Back 2 the Future: So blessed/so depressed

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Categories Childcare, Family, Mommy Issues, Other people, WorkingTags 25 Comments

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My twin pregnancy was diagnosed at our 20-week ultrasound. Our twins were healthy and the pregnancy was low-risk, as twin pregnancies go. We were flooded with congrats and well wishes from friends and family.

I spent the first week after the ultrasound in complete shock. Sometime during the second week, I calculated what our daycare expenses would be. By the end of that week, I was very, very depressed.

According to the multiples pregnancy books I read, this is normal. Knowing that only made it slightly easier to deal with. I felt so guilty for having to fight back tears when people told us how blessed we were. People told me how much they always wanted twins, and inwardly I felt that they didn’t know what they were talking about. We were going to be under tremendous financial strain, as the bonus baby necessitated a move from our apartment and an upgrade from our small cars to a minivan. Not to mention a double stroller, a second crib, second infant seat, etc.

Also, reading the statistics on multiples pregnancies is a terrifying pastime. I hesitated to think much about the babies or the future, especially in terms of happy glowing mommy moments with my healthy babies. I focused on gaining weight and getting through the day. I didn’t get excited about actually holding and meeting and having my boys, until the night before they were born.

To clarify, I don’t think I was in a clinical depression while pregnant with them, or postpartum. However, I felt very depressed and that feeling persisted for quite some time after they were born. By which I mean, there were many happy times, but there were also many, many times I cried and wondered why God had done this to us. When people told me how blessed I was, I thought about the long days listening to the babies scream while I tried to work from home. I thought about the hours upon hours my 2-year-old spent watching cartoons, and how many of her meals consisted of dry cereal or crackers. I thought about how many of my meals consisted of a handful of M&Ms or, if I had the luxury of time, a can of green beans. And I thought, if this is a blessing for me, it is a terrible punishment for my children.

Time has given me the gift of understanding of how quickly and how certainly things change. That first year after the twins were born, I lacked the perspective to understand that this was but a season, and it would change, and I would be able to enjoy my children and my family and my entire life so much more. I was focused on surviving the day-to-day, instead of enjoying the day-to-day. I’m not sure a mere change of attitude would have remedied that, given our circumstances, but it would have been easier to get through that intense first year if I could have but glimpsed the future.

Certainly, life with kids aged almost-three to seven is worlds easier than life with three under three. We still have our rough times, but they don’t compare to that first year. And now, because I have seven years of parenting under my belt watching how quickly kids flip in and out of unpleasant stages, it’s easier for me to let a few bad hours, days, or weeks roll off my back. My first round of having three kids under age three was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but soon after that it got to be a lot of fun having them so close in age. So much fun that I was thrilled to sign up for a second (much easier) round of three under three when my fourth child was born. And I was secretly a bit sad it wasn’t twins.

Jen is the married work-from-home mother of 7-year-old Miss A, 5-year-old twin boys G and P, and 2-year-old Haney Jane. She blogs at Diagnosis: Urine.

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Back 2 the Future: Twin flashbacks

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Categories Behavior, Development, Potty Training, Preschoolers, Sleep, ToddlersTags 10 Comments

My twins are 5 now. Five! When I’m out with the kids, I’m more likely to be asked whether they and their older sister are triplets, than I am to be asked whether the boys are twins. The spectacle of twinfants in a double stroller is behind us, replaced by the more alarming spectacle of my energetic, exuberant children in public.

After reading Goddess in Progress’s fantastic post, Absolving the Guilt, I decided to focus my HDYDI posts on the various nagging worries, frighteningly strong emotions, and unpleasant aspects of having very young multiples. And, more specifically, how those worries and scary thoughts (“Can’t I give them back??”) and unpleasant things (for example, urgently needing to use the toilet in a public place, with your toddler collection in tow) have resolved themselves.

I want to do this for several reasons. First, I love to complain. Unfortunately, my kids are getting so much easier now that I don’t have much current complaint fodder, so I have to go vintage. Second, I worried that I was a terrible mother for some of the thoughts and feelings I had during my early mothering career. I worried that no one else felt the same way. I hope I can make other parents feel less awful for composing a lullabye that includes “shut up, just shut up” as part of the lyrics. Third, I’ve spent about 5 years now assuring other parents of twins that it gets easier. Now I’ll try to pin down how and when.

Someone on my regular blog just commented about the ages of 4-11 being “the sweet spot,” where things are pretty easy. I did a little math and found that the average of my kids’ ages is 4.5, and I am definitely feeling the sweet spot thing. It just hit in the last few months.

