All the photos I didn’t get to take this year, and the ones I took instead

I know I won't forget 2020, but I also want to remember it

Mom and baby playing

I'm sure I'm not alone when I say my family had big plans for this year. For us, it meant welcoming our twin daughters (finally girls in a long family tree of all boys), our rainbow babies after a 2019 that kicked our butts and made us cry a lot. As a second time mom I had planned for support for support, something I struggled with the first time around, I had safety net after safety net so I could enjoy 2020.

But then 2020 happened and nothing went as planned.

The twins were born days before New York went into full lockdown, so we lucked out because my husband was allowed in the OR with me, holding my hand as I shook from the anesthesia and adrenaline while Girls Just Wanna Have Fun blasted from one of the nurses iPhone. We got the photo of Twin A and Twin B (still nameless) snuggled against my neck freshly out of the womb. That was the first and last photo of how we thought things would go down.

The powerful "I did it" photos at the hospital while rocking my adult diaper? Didn't happen. I had a brutal recovery, lost so much blood and struggled with pain management even at the hospital. I was dizzy, in and out of it, and only mustered the energy to open my eyes to breastfeed these two inexperienced newborns. Instead, I have photos of my husband introducing our toddler to his sisters, me nowhere to be found in those because I just couldn't.

The cozy newborn snuggled against mom in a blissful fourth trimester? Didn't happen. By the time we were home New York was flooded with ambulance sirens, our support system had to leave us to deal with it all alone and all I could do was watch the news and cry. I cried from sunrise to sunset, this time aware that it was not going to end well for me if I didn't do something about it. But what could I do? We were in the middle of a global pandemic.

Documenting the first outing as a family of five? It happened, but not how we wanted it to. When the twins were two weeks old we decided to leave and quarantine at my inlaws' farm which was in the middle of nowhere. Instead of a cute family photo, what we have instead is a photo of us changing diapers inside the car, parked in a gas station, in the middle of the night while we left everything, but enough clothes for the kids, behind. I even forgot to pack my belly binder and regretted it for months. Every time I look at it all I can see is the panic in our eyes.

Our friends meeting our new members of the family? Obviously didn't happen. Instead, we have screenshots of Zoom calls. So far only a handful of friends and family have met them (and after many nose swabs and isolation). I worry that we are going to have incredibly socially awkward toddlers by the time we can step outside again.

The first smile? The first roll? The first spoon of solid food? All documented within the same four walls, wearing PJs in all of them, as if months didn't go by between those milestones. They rarely leave the house, so what's the point in dressing them up in all the cute clothes I got them anyway.

Our first trip? Can you call driving to the supermarket a trip? Because that's what we sometimes do to keep everyone entertained when we start getting cabin fever. Our first trip was to the dump to transfer all of our trash after over a month of collecting it waiting for things to be safe again. Our pediatrician visits are the outing of the month, even when only one parent can go in and we all (except the babies obvi) have to wear masks.

Our first year as a family of five and my last time as a mom of newborns will be remembered by the photos we took and not the ones we wanted to take. I want to remember how hard 2020 was, how much we went through as a family but also collectively as a society, how monumental every little decision felt, how lost we thought we were, how we pulled strength out of our back pockets in tiny amounts just to get us through the day. I don't want to ever forget, even when today that's all I want to do.

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