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.
So, you’re telling me that most new moms don’t have two exersaucers taking up half of their living room? No? Huh.
Hello Everyone! Enormous thanks go to our wonderful MoM’s who have agreed to “try out” for HDYDI! We are beyond thrilled that so many of you are reading along with us, and we hope you enjoy our contest week. Please vote for the author you would like to hear more from, as the authors with the most votes at 12:00am Eastern Time on Sunday, June 7th, will be invited to write for HDYDI. Enjoy and PLEASE VOTE!
Post #1: Inseperable, by Carissa
Carissa is a reformed lawyer who now stays at home with her 21 month old boy/girl twins. Carissa and her husband, Aaron brought their twins home from South Korea in October of 2008 when they were 14 months old and have been living and loving life with multiples since! While Carissa started out blogging to get through the adoption process, she now blogs to keep track of the daily happens at their house in central IL as well as get advice on everything from childrearing to fitness! Please visit her at Faith, Hope and Love, http://abc123vn.wordpress.com/
I never expected to be a mother to twins, to be honest I was beginning to wonder if I would be a mother at all. See we could not use any of the usual infertility methods and were told we had about a 2% chance of getting pregnant at all and if it was multiples I would have to be on complete and total bed rest due to some of my issues, so we chose adoption. When we started the process we actually said we would love boy/girl twins and the social worker about laughed us out of the room. See twins in international adoption are rare and boy/girl twins are even more rare so we had about as much chance of getting pregnant as we did of adopting boy/girl twins. Fast forward 14 months and we receive the referral of boy/girl twins from South Korea – boy were they tiny in the pictures even though they were five months old, they had been born at 25 weeks 5 days and must have been fighters to make it that far and be in such good health (though not perfect)! By the time we said yes, we knew that they would be about 14 months old when they came home, the whole thing seemed surreal.
Fast forward again to October 12, 2008 – the day we became a family. Little Man and Little Princess had just turned 14 months old but were more like 7 to 9 months old developmentally. No one had prepared me for one baby let alone two. I will never forget that flight home, Little Princess would ONLY go to her new daddy and would scream when I came near her and Little Man wanted to be walked around the plane for the first 10 hours of the 12 hour flight. My husband’s dinner ended up on the floor and some people were giving us dirty looks, though most were offering to help. I begged my mom to have the pilot turn the plane around so that I could give them back, I didn’t want to do this anymore. My mom, who had come with us for this EXACT reason, quietly told me that was not an option and I was their mother through the good and the bad.
Little Man and Little Princess have now been home days shy of eight months – yep I have been doing this by trial and error for eight months! As I am sure every mother of multiples has experienced the sleep issues, the eating issues, recently the double tantrum issue and the attachment issues, but that was more adoption than multiples. And some have experienced the multiple doctor visits and the numerous therapists to boot. But as my husband and I were discussing the other day, the thing we love the most about our babies is their bond with each other. See we learned after we said yes that due to a few issues one of our sweet babies has if we had not said yes our babies would have been separated and adopted by different couples possibly worlds apart. We cannot imagine the two of them apart, they don’t even like to play apart. They have their own language that they use to talk to each other – while we love it we hope this goes when they learn to talk. They learn from each other and compliment each other – see our daughter has NO fear and our son will not do anything until he is absolutely sure it is safe, so while he learned to walk first she taught him how to climb the stairs! I love when they try to calm each other or even try to get the other to laugh so that they don’t have to cry anymore.
I cannot imagine the damage that would have been done if these two had been separated. We are not sure our son would have survived, it took him about 7 months to fully open up to us and really start the attachment process even though he started bonding before that, his sister is the only reason we heard laughter from him before that time. And our daughter may not have been so happy and carefree, she shows us what pure joy is every day! I have yet to separate them for more than an hour or so at a time, mostly because that causes huge fits and massive jealousy (what is the other one getting that I am not) but I know the day is coming when I will be forced to separate them in some way or another. I already am dreading that day as their bond is greater than any siblings I have ever seen and it will break my heart to see them upset because they do not have each other. For now we keep them together and relish the bond that they have and we will deal with the separation when we have to with the help of the moms from How Do You Do It!
