By Hillary Strong
“There they are!” Betty, the technician, proclaims.
I blink. I stare at my husband. We both give her tight smiles. She’s wondering why I’m not crying. Not just crying, but ugly crying, where snot pours down my face, and I need an entire box of Kleenex to mop up the emotional refuse. She’s wondering why I’m not breaking out the horns and streamers, dancing naked while strewing confetti all over the exam room, watching it fall like snow over the stirrups, the tubes of Vaseline and boxes of Latex gloves, eventually drifting down to the bleach infused tiled floor.
She’s moving the wand around and gesturing towards the screen that to me looks like two Rorschach blots encased in static. My husband is squinting at the monitor. “What do you see?” I want to ask him. “A unicorn? A spider? Two caterpillars?”
“You must be excited” Betty says, as she slides out the ultrasound wand that had been shoved into me with robotic efficiency. “Scoot your butt down, legs open, no down further, knees apart”, Betty had choreographed the weird dance of our weekly appointment minutes earlier. “What no flowers? I thought. “No dinner?” Just wham, bam, intravaginal ultrasound. Betty takes off her plastic gloves, drops them into the trash, and scribbles on my chart. “I will print out some photos for you guys to keep,” and with a click of a button, my uterus and its contents appear in neat, glossy, squares curling unto themselves like the receipt from a cash register.
“I’ll let you get dressed,” she says, and the door clicks shut. Only then does my husband place his hand in mine, our fingers chilled from the air conditioning, and we stare at the pictures, poring over them like they are people we should know but can’t recognize. It’s like she placed an enormous chocolate cake in front of us, and we told ourselves we could take a tiny little taste of the icing. It feels decadent and a bit taboo and as our eyes pore over embryonic images of our children, we savor the deliciousness, for we know it could be as fleeting as sugar on the tongue.
I’m staring at a signed poster of Bruce Springsteen. It’s Born in the U.S.A., Bruce. White t-shirt, blue jeaned, red capped, Bruce. Fighting the good fight. “I’m clothed now, so at least I’m not disgracing the flag”, I say aloud, and consider it a victory when my husband smiles and shakes his head slightly. I stare at the plastic vagina on the desk in front of me, and resist the urge to open and shut it, make it talk, like a puppet. Months ago, it might have been an elephant in the room, something that would have made my husband and I snicker like prepubescents in health class, or if playing the bourgeois, something that would have been examined like a coffee table book. Now, after months of being indoctrinated with anatomy lessons we hadn’t exactly volunteered for, I regard it like a paperweight or desk lamp.
A year and a half earlier, standing at the precipice of my 30th birthday, we began to consider having a baby. And by consider, I mean just throwing the thought into our consciousness. We were comfortable in our life, recently moved into a new home, and relishing the freedom of spontaneous road trips and mid-week rendezvous to the movies or restaurants. But sometimes, we found ourselves looking up from our books and newspapers on lazy Sunday mornings because what used to be white noise was now the distinct sound of children laughing outside our windows. It started out like an itch that couldn’t be scratched, the comfortable metronome of our daily comings and goings suddenly seemed out of rhythm; a recipe that tasted good but seemed to be missing an ingredient. Where I had once been ambivalent or dare I say even repelled by babies (“Would you like to hold him?” Oh no, I would retreat, arms stretched out, palms out, like I was declining to hold a King Cobra.)
I began noticing them in grocery stores and shopping malls. Doe-eyed, drooling, bobble-headed babies that I had previously ignored either subconsciously as blurry components of the background of my life, or more consciously while gripping onto the last remnants of my youth, came into focus. I began picturing our living room littered with toys and heard the slap of tiny feet running up and down our hallways. As our refrigerator grew crowded with birth announcements, the itch grew into a hunger that gnawed in my gut, and growled and rumbled in insatiable discontent. I threw my birth control in the trash and for the first time in 14 years, did not renew the prescription.
I drive down to Baltimore in August to see the same gynecologist I had seen since the summer before I began my freshman year of college. “I’m going to try to have a baby,” I say to him as he smiles at me across his desk. He reminds me of a Jewish Santa Claus with his red sweater and salt and pepper beard. “Mazel Tov!” he says. I launch into a diatribe, a volcanic spewing of all the neuroses and worries bubbling in my body. “But I had an irregular period when I was younger. I’ve always been on birth control. What if something’s wrong?”