Example: Going outside to play. There was a time when taking my kids out to play was like the riddle where you have to get a wolf, a cow, and some hay across a pond without anything getting eaten. I couldn’t carry both twins at once, and I couldn’t leave one twin outside eating God-knows-what off the ground while I went to get the other one. More recently, going outside meant I had to physically dress four little people plus myself, and usually my oldest would have peed her pants by the time we got outdoors.

Now, life is sweet. My oldest dresses herself (and doesn’t pee herself! Whee!!!), and the twins will dress themselves if I talk them through it to keep things moving. They can put on their own shoes and coats. And, they can play outside without me!!!! Even the “baby,” who is nearly 3 so I should stop calling her the baby.

Can you imagine the glory of preparing dinner in solitude while your children chase each other with sticks in your backyard? Ladies and gents, this dream is coming your way.

Jen is the married work-from-home mother of 7-year-old Miss A, 5-year-old identical boys G and P, and 2-year-old Haney Jane. She blogs at Diagnosis: Urine.

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The ability to self-soothe begins to emerge around 61 months.

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At five years old, my twins may be the oldest reflected here at HDYDI. They make up for that by having the maturity and social skills of two week olds.

I’m kidding! Mostly. During their first year, they attended two home daycares until we convinced my sister-in-law to watch them. She continued until I quit my job to stay home, and since then the boys have tolerated several teenaged babysitters and one Wednesday night church program, but that is the extent of their exposure to people outside our family. Playdates have been met with violence – not against the other children, thank goodness. When confronted with *outsiders*, one of my boys hides behind me and punches me repeatedly in the posterior. This is his way of indicating, “Mother, I am anxious and would like to withdraw from the situation now, if it pleases you.” It’s a lot like baby sign language.

The boys, before they realized I don't actually attend preschool with them.
The boys, before they realized I don't actually attend preschool with them.

Anyway, the boys started preschool last Wednesday. The first day, parents were to stay and the boys were cautiously optimistic when they saw all the toys and play areas. When parents were ushered to the next room for a meeting, I hoped the toys would keep the boys comfortable. I hoped so, fervently, for the first 5 minutes of the meeting, until a teacher brought one of my red-faced, teary-eyed boys to the door and beckoned to me.

I spent the rest of the day as the only parent forced to escort her children through circle time — one boy burying his face in my neck with his legs wrapped around my waist; the other angrily punching me in the behind. I didn’t know what to do, so I just smiled extra-bright and sang, “Wheels on the Bus” and played Red Light Green Light like the boys and I were conjoined triplets.

My husband works second shift, so he handles preschool drop off. Thank God, because I don’t think I could take it. Days two and three of preschool went as you can imagine, with sobbing and screaming and clawing desperately to get back into the car. Apparently they calm down within a few minutes of Jason leaving, and they tolerate the rest of the day reasonably well.

P told me, “One time I started to cry, but I told myself, ‘I gotta pull it together!’ and then I was okay.” Now if only their mother could also master this skill, we’d be in business.

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Strollers.

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How many of you felt your breath catch just reading that word? Shoes are to Carrie Bradshaw what strollers are to, well, most of the people who socialize with me. It’s a short list, but we love our strollers.

I’m not a stroller snob. I had an Evenflo travel system with my first child, and got a Combi Twin Savvy when my boys were born, even though what I really wanted was the Mountain Buggy Urban Double. (You should click that link just to see the price. It’s worth the chuckle.) I needed a double stroller with a sit and stand but they didn’t exist when I was cranking out my brood.

When we found out I was pregnant with #4, the twins were 1.5 and A was 3. I mentally calculated my boys’ ability to walk alongside me plus my daughter’s capacity for obedience, multiplied by my anxiety level and divided by the number of hands God saw fit to give me, and found that I was lacking. I knew I could make do for a short time with the baby in a sling and the boys in the double stroller, but my aptitude for sling use drops off sharply once a baby moves out of the limp doughy phase.

I wanted a triple stroller, and scoured the resale shops for one. Instead, I stumbled upon a J Mason Quad Carriage for $100. You can bet I snapped that thing up and dragged it home. I want to make some shoes reference here, like, “…Carrie Bradshaw finding a pair of vintage blah blah somethings at a thrift store,” but I don’t know enough about high end footwear, plus I bet Carrie Bradshaw would never step foot into a thrift store.

