Life Looks Different Now

~Aly

While writing this, I hold my daughter, laying next to my sleeping wife, Tiffany, while her hand is on our son, comforting him.

Life looks different now for The Albrecht Household.

We had life as a couple for 13 years. 6 of those years were spent in the closet, easily finding ways to love each other, even when we didn’t love ourselves. All of the years, full of love and friendship that continued to grow. Those years were full of making our house a home and our marriage one that we could be proud of.

But as our family has grown from 2 to 4, many aspects of our life are unrecognizable. It has changed us. We are no longer just “us.” We are our marriage, our individual selves, our children, and our mom personas all intertwined into something entirely new.

Lazy Sunday’s laying in bed together cuddling, talking, and sleeping are a day of the past. Now our Sundays involve filling life in in between our babies’ 3 hour feeding schedule increments. They are full of tummy time, diapers, and bottles.

Dancing in the kitchen while cooking has been replaced with a new time and place for dancing. Now we dance to us singing “jingle bell rock” together, even though it’s September, with babies in our arms because for some reason, it makes the babies happy. No, the song cannot change. So, Christmas in September it is.

Giving each other massages has currently been replaced by lotioning chubby legs with lavender after bath time. The arms that held each other now provide comfort during cries and rock our children late in the night.

Dinner together while talking about our work day has been replaced by snacks by nightlight in a dimly lit room, so that we don’t wake the twins because while they need sleep, we also so badly need some quiet time.

Where we once showered together, we now run the shower while standing outside of it, holding a baby, because for some odd reason watching the water fall calms them when they are fussy.

Through the chaos, we still find each other, but we find each other differently than we once did. Our love right now is spoken in moments of “I let you sleep an extra hour while I got everything setup for the day.” It’s a check-in during the evening followed by a “Good job, mama” in solidarity. It’s a “you look beautiful,” even when your hair isnt brushed and when there is spit up on your shirt. It’s a hand hold in the night, when we each are reaching towards the middle of the bed to find each other, while we each face different directions towards each baby’s bassinet.

For so long we prayed for our family to grow… for our lives to change.

Yes, life looks different now. It’s hard and it’s messy and it’s lacking sleep, but this new life is also wholly wonderful with its newness.

Life looks different now and with it our marriage evolves. We will find our new rhythm together soon enough, but right now the babies dictate the beat of the drum in this house.

Life looks different now and even though I was happy before, a whole new kind of happy has bloomed. What we had is now surrounded by nostalgia because I know that we can’t have that again. But I also know that there was a time and place for that life and neither of us would ever give up this new life. Instead, we find delight in making our new life together.

Life looks different now and I embrace it all- good, bad, and all in between- with my wife holding my hand as we forge into our new adventure, ready to see what awaits, all while still loving the past for making us who we are in the current moment.

Life is different now and we are happy that it is.

Mama Meets Her Latkes

~Tiffany

Where to begin…The moments following the birth of our children were…too many things. They were amazing, overwhelming, uncertain, humbling… All of the things. 

I was escorted from the operating room by a couple of nurses. I kissed Aly’s forehead and told her I’d see her soon, but I needed to go with our babies. They thankfully didn’t have any NICU time, Bella being just above the weight limit required. We were taken to Recovery to wait for Aly to get out of surgery and to do the first of several assessments on the babies.

I struggle to find words here to describe what this time was like, but I’ll try. It was beautiful, and heart wrenching, it was intimidating, and defining.  We, meaning, myself, Arabella, and Bennett, were taken to a curtained off room. Empty, save for some medical equipment I knew would be used to monitor Aly once she arrived. The nurses wheeled in Bella and Benny and started doing some quick vitals. All I could do was stand at what I thought was a respectful distance (this seems funny to me now, they’re my children afterall). I watched the nurses do their work and make sure that our two latkes were doing ok. Bella seemed so much smaller than Benny. In retrospect, it was only a pound, but, since then, we’ve taken to calling her “delicate” and him “stocky,” so the difference looks much more severe than it is. , Really, the only difference in their vitals was that Bella had a little trouble maintaining her body temperature, so they turned on the heat lamp overhead of her bassinet and told me she was perfect and so was Benny. I already knew this. 

Once the vitals were done, the nurse that had been attending to Benny turned to me, and asked me if I wanted to hold him. My response to this question now, makes me chuckle when I think about it, and I’m sure it always will. I wonder how many new parents are like I was in their uncertainty about their new role as a parent, as I answered, “can I?” I asked the nurse permission to hold my son, really hold him for the first time, and she laughed and said, “of course” before placing him solidly into my arms. 

My son slept soundly as I stared in awe. I had pulled up a seat, so that I could be stable holding him for the first time, much as you would do for a child who is being introduced to a baby for the first time. Again, this is humorous to me now. She placed him in my arms and after making sure I had him well in hand, quietly stepped out of the room. This moment was one of many humbling ones I had that evening. I searched  my mind for what to do next. I loved him already, this was absolute. I looked up into the bassinet holding his sister and confirmed, yes, this was true for her as well. My heart belonged to both of them and their Mommy, with whom I was very anxious to be reunited and share this moment. I began a light rock in the chair on which I sat and inadvertently began to hum the first tune that came to my head: “All Is Found,” from Frozen II. 

I alternated staring at both Benny and Bella as I hummed, unaware, and uncaring if anyone else was hearing me, or I was off tune. I was in awe and this song, and his warmth in my arms, and her sleeping form in front of me, grounded me to the moment. I missed Aly terribly and when Bella’s nurse came in to check on how her temperature was progressing, I asked if there was any news on when she would be out of surgery. This was the first of many inquiries over however long it took until she was being rolled into the room we were waiting for her in, her son, daughter, and I. While I waited for the nurse to find out, I stared again at my beautiful children and tried to let that sink in. They were my children. Our children. They were here. And my God, how stunning were they? I ran my hands softly over every feature of Benny’s beautiful face and placed my hand on Bella’s head inside her bassinet, not wanting to disturb whatever treatment she was getting from the heat lamp overhead. 

It’s funny, three weeks in, I reflect on these moments and consider how I treated them exactly how I thought I would. Like crystal. Like they were breakable because I didn’t know what I was supposed to be doing. 

