It was only about six hours after the birth of the twins that the thick clouds gave way to sunshine, melting the treacherous snow. I loaded a very weak Pacifica and our tiny daughters into the car to take them to the hospital for evaluation. The emergency room was swamped with injuries from the snow, but the doctors got us back quickly to ensure that our little ones and their mother were right as rain.
Fortunately, there were no complications and my family was given a clean bill of health. The obstetrician opted to keep them in the hospital for a few days just to make sure there were no additional problems from our impromptu home birth, but we were eventually given the go-ahead to return home. We bundled our precious babies into their warmest clothes to brave the February chill.
It was a huge relief to finally be back at the house. After a few days of sleeping on a hard chair and not having an opportunity to bathe, I was looking forward to reclaiming some creature comforts.
My mother and sisters had helped us get the nursery ready for the twins. Hummingbird had crafted some wall art of their initials to decorate the room, and dad and mom had had some custom curtains created to frame their basic wooden cribs. I had worked a long weekend alongside my new brother-in-law, Mulberry, to get the bright plaid wallpaper up. We didn’t have a lot of money, but we wanted to do everything in our power to make sure that this room was bright and cheerful for our daughters. After all, this was where they would grow up.
I felt a huge rush of relief as I entered the room, ready to get my daughters tucked into their cribs. After this, it was time for a shower and a nap before the inevitable midnight feeding.
I placed a cooing December into her crib. I thought I saw her smile up at me, but my mother assured me that babies often smile when they have gas. Which of course meant I should expect a diaper change to come soon. I grinned down at this tiny creature that Pacifica and I had created, reveling in the sweetness of her light blue eyes. I ran my hand over her head, brushing my fingers through her fine teal hair.
“Hush now, little princess,” I said in a whisper. Her eyes began to close from her tiring first few days of life. I started to back away when I heard a whimper from behind me.
“I can’t do it!”
I turned around to see Pacifica looking around the room with a look of dismay on her face. I felt my stomach tighten for a minute. What did she mean she couldn’t do it? Couldn’t do what?
“Cici,” I said cautiously. “What’s going on?”
“I can’t do it, Eden, I can’t leave them here.” She pouted in a way that would have made me laugh if I weren’t so relieved.
I let out a breath I hadn’t realized I was holding. “They’ll be safe here, sweetheart. I promise.” I smiled reassuringly, hoping it would calm her new mommy nerves.
“No, I can’t.” I saw a few tears escape. “I need them to be close to me. I’ll sleep on the floor of the nursery if I have to!”
I sighed. I could just picture Pacifica curled up on the carpet of the nursery, ready to jump up and check on the babies if they so much as breathed too loudly. I didn’t want to be responsible for that.
“I wonder if there’s something I can do to keep the babies in the room with us,” I said, mostly thinking aloud.
Pacifica’s eyes lit up. “Really, Edie?” She asked hopefully.
“Let me call my dad and see if he can help.”
It ended up being Gossamer, rather than my dad, whose help paid off in the end. She had a close friend who had given birth to twins a few years before and they had a double crib stored in their garage. I was able to get the crib for a steal, only $50, because they had wanted so long to get back that storage space.
Mulberry helped me get the crib put together in our master bedroom for the girls. In the two days in took to get everything situated, Pacifica kept her promise by sleeping on the floor of the girls’ room with only a blanket and a pillow for comfort. Not that she slept much, I’m sure, since the girls awoke every two hours for feeding. But Pacifica didn’t complain once. I think being a mother suited her more than anything else ever could have.
Once we had the girls set up in our bedroom, we took turns getting up to care for their needs, which gave Pacifica much needed rest and allowed me the opportunity to bond with my daughters.
To Pacifica’s dismay, she wasn’t able to breastfeed successfully for more than a week. For whatever reason, the milk just wasn’t coming in quick enough to nourish two babies. She called the lactation specialist in tears, willing to try anything to being able to have that experience as a mother. She tried teas and pumps, but nothing was enough. Ultimately, we were forced to switch the girls to an organic baby formula instead. It was pricy, but it was a sacrifice worth making…both for the sake of my children and for the peace of mind of my girlfriend.
Because feeding the babies meant so much to Pacifica, even if she couldn’t accomplish it from her own breasts, I gave her full reign on taking care of the twins’ food needs. It was a way for her to bond with them and she enjoyed every minute of it, no matter how many times a night she had to wake up to do so.
I took over some of the less fun parts of parenting. I changed the majority of diapers, gave the baths (which neither of my daughter’s enjoyed), and cleaned everything they spit up. A few years ago, that kind of labor would have sent me over the edge. But knowing that my struggles were for the health of happiness of my little girls made it all worth the effort. I choked my way through every explosive diaper and vomit-ous mess, forcing a smile as I did so. Being a dad was something I never thought I’d be any good at, but every time one of my daughters smiled at me or fell asleep curled in my arms…I knew this was exactly the person I was meant to be.
By the time the girls were asleep each night, Pacifica and I were both too exhausted to even think of being intimate. Add to that the fact that Pacifica still wasn’t fully comfortable with her new body, and our sex-life became non-existent.
But each night before we fell asleep, Pacifica would snuggle close to me and let the warmth of my body soothe her exhaustion. I would lean close and press my face into her hair, relishing the unique combination of baby formula and apple shampoo.
For now, that was enough for us.
As the girls approached their second birthday, we began to notice distinct differences in their growth.
