Monday, August 10, 2009

My Five-Year-Olds

I honestly and truly cannot believe that five years have passed since Holland and Eden made their dramatic entrance into this world. In some ways these years seem to have flown by so fast, and in other ways they have dragged on and on. In the month leading up to their birthday I felt a lot of those old feelings of sadness and guilt creeping back into my head. They were less this year, for sure, but still there below the surface. Each year I relive the moments leading up to their birth. I remember very specific details of things I did, even what I ate, on the day that I went into labor. I vividly remember sights, sounds, and smells while I laid in that hospital bed drugged out of my mind, trying to keep my babies inside my body. I remember every detail of their birth.

One memory that sticks with me, and can still bring me to tears, is the memory of a single tear that slid down my husband's cheek as he looked into my eyes, when we heard that first faint squeaking cry and wondered how in the world we were going to survive what lay ahead. And even then, in that time of great fear, we had no idea how much our lives were about to change.

Five years later these children of mine bring me so much joy. I feel relieved that we have made it past some of those earliest struggles, when we still weren't sure they would be okay. Certainly there are struggles that still lay ahead, but at least we have gotten to know them, love them, and accept them for the little people they are. We know their strengths and their quirks, and we love them all the more for them. Those strengths and quirks are what make them who they are.

Holland is a unique and interesting little gal. She loves books and movies, or stories of any kind. She pays keen attention to detail, noticing and remembering the most unusual things. The other day I mentioned needing to run some errands. She asked me what an "errand" is. I gave her a basic definition, and John reminded her of the Dr. Suess story "What Was I Scared Of?" when the character in the story came out of the Brickel bush to run an get some Grin-Itch Spinach. Twenty minutes later, after sitting in the car while we went to pick up supplies for their bday, Holland chimes up, "No Dad...he didn't come out of the Brickel bush to get the Grin-Itch Spinach. He needed to Pick a Peck of Snide!" How in the world did she remember that!? We had only read that story three times total, and at least a couple of weeks before this conversation. And she really doesn't even know what a peck of snide IS!

Holland definitely marches to the beat of her own drummer and doesn't let societal norms dictate her tastes. She continues to love Spiderman, Cars, and most importantly TRAINS more than anything else. She knows all of the Thomas the Tank Engine characters and can spend hours building tracks and playing with her Thomas train sets. She also loves to dress up and pretend. She has a Spiderman costume that she likes to wear, and even wore the mask out shopping and to eat a few times. A lot of people comment on her costume, and she will hug me and say, "everyone likes my Spiderman costume Mom." She also routinely dresses up like princesses, fairies, rock stars, and Hannah Montana, depending on her mood. As often as she can, she gets Eden to play along with her, though Eden will sometimes refuse just to get Holland upset.

Just as she always has been, even as a baby, Holland tends to be a bit bossy and likes everyone to do things HER way. She has a hard time regulating her emotions (aka moody) when things don't go as SHE plans. In other words...she still throws a fit when it's time for the fun to end, when we won't play the game HER way, or when we won't buy her the toy she REALLY WANTS! She's also pretty reasonable though, and can usually be talked out of her fits before they go too far. She still has a hard time staying focused when there is a lot going on around her. In crowded or busy environments it is really hard to get her to look at me and listen to what I say. She also has a harder time emotionally in these situations, and can be prone to meltdowns.

Holland is happiest listening to music, riding her bike, digging in the dirt, playing with trains, reading books, watching movies, playing her Leapster, and pretending. She is smart, affectionate, and passionate about the things and people she loves. She can be a little bit dramatic and high maintenance, but that is all relative, and for the most part she is simply a delightful and interesting little girl who strays from the beaten path. I am proud of her uniqueness and hope that she continues to pursue her own interests regardless of what others think is "socially appropriate." (Yes, we did have a professional say in a meeting that "digging in the dirt" is not "socially appropriate" for a little girl.)

I love, love, love, seeing how my two girls, twins who grew together in my womb (short-lived as that was) and grew up in the same home under the same circumstances, are growing up to be So Very Different.

Eden is my girly girl. She loves all things pink and sparkly and definitely notices that some things are for "girls" and some things are for "boys." She becomes indignant if we ask her to play with something she perceives as for "boys" though she will make an exception for trains, and even cars if she can *be* Sally (or the female character). She is going through a big Hannah Montana phase right now, and loves listening to her music and singing along.

One of my favorite things that Eden does right now is sing to herself. Any time she is playing alone for a period of time you can hear her singing under her breath. She sings songs she knows, often repeating one line of lyrics over and over, or she makes up her own songs. Of course she sings "Best of Both Worlds" a lot, but another of her favorite lines is from a David Bowie song..."oh you pretty things, don't you know you're driving your mamas and papas insane!" Hmm. I wonder where she got that;)

Eden is a very visual, very observant little girl. She notices everything and likes to point out everything she sees. God forbid you have a giant pimple on your nose. Eden will notice and mention it the minute you enter the room! "What is that on your nose?" "You have a big pimple on your nose...hahahahaha!"

