When You Don’t Have “Help”

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Categories Infants, Parenting

While I was pregnant, my husband and I talked about how we’d handle things once the girls were born (at least as best as we could anticipate, given these were our first children).  We have a very small family, and no one lives nearby.  My husband planned to take some leave from his teaching job, but we didn’t otherwise have plans for “help”.

Our girls were born at 34 weeks and spent 10 days in the hospital.  During that time – an obviously emotional, hormonal time, at that – I can’t begin to count the number of people who asked what kind of “help” we had scheduled.

My best friend’s mom (250 miles away) was very adamant.  One newborn is very challenging.  There’s no way we could handle two babies all by ourselves.  The nurses in the NICU confirmed that most people do have “help” at home.

I began to panic.  We can’t do this alone!  What was I thinking??!!!

The nursing staff posted a “Help Wanted” sign in the nurses’ lounge on our behalf.  The community education coordinator at the hospital put out the word with the nursing school at the local university.  And I spent an entire afternoon on the phone with various “home care” services, all of which I ultimately discovered are designed to help the elderly take care of basic household tasks.

I had nothing.

On top of the emotions of having newborn twins…on top of navigating the NICU experience…I felt ill-prepared…and very alone.

When the girls were 10 days old, we were thrilled to have them released from the NICU.  We hadn’t been able to line up any “help”, but we were ready to have everyone under one roof.  We knew we’d figure it out, one way or another.

That first week was super hectic.  It was full of uncertainty.  We didn’t have the luxury of another set of hands…an experienced aunt or grandmother.  There were only the two of us to make trips to the grocery store, and there was no one to relieve us for a peaceful nap.

But…we did it.  The first week evolved into the second week.  By the end of the first month we were finding our groove.  By the time my best friend came to visit when the girls were seven weeks old, I was feeling mostly human again.

And – to the point Sadia made in a recent post – although we didn’t have the traditional hands-on help, we felt very fortunate to have a sense of community surrounding us.

Our neighbors brought us meals, and I am truly forever grateful for their kindness.  The nurses at our pediatrician’s office were nothing short of fantastic.  I may not have had a grandma to call upon, but they answered every last question I had, even the [frequent] crazy-new-mom ones.  I had a couple of girlfriends to whose phone calls and emails I credit a big chunk of my sanity.  (At the time, I wasn’t on Facebook or a part of the blogosphere, and I had no online community to support me.  I often look back and think how much help that would have been, too.)

So often the importance of “help” seems a central part of advice to new MoMs-to-be.  There are beautiful stories of mothers and mothers-in-law who help make the early days of having newborn babies easier.

Would I have loved to have had such help?  Of course.  But I write this post to say, to those of you who don’t have that kind of help…it will be OK.

Find your community.  Ask for specific help where you need to.  And don’t underestimate your motherly instincts and your ingenuity.

MandyE is mom to 4 ½-year old fraternal twin girls.  She blogs about their adventures and her journey through motherhood at Twin Trials and Triumphs.

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MandyE is the mother of 4 ½-year old fraternal twin girls, Baby A and Baby B. (And yes, their names actually start with the letters A and B!) She worked in the marketing field for nine years before her girls were born, but these days she’s relishing the opportunity to be a SAHM, which she plans to continue until the girls start kindergarten. MandyE has been blogging at Twin Trials and Triumphs since her girls were a year old. Between her blog and her local Mothers of Multiples group, she considers the multiples community a huge part of her support system.

13 thoughts on “When You Don’t Have “Help””

  1. It will come as no surprise that I’m 100% in agreement with you on this one. A lot of people think that parenting help must come in a physical form. Some of us are more challenged by the intellectual/emotional pieces of parenting than the sleep deprivation, etc. We need the support of ideas and conversation more than physical help in managing our babies. Others need no advice or sounding boards, but require help with housekeeping so they can focus on their children. Others would rather have help with the babies themselves. This is just another way in which families differ… and how boring would it be if we were all the same!?

    1. My motivation for writing this post was that so often it feels like advice posts say “GET HELP” in the first line, and I think that can be a scary proposition when you’re facing the unknown of newborn babies.

      It’s true…help is critical…but I like the idea that it can come in many ways.

  2. Love this post! “Everyone” in my MoMs club was hiring nannies, night doulas, and housekeepers – none of which I could afford. I was really worried because I totally got the impression that parents of twins were doomed without an army of hired help. In reality, yes, it was totally hectic. Many times I hit my breaking point, many times I pushed through to care for these tiny brand new beings. Luckily I had my mom and mom-in-law there for a few weeks. They were amazing, not only holding babies, but taking care of me and my husband – doing laundry, cooking, shopping, and most importantly, being our emotional support and biggest cheerleaders. They were always so supportive, telling us that we were doing great, even when we were barely hanging on, and encouraging us so that we grew in confidence to do things for ourselves. Even though it might have been nice to hand things over to a professional at times, I am so glad that my boys spent the first weeks of life in the caring arms of family. I will forever be grateful!

  3. I Needed This Today! My mom has A Chronic illness That Makes It Totally Impossible To Count On Her Being Able To Help. My Husband is Taking 2 Weeks Off AfterThe Twins come, But Then I’m On My Own. With A Toddler At HOme. And 2 School Aged Kids To Get To And Home From School. On TiMe. Yikes! I’m nervous But Keep Telling Myself That As Long As Everyone Eats, Sleeps, And Feels Loved then I’ll Be Doing ok. Wish Me Luck! Sorry About The Crazy Capitalization. My Phone Is Awful.

    1. I’ve heard Sadia talk about adjusting our expectations at times, and I think that’s such a great reminder. Eat..sleep…love…those are basics, for sure! :) I hope you’ll be able to get some help from friends and other family members. Don’t hesitate to ask for specific things people can do for you…I think people ultimately appreciate the finite opportunity to make a trip to the drug store for you, or pick up something from the store. And I hope the support of the online / MoMs community will be helpful, too. I know it certainly is for me. :)

      All the very best of luck to you!!!

  4. This rings true to me! We didn’t have a lot of “help” when we brought the quads home, but we weren’t totally alone either. We were gifted diapers, formula, and knew there were MANY prayers said on our behalf. Their first week home, George and I actually enjoyed spending our time alone so we could get to know our babies and develop our routines.

    1. Yes! Especially after my girls’ (admittedly short) time in the NICU, I felt it was super-important that I figure out how to manage. My father-in-law was staying with us when the second of my twins came home, and he offered to take a nighttime feeding so I could sleep, but it felt so important to establish breastfeeding that I couldn’t fathom the idea of a bottle. Instead, my FIL ended up fixing some stuff around the house, cooking me delicious meals, running errands, and driving me around as I healed from my C-section.

    2. My best friend — who has numerous grandparents / aunts / uncles who are always at her house — has remarked that there is value in figuring things out yourself. She has a 7-week old baby, and she said she feels like she never gets to hold him herself. 😉

      I also think there’s an awesome sense of accomplishment when you can step back and see — no matter how much help you had or didn’t have — that you’re finding your groove and becoming “one” with your babies.

  5. I am so glad you posted this for all of those new parents who aren’t able to get help. While I did have the luxury of having my mom and mother in law live with us for pretty much the first three months, it is totally doable with just you and your partner. I bet you feel a huge sense of accomplishment for doing such an amazing. Mothering twins is the hardest but the most rewarding thing you can ever do!!!

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