Twins and School: Together or Apart?

It’s kindergarten registration time for many of you in the US and Canada, and parents of multiples are hit with the age-old question: Together or apart?

Check out our full list of HDYDI posts on classroom placement for multiples.

Historically, many schools have had policies insisting that multiples be placed in separate classrooms. This has been changing in recent years. Likely due to the increase of multiples in the population, there has been increasing awareness of the variation between sets of multiples . Some twins do, in fact, perform better in separate classrooms, but some do better together, as Dr. Nancy Segal points out in her guest post “Separating Twins in School“.

A guide to deciding whether your #multiples will do better together or apart in the classroom. From three moms of twins whose kids have different needs.

We owe a debt of gratitude to parents who have been advocating for each set of siblings being treated individually. A number of laws have been passed around the world putting classroom placement decisions in the hands of parents, who know their children best.

My Twins Do Equally Well Together or Apart: Sadia

I thought very hard about whether my daughters should be in the same class in elementary school. I pushed aside all generalizations about what worked “for twins in general” and looked at my daughters as individuals in a relationship. They were used to being away from home for large stretches of the day, thanks to starting daycare at 11 weeks old. They were accustomed to classroom discipline. Starting kindergarten wasn’t going to be nearly as disruptive to their lives as for children with a stay-at-home parent.

M and J loved being together, but reports from their daycare program indicated that they were as likely to select different activities to participate in and friends to play with as they were to play together. They had the same friends, but different best friends. They loved being twins, but they also loved being “just J” and “just M”. Some kids had trouble telling them apart.

Given all this information, I elected to request separate classrooms for my daughters as they started kindergarten. We were late to enroll in school, thanks to last-minute Army orders, and the school asked if they could be placed in a single classroom, where they could make room. We stood firm. We wanted our daughters in separate classrooms to minimize comparison and to put focus on the girls’ individuality over their twinship.

They did just fine apart. Later in the year, when the school moved them into the same first grade class, they did fine together. When they went to first grade for real, they performed wonderfully, both socially and academically, apart. In the two years since, when they’ve been in the same classroom by their own request, they’ve done well too.

For my girls, it’s just a matter of preference. They’re equally successful being in a classroom together or classrooms apart. They just prefer to be together.

My Twins Are Better Off Together: Janna

We are so fortunate that our school district allows parents to choose whether or not twins should be in the same classroom. We chose to place our identical twin boys in the same classroom when they started kindergarten last September.

Our reasoning: we didn’t do daycare or preschool so this was the first time they were away from me and their dad, other than the occasional day with the grandparents. We didn’t want the first time away from mom to also be their first time away from each other. When at home or at the park or library story time, they had always gotten along really well, without fighting, and we hadn’t seen any negative competitive behavior between them. When they are with other children, they play both with each other and with other kids, so we were fairly confident there wouldn’t be any negative effects with them in the same class.

Also, based on logistics, having them in the same classroom is so much easier. I only send one email with information about absences, illnesses, questions, etc. I can volunteer in just one classroom. They get invited to the same birthday parties and playdates. We don’t have to deal with jealousy because one twin’s class got extra recess that day or other such things (that are a very big deal to a five year old).

And finally, (and really what probably affected our decision the most) we have friends who are 30 year old identical twins. They both agreed that being separated in elementary school made them anxious and miserable. One twin said he specifically remembers being worried while sitting in first grade, because he couldn’t physically see his brother. Because our boys are also identical and very traditionally close, this conversation definitely impacted our decision.

The result: our boys have thrived being in the same classroom. They are both doing well academically, socially, behaviorally and physically. Their report cards look the exact same (which we’ve also noticed at home — they just learn things at the same time and have the same abilities so far). They love school and they love being in the same class. According to their teacher, there are no negative effects having our boys in the same class. They rarely choose each other for their partner and sit at different tables, but they do play together at recess, along with their other friends.  She sees them occasionally looking for their twin and then going back to work during the day. Their teacher was able to tell them apart (based on head shape and a small red mark on one twin) after one week of school. Their classmates definitely have more trouble telling them apart, but so far it hasn’t bothered my boys to casually correct their friends.

