To my girls on their birthdays… First: Evelyn
Well, I seem to start each of these posts with “It’s been a while…”
I apologize for that. I apparently had no idea how busy life as a mom of multiples (and a toddler) would keep me. I thought things would get “easier” over time, but as I find over and over again- things don’t necessarily get easier, they get “different”. I at least thought it would feel like I had more *time*, but it seems as life goes on there is less and less “free” time. However lately, I am feeling called to write. I truly believe it helps me process all the craziness life has thrown at me the last couple of years and I encourage anyone else going through a tough time to just start writing. Even if no one reads it, just write it down. The neuroscience behind it supports that it helps your brain process, organize, make sense of and move on from trying times when you recall your story. So yeah- write! And like always, I’m so good at digressing from my original point or purpose of my post. One last thought before I am back on topic- I am making it my *spring resolution* to write once a week. I am making a *spring resolution* a thing because this winter is KILLING ME. I’ve literally been sick 2 of the 4 weeks of February (with two different illnesses). I’m dying. So yeah, look out for that- I’m going to really hold myself accountable to finally finish recounting our entire TTTS (twin to twin transfusion syndrome, SIUGR (selective intrauterine growth restriction), and NICU journey. So if you’ve been waiting for it, sorry- it IS coming.
Back to original post purpose- GUYYYSSS February is a BIG month in the Russell Household. ALL of dad’s girls were born in this whirlwind of a winter poop-storm. Thirty-three years ago, I decided to make my appearance on earth on Groundhog’s Day (February 2nd for those not familiar with this ‘holiday’). Growing up I always felt almost personally responsible, or at least guilty, every time a damn groundhog saw his shadow and gave everyone another 6 weeks of winter. Sorry guys, I promise I wished for spring this year for my birthday. And don’t get me started on how I felt when I saw groundhog road kill, it always stabbed me in the heart like my birthday died. Is that weird? Maybe. I was a kid- jeeze!
Thirty years after I graced the earth with my presence, Emma came long on February 19. But only after making us wait an extra couple weeks and requiring an induction and eventual c-section to evacuate my womb. She was just hella cozy in there.
Two years after that (or just shy of two years after that), Olivia and Evelyn made their dramatic entry on February 9, two months early. For anyone doing the math, that’s right… for TEN days I had THREE children UNDER TWO YEARS OLD. Then spent just shy of a year with THREE UNDER THREE, I anticipate that my life expectancy has been decreased by at least 10-15 years. Pray for me.
Seeing this 12 month milestone come and go has been emotional and monumental. For one whole year, we have been a family of five. FIVE. The pregnancy was such a roller coaster that we legitimately did not know if we would be a family of four or five right up until the girls were born. And then when it was discovered Olivia’s bowel had ruptured at only 48 hours old, there was a week or two where we weren’t completely sure how many babies we would take home. But here we are. All home. All happy. All HEALTHY. Complete. FIVE.
So, here is the first of three letters to my girls as they turn one and three this past month. I’ll start with Evelyn today and continue over the next few days for Olivia and Emma. Enjoy. I can’t promise I’m not weeping on the keys as I type.
To my “little monster” Evelyn, aka “Twin Girl Baby A”:
Meeting you for the first time…
Your first hug….
Evelyn, Evelyn, Evelyn. You were always the light at the end of a long day in the NICU. Even though your sister was taken away from you to live at SickKids Hospital across the street while you stayed behind at Mount Sinai, you were the easiest part of my day. No matter how crappy of a day Olivia had (whether it was another blood transfusion, an infection at her incision site or trouble gaining weight), I could count on coming to you for a snuggle and the doctors telling me you had another stellar day. You just needed to grow and learn to feed. That was it. You made me grateful. At a time where things could have easily felt like “why me”, I would walk by a twin room in the NICU where two twin babies were very sick and my heart would ache for that mama because I couldn’t imagine the pain in worrying about two babies every day. I could hardly bear it for one. Thank you for going easy on me girl, and thank you for continuing to show us everyday that we don’t need to ‘worry’ about you.
