We moved in twenty-three years ago today. It was a Saturday, one of the coldest days ever. Sixteen below Fahrenheit. By the time we had finished, with the door having been opened and closed repeatedly all day long, it was about fifty in the front hall. My husband set up our bed and I climbed under a pile of blankets and sleeping bags and barely peered out again until March.
I was so sick.
It snowed heavily several times that winter. Sometimes as I stumbled back to bed from the bathroom, I would hear the sound of the snowblower in front of the house. The Episcopal church parsonage was next door, and the minister's son, who had never met us but had heard that I could barely move, took care of the front sidewalk for us over and over again.
In March as it warmed up and I opened the windows, I discovered that, when one purchases a home, one should first stop by at all hours of the day and night. It turned out that we live on a side street that takes you straight from the 'burbs at the top of the hill to the major university-hospital complex at the bottom. Our little street has rush hours. I lay in bed morning after morning and listened to the world whizzing by.
I was so sick.
In May I took my bearings and walked the dog again. I had about a month in there when I had stopped puking and could still breathe. We had a big dog and I had a big belly. People asked me all the time, "When are you due?" and blanched when the answer was "In three months." I hung the pictures that had been in boxes in the hallway since January.
In the summer I kept walking, but it became considerably more difficult. We stayed in town because my doctor had told me that the babies were likely to come early and that I should honor the fact that we lived five minutes from a Level III NICU. It was an excruciatingly boring summer, and much too hot to hang around our new (actually old, and not air-condiitoned) house. I spent a lot of time floating in the city pool, the only locale in which my whale-sized self could loll in comfort. I did my part for teenage abstinence. Oh, the looks on the faces of the kids whenever I emerged from the water, swimsuit plastered to my belly! ~ I knew that the back seats of cars would be somber places those nights in response to that view.
In August everyone drove me crazy. The doctors wanted to take ultrasounds every five minutes. The breech baby flipped upright and the doctors (my doctors that summer always came in multiples themselves) assured me that he would stay that way; there was just no room in there for those babies to budge. A week later he flipped upside down again. The minister and his wife came over one evening to make sure that we were all right ~ we had unplugged the phone in a desperate move to avoid the calls of the grandparents, and one set of them had somehow managed to convince information to give them the number of our neighbors, whose names they did not know, so that they could check on us.
In early September we brought our first two children home. That was a very scary night, the two of us and two week-old babies. My mother-in-law came the next day and stayed two weeks, but that first night was terrifying. What were we supposed to do if they cried? Where was my battalion of mother-and-child nurses? Couldn't we just move the entire fifth floor women's hospital staff up the hill?
I remember the next few months as possibly the most joyful in my entire life. My friends tell me that I was close to comatose much of the time, and I'm sure that there are, in fact, many stretches of existence lost to me. One of those friends, now a new grandmother to one, asked me recently how you sleep when you have newborn twins. "You don't, " I said. "Not as a regularly-scheduled activity." Of course, there are pictures of me passed out on various chairs and couches, always with a just-nursed infant curled up next to me. But what I remember are long walks pushing a double stroller through a beautifully warm autumn and along a windy December beach in Florida, and hours lying around on the living room rug or on our bed, just watching and laughing with two tiny boys.
Twenty-three years ago today we moved in and things didn't look too promising. But except for the puking, it was a very, very good year.