By Stephen W. Hiemstra
When my oldest child, Christine, was born, Maryam became so attached to her that she refused to hire babysitters and refused to leave her alone with anyone. On rare occasions, Mama Bozorg and I were allowed to watch her, but we were among the chosen few. As she drew closer to delivering our second child, Marjolijn Narsis, Maryam’s attachment to her daughter became an important concern.
The night before she was born, Maryam had trouble sleeping and went into labor early in the morning. Her labor was irregular, however, and did not make progress towards regular contractions every ten minutes, as parents are normally advised. By five o’clock in the morning, I became concerned that, after having labor pains all night, something was wrong and we started having a debate about calling our sister-in-law, Julie. But Maryam did not want to leave Christine with anyone! By five thirty, I was pulling my hair out and called Julie.
Julie came over promptly. Maryam and I called ahead to Inova Fairfax Hospital and drove over together. On arrival, we checked into the natal unit and, thinking that delivery was hours away like with Christine, we were shocked that the doctors whisked us immediately into the delivery room; Marjolijn was a breech baby and needed an emergency Cesarean delivery. The delivery went fine, but the emergency surprised us and Maryam enjoyed a longer stay in the hospital than planned. When Christine and I arrived at the hospital the next day to visit, Maryam was very unhappy to see that her daughter happily holding onto her Dad rather than running immediately to Mom!
In the months that followed, the division of labor in the family changed dramatically. With one child, you can almost maintain your lifestyle as a young couple; with two children, lifestyle adjustments are mandatory. This dilemma becomes really obvious because a single child gets a lot of attention—I call it the pet kid phenomena—which simply cannot be sustained when you have two. In my case, I bought a new single lens reflect (SLR) camera when Christine was born and filmed her every move. When Marjolijn was born, I took fewer photographs, not for lack of interest, but because with two children in play at least one is always in motion. If that weren’t bad enough, Marjolijn experienced even more colic than her sister and we were tired all the time.
Our battles with colic strained a lot of relationships because hardly anyone wants a colicky baby around or to care for one. I remember, for example, being told undiplomatically one Sunday morning to move to the back of the church, Cub Run Elementary School, because my daughter, Christine, was making too much noise. Churches today mostly lack a cry room and expect parents to disappear during worship or to delegate care to someone else, which we never did. Caring for our two girls accordingly required teamwork, whether in church or in taking part in family gatherings.
The fact that the girls were only 16 months apart meant that they was always very close and very competitive. When Stephen Reza came along 16 months after Marjolijn, the pattern continued. Our kids were not only siblings, they were best friends, and they were inseparable. And anyone who tried to separate the troika (or treated any one of them badly) felt their wrath! They also all spoke Parsi making it possible to have private conversations out in front of most anyone, including Dad. And Maryam, who insisted that the kids use her first name, was the leader of the pack.
 Marjolijn is named for the daughter of close friends of ours, Map and Jan, from the Netherlands who also happened to attend Lewinsville Presbyterian Church where Maryam and I were married. When Maryam and I were engaged, Map and Jan rented Maryam a room. Map was a stay-at-home mom able and willing offer plenty of helpful advice while Jan was an agronomist with the World Bank able to talk shop with me. Needless to say, we hit it off immediately and remain close friends.
 A cry room was a glass encased room at the back of the sanctuary where parents both care for their own infants while hearing and seeing the worship service. The one that I remember best was at Central Reformed Church in Oskaloosa, Iowa.