Twinfant Tuesday: You Are Not Alone

This is based on the first blog post I ever wrote, Me…Start a Blog? when my fraternal twins were 1-year-5-months old. Reading blogs like HDYDI and other MoT, MoM blogs gave me a sense of connectedness, of support and of resources that helped get me through the first-year-and-a-half of parenting our prematurely born twins, who did NICU time in Hong Kong, for 3 and 6 weeks, and then “house-arrest” time for another 5 months.

Once I started the blog, I updated it consistently while in Chengdu, China and even wrote as an author for HDYDI for a while.

For the last year we have been living on a Thai island, a dream come true. Rahul and Leila are 4 now, swimming and running around barefoot with their friends. They go to pre-school and I am doing my yoga practices and teaching again.

I don’t update my blog as frequently anymore, still enjoy it, but there isn’t that same need to get past the difficult, painful experiences of the the NICU time, to express every moment or milestone, to compare with others, or to validate my parenting choices. There continue to be many stories, but for the moment they feature less frequently on the blog.

I have great blogger friends whose ideas and thoughts inspire me, and I found solidarity with many of them at a time when I needed it most, and now I hope some of these posts can do the same for others.

A mother of twins talks about how MoM blogs made her feel less alone in the first year of twin motherhood. from hdydi.com


Me…Start a Blog
Written end of March 2011

Over the last two years my world has revolved around taking care of Leila and Rahul, my almost year-and-a-half twins. So to start a blog now, seems a bit strange. What could I possibly have to say? And when?! I don’t know which regimes are being toppled over, I haven’t seen photos of the effects of the recent earthquake in Japan, I don’t know what yoga workshops are on in the region, don’t know if Federer is still kicking ass, or who presented at the Chengdu Bookworm literary festival; or anything for that matter. Outrageous, I know.

Only a few years earlier I didn’t even know what a blog was until friends in Chengdu complained that they couldn’t access blogspot. Facebook, YouTube, and a number of blogging sites are blocked in China.

After some complications in my pregnancy while in China, I ended up spending 4 months in bed including 7 weeks in hospital, split into 4 different hospital stays.

A number of foreign doctors here, in Shanghai, and Beijing recommended that we leave for the birth, due to the high risk of going into preterm labour and possible lack of high level care for premature babies.

So we went to Hong Kong at 26 weeks gestation. L and R came at 31 weeks, and were cared for at the Queen Mary NICU.

The bed-rest, high-speed internet and open access to all sites meant lots of time on the internet, and my initiation to blogs. But it was only when L and R were five-months-old, after my mum who had spent 9 months with me left, and both of those things coincided with our return to Chengdu that I really got into it.

I came upon some blogs that MoT’s wrote. For the first time in a long time I felt like I could relate. They wrote how exhausted they were, how they only bathed their babies a couple of times a week, rarely dressed them in anything other than pyjamas. I didn’t feel as guilty anymore that L and R didn’t go out everyday. They weren’t the only ones. To have them both ready to go out meant nappies changed, both well fed, not too tired, and a big diaper bag full of provisions.

I remember a post by a father of twins about how his two-year-old girls were finally sleeping through the night, most of the time, anyways. So my two waking up a few times each and every night means I can still be considered in the norm.

One mum wrote about her birth story; similar to mine – it included flights, hospital stays for both mum and babies, pumping pumping pumping, stress, fear, pain, relief.

Then there was one couple that blogged about their micro-preemie twins birth, NICU stay including all the medical details, the obsession with weight gain, the monitors, breathing, digestion, good days, bad days. It wasn’t the most fun blog I ever read. They were born much earlier than L and R, but I could relate to much of it and realised that I would have to deal with this part of R and L, and in fact all 4 of our lives one day, and to be at peace with it somehow.

Reading these stories was like holding a mirror out in front of me, a way to see what we had been through, a way to realize we were not alone – and importantly to let go of it.

There were honest, touching posts as well like the one HDYDI MoT, rebecca, who wrote One Baby Envy. Others complained about the silly questions they got when they took their twins out. If I get started on the questions and comments I got in Chengdu it would never end.

Sometimes the comments on the blogs were funny – MoM’s bitching about how J Lo (on the cover of People Magazine, March 2008) could possibly look as perfect so soon after she had her twins.