This year, based on the recommendation of their teacher, logistics and my boys’ own opinions when asked, we’ve decided to keep them in the same classroom next year for first grade. Would they be okay separated? Probably, yes. But, it’s easier for me if they’re in the same classroom; they enjoy being in the same classroom; it’s easy enough for their teacher to tell them apart; and there are just no negative side effects having these two identical twin boys in the same classroom, so until there are, we’ll continue placing them in the same classroom.

My Boy Twin Needs Togetherness. My Girl Twin Is Okay Apart: Beth

When the idea for this post started, and I decided to participate, I was on the side of twins should be together.  My boy/girl twins were 21 months old and were never apart until he got sick and had to stay home from day care one day.  By then he was fine and spent the day asking for his sister.  Now a bit of background here.  She is a firecracker.  She is independent, headstrong, stubborn, and has a stare of doom that will freak you out.  He is a cuddle bug, and has been since day one.  He is older and bigger, but she has achieved most milestones first, including walking.  Once she started walking, she became even more independent.  At 21 months he is was just starting to walk and was still very unsteady.

My twins were in the baby room at day care.  The next room up is for 2-3 year olds, but most kids move in at about 16 months. At the time of writing this post, my kids were 21 months.  And Miss Independent with the stare of doom was so ready to move up.  So we did it.

And she thrived.  Every morning in the new room was fabulous. She barely waved goodbye to me before going off to check everything out.  She was happy.  So clearly, twins should be separated.

But here is the thing.  My boy was not happy.  Every drop off at day care was a heartbreaking mess.  Whether we dropped her off first or him, he was clinging to me and sobbing for dear life.  I could hear him after I left the room.  (OK, I could hear him crying for hours, which logically is not possible, but moms have that kind of super power.)  Day care promised me that he calmed down each day and did fine, but you know when you just have a feeling….

So I started pushing them to move him up too. But he was not walking well enough for that room.  Fast forward, we came up with a plan…a brilliant plan!  Both babies get dropped off in the baby room.  She (thankfully) was fine with it.  He was fabulous with it. But it did bring up face to face with the idea of separation.

The day care kept telling me that twins need to be separated.  That he was fine, eventually.  And that may be the case.  But not yet.  At 21 months old he was going through some things and needs his sister.  At 21 months old, they were still babies and while she seems to understand and appreciate (and at times accept) logic, he wasn’t there yet.  They slept in separate cribs, sat in separate car seats, and they spend time apart 2 days a week in school (while he was transitioning).  But in school he needs his sister, and that is good enough for me. She helps him walk, she gives him more confidence, and he thrived during this transition.

My twins need to be together in school, at least for now.  Check back with me in 2 years when we need to talk about Kindergarten classes.

What are you thinking? Do you think your kids will be better off together or apart in school?

Toddler Thursday: My Picky Eater

Like many two-year-olds, my son is a picky eater.

Not the kind of picky eater you’d normally think of– the ones who make you wonder how they could possibly be alive. No, my son eats, and eats a lot. He’s actually quite a meaty little boy. As a baby he was definitely chunky, above average in weight at every doctor’s appointment. He’s always eaten more than his twin sister, and now weighs almost two pounds more than she does.

But there are certain things he just won’t touch. When he started his first solids, I discovered that he did not like fruits or vegetables. He would eat all the meat and carbs I gave him, but he’d spit out anything green, and tentatively try only a couple bites of fruit at most. Which was very interesting to me, because his sisters both LOVE fruits and veggies and will eat them nonstop all day long, at the exclusion of all other foods.

I haven’t done too much to rectify the situation. I figure children are born with certain food preferences, and eventually they become adults with food preferences. Everyone has foods they like and dislike. My own have changed as I’ve gotten older, but that’s not a result of what my parents did or didn’t do when I was younger. As long as my son wasn’t malnourished (and he certainly wasn’t), and I tried to balance out his eating with juices, raisins, and some hidden carrots once in a while, I was just fine with his eating habits.

Parents of picky eaters, take heart. Lunchldyd's 2-year-old is expanding his palate!

But something surprising has been happening! Slowly over the last few months, my picky son has not only been trying all the fruits and vegetables he’s been given, but he now actually asks for some of these foods! I can only guess that because they’re always served to his sisters at every meal, and fruits are even fought over, my boy didn’t want to be left out. To my amazement, he will now also fight his sisters for those tangerine wedges and blueberries!!