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The quad stroller – or “four stroller,” as my children call it – wasn’t perfect. But alas, what union between parent and stroller is? The quad was heavy, bulky, and a real beast to maneuver on uneven terrain. But for trips to the zoo, for example, it was a godsend. And let’s be honest: I was staying home with four kids 4 and under. I wasn’t going much of anywhere.

Three days before the twins 5th birthday, I sold the four stroller. The kids were devastated. They wept in protest as they watched me clean it up, and they begged me to keep it. We settled on one final ride.

A’s gangly legs didn’t fit in the back; she had to throw them over the lap bar in the front seat. The boys climbed into the back, I placed baby #4 into the open front seat, and we set off. As I sweated and gasped for air, I reflected on my maiden voyage with the quad stroller, three years ago. Then, too, I sweated and panted my way around the block, Braxton-Hicks contractions kicking in as I pushed my 90 lb toddler payload. This 2009 haul was more like 150 lbs, and left me grateful that I don’t have to do this anymore.
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When the couple purchasing my stroller arrived, I was happy to saunter back inside and watch from the window as they wrestled that mammoth into the back of their van. Never again will I watch my husband sweat and curse quietly while struggling to fold it. Never again will my children stream out from the quad stroller’s depths like it’s a clown car. Never again will we look like a circus sideshow in public. The moment was bittersweet, until I remembered I’d just made $75, and then it was only sweet.

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Easy

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Categories Activities, Celebrations, Development, Family, Other people, Preschoolers13 Comments

103This weekend, we attended two lengthy family celebrations. In years past, these sorts of celebrations filled me with dread. Where the normal person sees a relaxing cookout, I see an eternity of chasing kids, sweating, breaking up fights, prying hickory nuts out of small slobbery mouths, etc. Definitely not relaxing.

This weekend was different. My twins will be five in a month, and for the first time at one of these events, my husband and I were both seated and eating at the same time.

We still made many, many runs to the bathroom, and the buffet line is still a bit tricky, but there’s no comparison to the holiday meals and picnics of 2008 and earlier.

We travel light now, too. Potty accidents happen so rarely that we don’t pack extra clothes. The baby is still in diapers, but she’s 2.5 and can last a long time without a change. We don’t have to bring bottles, or baby food, or look for a comfortable place to nurse. We don’t need a stroller, feeding seats, pack and plays, or any of the other gear that goes along with having multiple babies.

So, hang in there. All you have to do is get your kids to 59 months, and you too can enjoy a cookout!

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Cleave

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Categories Behavior, Development, Identical, Multiple Types, Other people, Overnight, Relationships, SleepTags , , 13 Comments

cleave
intransitive verb
: to adhere firmly and closely or loyally and unwaveringly
transitive verb
: to separate into distinct parts

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I had trouble blogging today.

It’s not that I didn’t have anything relevant to say – twins have been on my mind all week, because of this family who just lost one of their twins very unexpectedly.

It hurts so much to even read about it, and I didn’t want that to be what I shared with you, but because of prematurity and pregnancy complications, loss is interwoven with abundance in the multiples community. I am sure any support, prayers, good thoughts, etc. would be welcomed by the Martinos.

Because of their story, the bond between my boys weighed heavily on my heart this week. My guys are not one of the sets of twins you hear about who are “total opposites.” They like the same things, to varying degrees but enough that they are always together. They discuss what they want to play. Each is heartbroken if the other refuses to “pay wif me,” and they defend each other against our discipline. They sleep tangled up together, closer than I sleep to my husband. Their top loves in life are Mommy, Daddy, and their twin. Their sisters are in another category.

It pains me to think of how we must begin to train them to grow apart. It is necessary, to be sure, but the bond between them has formed so naturally that it seems cruel – a sin – to deliberately weaken it. They have their sisters, close in age. They play with lots of other kids. They rarely dress alike. They’ve done things with us individually since they were babies, but each is always overjoyed to get back home to his twin.

Sometime this week I found a website for the author of Emotionally Healthy Twins: A New Philosophy for Parenting Your Twins as Unique Individuals; Joan Friedman, Ph.D. The page header said, “Creating a New Mindset: Thinking of Twins as Two Separate Children.” A twin herself, the author felt a lot of pressure to play up the twin bond in her life, and when she found herself pregnant with twins, she worried about how to avoid putting the same pressure on her children. The chapter online is interesting reading, touching on topics like “favoring” one twin over the other, and creating a fair and equal childhood (Friedman says it’s better not to!). I’m interested in hearing whether any of you have read Dr. Friedman’s book, and what you think of her advice – particularly if you are an adult multiple yourself. Do you think the bond between multiples is mostly due to a “twin mystique” myth perpetuated by society, or do you think it is something more?

