Rachel is a number cruncher by day, the birth mom in a two-mom household to boy/girl 18 month old twins. You can read more about ‘em at their new website http://www.motherhoodsquared.com/
Oh, eighteen months. Eighteen months is a generally safe distance from which to evaluate That First Year – far enough from twelve months for That First Year not to slap you upside the head unexpectedly, but close enough for you to say Ha! – We Win!
Just last night, Jennifer and I were talking about how incredibly blessed we are to have two healthy, happy 18 month olds, pleased as punch with their development, and generally patting ourselves on our two-working-parent backs. Something that’s really easy to do during a relaxing dinner with kids sleeping soundly. Something not so easy to do when waiting over an hour for the doctor to enter the room for a well-checkup only for him to call out over his shoulder to his nurse regarding the kid he just saw: “yes, he has the swine flu”.
I’ve seen plenty of commentary across the blogs/magazines/books I read about the fun, cute stuff related to infants and toddlers. And plenty about the crappy things, if it’s also funny. (Or maybe that’s the stuff I’m drawn to?) But here’s the thing, it hasn’t been – for me – only that kind of thing. And even in my parent and neighborhood community boards, it seems people only want to talk about the raw stuff in an anonymous post. But screw that, because the entirety of this experience thusfar has molded me into the person and parent I’m becoming:
I was fascinated by the twins when they were born, but I didn’t want to be alone with them Not because I was afraid of them, or that I would hurt them, or that I was insecure. But because I was afraid the reflux would be bad during feeding times and what if they threw up at the same time and they were still hungry at the same time and what if I couldn’t hold them upright for long enough before throwing up? The thought gave me great anxiety.
Of course, my worst anxiety/fears came to fruition. Feeding after feeding, day after day, week after week. There were evenings when Jennifer would have to work late and I would be on the ground, cross-legged, one baby nestled into my lap/knee and the other baby in the bouncy seat, trying to feed both very hungry (because they had thrown up the meal before) infants at once. And then continuing the feeding for one while burping the other. Then the bottle rolling off or me needing to switch positions and then the burping baby throwing up all over me and the sofa and the seated baby screaming and then throwing up over me and the rug, then all three of us crying while trying to keep the dogs from eating the vomit. And though it seemed an endless period of time, turns it out was about two months.
I straight up requested anti-anxiety/anti-depressants (yay for Lexapro!) at my six week follow-up with my OB/GYN. I wasn’t full-on depressed, but I was within emotional distance of the darkness I felt when I took Clomid (depression can be a side-effect), and I just wanted something to take the edge off, particularly with me returning to work. My physician obliged, and five months later, I weaned off it.
There were weeks that the crying jags were so piercing in the evenings, that I was glad I had gone back to work. And there were days when I could have left work at 5:15ish, but didn’t say “no” when the boss asked if I could work on something before I left. The benefit of this was both that it made me look like I was a go-getter post-babies at work, but also that it narrowed the amount of time between the nanny leaving and chunks four hours of baby sleep coming. Many of those days, I would spend the 30 minute drive home praying for strength to get through the next 5 hours.
I made a very unpopular decision and pushed to have the dogs re-homed. One day, after getting home from work, acid reflux sessions, laundry, bottles, etc, it was near 10pm when we were about to eat dinner and the dogs were underneath us. We had both forgotten to feed them. Again. They had been ignored, neglected, and I was completely overwhelmed with the thought of failing two more dependents. So I made the unforgiveable-to-some decision to find loving homes with people we knew that would give them the time and attention they truly deserved. I did this via an email blast to friends and family which were subsequently forwarded to their friends and family. Several of those people felt the need to tell me that I was doing great harm to the dogs, that I was selfish, and questioned what I would do with my own children once things got overwhelming with them.
We hired a night nanny. Yep, scoffed by other parents both publicly and privately, we submitted to their implications that we could not (or would not) take care of our own children. But to be honest, I would have foregone mortgage payments to keep our night nanny had it come to that. We had someone 1 to 6 nights a week, in decreasing frequency, from when they were 9 days old until they were about 15 weeks old. A benefit to this was that they were sleeping through the night at approximately 11 weeks (10p-5a, then). And early on, those nights that we didn’t have someone there at 10pm, I would go to sleep with great anxiety of what the night might bring. What if I slept too hard and didn’t hear someone through the monitor? What if I didn’t get any sleep? How would I manage? And I was glad that at least I had Lexapro.
And yet, I loved them. Would lay down my life for them.
Looking back, are my kids worse off for not exclusively breastfeeding? Not that I can tell. Are the dogs suffering? Actually, they’re both being spoiled profusely. Did taking anti-depressants make me less of a person? No, it kept me sane. Do the twins feel abandoned because it was someone else feeding them during the night? No, we’re just poorer.
All that to say, for the new parents of multiples, don’t minimize your feelings or your response to a given situation just because it doesn’t seem a big enough deal. Your litmus test is not what other parents of multiples/neighbors/friends/family did or tell you you should do, but only what will ensure a healthy environment for you and yours. As for parents of multiples outside the striking distance of That First Year, any confessions you want to share?