He still doesn’t eat as much of the fruits or veggies as his sisters do, and will probably continue to prefer his meat and carbs, but he’s definitely not so picky anymore. So, parents of picky eaters, take heart. Keep serving a variety of foods and your kids may just turn around.

lunchldyd is mom to 27 month old boy/girl twins and their 4.5 year old sister. She now teaches only part-time to juggle the needs of her young children. When not at work and the kids are asleep, she is addicted to watching TV and sometimes sacrifices sleep to read in bed. She lives in a too-small house in the Los Angeles suburbs with her husband, three kids, and two dogs.

What Do You Like About Yourself?

What do you like best about yourself?

My 8-year-old daughters decided to take a quiz, designed for friends, to determine how well they knew each other. They had to predict what the other’s answer would be to a set of questions. The questions were mostly straightforward: favourite movie; famous person you’d like to be for a day; favourite food.

My daughters did reasonably well at guessing each other’s answers. J had changed her favourite song since the day before, so M got that one wrong. J completely missed M’s favourite movie until M set her right by humming the theme to Superman. Yes, the Christopher Reeve one from 1978.

The question that really got me thinking was this one: What do you like most about yourself? J’s answer was that she is trustworthy. M’s answer was that she was a twin.

I confess to being surprised by M’s response. I’m certainly aware that her relationship with her sister is central to her life and sense of self, but I wouldn’t have predicted that she would choose that as what she likes most about herself. I asked her what she meant, and she told me that she loves having someone who is always there, who loves her, and whom she can love. Rather than responding with a personal trait, she was responding with what she likes best about her life.

The twin relationship, something I have been trying to wrap my head around for the past 9 years, is that simple to my wise 8-year-old. She has love.

Take a moment to ask yourself what you like most about yourself.

Twinfant Tuesday: Developmental Differences

As a new mom, I heard so much about getting together with other moms for “play groups” and comparing the developmental stages of our same-age children. Suzy’s son may be working on sitting up while Sally’s daughter has just rolled over. Although the moms may be showing support on the outside, they are secretly judging equally their children and the others, noting which child is ahead and which is lagging behind.

As a MOM, I don’t have to go to a play group to compare children. I do it every day. Typically, Audrey (Baby A) is the first to do most developmental tasks: roll over, sit up unassisted, cut a tooth… but there are things that David (Baby B) can do that Audrey can’t. He was the first to start babbling and tell us long stories. He actually started the teething process first, although he was still working on his first tooth when Audrey’s popped up. I can even compare their height, weight, and head size! Whereas Audrey used to be the bigger baby, David passed her on head size and height around the 7 month mark. As of their first birthday check-in, they were the exact same weight.

If anything, having twins has helped me to realize that babies really do develop in different areas at different rates. Both babies are totally healthy, and when they hit developmental milestones, we celebrate! They just do them at different times.

I went to my first baby class at Romp n’ Roll (a kid gym with baby, toddler, and child classes and open play time) halfway through our first year. Besides my two 6-month-olds, there was a 7-month-old and an 11-month-old. I could have sat there and compared our babies, wondering if my babies were behind because the 7mo was sitting up totally fine, smiling, happy, engaged and while Audrey was close to this, David was fussy, clingy, irritable, and not sitting up. I think, though, because I have two babies, I do enough comparing at home. I don’t have to prove myself or my babies to any other moms. I already get the Look of Awe when they find out that I have twins. So what if I have babies that may be a little fussy? Who cares if my babies are developing differently?

Maybe I can feel this relaxed because I get assurances from our pediatrician that everything is ok. Maybe it is because I have relied heavily on The Wonder Weeks app to gauge the appropriate milestones, and they stress about the different skills developing at different times for different personalities. Maybe it is because I simply don’t have time or energy to stress over it.

I have twins. In the world of comparisons, I think I win (she says with a wink)!

 

Dory is a mom of 1-year old twins Audrey and David. She lives with her husband, twins, and their dog and cat in Virginia. She also writes on her personal blog Doyle Dispatch and as the twin mom editor on The Wise Baby.

HDYDI Parenting Link Up #43

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Parenting Link Up Party

Welcome to the How Do You Do It? parenting link up party. This is your opportunity to share your posts with other parent bloggers and the followers of How Do You Do It?.