Aly was eventually rolled in from surgery and, even in her medicated state, she was just as in awe as I was at the beautiful children she had made in her tummy. Shortly after getting her settled, Benny’s nurse came in and asked if I’d like to help feed them. Again, I answered with the same apprehension, and anxious anticipation. “Can I? I’d love to.” And then I was holding Bella in my arms for the first time, feeding her and it hit me again. This extraordinary love. Aly and I have taken to calling it, “crazy.” I don’t know how many times a day we say, “it’s crazy how much I love them. They’re perfect.”

While we were in recovery, for the 8 hours we were there, I fed both of them and held them both, and comforted them both, each time, growing more confident in my ability to do so. At first, when they cried, I was only brave enough to place my hand lightly on them and rock them back and forth, not having had permission from the nurse to pick them up. Again, this is funny to me now. Aly had skin to skin for the first time with both of the babies there as I looked on and fell in love again and again. 

In the days following, while Aly recovered, I slowly shed the apprehension I had felt in our beginning moments in recovery and the babies and I got to know each other. When Benny had his first poopie diaper, I asked the nurse to teach me how to clean him properly and every change since then, has been relatively without fear (there have been some doozies that have left me with a healthy level of fear, lol). 

Since we’ve left the hospital, Aly and I have only fallen more for our latkes. We spend an inordinate amount of time staring at them. I take an obscene amount of pictures and live for the smell of their skin and feel of their hands wrapping around my fingers. I never expected parenthood to be like this. So, all-consuming. We freely admit we’re obsessed with our babies. Lol. We’re absolutely crazy for them. Aly said to me, “if there was anything else in the world that interrupted our life as much as these babies, we would loathe it, how can we love them this much?” To which I responded, “I don’t know, but they do, and we really do.” That’s to say nothing about how you all of a sudden are able to function on exponentially less sleep than before they got here. It’s what I’m calling, the “parenting phenomenon.” Though I’m sure there’s something much more scientific about it. We keep saying we’re swimming in Oxytocin and that’s what’s giving us our superhuman energy. 

I get life now from the moments when they fall asleep against my chest and when I feel and see them growing. It fills me with joy when Aly cuddles with them and I am in awe of myself, to be honest, and the side of myself that I didn’t know existed but comes out around these babies so naturally. I am unabashedly silly and unrepentantly affectionate. I kiss feet and noses and smell heads and in the moments between feeding, and playing, and changing, when we have some quiet time, I wonder how it’s possible that I didn’t know I was meant for this more than anything else.

Becoming Mommy and Mama

Disclaimer: As we have done previously in The Albrecht Household blog posts, this post, which discusses the story leading to our twins’ birth, is separated into 2 perspectives on the same events. We hope this offers a more complete view of what it is like to be in each of our positions during this time.

Tiffany’s Point of View

Waiting for Their Birth

Where to begin…we’re in love and it’s been two weeks, but in all honesty, that part happened immediately, though I’ll let Aly explain her experience. 

The part that everyone knows at this point is that we spent two weeks in the hospital anticipating our twins’ grand entrance into the world. What we haven’t talked about was when it became “go-time”, until now. I’ll speak from my perspective and leave it up to Aly to share however much she feels comfortable later in this post. Needless to say, the birth of our children was not without drama and a high level of emotional upheaval. 

In the early morning on August 1st, or to us, 35 and 5, I hadn’t slept much the night prior. It was 2:30am, and I was anticipating the next set of Aly’s vitals at 4am. Something was keeping me up and I didn’t know what it was. It could have been that we had been in the hospital for two weeks, it could have been the not-so-comfortable guest pull-out bed, it could have been the stress we had been under, or the inevitable arrival of our latkes, or thinking about what parenting would be like, or thinking about all the decisions we had made in just the prior several days that changed the course of how we would approach the birth. The truth is, it was probably all of that. The truth is, all of those things had kept me up for most of all of the nights we spent at the hospital and throughout most of the days. 

When the nursing assistant came in to take Aly’s vitals at 4am, as expected, the process was much the same, pulse-ox, temperature, blood pressure. We waited, as always, for the numbers to show up, and the alarm went off that indicated her blood pressure was above where it needed to be. The nursing assistant said she’d be back in 15 minutes, per the hospital protocol to take it again, and in 15 minutes she was back again. The results were similar. Aly and I looked at each other and I jokingly said to her, “You know this means I was right all along.” I had predicted that our twins would be born on August 1st from the beginning. She laughed and shrugged, and said to me, “If it happens, it happens.” A calm had settled over us as we waited for whatever would come. Our nurse walked in and hooked up the non-stress test monitors so that we could get a reading on our twins and the on-call high-risk doctors stopped by to confirm that, sure enough, we were going to be induced. 

When the doctor from our normal OB/GYN practice stopped by, she explained how the process would unfold from then on and checked to see how Aly had progressed, if at all prior to inducing. She was much further than anyone anticipated and we found out later that she had probably already been in labor, and that had probably been the cause of the high blood pressure to begin with. They hooked some meds up to her IV to get her blood pressure under control and to labor and delivery we went. 

Labor and Delivery

Our nurse in labor and delivery was arguably the best nurse we had the entire time we were at the hospital. She was kind, attentive, compassionate, and humored us when we trying to make light of what inducing would be like for Aly since she apparently didn’t feel that she had been contracting for however long she had already been in labor. We joked and said, that maybe she would be the one that God spared from the pain, but quickly informed the nurse that anesthesia should still be on deck with that epidural in case we were wrong. Things progressed pretty quickly from there. We got the babies on the monitors and they were twinning, so it was difficult for the nurses to tell one heart rate from the other. We laughed as they came in for the 10th time to adjust the sensors on the Aly’s soon-to-not-be-pregnant tummy, and ultimately, called the doctor in to get his opinion on whether they needed to approach it differently. 

