Expectations and Grace

I had one of those “I feel like I’m failing” moments yesterday when both babies were fussy (most of the day) and I couldn’t figure out what they needed.

All parents have these moments where we feel like we have no idea what we’re doing. It’s a normal part of this journey.

While I try to not fall into the comparison trap, it happens, especially in those areas in which I am the least confident. It’s SO easy to see another mom with her children (whether online or in person) and compare your performance to hers, making yourself feel disappointed and like a failure. When it comes to social media, it’s likely more “performance” than reality, anyway!

When I finally got them to nap, I had a chance to think. How many of these self-imposed expectations are actually relevant to the care of my babies and how many of them are merely an effort to measure up to my perception of what the perfect mother looks like?

And I realized something important: my babies don’t think that I’m a failure, that I don’t know what I am doing most days.

To them, my presence is enough. I walk into a room and (most of the time) they smile wide. They are thrilled just to be in my arms. So why do I compare myself to unfair, self-imposed ideals and expectations?

They don’t compare like we do because they have NO idea what other moms do. I am the only mother they know! If I were actually failing, they would have absolutely no idea. Therefore, there is no way for them to be disappointed (until much later 😉) in me.

Isn’t that freeing?

My babies delight in me. They love me. And their opinion (meaning what brings them joy, security, and comfort) should be the only one that matters (God and my husband aside) when it comes to parenting them as infants.

THANKFULLY they don’t have social media to show them what other moms are doing with their infants, and I need to remember that. And maybe I need to reduce my social media consumption on days when I’m feeling like that.

This realization is the first of many reminders throughout my life to show grace to myself during these (sometimes difficult) days of infancy with twins. And toddlerhood. And childhood.

After all, their joy is what matters right now, not my comparison to what I think others are doing. ❤️

Why We Don’t Visit Tori’s Grave

We’ve never written about this before, but I think it’s important.

Let me preface with this: we know many people do things differently than we do so there’s no judgment at all. Everyone needs to do what their hearts need for healing.

This may surprise some of you, but we don’t visit Tori’s burial site (resurrection site, as we like to call it).

We don’t decorate it, we don’t spend time there. In fact, the only times we’ve been there were to show out of town visitors where it is, as it’s difficult to give directions.

It’s been nearly two years since we’ve gone there, and the reason is likely not what you think.

We feel no need to go there because SHE ISN’T THERE. Her soul is in Heaven, and we don’t need to sit at her grave to be reminded of that.

We don’t decorate it for holidays or leave anything there because she isn’t there, she won’t know we did that, and it doesn’t feel necessary to us.

If you’ve read Even So, Joy you know that we believe that death isn’t something to be feared or held onto – it’s a temporary separation and we will be reunited again!

So, for us, it never even crosses our mind to go to where her broken, earthly body was buried. We’d rather focus on changing the world around us and choosing joy as her legacy.


Brennan and I don’t always feel free to express our perspective on how to deal with child loss because we seem to be the minority. We feel like we have to stay quiet because we are doing so well.

But, here’s our perspective:

If I consider this situation from a different angle, the way to live is obvious.

If I were the one in Heaven, how would I want my parents to live? Would I want them to stay in bed, crying every day, wasting their life away, or would I want them to LIVE an abundant life because that’s what I would be doing in Heaven?

I’d want them to LIVE. To have JOY because of the impact I had on their lives. I’d want them to celebrate my life, not dwell on my absence.

This is how we view our life now that Tori is in Heaven. Our joy doesn’t come from her absence – we have joy because she existed. Her death didn’t change me – her existence did.

Tori comes up in conversation daily, especially now that we see so much of her in her little brothers. We think about her all the time but those memories bring joy, not tears.

I don’t believe that our loved ones can see us from Heaven, but if they can I certainly wouldn’t want Tori to see us wasting this short life we’re given. I’d want her to see us making the most of it, joyfully, just like we would if she were with us.


Tori may not physically be here, but we don’t have to go to her grave to see evidence of her impact. We see it every day in her brothers, in our memories, and in the legacy she has.

As tragic and horrible as it is, I don’t believe that child loss has to derail our entire lives. Shape it, yes. Ruin it, no. It’s a choice that has to be made daily, and we choose to be joyful. ❤️


If you’d like to get a copy of “Even So, Joy: Our Journey through Heartbreak, Hope, and Triumph” you can do so here.

I made myself a sandwich today and I actually got to eat it…

Probably the strangest blog post title I’ve ever had, but it’s worth celebrating. It may seem laughable to most, but for a mom of 11 week old twins this is a huge victory.

