I’ll tell you one way Gentlease formula is not gentle or easy: on my nose, when it comes out the business end of my little boy. Yikes. Patrick’s breast-milk-only poops smell like… well, poop, but sweet. Almost sickly sweet. Not offensive. Arlo’s formula poops resemble Grey Poupon in color and texture, and smell like—I don’t know, can dijon mustard go rancid? Because that’s probably a good approximation.
Arlo’s tiny ass just graduated from preemie diapers, and he now swims around in a newborn-size. Patrick is solidly in a size 1.
Back at my appointment with Dr. Mirthful Mustache, he kept saying Twin A when he meant Twin B and vice-versa, and gesturing at the wrong side of my belly. At one point, to clarify things, I said, “Twin A’s the special one,” and from then on, Dr. MM referred to them as Special Baby and Bruiser.
And so it is made manifest. Special Baby is six-pounds-something; Bruiser is nine-and-a-quarter. I have to recalibrate before I pick each one up. Patrick requires a sturdier stance.
As hard as I imagined it would be having the two babies home, it is yet harder.
Nights, especially. The NICU team trained Arlo not to need a 2:00am feed, which sounds good, and it is, except that the break between 11:00 and 5:00 doesn’t translate to six hours of sleep for me. Because it goes like this:
Attach feeding tube
Wait a few minutes so there’s something in his belly
Rinse venting tube
Wait an hour while the pump runs
Detach feeding tube
If I’m lucky, I fall asleep in the hour the pump is running. Though sometimes it’s unlucky because I’ll just hit a sweet spot of sleep before I have to get back up.
At 5:00am, my alarm goes off to start the process over. And in the hours between midnight and 5:00, Patrick always wakes up and needs to eat.
Back right after I had the boys, people kept saying, “Are you just exhausted?” and I had to admit no, not really. I mean, I wasn’t spritely or anything, but with both twins in the NICU, I could actually get some sleep. It got a bit harder when Patrick came home, of course, and now
And frantic about when I go back to work in January. I’m muddling through at the moment because I don’t have obligations other than medical appointments, but how will I manage when I have to be at work at 7:15 in the morning? Moreover, the nanny I had counted on hiring got her knee replaced and isn’t cleared for work.
I’m freakin out, man.
I have made a miscalculation. Patrick has an appointment to get checked out by the cardiologist (he has a slight murmur) at 8:30, but that’s in the middle of one of Arlo’s feed times. I’ve waited too late to cancel, and my tribe has scheduling conflicts.
I formulate a plan: give Arlo half his feed before and half after.
I get up at 7:30, measure out 35 mL, and put it through his pump. I put on underwear for the first time in 36 hours and run my fingers through my hair. Time’s a-ticking. I don’t brush my teeth—that’s why they invented minty gum. I change the boys’ diapers but leave them in their pajamas, put them in their car seats, and drag the double snap-in stroller out of the shed.
8:20am. That’s when I learn that the double snap-in stroller doesn’t fit in my Mazda3.
Put the single snap-in back in the car and arrive at the hospital 9 minutes late, pushing Patrick in the stroller with my right hand and carrying Arlo’s bucket seat in my left.
"You’ve got your hands full," says the receptionist and sends me upstairs.
"You’ve got your hands full," says the nurse. "You need a double stroller."
I say, “I have one of those. It doesn’t fit in my car.”
"What kind of car your husband drive?"
"I don’t have one of those."
"Oh Law," she says and laughs.
While we’re waiting, I nurse Patrick. At the very moment the doctor walks in, Patrick spits up all over my back. The doc gets paper towels and starts wiping me down. “It’s in your hair,” he says.
"Not the first time," I say.
"It’s coming off your jacket really well though," he says.
"Must remember to invest in more pleather clothing,” I say.
I put Patrick on the examining table and unsnap his PJs. “Batman,” says the doctor, extending his stethoscope.
I whisper, “Gotham needs you.” The doctor chuckles.
He listens to Patrick’s chest, tells me he hears a tiny extra sound, probably a small hole. They’ll do an echocardiogram and see what they can see.
We schlep downstairs. “You’ve got your hands full,” says the ultrasound tech. She squirts goo all over Patrick’s chest, runs the transducer around, and snaps a bunch of pictures. He’s a superhero.
We schlep back upstairs. I wait in a consult room, and though I have very successfully managed to ignore the negative possibilities, suddenly the prospect of imminent catastrophe wallops me in the face. What if it’s not a tiny hole? What if it’s a gaping hole? What if I have not one but two babies who need open-heart surgery?
Just when I work myself into a good lather, the doctor and the attending come in. There’s a hole, yes. It’s tiny. It’ll probably close itself up. They’d like to see him again in a year.
"You’ve got your hands full," says every single person I pass on the way out.
We get home at 11:00. Poor Arlo never got the second half of his breakfast, and now it’s time for his elevensies. I warm the feed, wash my hands, prepare the meds…
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