S is my best friend. He is a writer and teacher. We grew up together.
H is S's hilarious and brilliant wife. She's a medical researcher and songwriter. She has excellent musical taste and is the only person I know who can master the Michael McDonald voice ("Takin' It to the Streets" is her karaoke jam).
M is their son and N is their daughter.
As M and N were just shy of eight weeks old, I expected that this would be more of a working trip than a vacation. That was wise. Twins are no joke! Honestly, my job was pretty simple. I mainly washed dishes, sanitized bottles, and occasionally held a baby while one of the parents was busy doing something else. But I was glad that I didn't make many plans for my visit because I quickly discovered that babies have a way of rearranging your life. My mere attempt to make myself available for little chores put me on the baby schedule, which sort of felt like changing time zones five or six times daily.
Consider this - the twins get fed 8-10 times a day. In between feedings they sleep. And of course they also have awake time when they play or stare at the grown-ups while they bounce on someone's knee. But they're not always on the same schedule and one of them may wake up crying just as the other one is going to sleep. S and H have re-calibrated their lives to meet the needs of these unpredictable creatures and for a few days I did, too.
I had no idea what I was doing so I was immediately impressed by the communication skills my friends have developed in their desire to understand their kids. The first time I held M (a puffy-cheeked cherub with a perennially mean mug that may intimidate me someday, but it's so damn cute right now), he farted. H assured me that he had indeed farted and not pooped; she could tell by the smell. S and H could also discern N's "I'm hungry" cry from her "my belly hurts" cry. I wasn't there long enough to tell the difference between poop and fart odors or one cry versus another and I'm just really grateful that I wasn't in a position to try to figure it out.
Speaking of bodily functions, I have a new found appreciation for my grown body's ability to process them without my noticing. These poor infants use up so much energy just in yawning, expelling gas and excrement, eating, and even moving their arms. They really put their whole bodies into these activities and you can tell from their troubled little faces that it's exhausting. It's a blessing that we don't remember that part of our lives.
I treasured the peaceful moments when the twins were awake and at ease, and I got to watch them watch the world. M seemed mostly disdainful (a premature judgment perhaps, but based on my experience I can't say that I blame him) while N had this hypnotizing, unblinking stare, like she didn't want to miss a thing. There were a couple times I zoned out just staring into her eyes and it felt like I'd been holding her for an hour, but it was really only a few minutes. Baby time can be drug-like.
As all-consuming and stressful as the twin experience was (and when I say "stressful", I speak more for my friends than myself; although I'm very sensitive to other people's emotions, I was definitely in the more comfortable position of an observer), there were unforeseen moments of fun. We three grown-ups would be in the midst of our chores, and then we would all catch a glimpse of M's furrowed brow face and just crack up laughing. Or during one of those magic naps when both kids were asleep, we shared our favorite corny Youtube videos. Those flashes of humor were extra refreshing, like the way water tastes sweeter when you've been sweating.
Don't get me wrong, it wasn't all drudgery. Each of the three full days I was there, we set out on an afternoon adventure and enjoyed some food-related activity. Going out on the street with twins made us instant celebrities, and that's fun when you're in the big city. As we were sitting at a sidewalk cafe, so many passers-by would point and coo, "Twins!" Strangers inquired about them and delighted to see that there was a boy and a girl. You could tell the ones who had their own children because they said things like, "God bless you," and "Hang in there." We ran into another mother of twins whose first words were, "It gets a lot better." But those who didn't know better may have been completely fooled as M and N were perfectly tranquil (and generally asleep) on all three occasions. Those were definitely fun times.
I felt a little bad leaving H and S yesterday morning, only because I could tell that my extra hands made a difference in keeping abreast of the twins' needs. I'm in awe of their ability to make this work, but I can tell they'll succeed because they take the team approach. Until I got married, I associated the term "teamwork" with sports and dysfunctional workplaces. I've never played sports and though I'm a big fan of "getting along with each other", I prefer to work alone as much as I can. But marriage, and apparently raising a family, is all about forming and executing a plan with your partner. I suppose this seems obvious, but how many families and couples do you know who don't operate that way?
Anyway, I'm excited to see their family evolve and I'm even more excited to see what happens when Dan and I move south and begin trying in earnest to build our own. Yeah, I admit that I'm now hoping for one at a time. I trust that whatever happens won't be easy but will be okay. We'll be okay.