“You will be ok,” he says and pats my hand now resting on the top of his desk. A small man with gentle eyes; he was a real mensch. And just like a small child who bites hook, line, and sinker onto the folkloric magic of Santa, I exit his office in an ethereal fog, certain that a softly cooing baby would be under my tree in a few short months.
Fast-forward six months. There’s no baby under the tree. But I have been gifted with a full face of craterous acne that was like nothing I had experienced as a teenager. I’m visiting mall kiosks and makeup counters to stock up on concealers and four-step skin care regimens and for a fleeting moment stand in front of a display of oxy cleaning pads at the drug store. To my surprise, when I stopped the pill, my period showed up every month, and so I invest in ovulation thermometers, and release steady streams of urine on sticks that are supposed to do everything but insert the sperm directly into the egg. Never the mathematician, I find myself dividing the days and weeks of my cycle into minutiae. 7 days until a pang in my lower abdomen may signal an egg barreling towards my uterus, 3 days of scheduled intimacy which sounds about as romantic as it is, 14-more days of hand wringing and anguish while waiting to see if the dividend of all these parts is a positive pregnancy test.
I’m on vacation on Martha’s Vineyard with my friends, two of whom wear bellies as ripe as watermelons. It is hot and they often kvetch about how they feel like walking ovens, and when I playfully tell them to stop their complaining, they bump their hard stomachs into my painfully flat one, and say, “You just wait until it’s your turn.” It was supposed to be a week full of lazy beach days, sand between my toes, a dog-eared book always within reach. I had dreamed of sun-saturated skin, stomachache-inducing quantities of ice cream, and fresh seafood from boats bobbing at crowded piers. Instead, my period is late, and rain beats on the windows of the old Victorian house like an omen.
I wake early and get up to use the bathroom. The toilet paper is colored by an angry streak of red. I stare at my feet resting on the cracked tiled floor. I put my head into my hands and cry. Cooped inside because of the weather, my friends provide an audience to my red-rimmed eyes. What follows is well intentioned encouragement (It will happen when the time is right) and advice (Maybe it’s the stress because I had a friend who adopted a baby after years of struggling to conceive, and then she was able to relax and it happened) both of which I sucked on like a sour lozenge. Later, my husband and I take a drive up to Gayhead to see the cliffs. We walk out onto the rocks, cocooned into over-sized sweatshirts, waves crashing at our feet, and stare out at the expanse of inky ocean. I pray my grief will be wrested from me by a tempestuous wind.
At the end of the summer, I abandon my mensch for a doctor closer to home. His last name is Greek. Long and composed of a cacophony of vowels and consonants which do not roll easily off my tongue. I call him “Doctor A” instead. Yes, Doctor A. No, Doctor A. He tells me what I don’t want to hear. He tells me he cannot help me but he has some colleagues that can. He writes down their number on the prescription pad instead of the magic remedy that I had hoped for.
My first meeting with Dr. Orson is a few weeks later. I bring doctors records and blood work and millions of unanswered questions. He is brusque, but not altogether unfriendly. He notes our address, and that he used to live near there when he was completing medical school. There was a little bar he used to frequent in our neighborhood. My husband and I nod and smile. I stare at Bruce Springsteen. He says, “If you have come here wanting someone who is gonna tell you to rah, rah, rah, shake your rain stick, and eat herbs, and do aromatherapy, you’re in the wrong place. I operate off of medicine and what I know works. All those other things may have a place but we’re about the science of it, here.” I don’t know what this all means, but I nod like I do.
At this point if he told me to stand on my head and learn Swahili to get pregnant, I would. He confirms my diagnosis of polycystic ovarian syndrome (basically I have a high level of male hormones coursing through my system, resulting in small cysts on my ovaries which makes it difficult to ovulate) from the blood work I have brought. When I point at the pimples erupting on my face which I haven’t recognized as a common symptom of the diagnosis I have just been given, he doesn’t look up from writing his notes, but says, “It’ll go away when I get you pregnant.” I notice that he says when and not if. I tell him I am a chronic Googler and begin rattling off the list of treatments and tests I have read about. I know about Clomid. Will he put me on it? Yes, but first he needs to give me some tests. I have read about those too, and I know one is particularly painful, and is used to see if my fallopian tubes are blocked.
