Someone recently asked me:
“Do you have any advice for someone expecting twins?”
The transcendence happened immediately. Rather than being the one asking for advice, now, I was the one giving it. Not that I assume I’m in a position to give any advice at all, but this is my attempt.
For the first time, I stand on the other side and look back on our craziness. The last three years of my life rushing by in reverse, memories pouring in like water over a dam. What began as an attempt at survival has beautifully become the life we have been called to live.
One thing I have learned: Most people let their circumstances dictate their response, when in reality their response should dictate their circumstance.
This is our story. As for the advice, take it or leave it.
Our Twin Story
When Liz and I set out to start our family, becoming pregnant was our last concern. We thought about names and the nursery, but never about actually becoming pregnant. We saw friends around us conceiving every day and there was never a doubt that we would be parents ourselves one day. It took a nearly-three-year battle with infertility before we had our first son, Matthew Jr. Shortly after our adventure into parenthood began, we received a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
I had just qualified for an incentive trip with my company for a week in Maui, Hawaii. So, with our eight-month-old at home with his grandparents, Liz and I flew to Maui for seven days. We had a blast while we were there, but I had no idea then how much that trip would change our lives.
A few weeks after we returned home, I slowly awoke to the classic, walk-out-of-the-bathroom-holding-the-pregnancy-test wake-up call.
“Um, babe… I’m pregnant.”
“Huh?” I wiped my eyes and awakened further.
“Both tests were positive.”
“Is this a belated April Fools’ joke?”
“No. I’m serious.”
We scheduled an immediate doctor’s appointment, my mind racing.
How are we going to handle another baby? Our children would practically be Irish twins.
Even as excited as she was, Liz was nervous too, and as we walked into the doctor’s office, she said, “Remind me that God has a plan.”
She was lying on the table waiting for the doctor when in walked a Jedi-looking, wand-yielding, white coat to perform an ultrasound. I begin to wonder, What plan? We’re going to have two kids nearly fifteen months apart!
The doctor interrupted my train of thought.
“Well Liz, you’re definitely pregnant and your levels are incredibly high. You see, there’s the heartbeat.”
We were both staring at the static on the black and white screen, watching a faint flutter as the contrasting colors moved in sync.
“Well that’s interesting,” our doctor observed, “There are two heartbeats!”
My mind moved so fast that I outran my mouth. “My kid has two hearts?”
“You’re having twins!”
I had to sit down on a bedside chair. Panic rushed us just as quickly as the joy that we both felt. As I held tightly to Liz’s hand, I glanced up to see her eyes well with tears. Is this real life? We both thought!
Our emotions were all over the board as we sought perspective. Walking in to the appointment, we didn’t know how we were going to handle another baby, much less two. I recalled Liz’s words, Remind me; God has a plan. As much as I wanted to believe that, I still followed up with, What kind of plan is this?
Advice…Or Just My Thoughts
Liz was a champion during the pregnancy, my hero. I have no idea how women do it. Simply put, ya’ll are amazing!
Wyatt Douglas and Greyson Boyd blessed our lives on November 28, 2011. They arrived four weeks earlier than anticipated and since their little lungs weren’t functioning at a high enough capacity, we found ourselves in the NICU at the Betty H. Cameron Women’s and Children’s Center in Wilmington, NC.
I kept reminding myself:
God always has a plan.
Our time in the NICU was very trying, mostly because we never gave it consideration. It’s difficult enough to see your children covered with tubes and contraptions, but the logistics of living in and out of the hospital for four weeks is just inconvenient. As a father, the feeling was complete helplessness. I had to rely completely on the knowledge, the accommodation, the love, and the warmth they provided in the NICU; a true blessing.
Mentally prepare yourself for a possible hospital stay; we didn’t.
I say this not to be a downer, but rather to help set expectations. Unmet expectations always lead to disappointment.
My favorite memory is holding the boys to my chest, skin-to-skin, singing to them. Even as tired as I was, being able to feel their little bodies learning to breathe was amazing. And besides, these days I couldn’t hold them without the help of a tranquilizer and a lasso.
Sing to your children – even if you can’t.
The Dudes came home on December 23, 2011. However, they were required to wear heart rate and apnea monitors which required sensor pads and straps across their chests, just under the arm pit. Additionally, they both struggled with reflux which required medicine and a lot of patience while feeding; slow and steady or you’d get sprayed. We had a great routine of sleeping in shifts, which brings me to my next thought:
Days will last forever, but weeks will fly by.
Soon, you’ll look up and your infants will have become little boys.
There’s nothing easy about it, but embrace the challenges. I vividly remember flying across the house in the dark of night, dodging furniture as their alarms would sound. One particular night, Greyson had fallen out of his nap nanny and I ran in to find him lying face down, screaming. Trying to describe the range of emotions and challenges we faced is beyond my limited writing ability. In short:
Anticipate a range of emotions, but don’t let the bad ones linger. Forgive yourself and move on.
We were and are so incredibly blessed with love and support that I cannot even begin to thank everyone. The help and the meals and the encouragement were overwhelming. Take any help you can get and make a list so that, when you do come up for air, you can be sure to show your gratitude for those who extended their generosity.
Even as challenging as it was, there are countless others in much more difficult situations.
Don’t compare your hard; it’s not a contest.
Encouragement is essential in your process – in any process – of growth. It allows you to gain perspective and it gives you hope. Even though you feel like you are walking the path alone, you are not. There are many others who have walked this road. Glean wisdom and encouragement from their journeys to fuel your own.
The truth is, it never gets easy; it just gets different.
Don’t walk through life thinking that some far-off destination will provide what you hope for. I remember thinking, Once we get off the monitors, Once we get rid of bottles, Once they are walking, Once, Once, Once. We create this place in our minds that never comes into existence. We believe that once a certain thing happens or once a certain thing is over, we magically get to experience easy. The truth is that this place only exists in our minds.
There is no such place as easy.
If we think that life will get easier when certain circumstances are removed, we keep striving for something we never reach. Therefore, we never experience anything we expect. That process, if repeated enough, will leave you frustrated, angry, and defeated. Try not to see joy as the product of completing a task or reaching a goal; learn to live in it daily. The truth is, now that the twins are mobile, the craziness is a whole new experience.
Find joy in the process – in the moment – not in the circumstances
Your challenges are a gift, a blessing. As hard as that may be to grasp, you simply have to change your perspective. You deserve joy and you can experience it today if you’d simply redefine it. Joy is the late nights, joy is in the dirty diapers, joy is in the struggles. True joy comes from embracing the process.
Embrace the crazy
Lest you think that this road was a well-traveled and perfected journey, think again. It has been a battle; a physical, mental, emotional struggle. But, I’m learning this: the way you respond to your challenges will completely define the direction you are going.
My encouragement is to embrace the process and respond with gratitude which will lead you to joy.
QUESTION: What advice can you share with new parents?
Part of the above post is an excerpt from my upcoming book, "Redefine Rich: Solving the good-life crisis by placing worth before wealth". To get updates on the book, sign up for the mailing list here and get a free copy of my book "I Am Here." You can also reach out via Facebook and Twitter (@MattHamSr) I appreciate you stopping by. Matt