Twinfant Tuesday: A year in photos (minus the photos)

Next week, my little monkeys will be ONE!  That one saying is so true.  What is it again?  The days go slowly, but the weeks and months fly by, or something like that?  The other night my husband and I were watching photos float by on a slideshow from the past year.  While it’s impossible to adequately describe the first year with twins, a few of these moments help summarize the roller coaster.

Exhaustion

Photo: both 8-week-old babies are in just a diaper, passed out on my husband, who is also asleep.  My son’s arm is draped over the face of my daughter, whose mouth is wide open.  Everyone looks exhausted.  I recall this night in particular, because it was taken at the end of the first night we decided to “try” one of us going out for a few hours during the “witching hour.”  This witching hour was so very real in our house between about 5 weeks-13 weeks or so.  This particular night they started crying about 10 minutes after my husband left the house (of course), and they seemed to ratchet each other higher and higher on the scale of hysteria for the next 45 minutes until I called him, beckoning him home.  I still have no idea what got them so upset, but it was one of those nights where I needed to put them each in their crib and walk away for a good 3-5 minutes because I truly did not know how to calm them.  Eventually they stop crying for just as mysterious of reasons as why they started.  I still feel shell shocked by those first few months with two infants.  I can almost still feel the anxiety, counting the time until I’d need to go pump or breastfeed two babies again, or feel the burn in my sleep-deprived eyes.

Joy

Photo: taken after a bath, and the babies were laying side by side, and my son reached out and was touching my daughter on the arm.  She smiled back at him.  They were about 5 months old and it was taken on our first trip (see also: only) with the kids.  (We really took on the challenge of a first vacation with infant twins: Cold weather.  Over Christmas.  Staying at high altitude.  Attempting to take turns to go skiing.)  It wasn’t likely the first time they connected like that, but I do think it was the first one we caught on camera.  It captures the hope that I have for a close relationship between them and the warmth I feel in my heart when I see the connection between them.

Fear

My heart aches and is filled with gratitude simultaneously when I see the photo of my son smiling, holding a small box of cheerios in a hospital gown, the morning after our first night (and, hopefully, only for a very long time) in the hospital a few weeks ago after he took a bad fall and sustained a head injury.  We spent the night saying prayers that all would be okay, while we realized the vicarious pain one can feel for their child, as a parent.  Seeing this photo, even just a few weeks after, makes me so grateful that he is okay.  I’m almost equally as fearful of other accidents and illnesses that no doubt lie down the road for us as a family.  I was warned about how you experience pain when your children hurt, but it is truly something you cannot understand until going through it.

Fascination

Photo: my daughter standing, holding onto the collar of our 8-year-old pitbull-boxer mix makes me giggle.  I remember coming around the corner and catching her standing there with our dog, who patiently sat and let our daughter examine her “necklace.”  Mind you, she cannot walk yet, so this means she crawled over and pulled herself up on our dog’s collar.  Her fascination with jewelry has begun early, as has her love of feeding this doggy all her vegetables.  This photo captures the delight and fascination I feel as I watch these kids discover their world and learn new skills every day.  It’s incredible to watch them stand for the first time, or make a new sound and see their faces light up with pride.

And, that has been the emotional cycle of the past 12 months: Exhaustion, Joy, Fear, Fascination, or some derivative of these feelings.  I truly wish I could stop time for a day or at least an hour to really reflect on the ways life has changed and motherhood has changed me in the last year.  But, for now, a post like this will have to do.

Katie has b/g twins that will be one next week.  She lives in Chicago and balances full-time work, being a mom and training for a sprint triathlon for which she regrets signing up.

Twinfant Tuesday: Being a Twin Ambassador

Let’s face it: we mothers of multiples are celebrities. We get bombarded just about every place we go with stares, questions, comments, and picture-taking. We weren’t asking for this stardom, but we got it, just by being the SuperMOMs that we are!

Some days, I just stay in my house, not wanting to deal with the outside world. We may go on a walk around our neighborhood, where thankfully everyone knows us and we have stopped getting… well… stopped every few steps. I may even run out while my husband or one of the grandmothers watches the babies. I can freely run about like I did pre-pregnancy: dashing into stores, parking in the skinny parking spots (no need to worry about squeezing the car seats out), and having some moments of freedom. Of course, those are the times that I miss my twin mom badge of honor. I’m a hypocrite. I know.