Life with twins is so joyful, but it is also the hardest thing (caring for Tori aside) I’ve ever done.

img_6176

Photo Credit: Erin Fortney Photography

To name a few things:

I’ve had to adjust every aspect of my life, including showering. I’ve always been a morning shower person, so showering in the evening when Brennan is home has been an unwelcome necessity, but the few times I have tried to shower during the day didn’t work out so well and one or both babies ended up crying. So I made an adjustment.

I am trying my best to eat well and eat consistently, but sometimes hours fly by while I’m occupied with the boys and I forget. So the fact that I was able to make a sandwich today and eat it is HUGE. I hope it’s a trend that continues. Breastfeeding twins is an adventure and requires so many calories (and so much water), so I need to be better about making sure I eat during the day.

Of course I’m tired – any mom of newborns is. But this twin thing is a whole new level. Until they sleep for long stretches (maybe soon, per the all knowing Google?), this is going to be my reality. Thankfully, I get to sleep most Friday and Saturday nights thanks to Brennan and the frozen breastmilk we have; that sleep gets me through Wednesday of each week, but by then I am longing for Friday evening to come because the exhaustion has returned.

The boys have chosen 3:30-5pm (ish) every day for their “witching hour” (their fussy time) so that makes me SO ready for Brennan to walk in that door to rescue me 😉 He has never felt so wanted, I’m sure! Haha. It’s so hard to comfort TWO babies who both have no idea what they actually require to calm down. 😉

I rarely leave the house and have yet to attempt to leave with both of them by myself. Someday it will happen, but for now we lay low and take it easy.

Each day is filled with opportunities for “mom guilt” because one baby is more needy than the other at the moment. So, I end up holding him more, all the while feeling badly that I am not giving equal time to the other. During those “double melt-down” times it’s a constant assessment of which baby needs me more, and which one I can calm down the quickest.

It will never be easy – it’s just reality of having twins: double the meltdowns, double the sleep exhaustion; but, it also means double the smiles, laughter, and joy.

It has been amazing to observe their personalities emerging, and to see how similar they are to their behavior in the womb. Isaiah is calmer, easier to settle down, and just overall more chill than his brother. Caleb is more vocal (both in quantity and in volume), more curious, more wiggly.

It has also been amazing to watch them grow and change, because with each day they resemble Tori more and more. That’s something for which I had prayed (and will blog about the “why” soon) and I love seeing her in them.

Both are so “nosy” now and are wanting to lift their heads to look at everything. They are strong and hold their heads up really well! We’re so proud of them and their desire to work at these things.

They both love the changing table now – as did Tori – and are SO talkative, happy, and smiley while we change them. We tend to linger there, interacting with them during these joy-filled moments.

Their smiles emerged around eight weeks and made this mama’s heart so full. Tori lost the ability to smile at five months due to Krabbe, so these smiles are worth more than I can express. I will NEVER take them for granted because I know what it’s like to not have them. ❤ I know what it’s like to have a child who cannot express any emotion, so I’ll take the fussiness and anger if it means I can have the smiles.

I am so thankful to be a twin mom, but I want to continue to be real about the challenges. I tend to only post the happy photos on Instagram and not the photos of the hard moments, but know that they exist.

And it’s okay. It’s all worth it. 

Our Birth Experience in Photos

In the exhaustion that accompanies newborn twins, I completely forgot to share our birth photos! We were so blessed to have Erin Fortney Photography present so that I didn’t miss a thing and she exceeded our expectations. Far exceeded.

If you live in Central Pennsylvania and are pregnant, please consider hiring a birth photographer – specifically Erin! – because these are moments you will treasure for a lifetime.

When you have a c-section you are surrounded by blue sheets and it feels like you aren’t able to experience the birth of your children fully. I felt like I missed the first hour of Tori’s life and we only have five or so pictures of what happened while I was on the operating table. Because of this, I didn’t want to miss any of the twins’ first moments, and Erin made that happen!

Here are some of our favorites – it was hard to choose but I couldn’t upload them ALL. 😊❤️ We are so thankful for Erin and cannot recommend her highly enough. And I promise I wasn’t asked to do this or paid for my opinions 😉 People like her are rare these days and I am so thankful that Tori brought us together. ❤

 

 

 

Going Viral

We were so blessed to have the amazing Erin Fortney Photography capture the birth of our twins because it has made me feel like I was more involved and actually present in the room after delivery.

One of the photos she posted garnered a great deal of attention, to all of our surprise:

We love the photo and what it represents, but we didn’t expect what happened next. We were amazed to be contacted by so many reporters regarding our story and it went viral.