Aly was feeling contractions by this point, but they were few and far between, so when they kicked on the meds to induce labor, and she still wasn’t feeling much once a contraction was hitting, the nurse and I laughed and admitted that perhaps she really would be the one. Until she wasn’t. She started feeling pressure, but not pain, and our doctor came in frequently to check on her, knowing that she was going to want the juice. He indicated that she shouldn’t ask for it until she started feeling pain, so we waited, and the pain came, so Anesthesia followed. Here’s where my perspective on the birth story will really start to differ a bit from Aly’s. During the epidural, she was a champ. She didn’t feel a thing, did everything that was asked of her, moved as she was told, even though it was tough for her, being 35 weeks and 5 days pregnant with twins. About 5 minutes after getting her in the optimum position once she was laying down, her blood pressure bottomed out and 10 people came rushing into the room to stabilize her and make sure the babies were ok. We were told this was a common side effect, but that brought no solace to me as I watched entire room fill with people, in my mind, working to keep my wife and children okay. I held a cool towel to her neck as an oxygen mask was placed over her face and additional monitors were placed on our babies because it had already been hard to get a good reading on them. They pushed one med and another as I stood there and prayed my heaviest prayer up until that point in my life that God would take care of the things I held most dear and bless the hands of the people that were helping. This was, up until that point, the single most terrifying moment of my life. It took a while, and lots of medical jargon that frustratingly, went over my head, but they ultimately got her stable and she was coherent enough to be able to tell me she was okay, even though emotionally, she probably wasn’t. That was scary in a different way for her, I’m sure as her body did things that she didn’t will it to. 

Once, everything had calmed down, the inducement proceeded and it took about 10 hours from the time we entered labor and delivery to the time when the nurse came in and said, “it’s time to start pushing.”

Change of Plans

In the two and a half hours that followed, I witnessed my wife do the most amazing thing I have ever seen anyone do. I’ll invoke Glennon Doyle here when I say that I watched her become a cheetah, and do exactly what she was born to do. I held her hand, arm, leg, any body part I was instructed to, that would help her brace for the next contraction, and, in reverence, watched as she listened to her body and responded to it, telling her how to push our son out. She was a hero, a mother effing rockstar. I was in awe, humbled to help in any way that I could to help this miracle that was happening before my eyes. We were about to meet our children and Aly, in her strongest, most amazing form, was making that happen. The only hinderance, being that Benny was determined to stay in. After hours, the doctor informed us that Bella’s heart tones were not reacting well to the labor, and it would be best if we proceeded with a c-section, so the plans changed again and I could see in Aly’s eyes that she felt she had done her best, but she also felt defeated. 

We agreed with the doctor and said, “let’s do it.” We wanted everyone safe and healthy. So, again, an army of people came into the room to prep her for surgery and presented me with surgical scrubs to change into. I watched as, in the middle of shift change, they prepped and medicated, and introduced themselves and introduced themselves again. I tried to be part of the wall, so as to not get in their way, but also look as intently as I could at my wife who I knew was about to undergo major surgery. The fear and weight that overwhelmed me, almost left me immobilized, as I absentmindedly slipped the scrubs over my clothes and prayed, yet again, continuously, for God to take care of her and our children. I think I begged more than prayed, as I felt the control slipping from me. They rolled her into the operating room and left to sit in the loneliest chair I’ve ever sat in just outside of the operating room hall for them to call me once she was prepped. The doctor passed me on his way in and said they would call me once they were ready for me. I implored him to take care of her, them, as he self-assuredly went into the hall, to ready himself to bring my children into the world and keep my wife stable.

I was beside myself with worry. Fought with myself to stay seated. Envisioned myself rushing into the operating room, just to make sure I had eyes on her. All of these things wrapped themselves around me and made me feel a panic I’d never felt as I sat, again immobilized. Time felt stilled as the minutes ticked by and no one had yet come to get me. I wondered if something had gone wrong. If the amount of time I had been waiting was normal. If, for goodness sake, someone would just come get me already. Then, someone did.

They brought me into an operating room with my wife laying down alert and what must have been a dozen people in the room. I sat next to her head and pushed my fingers through her hair as I told her I love her and how incredible amazing I thought she was. I could hear things happening in my periphery, but I focused on her and then the anesthesiologist was pulling the curtain back to reveal our son and I could have fallen to my knees as my eyes filled with tears. His cries pierced the room with the strength of his lungs and I was in absolute awe that he was real, and he was beautiful, and the person I love most in the world, created another person I love most in the world. I told Aly what I saw, that he was beautiful and what a pair of lungs he had on him, and that she had made an absolutely perfect little boy. The curtain was raised again and I kissed Aly on her forehead and congratulated her on being a mommy. I reverently repeated that I loved her and then the curtain was pulled back again to reveal our gorgeous daughter. Aly asked why she wasn’t crying, and that seemed to trigger her, because her cries then filled the room along with her brothers, and our family was complete. I again told Aly how absolutely perfect she had made our children and how proud I was of her. 

I was given the opportunity to greet our latkes as they had their Apgar assessed, which they passed with flying colors and watched in awe and the little humans we had made with our love. I looked at their little feet and their little hands. I listened to their very well developed lungs, and thanked God that they passed all their tests with flying colors and didn’t need to go to NICU. I reported back to Aly how perfect they really were and then we were meeting them as a family. We were both in love. With each other, with them, individually and as a pair. All of us. It was, I know now, the defining moment of my life, the moment Aly made me a mama. 

Aly’s Point of View

The Miracle of Birth

We always hear that term- it’s the miracle of birth. There are miraculous moments in my birth journey with our twins. It’s a miracle that we all ended up safe. It’s a miracle that both babies entered this world healthy at 35 weeks and 5 days, without either needing any NICU time. It’s a miracle that my wife and I were blessed with these 2 little perfect beings and that our family is complete. It’s a miracle that we all got to go home together. You may be saying to yourself that it seems like a whole lot of miracles happened there and you would be right. But from my point of view, it feels more like the trauma of birth than the miracle of birth. 

Birth trauma is a real thing. It happens to lots of women. It has now happened to me. It doesn’t get talked about often. Culturally, birth is not supposed to be viewed as traumatic. Birth is beautiful, or at least it can be, but I can tell you that I feel robbed of my birth experience. I didn’t expect to be a pregnancy unicorn and have everything go perfectly, but I never thought it would be as scary as it was. When I talk about it now, I can’t talk about it without crying. Reliving the rollercoaster of pain, confusion, lack of awareness, and instability is still a bit raw. 

