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This past Sunday my twins turned one. I can hardly believe it. The year absolutely flew by.

I had been planning to write a little post on surviving your first year with twins, but as I started thinking about what I would say, I started to realize something. This year wasn’t just about survival. Sure, in the beginning, it was a seemingly never-ending cycle of feed, burp, nap, diaper change, repeat. And we did it all in a sleep-deprived haze. There were also the sleep issues and many, many ear infections, and bouts of bronchitis, croup, etc. Maybe THOSE parts were about survival.

But this year was so much more. This year absolutely changed my life. As a mother, as a wife, as a daughter, as a person.  Here’s how:

  • I no longer procrastinate. In my pre-twin life, I was a master procrasinator. I find that since becoming a Mother of Multiples, I no longer have that luxury. If I have 5 minutes to do laundry, I better do it. If I don’t, it may sit there until next week. Act now or forever miss your opportunity. Things are actually getting accomplished around my house and often in advance of when they need to be done! I’m also more productive in the office because I never know when I’ll need to take an emergancy sick or vacation day to tend to a child.
  • I am learning to be flexible. (I’m still working on this, but getting much better!) In life, things happen. Even with the best of intentions, schedules and routines, there is bound to be a kink in the plans at some point. In the not-so-distant past the unexpected speedbumps in my routine would have thrown me so far off course I couldn’t recover. With twins, the bumps come frequently. I have no choice but to adjust and keep moving forward. We are all happier and more relaxed as a result of Mommy’s new abilities.
  • Immediate family now comes first. Growing up, I saw my immediate family (mother, father, brother and me) as one unit. Our unit was part of a bigger, extended family but I knew that the four of us were our own, standalone group. When I got married and even when I had my singleton, I still saw myself as part of that original core unit. It was only with the arrival of the twins that I’ve realized: we’ve now become our own unit. And I finally feel comfortable scheduling, planning, and standing up for what I think is best for this immediate family.
  • I appreciate the female body (even) more. Pregnancy and childbirth is an amazing experience. But carrying and delivering multiple babies goes beyond words. Then, watching my body provide nourishment for the two babies at the same time…there are no words.The female body is an amazing, amazing thing!
  • I am much more patient. I have developed a much higher tolerance for noise, hair pulling, eye poking and monotonous play. I am content to sit on the floor for 45 minutes and let the kids climb on me; I no longer worry about what’s NOT getting done when I sit there and I no longer worry about moving on to the next activity. This one is fun? Let’s stay with it. As a result, I’m more patient with my husband, my dog and my co-workers. I am not any more patient while driving, but I’m working on that.
  • I want to be there for other people. Having been through the high-risk pregnancy and the NICU experience (twice), and ending up with all of these beautiful, healthy children has made me so very greatful for all that I have. As a result, I have been finding joy in helping others – even others I don’t know. My charitable donations are up, I’m donating more time (yes, time!), I’m just generally more involved in the world around me. And I enjoy it.
  • I love my husband (even) more. I’ve made no secret about how involved my husband is. I didn’t think before the twins arrived it was possible to love him more. But watching him step right up and help with them and our daughter and with me…I guess it was entirely possible. Ditto that feeling for my mom and dad.
  • I consider my situation to be my own and don’t compare it to those around me. I no longer compare my life to the lives of those around me. I feel more free as a result. Is my life crazy because I have twins? Yup. Is your life crazy because you have one baby? Or six? Yes. And Yes. Our situations are not the same; we are all different. There is no point in comparing whose life is harder or who has it better. I just make the best of what I have and I don’t worry about what others are doing.
  • I find the humor in things. Two little boys alternately projectile vomiting at a 3-year old’s birthday party? That would have made me cry two years ago. Now, what choice do I have but to laugh?

So, Happy Birthday Aaron and Brady. You have made me a better person. I can’t imagine my life without you little monkeys!