They were enamored with Brennan’s persistence in doing skin-to-skin in the O.R. (which to us is interesting because it wasn’t a question in our minds that he should have that experience with the boys, as well) and we definitely talked about that, but we also recognized the potential for Krabbe awareness and made sure they focused on Tori and her story, as well as Newborn Screening. THIS is our true passion in life!

Here’s the current list of publications that have written about us:

Babble: https://www.babble.com/parenting/skin-to-skin-dad-twins-photo/

Motherly: https://www.mother.ly/news/viral-pictures-show-dad-doing-skin-to-skin-with-his-twin-babies-for-a-very-good-reason

Love What Matters: http://www.lovewhatmatters.com/six-weeks-later-she-was-handed-a-death-sentence-how-dads-amazing-skin-to-skin-contact-with-twins-helps-heal-family-after-devastating-loss/

Birth Becomes Her: https://www.facebook.com/56901132/posts/10100975465821040/

CafeMom: https://thestir.cafemom.com/parenting_news/212461/dad-skin-to-skin-rainbow-twins

People: https://people.com/human-interest/brennan-brackbill-skin-twin-sons-death-toddler/

The Epoch Times: https://m.theepochtimes.com/uplift/father-gives-his-newborn-twins-a-shirtless-hug-right-after-theyre-born_2544565.html

The Daily Mail: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-5849873/Pictures-father-cuddling-newborn-twins-skin-skin-delivery-room.html

Huge thanks to Erin Fortney for this image and for the write-up on Birth Becomes Her that started it all ❤ :

Dad had requested skin-to-skin in the OR from the moment that he stepped foot in the hospital… he must have mentioned it a dozen times.

He + his wife were preparing to welcome twins in to the world after losing their first-born to Krabbe Leukodystrophy at the young age of 20 months.

Staff told him that it would be tough since he would have two babies and needed to be in a scrub suit over his clothes … So he promptly and without question explained that he had a large arm-span that was ready and waiting to hold his two boys and then took his shirt off and zipped up his scrubs announcing, ‘well then.. problem solved!’

This nurse made sure to advocate for him to all 24 other people in the OR that day — and personally made sure that his request was fulfilled.  – Erin Fortney

Three Weeks!

When we found out we were having identical twins, I knew we were in for an adventure. I expected being exhausted, overwhelmed, and outnumbered; and yet, I had no idea just how much I could love these tiny humans. It feels like my heart will explode with hope, love, joy, and gratitude for these precious babies with whom the Lord has blessed us. ❤️

Today these handsome little men are three weeks old, and I can honestly say that it hasn’t been a blur. Thanks to my parents being here and helping – even during the night shift – I truly feel like I have been able to cherish each moment and not feel like time is flying by without my permission. Their month (plus) visit will end in two weeks and their absence will be strongly felt. And I will be much more tired 😉 For now, I’m taking full advantage of their presence and resting when I can.

My recovery has been as easy as with Tori – only the first four days were rough. I’m very thankful that both c-sections have been uneventful! I’m already back at pre-pregnancy weight since I was all baby, and I’m also thankful for that.


Though they are identical twins, Isaiah and Caleb have distinct differences – both in appearance and personality – and so many of the differences were observed even in the womb! We have found it relatively easy to tell them apart, thankfully.

Isaiah (baby A) is relaxed and “chill” most of the time – as he was in the womb. Easy going describes him to a tee, even when eating. He is sweet and patient and loves to snuggle.

Isaiah currently weighs 6lb 14oz and is 19.4 in long.


Caleb (baby B) is our feisty one – especially while eating! He is passionate about his food. He was the very active and particular one in the womb, constantly avoiding the monitors and kicking his brother, and that has certainly remained true (minus the kicking his brother part)!

Caleb currently weighs 6lbs 9.5oz and is 18.9in long. No, he didn’t shrink – we were originally told the wrong length at birth; he was 18 inches long.


The best part of their pediatrician visit yesterday was seeing their Newborn Screeing results and confirming that they are indeed KRABBE FREE. Seeing the words “within normal limits” almost brought me to tears, even though we knew they didn’t even carry the mutation. That confirmation means the world to us. ❤


They still don’t really acknowledge the other’s existence, something we find so funny. The twin bond seems to be delayed, haha. At least these amazing photos (by Mary Ramirez Photography) make it look like they love each other ;)s


(We were SO blessed to have the amazing Erin Fortney Photography capture my pregnancy, their birth (which deserves its own blog post), and their second day of life, and Mary Ramirez Photography captured their precious newborn stage so beautifully (photos above). Both ladies knew our story and offered their services as a tribute to Tori and to bless our family as we welcomed our “rainbow babies” into this world. We cannot recommend their services enough!)