Eden looooves talking about when she and Holland were babies, as well as when John and I got married. Babies and weddings. She likes to dress up like a bride and pretend that she is marrying daddy. Yes, it's a little odd. She isn't satisfied with cursory answers either. She wants to know details. Did you wear a veil over your face? Why? Who walked you down the aisle? Did you marry Papa or Daddy? Why? What did you say at your wedding? Why? Did Daddy give you that ring? Why? Did daddy kiss you? WHY?

Then she tells me "when I grow up I'm going to live in my own biiiiiiig house. Bigger than this house. It's going to have a bedroom and no daddy. Actually, Daddy can live there too. He can sleep in my big bed with me." I ask, "What about me?" "No. You can live in your house and daddy can live in my house with me." I tell her there is no way that daddy is going to sleep in a big bed with her when she grows up, but she hasn't figured out that girls just can't grow up and marry their daddys!

She also told me that she wants to drive a pink convertible with blue stripes, and that she will take us all for rides. And she is going to have a job working on the computer. At daddy's work. Daddy is going to work there too. Hmmm. Well, I'm glad she loves her daddy!

As you can probably gather, language-wise Eden is doing AWESOME! She is talking all the time now, and the complexity of ideas that she is able to verbalize seems to increase every day. She is even bringing up things that she remembers from the past that she has the words to express now, whereas she didn't before. It astonishes me sometimes. She is also comprehending and recalling many more details, concepts, and story lines from books and movies.

On our recent camping trip (more on that later) she was looking at a compass and asked me what it was for. I explained that is shows us direction, like North, South, East, and West. She said "like in the Zax story by Dr. Suess!" (Another story from The Sneetches and Other Stories...highly recommend it!) We read the story again that evening, then as she was trolling around our campsite in her powerchair I could hear her saying "I never budge. That's my rule. Never Budge." I asked her what that means, "never budge", and she said "it means don't move!"

Both girls like to pretend and reenact what they see and hear constantly. If we are not reading a book or watching a show, we are acting it out. Luckily they are getting muuuuch better at playing together for extended periods of time, and they act out a lot of stories on their own. I occasionally get a break from having to *be* one of their characters, though I still hear the question a hundred times a day "Mom, who are YOU?" It's an interesting question, and one I am still figuring out for myself!

For the most part, life is good at age five. The girls delight and amaze me everyday. I love these kids and feel so loved BY them. It would be selfish to ask for more, when other people have so much less.

Even so, I still have my own personal pity parties once in a while, and I have to give myself permission to do so. I am doing a really hard job.

I still feel a tinge of sadness when I see other little girl twins, younger than my girls, running around playing together. Occasionally a wave of emotion will hit me when I am lugging kids and equipment out to another appointment, wishing we could be doing something fun instead. Or when I am changing yet another poopy diaper. Or spending an hour spoon feeding my kids their lunch...

In my own little world things feel pretty normal. But sometimes when I am out in the real world, I realize that we're still not quite there, and we probably never will be.

Five years out I feel more at peace than ever. But the intense love and joy I feel being the mother of these two amazing little people is still sometimes tempered by sadness and longing.

Sometimes I wonder how so many conflicting emotions can live in one person's heart.


Anonymous said...

I just want to say thank you for continuing to blog and share your honest feelings with the rest of us extreme preemie moms. I have been reading your blog since my son was born 3.5 years ago. He was born at 24 weeks. Your girls are beautiful and special because they have a great mom. Holland and Eden, happy B-day!

Anonymous said...


Do you still think about having another baby? I say this because you've not only expressed a desire to have another child but because I think experiencing a "normal" full-term pregnancy and birth could be very healing for you. Of course Holland and Eden would be great big sisters!

Shosh said...

your girls are so sweet and beautiful and you are such a great mom! thanks for sharing!

Diane said...

Thank you for continuing to post. I started reading your blog almost 2 years ago and continue to draw inspiration from it. I admire and appreciate your honesty.

I have boy/girl twins who are 17 months and my daughter LOVES playing in dirt. She will find any dirt in the area and seems drawn to it like a magnet. She digs it up, moves it from place to place, fills things with it, and occasionally still eats it. "Socially inappropriate?" Whatever, silly professional! Go Holland!

Happy Birthday Holland and Eden!

Aunt Becky said...

What a lovely, lovely tribute to your daughters. And what lovely 5 year olds they are. I love this age.

juneheller said...

Thank you for that really beautiful and honest post. I love watching your girls grow and hearing your stories about them.