Post #2, by Megan
Married in 2000, my husband and I have entered a new chapter in our life: parents to 3 children. Often stopped by strangers with the comment, “Your hands sure are full!” I just smile and remember a quote from an online blogger: “If you think my hands are full, you should see my heart.”
I have soon-to-be one year old boy-girl twins and a 5-year-old son. Recently back to work at a new job after a stint as a stay-at-home-mom, I’m studying in preparation for my massage therapist Board exams, while searching for balance in life, love, and marriage.
This new road in life is sure to offer many adventures, headaches, joys, frustrations…what greater bliss, though, than to love one’s children and see them grow every day.
Birthdays are a time of reflection for me. I’ve never really been one to make New Year’s resolutions; instead, come spring, right around my birthday, I feel the need to take stock in myself, my life, and my goals. The same is true with the kid’s birthdays. We just celebrated my son Logan’s 5th and later this month we’ll celebrate the babies’ first. Some pretty major birthdays in my book. All I can think about is how far we’ve come in the last half-decade since Logan was born, and how different life is from just one year ago before Kade and Addie arrived. Remembering that I was so big that I couldn’t make the walk around our block this time last year or how I would go to my pre-natal appointments just dreaming of hearing the words “let’s induce” make me realize how different life is today. And how both my husband and I were completely, totally different parents and people. So much has changed since we became parents – and then, parents of multiples.
And yet, I find myself fondly gazing forward, too. I can’t wait to get an idea of who the babies really are. Their personalities are blossoming. And every day, there’s something new that they are learning, each at their own pace and own style. It’s the same with Logan. He’s more and more a “big kid” every day; I see him practically growing overnight! Skills that were once hard or challenging now come easily and he is more outgoing and independent than even 6 months ago.
All of this makes me wonder what and who these little people will become. I would take a sneak-peek into the future if given the option. Just to see what they look like, or who they are friends with, or who they choose for partners in life. Is it possible to be completely enthralled with the future at the same time I’m pining for the past? It’s as if these children are each a special little gift to be opened one day at a time. I have to remember to be patient and enjoy the joy of watching them grow.
That’s the goal, isn’t it? To enjoy each day, each milestone for what it is, and not just where it’s leading. What about all of you? Do you feel yourselves missing the stage that’s just passed as you pack up the now-too-small clothes? Or dreaming of what the future holds? Or, are you able to just sit back and take it all in?
Post #3: A Milestone, by Jenna
Jenna is a mom of a 2.5-year-old son and 4.5-month-old identical twins daughters, and wife to another researcher and student. At some point she will get back to her PhD studies, but in the meantime she’s at home learning with, and from, her three children. She has considered starting a blog to record her experiences and to reflect on her mothering journey, and maybe some day she’ll find the time to do it.
Today marks a milestone in our house. Tonight our 4.5-month-old twin daughters will sleep in their own bedroom. They usually only wake for one feeding during the night. Their milestone is about sleeping in their own room. My milestone is about accepting how my life has changed since we found out we were having twins.
I’m a planner and organizer-type person so naturally, before we even conceived the baby, I decided how I was going to balance work, school, my young son, and a new baby About a year ago we decided to have a second child – and I had a plan. According to my plan, I am supposed to be making the final revisions to my doctoral dissertation while I waited for the date to be set for me to defend it….
Instead… yesterday, I found myself at the library with a crying baby in the baby carrier, a crying toddler in one arm, while I pushed a double stroller loaded down with a second baby and a pile of picture books and board books. Clearly my plan is not working out as I imagined it would.
It all changed the day I had my first ultrasound at five months. At three months, and again at four months, I had been thrilled to hear the heartbeat of my baby. My sister had teased me about having twins and even asked the midwife to check for a second heartbeat. The midwife had reassured us that there was only one baby, placing the stethoscope at several different spots to demonstrate that there was only one heartbeat. My plan seemed to be working out just fine. I could finish my research analysis and rough out my thesis before the baby came, relax with my newborn while my committee read through my work – and I’d be ready to make the final changes just as the baby was getting old enough to be eating a little solid food, thus freeing me a little to resume my academic work.