In January, you started to take some of your first steps. At nine months corrected age. How are you such a monkey already? When I saw you take those first steps, tears came to my eyes. I was drawn back to a conversation I had a few weeks after you were born. I had run into the nurse who did our daily ultrasounds when I was admitted to the hospital a week before delivery. She got to know you and your sister in my tummy very well. You were always taking up all the room in my uterus, shoving poor Olivia into a tiny corner. The nurse always called you the ‘big beluga’ when she showed me your beating heart, flailing toes and little bum each day. I saw her on the subway and I wanted to let her know how things turned out for you and your sister. The nurse was so relieved to hear you and your sister were well. Then she told me something that kind of rocked me to my core, she said that the doctor on call that day to perform the c-section said to her something along the lines of “are these parents sure they want to do this? they want to deliver both babies early when Baby B is most likely going to not make it?” Olivia was small, so small. And that last ultrasound showed fluid over her tummy, this meant now she was also sick. But 32 weeks was always the magic number we knew we needed to make it to so that you both had a fighting chance, and we made it. The nurse said she looked that doctor in the eye and told him that she knew our “little one” was going to make it.
I feel like you have made it your mission to crush every milestone along the way in an extra effort to let us know, “Hey mom and dad look, I’m fine! I’m so glad my sister is here with me. Don’t worry that I had to come out early too so that we could save her.” So when I see you crawl and walk around like the “little monster” we call you, my heart swells. Thank you.
What else can I say about you, my happy little bug. I’ve always felt like you have an amazing sense of humour. Even in the early days of the NICU, you would pull a face that would have me in stitches. You just seem to have a silly soul, it might just be that smile that is constantly plastered on your face. However, you also did earn yourself the nickname “Hulk Evelyn”, because you are seriously one of the happiest babies I’ve ever met- until you are not. Hahaha sometimes you could get so mad, that it didn’t even seem to be possible that the smiley happy baby you were by day, was the same angry baby that night or that moment. Luckily, “hulk-mode” moments were short lived- but you definitely can be spicy when you want to be. Nowadays, we rarely see Hulk Evelyn (unless you’ve had a shot, or you’ve spied us making your bottle and you want it RIGHT NOW).
You are, and unfortunately will probably always be, referred to as “the big one”. We always think that you are HUGE in comparison to your twin sister. It hasn’t been until recently while getting out more and being around other babies your age that I’ve realized you are actually pretty tiny too, it’s just that Olivia is still EXTRA (like super EXTRA) tiny. You would think the fact that you still fit comfortably into a lot of 3-6 month outfits would have clued me into this fact, but somehow it did not.
You love your sisters and you always want to see what Emma is up to (even if Emma’s not all that into it). You love sticking your fingers in Olivia’s mouth (you think that is hilarious) and one of your most FAVOURITE things to do is finding out what various objects sound like when you bang them on Olivia’s head. Olivia, however, not such a big fan. Your favourite toy is whatever Olivia is holding, poor girl, one day she will be strong enough to hold on and fight for herself. Your favourite sound to make is different variations of “dada” or d-sounds, but we don’t think you are quite meaning “daddy” quite yet. You love to randomly nod your head. You are a wiggle worm to the max, you never miss an opportunity to bolt for an open door or stairs, and I swear you have some built in radar for paper. And when you find that paper, you quickly eat it and rip it to shreds as quick as possible. It’s truly a talent. You are actually just really good at getting your hands on ALL THE THINGS you shouldn’t have, and have gotten really good at drinking from big girl cups when Emma leaves her juice or milk laying around we quickly find you holding it with the off-limits liquid dripping from your chin. You get into lots of trouble, but you are quick to get your cuddles when you take a tumble. You hate it when your favourite people leave the room, you like us all to be together. YOU. LOVE. BERRIES. Unlike your older sister at this age, you sleep through the night (bless you). I promise not to hold it against you that you loved bottles so much more than boobs that you are ultimately the reason I am still pumping 13 months later. I never hold a grudge for too long. I could go on and on about you, my sweet girl. And did we mention we think you are super cute? Very photogenic (even if I’m a bit biased).
Just know, that even though your big sister demands a lot of attention (cuz you know, toddlers) and Olivia has always medically and developmentally required more of our attention- we love you beyond measure. We are eternally thankful that you are the “easy” one and the one that can bring light to the darkest day with a flash of your cheeky smile. Never stop exploring, our curious, mischevious little one.
We love you Evelyn Jane.