I related to these parents and it helped with the isolation I sometimes felt being in China without my family and with no experience with babies whatsoever. Neither of my brothers or brothers-in-law have children. One of my childhood friends has a son in Zambia who I haven’t yet met. I had held one of my friend’s tiny new born baby in Lebanon a couple of times last year feeling clumsy and incapable all the time. So yes, I had that experience.

I had a few parenting books. They only briefly covered twins if at all.

But, we were together again after my 6 month stint in Hong Kong, the 4 of us in Chengdu. That was our main source of strength. I had help from people here. L and R’s nanny or “ayi” meaning aunty as she is called endearingly is a superwoman, a great source of real support and help.

A friend as close as I imagine a sister to be was strong and present when I needed her most.

Another friend lent me lifesaving books at every stage along the way. And there were many others who made up my “village”, both in real life and in my blog life. The crazy thing now is that sometimes my kids both sleep for a few hours at the same time, but silly mama stays up to blog.

In addition to relating to other mums and dads on blogs, I found tips, such as this post that gives advice about choosing a double stroller that works for you depending on it’s use, tips like store big quantities of diapers, wet -wipes, food etc. so you don’t need to go out to the stores until really necessary. Obvious, but hey at least I don’t feel crazy when I walk into my pantry and see the hoarding.

There were videos of calm mums simultaneously feeding their babies. R and L were rarely on the same schedule, so it didn’t apply, but still nice to see how others do it.

So even though I live in this tiny world of eating, playing, bathing, trying to schedule, exploring and sleepless nights, I feel like I am above water now, some of time at least.

I now have the privilege to share my own stories and maybe get some interaction going. Perhaps a new mum, even a MoT will come across it and feel she can relate, find some useful information, or just have a laugh. I would be glad to contribute to that somehow.

These are stories for R and L to read one day if they want to. And if nothing else a way for friends and family to keep up with our lives in China, or wherever.

The other day I read a blog about the therapeutic effects of blogging. That did it for me, a few minutes later I signed up! Not really, I’m exaggerating, but it made me realise that every time I put down my thoughts they rarely came out negative or depressive, but rather I manage to find the “funny” in things, now that I am not sinking all the time, of course. It reminded me of a phrase from a song my dad often used to say to his not so smiley teenage daughter,

When you smile the whole world smiles with you. When you cry, you cry alone.

L and R out in Chengdu. 13 months old

L and R out in Chengdu.
13 months old

 

Natasha is mum of 4-year-old fraternal twins Leila and Rahul. She moved to Koh Samui, Thailand, with her children after spending 7 years in China. Her husband Maher, travels back and forth because work is in China. She has started practicing her yoga more regularly again, and even teaches a few classes a week, after a three year break. She blogs at her personal site Our Little Yogis and at Multicultural Mothering.

Creating a New Community

This is a story of failure.

Nearly two years ago, in August 2011, I learned that my family would be moving to El Paso, TX from greater Austin, where I’d lived for a decade, where my kids were born, and where my job was. My husband at the time was a soldier, and the Army had issued him PCS orders to Ft Bliss.

Being an Army wife made me an near-expert in military acronyms. PCS stands for permanent change of station, as opposed to deployment to a combat zone, which is considered temporary… even though many deployments are longer than a soldier’s stay at their “permanent” posting. My favourite acronym? POV, for personally owned vehicle, or what you or I would call “car.”

We’d known there was a chance we’d have to move shortly after he returned from Afghanistan in July 2011. My husband’s entire unit, with a handful of exceptions, would be moving to Ft Bliss, El Paso. Right until the day he got orders, he was assured that he was in that handful that would get to stay at Ft Hood, near(ish) Austin. I was the rare Army wife who got to stay put for years. Two tours in Iraq, one in Afghanistan and a PCS to Korea, and my soldier had kept coming back to Ft Hood. I assumed we’d just stay again and registered the kids for kindergarten.

Once we learned we had to move, we had two weeks. We ended up moving the day before the girlies would have started kindergarten with two of the other kids on our street. My employers agreed to let me keep my job. That’s right. They. Let. Me. Keep. My. Job. I was moving 600 miles and one time zone away, and they said, “Sure, Sadia. Keep doing what you’re doing, except from your new house instead of in the office. And we’ll keep paying you what we pay you.” Now that, my friends, is how you support military families.