A thoughtful way of looking at the positive (and negative!) side of people's fascination with twins.

Other days, we venture into the world. We get the stares, questions, comments, and (yes) picture-taking. I have to hear the same phrases over and over (“Woah, twins!” “Are they twins?” “Look at that stroller!”). If I’m in a good mood and the babies are in a good mood, I will be a good Twin Ambassador, answering questions, talking about their sleep schedules, eating schedules, and personalities. I try to be helpful and informative, kind and patient. I try to be a teacher: guiding these strangers gently into understanding the world of multiples (and even nicely correcting them when they make a rude comment: “No, my hands aren’t full. My heart is full! I am so lucky.”)

Being a celebrity isn’t always wonderful, though. Sometimes I truly hate being a Twin Ambassador (yes, even though “hate” is a strong word). I long for the tiny strollers for singletons that easily fit through the doors. I wish that we wouldn’t get stared at or approached at every stop. I just wish that people wouldn’t be so forward with their stares and questions and comments. I just get tired of it. During those cases, I just quickly change the subject or leave the situation, usually without my smile that is typically shining on my face when I talk about my babies.

I crave normalcy.

We know that multiples are on the rise. So why are people constantly shocked to see them? Why do they think that they can ask “Are they natural?” or “Can I take a picture?” or even “Are they twins?”

In the 5 years I taught, I had at least one twin in my class each year. Twins are the new normal, people!

Yet we still put on our Twin Ambassador emblem with pride. We love our babies more than we ever thought possible. We are just given more of an opportunity to talk about them than if we had just one baby at a time. I guess that is a singleton mother’s dream, right?

Twinfant Tuesday: Ways to carry two babies when strollers are not allowed

It was long after my twins were born, 8 months to be exact, that I felt comfortable leaving the house and going to social events by myself.  Story hours and play dates were new to my agenda and although these  events were crucial in helping me feel less isolated and introducing me to friends in my new town, they also brought with them many new challenges.  For example, after feeling so proud of myself for making it out of the house and being on time for my first ever story hour, my spirits were quickly squashed when I discovered that the staff did not allow mothers to bring strollers into the performance room.  I was shocked and almost felt like crying when the kind librarian informed me that I has to transport my kids inside without the help of my trusty stroller.  I felt awkward as I carried my car seats into the performance room.  I felt clumsy as I placed them on the floor, sat in front of them, unbuckled them and then left the car seats near me- taking up valuable space, but feeling unable to move them because I did not want to leave my children unattained.  I also felt silly as I  packed my boys up to leave and I know I bumped into several people with my wide load.

I encountered similar difficulties when attending play group meetings at new friends’ houses.  Some walkways made wheeling a stroller up to the front door impossible.  Others had long sets of stairs leading to the front door creating a whole new obstacle.  These new situations taught me the best and easiest ways to carry my guys around when strollers were not permitted or usable.  Here are some suggestions in case you find yourself in a similar situation:

1.  Place one baby in a carrier and hold the other on your hip.  I used this method most often when I was faced with a difficult transportation scenario.  I was able to support my (somewhat lighter) son on my hip and use the carrier to support the weight of my other boy.  I felt like I still had one hand free for opening doors, digging keys out of pockets and placing the baby back in the car seat.  This was my favorite way to roll.
2.  Carry the babies in their infant car seats. I used the method if I had to, but by 8 months, my boys were heavy!  Also, when carrying kids this way, you do not have any free hands to open doors (especially your own car doors).  This method is less than ideal for some situations.
3.  Use a twin carrier or two carriers (one on the front and one of the back): There are some twin specific carriers that allow you to carry two babies relatively hands free.  Be mindful of the weight limitations of these carriers; however, as they are really meant to be used when your babies are small.  Alternatively, some choose to wear one baby in a single carrier on the front and one in a single carrier on the back.  This can work nicely for situations where you have a long walk or when you may have to stand for a long period of time.
4.  Carry one baby on each hip: As twin moms we are really good at carrying both of our children around the house at the same time but sometimes getting both babies into your arms is a challenge.  I have always had good luck picking up two babies from their beds but have found that it is tough to grab two from their car seats or from the ground.  Keep this in mind if you do not have anyone to help hand you the second child.