“But do I need to get that one now or can we try something first?”
“You need to get it because I can’t get started until I know that if I make you ovulate, those eggs have somewhere to go. You will be ok,” he says matter-of-factly.
This is how you have a hysterosalpingogram. You lay on a cold, stainless steel table, naked from the waist down. You think about how in 7th grade you first became self-conscious about your body. Someone called you He-Man legs in gym class because your legs, strong and muscular, looked funny in the high tops that were the only name brand shoes that your mother had been able to afford. You think about how in 8th grade, while walking behind two girls you had formed a triangle with during middle school, one whispered to the other, “When I’m with you, I don’t feel as pretty because you are so beautiful, but when I’m with —“, there was a look back, a giggle, and you swallow the comment, like a piece of shrapnel from an ambush in a war you never saw coming. You think about your high school boyfriend. A boy on the fringe of popularity, but attractive enough that your girlfriend sneaks a slow dance with him at homecoming, her arms snaking around his neck, resting her head on his shoulder. But he wants you, and when he sees you enter the gym from the bathroom, eyes ablaze with jealousy, he stretches his arms out to you, and laces his fingers with yours until you are tied like a knot.
I was bean-pole skinny, wild haired, and bestowed with a nose which I thought I might never grow into. I sat on a bench after school and watch him play tennis. My yearning was punctuated by the thwack of the ball as it floated hypnotically back and forth over the net. I watched as his wiped sweat off his slick forehead with the back of his hand and flashed a smile in my direction. I waved and smoothed my hair down, and bit my lip, as my cheeks grew hot. Then his partner, a gangly armed, pimple faced boy I vaguely recognized from the class below me, says it. “You could do much better.” It slapped me across the face and rested heavy in my stomach like a meal I couldn’t digest. Days later, sitting in the courtyard, deep in conversation about how no-one would have thought he would be dating me, my first love looks at me and says, “Yeah, there aren’t many guys like me.”
But yet here I am, married to a man so handsome that I pre-judged him as cocky and arrogant when he came for an interview at the graduate school we attended. A man who loves me so fiercely that he argues with the doctors when they tell him he has to let me go into the room alone. He is temporarily outside the door, at the instructions of the nurse, who takes my hand and tells me she has to tell me things he doesn’t need to hear. She holds my hand while she tells me that when the dye enters my tubes, I will likely writhe in pain for the first 30-seconds, but then the pain will gradually subside. Her words are not candy coated, but her hand in mine is gentle, and I choke back tears and say, “Will you hold my hand?”
Dr. Orson enters and says, “Wow. I’m a little nervous. I’ve never done one of these before.” I laugh politely but want to punch him and his humor in the face. The nurse, Alice, she helps me count to 10, like a rocket is launching. Her hand is an anchor as I am wrested into turbulence. I can hear Dr. Orson, letting out encouraging, “You are doing great’s” and “almost done,” as that rocket begins to explode in my belly. I begin to writhe on the table as my husband paces back and forth watching the monitor. Alice did not lie. The rocket and all its fuselage and debris begin to dissipate quickly leaving only a dull ache in my lower back. Dr. Orson uncharacteristically pats my legs gently, and gives my husband a slap on the back like a coach to a player on the field. “Looks good, “he says.
It is September. I start taking medication to make me ovulate. I pick it up dutifully at the pharmacy and then withstand stomachaches and headaches and hot flashes that also come with the little pills. I bleed mid-cycle one day at work, and a new co-worker who will soon become one of my closest friends, drives over an hour with me at the instruction of my boss who fears in my hysteria, I will crash the car. I sit in the waiting room where the signs say “No children” and they hide the birth announcements behind the reception desk so I can’t see. I am simultaneously grateful and ashamed by these gestures. A couple emerges with shiny ultrasound pictures in hand, and I have to look away. Seconds later, a woman crying comes out of the nearest room, and a nurse rubs her back and tells her they will handle the check-out later. The waiting room is crowded but no one makes eye contact for when you acknowledge someone else’s pain or discomfort, or even awkwardness, it means confronting your own. When I enter the same room, minutes later, I notice there are smears of blood still on the floor. “We will try again,”Dr. Orson says.