That morning, my blood pressure spiked at 4am. A few minutes later, I was told that I would be induced for my safety and for the safety of the babies. They would treat my blood pressure with a cocktail of medications and supplements going through my IV and it wasn’t long after that I was being transported to labor and delivery. To their surprise, I was already 4cm dilated and 70% effaced. They suspected that I was actually already in labor and that could have resulted in the huge spike in blood pressure in just a few hours. 

Labor and Delivery

While in labor and delivery, I was being prepped for vaginal birth while they monitored my and the babies’ vitals continuously. Things were stabilizing and I was getting myself mentally prepped for what was to come. I remember looking at my wife and thinking that she looked really nervous. I told her that I was feeling great and that we should be excited to see our babies soon. I didn’t want her to worry, though I knew she would. 

Things seemed to go well while getting an epidural a couple hours later, once the contractions became too intense to bear. I was working on my breathing and resting in between each one. As soon as the epidural was given and the catheter was placed in my spine, I was told to move myself down to the front of the bed a bit. As I did, the room started to spin. I instantly felt cold sweats and intensely weak. I laid there in a bit of shock as I whispered “something is wrong. I don’t feel well.” I felt like I was in a dream-like state. There was a rush of people and commotion in the room. My bed was surrounded as my blood pressure bottomed out. I was in and out. Medications were being pushed in my IV on my left side. I had a second IV on my right side that was already in use. Near my head to my right, I saw my wife patting me with a wet washcloth. She was white as a ghost and had a familiar face on. I knew that face; she was praying. I tried to smile at her reassuringly through the chaos and the oxygen mask that somehow made it on my face. I have no idea if I actually made the smile. I felt agonizing pain then as the doctor did something with his arm up inside me to stabilize the twins. I screamed through it, which my wife has later revealed that I never actually made a noise. The screaming must have been in my head, though I could have sworn it was out loud. 

Suddenly, I was stabilized. Whatever they did worked and shortly after they told me it was time to start pushing. Pushing was not painful thanks to the epidural, but it was exhausting. I slept in between contractions, trying to find the strength. Two and a half hours later, the doctor stated that only little progress had been made and that Arabella was starting to have decreased heart tones. It was time now for a c-section. 

There was a new mental state to prepare for now. I was exhausted and feeling desperate for me and the twins to make it out ok. Another group of people emerged. It was time for shift change and these strangers were surrounding me preparing me for what was now to come during this major surgery. 

I was separated from Tiffany for a bit and was terrified. I needed to have her there to hold my hand. It was incredibly reassuring to have her with me once they brought her into the OR. I felt confused and hazed as all the medications and the stress were taking over me, while I laid behind and beneath this blue curtain that shielded me from all the work they were doing to bring our babies into the world. 

I started off only feeling pressure. Just some tugging and movement. Then, I started to feel pain, definitely more than pressure. I could feel actual pain and burning as they used the cauterizer on me. I pleaded with the nurse anesthetist through moans and she told me that she couldn’t give me anything else until the babies were out. She kept reassuring me that they were almost out. Then I heard it, I heard Bennett scream. I could see him being lifted and moved to one of the two NICU teams waiting to assess him. I cried and I looked at my wife. She was crying too. Here was our son that we waited so long for. His entrance gave me the courage to calm down, even through the pain, not that I had a choice, knowing that my daughter was on her way too. They lifted a shield from the blue curtain to reveal a small clear window where I could see Arabella emerge into the world. The room started to spin for me. Everything felt muffled. I asked my wife if Arabella was crying and she told me she was. I felt a sense of relief as the NICU teams told us that both babies looked healthy. Our twins were born. 

The Haze 

It was around this point where they heavily medicated me. What I remember from the rest of the next two days is just a bunch of snapshots. Tiny moments of time that scatter like a deck of cards trying to come together but instead they fall to the floor in a bit of a jumble. I don’t remember so many things. I don’t remember holding my babies for the first time. I don’t remember feeding them for the first time. I didn’t get to have this moment of “wow, I’m a mom. These are my babies” as the reality hit me. I was heavily medicated to keep me safe, but it robbed me of what I had waited my entire life for…the moment you look at your children for the first time and realize they are yours and that you’re a parent. Being a parent is made up of so much more than that first moment where you see and hold your child for the first time. I am aware of this, but I can’t help but feel like I missed out on a major milestone. 

I do remember that I stayed on the OR table being put back together for a long time. My wife and babies- I don’t know where they went. I know I kept moaning asking for the pain to stop before they would hit me with another round of meds that would knock me out again.

I don’t know how I got into the recovery room. I know that I was supposed to be in there for around 1 hour and ended up there for 8. My blood pressure was a yo-yo. High and low. High and low. Repeatedly. Each time starting some clock for protocol that kept me there longer. 

The memories are just snapshots of random moments. A flash- my wife in the corner holding one of the babies. A flash- two bassinets with babies laying next to me. I reach my hand out to touch them, but they’re too far. A flash- more meds being pushed. A flash- a new room and new nurse. I’m in postpartum recovery. A flash- I fell asleep with a baby in my arms. Tiffany is watching my every move to let me hold them, but also keep the babies safe. A flash- I have to move and feel like I’m being ripped apart from the inside out. I tell Tiffany that I think my guts are hanging out and that’s my incision must be open. She needs to check to see if I am ok. A flash- they take me off the meds. A flash- a nurse takes my babies vitals and they scream. I worry. 

I know I texted people. I acted like everything was fine. I’m not sure I was aware yet how not fine things had been. I think I might have posted things on social media. I have zero memory. It’s all gone. The birth I waited for, the moments I became a mom are gone. I mourn the loss of the experience, while also knowing that all the memories I make as a parent matter more. I mourn the pain I felt and the trauma of all the happened, especially after already spending 2 weeks in the hospital, while also looking at my babies and feeling lucky. I mourn feelings of the uncertainty of all that happened, as I spew a never ending list of questions and rely on my wife to fill in the gaps during our conversations in the car to and from follow up appointments. 

Good job, Mommy. Good job, Mama.

Once I came to and the world looked more whole again, I realized that my wife had been essentially parenting twins for two days on her own. I felt weak and in pain, but I wanted to try. I wanted to parent and every second not parenting them felt like an eternity too long. I let her two days of experience guide me on what she had already learned about each baby’s feeding, diapering, and cuddling needs. She knew them already, but I was still holding strangers in my arms. 

