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.