I settled myself on the ultrasound bed ready to see my little one. Seconds later, I was looking at two little heads! We were expecting twins! Immediately, lying on the ultrasound bed, I started frantically trying to revise my plans, to rescue my well laid-out program that would have seen me graduate with a 9 or 10-month-old baby.
Being pregnant with twins turned my plans upside down! I had to give up my academic work so that I could get the rest I needed. I had to shop for all of what a second baby would need, instead of just checking off on my list what I already had from our first child’s babyhood. I had to figure out how to shoehorn two babies into our small 3-bedroom condo that was already overflowing with the accoutrements that our son had brought along with him. Desperately, I tried to preserve my connection to the academic world by maintaining my office in the third bedroom, and having all three children share one room.
Coping with twin girls and a 2.5-year old son continues to be a series of daily lessons in living in the moment. I try not to plan more than one activity, such as a playdate or going to the library, in a day. In fact, a day when I have dinner ready when my husband gets home is a successful day. Many days I also manage to get a load of laundry done, the floors vacuumed or the dishwasher emptied – all endless tasks with three small children. But it is an ongoing struggle not to expect to accomplish more in a day than just keeping them clean and dry and fed and safe.
The reality of my derailed plan is particularly apparent this week. My mom is visiting and with her help, I am converting my office into the girls’ bedroom. Soon after our girls were born, I realized that my office space would need to become the girls’ space, and I’ve spent time moving books, office supplies, and craft materials out and packing files and papers in boxes. But really, I’ve resisted the whole process.
I like what my office, no matter how messy it might be, represents. It is my space in the house. It represents all my years of work as a student and as a researcher, and all that I’ve accomplished. It isn’t about the mundane and repetitive tasks of diapering, feeding and burping babies, and reading and rereading the same picture books. It is about losing track of myself in ideas that interest and excite me.
I don’t want to give up what my office represents. Being a stay-at-home-mom was never part of my plan. But, I’m a long way from ready to be back at work or study fulltime. I’m not ready to be away from my children. I don’t want to be away from them from breakfast until dinner every day. I don’t want to come home so exhausted that we don’t spend quality time together. I need to find a way to focus on the present and the riches they bring to my life, rather than on what I’m giving up because they are here. I love to watch my daughters sleeping, holding hands. They are so clearly completely comfortable and contented. Seeing them smile when I come to get them up after a nap is the most wonderful feeling. At these moments, it is so clear to me that at home with my children is where I belong.
The challenge this week, and in the weeks and months and years to come, will be to, as time permits, create a new approach – one that will truly balance my time, that considers our family’s financial situation, that allows me to be actively involved in raising our son and our two daughters, and allow me to enhance, enrich, build, develop my sense of self in the process.
Hello Everyone! Enormous thanks go to our wonderful MoM’s who have agreed to “try out” for HDYDI! We are beyond thrilled that so many of you are reading along with us, and we hope you enjoy our contest week. Please vote for the author you would like to hear more from, as the authors with the most votes at 12:00am Eastern Time on Sunday, June 7th, will be invited to write for HDYDI. Enjoy and PLEASE VOTE!
Post #1: What Happens After the Stroller? by Jennifer W.
Our story begins with two Aggies meeting on E*Harmony in 2005, and getting married in February 2006. We started our family early; we had our first child in August 2006. While still getting use to our first son we were pregnant again. Thinking nothing of it I went to the doctor to find out that we were having spontaneous triplets. So I carried our triplets for 36 weeks 6 days and had the perfect pregnancy with no complication or limitations put upon me. Four months later we were pregnant again with our last child. So if you are asking yourself, “I do not think they know how that happens!” We do and we finally decided that we would have 20 children unless we had surgery to prevent that from happening. So we are a family of 7 with 5 children under the age of 3. When our children were small we called them the “zoo” because they were gated in our house. Now that they are older we call them the “safari” because they roam my house. You can find our adventures, experiences, and the confessions of a tired mother on our blog: The Wilcoxson’s.