How do you do it? is a community of mothers of multiples, that is twins, triplets and higher order wombmates. We believe in supporting each other, in sharing our experiences and questions, in lasting friendships, and in encouragement. The link up is open to all our readers, whether or not you have multiples or are officially a parent. Here, we invite you can share your wisdom, your favorite posts, and your insights with our online community here at HDYDI.

Each week, we pick some of our favorite posts and feature them the following week on our site! Plus, we pin them on Pinterest, tweet them on Twitter, and share them on Google+ and Facebook! Get some more exposure for your great content, and don’t forget to check out the featured posts from last week’s link up!

Each HDYDI parenting link up party accepts new links from Monday morning through Friday at noon.

So tell us: How do you handle conception, pregnancy, preterm birth, birth in general, and postpartum recovery? How do you handle tantrums, diapering bills, stress, and potty training? How do you handle education and special needs? How do you balance the needs of several children with a marriage? How do you manage being a stay-at-home mom, a working mom, or a single parent? And how do you find time for yourself?

How do you do it?!


Last week’s featured posts:

Thanks to all who linked up. We’re looking forward to seeing more from all of you this week!

Last week‘s most clicked post was from My Big Fat Happy Life. Paris talks about how she connects with her 5-year-old after a full day at work. I highly recommend reading Connecting with Your Child at the End of the Day, whether you work outside the home or not.

Connecting with you child at the end of the day.

Katelyn Fagan, former HDYDI contributor and blogger at What’s Up Fagans?, wrote a wonderful piece on parents’ tolerance of each other. Check out Yes, You Are a Bad Mom. But So Am I.

We're all bad moms in someone's eyes. Keep that in mind before you judge.

Twin Mummy Yummy‘s Nicola wrote the sweetest note to her 22-month-old identical boys. Read Dear Harry and Matthew… 22 months old. Perhaps she’ll inspire you to write a letter to capture this moment in your kids’ lives too.

A sweet letter to 22-month-old identical twin boys from their mom, capturing exactly what they're like at this age.

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Are My Children UNDER-Scheduled?

My girls just turned six.  To cruise around my friends’ pictures on Facebook, those who have similar-age children (or younger), I have to question if my kiddos are missing out on something.

I see pictures from dance recitals, piano lessons, gymnastics, cheerleading, soccer, and basketball.  And my mouth is watering these days at all the pictures of kiddos selling Girl Scout cookies.

Our girls have experienced very little of that.

They’ve taken swim lessons the past three summers.  The first summer they didn’t exactly love it, but they’ve had a great time the past two years.  And the summer when they were four, they took a two-month tumbling class and had a great time.

It’s certainly not that I’m opposed to them participating in activities, but, as I’ve stepped back to assess our history to date, I feel fiercely protective of their time, and of our time as a family.

The girls are now in kindergarten, and our Monday-Friday are jam-packed.  Their daddy is a teacher, so they come home with him after school.  After a snack and a little play time with the kitties, they’re often just finishing up “homework” when I come home around 5:30.  I rush to get supper on the table, and we are usually finishing our meal shortly after 6:00.  If we’re lucky, we have time for a game or a book or two before we begin our bedtime routine at 6:30.

(Yes, our girls are in bed by 7:00!  They seem to require 11 1/2 – 12 hours of sleep!)

On the weekends, I try to balance getting family errands done (groceries and laundry and cooking ahead) with hanging out with the girls.  If the weather is nice, we love to go to the park.  We try to head to the zoo or children’s museum every 6 weeks or so.  And I block off plenty of time for unstructured play at home, and crafting, and reading, and snuggles.

Newly working mom wonders whether her kindergartners are under-scheduled as she protects family time.

These days, I just don’t see where we’d put a practice or two a week and games/events on the weekends.

I think our girls’ schedules are plenty packed as they are, and I have strongly mixed feelings about introducing anything else into the mix.  Still, I can’t help but question if I’m providing them with appropriate access to trying different activities.

HELP!!!  Are my kiddos “missing out” at this age?  Does this get easier as kiddos get older (and don’t go to bed so early)?  How does your family prioritize activities?

