March 13th, 2017: Letter from Aunt Nina

Dear Brian and Jeffrey,

Yesterday was your 24th day in Texas … and the second time I was privileged enough to spend time with such beautiful and passionate souls. I am so moved by your journey, so excited to see every milestone shared and so proud to call you my friends.

We will always keep your family close in our hearts and cherish the time we got to spend together…and laugh together! Thank you for being 150% authentic, honest and kind. 💗

All Our Love,

Steve and Nina

#thebernsteintwins #pheoburrito #xanatoot #honorarytexans #mcm #duck #NinaAndTheThreeBears

IMG_5330

March 12th, 2017

Dear Phoebe and Xander,

Today was hopefully your last full day in the NICU. It’s been 24 days and on your 25th you’ll be released! That means we’re going home…as a family. #finally

Your neonatologist came in to discuss a whole bunch of stuff with us and was very happy to see that you’ll both released together (Phoebe you still have your car seat test tonight). We’ve got your care plan ready to go and will be taking 6 days to relax (or not sleep LOL) with Aunt Ashly, Uncle Mac, Kaisen and Evie. Your Grandma Diane will be flying to Texas on Saturday and then on Monday March 20th, we’ll be making the flight homeward.

Yeladim – we have watched you both work so hard. You’ve struggled. You’ve persevered. You’ve shown us that though you may be little you are mighty. Mightier than anything and fierce as all hell. We are beyond excited to write your last NICU letter, bringing this part of your life’s journey to a close. And when one door closes the next one shall open.

Until the next chapter begins keep making us proud one poopie diaper at a time…!

All our Love,

Daddy and Abba

March 12th, 2017: NICU Day 24

Dear Phoebe and Xander,

Today is your twenty fourth day in the NICU and our twenty fourth day blessed to be your parents.

What a super special and AMAZING day! You got to visit with BOTH of your surrogate IMG_5307siblings today…Kaisen and Genevieve were super excited to visit and boy did they have super duper fun! Kaisen even got to twin with you both…afterwards our special friend Ashley with Helping Hands did a IMG_5311special arts and crafts activity: “sock babies.” Kaisen and Genevieve made babies out of rice and socks that were the same as your birth weights! They had so much fun making them and will be great keepsakes for them for when we go back home to Philadelphia.IMG_5328

Xander – you hit one of your last milestones today: your nasogastric tube was officially pulled out!!! That means you are taking ALL of your feed by bottle…dude that is amazing! Next milestone will be your IMG_5289car seat test and then we can go home!

Phoebe – you also hit huge milestones today…nearly ALL of your feed by bottles! That means you will likely have your nasogastric tube pulled tomorrow! You are also off of milk fortifier and starting your regimen of milk and Neosure. That’s to make sure IMG_5294you continue to gain weight and get all of your daily nutrients.

Yeladim – you also got a special visit from our friend’s Nina and Steve. Nina actually came to visit Abba and Daddy on your fourth day – President’s day. She was teasing Daddy and Abba that we didn’t mention her in your daily letters (#AbbaFail), and she should be. When Aunt Nina came to visit she spent the WHOLE day with us to make sure we weren’t alone and had friends. Shame on IMG_5331us! LOL It was a great visit and today, you’re both so much bigger and she is so excited to see your progress. One day when we come to visit Texas you’ll get to meet them…

We love you two so much! Your personalities continue toIMG_5333 shine and emerge each and every day. We look forward to taking you back home and meet everyone…!

All our love,

Daddy and Abba

March 11th, 2017: NICU Day 23

Dear Xander and Phoebe,

Today is your twenty third day in the NICU and our twenty third day blessed to be your parents.IMG_5270

Yeladim: tonight’s letter will be short and to the point…y’all are doing AMAZING.

Phoebe – you took 70% of your last 24 hrs by bottle! In fact you took IMG_5264your first two complete bottles overnight with your nurse Kim! Way to go little lady! You’re officially 4lbs 4 oz and getting squishier by the day…oh, and your umbilical cord finally fell off!

Xander – you took 96% of your last 24 hrs by bottle! Amazing! You’re doing so well! You’re rounding your last few days…we can feel it! Oh, IMG_5273and your finally over 6 lbs! You feel more and more like a full term baby each day…

So you had a special visitor today: cousin Stephanie! She drove through rain and construction from Austin just to get baby snuggles…Phoebe, you passed right out in her arms it was super precious! You also got to FaceTime with your great Aunt and Uncle Robin and David. They’re so happy with your progress and can’t wait to meet you both!

We love you both so much. It’s amazing that no matter how tired we may be we have the energy required to be there for you. Most would say “welcome to parenthood…” and it’s true. But we welcome this exhaustion in the comfort of our own home, in your Harry Potter nuIMG_5276rsery that patiently awaits…until that day.