After we found out that we were having triplets there were several things that went through our mind, one of them being that we could not logically escape being a minivan family. With that dilemma out of the way we had to find a stroller. We decided that we would get a triplet stroller and still have our single stroller as well. The nice thing about strollers is that you have some protection from the public and some warning when the grandmother or curious mother gets too close to the stroller. What happens when the stroller is no longer an option or something that your child dreads?
With our oldest almost 3 and the triplets turning 2 they are at the stage where they no longer want to be strapped into the stroller, but want some of the freedom that comes with being in a family with singletons. With that want and need for independence my husband and I had to find a way to give that desire to our children. Independence was not going to come at the cost of safety though. Holding hands was not an option because my husband and I do not have enough hands. We like to tell people that we cannot play man-on-man with our children but zone defense. So the searching began.
There was an option for leashes, but I could see that in the newspaper: “Mother of 5 decides to walk her children like a dog walker.” We did not need anymore attention than we already receive when we are in public. Then one day I was looking at educational toys on the internet and found the solution. With a little engineering and some common sense we were going to make this work for us. You see I found a toy for beading animals or cars at One Step Ahead.
We decided that a rope with 5 animals on it would do the trick. So my husband and I ordered the beads, got some nylon rope and decided that we were going to put the tractor and the barn at the end so that mommy and daddy could have a bead as well. Each child gets an animal and then there is a loop for their hand when they get older and do not want to hold onto the animal any longer.
After we put our “leash” together we had to try it out before we went into public with it. For about three weeks we walked to the mail box and around our street to get the kids use to the walking together and the distractions around them. Then we moved up to using it at church for about a month. Now my kids will not go anywhere unless they know that the animals are in the bag. I am so proud of them because they do not let the animal go unless we give them permission and they do not let other people distract them from the “mission” at hand.
I have found that as our children grow older the independence and freedom that their singleton friends have will take some strategic planning on our part to give them the same freedom or a resemblance of that freedom. No matter if we are in a stroller or walking we will always attract attention and people looking on like we are aliens from another planet because we have more than our normal quota of children in our society.
Post #2: I Have Two Turning Three, by Alix
Alix is mother to nearly-three-year-old identical twin boys, Nathan and Max. She spends her time in one of the following ways: working from home (read: balancing her lap top in one hand while reading Cool Cars for the forty-seventh time while simultaneously microwaving leftovers for dinner), staying up late (read: loading dishes and folding three hundred size-3T tee shirts), and relaxing (read: actually sitting down while the boys run circles through the house). Luxurious, it is not. But fun? Oh, yeah! Alix works part-time, mostly from home and shares child care with her husband, a university professor.
I found out I was having identical twins at 9 weeks. Just for the record, this is not a post about the always-humorous but repetitive “I fainted on the ultrasound table!” or “My husband threw up on the ultrasound tech!”. Or even, “I thought I was having a heart attack!” (O.K., I actually did briefly think I was having one, but that’s for another post). However, I will say that for the most part, the weeks following this very unexpected news are now a total blur. One of the few distinct memories I have from that period is of my mother-in-law saying to me, “I’ve gathered that parents of twins say the first three years are the hardest.” She wasn’t saying this in a patronizing way. On the contrary, I think she felt a bit of the overwhelming sense of awe and fear that I’m sure I was feeling (but can’t really remember now). THREE YEARS?? That moment I do remember. That moment is stamped so clearly in my mind I can actually remember the glare of the fluorescent kitchen light overhead as I tried to absorb this concept (and, of course, failed). Who can absorb three years??
Fast-forward to May 2009. My identical twin boys, Max and Nathan, will be turning three in one month. This is definitely not a post about how everything has suddenly become efficient, peaceful and orderly in our home, nor is it a post about how I pine for those oh-so-difficult-yet-magical early days with two babies (really, I don’t, but again, that is for another post). Rather, this is a post about the evolution of our family, and the ever-changing challenges of raising two boys born on the same day.
My husband and I spent the first year or so reminding each other that the boys would eventually sleep through the night (they did), they would actually use the bathroom and thus eliminate the need for refrigerator-sized boxes of Costco diapers (again, they did) and would become more independent (still waiting on that but optimistic). And at every point, we were surprised that the things we waited so eagerly for happened so quickly that we only remembered how eagerly we awaited their arrival after the fact. I have no idea if this is the same for parents of singletons, but certainly we were so busy and exhausted that all sorts of things in our household were only noticed after the fact (lack of clean laundry, groceries, gasoline in the car, etc.).