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Random person: “Oh my goodness, are they twins?”
Me: “Yes, yes they are.”
RP: “A boy and a girl?”
Me: “Yep.”
RP: “Are these your first?”
Me: “Yep.” (wait for it…)
RP: “Oh, how great! Then you’re all done!”
Me: (half-smile, non-committal mumble, keep walking…)

We all get the question: are you going to have any more? The random strangers on the street who simply must talk to us… if you have two boys, you’re asked if you’ll try for a girl. Two girls, if you’ll try for a boy. And boy/girl, apparently that satisfies the universe and it’s assumed you’re all done.

And don’t even get us started on the dads… as much as it annoys me when people make the assumption that I’m all done after my first-time-out boy/girl twins, my husband goes and volunteers the idea to random passers-by. “Yep, and we’re done! Done, done, done!” Nice, honey. One of the HDYDI husbands (Hi, S.M.!) even responded to the idea of this post in haiku form:

Children after twins:
Maybe when they’re older, then
We’ll have time for sex.

In all seriousness, I think everyone has confronted the idea of whether or not to have more kids after multiples. There’s a million different factors to that decision. For one, I think we all have in our heads the “ideal” number of children we always wanted to have. Some people want big families, the more the merrier. Some could barely be talked into having one. And then, the reality of being a parent sets in, and sometimes that “ideal” number changes. Maybe you discover being a mom is the greatest thing, ever, and you just want more. Or maybe you come to the crashing realization of how hard it is, and maybe just these two will be plenty.

Having a set of multiples adds several new dimensions to the discussion, and not just in the “more than you bargained for” sense. First, there’s the issue of pregnancy. Many of us do not have fond memories of our swollen feet, ankles and legs, of bedrest and high blood pressure, of the aches and pains and stress that go along with a multiple pregnancy. For those who had “spontaneous” twins, there’s the fear: what if it’s twins again? (Um, hi Laura N.) Even the ones with identical twins, who have no higher likelihood of having a second set… still, we wonder. Will lightning strike twice? For those who had to deal with infertility, there’s the question: do I want to go through all of that again? The hormones, the shots, the stress… Maybe, just maybe, we’ll be one of those couples who has a surprise pregnancy post-IVF. Wouldn’t that be nice? And finally, many of us feel as though, if there are any more kids on the horizon, maybe we’ll wait longer than we might have if our first were a singleton.

Many of us, for whom our twins are our first kids, have dreams of experiencing a different kind of parenthood. We’d like to see life through they eyes of a singleton parent. Wouldn’t it be so much easier? Oh, the cute single strollers we’d have! (Sadly, I think we’d be disappointed to learn that even singleton newborns are challenging, but whatever…) There’s also the idea of being a more experienced mom, and the things we imagine we’d do better/differently if we “knew then what we know now.” Again, it probably wouldn’t all go so well as we imagine, but it’s a nice dream.

There’s a million reasons people have for wanting more kids, or for being d-o-n-e DONE. But as with many things, it’s important for you and your husband/partner to be on the same page about whatever decision you make. Certainly, we don’t always agree! Remember that moms can have some crazy, instinctual, hormonal stuff that causes you to block out how much you hated being pregnant, and eventually make you want to do it again. Evolution is smart, that way. Your husband does not necessarily have the same selective memory, and remembers quite clearly how much you swore at him when he was trying to help you roll your enormous ass off the couch. One way or another, if there’s disagreement on how many kids to have, you need to sit down and talk about it. You need to figure out not only why your husband, for example, does not want any more kids, but also why you do. Self-examination is a good thing. Forcing or tricking a spouse into something is not. After all, you’re going to need him around to help with all of those extra kids…

And hey, sometimes surprises happen. Sometimes the passage of time softens the edges of your memory, and you think having more kids wouldn’t be so bad. Sometimes, even dads change their minds. As M and I were discussing this issue (for the record, his vote is usually NO NO NO, and mine is “ask me when they’re older”), and talking about the fact that there’s a halfway decent (I’ve heard 8-12%) chance we’d have another set of twins, we shuddered a little. And then he said, only mostly joking…

But, having them one at a time… doesn’t that seem a little… inefficient?