It’s October. It’s pouring rain. We’re in the car, a brown bag, like the kind you pack a child’s lunch in, is between us. The bag doesn’t hold a PBJ, but a small container of sperm. Minutes earlier, my husband has had to spill himself into a plastic vial no larger than a Dixie cup. We are on a strict time frame, and need to get to a fertility office nearly an hour from our home, quickly so that an artificial insemination can be attempted. We joke that we hope we don’t get pulled over for speeding, and that the cop doesn’t initiate a search of the car. We don’t joke about how our intimacy has been broken down into sterile, isolate, steps stripped of human contact. Masturbate into a cup, whirl sperm into a centrifuge, sit in stirrups, have sperm mechanically inserted into cervix. There’s no wine, candlelight dinner, or unbridled passion. There’s route 476, an accident, and torrential downpours. We are ultimately late and apologetic and devastated. A nurse does the procedure anyways, but we know it’s a failure before we have even begun.
It’s November. My friend calls me. She got pregnant in July and I had thought we would be on the pregnancy journey together. She’s having a baby shower. “I understand if you can’t come and so I didn’t even send an invite,” she says. I tell her I don’t know what feels worse; having to be around all the baby stuff, the clothing, car seats, the pacifiers, that fill me with so much longing, frustration, and sorrow or acknowledging that in protecting myself, I can’t be there for her, to celebrate her growing family. In the end, I send a gift and my good wishes, along with a healthy package of guilt. Things don’t go as well with my best friend from college. She calls me, joy dripping from her voice, to tell me she is pregnant and they just found out it’s a girl. I try, God help me, I try, and raise the timbre of my voice, and add exclamations to my congratulations. Later, after not speaking for nearly 6 months, she tells me that she heard the flatness in my voice, and she was angry that I couldn’t see past my own situation to show some genuine happiness. We can’t seem to meet halfway because I realize I don’t understand what she is going through as much as I am torturing myself to do so; I do not know what it is like to feel life stirring and kicking in my belly, and she does not know what it feels like to feel the absence of that life stirring just as fiercely.
Shortly before Thanksgiving, I get my period.
It’s December. Christmas Eve to be exact. 24 hours prior, a close friend, a nurse, injects a needle into my hip. I’m back in the chair again. As triple washed sperm (with a high count, I’m told) is placed directly into my uterus, we talk about Dr. Orson’s upcoming ski trip. Our car in the parking lot is piled high with presents and suitcases, as we will be traveling to my in-laws for the Christmas holiday. “Merry Christmas”, he tells us, adding, “it looks really, really, good this time.” I shrug, as I have heard this before, and wish him a happy holiday.
New Year’s Eve. One of my close friends from college is getting married, and we are again, in the car headed up to Pittsburgh for the wedding. I’m emotionally drained. I know it hasn’t worked. I don’t feel pregnant. I have a laundry list of reasons. I’m not bloated, I haven’t felt any implantation pains, my breasts aren’t tender. I start talking about needing to switch doctors or convincing Dr. Orson to be more aggressive. I’m grilling my husband on how we are going to afford IVF, how we are going to have to go bankrupt both emotionally and financially to have children. He lets me vent but does not say much, and so I start erupting about how he doesn’t care. I’m pretty sure we are both glad to get out of the small sedan which in addition to our small overnight bags has been packed full of angst. Pittsburgh is frigid and blanketed in snow. At the wedding, I have several cocktails. I self-medicate and I manage to have a little fun.
It’s January. I still haven’t gotten my period. I’m angry. I know my period is coming, but it’s delayed, which means our next cycle to try, will also be delayed. I defiantly put in a tampon, daring my period to come. It doesn’t answer. My husband gently suggests that I get a pregnancy test and I refuse. For extra money, he has started running the clock for some of the basketball games at the high school where he works. On the way home from a Friday night game, he picks up a pregnancy test and brings it home to me. I read the directions. It could take up to two minutes for one or two lines to show. I cry and my hands shake as I pee on the stick. It takes less than 10 seconds for two lines to appear, dark, and distinct. My husband starts to cry too.
I walk around like a Faberge egg. I have to go to the doctor’s office to confirm the pregnancy via a blood test. The tech gently explains that I likely won’t have to come back for a week or so for the ultrasound because they won’t be able to see anything. Yet, I get a call a day later. They need to check something. Everything’s okay but my blood work was a little funny. My HCG is “through the roof,” Betty tells me. Which brings me to the Rorschach blots. And the confirmation of twins. And Bruce Springsteen.