The doctors and nurses all suggested that I take Percocet. They reminded me that my pain was real and that I should consider it. For me, I knew that I had already been in a medicated haze and had missed my children’s first two days of life. I didn’t know what they liked or what was bothering them yet, but my wife did. I wasn’t going to miss out on more. Physical pain sounded better than the emotional pain of missing more of their lives. 

At the end of my first really coherent day, I was able to comfort the babies during a time where they felt discomfort. My wife, my constant during all of this, looked at me and said “Good job, mommy.” Three words that really undid me. Three really simple words, but they had me break down. Three words that validated me as a parent and let me know I was on the right path now. I would experience them. I would love them. I could do this with my wife by my side. 

These three words are now a staple during the hard moments. Each time one of us has a parenting win over the next couple of weeks, we have looked at each other and said “Good job, mommy” or “Good job, mama” to the respective parent. These words will continue to bring us through the new part of our journey together. They are a small, but major reminder that we will be each other’s cheerleaders and support through all the unexpected that is yet to come.

Fat Kid Goggles

~Aly

Throwback and Rewind

Growing up, I had lots of friends from all different types of cliques. I was smart and high-achieving, which landed me with a group of friends at school that were perfectionistic intellectuals. I was also creative, loud, and dramatic, which landed me in classes like chorus, show choir, and drama. In these classes, I had like-minded friends, where the drama and theatrics were real intense, but the laughs were just as resounding. I was athletic, growing up playing soccer, basketball, and softball throughout the year, changing sports with the changing season. My teammates were my friends as we created a kinship through knowing that we had to work together and have each other’s backs. I also had what I called my neighborhood friends, where we didn’t necessarily have much in common beyond being bored and wanting to ride bikes, watch MTV, and play sidewalk chalk together (clearly during different stages of adolescence), but we somehow bonded and found common ground exploring our neighborhood and creating chaos in the lakes that centered our quiet Miami-suburbia.

In these groups, I also always felt like the fat friend. Yes, I was athletic and I was active. I worked out every day for whatever sport was in season. I spent little time sitting in front of the tv and lots of time on the go, but I was certainly still built differently than my peers were.

No one specifically told me I was fat, but subtle situations or comments made me feel it. I knew that my clothes were probably 2 sizes larger than my friends and let it impact how I viewed myself. I took it to heart when a family member would tell me things about dieting, even before I was a teenager. I felt sad when I was told to suck it in for a picture. And I felt ostracized when someone would comment on how great that skinny girl looked and would later comment on how a larger girl needed to choose a more flattering outfit that hid her curves.

I put on fat kid goggles and saw myself through that lens. Looking back, I was in actuality not as large as I perceived myself to be, but the mind was a powerful influencer, especially during adolescence.

My younger years

This didn’t make me feel terrible about myself overall, but it certainly had its influence on my own self-perception. My self-efficacy was high. I knew I could accomplish anything I put my mind to and felt successful as I tended to do well at whatever I tried to do. My self-confidence was a bit more malleable. I thought I was my own kind of beautiful, but certainly never felt like I was at a weight I was happy with. I always found something on my body to be unhappy with.

At the end of middle school, I got really into soccer. I practiced on my own, went on runs around my neighborhood, and was in fantastic shape. I was still thicker than my friends and teammates, but I was solid. I felt like I was rocking my look and my confidence started soaring, as I was soaking up the compliments from friends and family alike.

Then, suddenly, while working out harder than I had in my life, my weight started to explode. I gained 40 pounds in a short period of time, without explanation. I had heavy, long period flows. I had black spots show up on my neck and in between my breasts. My diet was good, I was running daily, how could I gain weight?! What were these other symptoms? What was happening to me? As an adolescent, I was devastated and wanted to hide.

Doctors didn’t have answers to these questions. My mom spent over a year taking me to different specialists, running all kinds of labs, and all without explanation. At that time, no one really knew what PCOS was. It wasn’t like it is now, where many people at least know someone who is diagnosed, but we finally got to the moment where a pediatric endocrinologist was able to offer a name to the symptoms. The treatments were really hard on my 14 year old body, but I at least understood that my body was going to work differently than my peers. It was going to be easier to gain weight and harder to lose weight, due to the way my body would process insulin in accordance with my PCOS diagnosis.

Fast Forward

My weight got out of control during my mid-twenties, as I dealt with coming out, family health issues, death of my grandfather (which felt like the death of my father), graduate school, and teaching. This placed me in a state of heightened emotional stress, not to mention that I also just loved food, and resulted in me making terrible food choices based on what made me feel better emotionally, not physically. If you followed my journey previously, you know that the road to pregnancy was spent first with two years of weight loss, due to these decisions.

The work to get healthy was hard. I missed eating what I wanted and there were many times where I didn’t want to go to the gym. But every time I went farther on the elliptical or lost another pound, the sense of accomplishment was profound. 50 pounds down by the end made me feel like I was doing amazing. Sure, I was still obese, but I felt confident and healthier than I ever had as an adult. I looked in the mirror and liked what I saw. I felt sexy, even with any stomach rolls I still had.

If you followed my journey, you also know how badly I wanted to be pregnant. I wanted to be a mom desperately, yes, but I yearned for that pregnant belly. I wanted to look at my bump and rub it. I wanted to feel my child kicking inside of me.

What I didn’t expect was the paradox that would soon follow upon my big fat positive pregnancy result. I look at my twin pregnancy body and feel astounded. I feel strong. Look at what my amazing, female body can do. Look at how my skin stretches, my womb grows, my breasts change. Look at how I lay here and make 2 sets of eyeballs. How does it know how to do that? Yes, I’m a powerful woman and I feel that pride when I see the changes taking place over the past 7 months.

The paradox- I also feel very upset when I look into the mirror right now. The fat kid goggles come back. I look at this huge belly and my see that my legs look bigger and I instantly feel like I need to cover up again, like I once used to feel. I instantly feel the urge to suck in my stomach, but that trick clearly doesn’t work right now. It doesn’t matter that logically I know that I’m growing two humans. The illogical side of my brain takes over.