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*Ahem* Yes, the above mentioned title refers to yours truly. To look at me, you would think I was just an average minivan driving suburban mother of two.  But I can spy a double stroller faster than my kids can pull all of the wipes out of the container.   I know that a lot of families have double strollers for their non-twins families, but I am especially good at identifying the strollers housing two from the same womb. And then, I actually approach these people and talk to them! Strangers! People who are avoiding eye contact with the rest of the world, hoping to ward off the “are they twins?” comment. So yes, I am a self proclaimed twin mom stalker.

 There is just something magnetic about other mother’s of twins (and more!) Finally, women who “get” me, women I can identify with, learn from and commiserate with. Friends with singletons are wonderful, but the instant support and understanding of MoM’s can’t be beat.

It is pretty cool, belonging to this “twin club.” It comes with some instant celebrity, which was in itself rather surreal. (And rather unwelcomed during the infant stage-”Don’t these people know I have 3 seconds before meltdown to GET OUT OF THIS STORE?!!!”)  I have never belonged to a secret society, a popular club or sorority. But having two children from the same pregnancy has opened up doors that a secret handshake could never compete with.

 I really like being a mom of twins…most days! I like a lot of the attention, the looks of admiration as I juggle my twosome, the “I don’t know how you do it” comments from friends having their first child.

 But the funny thing is, our celebrity is fading…my babies are quickly turning into toddlers, who don’t look very much alike. They are now 3 lbs and 1/2 a head apart. We don’t get very many double takes, because I don’t think people recognize them as twins. And really, that is okay! I actually don’t want the kids receiving a lot of attention from strangers just beause they were born on the same day. When they are old enough to understand, I don’t want them to feel like  people are always watching them…I wonder if we as a family will attract less attention because my kids aren’t identical…or triplets.

 But for now, while it lasts, I will enjoy our twin celebrity status, and continue seeking out all of those mom’s like me, because it feels great to belong to a group, especially the MoM’s group!

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I don’t know what it’s like to have one baby. I’ve never done it. In many ways, I count myself lucky. Because a lot of moms (new or otherwise) looked at me with shock and fear when I said I was having twins. Clearly, they felt that no mere mortal could possibly take care of two babies at the same time. But I didn’t know any different, so I could only get so freaked out. And you know what? It has been fine.

But only knowing what it’s like to have two has warped my perception of all other people. For one thing, a phrase heard frequently in my house goes something like “those people with just one baby, what do they do with all that free time?” I know, it’s obnoxious, but I can’t lie. We think that way. We definitely also have romanticized notions about how much easier this thing or that thing would be if we only had one. I’m sure that I’d think life was plenty tricky if I had a singleton, but because I don’t, I can imagine how delightfully simple it would be. As Rebecca said so well this weekend, I totally get one-baby envy.

I also found myself, from about halfway through my pregnancy, kind of assuming plural whenever I talked about baby-related things. I forgot that most people only had one, that I was the weirdo.  It’s a mindset that’s hard to shake. Oh, you mean you only bought one crib? Where’s your other carseat? You didn’t trade in your Honda Civic for a Toyota Sienna? No? Huh.

When I first mentioned this to my husband (M), he thought I was crazy. Maybe that I was being excessively self-centered or something, locked in my own little world. Oh, how times have changed. My stepbrother’s first child (my first niece!) is due in June, and I was putting together a care package of some of our favorite newborn essentials. I bought three good waffle-knit blankets for swaddling. M looked at me like I was nuts. “Why would you get three?” he asked. “That doesn’t make any sense. Then you only have one extra… Oh wait. Nevermind. They’re only having one. Huh.”