All our love,

Daddy and Abba

March 10th, 2017: NICU Day 22

Dear Phoebe and Xander,

Today is your twenty second day in the NICU and our twenty second day blessed to be your parents. And today you’re 3 weeks old! My goodness where has the time gone?

Today each of you got to FaceTime with your grandparents. They’re just so excited to meet you! They can’t wait to love, squeeze and kiss you both to pieces…

IMG_5168Before we talk about how you’re both doing we want you to know a few things about us and our journey to meeting you both. It’s been nearly two years since we’ve started this journey to bringing you both here. The journey has been worth every minute: every peak, every valley and everything that lies between. We go through moments where we cry. Where we laugh. Where we feel homesick. But what’s adorable is that as we sit there next to you both in the NICU the both of just stare. Stare into your eyes. Listen to your noises. And no matter how much we miss home, our family and our friends just seeing you both helps us calm down and be at peace. You’re both the best thing to happen to us. We’re here for you always now and forever!

Phoebe – today Abba gave you your bath…this one was a bit different than others as youIMG_2029 weren’t so happy about it. But you survived. You even survived Abba kisses on your belly! You took one of your biggest bottles right after though! You could hardly wait for the bottle! After today and last night you’re finally up over 50% feed by bottle. Keep up the amazing work our fierce little fighter!

Xander – today daddies will brag: you not only took several complete bottles you even asked for more after one! Yup! That means you took a 72ml bottle! Amazing! We brought your car IMG_2032seat up for the nurses to do a car seat test before you get released. It’s getting closer and closer!

The last piece of incredible news is that we have officially received the LAST legal document, signed by the judge, guaranteeing us as your parents! We always had faith in the system and legal documentation once the Pre-Birth Order was signed, but receiving this last and final judge-signed document just solidifies everything!

Yeladim – we never truly appreciated just how much you would change our lives. Friends and family have watched your journey since before you were born. Folks would say how lucky you would be. But tonight as we celebrate 3 weeks of being your daddies it’s Daddy and Abba who are truly the lucky ones. Lucky to know you both. Lucky to be able to care for you. And lucky to be your Daddy and Abba.

All our love,

Daddy and Abba

March 9th, 2017: NICU Day 21

Dear Phoebe and Xander,

Today is your 21st day in the NICU and our 21st days blessed to be your parents.

Today you both got to visit with Aunt Ashly. She came by to visit and got to snuggle you IMG_5181up little Phoebe girl! You both love when she comes. And we love having her here. Always filled with laughter and tons of love!

Phoebe – you moving up to big girl bottles! You’ve taken a few great IMG_198350% or more bottles from Daddy today. You’ve also become so much more alert and are now waking yourself up for feed time. You’ve cried for our attention and even shoved fingers in your mouth! This is super great progress and we’re super excited! Seeing you strongly cue for a bottle makes Daddy and Abba smile…speaking of smile, Aunt Ashly caught you mid smile and showing off your dimples today! #totallyadorbz

Xander – well big guy, you’re officially in newborn diapers! Woot woot! And you’re still IMG_5196going strong with your bottle feeding! Keep up the great work! And omg you’re getting huge! You’re feeling more and more substantial with each passing day…keep gaining weight and strength!

Yeladim – you both have made such great progress. It’s the most inspirational and amazing thing ever. You both have such fight and spirit. You’ve taught us both so much about love, patience, diligence and individuality. Watching you both progress at your own pace and develop your own personalities has been nothing sIMG_5192hort of amazing. Literally. Amazing. We look forward to continuing you on your path of self exploration as you grow and grow.

All our love,

Daddy and Abba

On being a father…

Day 116 of parenthood, 9 days shy of our twins’ 4 month birth anniversary and just 5 days before we celebrate our first father’s day. Exciting, right? It is more than exciting – it’s freaking amazing! But, I want to recall what it means to be a father in our times. I want to share what I’ve experienced in the journey that lead up to us being the parents that we are right now and continue to mold ourselves to be.

It was about 10 months before our embryo transfer I said to Brian, “I want to go to the book store.” He said, “for what?” I said, “to pick up books on being a gay father, or parenthood in general.” He grinned, likely knowing what my experience was about to be, but I went to the store. Naïve. Excited. Hopeful.