I am sure there are many other ways people have engineered a solution to this unique problem.  Please let us know how you transport your kids when strollers are not allowed or ideal.

Twinfant Tuesday: Going Back to Work After Maternity Leave (Part IV)

8 tips for making the return to work successful, from an IT professional and mother of twins.

Tips for Making a Return to Work Easier

Here are a few things that I think kept me from throwing up my hands and quitting my job in the first week back.

  1. A supportive co-parent. I trusted my husband completely with the babies. He had been present for them in their NICU-bound first days in ways I couldn’t after a C-section. Although he didn’t see the need for it, he agreed to stay home from work my first two days back, just in case the babies refused to feed from a bottle or I just couldn’t make the breast pump work for me.
  2. Research. I read up on the psychology of children raised by working mothers. I can’t find the articles I read back in 2006 now, but the ones that gave me the most comfort fell into two categories. There were the findings that showed that children of working mothers got just as much quality time from them as from stay-at-home moms, which countered my concerns that my children would be or feel neglected. There were also articles that argued that working moms were generally happier than stay-at-home moms. Having been diagnosed with clinical depression myself and having been raised by a mother with untreated mental illness, I knew how important it was to take care of myself so that I could be the best mother possible.
  3. A job I love. There would have been no point in returning to work if I didn’t enjoy what I did. I loved (and still love) the challenges, the pace, and above all my wonderfully smart, funny, supportive co-workers (including RachelG). I enjoyed my job so much that I went back to it even though my take home pay after daycare costs was about $100/month. Fortunately, I was awarded a promotion not long afterward, but I enjoyed work enough that it wasn’t about the money. If I were just working to make ends meet, I can imagine being deeply unhappy.
  4. A great boss. My team lead, Gordana, was breastfeeding her own infant when I came back to work. She was both a professional and a mothering mentor. She made sure that I had a place to pump and made me feel at ease making my breastfeeding needs known and respected. When J went on nursing strike, it was Gordana who recommended that I take some time off work to spend full days skin-to-skin with J to coax her back to the breast.
  5. Trusted caregivers. My daughters’ infant teacher, Suzanne, has become family. From the moment she met them, she loved my daughters as her own. She always told me what was going on with them, worked as a partner to address her concerns and mine, and gave insightful recommendations from her experience with infants. Every day, I was given a sheet of paper for each child documenting every meal, nap, diaper, activity, and event of the day. I trusted her, and still trust her, completely. She was actually the one who recommended the elementary school my daughters now attend, from which her own daughter is about to move onto middle school. When my girls (along with their friend Shaw) graduated from pre-K at their daycare centre, Suzanne cried as hard as I did.
  6. Established breastfeeding. The 8 weeks my girls and I had together 24/7 showed me that we could make breastfeeding work. I didn’t mind supplementing their diets with formula, but I was committed to getting them as many of the benefits of breastmilk as possible. Had we not been going strong with breastfeeding already, I’m not sure I could have made it through each workday without my babies at my side.
  7. Confidence. I had to be certain that I was doing the right thing. There were going to be naysayers feeding into my own doubts. I told myself that my working was the right choice for my family, and no one else could possibly decide for us how our family should be structured. I’ve never been one to follow the expected path, so that part came easily.
  8. Lowered standards. The fact is that an adult who spends 12 hours in their home can get less done with regards to housekeeping and cooking than one who is home 22-24 hours a day. Laundry didn’t get folded. It just didn’t. I used cleaning robots (Roomba and Scooba) to clean my floors because I couldn’t do it. We hired a lawn maintenance company because even if I were home during daylight hours, there was no way I was doing yard work. And I didn’t sit. I was in constant motion that first year. The first time I sat down outside of work and breastfeeding was when the babies were 6 months old and we went to Washington and were surrounded by doting grandparents, great grandmothers and great uncles and great aunts. I sat down and had a glass of wine with my mother-in-law while Grampy fed the babies. It was amazing.