I see other women taking pictures of their bump without shirts on over it. I see people take bump casts to remember what their amazing body did. I envy them. I can’t do it. Despite the fact that I’m fairly confident that my wife has never found me to be more appealing than I am right now, these thoughts remain true. The thing with body issues is it’s really about how you see yourself, not how others see you.

I hope I can get there. I hope I can take off my fat kid goggles. I hope I can lose those goggles for good for my own mental health and to be a better role model with body positivity for my children. I am working on how to embrace my body soon before it’s all over and these babies are born, especially since I’m pretty sure that this will be my only pregnancy, since kids and the process for lesbians to get pregnant, are so expensive. I hope that I can at least take a picture without a shirt, even if just for myself, and feel proud that this rounding body is making life and is something to be proud of.

The Weight of the World While We Wait

~Tiffany

The world is in chaos, but then I guess it always has been. There has always been child hunger juxtaposing extreme wealth and despots ruling over the oppressed. There has always been fighting and opposition and causes and evolution of thought. There has always been a history of all of these things that we perpetually repeat in so many different iterations. They manifest themselves when those with power speak for those without or those without speak for themselves. I don’t mean for this to be a political post, and it certainly isn’t, but I had a conversation with Aly last night about the weight of this world and how much heavier it seems with our babies on the way. Not just because we’re bringing them into this inflection point in our world’s story, but also because it will be our job to teach them how to behave in it. How to be a good person. How to be inclusive, and anti-racist, and generous, and open-minded, and open-hearted, and all of the things that are required to embrace and not break under the weight of the moment we’re in now. 

It feels daunting. It was daunting 7 months ago when we found out that we were pregnant, when Coronavirus wasn’t even a reality on our local streets in the middle of all of these movements that are gaining traction during a time where, in the absence of the distraction of our “normal”, we have nothing to do but to focus on them. Valid movements that need voices and require everyone to take responsibility for the role they play in them. 

My point is this, the news and media feels like it’s rushing against us as crested waves on a shore where we’re fighting to stay standing enough to see the next one coming in order to brace ourselves. 

I asked Aly yesterday if she thought our parents faced the same questions and pressure we’re feeling in this time when they were bringing children into the world? We’re both daughters of single mothers and with that, I’m sure there were questions and challenges that Aly and I aren’t facing, but as I said before, there has always been chaos in this world, so my question was more about whether they felt the weight of their moments, their climates? It feels inescapable to me, but I wonder if that’s a generational, cultural thing that we developed by virtue of being more aware and more involved as millennials. 

Aly said that she didn’t feel the weight of the world on her shoulders growing up, and looking back, I don’t think I did either, but that seems more a factor of lack of exposure, so it brings me back to the question of if this is overwhelming for adults to digest, how can we, as parents make it digestible for our children in a way for them to understanding and learn from us and our failures? Is anyone else daunted by this, all-too-important task? Is this just a new parent thing? Is it just that we’re in a state of hyper-awareness, given our current quarantine climate?

Aly calmed me down last night when it felt like it was getting too heavy. She said, “we’re not going to give them a perfect life. Thats impossible. But, we’ll give them a good one.” She said we’d teach them the things that make them good humans in age-appropriate ways and make sure that they learn the things that it took us too long too learn, much sooner than we did. They will be loved above all and where I am weak, she will be strong and vice versa. In other words, she took some of the load from my shoulders and placed it on her own like the incredible wife and mother she already is. 

The closer the delivery date gets, the more daunting the whole we’re bringing two humans over which we will have sole responsibility gets. Incidentally, the closer it gets, the more I seem to love them. All three of them, my wife included. 

While They’ve Been Growing

~Tiffany

The Elusive Kicks

Try as I might, by sight, or sound, or touch, they elude me. Aly has been feeling Bella and Benny for days now. DAYS! As soon as she alerts me that she feels something, my hand immediately goes where hers is resting, presumably, hovering over where they’ve been bouncing. Nothing. I place my ear to her tummy where I can feel my daughter is laying just out of reach and she has nothing yet to say to me, so all I do is sing to them. Songs that I sang just to Aly before we were pregnant, but now they’re our songs, our not-so-little family’s songs. 

CORN!

The many apps we have, tell us how they’re growing (11.3 inches and about 1.5 lbs each now – the size of an ear of corn!). And the phenomenon that I already feel like a parent before they’re even here, when they’re just 1.5lbs, is astounding to me, but I do. As I build their cribs, to make sure their place to sleep is safe, and paint their room, to make sure the place they call home is soothing, I’m doing everything I can outside of Aly’s womb to make sure I can be the best parent I can be. 

The Parenting 

I keep saying that I will only have a chance at being good at this parenting thing, because I have Aly by my side , as with all things in my life. I know I have so much to learn from her. She’s so naturally nurturing with kids. They immediately connect with her and she knows how to connect with them. It’s what made her such a great teacher. 

When these babies are born, there will be a lot of experiential learning. After all, neither of us has ever changed a diaper, but the diapers will get changed, and neither of us has ever bathed babies, but they will get bathed. 

Most who know me, know that I’m not the most animated person. Pretend play will not come naturally to me; Aly has always been better at that. We’ve talked before on this blog that I’m naturally a fixer, rather than a feeler and Aly is naturally a feeler. That means that when they come to us and say that someone hurt their feelings at school, she will immediately tend to their emotional wounds and I will be holding them thinking about who will incur my wrath at their school the next day and who I can contact immediately to rectify what has been done to my child. We will navigate this world of parenting balancing each other out as we always have. She will calm me down and tell me that my wrath is unnecessary, and that my focus should be on bandaging the hurt that was caused to our son or daughter, and I will take her with me to the principal’s/teacher’s office the next day, so that she can keep me calm while I rationally explain to them that they need to do better to protect my children when I’m not around.

I read all these posts about parenting and all the profound things that you want to do for your children and wish, hope, pray, that I will be able to do them. I read a post by Glennon Doyle that said, “I used to lie to my kids all the time, back when I thought my job as a parent was to shield them from pain to keep them safe rather than walking them through their pain to make them brave.” I think about how I want them to be safe AND brave. I think about how I can possibly ensure both and how daunting just that sounds.