It was dismal. It was disheartening. It was shocking. What did I learn? That nearly all parenting books are:

1) geared towards being a mother (which I accepted/expected)

2) nearly all books for fathers are “picture books” as though a dad is primitive and dumb

3) all books geared towards dad show dad as a helping set of hands, or a babysitter to relieve mom from parenting tasks

4) there are next to zero books about the experience of gay fathers (which I get, we’re still a fledgling community coming out, yet again)

5) whenever dad did a good deed in one of these books he was treated, yet again, like he was a “big boy” and was a “good helper.” Oh, and not all things baby as it relates to fathers has to be a sports or grilling reference.

Literally, what I learned is that dads are helping hands, dumb and can’t take care of babies by themselves without a supervisor.

Fast forward just shy of our fourth month as parents with over 1400 diapers changed, over 1400 bottles prepared, washed (mostly by hand) and fed, hundreds of laundry loads washed and folded, tons of tears cried by our twins that we lovingly settled, diaper rashes we’ve helped care for and heal, baths to keep them clean and fresh, games to play, tummy time, getting rid of painful gas, stroller walks, socialization to keep them engaged, songs we’ve sung and the thousands of smiles we’ve shared.

But wait, we’re fathers – with no mother in our household, and holy shit, our kids are strong, growing and thriving! I mean, it’s as if we’re “doing a good job.” And we are. As parents. And a damn good one if you ask me. As for what I actually learned in the books I skimmed: ______________________?

…oh, that’s right. Nothing. I am not a helper or a babysitter. I am not just someone to “watch the kids.” I am their father. My husband is their father. Together we are their parents and it’s our job to care for them in every single way. Our children have amazing women in their lives as role models, but perhaps what I have truly learned is that it takes patience, love, kindness and more patience to be a parent, and one’s gender hasn’t a single thing to do with one’s success.

As a society we don’t value parenting as teamwork. We say we do. But we don’t. And as fathers, as men, we don’t place value on our roles as parents, instead, pawn it off to women around us or expect them to do everything only to reap the rewards. No thanks. That’s not how our family works and frankly no family should. Parenting is parenting. As fathers we’re just as equipped to handling the throws of nurturing and child rearing. And it’s in this thought that I say to myself, my husband and to all the amazing male fathers (single, straight, whatever): Happy Father’s Day. To those males that are fathers and don’t actively participate I say this – you’re sorely missing out on what is probably the most amazing experience ever. Step up to the plate, gentlemen, (#sportsreference) and become active. Your kids need you more than you know and you played more than an active role in bringing them here in however your families came to be.

March 8th, 2017: NICU Day 20

Dear Phoebe and Xander,

Today is your twentieth day in the NICU, and the twentieth day we are blessed to be your fathers.

Everyday we are here becomes both a little bit easier and a bit harder…We’re so proud of your accomplishments and so excited to see you progress each and everyday, but we know you still have one more milestone each to accomplish: 100% bottle feediIMG_5122ng. We cannot and will not rush you! You are each in charge of your own NICU journey, and we will patiently wait for you both to achieve this milestone so that we can go home.

Today, Uncle Mac surprised us at the hospital in his full policy uniform. He is in the hospital today on official police business! While he was here we also got to have lunch with him, Aunt Ashly, and Genevieve before coming back up to meet with your OT. She img_5146.jpghelped us practice baby wearing! Abba and Daddy each wrapped you up on us in a Moby, which was great practice! And not to mention SUPER cozy for you and for us!

Xander: You had an awesome night with Nurse Sarah taking about 90% of your bottle at each feeding. You continue to be a rockstar when it comes to your bottle! Keep up the great work and you’ll be home in no time! Oh, and you are almost at 6lbs!

Phoebe: You are still floating around the 40% mark when it comes to taking your bottle. IMG_5148You just get really tired, very quickly, and there is nothing wrong with that! The OT is so thrilled with your progress that she went ahead and took you off the NTrainer Therapy as well! Holla! Keep up the great work little miss! You got this! Oh, and you’re over 4lb!

Last night was interesting. There was a fire in one of the other buildings. We were locked into our pod while we waited. Thankfully, nobody was hurt and everything under control, but daddies were curious about “how do y’all carry all dem babies out?” So Nurse Sarah told us about a “baby apron” that holds 4-6 babies. Nurse Kara modeled it IMG_5165for us this morning. Amazing something like that exists!

Yeladim, you are so special, and everyone in the NICU is just smitten with you…Our nurse today, Kara, told us that its babies like you that give her the urge to have children of her own. Nurse Kara also went one step further: she helped captured each of your footprints for your scrapbook! She’s been an amazing addition to your wellness and medical team.

Keep making us smile with pride, even when you fart or poop on us while holding you 😜

All our love, today and always,

Abba and Daddy

March 7th, 2017: NICU Day 19

Dear Xander and Phoebe,

Today is your nineteenth day in the NICU and our nineteenth day blessed to be your parents.