Proud Grandpa displaying his grandtwins at the fire station

What are/were your concerns about returning to work?

Read more:

Sadia (rhymes with Nadia) has been coordinating How Do You Do It? since late 2012. She is the single mother of 8-year-old monozygotic twins, M and J. She lives with them and their 3 cats in the Austin, TX suburbs and works full time as a business analyst. She retired her personal blog, Double the Fun, but now also blogs at Adoption.com and Multicultural Mothering.

Twinfant Tuesday: Going Back to Work After Maternity Leave (Part III)

Why Returning to Work After Maternity Leave is Hard

I don’t want to give you the impression that returning to work was easy for me. Despite all the positives, it was hard. I was consumed by guilt. I kept wishing that my career-building years weren’t my reproductive years. Every time I found myself enjoying work, I wondered if it made me a bad mother, if my pleasure at being away from them would somehow ruin their lives forever.

The end of maternity leave is hard, but returning to work can be well worth it. The younger the child, the easier it may be.

I missed the babies viscerally. My full, sore breasts were a constant reminder that my girls were 15 miles away, being cared for by people who were then strangers, although they’re now more family than my “real” family. My arms ached to hold J and M. I missed their smell. I worried that we would no longer be bonded and that our relationship would become as non-existent as my relationships with my own parents.

The breast pump and I didn’t respond well to each other. My milk production plummeted. I was only pumping twice a day during the 10+ hours I was away from my babies, 15 minutes at a time, down from 90 minutes of nursing every 3 hours. No amount of fenugreek could make up the difference in time or the way that my babies’ mouths triggered letdown. After the trauma of the girls’ premature birth by C-section, breastfeeding felt like a way I could make up to them the weeks in my womb my body had denied them, and now I was failing them again as their mother.

It didn’t help that no one other than my boss, my husband and my in-laws believed that I could balance it all. I know that everything who said to me, “I don’t know how you do it,” meant it as a compliment, but I couldn’t help hearing an undertone of “You’ll never be able to do it.” And then there were the other army wives (other than Sara), who actually came out and told me that I was a bad mother and shameful army wife for wanting a career. “A real army wife,” one sneered at me, “stays home and takes care of her soldier and children.”

Read more:

Sadia (rhymes with Nadia) has been coordinating How Do You Do It? since late 2012. She is the single mother of 8-year-old monozygotic twins, M and J. She lives with them and their 3 cats in the Austin, TX suburbs and works full time as a business analyst. She retired her personal blog, Double the Fun, but now also blogs at Adoption.com and Multicultural Mothering.

Twinfant Tuesday: Going Back to Work After Maternity Leave (Part II)

Why 11 Weeks Was Enough

For our family, 11 weeks post-partum for a return to my job worked out rather well. Please don’t take this to mean that I support the US’s shamefully short maternity leave policies. I simply mean that for us, 11 weeks was okay. I think every mother needs to decide for herself and her baby what the right amount of time together is before returning to work.

My daughters took to the breast amazingly easily after their NICU days of gavage- and bottle-feeding. We made the switch right away, no transition plan needed. Since M was home nearly a week before J, I was able to establish a breastfeeding and pumping routine with her. She fed for 45 minutes every 3 hours, and I pumped for 20 minutes after each breastfeeding session. (I didn’t figure out the magic of pumping on one side while breastfeeding on the other until later in our breastfeeding journey.) Twice a day, M got high-calorie formula fortified with Poly-Vi-Sol while I pumped. The pumped milk was delivered to the NICU once a day, my wonderful father-in-law driving me and M to the hospital and waiting with the baby in the car as I limped in to briefly hold J. My husband had been shipped off to California by the army when the girls were 10 days old.

When J came home, she fit right into M and my feeding routine. I never could get simultaneous feeding figured out, so the babies would each feed for 45 minutes every 3 hours.

That’s right. During the 8 weeks of maternity leave between the babies leaving the hospital and my return to my job, I spent 12 hours every day breastfeeding.

This is what breastfeeding 12 hours a day looks like.

