My doctor asked me yesterday how old my kids were. When I told her I had two year old twins, she responded by saying, “Boy, that first year was just hell, wasn’t it?”. The other doctors and nurses in the room looked at her with something like horror, but I knew what she meant. Not how I would describe it necessarily, but boy, was it hard! As soon as we’d figured out one thing, like breastfeeding, another issue came along, such as sleep or introducing solid foods. I always felt like I was one step behind them, and could never get ahead. Don’t get me wrong. I love my twins. I love having twins. I wouldn’t go back and undo the choice I made to have twins. But, this has been my life for so long that I forget that other parents don’t necessarily have the same experience. That some people might not describe the first year like my doctor did, or would be horrified to hear it described that way. Sometimes it takes an experience like that, or a lunch with a friend and her one newborn, for me to really understand how different our experience as parents was, or how much I missed out on having my two babies together, instead of one at a time.
A few weeks ago, a friend of mine came over for lunch with her 11 week old baby. When I had my babies, none of my friends had had kids. I met many friends with babies when mine were newborns, but I was too tied up in what I was doing (hurry, swaddle Danny so he won’t scream. Crap, is it time to feed them again? Who’s hungriest and should go first? Really?! You pooped through AGAIN?) to notice what anyone else was doing. And as my kids have gotten older, many of the newborns I spend time with are twins. Anyway, I watched this friend with her one baby and was simultaneously shocked at her parenting, and a bit horrified by my own take on it.
These were the things I noticed:
#1: She took the (sleepy, happy) baby out of the carrier right away. Right away! And held him.
#2: She didn’t put the (sleepy, happy) baby down the WHOLE TIME she was at my house. Not to eat her sandwich. Not to have a sip of coffee. Not to go pee.
#3: She told me that she loves holding him while he sleeps. Huh. I always thought that sleeping meant that you had time to do all of the aforementioned (eat, sleep, pee). Why would you HOLD a sleeping baby? That is what the carrier is for!
#4: She did not, at any time, put the baby in the carrier and rock it with her foot while she ate/drank coffee/held another baby with her hands. She kind of looked at me surprised when I mentioned rocking babies.
I offered to bring her her food or coffee so she could eat with one hand while the baby ate or slept. She said no thank you. I offered to hold the baby so she could eat. She loves holding sleeping babies. She told me how lovely this time is with him and how every day feels like Saturday. Like Saturday? My memory of newborn days is that every day felt like 6am Monday morning, even Saturdays. I wanted to help her put the baby down and eat. I wanted to teach her how to get some more time for herself. And yet, she didn’t want any of that. She didn’t need any of that. The little techniques that got me through the day or a trip out to a friend’s with two babies? She didn’t need those with one baby. She just held and snuggled the baby.
And while I love having twins, I realized how much I missed out on in those first 6 months. The reveling in the baby. The way your whole world revolves around the baby—in a good way, not in a please, God, make this baby finally go to sleep way. The contentness. I loved having babies—but that first year was the hardest first year of my life. I find myself both really envious, and yet feeling a bit superior—to those moms holding their one sleeping baby. How can I feel both? I have no idea. But every once in a while something like this happens and I realize just how different having twins is than having one baby. Not better or worse, just a really different experience.