The Road Not Taken…

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Categories Infants, Mommy Issues, Singletons

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.

road2 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.

road1I 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.

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43 thoughts on “The Road Not Taken…”

  1. I completely understand! My twins are almost nine and I am due with another in four weeks. I can’t tell you how excited I am to just be able to enjoy this one. I mean enjoyed the twins but everything seemed so rushed. This time I can relax.

  2. I was trying to explain this to some mom friends who just have single babies. We don’t want anymore kids, but part of me really feels like I missed out on so much of the “loving” that babies need/give. I was always afraid to get comfortable and hold one of them because that meant the other would need me right at that moment. So, they spent a lot of time in the bouncy chairs when I could bounce them at the same time.

    The image that sort of haunts (I’m not sure that’s the right word) me is the lazy Sunday morning when baby wakes up early and you get to grab him and get back in bed and just laze around. I could never do that in a million years. It’s that kind of stuff that makes me slightly sad about the twins.

    Then again, there’s so much about twins that is awesome, I’m able to let my craziness go.

  3. I used to feel a lot more jealous of this until all my friends started having baby #2. Now they are the ones trying to juggle a newborn and a toddler while I am the one who has two independent toddlers (and full nights of sleep). I think the older my boys get, the more appreciate what a blessing having twins has been. Plus think of all the FUN stuff you’ve gotten to see that they never get to see, two babies laughing at each other, two babies talking to each other.

  4. It’s definitely different, not all good or all bad. On the one hand, I do sometimes feel like I missed out on some of the (highly idealized) sweetness of just snuggling with a newborn, lazy hours in bed staring at their face and whatnot.

    On the other hand (and maybe it’s just a survival mechanism to think this way), I really am glad for my pragmatic nature and relatively independent kids, brought on in large part by the twin factor.

    Definitely a road not taken / sliding doors kind of thing. We’ll never know. Even if we go for number 3 and get to experience a singleton, we’ll never know what it’s like to only have a single baby. We’ll still have the older kids to chase around.

  5. Another amen, sister! You have articulated exactly how I feel about having twins. At times, I get almost sad about missing out on the single baby experience. And other times, I think about how I want to laugh in the face of the mom of one who complain about how hard it is. I also totally agree that as twins get older, the independence and built-in playmate offer some advantages. Sure you have to referree a lot of fights/toy stealing/pushing/shoving/etc, but it’s great to see your children play with their buddy from the womb.

  6. This post sums up exactly why we need mothers of twins clubs and why twin moms are probably some of the most reliable bloggers I know. I remember reading when I was pregnant about how a mother worried that all of her friends were twin moms and I couldn’t grasp it at all. Once I had my girls and managed to make it to a MOMs group five months later, it was the first time I felt normal.

    I have friends who relax and go with the flow on napping and schedules with their singletons, but I absolutely cannot go with the flow. I have to have a system for everything because like you, I have to know that at some point there is time off carved into the day. When the girls were newborns, I was obsessed with the fact that they needed to sleep in their beds, but in retrospect, I wish I’d spent just a little more time letting them sleep on me and not feeling guilty if her sister was peacefully asleep in the crib next to my bed.

  7. I’ve been feeling this a lot lately, and sometimes (SOMETIMES) wish I could have another, single baby. But we won’t. It’s so funny…yesterday I went to the grocery store with my two 8-month olds in their BOB, and me pulling a FULL cart, and I saw the admiring, astonished, inquisitive looks (“how are you doing that?”) and part of me felt superior, like a supermom, and part of me looked wistfully at the moms with just one baby in their cart. I’ll never have that ease of transport, if you will, let alone the solo cuddle time. I’m trying to make that time, even if it’s just a little bit each day, but it’s hard. You DO get caught up in it.

    Thanks for posting this, and letting me know I’m not alone in these feelings.