Much as I wanted to make breastfeeding work, returning to work gave me back my sense of self. I felt valued for more than just my milk-production ability. Had I not had my work successes and co-workers to validate me, I don’t know that I could have survived J’s nursing strike, her complete refusal to breastfeed at age 5 months.

It felt so good to be back at work. A multi-year project completed days after I came back to work, and while all my friends were burned out and exhausted, I was chipper and exhausted, ready to get back to something I knew I was good at. It wasn’t that I was at bad at mothering newborns−I’m 100% baby person−but I really enjoyed the concrete validation that I was doing things right. That validation doesn’t come until years down the road for parents, if ever.

Then there was lunch. Every day at work gave me an entire hour during which nothing was expected of me. I could eat. I could nap. I could take a walk, or wash my face or brush my teeth without guilt. I could give friends my undivided attention. Lunch was a glorious extraordinary gift that I had taken for granted for years.

Maternity leave was a very lonely time for me. My husband was away for army training much of the time and my in-laws could only take a few weeks off work to travel from Washington State to Texas. My friend Sara and I spent as much time together with our 3 newborns as we could, since her husband was away with mine, but we lived 40 miles apart, so daily hanging out wasn’t reasonable. I hadn’t yet made other mommy friends. People did come to visit, but I lived 30 miles from work and the majority of my friends just couldn’t make the trek. I am an intense extrovert. I talked to the babies all day long, but they weren’t the most insightful of conversational partners.

Since my daughters have been in daycare since they were so young, they’ve never known anything else. Yes, we had a bout of separation anxiety when they were 17 months old, but I’ve never dealt with the sort of trauma at being separated from my girls that I’ve seen with other parents. Returning to work as early as I did taught me to trust others to care for my children

It also helped foster a more egalitarian separation of duties with my husband than we might have had otherwise. We shared the responsibilities of diapering and bathing our babies. During the 3 months Daddy was home in the girls’ first year, between California training and Iraq deployment, my then-husband took on all housework and cooking so that I could focus on breastfeeding. He even took half the nighttime feedings, since we both had jobs to get to in the morning. He mastered latching the babies onto my breast without waking me and quickly figured out how to determine when each baby had emptied one breast and was ready for the second. Within the first week after I returned to work, I was able to sleep through my husband’s rolling me over to switch breasts, and I got more than 90 minutes of sleep at a time for the first time since M came from the hospital.

SadiawithBabes

Did you look forward to returning to work? Did you feel guilty?

Sadia (rhymes with Nadia) has been coordinating How Do You Do It? since late 2012. She is the single mother of 8-year-old monozygotic twins, M and J. She lives with them and their 3 cats in the Austin, TX suburbs and works full time as a business analyst. She retired her personal blog, Double the Fun, but now also blogs at Adoption.com and Multicultural Mothering.

Twinfant Tuesday: Going Back to Work After Maternity Leave (Part I)

I returned to work when my babies were 11 weeks old. Going back to work after maternity leave was incredibly hard, physically and emotionally, but I don’t regret doing it. In the long term, my daughters and I are better off for my having maintained my career through motherhood.

The end of maternity leave is hard, but returning to work can be well worth it. The younger the child, the easier it may be.

The photo above was the last one I took before returning to work. The babies were so little… only 4 weeks past their due date and still the size of newborns (around 7 lbs). I had to restrain myself from picking J up and holding her in an attempt to get enough baby snuggles to get through the day without crying. I didn’t quite make it through that first workday without a few tears, especially while I was pumping.

Why 11 Weeks Old?

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) gives many US employees 12 weeks off work for the birth of a child. This time is unpaid, but our employers have to hold our jobs for us and can’t give away our positions. To mothers in other countries, unpaid maternity leave is unthinkable, 12 weeks impossibly short, and the need to share this 12 week leave between both parents (if they work for the same employer) an abomination. Still, the law is what it is, for now at least, and I’m grateful that my employer is large enough to be required to honour it.

Many American mothers, too, see 12 weeks as an impossibly short period of time to spend with their newborns and therefore choose to leave their careers for a longer period of time. Some employers will agree to hold a new mother’s job longer than the minimum 12 weeks required by law. Others will expect a new mother to hand in her resignation if she intends to stay home longer than that.