Similarities:

They both LOVE to grunt and make noises in their sleep (and while awake) and it’s so funny. Sometimes it’s like they are communicating with each other while asleep. They are both great sleepers and wake up every three hours or so (you can count on Caleb waking up every three on the dot to eat!). We can’t wait until they are awake more so that we can have some fun.

They both make the same noise when they have to sneeze and it goes away – something that will be nearly impossible to capture on video, unfortunately, but it’s adorable.

They are both SO strong and can roll over on their side, mostly when mad 😉 They have decent head control already, too! We tried tummy time but that wasn’t a success – they both used their legs to basically crawl off of the pillow that was supporting them! Already!

They both LOVE their hands and arms and, though they don’t have great control over them yet, love to have them by their faces.

I’m sure we’ve observed more similarities, but I can’t remember right now 😉


Sure, we appreciate the newborn stage, and we don’t want to rush their development; but, there’s one thing for which we anxiously await: intentional smiles. Smiling is something Tori lost the ability to do at five months due to Krabbe affecting the cranial nerves, and it was heartbreaking. Right now they smile in their sleep, but I long for the first intentional smiles to happen. I can’t wait until my presence can evoke smiles and laughter and joy – right now I’m comfort and food…mostly just food 😉

Joy doesn’t begin to describe our life right now. We are so blessed by these precious babies and we know that our journey with Tori has only magnified our joy. We can’t wait to tell them all about her. ❤

“Is This Your First?”

It’s inevitable lately: when meeting new people who don’t know about Tori, they will ask if this pregnancy is my first.

Since I recently started a new job it’s happening fairly often. The first few times took me by surprise and I had to think quickly about how to answer: I could be truthful and tell them about Tori, or I could be mostly truthful since this is my first TWIN pregnancy and just say yes to avoid the uncomfortable truth.

So far, I’ve opted to just tell the truth, short and sweet, and allow the potential awkwardness (from their end) to exist.  I look at it as an opportunity to tell others about Krabbe, about Tori’s amazing life, and about the faith that has sustained us.

In each instance, I recognize that I have a choice: I can be truthful with joy or I can be truthful with pain. I can embrace the joy we have found or I can be miserable. 

I continue to embrace joy. 


The title of my upcoming book is “Even So, Joy” which I derived from two sources: the song “It Is Well With My Soul” –

And Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.

and Habakkuk 3:17-19  –

Even though the fig trees have no blossoms,
    and there are no grapes on the vines;
even though the olive crop fails,
    and the fields lie empty and barren;
even though the flocks die in the fields,
    and the cattle barns are empty,
 yet I will rejoice in the Lord!
    I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!
 The Sovereign Lord is my strength!
    He makes me as surefooted as a deer,
    able to tread upon the heights.

The Bible makes it abundantly clear that things are going to be imperfect here on earth. Once sin entered the world, it was inevitable that life would be terrible at times. Things are going to go wrong, our hearts are going to hurt, and sometimes it will seem unbearable.

But, the Bible also makes it clear that it can still be well with our hearts and our souls no matter what comes our way because all of this is temporary. Imperfect life on this earth should make us desire the perfection of what’s to come in Heaven. 

For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! – 2 Cor. 4:17

Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.  For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. – James 1:2-3

We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance.  And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love. – Romans 5:3-5

Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later. For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are.  Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay.  For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.  And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us. We were given this hope when we were saved. (If we already have something, we don’t need to hope for it. But if we look forward to something we don’t yet have, we must wait patiently and confidently.) – Romans 8:18-25 (emphasis mine)

Our God is a God who redeems. He is worthy of all our praise, even when circumstances don’t appear to be praiseworthy. He knows the full story while we only know this current chapter.


You have a choice to make daily just like me; though our circumstances may be different, I know your life isn’t going perfectly.

Joy is something to be chosen and embraced in the uncertain times, in the “even though” or “even if” moments. For it is then that our faith grows stronger and we are reminded of God’s love, and the least we can do is share it with those who need it the most.

Always be real and genuine, of course, but always be pointing others toward the hope and joy we have in Jesus. It has been said that light shines brightest in the darkness, and this has certainly been proven to be true in my life. Our decision to choose joy after losing a child stands in stark contrast to the way much of the world would react. And that’s kind of the point. We should be different as Christians in this world.

I will continue to be honest and share that the twins are actually child two and three for us, not our first. I will embrace the potential discomfort and awkwardness that the other person may feel and I will point them to the glory of the Lord and the hope and joy He brings.

Even so, it is well with my soul.