The second year of the boys’ lives, the death grip of exhaustion lessened. I was still nursing, but only in the mornings and before bed, which felt incredibly liberating compared to the hours I’d spent nursing every day during the first year. The boys were now sleeping, eating regular food, and walking. Somehow, though, people seemed to think that life must have gotten a lot easier for me than it really had. People would stop me and say, “Wow, that first year with two must really have been rough, eh?”. Or, “I bet you feel lucky to have survived that first year!”. And as I madly chased after two toddling boys incessantly moving from one source of danger to another (and often in opposite directions), I thought to myself, “What the hell?? I’m still just surviving here, people! Isn’t that obvious?!” And my mother-in-law’s words came back to haunt me.
And I knew then, I just had to make it to three.
And here we are.
I decided to host a birthday gathering for the boys, their first big celebration of this sort. They are really excited to have a party, and I realize that I am, too. I feel as though this celebration is for all of us. We have made it this far. We got to three. We got to three!!
The boys’ third year will, I know, bring its own round of challenges. The boys will start preschool in the fall and my husband and I are finding it hard to imagine not having them running through the house trailing laughter and chaos all day long. This will be a big transition for all of us, one of many. I remember a parent of twins saying to me, “The days pass so slowly, the months and years, so quickly.” So true.
Three, here we come. I think we’re ready.
Post #3, By Sarah
My name is Sarah and I’m a mid-thirties mother of four. After a seemingly normal full-term pregnancy, my first baby, Abigail, was born sleeping in June 2006. In an odd twist of fate, I became pregnant with spontaneous identical triplets a few months after Abigail’s death. Against the odds, the girls were delivered at 35 weeks, 6 days gestation. I work full time in the wonderful world of tax and enjoy photography, writing and running in my very limited free time. I currently blog about our daily craziness at http://thegreatumbrellaheist.blogspot.com/
Today, as I pushed over sixty pounds of toddler in our triple jogging stroller, I thought of that common question asked of parents of multiples everywhere. When does it get easier? If you peruse any message board for caregivers of twins, triplets and more, you will see that question asked over and over and the response is usually the same. It doesn’t get easier. It just gets different. So now, as I listen to my three toddlers scream in their cribs because going to bed is such torture, I really do wonder when it will get easier. My husband, Rich, and I have told ourselves that the magic age will be five. It seems better than choosing three or four and then being disappointed and I don’t think I can make it to seven or eight.
We moved into our current home approximately 18 months ago. The girls, who were 6 months old at the time, began to share a bedroom. It was a new experience for all of us. My husband and I debate the room sharing situation on what feels like a daily basis. We can discuss and theorize all we want – the hard truth is that our standard builder’s special only has 3.5 bedrooms. The .5 room is an office and seeing as Grammy, my mom, sleeps over quite a bit, we only thought it appropriate to give her a bedroom. That leaves us with three girls in one room.
I have good friends who are twins and they shared a bedroom until their early 20’s. I remember being slightly jealous of their camaraderie because I was not lucky enough to have a sister. I have convinced myself, through a sleep deprived thought process, that once the girls are older, they will enjoy sharing a room. I expect there to be a lot of comforting going on. You know what I mean. One of them wakes up afraid of the dark and her sister will tell her that it’s okay. Okay, maybe if I believe hard enough, it will happen.
When the girls were about 18 months old, we pushed their three cribs together to form a big square in the middle of the room. We thought it would be fun for them to share books and dollies during that wind down period prior to falling asleep. For the most part, this crib configuration worked out. We experienced a few incidents of book stealing and book tossing. And by book tossing, I’m referring to a book landing on someone (possibly on the head) while she is sleeping. It’s not very pleasant – I can assure you. But then there was the night that I crept into their room to check on them and found Emily and Allie holding hands through the crib slats, asleep. My heart just about burst open.
We, unfortunately, separated their cribs last month after I caught Allie pulling Anna’s hair. The girls didn’t complain too much about the new set-up – not that they really could, anyway. We were hoping that having some space between them would lessen the number of times that they awaken each other. It hasn’t.