One complication I didn’t anticipate was that bed rest-related absence from work also counted into the 12 weeks I was allowed off associated with the pregnancy. Fortunately, I work at a job to which I can telecommute and my boss was herself a mother whose second son was 4 months older than my girls. She was very understanding and did all she could to help me have the healthiest pregnancy possible. When my obstetrician told me 31 weeks into my pregnancy that I needed to stop working the following week, I went into a panicked tailspin. My boss was the one to suggest that I consider working half time from the couch, to keep myself busy and my income flowing even while I tried to reduce my symptoms of pre-term labour.

My half time work schedule only lasted 2 weeks before my babies made their dramatic arrival at 33 weeks. Over those 2 weeks, I’d used up 1 of the 12 weeks allowed by FMLA.

In the first hours after my babies were born, we were told to expect them home no sooner than their due date, still 7 weeks away. The idea of taking 7 weeks off work while the babies were in hospital, only to have 4 weeks left to bond with them at home, made me sick to my stomach. I started playing with calendars, trying to figure out whether I could return to work as soon as I was enough recovered from my C-section to do so, just to maximize my time home with M and J.

A kind nurse, Michelle, took me aside when they were a couple of weeks old and advised that I not take the route of bopping in and out of FMLA leave. All indications were that both girls would be released home well before their due date, likely right around the time I would be healed enough from the C-section to go back to work. As it turns out, the girls came home at 16 and 22 days old, before I was cleared by my doctor to drive. How working mothers with longer NICU stays manage it all, I really don’t know. I did notice that many of the other NICU babies who’d been in the hospital for several months no longer got daily visits from their parents, thanks to the demands of work. My heart breaks for these families.

During maternity leave.

This is one of a handful of photos of me during maternity leave.

I had actually hoped to return to work part-time at first, when the girls were 9 weeks old, spreading out my FLMA leave and giving myself a more gradual switch from primarily breastfeeding to primarily pumping. However, my mother decided to visit just about the time I planned to go back to the office, and she required me to serve as a full-time chauffeur. We had initially hoped that she’d be able to watch the babies, but she was overwhelmed by the idea of juggling both of them. After all, it had been 26 years since she’d had to care for an infant by herself; with my baby sister, we’d had servants to do the heavy lifting.

So, 11 weeks of maternity leave it was, and I returned to a full day. My babies were at daycare from 6:30 am until nearly 6:00 pm, thanks to my lengthy commute.

How long did you/do you plan on taking maternity leave?

Sadia (rhymes with Nadia) has been coordinating How Do You Do It? since late 2012. She is the single mother of 8-year-old monozygotic twins, M and J. She lives with them and their 3 cats in the Austin, TX suburbs and works full time as a business analyst. She retired her personal blog, Double the Fun, but now also blogs at Adoption.com and Multicultural Mothering.

Twinfant Tuesday: “You’re done, right?”

There are so many topics on which I could write a Twinfant Tuesday post.  But, a topic that goes round and round in my head is the topic of “How to decide whether or not to have another baby (after twins).”

Considering another baby when you have twins. There's no one good time, and no one good reason.

Of course, this decision is completely individualized per family and not one you can give advice on. I’ve debated whether or not to post about this on HDYDI, since some friends and family periodically read this. But, screw it. This is honestly what’s on my mind.  And I’m curious how others answered this question for themselves.

It’s fascinating to me to talk to friends about how they decided when their family was “complete.” For some, it seems the number of kids was predetermined around the time of marriage: “Well, Joe comes from a family of three kids and I’m an only child, so we’ve always known we’d have two kids.” And that’s that. For others, it seems a very calculated decision: “With my income, divided by the cost of two college educations, multiplied by inflation to the second power, subtract my 401K…” For another group, it seems to be more an emotional decision: “What if we only have two and they don’t get along when they’re older? Three increases the chances that two will get along at any given time, and at least one will take care of me when I’m old.”

Of course, many people have made the cliché comment: “You had a boy/girl set of twins. Instant family! You’re done, right?” It’s been amusing to see how many people feel comfortable commenting on our family size. I can’t seem to remember what our expectations around family size were before infertility and having twins. The expectations apparently flew out the window when we had a hard time conceiving on our own and had twins.