  8. I agree. When we had our first I did all the snuggling and thought that was how it is suppose to be. When we had the triplets is was “survival.” I also learned that schedules is what was going to let me and husband still want to look at each other at the end of the day. Now we have children that have a schedule and love it while I have friends who have one baby and still do not know when nap time is or feeding time and wonder why their child is unhappy. Also when they had their 2nd child then the opinions that I had given them they understood and now are trying to change everything. I do not think that I missed out on anything, i just do not remember anything. LOL Also the experiences of multiples is just different then singletons.

  9. As mom to 6-month-old g/g twins, I do feel sometimes that I am missing out on the bliss of intense bonding, but it helps that my friends who have single babies right now do not seem to have “easy” babies and thus have their own source for unhappiness. As intense as their mother-child bond is, there seems more room for intense guilt. Just something I’ve observed.

  10. I am pregnant with twins and have an almost 4 year old, but I can really relate to your surprise regarding those observations of your friend. I held my daughter a lot, but much of that was because she would not sleep (or even stop crying) unless I did. My daughter was very colicky for at least 4 months, which very much shaped my experience of parenting an infant. I have assumed that this time around I won’t be able to do everything I did for my first baby – some of that is a disappointment, but some is kind of a relief. (Plus, I have definitely learned the lesson that sleeping baby time is time for me to sleep, and secondarily for me to do other things like eat, etc.)

    Your friend might just have a very easy baby (it happens) or might not have learned that it is okay not to be everything all the time for the baby. Either way, offering support and then backing off if she refuses seems like a good way to be her friend.

  11. This post really resonated with me but I have to say having two fit better with my pragmatic nature (like Goddess said). I am not someone who really has the personality to rock a sleeping back for hours just because I love the feel/smell – 5 mins is enough. We were at a friends’ house and they had a new 8 week old along with a 3 year toddler and the mom held the baby the whole time (we left at 10:30 pm) and thought it was interesting when I suggest a “bedtime” routine! I love the schedule and that having two means you prioritize your worries (P, not eating, big worry; N, not crawling, small worry).

  12. So well said.

    My nature is list-making and scheduling, so I’m not sure I’d be that different of a mom if I had one instead of two. But it amazes me when I see moms with newborns and they’re holding them constantly and not worried about putting them on any kind of nap schedule. At first I think she is setting herself up for a lot of work later on, but then I remember it’s probably different with only one.

    The funny thing is, my 23-year-old nanny agrees with me on this, and she doesn’t have any kids!

  13. On a day like today….thank you! I needed to hear that others feel the same way. I love my boys dearly but I will always worry that I didn’t snuggle with them enough- but I try to treasure each and every moment even if it is a bit wild.

  14. As a mom of a singleton (6 weeks old) I am a huge believer in scheduling and routines. So I think even if I had multiples I would be the same :-) Of course I’ve had a lot of advice from MOMs so perhaps that’s why? Because of my adherence to scheduling Cameron naps very regularly and only wakes up once during the night. Easy temperment or scheduling…not sure what is the reason but I like it!

  15. I certainly understand what you’ve said. I often feel like the only chance I have to hold my girls (almost 4 months old) is when they need something. I don’t have the luxury of cuddling a baby like I did when my son was little. And, I have to remember he needs attention too. When my son is away for the day, I try to take some time to just hold the girls, and talk to them, and play with them. But, it is hard to take the time to do that since there are always other demands on my time.

  16. Your description is exactly right. I had a single first and 6 months later was pregnant with my twins. The first year was worlds apart. I worried the entire time with my twins that they were not being held enough. But here we are 2-1/2 years later and everyone seems happy and well adjusted. I however am still feeling sleep deprived…but that could just be age…

  17. So well written, and your kindness and efforts to “assist” your singleton mama friend touched me so!

    Think I might EASILY have become too much of a “doter” with one…and to their possible detriment! 😉 Two was right…a right kind of different for me. 😉

  18. And BlueLadybug…please try not to be too sad about the perceived “lacks” you feel for your babies and for you.

    Your babies will never know any differently…and that’s not “bad.” Likewise, as a mom of now seven-year-olds, I can vouch for the fact that the singly born will have to coordinate a playdate when he/she wishes to play with a peer….twins have a playdate (and occasionally a fight date!) built in. They spur each other to achievement. They console each other. They have each others’ backs in school.