See? It happens to all of us. For as often as people look at you like you’re a freak of nature, or (I’m not kidding) laugh as they walk past you, it’s sometimes easy to forget that not everyone has two babies at once.  For as many times as I’ve wished I could just pop in and out of the store for a “quick” errand, I look at people in the grocery store with the baby in the basket, and wonder who’s taking care of the other one.  So, if I meet you someday and take a minute to mentally adjust that there isn’t another one at home with dad, please forgive me.  I have a slightly warped sense of reality.

Dueling Exersaucers

So, you’re telling me that most new moms don’t have two exersaucers taking up half of their living room? No? Huh.

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Know what’s super-awesome? When your husband is there to help you manage the two screaming little babies you are now responsible for taking care of. So what do you do when he’s NOT around? If you’re really fertile lucky, you might have an older child around the house that is capable of helping out with small, but important, tasks. Of course, the things that your bigger little one can help out with varies depending on their age and maturity. Twice a week I work a full day at home with all three of the girls and no helper. Let’s just say I’ve become resourceful!

Some of the baby-related jobs that I tricked encouraged the Monkey (who is 5) to help me out with:

  • Nuk-Keeper: She’s like a little detective! Jason blamed me for mis-placing all of the Nuk’s. Peyton found 5 of them under the crib.
  • Toy Duty: She is in charge of the toys. She knows which ones they like, and before we leave she gets them out of the toy basket and gives them to the girls.
  • Bottle-Shaker: OK. One piece of advice: Make sure that the lid is on properly. You don’t need any unnecessary frustration.
  • Pajama-Picker-Outer: We have this really awesome alternative to standard dressers. It is low enough for Monkey to reach, so I can tell which drawer to look in and pick out an outfit when the girls are in need a change of clothes!
  • Diaper-Runner: self-explanatory!
  • Dirty Bottle Finder: She does a quick once-over to make sure there are no dirty bottles that we forgot to put in the dishwasher.
  • Entertainer: We always put the currently unhappy baby in the middle car seat so that Monkey can practice her silly faces, re-insert nuks, hold bottles, or sing songs to said baby to help the drive go a little more smoothly. (see picture above)

Some of the Monkey’s other favorite household jobs to help me out with include (all require supervision!):

  • Laundry: Putting in the quarters, transferring from washer to dryer, folding towels & baby blankets, etc.
  • Watering plants
  • Cooking: Finding ingredients, stirring noodles
  • Kitchen detail: Wiping down counters, putting away silverware

Some things definitely do NOT work (ie: Letting Monkey push the double stroller while at the mall on the weekend. Bad idea all around). So, what has worked for your family? What has not? (Please also share your big kids’ ages!)

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After recovering from the initial shock of hearing I was having two babies instead of one, my next thoughts were of my older child. She was our princess, our angel. For 22 months we had essentially been at her beck and call. Spoiled? No. But definitely used to a certain amount of attention. How would she cope with the colossal change in her little world?

Things started to change for her when I was put on bed rest. It is hard for a 2-year old to comprehend why suddenly Mommy won’t get up anymore. But, she was a trooper during most of that time. And a little really went a long way towards reassuring her. The best investment we ever made was in two breakfast trays from Bed Bath & Beyond. We would enjoy meals together (albeit in the living room or in my bedroom),  color or play with play-do. We also did a lot of reading together, although now she had to sit next to me as my lap had all but vanished!

Finally the babies were born and we were all home together as a family. Unfortunately, most of the time Mommy’s two hands were occupied by … two babies. And, even though the babies ate at the same time, their nap schedules didn’t always jive. So, usually there was one baby awake needing … something. That didn’t leave a lot of time for one-on-one time with the Big Sister.

So, what’s a MoM to do? Obviously I’m meeting all of their physical needs, but am I doing enough emotionally for each? How do I make sure everyone is getting enough “Mommy Time”? And how do I keep myself from being consumed with guilt when my Big Kid seems to feel left out? Here are a few lessons I’ve learned:

First, accept that you can’t be everywhere at once. It is physically impossible to meet the demands of three (or more) crying or whining children at the same time. The sooner you accept this, the better. In our house we take a triage approach. It’s not necessarily who is crying the loudest that we tend to first, it’s who has a greater need. For example, a poopy diaper wins over “I need a snack NOW”. And getting a potty-training toddler onto the toilet wins out over a baby who just happens to be done in the exersaucer NOW.