Of course, having the girls share a room means that there is a constant source of entertainment for us when listening in on their conversations. The latest phase is Allie, the oldest of the three by 30 seconds, telling her sisters to go to sleep. That’s exactly how she says it. “Emmy, go to sleep.” You see, although my girls are genetically identical, their sleep habits are not. Allie seems to require and/or want more sleep than Emily. Anna, the middle child, varies. Allie has decided that the other two should conform to her sleep schedule.
So back to when does it get easier. At six o’clock Sunday morning, an alarm went off in the girls’ room. We keep a sound machine and a Bose CD player in there and apparently, one of the girls accidentally set the alarm while they were “exploring” their room before either nap or bed. And by alarm, I mean the annoying beeping kind. Rich ran in there to turn it off and optimistically thought he could sneak out unnoticed. I listened to events unfold over the monitor from the warmth and comfort of my bed. Rich picked up Emily, who was the first to spot him, hoping to prevent her from awakening the other two. Anna started in on one of her uncontrollable crying jags while Allie yelled, “Anna, go to sleep.”
In some sense, life is easier, although different, now. It is far easier for one adult to care for three toddlers versus three infants. When mornings such as these occur, my husband and I take turns napping. I can nap at any point during the day so I always offer Rich the first adult nap slot and I take the next one.
And yes, at almost 26 months old, my girls still sleep in their cribs without crib tents. I am blissfully unaware of any attempts of crib escape. Believe me, they will be sleeping in those cribs for as long as possible.
Do your multiples share a room? If they do share a room and you had the resources, would you separate them?
Post #4: Best-Laid Plans, by Jen from Diagnosis: Urine
I’m a freelance writer, and mom to a 6-year-old, 4-year-old twin boys, and a 2-year-old. I worked full-time until February 2007, and since then we’ve relocated for a job, lost that job, experienced unemployment, and have lived to tell about it. My blog, diagnosisurine.blogspot.com, is an attempt at entertaining people with my angst over transitioning from breadwinner and go-getter to stay-at-home mom to a tiny quartet of destruction.
Like many others before me, I was at my most knowledgeable during my first pregnancy. I had researched it all. I had a birth plan, an infancy plan, and a toddlerhood plan.
But, alas, “The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men…” You can guess how long my plans lasted.
Having twins two years later was like my first go-‘round all over again. I relearned everything, from the mechanics of breastfeeding to the mechanics of folding the double stroller. I did it while working full-time, mostly from home, while caring for a 2-year-old as well.
A baby’s cuteness blinds people to the reality of caring for a newborn. “Enjoy every minute of it!” kindly grandmothers admonish in the grocery store, and you smile and nod but fight back tears thinking of how very tired you are, and how the baby only sleeps when you’re out of the house, and how the longest stretch of sleep you’ve had in a week, is 30 minutes.
The baby-blindness goes double for twins. I remember getting a lot of, “Oh! You’re so blessed!” But I didn’t feel especially blessed. My boys were healthy and for that I was grateful, but in all honesty we’d tried for one baby, and we couldn’t afford two. I spent the twins’ first year steeped in guilt for all the times they cried and I could only comfort one of them, for the times I snapped at my daughter, for the way my marriage and the housework were neglected, and for the concessions my employer and coworkers had made for me.
When people saw me out with three kids under three and said, with a chuckle, “It only gets worse!” I wanted to cry or smack them, depending on the day.
I’m here to tell you the truth: It does get better.
My twin boys are four now. My oldest daughter is six, and we even added a fourth – our youngest daughter is two. I work for myself now, so I get to stay home and figure out my own hours. It is worlds easier than our lives were four, three, or two years ago.
Now, because I’m here to tell you the truth, I’ll also admit that it still sucks sometimes. There are speech delays, potty training crises, typical childhood phobias and obsessions that are only magnified by the presence of four children experiencing them simultaneously under one roof. Yes, there are days I hate this.
