments each week - PT, OT and Early Intervention, to encourage her to walk. At first, it was extremely overwhelming and difficult and left little room for anything else. Now, it’s second nature and I don’t know what we would do without her team of therapists.
The good news? Emma is now walking and jumping and playing like a champ. She’s a fighter and an inspiration. She has a lot of grit and she even graduated from PT last week. To think of this chapter coming to a close is strange. We’ve relied on her team of medical professionals so much this year to help us through the chaos, through the unknowns and frankly, to help us be better parents. [Neither Josh or I have a background in early childhood development, so seeing experts in the field three times a week has been a huge blessing.]
Emma’s journey has also brought me closer to friends I haven’t talked to in years, but who have walked through scary medical journeys with their children and also those who have children with special needs. I now have Skype dates with friends far away, where we pray together, encourage one another and give ideas on techniques to try during a particularly frustrating season.
3. Doors Closing
Given all the medical issues both Emma and I were facing this year, I was feeling prompted to take some time off of work this summer. But, I know myself well and I’m terrible at saying no to new opportunities. My type A personality drives me to the brink all too often, and that means God needs to forcibly close a door to make me step back and take a break. And that’s exactly what happened.
While I said I wasn’t going to pursue work over the summer, I still said yes to opportunities. But then, as God always does, He took those opportunities away. Not because of anything I had done, but due to circumstances out of my control, He closed the door to work over the summer and gave me the time and space I needed to focus on Emma, my health and allowed me the freedom to write and spend time with our little family.
While I didn’t understand it at the time, it was a beautiful time for our family to get to go on adventures, encourage one another and spend time just being us. We didn’t know it would be our last summer with Canoli, but we had a lot of fun, many wagon rides with the girls + their pup and spontaneous sunset beach walks.
Oh preschool. How I have a love-hate relationship with you. Before the girls were born I knew I wanted them to go to CBA. I interviewed there when I was super pregnant and stayed up the night before registration opened for the incoming school year just to ensure my girls got in. This school has been amazing for our girls and they have flourished and developed so much under the love and care of their brilliant teachers.
But, the germs. Having had child care at our home for the first 20 months was truly a blessing. The girls never got sick, it was always consistent and we all adore Judy, who has become part of our family. That also means they were never exposed to germs and the second they walked into preschool it was game over. They have had ear infections, coughs, colds, hand, foot and mouth and all the crud you can imagine since starting school in August.
Intellectually, I know that is a good thing because their little immune systems need to grow and respond and get stronger. But when I’m crashing on work deadlines and up at 2am with a toddler who can’t sleep because her ears hurt, it doesn’t seem that way.
We are used to the sickness now and it’s become manageable and routine and less and less as they get stronger. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy or fun or something we look forward to. We’re just grateful for their awesome school and hopeful that this season too shall pass.
5. Saying Goodbye to Canoli
You guys, this one is still hard for me to think about. Canoli was slowing down this year. He stopped eating his dog food, but I reasoned that he made up for it in Pirate’s Booty and graham crackers. Occasionally I would rush him to the vet when it had been a few days of no food and they would run all the tests and assured me he was just fine.
Then it was little by little, seeing him sleep more and look older and tired in pictures. As an avid tweeter, I would look for the best pictures of Canoli to tweet a pithy post, but it was getting harder to find one. I brushed the thought away. For ten years Canoli had been the only consistent thing in my life and he loved me fiercely. [Sometimes too fiercely as he wasn’t afraid to defend me against the innocent person walking down the street, ha!]
Then, the other week, he had a major accident downstairs. He never had accidents. I shooed him outside only to see he was having trouble walking. Per usual, I rushed him to the vet to get him on pain meds, laser therapy for his back and tweeted out for prayers as I assumed we were dealing with the usual IVDD symptoms he has had for the last 5 years. But then it happened. Over the course of one evening, he went completely paralyzed, lost the ability to relieve himself and quivered in pain. I knew the time had come to say goodbye, but it was and is so much more painful than I ever imagined.
His loss has been heartbreaking. The girls keep looking for him, asking for him, confused as to why momma is so sad. Not having him by my side has made our house feel empty, quiet and unusual. We are grieving the loss of a family member. Ten amazing years together isn’t enough. I keep thinking of what I could have done to make his life better, but I know he truly had the best life ever. But that doesn’t make the pain go away or the loss diminished. Over the course of the next few weeks I’ll write more- it’s still too raw and I’m still grieving and struggling and missing him more than I can put into words. But he was so loved. He is missed. The blessing I can come up with for now is that he is no longer in pain from IVDD and he's protecting his baby sissys from above.
So that’s 2017. All beautiful and broken and full of blessings and heartbreak. I can’t even wrap my head around the threat of nuclear war from North Korea or change in foreign policy that my breaks my momma heart for families fleeing war and famine and disaster. Heck, I can’t even wrap my head around the whirlwind of this year. What I will say is I’m waiting and expectant. Despite my grief and stress and treading water this year, I’m expecting great things in 2018. Deep down I know that during these times of darkness, God works a miracle. Why Canoli had to pass or Emma had to struggle to walk or everything seems to be in a state of chaos, I don’t know. What I do know is that His light is still shining. Right now I just see a flicker, but I still see it. That flicker will turn to a beam, which will eventually radiate His goodness over our family and bring the healing. And I’m ready and waiting with hands wide open. Bring on the sunshine. Bring on the new year. Bring on the terrible twos.