MandyE is mom to six-year old fraternal twin girls.  She blogs about their adventures, and her journey through motherhood, at Twin Trials and Triumphs.

Foodie Friday: Shaken Out of the Rut

We have a pretty diverse diet around here, but I’ve felt like I’ve been revolving around the same tried and true meals for the last while: spaghetti and meatballs, rice and beans, hummus and chips, tacos, pancakes and sausage, macaroni and cheese, soups, all with fresh fruit or salad on the side. These are all balanced and healthy meals, quick to make and minimally processed (except the sausage), but I hadn’t felt the joy of creating something new for quite a while.

Then, a few weeks ago, my 8 year old J served herself some ice cream for dessert, with my permission. The next morning, I discovered that the freezer hadn’t quite been closed all the way. Nothing was warm, but everything was in some state of being defrosted. I would need to cook everything in the freezer.

There were pepperoni and chicken hot dogs in there, and shrimp. Together with rice, tomatoes, and spices I had on hand, I made a fine jambalaya. That was lunch at work for me for a week! The no-longer-frozen veggies were cooked up with fresh sauteed onion and garlic, cumin and turmeric into a rather nice curry. The squishy strawberries went into a pie. The spinach was stirred into my from-scratch spaghetti sauce. The thawed homemade chicken stock formed the base for a nice bean, vegetable and noodle soup.

The only thing I couldn’t save, other than the guilty ice cream, was the fish sticks. I tried to invent a hash brown and fish stick casserole, with cream of chicken soup, milk, and onions mixed in with the potatoes. The potatoes were delicious, but the texture of thawed fish sticks is beyond salvage.

My daughters liked every single thing I served them, with the exception of the curried vegetables. I didn’t even bother trying the fish stick concoction on them. Through what could have been a disaster, I also was reminded of how much I enjoy cooking… which is a good thing, since rescuing the contents of my freezer took a full Saturday!

Children Are Not Possessions

“The state doesn’t own your children,” Rand Paul says at 2 mins 5 seconds in the video below. “Parents own the children….” Does that description of children as being owned bother you as much as it does me? I’ve been pondering it since I caught it on the radio a couple of weeks ago.

I do not own my children. I guide them, love them, care for them, teach them, and provide for them. I do not own them. They love me, listen to me, get frustrated by me, depend on me, and trust me, but they do not own me either.

The things that I own, my possessions, are for me to treat as I wish. I can choose to treasure them, hoard them, repurpose them, and discard them. My house, my books, my dishes, and my photographs – these are things that I own. There is no such degree of choice when it comes to children. I am duty-bound to do for them what is in their best interest, not mine.

I’ve never thought of children as property. However, the realization that there are people who do think of their children in those terms helps explain some of the previously inexplicable parenting I’ve witnessed.

I believe that a better way to conceive of parenthood is as a managerial arrangement, something akin to the property manager who took care of the house I owned when I moved away and rented it out. I am entrusted with the care of these people on behalf of the larger world they are preparing to join. Parents are the stewards of humanity’s future, and the responsibility is a huge one, filled with joy, but certainly not intended to benefit the parent.

What is the metaphor that you use to make sense of parenting?

We do not own our children.

I’ve reacted to the California measles outbreak and recent discussions of parental approaches to vaccination as I usually do. I don’t get into debates. I recognize that parents who choose to vaccinate and those who do not will rarely be able to convince each other of the validity of their positions. If someone believes that getting a vaccine is more risky than skipping it, hearing arguments to the contrary from me will make no difference. My daughters get all their vaccinations because I have lived in Bangladesh, the country where smallpox was last seen two years before my birth. I’ve met smallpox survivors and seen how bad whooping cough and measles can be. I’ve looked into the risks posed by vaccinations and deemed them to be rare or minor enough that I am unconcerned. I’ve also nursed one of my fully vaccinated children through whooping cough, and been thankful that her life was never at risk due to the partial protection achieved by the vaccine, despite the lack of herd immunity presented by the children in our community. I know that there are those who take my J’s bout of pertussis as proof that vaccines are worthless. Let’s just agree to disagree.

Postpartum Depression and PTSD: Here I Thought I Was Fine…

This post has been a long time coming, but I have to admit — I’ve been avoiding it like the plague. I started writing this post one year ago and I find that this is still a difficult subject for me to wrap my head around.

