Our twins will be 5 next week. Crazy how time goes! I very clearly remember finding out that I was pregnant with them and it seems like an eternity ago.
We were living in Maine for my husband’s job. Our insurance didn’t cover pregnancy so I had not gone to see a doctor when I realized I was expecting again. Our oldest was 8 months at the time, still exclusively breastfed and I was not supposed to be able to get pregnant … I had scheduled an ultrasound at 16 weeks because I was concerned about my ever expanding figure. I was convinced something was wrong with the baby. The doctor put the probe on my belly and I started crying when I saw the two little creatures floating inside. After that I proceeded to freak out as I was counting the number of diapers I would have to change between the three of them .. about 150/wk in the beginning.
I read some books about raising twins and about the do’s and don’ts of birthday parties (sing twice, don’t give a shared gift!). But mostly I enjoyed the pregnancy, was secretly relieved that the state of Maine (the insurance companies for hospitals actually) did not allow for VBAC with twins and agonized what we’d do with our oldest while we were in the hospital.
The babies came out after one routine visit turned to not-so-routine. One of them was having trouble. I was 37wks so the little mountain hospital felt comfortable delivering the babies. They told me that they had nothing but oxygen for the babies and if they needed anything else we would be med flighted to Portland, ME. There was no nursery, I was ‘expected’ to care for them alone.
I thought I handled the first year with grace and ease. I remember thinking how wonderful it was that there was a baby to take care of and then another! What a gift! What a blessing!
Looking back I realize that I was slightly crazy that first year. Since our oldest was so young it was easy to never leave the house. I know I went grocery shopping but I don’t really remember that. I do remember going to the doctor’s office with all three of them and feeling like they wanted to be done with us quickly. I remember being scolded by the doctor for waiting a month before bringing one of them in with what turned out to be pneumonia. I remember being so tired of everyone touching me all day that I wished my husband didn’t find me so irresistible at night. I remember feeling inadequate and frustrated because I couldn’t multiply into three when they all wanted a piece of me at once and picking up one seemed to make the two others cry even louder. I once called my sister-in-law to meet me at a library parking lot to watch the kids while they stayed in the car so I could go and pick up a book I was waiting for (that I actually never read). I remember thinking that it was more important to pick up the house while the kids slept than take a nap. … like I said, a little crazy..
Because having 2 babies (and a toddler) is a lot of work I eventually learned a few things to make it easier.
- Short routines: Our evening routine consisted of putting on jammies and nursing the babies. No baths, no books, no long of anything that would take time on the days when I was simply too exhausted to do ‘the routine’. I bathed the kids about every other week. When we just had one I aimed for once a week, with three of them it was too much to keep up with. No one ever told me that our kids smelled.
- No feeding schedule: I know this doesn’t work for everyone but I nursed on demand and I nursed a lot. When there was a baby that was crying I first nursed to see if they were hungry. That seemed the easiest way to solve the crying. I also felt bad that I didn’t have the time to snuggle with them as much as I knew they needed to be snuggled. If they were on the breast they were getting the snuggles in too.
- Strict nap schedule: I was crazy about their nap times. I was going to be home and have them take their naps in their beds. There were not many occasions that broke this ‘rule’. Because they napped 3x/day until they were past 2 it made for some really short outings. As for nights, none of our kids slept through the night until after 14 months. My husband thought I was a total push over in that regard but I just could not listen to a crying kid. I still can’t.
- Lowered expectations: I had a lot of ideals of what I thought were important and that I wanted to try to strive for. Like ‘being put together for my husband’, ‘picking up the house before dinner’, or ‘working out’. I gave up on all of those eventually for a time. Some, I’ve never picked up again. It took awhile but at some point I realized it was ok to ‘just be’. To sit with the kids on the floor, watch them play and take pleasure in their excitement as they discovered the world.
I do wish I had made a better effort to sleep when they were sleeping during the days. It always felt like such a waste of time. Even if I did nothing ‘productive’ I wanted to enjoy the quietness of the house when they were asleep. I was looking through the old pictures awhile back and was surprised to see the exhaustion on my face. And that’s another thing, I wish I had taken more pictures. I thought I would have everything permanently instilled in my mind but come to find out, lots of it didn’t stick. Must’ve been that sleep deprivation …
How about you? What are your strategies making the first year survivable?
Hanna is a mom to 3 lively kids. She lives with her superb husband in the Boston outskirts and works part time in one of the nearby hospitals.They are loving the parenting thing and are starting the process of becoming a foster family. Her family recently moved ‘to the country’ and after some challenges with the old house everyone is adjusting great and are negotiating on what animals to have as pets.