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Troubles with Doubles?

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Categories Family, Identical, Multiple Types, Other people, RelationshipsTags 10 Comments
The Diagnosis: Urine boys in 2006
The Diagnosis: Urine boys in 2006
When we discovered we were having twin boys, we hoped they were fraternal so they’d have a better shot at some individuality. We aren’t certain they are identical, but they look enough alike that most people cannot tell them apart, and many times my husband or I will have to get a good, head-on look to be certain which boy is which.
 
The novelty of identical twins is fun, to a point. Mine dress themselves and are rarely dressed alike, and we have always used a color coding system around extended family, to make it easier for relatives to bond with the boys individually. It is hard to get close to someone when you’re worrying about getting their name wrong.
 
Even with these measures, though, their grandparents seem to view them only as a unit: The Twins. The Boys. And don’t get me wrong — I have no problem with someone referring to them that way. Saying each name is silly when “the boys” gets the point across more quickly. I don’t mind hearing them spoken of in abbreviated terms, but I mind when I feel they’re being shortchanged.
 
For example, my parents’ tradition is to choose a special gift for each grandchild’s first birthday. They are gifts that the child will use for 10 years or more. Some have gotten nice wooden table and chairs sets, or child-sized upholstered chairs for their bedrooms. My oldest nephew received a big wagon. And for my boys’ first birthday, they were given the same wagon. It bothered me, not because I wanted us to have two wagons, but because each boy got HALF a special gift for his first birthday, instead of receiving something individually.
 
There are other issues with overnights or weekend visits, where the boys are only invited as a unit, while other grandchildren are invited for individual visits. This happens with both sides of the family, and for now it is fine because my boys prefer being together, but it’s a symptom of the over-arching problem. Conversely, the boys were brought into Grandma’s office and shown off a lot more than either of my girls have ever been. Because they are twins, and because they look alike, they are more fun to show off. They are more attractive because they are a unit.
 
As a family, we were recently talking about how the boys look very much alike, but we can see differences between them. One of my boys said, “But Nana doesn’t.” His brother nodded in agreement. I was upset. Of the many people who can’t tell them apart — including sometimes me and my husband — he picked out his grandma as the person who doesn’t see differences between them.
 
Anyone else deal with this at all? Any advice? At some point we will have to speak with our parents and establish some ways to ensure the boys get even time, and I dread those conversations because I hate to ask them for more. Unfortunately, they are missing out on getting to know my little guys because they see them only as a moving clump of boy instead of as two guys who have their own strengths and weaknesses.
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My innate laziness pays off, or, must-have equiment for the new mom of multiples

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People, I am not one who likes to work out. At all. I don’t like being sweaty and out of breath. Then there’s the time issue – hello, I am working (for money) and taking care of four little kids (sadly, not for money). We can’t afford a gym membership or a quadruple jogging stroller. I’ve attempted to use the treadmill, but that goes one of two ways:

  1. The children place small toys on the treadmill so they can watch them fly off the back. I breathlessly try to discourage this. I sound like Sasquatch or The Hulk; the children cackle and continue their shenanigans, or
  2. I keep the children gated away from the treadmill while I use it. I run to the soundtrack of wailing, whining, crashes and crying from the next room. My workout is frequently interrupted.

I had resigned myself to buying bigger pants and some full-body shapewear when my husband brought home Wii Fit. I won’t go into its benefits. The best testimonial I can give is to say that I’ve actually done this for almost a month, and when I’ve skipped a day, I missed it and looked forward to getting back to it. If you knew me and understood the sheer enormity of my laziness, you’d understand how shocking this is.

Which brings me to my point: A Wii Fit is the best possible baby gift for an expectant mother of twins, aside from a good double stroller. The yoga and strength training exercises are short – perfect for being interrupted every few minutes by needy babies. The aerobic exercises can be done in short bursts or longer stretches, and are fun and entertaining. Plus it charts your progress, which is nice when you’re feeling discouraged over your post-twins body.

In addition, the Wii Fit trainer provides a built-in girlfriend during those lonesome postpartum months. Granted, she’s a friend who makes ridiculous suggestions like, “Use your abs to stabilize yourself,” and “Try to get a healthy amount of sleep each night,” but she doesn’t get offended when I respond with colorful language, and at this point I’ll take all the friends I can get.

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