And Then They Were 20

Long before we had children, Chuck and I said several times that we thought it would be fun to have twins. After the initial shock of seeing TWO heartbeats on the ultrasound, I looked at him, bewildered, and said, "We knew." We didn't know everything, though. Our pre-pregnancy twins were named Phillip and Paden.

Back in the day, there were no gender reveal parties. With the fairly new ultrasound technology, my generation debated whether or not to even find out the gender of the baby. Chuck and I agreed we didn't want to know before the birth. "It's like opening your presents before Christmas" was our oft-quoted opinion. Until we saw the second heartbeat. I told Chuck I wanted to know the sex of the babies. He said, "But we want to be surprised." I said, "We have been surprised."

So, we had our gender reveal party in the tiny ultrasound room where I lay with KY jelly slathered on my swelling belly. When the technician said, "That one is a girl . . . and . . . that one is a girl, too," Chuck hollered, "TWO WEDDINGS!" and flopped down in the nearby folding chair.

We teased that their names were Dollie Gladys (after our maternal grandmothers) and Eva Irene (after our mothers, but with the names they didn't use). I told Chuck's Nana their "names" on a visit to Memphis. She said, "Oh, I li-ike Eva Irene, but I don't li-ike Dollie Gladys." So, we quit teasing.

Since we didn't have our hearts set on a family name, we decided to make up some new family names. We named Emma fairly easily. Chuck liked Emily, but I knew several Emilys. I suggested Emma, because I hadn't heard it used in a generation. We thought Caroline just sounded pretty with it.

We couldn't agree on a name for the second baby. Soon after Christmas, I began to fret. Chuck suggested, "You name her, and I'll name her, and we'll see what works." He named her Abby Rachel. I liked Abby, but I didn't think Rachel fit. I named her Anna Claire. Chuck said "no" to Anna but "yes" to Claire. Finally, we were ready for Abby Claire.

In the wee hours of the morning after they were born, Chuck told me, "I named the little one Emma. She looks like an Emma."

The little one. Like Abby was an 8 pounder. The "big one" weighed 3 lbs, 10 ozs. The "little one" weighed 2 lbs, 11 ozs. They were due on March 9 but were born on January 23. They spent 5 days in NICU at SAMC before transferring to the well-baby nursery, where they spent another 2 weeks in an isolette. I spent all day every day in the nursery and took care of my babies as the pediatric nurses petted me. I went home and slept all night while they grew.

The babies were supposed to maintain their body temps in a regular baby bed, continue to gain weight, and weigh 4.0 lbs before they could be released. Abby was up to 4.5 lbs, but Emma weighed only 3.5 lbs. The pediatrician on call over the 3rd weekend was younger and more relaxed than the older doctors in the group. The least compromising one was about to come on call. Unbeknownst to Chuck and me, the nurses nagged the younger doctor relentlessly over the weekend to let us take our babies home. They reminded him that if he didn't let the babies go home, they would have to spend another week in the hospital away from their mommy and daddy, because of the strictness of the upcoming on-call doctors. They insisted that the girls go home at the same time. They badgered him on the unfairness of letting one baby go home and making the other one stay and the impossibility of mommy nurturing two babies at two different places.

On Monday morning, February 14, 1994, the phone woke me about 7:00 am. The younger doctor was about to go off call. He said, "Mrs. Conner, come get your girls. Happy Valentine's Day."

What followed was a two-decades-long whirlwind of after-school activities, spelling tests, and long summer days at Azalea.

It was a colorful twister of party balloons, VBS tee shirts, Mrs. Grossman stickers, and 2 sets of mouse ears.

Tucked into the tornado were class pictures, library books, scholarship applications, and patent-leather Sunday school shoes.

Underneath the roar of the cyclone was the music from piano lessons and high school football games, giggles from sleepovers and slinging on the tube at the lake, crying from boo boos and broken hearts and exhaustion.

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