Delivery Roulette

We’re taking this online twin parenting class, because of course we are. The good news is that we’ve made the right decisions with things like our cribs and cars seats and the multitude of mom blogs and Pinterest boards we’ve consulted have led us to the right products to put on our registry. The not necessarily great news: One of the tasks that the class gave us to do was to watch some birthing videos to compare a C-section and vaginal birth of twins. An hour and half later, I’m convinced twin mommies are nothing but heroes. HEROES! All mommies are, but twin mommies… Do yourself a favor and watch one of those videos if you don’t agree with me. The moral of the story is that there is no easy way for us to have these babies. 

Here are some interesting facts for you: Vaginal or C-section delivery will be rough because there are two of them growing and if you didn’t know, all of this depends on the positioning of Baby A, which in our case is Bennett. All of this rides on if Bennett is in a good position for vaginal delivery. If he’s head-down and ready to go, then we’re at least starting off that way, otherwise, he’s decided that they’re both coming out through C-section. Our baby boy holds the cards in this crazy game of delivery roulette.

So I Guess While I Wait…

For now, I’ll keep putting my ears and hands to Aly’s tummy, hoping to hear them move or feel them kick. Until then, I’ll just keep singing to them and thinking about how to make them safe and teach them to be brave and kind and compassionate. Also, we’ll be waiting for Benny to decide how he wants Bella and him to make an entrance into the world.

As always, thank you for your thoughts and prayers and well-wishes. We appreciate all of them and hope that you and your loved-ones are staying healthy and safe.

Valleys and Train Tracks

~Aly~

Like so many across the country and world right now, COVID-19 has directly impacted Tiffany and I financially. We’re incredibly grateful that it has not impacted us physically, and hope it never will, but still, knowing that your finances have changed while you have twins on the way is a hard pill to swallow. 

We’re handling this obstacle, the way we handle all obstacles…together. I told Tiffany that in life we are bound to walk through valleys. Valleys, perhaps even barren valleys, are an inevitability. Yet, I know I’m blessed even in this midst of this valley, because I don’t have to travel it alone. We have friends, family, and each other. Tiffany and I sometimes walk through the valley hand-in-hand. Other times, we take turns carrying each other through it and up the mountain. For me, no mountain top would be complete without her. And any valley with her is far superior than a mountain top with anyone else. 

Never could I have imagined that my pregnancy would have been in the middle of a pandemic. Some days, it does feel like a cruel joke. Chairs next to exam tables in OBGYN’s offices aren’t supposed to be empty. They’re supposed to have a loved one there to hold a mommy’s hand. Event halls instead of virtual spaces are supposed to host baby showers. Soon-to-be parents are supposed to peruse baby sections in stores without masks donned. 

But when I see those babies move on an ultrasound, when I feel them wiggle in my belly, when I watch my wife read my stomach a story because the app said that the babies can hear now, everything else seems trivial. This is what we always wanted. This is what we worked so hard for. It’s just placed in a very different box than I expected it to be in. 

One of the Albrecht’s favorite movies to watch is “Under the Tuscan Sun.” While watching it this week, I heard a line that felt new to me while in our current situation. Martini, a supporting character, looks at Francesca, the protagonist, and says “Signora, between Austria and Italy, there is a section of the Alps called the Semmering. It is an impossibly steep, very high part of the mountains. They built a train track over the Alps to connect Vienna and Venice. They built these tracks even before there was a train in existence that could make the trip. They built it because they knew some day, the train would come.” I’ve probably heard this quote a hundred times before, considering how many times we have watched this movie, but this time was different. I was struck by the blind faith being described.

It hit me that so much of our lives have been built on blind faith. I chose Tiffany, even before I knew how the world would react to us. We chose careers that would give us similar schedules and stability, even before we were married. We bought our family home, with the intention of family dinners and holidays, even before there were children being tried for. And now, we make choices every day during this pandemic to bring our children into a stable home, even before they’ve been born. It sounds foolish in some ways to build tracks before a train and to plan a life as a parent even before children, but I know that this kind of faith is what will get us through this valley. Someday, not too far from now, we will bring our babies home, the train will be ready, and we will realize why every hard time was worth working through.

No Stressing, Just Nesting

 Aly’s POV- Excuse the crazy hair, but Tiffany and I are in full nesting mode. We picked “honied white” #SherwinWilliams Zero VOC paint for the babies’ room. Tiffany and my grandma are painting Benny and Bella’s nursery and I am staying far away in case there could be any fumes. While they paint, I’ve been organizing our baby supplies. Thank you to everyone who has sent us diapers and wipes. We signed up for rewards with #Huggies and #Pampers because we know we’re going to need them. Did you know that the twins will go through 600 diapers a month? My mom is cleaning the rest of our house to save us all from CORONA anxiety.

Tiffany’s POV- Life’s a little crazy right now and we’ve got nowhere to go. This weekend, to distract from all of the stress, we steam cleaned the carpets, painted the nursery, built one of the cribs, organized a bunch of baby stuff, dusted our bedroom furniture… and I’m sore just writing this. Aly’s 15th wind is still going while I lick my wounds just keeping up. Pregnancy gives you superpowers, I’m convinced of this now more than ever. Every time we walk into the nursery and something else is done, we get so excited. Our baby latkes are growing and we can’t wait to meet them.

Twins in the Time of Corona

With the world and our lives in chaos due to COVID-19, Tiffany and I have felt too mentally and emotionally spent to sit and write a full blog. But we miss being able to share our journey with our loved ones. We’re going to start posting some daily quick shares to keep everyone updated until there is a better normal. – Today is the official reveal that we are having a boy and a girl. Get ready world for Bennett and Arabella Albrecht. #QuarantineDay20

Two Blogs in One

This week you’ll get a blog post from each of us. Enjoy!

Atari ~Tiffany~

We were escorted to the ultrasound room at our new OB/GYN’s office on a couple of weeks ago, and I was just about bouncing, I was so excited to see our babies again on the big screen. I couldn’t wait to see how much they’d grown and I was anxious to hear that they were doing well and growing as they should be. As Aly got her feet into the stirrups, I grabbed her hand and the ultrasound tech motioned that she was about to start the trans-vaginal ultrasound.

