I haven’t posted much lately. I start writing and then read it over and it just sounds so… negative. Complain-y. I don’t want to read posts like that, so I never hit “publish.”
The thing is, being a new parent, a stay-at-home parent, of infant twins, is hard. I want to be real about the difficult side of it – without diminishing how much I love my family and my life, how blessed I feel to be so bathed in abundance. It can feel like too much, but that’s a problem I love.
M and R will be one in September. My mom-self will be one too. It seems like a fresh start, a new chapter. All the planning and studying and dreaming that went into preparing for my babies was focused on brand new infants. Now I see toddlers peeking back at me, walking, teeth, opinions, self-efficacy. It’s hitting me that I didn’t just have babies. I had kids. I get to keep them, God willing, forever. I’m excited and nervous and so so happy for the future with these amazing little people that I know and like and love.
The most unexpected lessons I’ve learned this year are:
- The sleep thing is tough, and there is no right answer. What would you do if your children could only eat if you starved? That’s what sleep deprivation is like. You have to tend to their needs, but it sort of kills you. Our boys never liked the swing, and honestly, I never felt comfortable placing them in a mechanical thing. I felt that they belonged in my arms. We were making some progress with sleeping on their own until the 3 month sleep regression hit hard, and forced us into co-sleeping (my husband with M and me with R). After a month of torture, we were desperate. We did pure extinction cry it out. It was the hardest thing I’ve done, and I still don’t know if it was the right thing. Now, we’ve settled into a gentler pattern of response using pick up/put down. My 11-month-olds are up 1-4 times per night, and I believe they will sleep through the night when they’re ready.
- There’s the parent you want to be, and then there’s the parent you can be. My mom shakes her head at all my research and agonizing, saying she just followed her instincts. That’s fine and good, but with twins, you simply can’t follow all your instincts unless you can also expand yourself into two mothers. I wanted to breastfeed on demand and hold each baby on my chest afterward. Impossible (for me. I tried). I wanted to be the one to respond to my newborns rather than ask for help. It was logistically impossible. I had to accept that I have limits and that ideals must make way for messy, beautiful reality.
- When you think you have no more, there is more. I found a wellspring of patience, courage, strength, humility, and gentleness that I didn’t know I had. I was so afraid of not being enough to these two tiny people that needed so much, but like watching my body expand and expand as they grew, I felt my inner core grow to meet them where they were at, everyday. It’s not about being perfect, it’s about being present.
- You will get mad at your babies, and that’s when it’s time to take a break. That’s what it means to be a family – you go through the whole range of experiences together. It’s normal. Sometimes it’s a 3am feeding that morphs into a poopy diaper change that turns into a whole outfit change when he pees everywhere and when you finally get him all bundled up again, he spits up everywhere. And this is the third time it’s all happened since midnight. And then the other one wakes up. No better time to start modeling self-care and proper anger management. Make sure the babies are safe, even if screaming, and leave the room for a couple deep breaths. Then get back in there, mama.
- It ends. It changes. It doesn’t last. The worst things disappear overnight, or melt slowly over time until you can barely remember them. The best things rise out of the chaos and endure in your memory forever. M would do this hilarious thing we called stretchy-stretch. When we opened his swaddle, his arms would pop up as if by springs and his fists would shake. We’d unnecessarily undo his swaddle at a night feeding just to find some hint of joy in the Groundhog Day that was (who are we kidding, still is) our lives. My husband and I were laughing about it the other day, and saying how much we miss stretchy-stretch.
- At the end, it’s just the beginning. You’re never done – and that’s an awful, drudgey sort of thing when it comes to dishes and cleaning and feeding and all those tasks. But it’s a wonderful gift when you see your little ones laughing at each other in the pillow fort after dinner and you realize you get to hear them laugh for years. You get to know them through everything. You’re going forward together. You’re a family.
RebeccaD is a SAHM of 11 month old fraternal twin boys, M and R. She wears the first year like a badge of honor and can’t wait for what the future holds!