Second, stick to routine. We kept our daughter in daycare throughout my bed rest and for the first six weeks after the boys were born. That way, she knew what a good portion of her days would entail. Now routines help us to manage her expectations of we can do for/with her in the course of the day. For example, the boys’ bedtime routine ends about an hour before her bedtime. So, while she may lack the attention she desires in the evening while we bathe/dress/feed them, she knows the end result is undivided attention from Mommy and Daddy before she goes to bed.

Third, recognize the cries for attention and try to make up for it where you can at a later time. A toddler or preschooler may not have the words to say “I really need you to pay attention to me because I miss you.” But even the best-behaved children will try to relay this information through their actions. Here are some things we’ve seen in our house:

  • Potty regression (if I have an accident, they’ll have to stop what they’re doing and deal with me)
  • Refusal to eat meals when served (Dinner is important to Mommy. If I say I don’t want it, she’ll put her attention into getting me to eat)
  • Tantrums (self-explanatory!)
  • Bedtime troubles (they want me to sleep and will do all in their power to get me to do so)

While we try our hardest not to give in while a tantrum is taking place, we do try to give her a little extra one-on-one time in the following days because we know the behavior was her way of trying to tell us something.

Fourth, invest in a baby carrier. As previously stated here, a carrier is a must for any MoM. So, get one baby down for a nap, strap the other one on and then use your TWO free hands to play with your big kid(s). It is amazing how much more you can do if you have one of these!

Fifth, communicate with your child. Saying things like “I can’t right now” may actually sound like “I don’t want to” to a 2 or 3 year old. Try being more specific, like “I’d love to read that book to you. Let me just finish changing this dirty diaper and settle your brother down. We’ll both enjoy the book more if he’s quiet.”

Sure, there are days when you’re going to feel pulled in a million different directions trying to be there for all of your children (oh yeah, and your husband may want some attention too!) But if you really try to accept that you’re doing the best you can with the time you have, you’ll feel a lot better.

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It is interesting to me how much of a competition mothering has become. Sure, conversations about our children appear to be nice and friendly on the surface, but underneath it is there. Lurking. Our natural competitive nature secretly keeping track of whose child did what first. And by how much. And who is doing it better.

In an ideal world, all babies would hit their milestones at the same time thereby eliminating this Mommy Milestone Competition. With my older daughter, I found myself getting caught up in the game. I would (subtely) brag when she accomplished something before one of her “peers”. I would wonder what I could do better as a mother when someone else’s baby accomplished something first.

But since my sons arrived, I no longer have the drive to compete with other Mommies. Part of the reason is that I am very content watching the competition in my own house. Currently we are waiting for Brady’s first tooth to break through and we expect he will crawl across the room any day. While Aaron doesn’t appear to be near-ready with either of those things, he sits unsupported and holds his own bottle. Brady isn’t interested much in either of those things. The race to be “first” is an ongoing event between the brothers and as I am the Mommy of both – I always come out a winner!

But, it’s also something more than that. My sons share the exact same DNA, are raised in the same home, and are in the same room with the same teachers at daycare. Yet, even THEY do not hit their milestones at the exact same time. With these differences, do I consider one to be “ahead” or “behind” in any particular area. Do I think that I’ve parented one of them better than the other? No, absolutely not. They are simply different.

So, if they – the identical twins with the exact same nature and nurture influences – are different from each other, what possible benefit can come of me comparing them to other children? Especially if those children were born a) full-term; b) a singleton; or c) first in their family. My sons have taught me that every single child – and their family situation – is truly unique. And that often makes comparisons a bit unfair.

This time around, there is no more dwelling on who is “ahead” and who is “behind”. There are only warm, well wishes and proud feelings when something is accomplished. Very liberating and much more enjoyable!

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