I try to stay as mindful as possible with my almost 10-month twins during the waking hours and set all of this aside. I snap a gazillion photos. I giggle along with them, as they tackle each other and belly laugh. I close my eyes and take a deep breath when they snuggle with me to steal a sniff of their baby smell. But, when these little loves go to sleep, this question often crosses my mind. I make mental pros/cons lists. I say a little prayer of gratitude that infertility treatments left us in a place of being able to consider having more, while also wondering if we’d be “done,” like so many seem to want us to be, if we’d conceived twins on our own. Even though friends with singletons think we’re nuts to think about more, especially when our twins are ten months old, I do feel a clock ticking to make this decision.

If you had twins first, what was your experience like of deciding whether or not to have more children?  What factors came into play?

Twinfant Tuesday: Isolated With Twins

You just had multiples and had people lining up to see your adorable new blessings. But, after the first few weeks, many of us no longer have people coming over, and a feeling of being isolated with twins starts creeping in, especially for those who are stay at home moms, who lack adult interaction for the majority of the day. Our twins (or more) are so darn demanding of our time and energy that we don’t get the chance to do much of anything else, let alone entertain guest or go out and socialize.

Isolated with TwinsWhen I think back to my first year with my twins I remember that I was isolated. I moved to a brand new city where I didn’t know anyone and we only had one car, which my husband was taking to work each day. We weren’t close to any parks, and even if we were our major city ironically lacked proper sidewalks and crosswalks on the very busy intersection we lived right next to.

The only socializing I did was with my husband and with some people at church. My poor husband was bombarded each night with endless chatter since I had spent most of my day attending to babbling and crying twins. Thankfully my friends at church had a monthly book club which meant that I at least got out one evening a month, and gave me a great book to read, too.

As I look back on this, I realize that I missed out. I missed out on many things because I was isolated with twins at home.  But, I also see that I could’ve done more to help this. So, if you are like me, and feeling isolated at home with twins or triplets, then may I suggest the following:

Ways to Stop Feeling Isolated with Twins

1. Call up people.

If you are far away from people you know, then give them a call! I would call my sister several times a week. I would call old college roommates. I would call my parents. Just call and talk to another adult on the phone for a while. It can make a huge difference in your day.  I’m pretty sure I called many people I hadn’t talked to in forever while I was in that first year with twins. It was great!

2. Invite people over anyway.

I wish I would’ve started doing this sooner, but I always second-guessed my home and the level of awesomeness to hold more people in it. We’ve only lived in apartments or townhouses and I’ve always been aware of how we lack a play room and space in general. I always thought I couldn’t invite over other stay-at-home moms who had older kids as they couldn’t really play with my babies, and I had no “big kid” toys since my girls were still just infants and were my first children. I always thought that their older child would be bored quickly and would want to leave. But, honestly, I should’ve just gotten over myself. No matter how messy and chaotic your house (or yourself) is, invite people over. Just do it. Waiting for someone else to invite you over (or continue to do so) is sometimes a depressing game to play. Be proactive and swallow your pride so that you can make real friends who will love YOU and not your enormous home, large quantity of toys, cleanliness, or home decor.

3. Join… something!

Book clubs, bowling leagues, a gym, a walking group, whatever! Join something that is just for you, not for your babies. Check your local library for events, scrounge Facebook for local groups and organization, and get out!

4. Multiples Club

I looked into some local mothers of multiples chapters but never ended up joining one. Part of the reason was we were hard up for cash, but honestly, I probably could’ve asked for the money from my in-laws or my parents, or even asked the multiples organization if they had a low-income rate or scholarship. I feel like I missed out on such wonderful opportunities because I never joined a local multiples club.

5. Take a class.

Pottery, cake decoration, scrap-booking, cooking, dancing, Zumba, photography, Family History, whatever! Take a class and make some new friends and learn some new skills. It will give you something else to think about and practice as you care for your babies.

6. Blog

I found that blogging, even just about my kids, was therapeutic. I knew at least my family and friends were reading about my life, and some would even be a dear and leave a comment! It made me at least feel like I wasn’t alone. Someone was listening.