Postpartum Depression and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder - one mother's story.
In college, I read a story called The Yellow Wallpaper  by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. In the story, a woman is taken to a hideaway by her husband and imprisoned there after the birth of their child. During her stay, she slowly goes insane, hearing voices and seeing faces behind the yellow wallpaper. This story is about much more than a woman and a decorating decision gone awry. This is a story about postpartum depression and the fears and stigma surrounding it, much of which still exist today.

Going into my pregnancy, I feared PPD. I have a family history of mental illnesses, and I have some personal experiences to draw from, as well. I was monitored by the high-risk team that cared for me and Jane and Emma throughout my pregnancy, and they watched me like a hawk when I went into the hospital to deliver. I was given a checklist, visited by social workers, and deemed fit to leave with no threat of severe depression after 4 short days.

What they didn’t tell me then was that PPD can strike at any time in the first postpartum year, and, furthermore, that I was also at HIGH risk for post-traumatic stress disorder due to my premature twins’ six week stay in the NICU, something that I didn’t think about until a friend in a similar position posted about the condition on her Facebook page after we had taken our babes home from the hospital.

In my first year home with Jane and Emma, I felt the effects of these two afflictions full force. My husband brought my attention to some of my actions (my anger, specifically), and subsequently I’ve been forced to take a good hard look in the mirror, and to do some serious research. Here is what I have found and how I relate.

Emma

Postpartum Depression

Something that I didn’t think of was that there were multiple ways that PPD could manifest itself. Symptoms range from depression to anxiety and anger. I experienced mostly the anxiety and anger.

Our society definitely does NOT do enough PPD care before/after the babies are born. Even BabyCenter, a site that I’ve always frequented for all things baby-related, downplays postpartum depression. It seems to file it into this “postpartum care” category, and talks a lot about body image and how to balance your life and your sleep deprivation with caring for a new little one. Why the stigma? Why does postpartum care have only to do with “What workouts can I do now that the baby is here?” or “Feeling good about your postpartum body”?

The fact of the matter is, there is so much more to it. While all of that is good to consider, it’s just as important to look at and be very aware of the ugly side.

As a new mom, I never got to mourn my old life. Everything changed VERY suddenly, and, for me, as a mom of multiples, it changed 8 full weeks before it was SUPPOSED to. Attention switched from me to my babies (and rightfully so, but I wasn’t told that I would be a footnote to my children’s lives, and I was not prepared for that), and I (perhaps somewhat irrationally) felt like no one cared about ME or how I was doing.  There was also no longer a “me-and-Hershey”. We were both NEEDED by our babies, and our need for each other no longer mattered. Those early feelings of no longer mattering and the severe feeling of isolation were what most likely sent me into my initial depression.

I spent a lot of time feeling anxious about EVERYTHING. I broke out in hives from head to toe, and was having heart palpitations. I thought maybe I was just anxious about work (if you have been following this Chris Christie fiasco, and not that I’m a teacher in NJ, you understand), but I really couldn’t pinpoint the anxiety. I’ve always been a little bit high-strung, but never downright ANXIOUS.

On top of that, it seemed like every little thing set me off. If things didn’t go as I envisioned them, I would totally lose my marbles.

And I still, to this day, am always nervous about how people are caring for Jane and Emma. I selfishly feel as though no one will care for them as well or as fully as I do, and (while that may be true since I AM their Mama, after all) being with the girls 24/7 took a MAJOR toll on me that I was not prepared for.  I mean, how does one prepare for these things when they decide to start a family, especially when having multiples was never an idea in one’s mind!?!  I don’t know about you, but I was focused on the perfect bedding and the most beautiful and safest cribs, not how I would cope with my own feelings…

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

This is a term that many people relate with war veterans.  And while I would never trivialize the plight of our veterans, after having been through having two children stay in the neonatal intensive care unit at the hospital for 6 weeks, at the end I felt like I had been through a war.

The Mayo Clinic defines PTSD as “a mental health condition that’s triggered by a terrifying event — either experiencing it or witnessing it.”  Let me tell you something – experiencing having your children in the NICU, not knowing what tomorrow may bring, is both terrifying AND extremely traumatic.