Today, for example, wasn’t out of the ordinary, but I’m three hours past the deadline for submitting this post. There were fevers and diarrhea and encounters with neighborhood dogs and trampolines, and minor squabbles and tricycle jousting, and that was in the course of about an hour. I do the best I can. Most of us do. Sometimes my best involves a “teachable moment” and a cute blog post with pictures, and other days it turns into me growling at the kids, each word punctuated with brief, terse silence; followed by a blog post lamenting my numerous failures.
So, in case this is the only post of mine you ever read – especially since I am late and will be lucky to be included at all – please know that it does get better. I promise you, what you go through during the newborn and toddler years with your twins is exhausting and punishing and of course it’s worth it, but there is light at the end of the tunnel. And it’s not 18 years away.
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.
Mommy, Esq lives in the Boston area (where the winters try their best to get her to move South) with six month old Ned and Penny, and her husband of six years. She is a corporate lawyer by trade, but would love to attempt being a wedding photographer. She says “I love taking photographs and doing storybook photographing – which is why blogging is perfect for me!”
Spending time with my sister and her daughter last week brought back some memories of our newborn days. I can’t say it brought back many memories because frankly I don’t remember a lot – and that is probably for the best. Having a newborn (or two or more) is hard on your marriage. Usually when I cried – which was not that often thankfully – it was about my husband. Husband and I have found a good groove now that I am back at work and things feel more equal. But those early days were all about what I had to do and how I wasn’t feeling supported or appreciated or understood. Here are a few lessons that I have learned along the way…
1. Roadmap. There is no roadmap for new moms – no matter how hard you know breastfeeding will be, how many classes on childcare you take or even if you have hired a baby nurse (as we did) it is The Mommy who is in charge. The Mommy is expected to know everything – how to change a diaper and sooth a cranky baby. How much and when to feed The Baby. When The Baby needs to sleep. If The Mommy is stubborn (ahem) the road the newly created family travels will be that much harder.
2. Mindreading. Husbands can’t read minds. But The Mommy is expected to know everything so why can’t The Husband be expected to read The Mommy’s mind? Can’t The Husband understand the nuances of when The Mommy is about to break-down because dammit The Mommy didn’t want him just to swaddle The Baby she wanted him to hold The Baby and make The Baby STOP CRYING. Or just sit next to The Mommy and talk about how wonderful the kids are while The Mommy breastfeed even if The Husband hates the HGTV/SoapNet show she is watching. Communication is really hard when you are sleep deprived, when you are burning more calories breastfeeding than a marathon runner and when your mind is consumed by details of poop and last feeding times.
3. Changing Roles. The Mommy was (just) a Lawyer, Wife or some such person 10 minutess before the baby(ies) popped out. Now The Mommy is supposed to be 100% about her kid(s). See #1 – where is the instruction manual? How come The Husband can complain about being sleep deprived when he is only getting up once a night (or not at all)? Suddenly The Mommy is supposed to cook dinner when it used to be all take out; do the laundry when it was a 50-50 job in the past? The Mommy does NOT = Housewife. The Husband shouldn’t be worrying about paying bills or opening mail or anything not 100% baby-related when he is home with The Mommy – that can wait until The Baby is asleep.
4. Worst Time of Day. The Mommy will be calling Husband every 10 mins after 4 pm asking when he is going to come home. Because the time from 4 pm to bedtime is a Soul Sucking couple of hours. And if you are pumping and breastfeeding (or trying to) it is even worse because you are so exhausted from the life being sucked out of you. If someone else tells The Mommy she should be sleeping when the babies do she will probably kill them.
5. Learning to Accept Help. Husband and I were rockstars in the hospital. The nurses told me that they never worried about us – I seemed so together and strong despite a C-Section. The kids roomed in and we did it all with a cheery waive to the nurses – “all under control, thanks!” My sister was smarter – she sent Cameron to the nursery because after all, Cameron wouldn’t be rooming in when they brought her home. Damn, good call. Stacey though can’t let go of the cleaning/picking up of the house. Husband had already trained me in that department. Sort of like #2 it took a while before I was willing to accept help – even from the baby nurse we were paying! Stupid stubbornness. The Mommy needs to be in control and make all the right choices. I found it easier to limit the interactions with the wider world to once or twice a week so I could appear completely in control during those times and let myself be crazy the rest of the time.