Sitting in Dr. Orson’s office, he tells us not to tell anyone we are having twins for a while, because one could vanish. I tell him I feel like both of them could vanish.
Its mid-January and I go to the bathroom at work, and I find a spot of rust colored blood in my underwear. I call the doctor’s office. “I’m bleeding! “I cry when a nurse picks up. “What color is it?” This is what it has come to, describing blood like a hue on a color wheel. “Brownish red, I guess,” I choke out. “Well, that’s what we like to hear,” she responds. I ask if I can come in immediately. She tells me I am already scheduled to come in the next day. “Some light bleeding is normal, especially with a multiples pregnancy. If it gets heavier call us back otherwise we will see you tomorrow.” Her tone is compassionate but firm. Inside, I am screaming that nothing is normal about blood, and that I fear that my hopes for a family are slowly leaking out between my legs. Instead, I tell her I will see her tomorrow. The next appointment, they run the ultrasound wand over my jelly covered stomach and two heartbeats thump rhythmically like harbingers of life. I cup my hand over my gaping mouth as tears roll down my cheeks, and slowly exhale a breath I didn’t know I had been holding.
It is February. The month is rife with snowstorms and my husband and I try to make donuts from his grandmother’s recipe. We pull the misshapen pillows of dough out of the fryer. I’m suddenly too delicate to clear the driveway. So, I dust them with powdered sugar while my husband shovels. I let my hands rest lightly on my stomach as if checking for a pulse that isn’t there. I’m almost afraid to acknowledge them lest they be taken away, but they make their presence known with an almost unbearable, constant, nausea. At the school where I work as a psychologist, nobody’s the wiser, except for my constant pillaging of the guidance candy drawer for watermelon Jolly Ranchers, the sole elixir for my churning, roiling, belly. My husband and I celebrate Valentine’s Day at our favorite Mexican restaurant. In defiance, I eat food so spicy it sweats out my pores and I wash it down with an enormous piece of chocolate cake. I barely make it home before my meal erupts like a geyser. I tell a few people, mostly family, handing the news to them reluctantly, like a gift I’m not ready for them to open.
It’s March and my clothes no longer fit. I start buying shirts a size bigger to hide what is spilling over my waistband. The snow begins to melt no longer choking the life below. The nurse at the fertility clinic remarks that she has seen the first crocuses in her garden, and another remarks that they saw a blue bird alit on a branch outside. They tell me it is time for me to “graduate” back to my regular obstetrician. I look back into the waiting room and at the chairs, which I had never wanted to occupy and realize I don’t want to leave. I remark that I will even miss Betty and the invasive wand. Those blurry, weekly images are pinches to let me know I’m not dreaming. “How will I know they are ok?” I ask. The nurses hug me and whisper in my ear, “Faith.” Raised without it, I don’t know where to find it. A good friend takes a walk with me, and we pause on a bench to pray. I bow my head and hold her hand. I listen to her words (Dear Lord, I ask that you watch over her babies and keep them safe from harm) and let them wash over me like holy water. A week later we find out we are having a boy and a girl. One of each.
It’s April. My husband and I lay in bed. My stomach has begun to swell and ripen. He runs his finger over its expanse, and locates every fluttery kick like countries on a globe. We read through baby books, and whisper names to each other, trying them on like clothes. We don’t read “What to Expect When You’re Expecting”. My brain is already crowded with premonitions, some blissful, most trepidatious, so there is no room left for any more.
May and June. I am a human incubator and my temperature often measures that of the outside. Hot, stifling, uncomfortable. I can no longer hide. I wear dresses that feel like tents and pants with forgiving elastic waistbands. I have to tell friends and co-workers. I allow myself to be hugged and kissed and enveloped in the joy others are exuding, my face belying the apprehension that my pregnancy has been fully released into the universe. “When I speak it out loud, it becomes real,” I tell a friend on the phone. “It is real!,” she exclaims. “But if it’s real, it can break or be lost,” I say. “I’ve seen you,” she laughs, “and that belly isn’t going anywhere.”