Y’all had a great night yeladim! You both took good bottles, gained weight and behaved IMG_1917for your nurse. And when we arrived this morning we got assigned nurse Kara. She was one of your first nurses when you both arrived. She was very happy to see your progress and to be your primary today. You also got a visit from Aunt Ashly! She loves to visit you whenever she can😍.

IMG_5104Phoebe – you have jumped to 40% bottle feeding. Wow! And you’re just shy of 4lb…(3lbs 15.3oz). You’re still using the preemie bottles here and will hopefully soon graduate to your big girl bottles. You are so well behaved when daddies do your care, unlike your brother who screams (lol). And it looks like your last NTrainer therapy will be within a few days! IMG_5084Wahoo! You took a good (over 50%) bottle from Daddy after your bath, and you’re working your way up. Keep it up! We’re so proud.

Xander – we got the report that you were at 80% of your feed by bottle! And, you’re now at 5lbs 11.5oz…keep gaining weight and getting stronger. We got to give you your first tub bath and you loved it! We were informed that your circumcision will be done IMG_5097today and you made it through. This means your very close to discharge. After the procedure you just passed out on Abba and rested (that is after taking a decent sized bottle). Oh, and your umbilical stump finally fell off..! Yay!

Daddies met with the OT again to discuss discharge instructions. Stretches for Phoebe and milestone development. You see, as preemies, until the age of two you’ll likely be behind full term babies. Being born 7 weeks early means that we have to “correct your age” for each milestone. That means when you’re 6 months old you’ll be developmentally around 4 months. It’s ok. You’ll catch up around 24 months or so. We’ll keep a close eye on you both and do whatever you both need to make sure you continue to develop and grow.IMG_1920

Daddies also got to give some small presents to two sets of NICU parents. A lovie blanket for one (a singleton) and a set of preemie clothes for the others (a set of twins). It’s important we all stick together as this journey is tough. Being a NIIMG_5106CU parent is a hell of a ride. We’ll get to see them tonight at our weekly Helping Hands meeting.

Yeladim

– we love you. We can see the light at the end of the NICU tunnel. This means that you’ll be coming home to Pennsylvania in no time at all!

All our love,

Daddy and Abba

March 6th, 2017: NICU Day 18

Dear Phoebe and Xander,

Today is your eighteenth day in the NICU and our eighteenth day blessed to be your parents.

Being in the NICU has taught us so many things. Today we walked into a small gift from another NICU mom. Two homemade beanie caps made by her mom. You see, she also had twins and both were born early. Her twins, also boy/girl, were born exactly one week after you and they even used the same fertility clinic as your daddies. She had troubles conceiving but with the help of the same doctor she gave birth to two beautiful preemies just like you both! It was such an act of kindness and a reminder that as parents of preemies in the NICU helping one another out, no matter what, is important. IMG_1894This was the start to a great day…

Today was a great day for another reason. The head nurse, who has a heart of gold, allowed our surrogate’s daughter to come and visit. You see, typically kids under 13 can’t visit unless they’re direct siblings. The nurse, Alvina, knew how important it was for us and to little Evie, and allowed an IMG_5046(1)amazing 15 minute visit for her to hold and snuggle you both. It was so special and so important on many levels and we are forever thankful!

Phoebe – today you were reevaluated by the OT using he NTrainer. You have made such HUGE improvements! After your reassessment you took a huge, 32mL bottle – your biggest one yet! You’re taking over 30% of your feed by bottle. That’s awesome! We also learned that you prefer to lay with your head turned to the right side and that can cause you issues later on down the road – so you spent some time with your head turned left. It’s an easy fix and daddies will do what necessary to beIMG_1901 sure you grow up healthy and strong! Oh, you’re also 3lbs 15oz…!

Xander – after your NTrainer reassessment your OT determined that you no longer need the help. The lightbulb is on! In fact, you took nearly a full bottle from Daddy right after. And not just any bottle – one of your big boy dr brown bottles! Wahoo! You also have gained more weight and are now 5lbs 11oz. In fact after today’s reports we were informed that we’ll likely be talking (starting tomorrow) about your discharge! Wow! Keep up the great work Xanadoo!

IMG_5048All in all today’s been a great day. You even got to FaceTime with so many family members! Grandma Diane, Grandpa Marc, Grandma Rose, Grandpa Charles, and cousin’s Noah and Jonah. Everyone can’t wait to meet you both and they’re all cheering you on!

Yeladim – you amaze us. Every day you show us your strength, character and determination. We see it in how hard you push yourselves to work each day. Keep it up cause, kids, life is a marathon and having persistence is key. But for now sleep. Dream. And keep being the beautiful babies you are.

All our love,

Daddy and Abba