While you share many of your blessings, you're also good about sharing the struggles, so that we know it isn't easy.

Parenting is a really hard job, and I must say, you are doing a spectacular job at it.

Thank you for your regular posts, it can't be easy to make time for all of these strangers in the computer!!!

Michelle and Jim said...

Hi Billie,

Oh my gosh, they are 5!! I haven't read/written in so long I'm just so surprised how time has flown. My twins are 3, but their 4th birthday is quickly approaching and I know what you mean about going over the exact things that happened on the day the kids were born. The smell of the soap and hand sanitizer from the hospital still haunts me...

That's fabulous how Eden loves Hannah Montana and girly things--you've inspired me to sign Eleanor up for dance classes, since she loves the girly stuff, too. Holland's ability to recall and tell stories is just so much fun! I hope Adam is there in a year or so, but he has a way to go.

What a fun Mom you are!!

It's been awhile, so here's our blog--I don't update nearly as often as you.

Kendra Lynn said...

When I read your blog, and look at your beautiful girls...I feel proud. Proud of you and your family. Proud that I know such brave people.
And sometimes, I feel sad, just as you have expressed, but I know these girls are HUGE blessings. Despite the obstacles that may come your way, and the hurdles that you have had to overcome in the past, Holland and Eden are blessings to you and your family. they are inspirations to all who visit this blog.
We love you, Billie, John, Holland and Eden...

Scott, Kendra, Merry and Kelsey Lynn

AZ Chapman said...

nice update holland sonds a lot like me at five yearsold are the kids doing kinderggarten this fall.

Katy said...

I'm so glad that you keep up this wonderful blog. Yes, it can be hard but these are some beautiful girls you are raising!

CP and Me said...

Great tribute to your unique and amazing girls. And important, also, to continue to recognize and honor the pain that is still there around their birth and their current struggles. I feel the same way, that at home our world seems totally normal and then we go out and I see other kids moving around with such ease, and feel the stares of people as Hannah marches by in her walker, and it's a rude reminder that our normal is not so normal after all.

Here's to hoping that even if the pain never fully goes away, it gets a little bit easier each year.

Anonymous said...

Great post Billie. Love all the details about the girls' personalities. I especially love that I've been able to see the girls in real life more lately, so when I read your descriptions of them I actually know what you're talking about. You're doing a great job!!


BusyLizzyMom said...

Happy 5th Birthday girls. Elizabeth will be 5 in December and it seems so old.
I got goosebumps as I read how John teared after hearing Hollands cry> My hubby was sitting by my head when Elizabeth came out and that tiny kitten mew had us in tears but it also told me that things would be okay. As for beeing drugged so was I, I spent 30hrs upside down in an narcotic haze before Elizabeth was born, it was awful.

Holland is much like Elizabeth waho as her Resource Consultant says 'she has her own agenda'. Elizabeth has an eccletic taste as well and loves dinosaurs, bugs and getting filthy dirty. I have been told to think of ASD as her interests are different from her peers but is she was a boy it would not matter, (double standards).
Elizabeth is very emotional and distraction is maddening at times and in a busy place she is unmanageable.
It is crazy 5 years have gone by and like you I am coming to peace with how Elizabeth is turning out and how her disability affects her.
You have worked really hard and it has payed off the girls are doing amazing.

Wherever HE Leads We'll Go said...

What a beautiful post! I love the tribute to your girls and their personalities. I bet they learn a lot from each other and their different perspectives.

Thank you for your honesty - parenting is a roller coaster - add special needs to the mix and that makes the ride a bit more bumpy. There are defintely joys that could never be found any other way. There are also heartaches too. You share both beautifully.

Anne said...

What beautiful sentiments Billie! And even more beautiful girls.

Happy Birthday!

Anonymous said...

You are such an amazing mother my dear friend, with amazing children. Much love, Jess

Anonymous said...

The love for your girls just oozes out of your writing. They are lucky to have you for their mother - even if Holland is planning on running away with her Daddy and leaving you behind. (grin)

Kate said...

This statement: "In my own little world things feel pretty normal. But sometimes when I am out in the real world, I realize that we're still not quite there, and we probably never will be."

made me a bit teary-eyed. That is exactly what I'm going through with my own twins (who will be 8 in a month). My son is autistic & when we're at home, it's normal and I'm used to him and I honestly don't even notice his quirks. But then we go out into the world and his delays are so glaringly obvious... sometimes it's very painful, especially when society isn't overly nice or understanding.

Anyhow, thanks for sharing your girls and your heart. I always enjoy reading what you have to say.

Sadia said...

What great girls, and what a great mom!

Happy Birthday!

Anonymous said...