    There are so very, very many benefits to having twins…for them and for us as their parents. Those “good aspects” may not always be fully apparent, but they DO avail themselves when you may not expect it.

    Try not to feel guilt or sadness for something over which you had no control. They will thrive and be happy…and you will, too.

  19. Wow, I never really thought that having twins was the reason nap and bedtime schedules became so important to us. None of our other friends follow them. They’re out at restaurants at 8 at night, when our babies are already asleep with a babysitter. But at the same time, I also notice a lot of singleton babies seem fussy out in public, while ours are always super-content when we take them out. I assume it’s because ours are well-rested and never out past bedtime.

    In short, I spend a lot of my time being simultaneously envious and judgmental about parents of single-babies.

    Maybe I need to join a twins club.

  20. Don’t be sad about the twins. I have a 9-year old and 6-year old twins. With the firstborn, it reaslly felt like an extended vacation. Or like a very successful love story. It was lovely.
    With the twins, it felt like a fight. A marathon. A Sysyphus’ task. The firstborn was an easy child, while one of the twins didn’t sleep and the other didn’t eat.
    And now… now the twins are very popular. They play a lot together, and they’re very requested as playdates. My lovely, awesome firstborn often feels lonely, and is very envious of her brothers.
    It’s just different. And they’re all equally lovely, in their very different way.

  21. So true! My partner and I have 9 month old b/g twins and sometimes I think it’d just be SO easy to have one baby, I can’t figure out why people are complaining about how hard it is to have a baby…but then I feel mean because I feel so incredulous that they think it’s so terrible! I love having twins, but I’ll agree that the first months are so so challenging..it wasn’t until 6 months for us that we really started to sleep more, enjoy it all more. It’s quite a challenge, and it’s a wonderful way to have a family…but it sure is different than most. I don’t know if we’ll have a third child, but if we do it’ll be interesting to compare the experience.

  22. A lot of the differences that everyone is observing may have more to do with each baby’s personality than whether they are singletons vs. multiples. As the mother of a singleton and twins I can say that I felt just as frazzled with my singleton as I did when my twins came along two years later.

    Everyone puts on their best face for company. These seemingly relaxed new mothers of singletons may be crazy ladies behind closed doors!

  23. this post just totally resonated with me. i feel exactly like that when i am around singleton newbies. it is like seeing a whole different world and i do not know whether to cry for what i missed and had to do or be so very proud of myself for being able to do it.

  24. well put!

    this anecdote sums up my experience exactly. Our ID boys are now nearly three, and it STILL often feels…like a race. But there’s really no finish line, is there? I feel as though I have to remind myself of this fact often and slow down and enjoy the little, unplanned moments. I suspect this is what is so challenging with twins/multiples. With a singleton I imagine I wouldn’t need to remind myself of this so frequently.

    Every day feels like WHAT??! I don’t think it was until our boys were 10 months old that I even noticed what day of the week it was! That really made me laugh.

    thanks for a fabulous post.

  25. Ok, this is the first time I have stopped crying today. So I am normal after all. I have a three year old and four month old twins. I have been sad all day thinking about how I have not stopped to enjoy the last four months. Good god, I should be grateful I actually had time to dwell on something today! I took a twenty minute nap today, the dishes are done, and I pumped 40 ozs. I should be celebrating! Thanks to all for turning around my day.

  26. OMG! My twins are just four weeks and I find myself thinking, “you and your ONE baby” all the time. I don’t watch the shows on tv where the parents bring one baby home to a house full of people to help them. My husband and I have some help, but none that stays 24 hours. Mostly our help is the kind that wants to snuggle a clean, fed, happy baby. I adore Thalia and Calliope, but I do need a break. People look horrified when you put the baby down once she’s asleep. You hit the nail on the head, that’s time to eat, sleep, pee, etc…. It’s so good to hear from other parents of twins. I love the girls, but this is not quite the experience I imagined.

  27. This post is so true. I am so very lucky to have had my 3 but at the same time, having 3 at once means survival mode most of the time – not feeling like a Saturday!