My hand tightened and my eyes glued to the screen. In no time at all, there they were. Baby A was making themselves known on the screen and wiggling about. The most amazing thing, truly. Baby B was hiding a bit as they’re positioned a little lower and so the tech had to do some maneuvering to get a clear picture, but, sure enough, they made their appearance and did a little shimmy for us too. It was like magic. I couldn’t believe they were moving! Aly began to squeeze my hand and I basked in the significance of the moment. Our babies, growing, and moving around in their temporary home inside my wife’s belly. I was in awe. The ultrasound tech continued to take a bunch of measurements of the babies and other things and before finishing up, gave us a glimpse of them together. It took her a while to get them in the same image, but she was able to do it, and Aly was a trooper.

The tech wrapped up and gave us some privacy before we were going to be escorted to the waiting room to await our doctor, when Aly turned to me and said, “that was so freaking painful.”

Aly has been checking in with me constantly to make sure that I feel like an integral part of this pregnancy. She had expressed concern that because I wasn’t carrying the baby/ies, I wouldn’t feel like I was a part of it. I laid her fears to rest of course, but, what the appointment brought to light is that even though I feel like a very important part of the pregnancy, my experience has been entirely different than hers. I go to every appointment, I’m constantly kissing or touching her belly, and we’re talking about our future with these babies together.

While the ultrasound tech was “playing Atari with the wand,” trying to get good measurements of Aly and the babies, causing pain to Aly, I was transfixed by the black and white images on the screen before us. Completely in awe. I was peripherally aware that Aly was uncomfortable, but not until the tech left, did I realize how much discomfort she was in. We’re going through this pregnancy together in every way possible, but there are just some things that I’m not attune to.

I think another one of those things will be the first flutters of movement that Aly will be able to feel when our latkes start wanting to make themselves known to her. I’ll have to be patient, which is a small ask when the love of my life is growing our children in her tummy, so I think I can manage.

When our experiences in the ultrasound room were so different, I thought it was worth writing about because it was something we hadn’t considered in the months and weeks leading up to our pregnancy. How even though we’re going through this pregnancy together, we’re experiencing it very differently. There’s no doubt that to both of us, this pregnancy has been nothing short of miraculous and although the idea of twins is daunting and the reality downright terrifying, we’re working hard to try to embrace every moment of this journey in preparation of the our latkes being here.

Not Like the Movies ~Aly~

Twelve weeks. I have been pregnant with twins for twelve weeks! I’ve been doing very well so far. Weight gain has been on track, minimal nausea, and some fatigue. The nausea and fatigue are going away slowly now as I head into the second trimester.

My pregnancy so far has been nothing like the movies. Movies often portray pregnant women incredibly sick, yet feeling unbelievably joyful (when she isn’t having some comedic mood swing). Things just seem to overall go relatively smoothly for these characters. 

My reality has been a bit different. Life is chaotic. My family is living with us while they search for a house to buy. Tiffany has been dealing with a shoulder injury, which she now has to have surgery for. We are preparing to sell our house and buy another. And all this while finding out we aren’t just expecting one new bundle of joy, but two, which is just that much more to prepare for (although it does also mean double the love). 

Honestly, I  guess I just pictured my pregnancy going differently. 

I thought other aspects of our life would basically stop and that we would be able to be pregnancy focused 100% of the time. (I do realize how naive this sounds). Clearly, life and God had other plans. 

I thought I would just continue my plans with what I had been doing for healthy living, but there is so much more I have to limit while pregnant. I don’t mind the limitations, which includes a lot of food I can’t eat (though I do miss a good medium-rare steak), and due to the restrictions of a twin pregnancy, having to swap my gym routine for a casual walk. I obsess over every calorie and pound gained because I want so desperately to avoid gestational diabetes (which I am at an increased risk for due to a twin pregnancy, being overweight, and having PCOS). And in general, this mom guilt is intense every time I eat something sweet or don’t go for an evening walk. All day long I make every decision surrounding keeping these babies safe (I’m sure the moms out there are thinking, welcome to parenthood). Any little mess up makes me feel like I’m letting them down as a parent already. 

Additionally, Twin life is already different than non-multiples life (even before they’re born). I worry about their health because I know that twins may be susceptible to more health problems and premature birth. I try to plan more financially and panic when I think about the cost of infant daycare for two babies, on top of a mortgage and student loans. I’m also bombarded by negativity regarding what is to come with twins. 

When people hear “twins,” they tell you things like, “I barely survived with one. There’s no way I could’ve done two.” Or “ Wow. Think about the cost of diapers for two.” Online isn’t much better. Joining twin parent support groups can feel less than supportive. Their pages are filled with articles about how miserable the first year of life with twins is and how long these babies stay in the NICU. It’s filled with health issues, stories of bed rest, and leaving the hospital without one or both babies. 

Needless to say, all of this is very overwhelming. It’s also unbelievably confusing to feel an immeasurable amount of love towards these babies growing inside you and having no idea how you’ll get through all of that bad that social media and people tell you is coming your way. Of course, your mom guilt also increases for feeling guilty in the first place. Remember, pregnancies need to remain as stress free as possible. 

I want these babies more than my own breath. More than life. More than I can describe. I picture holding them, feeding them, and loving them through every unpredictable moment of life. I’m sharing all this because… because it’s real. Because it’s truthful. Because I secretly hope that other moms felt as much love and concern for the unknown future with their babies as I do. If they do, it sure isn’t shared freely, probably because moms are expected to be perfect. Well, I don’t have room for mom shaming on this blog or in this life. And we really do need to do better about talking about uncomfortable topics like this. 

Currently, we are awaiting the results of the genetic testing for the baby latkes. This will be able to tell us their sexes (which is really exciting), but more importantly, it will be able to tell us if they’re healthy right now. 

Tiffany and I are filling our schedules with even more baby(ies) prep while we wait on the results. It’s a nice distraction that gives us the illusion of some semblance of control. We have spent our time deciding on baby shower games, buying cute onesies, and looking into upgrading Tiffany’s Honda Civic with a SUV. 

In the meantime, we wait. We plan. We dream. We comfort each other. We hold my belly and say prayers for their health. And we take parenting classes to try to give us a better idea of what is to come. Until next time, keep the baby latkes in your thoughts and prayers. Healthy babies are an amazing blessing.