Fate brought me twins — not as a parent, but as a trial by fire. For a first foray into life as a newborn care specialist, twins aren’t ideal. But they will absolutely teach you something about yourself, and whether newborn care is the best profession for you. Today, I look back on sleeplessness, perseverance, and joy. Back then, I was inexperienced and nervous, anxiously wondering if I could handle one, let alone two.
When I first met the twins, I studied them carefully. They were identical — one slightly smaller, but I knew their size would change drastically in the weeks to come. Twins are often unfairly combined, their sameness assumed when the truth is that every baby is unique. I was drawn to a difference in their eyes. Jacques’s eyes were rounder, more deep-seated than his brother Samuel’s. I locked that away in my memory, and never once confused the brothers.
Their father, on the other hand, had a hard time remembering. “Who’s Samuel?” He’d ask. “Who’s Jacques?” They’d been born three minutes apart and looked very much alike. Nevertheless, their mother always looked crushed when her husband couldn’t tell one from the other. I’ll never forget how they lived — on Central Park West, on two floors of a penthouse apartment. The roof deck overlooked the proud San Remo building to the west, and I couldn’t have asked for a more glittering introduction to my new city. When I had time off, I’d walk for hours, exploring the park, the winding streets. The subway was four blocks away, and before I went home I’d stop and glance back at their apartment. To this day, it dazzles me to think of how lucky those twins were to be born to such a life.
I didn’t work every night, but when I did, I learned a hard lesson about twins: when one cries (or grunts — these babies were definitely grunters), the other wakes up. And it can go on like that, the babies see-sawing all night. Then, of course, I’d have to work all day, nonstop, and everything doubled. We’d sing and play in the mornings, and as soon as the twins nodded off, I’d hop up and make bottles — two sets. Actually, I cared for two pairs of twins, if you counted the identical bulldogs that lived and played with us. I kept a detailed journal for the parents, and carefully drafted our schedules and routines. The work never ended, but I took heart as time ground on. After all, if I could survive this, even finding ways to enjoy the challenge, it could only mean I’d found a calling.
I loved the twins, and their parents asked if I’d stay on as a nanny. If I had, I’d still be working in the penthouse on Central Park, and I’d never have met 49 babies. And I wouldn’t be reading this blog. The twins taught me about the limits of exhaustion and revealed layers of determination I didn’t even know were part of me. Unfortunately, their father smoked Cuban cigars, and wherever he went smelled of lingering, heavy smoke. It clung to my clothes and made me want to hold my breath. The twins were five-months old, but they’d been born prematurely. Corrected age, Jacques, and Samuel were only twelve weeks, and their lungs too delicate for a third-hand smoke. When the father refused to quit (he smoked because he was stressed), I knew that I had to. While I loved the babies very much, I couldn’t trade my principles for the security of a long-term job.
I’d like to say the family lets me bow out gracefully. I’m grateful to them, for introducing me to their children and their world, to a sense of my calling (and Bonpoint baby clothes!). I’d given my one week notice and planned to say goodbye to the babies on my last day which is Friday, and fly to the Philippines to spend the holidays with my own children. However, on Thursday morning, the father didn’t give me a chance to change to my scrubs and fired me. Coldly, the father who couldn’t live outside a cloud of cigar smoke instructed me to take my salary and go.
As someone taking her first steps in newborn care, I was devastated. But I’d survived my trial by fire. A double trial, in fact: twins, and a test of my principles. Most importantly, I didn’t let devastation stop me, and I didn’t fold up and call it quits. I’d seen my future — as a passionate, hardworking newborn care expert — and it was worth fighting for. To me, that future was every bit as dazzling as a penthouse on Central Park West.