    I remember the few times I held 1 or 2 during nap time b/c it was so rare.

  28. This is the best post I’ve read about mutiples. I have two year old identical girls and you have just written out what’s in my own head, right down to the envy of singlton mommies. Thank you so much for putting this out!!

  29. I ALWAYS SAY THIS TO ME FRIENDS WITH ONE BABY!! I MISSED OUT ON THE CUDDLING TIME BECAUSE THERE WAS ALWAYS ANOTHER BABY TO FEED, CHANGE, HOLD ETC.

    I HAVE 2 YEAR OLD BOY AND GIRL TWINS AND WHEN PEOPLE ASK ME “HOW U DO IT” I JUST SAY “I DONT KNOW HOW TO DO IT ANY OTHER WAY. I JUST DO IT. TAKE IT ONE DAY AT A TIME.”

    THERE WAS ONE DAY I WENT TO A FRIENDS HOUSE TO SEE HER 1 WEEK OLD. I HAD MY TWINS WITH ME AND THEY WERE PRETTY OCCUPIED WITH TOYS. ETC THAT I GOT A CHANCE TO HOLD THE NEWBORN AND CUDDLE IT. WHEN I STARTED TO CRY MY FRIEND SORT OF GOT FREAKED OUT, BUT WHEN I EXPLANNED TO HER WHY, SO JUST STARED AT ME IN AMAZEMENT. SHE WAS SAD FOR ME.

    I LOVE MY TWINS, I COULD NOT IMAGINE LIFE WITHOUT THEM. THEY ARE MY WORLD. I JUST WISH I WOULD HAVE TAKEN MORE TIME TO “CUDDLE” THEM.

  30. wow – this really eases some of the guilt I have had for feeling exactly same way: jealous of singleton moms and superior. Both are not the best feelongs to have and it makes me feel like maybe I am going about this parenting thing wrong if this is how I’m going to feel about it. So, knowing other MoTs out there have felt the same way is like getting a breath of fresh air.

    Also, I would agree with another comment about the baby’s personality mattering a lot, too. My 5-month old twins (until recently, haha!) have been pretty easy going and although its never fun to be outnumbered by newborns/infants, I would never have traded two good babies for one colicky baby…

  31. Great post. Very well put.

    I recently had lunch with some friends who just had their first baby. During lunch, they took turns holding her so the other could eat. How great to be able to do that! I was a bit jealous watching them.

    But having two at once made me more calm, because I had to be! And I wouldn’t trade it for the world!

  32. So well stated – I wish I could have articulated it myself.

    (I think I am printing this out and adding to their baby books so my two 9 month old b/b twins will get it when they get older.)

    Sal & Enzos Mom

  33. I am with you 100%. Sometimes I want to have another baby just to know what having a singleton is like. Wouldn’t trade the experience of having twins for anything, of course, but I do wish that I’d been more “present” during those newborn days.

  34. See…this is why you have a 3rd 😉 You can spend time holding/sniffing the 3rd, but know that you shouldn’t ALL the time because it would spoil him tee hee

    Dang, you hit that TOTALLY right. I remember watching my sister with her singleton (knowing she’d have at least one more one day) thinking “man, a 2nd baby is going to be SOOOO different for her…she needs to put him DOWN!” lol Of course, I could never say that to her.

    And I completely agree that having 2 at the same time made me a better mom. I’m much more calm/laid back about things than I would have been if I could have spent time worrying about the little things :)

  35. I had a friend bring over her newborn the other day for dinner. Like your friend, she refuses to ever put the baby down! Not to eat, not to go to the bathroom! Plus she has an older kid to give attention to! I just don’t understand it! It won’t hurt the baby to put them in a swing for a few minutes! I think even with one baby I would still put them down. I believe in teaching kids independence and self entertainment. Even a young baby can learn they are not going to be held 24/7.

    I just don’t remember the first year. My boys turned 2 last week and I sit here trying to remember and I can’t. It is all a blur. I don’t remember much good or bad. Just lots of feeding and not sleeping and crying. I don’t remember much of last month! It really does pass you by.

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