I put my most positive face on the move. It would be an adventure. We would build a new community after relocating. We would learn all about the culture of the Borderlands. I would finally have my chance to learn Spanish. My commute would go from an hour+ each way to run-a-brush-through-my-hair. I made sure I had plenty of mommy cards and business cards in my wallet.

I tried to make friends at my daughters’ school. The only person who bit was one German army wife. I tried to make friends at the girls’ dance studio. I made one friend the whole year I was there. I joined the local professional choir, and made two deep friendships that I suspect will last the rest of my life. I tried to join the local mothers of multiples group, but it had been inactive for years. I considered starting one myself, but none of the twin moms I ran into ever reciprocated the interest in developing a relationship. My daughters, too, tried to make friends, but my notes to parents inviting their kids for playdates or dinners were never answered. With the exception of the elderly couple next door, people on my street didn’t talk to each other. I was deeply grateful to a friend of my husband’s from their time together in Korea. He, his wife and their two sons were almost the entirety of our social network.

I’m sure there were a lot of reasons that I wasn’t able to find my niche. The other Army wives didn’t have careers. The other career moms didn’t, for the most part, speak English, and my attempts to morph my French and Italian into Spanish didn’t cut it. I didn’t really end up having that much time to find a place for myself in El Paso. In February 2012, my husband informed that our marriage had ended. It took 90 days to get divorced and another 60 to find, purchase and move to a new home back in greater Austin. J, M and I were residents of El Paso for a total of 359 days.

We didn’t move back to the same neighbourhood in which we’d lived before. Actually, we’re not even in the same Central Texan suburb. We have an enormous network of amazing people from the last time we lived in the area, but we’ve also managed to develop that community within our new neighbourhood and school that I was desperately seeking in El Paso.

Our first playdate at M and J’s new school was initiated by the other mom, not me. As it turns out, she was a twin mom, but hadn’t realized that my girls were twins too. My daughters’ Girl Scout troop leader and I have become good friends, and I’ll be co-leading the troop with her next year. She offered to carpool my kids and watch them in the afternoon for an entire week so they could attend Girl Scout camp with her daughter without my having to miss work. I hit it off with a mother whose daughter is M’s good friend and, as luck would have it, she’ll be my daughters’ teacher next year. When I called her on Tuesday last week to chat, she asked if my girls could play hooky from summer camp to spend the next day with her. All three girls had a blast, and their future teacher got a baseline on their reading and math abilities so that she can be ready to challenge them in second grade. Sunday morning, I got a text from the neighbour two doors down, asking whether her daughter could spend part of the day with us while mom finished up a paper for a summer course she’s taking for her nursing degree. We moved here 315 days ago.

I don’t know what the difference was between our El Paso experience and the one here in Central Texas. Perhaps my loneliness was obvious, despite my attempts to hide it. Maybe I was just too desperate in El Paso for people to want to befriend me. I’m certainly more confident on my home turf. Perhaps my social cues are that of a Central Texan and not of an El Pasoan. Maybe it’s that Austin is a college town and many of us, perhaps the majority, are transplants from elsewhere who have had to start over here.

I really thought that the girls and I had personalities perfectly suited to the Army lifestyle. We’re all intensely outgoing, able to start up a conversation with just about anyone. We’re all comfortable trying to learn new languages… me more than the girlies and J more than M, but still far more adventurous than the average American. I thought it would be easy to connect with new people, no matter where we were. If all else failed, I’d find my tribe among local moms of multiples.

What I found, though, was that moving from Austin to El Paso at age 32 was just like moving from the United Kingdom to Bangladesh at age 8. I couldn’t find my footing. I couldn’t find my sense of home. No matter how hard I tried or how long I stayed, I was always a foreigner. I tried to normalize things for the kids in El Paso, but I was desperately unhappy. As I’ve said many a time, my happiness at returning home was far greater than my sadness at getting divorced. Pathetic, huh?

If nothing else, this detour taught me where home was.

Sadia is the mother of 7-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 co-parents at a distance with her soldier ex-husband and his teacher wife. She decided to retire her personal blog, Double the Fun, when the girls entered elementary school in order to better protect their privacy, and was delighted to have the opportunity to keep a foot in the blogosphere through HDYDI. She also blogs at Adoption.com and Multicultural Mothering.