Mayo further goes on to delineate possible symptoms, such as flashbacks, nightmares, severe anxiety, and “uncontrollable thoughts about the event.”  Check.  Check. Check. Double check.

I remember after I went home from the hospital, without my children who I had carried around inside of my body and worried about for 32 weeks, I used to go into the girls’ nursery and just sit in my glider and cry. I would cry for the absence of my babies.  Cry for the fact that I was home and they were not.  Cry for the unknown.

jane and emma NICU

I would never know what I was walking into when we went to visit the girls.  Once Hershey went back to work, I was making 2-3 trips A DAY to the hospital to the neonatal intensive care unit, most of the time on my own. And you cannot be blind to the other babies and parents in the NICU. I hurt for the other parents who were going through the same thing. I ached for those who were going through worse. I cried for the babies whose parents could not spend as much time visiting them as I did visiting Jane and Emma due to extenuating circumstances. I got to know the other babies. I said hello to them when I got to the hospital if their parents weren’t there, so that they would know that they were not alone.

And the day that I brought Emma home, I bawled leaving the hospital. I was so happy to be bringing home my baby girl, but leaving Jane there for 2 days was excruciating. She was in good hands, and I was grateful to have a couple of days to get settled and get into a routine with ONE baby before having TWO brand new babies at home, but I would have done anything – ANYTHING – to be bringing them both home together.

Once we got the girls home, they were on apnea monitors for about 4 months.  I’ll never forget the terrifying moments when those monitors went off and we would have to jump out of bed in the middle of the night to watch carefully to make sure that our babies would start breathing again.

tiny family pic

Imagine standing there, knowing that your child is not breathing or that her heart is not beating, just waiting for her to “self-correct” before having to try a revival technique.  If that’s not traumatic for a new parent, I don’t know what is.

And to this day, I still struggle with PTSD. Every night before I go to bed, I sneak into Jane and Emma’s rooms and wait to hear their little breaths. And if I don’t hear them, I shake them and make them move.  hat sounds ridiculous, but it’s like waiting for the other shoe to drop. I spent so many months fretting over their survival. From the moment I went into labor, all I could think was They’re too little. They’re not ready.

And sometimes, I still feel that way. Every sniffle, every cough, every puke stain sends my mind into a downward spiral, and I am wondering when I will be able to look at the symptoms of their colds and be able to say, “Ok, we’ve seen this before, it’s no big deal.”

Three-fie

Wherever you are at in your postpartum life, you need to know that you are not alone. Those feelings that you are feeling are NORMAL, and we are all with you. And if you are like many MoMs, you may have given birth way before your babes were fully cooked, and you have faced the terrifying world of the NICU. And Those Feelings are also totally normal.  It’s ok to be sad.  It’s ok to be a little bit selfish once in a while.  What you are going through is a tremendous life-altering experience, but it’s worthwhile, and those babies of yours need you!  Acknowledge the feelings so that you can monitor them.  Be aware of the feelings so that you can put yourself in check when you need to.  Postpartum care is so much more than just being on a “roller coaster of hormones”.

Whatever you do, don’t ignore those feelings that you’re having because the sooner you accept them and address them, the sooner you can get back to being a ROCK STAR Mama.

And if you know someone who is about to have a child (or CHILDREN), or has recently had one, check in with them.  Remember to ask them how THEY are feeling, and if there is anything that you can get FOR THEM.  My husband’s aunt gave me a gift certificate to get my nails done for Christmas this year, and it was the best gift that I could have gotten, because it meant me, a book, and a quiet manicurist making me look beautiful after a year and a half of being puked on and not even being able to blow dry my hair in the morning…and that, to me, is PRICELESS.

How have you dealt with PPD?  PTSD? I would LOVE to hear from you!

This is my personal story and observation.  I am not saying that every person will experience the same aspects of each disorder (I hate calling them that!), but my hope is that this post will enlighten someone, or maybe help someone understand what they are going through.

Jessica is Mama of twin baby girls, Jane and Emma, Wife to Hershey, Teacher at her alma mater, poet, realist, kitty-lover, friend. She decided to blog because during her pregnancy, she could never find anything having to do with twins or multiples. She didn’t come across any advice for registries for multiples, or pregnancy, or life after delivery.  Jessica felt extremely alone, and spent most of her pregnancy in a funk. Today, she is the happiest she’s ever been. She continues to improve her craft (teaching) through various professional development outlets, and learns something new about being a mother every day. Jessica is in love with her girls, with being a mama, with her husband, and with life.  She is the one people go to when they want the truth. Jessica writes all about life with a husband and twins at Leading the Double Life.

