I will carry to my grave the deep and terrible guilt that I did not bond with my twins the way I did with their big sister.
Having more than one child means someone must wait. It means that everyone must share.
This is not necessarily a bad thing. Waiting teaches them the Earth does not revolve around them. Sharing prepares them for making friends and living richly in their communities.
But having more than one child at the same time means children must wait for - and share - the most elemental baby needs: food, clean diapers, touch, time. It's hard for me to imagine how that helps any child. And yet, it is the brutal reality of raising multiples.
I could not linger long over my nursing baby because the other was waiting to eat. I couldn't let one fall asleep on my chest and watch for hours the gentle rise and fall of their tiny bodies as they napped. I couldn't bring them into the bed in the morning to snooze and play and nuzzle. I couldn't carry them together in the sling as I did in my belly.
A year ago today, we welcomed Tobias and I fell in love all over again with the luxury of doting on one. I lingered. I watched. I nuzzled. I held.
Plenty of people - some of them twins themselves - have tried to ease my guilt. Desmond and Josephine share an unparalleled bond, they say. I watch the two talk, play and comfort each other and think that perhaps these folks are right. Their friendship is unusual, deep and beautiful.
And then I realize that Tobias and Esme do a fair amount of waiting and sharing too.
This morning I ignored the alarm and overslept. I jumped into a pair of jeans, smoothed my bed head, and ran out of the house to get gas, buy milk and grab a coffee before returning to take Esme to her second day of kindergarten.
I found her hiding beneath the bed covers, refusing to come out, when I returned. Just yesterday she was alive with stories from her first day. The girl who never told a story from preschool couldn't stop telling them from the moment we met her at the bus stop.
"I love my new school Mama," she said. "I like it more than preschool."
But someone thought wise (WHY?! OH WHY?!) to warn the kids there would be a fire drill today and now my child was a crumpled, teary mess of fear and anxiety. I managed to get her into her uniform with hugs and comforting words then send her off to brush her teeth before I realized something. HUGE!
I turned around and looked at my beautiful monkey happily stuffing his mug with cereal, pineapple and watermelon on his first birthday! HIS FIRST BIRTHDAY! Which so far I failed to acknowledge because so far I failed to remember.
HIS FIRST BIRTHDAY!?!
I grabbed his face and tickled his neck and sang "Happy Birthday." And the other children joined the lovefest and his Papa came to look. And Tobias giggled and smiled and lapped up the adoration.
I then drove my tearful, fearful oldest child to school where I left her standing in a sea of kindergarten students, waiting to walk to her classroom with her teacher. Kent needed to leave early for work so I couldn't stand with her until the bell rang.
There are images from my life that I can't shake:
-Balloons and cake on a card table in the family room with a small group of my friends at a surprise party my mother arranged on my 16th birthday. It was so sweet and so innocent and so not at all like the parties my friends and I went to. I'll never forget my mother's excitement and my friends' embarrassment.
-A Norstrom's bag filled with my brother's tennis shoes and clean clothes. My parents carried it to the emergency room where my brother was admitted after a catastrophic bicycle accident. They packed the bag before leaving for the hospital because they thought Tony might come home that night in late July. He didn't return home until March.
Now I'll carry the sight of Esme - so precious and young in her knee socks and plaid jumper - standing in the center of the gym, alone, her shoulders hunched, her body shaking.
I failed to dote properly on my twins during their infancy. I nearly forgot my youngest son's first birthday. And I left my sensitive, kind-hearted daughter crying in the middle of a school gymnasium on her second day of school.
Did I mention it's a Catholic school?
We Catholics do guilt famously well; just look at the baggage I'm carrying to the hereafter.