July. My husband rips up the carpet in the upstairs bedroom, spends all day hammering in new floors, and we paint the walls a lemon yellow. I am exhausted but restless. I defy my doctor’s orders and rearrange the furniture and vacuum the floors. I am massive and walk at a tortoise pace but I will not feel useless. Two cribs are assembled. I find a print of the alphabet that I like and have it professionally matted and framed. There are baby showers. I waddle into chairs and lift doll sized clothing out of delicate tissue paper skins. My living room is a sea of strollers, car seats, bottles, diapers. I do endless loads of laundry and fold and tuck miniature outfits into empty drawers. I constantly open and close the drawers checking on my cache of treasures.
It is August. We rise before dawn at an hour we will soon become all too familiar with. My husband and I take pictures as we are poised to leave through our front door. “Leaving a family of two, coming back a family of four,” I say. I have to have a C-section because my son is transverse, swimming the horizontal expanse of my uterus and then some as evidenced by feet and elbows, which spontaneously imprint in my skin. We check into our hospital room. I am given an IV, a bracelet, and a monitor, which erupts into a rhythmic symphony of heartbeats. My OBGYN makes an appearance, and tells me the OR had an emergency so we have been delayed. I pass the time by playing a video game on my phone. My doctor checks in again and distracts me by talking about reality television. It is time to get my spinal, she announces. I am blessed with a skilled anesthesiologist. He tells me to lean forward, and the needle pricks like a bee sting but after that I feel nothing. I watch my husband get into scrubs, a sterile mask across his face. I am on the gurney moving away from him and I start to panic. “We need to get you set up before he can come in,” the nurse says. The OR is freezing and I shiver under the starchy sheets. Saint anesthesiologist tells me this is the worst part. I will soon feel like I am paralyzed from the waist down. Soon I can’t feel the compression pumps squeezing my calves. He tells me he can pump Valium into my IV if I need, and I joke that he may need something stronger.
My husband is beside me and I yell to my doctor now enshrouded by a blue curtain, to make sure I can’t feel anything. She responds by holding up a metal clamp and then tells me she is pinching my stomach. I don’t feel anything and exhale. Soon, the gurney begins to rock back and forth as I am tugged and pulled. My husband peeks behind the curtain and the color drains from his face. Later, my doctor tells me that as she pulled Charlotte from the cavern of my body into the harsh fluorescent lights, Owen was gripping her umbilical cord, not wanting to be left behind. A nurse briefly lets me hold each baby, both red faced and indignant at being wrenched from my womb, and I laugh in amazement feeling their weight in my arms. My husband leans in, kissing each of us on our foreheads, anointing us as a family.
It is five years later. I had expected when Charlotte and Owen were wrested from the warm confines of my uterus, that the fear and anxiety that had floated around in my body like amniotic fluid, would be forcibly extracted as well. Instead, drunk on a cocktail of pain medications post-op, I gingerly unwrapped their swaddled bodies, and gazed at their faces, no longer grainy, blurred images on paper and was paralyzed with terror. I tried to recognize myself in their bodies, their faces, and though my daughter has my dark hair, and my son, my nose, they felt foreign, and we regarded each other like strangers. For months I treated them like fine china, handling them with kid gloves, afraid they would shatter and crack at any moment. In those early months, we got up in the middle of the night and put our hands on their chests to feel their rise and fall, or bent in close to feel their warm breath on our faces. I would sneak my hands over the side of my bed into their bassinets to make sure they weren’t figments of my imagination.
After my children’s birth, I no longer trolled chat rooms filled with women’s angst about a failed treatment or a negative pregnancy test, but found myself scouring parent websites about diaper rash and teething. Now, I obsessively search for tips with eating, preschool, tantrums. Charting my cycle has been replaced by scheduling soccer, ballet, preschool, well-visits, and though I no longer feel guilt and shame about my struggle to conceive, it creeps in when I find myself needing a break from my children or when “I’m not enjoying every moment” (But they are such miracles, but you worked so hard to have them the voice will chant). It takes me years to leave them in other people’s care, even for a few hours, and even longer overnight. And now, as I watch them stand at the doorway of their kindergarten classroom, backpacks affixed like turtle shells, lunch boxes in hand, I am plagued by the same fear I felt strapped on that OR gurney. The wanting to keep them tucked away like precious gems but knowing that we both need to cross that threshold, out into a world where losses and blessings are almost always side by side.
Hillary Strong is a school psychologist in Pennsylvania by day and a writer by night. She is also the mom to two very busy five-year old twins. This is her first published piece.