I love reading Holland & Eden's b-day posts each year. It's nice to see how they have changed over the past year and what they are interested in and accomplishing now. You and John are wonderful parents to two amazing, beautiful girls! Love all the pictures too!


Anonymous said...

I've been reading your blog for over a year now, and it's amazing how much they've changed and grown. They really are amazing little girls, but you knew that already, right? ;)

Anonymous said...

I've just discovered your blog and have practically read the whole thing in a week! Your girls are just ADORABLE!! I am simply amazed by them. My first pregnancy was triplets who were born at 24 weeks, sadly none of them survived past 2 weeks. I went on to have twin girls myself a year later. One of the girls has a neurological condition, not CP, but similiar to a mild case. She has a lot of motor skill problems. I was amazed when Holland was able to ride that trike! Abby's 6 1/2 and still can't ride a bike! She can't figure out the peddling. I understand your somewhat saddness in seeing other twin girls play and run around together. Abby can walk and run just fine, but she has never been able to keep up with her sister. It makes me sad sometimes, but I know it could be so much worse! I also have a daughter born a few days after your girls as well as a younger son. Thanks for sharing your blog! Even though are circumstances are different, I enjoy reading about someone else who has some of the same problems as myself. Like school, I had to put my twins in different preschools and this last year I had to struggle whether or not to hold Abby back. With twins, you want to keep them together and many other people don't get that. Enjoy the rest of your summer!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing your story, and doing it in such an honest moving way. The love you have for your girls shines through, even when you write about the hard things. They will cherish your words when they grow up.

Megan said...

Thank you so much for continuing to allow us to share in your journey. I wasn't able to become pregnant, but am now a proud mother to a perfect and amazing (whose child isn't perfect?!) 20-month-old little girl. I find the mix of not regretting a single thing that happened (or didn't happen), and the pain of letting go of an experience I'll never know, make strange bedfellows. However, reading your blog helps me to see that we all have these conflicts, albeit in varying degrees. Acknowledging both the pain and joy is a cathartic and necessary truth. Thank you.

Your girls, unlike other children I don't know IRL, touch my heart in a way I can't adequately describe. Their spirit is palpable through your posts. They are very lucky girls to have you and John as parents; but more importantly, you two are so lucky to be parents to such amazing little people.

Thank you for showing me what the ideal family looks like from the inside out.

Cloe said...

In what context did the professional tell you that digging in the dirt was inappropriate socially? -- Was it in a diagnostic way or just observing? -- Either way, I hate people putting lables on everyone and everything!! I hope holland continues to not care about how she is "supposed" to act!

"we did have a professional say in a meeting that "digging in the dirt" is not "socially appropriate" for a little girl"

NRenee said...

I always love your birthday posts, and this one is especially fantastic--the girls have grown up so much, and are so beautiful!

As for being a little girl playing in the dirt...I turned out well! :)

winecat said...

What a beautiful post. Holland and Eden are blessed to have parents that love them as much as you and John do.

Tell Holland to keep taking that other path, I've spend 56 years on it and while it can be difficult at times most of the time it's wonderful- what do you mean playing in the dirt is not socially acceptable for girls - bah hum

Melanie said...

What a beautiful post. Your girls are lovely.

Sara said...

I loved this post. Your daughters are so beautiful and charming. Happy birthday little ones!

Nicole said...

I just came by... Mother of triplets turning 24years old in november. Born at 35 weeks and three days, each over 5 pounds 5(2kg 500)
I just know how you feel when you say this:
"I still feel a tinge of sadness when I see other little girl twins, younger than my girls, running around playing together"
My sister has twin girls aged 12, and I feel just the same , because my two girls will never live what they live. One of our daughters suffered at birth and is mentally handicaped.
But I also understand this huge love you have for your daughters... even if she makes my holidays rather difficult with her behaviour!
My husband says: what would we do without her? We love her so much!

Kristine said...

Not sure if you see old comments, but I wanted to respond to this particular post.

I can't believe what some therapists will say/impose upon parents who are already concerned about development or behavior. My little girl, Katie, has a brain injury as a result of Meningitis. So far she has surpassed all of the limitations that her doctors prognosticated and still they insist on scaring the crap out of us with new things we should worry about...even if they don't exist. I'm pulling my hair out from an appointment with OT and ST yesterday. Katie had 7 words about 2 months ago and now has over 50. We're thrilled. Her therapists think we should stop rewarding reading/letter recognition and make her play with toys that she "should" be playing with. ARGGGG. As much as I hate to admit it, it really, really deflates me. Especially after working my butt off trying to teach her new concepts and, uh, stuff.

Anyway...LOVE your blog. Your girls are adorable! They remind me of Katie. She also has a bit of Asian on her Dads side. My hubby also plays the drums...funny. :)

Kristine said...

I'm turning my comment into a blog post on the my blood is all boiling-like. :)