7. Social media

Along with #6, using Facebook or Twitter to connect with friends and see how they are doing can help when you are isolated at home.

8. Mommy and Me activities

While you need to find time for yourself and your own talents, sometimes in that first year, any social gathering is amazing even if they mean you don’t get a break from your children. Take Mommy and Me swim lessons or classes. Go to story time at the library or your local book store. Take you kids to the museums, parks, or other local attractions and be sure to invite someone to join you. While it may be crazy to take all the kids out, and they may seem to young to really enjoy it, it can be very worth it socially.

I hope these eight ideas encourage you to not feel so isolated with twins at home. I know each family and living situation is different, but make sure you are doing something that lets you connect to other adults. I’m pretty sure it’s essential to your sanity with infant twins!

Did you feel isolated at home during that first year? Do you currently? What did you do to overcome those feelings?

ldskatelyn is a wife and mama to 4 year-old fraternal g/g twins and a one year old baby boy and currently lives in Indianapolis. She loves being social and is grateful for the friends she has been able to make since her twins first year. She currently writes a great parenting, family, and home blog called “What’s up Fagans?”

Twinfant Tuesday: Nursing Agitation During Tandem Breastfeeding

The sensation of breastfeeding one little mouth can be kind of sweet (once getting past the initial poor latch and soreness). But tandem breastfeeding, for me, was a different story.

In the beginning, I had to grit my teeth, dig my nails into my palms, and tense every muscle in my weary body to keeping from screaming and ripping those sweet children off of me. They suck at different rates, strengths, and rhythms. Their mouths are different shapes. It was like having two people scream into each ear at the same time, in different languages. While accidentally grazing my nipples with a hair brush on a freezing cold morning. For 45 minutes. Twelve times a day.

Not awesome when coupled with sleep deprivation and back pain. And the sweating. And the babies kept falling asleep. I found out that this feeling has a name: nursing agitation. Turns out many moms experience nursing agitation during tandem breastfeeding. This isn’t sore nipples, poor latch, or strong letdown. It isn’t even painful; frankly, pain would have been easier to deal with. Nursing agitation is just really, really annoying and uncomfortable in a primal sort of way.

Feeding the boys individually just didn’t work for me; they would gradually drift into totally different schedules or suddenly sync up so that they were screaming at the same instant. I persevered with tandem breastfeeding, wondering at each feeding how much more I could take. By 8 weeks, I no longer had the dreaded obsession with listening for swallows, and I practiced ignoring the ravaging of my senses by reading or surfing the web on the iPad. Finding other stories of moms who have been through nursing agitation during tandem breastfeeding really helped normalize my situation.

Instead of special bonding time, I tried as hard as I could to tune my children out. With my twins occupied and cuddled close, I could switch off the mommy-attiention radar (at least set it on low) and wander onto blogs, check email, stalk people on Facebook. It was a sanity saving solution.

When the boys were three months old, we spent a weekend at a mountain cabin. Central heating, yes. Phone, internet, TV – no. I was apprehensive, but also thought it might be nice to tune back in and really be present.

At first, it was awful. I was uncomfortable. Trapped. Bored. Then, after a couple days, it suddenly wasn’t awful. The agitation I was feeling early on had almost completely abated. I saw their little faces peeping up at me sometimes. I realized that they were finishing in only 12 minutes. R loved to stand up on the nursing pillow while I was burping him and breathe excitedly into my ear, eager to check out the view over my shoulder. M loved to look at me – simply look, and connect and smile. What fills your heart with more smushiness than a baby that can’t get enough of your face?

We hear often that phases for babies don’t last long – “this too shall pass.” Luckily, parents have phases too – we also change. I am so glad I grew out of nursing agitation during tandem breastfeeding. At around 9 months, I stopped tandem feeding and instead nursed individually on demand until 13 and 16 months. It was a world of difference.

Have you experienced nursing agitation during tandem breastfeeding? How did you cope?

 

RebeccaD is MoM to fraternal twin boys, R and M, now 19 months old. Breastfeeding twins is one of the most challenging and rewarding things she’s ever done.