Azurine quickly grew a full head of curls that were hard to keep wrangled. We kept them twisted up in little buns to keep them out of her face. She was a copy of Pacifica in her coloring, but I could see the start of a wide-mouth from my side. It didn’t surprise me in the slightest considering her propensity for chatter-fests. She didn’t care if anyone was listening, she just liked to hear her own voice.
December was the complete opposite. She had barely any hair at all. We often found ourselves putting little bows and headbands on her when we went out because no one seemed able to recognize that she was a girl. The little hair she had was like mine, but she was essentially a little Pacifica clone. At least she had that going for her, even if she was doomed to be bald for the rest of her life (or so it seemed to us at the time). She was a quiet little thing. She barely made a coo, even when she was hurt. She would suffer in silence, her face streaked with tears. We had to pay close attention to December to ensure she was in good health.
Azurine was a fairly easy child, save for a few screaming fits. Pacifica took on the task of teaching her to talk and to walk. I should have known that Azurine would be the one that would take to talking like it was second nature. Pacifica was blown away to discover just how many words Azurine already knew. She has listened to our conversations, listened to the television, listened to music…and picked up every bit of it. We learned a lesson about what we said when we were close to her because we never knew what she would mindlessly repeat.
Teaching her to walk was a little bit more of a struggle because she was constantly in motion. She would try to take off running and fall down. She wasn’t prepared to take the small steps necessary to learn, she just wanted to get up and go, which led to quite a few bumps and bruises and soothing kisses from her mommy.
December was a completely different story, as usual. She did not have any desire to speak. It took some time, but I was finally able to get her to say simple words like “ma,” “da,” and “sis.” But that was the extent of her vocabulary. Instead she would stare off into the distance, her eyes filled with some kind of secret wisdom she was unwilling or unable to vocalize. I found myself getting quickly frustrated, both for myself and for my daughter. I wanted to be able to have conversations with my child, of course, but I also wanted some kind of sign that she was going to be okay. The less capable she was of communicating her needs, the more I worried for her. I didn’t know what it meant, but the paranoid side of me caused me to assume something was horribly wrong with my little girl.
On the positive side, she at least took to walking with ease. In fact, she loved to explore. She wasn’t in a hurry the way Azurine was; December took the time to really take in everything that was happening. She wanted to make sure she had discovered every inch of her surroundings before she moved on.
We wanted to satisfy the desires of our children based on their personalities, rather than trying to put them into a set box. Despite our concerns about December’s lack of communication or Azurine’s difficulties learning to walk, we decided to let the girls grow into their strengths while we worked on improving their weaknesses.
For Azurine, that meant a playpen, gifted to her by my parents on the girls’ second birthday. There were mirrors, an abacus, and a little music box. She loved to sit around for hours talking to herself in the mirror. She would talk so quickly that it would occasionally turn to incoherent babbling, but she would fall over in a fit of giggles over whatever silly story she was telling herself.
December’s gift was a walker. Although she was pretty adept at getting around, the walker allowed her to move with more ease, which made her explorations much simpler. She still didn’t say much, but she always had a look of contentedness in her eyes when she found something she had never seen before. We knew that there was a lot of deep thought in her young mind…we just wished she could tell us what those thoughts were.
Whatever their differences, the twins were as close as two children could be. They were certainly closer than Gossamer and I had ever been. They would play peekaboo and giggle at one another. Azurine would talk up a storm while December listened, a big grin on her face. I heard more words come out of her mouth when she was with her sister than in any other situation. She still didn’t say much, but it was clear that being able to talk to her sister was important to her. And it meant a lot to us that the girls were so close. Between Pacifica’s lack of siblings and my lack of relationship with most of mine, it was a new experience for us to see two sisters that wanted nothing more than to spend every moment together. It was reassuring to know that, whatever else happened, they had one another to fall back on.
Fortunately, mine and Pacifica’s relationship grew stronger as the girls got older. We were finding more time to be intimate, even if it was something as simple as a neck massage in the afternoon. I had such an appreciation for her superb talents as a mom. She took on parenting our twins with such passion and patience, it was almost laughable to think of how afraid she had been when the doctor had given us the news. She was the perfect mix of fun parent and disciplinarian. In fact, it was her natural maternal instinct that made it so much easier for me to be the dad that I was. She helped calm my fears about the girls’ futures and to remind me that children are not perfect. I was able to come home after working and find my daughters asleep in their mother’s lap, while Pacifica sang lullabies to them. It was beautiful…and I pinched myself every day.
It was for that reason that I went out one April afternoon and bought Pacifica a diamond engagement ring. I had been saving money in small increments for several months in the hopes that she wouldn’t know. She was everything to me. Her and the twins were the family that I so desperately needed, even if I hadn’t known. We had a closeness and a bond that my family never could muster, no matter how much we pretended. Even if a wedding was just a formality at this point, I wanted to call Pacifica my wife as we spent our lives together. I was madly in love with her.
But there was still that underlying anxiety that I couldn’t shake. I had grown a lot in the last few years, but there remained within me a little piece of the Eden I had long been: a frightened child. It was silly and I knew it. I loved Pacifica and I could see in her eyes how much she loved me. We had two children and a home together. I was helping her set up an at-home music business. But I was afraid. Afraid that if I asked her to marry me, that she would say no and everything would fall apart. I guess there was still a voice in my head telling me in was all an illusion. I didn’t want to do anything to jeopardize the life we had created.
So into my underwear drawer went the ring, hidden far in the back where Pacifica would never find it.
I just had to wait for the right moment. Whenever that happened to be.