Yes, I am most definitely the mother of multiples. But, am I the mother of twins? Mmmmm… No, not really.
The days look really similar to life with twins, but they are not. My children are not twins in the traditional (or even biological) sense. They did not share my womb. They were not born on the same day, although I have heard of the Irish mom who gave birth to twins, her first daughter at 23 weeks and the second daughter eighty-seven days later! So, maybe what day they were born isn’t as much of an issue here. Of course, the fact that they are not even biologically related is the real kicker!
We know they are not twins, yet we are parents of multiples, just the same. Our situation, although not unique, sits in a different category altogether. There are those that would argue that we don’t even belong here on a blog about multiples. I don’t suppose it really matters in the end. I can tell you it was tough! I see my life in many of your stories.
A bit of our story
We have six older kids, and when we realized they were all flying the coop at once, we decided we needed some new life in the home. We looked into foster care.
At the same time, I was studying to become a Chemical Dependency Professional, and the plight of drug-exposed newborns was near and dear to my heart. I studied the physiological effects of drugs and alcohol on the brain in adults. Let me tell you, watching an infant struggle with the pain and misery is a whole other ball game!
We sought training via an intensive care nursery in our state that specializes in caring for and teaching others about the effective handling of drug exposed and drug addicted newborns. In June of 2011, we got word we were fully licensed and ready to go!
On July 11, 2011, our son (then foster son) came home at 24 hours old. It was appalling to realize that the nurses at our local hospital had zero experience or understanding of how to care for drug exposed newborns. They told us that he was having issues with feeding, but they weren’t quite sure what to do to help him. They had a “good luck with that!” attitude. Thank goodness we had been trained!
Our journey had begun.
For the first four months, Isaiah was the only little one in our home. I spent the first two of those months helping him gain weight in spite of the drugs passing out of his system. I had to help him cope with the sensory overload that was his constant state. The tremors were incessant. He often whimpered as if he were in pain.
I cared for him in our basement bedroom, with the lights low and a soft sound machine for background noise. I needed to wake him to eat every one and a half to two hours for the first two months of his life. That sounds easy enough, but part of his response to sensory overload was to shut down and sleep. He slept eight straight hours after his first supervised visit with his first mom. He was only 3 days old and already struggling with failure to thrive. We simply could not wake him! Still, we tried, every hour until we succeeded in getting him to eat.
In spite of that regimen, Isaiah lost over a pound in his first week home, and only gained slowly and painfully for the first two months. If they had not placed him on the higher calorie formula intended for premature infants, I am sure that it would have been even longer.
Infants who are meth exposed are notoriously plagued with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and often have, shall we say “explosive,” diapers. They also commonly have trouble coordinating the muscles in their mouth to suckle and swallow effectively. So he lost far more than we could get into him at first. Such is the life of many foster moms!
And then things got really interesting!
When four months had passed, Isaiah had recovered from the withdrawal phase. Life was settling into something that looked a lot like “normal”.
What do you know? The phone rang! Enter Zoe.
Zoe was also drug exposed, although primarily to an intense nicotine addiction. There was secondary exposure to methamphetamine. She screamed twenty out of twenty-four hours a day. The first three months of her life were a constant struggle to keep her calm and comfortable.
At the same time, we had our Isaiah evaluated by the local Birth to Three program and began his Occupational Therapy for dyspraxia.
Zoe was three months old before we had made a discovery that resolved many of her early issues. The introduction of a probiotic to her diet stopped the screaming like flipping a switch.
We settled into the therapy and care routines that carried us through many months. Today our lives look a lot like the typical life of parents with two-year old twin toddlers.
Functionally speaking, Isaiah and Zoe behave much like twins. They are very close. They have started to build their own language and pretty much drive each other nuts 24/7!
Occasionally they have other issues tied to their sensory integration difficulties. Zoe struggles with “gravitational insecurity” and Isaiah has multiple sensory issues including feeding/textures, certain sounds, strong smells. We are preparing to go through an 8 week-long session of the Wilbarger Brushing Protocol in hopes that we will help his nervous system to develop the capacity to filter some of these things out. Therapy keeps us busy.
In the midst of all of that we have the joy of watching these two phenomenal little people grow and develop into who they were meant to be, just like any other parents of multiples. While the kids don’t share that biological connection, in all things functional, I am most definitely living the very busy life of a mom of multiples! I have the same joy. The same intensity. A different perspective.
I’m looking forward to connecting with other mamas out there who are in the same boat!