6. Nothing Stays the Same. The Husband always complains to The Mommy: “Why do you keep changing things?” See #1 – The Mommy has no idea what she is doing. The baby changes every day. The Mommy will try out a multitude of routines before she “picks” one that will last for about 2 days. This was so hard on Husband. I think he loves that the kids have been on the same routine for more than 2 months now. Hmmm…that must mean it is time to shake things up. This walk down memory lane hasn’t dampened my desire to have another child but it does remind me how friggin’ hard the first kid(s) are on a marriage. I would like to think I would handle things better the next time around but frankly I don’t think I will remember enough so we’ll be back at #1 reinventing the wheel. The Husband will probably helpfully ask at multiple intervals: “Is this what we did for The First Baby(ies)?”
What was the hardest thing in your relationship with your partner when you brought home your bundle(s) of joy?
At our last MOT club support meeting, one mom mentioned how she was having major sleep problems with her kids. So much so that she managed to get an appointment with the one and only Dr. Ferber, who practices here in Boston. I was intrigued, as I have been a vocal defender of the good doctor ever since we “Ferberized” at 6.5 months. I know a lot of people object to his CIO method, but I thought it was wonderfully effective. Then, I heard the advice he gave my friend and thought it was so far off the mark that I actually had a viceral, physical reaction. I almost felt betrayed.
The specifics of the advice aren’t important, and I’m no pediatrician or sleep expert. But it was illuminating nonetheless. It really reminded me how we all have to pick and choose our experts, and what advice we choose to ignore and what we choose to accept. There’s a million “experts” out there. Could be someone with a published book in paperback and a lot of acronyms after their name. Could be your mom or a neighbor or even a blogger you read. I think we all wish it was as easy as picking up a single book or asking a single person for advice, and having all of the answers nice and neat in one place. But no matter how complete a theory someone claims to have, it never works 100% for every kid.
For instance, while I’m a huge believer in Ferber’s ideas about sleep associations and his CIO methods, I also think his suggestions for bedtimes and naptimes are ridiculous. Maybe I’m more of a Weissbluth person… I follow his nap schedule almost to a T, and am strongly in favor of early bedtimes. But I think he ignores sleep associations, and sometimes I think newborns just need to sleep in bouncy seats or swings and it’s not the end of the world.
And that leads me to the second thing I was reminded of: how strongly we sometimes hold to some of our core parenting beliefs. While I don’t think strict rigidity is the ideal, I do think it’s important to have a few things in which you believe strongly, that you prioritize over other things. For some it might be a commitment to frugality or “going green” or positive discipline. For me, I think the thing I hold to more strongly than almost anything else is a regular nap schedule and early bedtime. Any suggestion of infants or toddlers going to bed later than 8PM is likely to give me heart palpitations. (Mine are in bed by 7, religiously.)
Do I think an early bed time is the “right” thing? Of course, or I wouldn’t do it. But it’s not the only idea out there, and there’s people who aren’t going to place the same priority on that as I do.
Anyways, my point is this: you are the expert on your kids. By all means, read up on the different theories. See what the “experts” have to say. See what your mother has to say. See what your fellow MOT’s have to say. But know that you’ll probably pick and choose. You might love half of what someone has to say, but blatantly object to the other half. Parenting and the millions of theories out there are just a big smorgasbord. Think it all through, but only take what works for you.
So, readers, who are your favorite experts, and why? And what bits of their advice have you completely thrown by the wayside?
Shortly after you get comfortable going pee with twins, you will decide that you need to get out of the house with the twins. Maybe to a restaurant. Where regular people eat. At regular people hours. And I’m telling you right now after a few successes, you’ll feel bold enough to get out of town with the twins.
What with all this and more great information on traveling, what could I possibly bring to the table? Well, maybe not much, but at least it’s one more experience to peruse as you plan your trip, specifically, one where you are flying with infant twins. That’s one of the things I’ve learned so far: listen to people’s stories, modify for your own situation.
I’ve linked to the posts originally published on my personal blog, RaJenCreation. And if you have questions or additional tips to offer, by all means, comment!