Twinfant Tuesday: Maintaining a Sense of Self

My twin girls just turned six.  (Gulp!  Still can’t wrap my head around that one!)  I still remember those first few weeks and months very clearly, though.  Particularly when they were teeny-tiny, I remember their eat-sleep schedule was the center of my world.  I remember sleeping when the babies slept, but at random times of the day.  I remember half laughing that I didn’t know when to brush my teeth “at night”…it’s not like I was going to bed for the evening, at least not in the traditional sense.

waking up

At some point I had the realization that I needed to claim something for myself, some small piece of time and space.  Even amid the newborn twinfant haze, I clearly remember how glorious those little claims felt.

For me, these are some of the things that reminded me of “me”.

Read.  I have always loved to read, but when I was caring for two tiny babies, that’s the last thing I thought I had time for.  It didn’t occur to me right away, but I realized that was a huge part of “me” I was missing.

I started small.  I got an easy “beach read”, and I committed to reading just a page or two at a time.  I hope it’s not TMI to share that I did a lot of reading in the bathroom!  I’d enjoy a page or so at a time, and it felt like such treat. When the girls started sleeping more regularly at night, I finally reclaimed my before-bed reading time, and it was nothing short of glorious!

Take a bath.  Yes, take a shower…get yourself clean and take care of yourself…but for me, there was something very therapeutic about taking a soak in the tub.  I didn’t always have a lot of time…and I remember one particular bath that was cut short about 45 seconds in by a howling infant…but there was something about being still and quiet in my bathtub that helped me feel a little less frazzled.

Take a walk.  Once the girls were cleared by our pediatrician to go for walks, around 10 weeks old, I loved pushing them in their stroller through our neighborhood.  I timed it with their naps…I didn’t want to have to risk stopping every few steps to comfort a baby…I loved the peace of pounding the pavement as fast as my little legs would carry me.  And on the rare occasions when Hubby was home and I could get out for a walk myself?  Even better.  I walked with a vengeance (and probably looked like a crazy lady!), but I know I got out a ton of emotion as I worked to beat my best time through the ‘hood.

Exercise.  Once our girls finally fell into a routine, around 3-4 months old, nap times were a little more predictable.  I used morning nap time to exercise, and it felt so very good.  I’ve never been a gym rat…SO far from it…but there was something very cleansing about spending 30 minutes sweating to a DVD workout that really helped center me.  I felt like I was taking care of ME, not *just* taking care of my babies, and that was a great feeling.

Cook.  I’ve always loved to cook, but I felt like I didn’t have time when the girls were first born.  Finally, when they were 6 weeks old or so, the gravy train of neighbor-made meals ran out and I pronounced myself SICK of takeout and frozen stir fry.  We weren’t in a position to go out to eat, so I found some recipes I knew we’d really enjoy.  Once a week or so, I’d make something really nice — with dessert, even! — and Hubby and I would sit down to enjoy it, timed as best we could to coincide with the girls’ evening nap.  I’m no gourmet, but it felt nothing short of decadent to get out the good plates and eat a meal I’d prepared for us.

Get out.  Once my girls were sleeping more regularly, I tried to get out of the house BY MYSELF once a week.  It’s cliche now, but just a quick trip to Target felt like a huge treat.  I’d walk the aisles, and no one knew I was a mom of newborn twins.  Sure, sometimes I felt like screaming it from the rooftop, I was so proud…but other times it was nice to enjoy the anonymity.  Nothing to see here, folks, just a slightly-tired-looking lady shopping for trash bags.  If I could swing a trip through Starbucks on the way home, all the better!

MoMs of little ones, I hope you’re taking the time to claim some “me” time for yourselves, however you define it!  And MoMs of older kiddos, what was your favorite “claim” when you were in the midst of infanthood?

MandyE is mom to six-year old fraternal twin girls.  She blogs about their adventures, and her journey through motherhood, at Twin Trials and Triumphs.