Friendships Between Twins

I mentioned in my last post that we would be throwing a combined birthday party with another set of twins from my daughters’ classes. It went swimmingly. I had a great time, and it seemed that everyone else did too.
3 sets of identical twins and a little boy pose over a birthday cake

As luck would have it, the first guests to arrive were the other birthday girls’ cousins, who happen to also be identical twins. This happens to be the first photo I took but features no fewer than 3 sets of identical girl twins, plus one little brother.

My third reaction to the picture after a smile and an “Awww, how cute!” is to ponder how rare it is. I’ve seen statistics putting identical twins at 0.4% of all births. The girls in the photo, though, have no awareness of being part of a rare phenomenon. Some people just come in pairs, in their reality.

My girls have a number of twin friends. I’m partly responsible. I can’t help being drawn to other parents who face similar joys and challenges to the ones in my life. Chance meetings turn into play date arrangements and play dates turn into friendships. The girls in the picture are among the first twins my daughters have befriended outside my influence. After all, I don’t control who they hang out with at public school. M and J also became close friends with classmates in kindergarten, two boys who are identical twins. We don’t get to see HDYDI’s Tracey’s boys as often as we’d like to, but J and M talk about often and consider them close friends.

My girls definitely notice when their friends are twins. They use the word “twins” when describing their friends to me for the first time. They have a number of friends in after school care who are fraternal twins, but I’ve noticed that in those cases, they’re usually much closer to one sibling than another.

I recall a conversation I had with my daughters when they were 4. We’d run into a friend from my Mothers of Multiples group, along with her young boy/girl twins. When I pointed out that they, too, were twins, one of my daughters said, “No they’re not! They’re not the same.” When I dug a little deeper, she said that twins had to be the same gender. I got the impression that twins, to her, were identical only.

Now, at age 7, my daughters certainly accept fraternal twins into the fold, but they clearly feel a deeper connection to other identical twins. I wonder how it would be different to fraternal twins. I only know the identical experience in any depth.

Do your kids have an awareness of being multiples? Are they friends with others? Are they drawn towards twins of the same “type” as themselves?

Sadia is raising her 7 year-old girls in the Austin, TX area. She is divorced and works in higher ed information technology. She is originally from the UK and Bangladesh, but has lived in the US since college.

RSV

To parents in the know, there are few acronyms that make one’s heart sink faster than “RSV.”

Respiratory syncytial virus is an everyday virus that gives adults and most children no more than the sniffles. When it comes to young infants, especially preemies, the disease can ravage their lungs, and even prove fatal. I’ve heard that many parents of triplets and more put their infants on complete lock-down to protect them during their first flu season. In order to keep their home RSV-free, they keep family and friends alike away until the weather warms up.

We were fortunate to have health insurance that covered Synagis, the RSV shot, our daughters’ first year. Decision-makers in the military health care system deemed that RSV was a high enough risk for our daughters, 7 weeks premature, to cover the monthly thousand-dollar shot. Every month for 7 months, I took our tiny daughters to the one clinic in Central Texas that carried the antibody shot. They learned to start screaming at the sight of Candy, the lovely nurse who innoculated what seemed to be all the multiples in town.

J and M contracted RSV their second winter. They were relatively sturdy at 18 months of age, and didn’t require hospitalization. Still, I was out of work caring for them for nearly a month. I have documented the rest of the girls’ lives in excruciating detail, but I have no photos or blog posts from that time. Even my memories are minimal, just hazy impressions of fear even deeper than I usually felt during the months my husband was at war. The one clear memory I had was of calling my neighbour Heidi over. She was our only neighbour who was neither elderly nor a parent. I asked her to monitor the girls’ breathing so I could take my first shower in a week; J had thrown up on me. I will never be able to repay her for not only giving me peace of mind during those moments alone under the hot water, but also cleaning J’s vomit off the floor. Her husband was also in Iraq at the time.

M and J continued to suffer aftereffects of RSV for another 3 years. Only recently were we able to permanently (we hope) retire their nebulizer and put breathing treatments behind us.

This week, I learned that a coworker’s 3-month-old was on a ventilator because of complications from RSV. The last update I received was that she had been extubated and is tolerating a nasal cannula. She has been weaned off the meds that were keeping her sedated and is now moving and crying. If all goes well, she should be home from the hospital in a couple of weeks.

What can one say to a parent whose child is in the pediatric intensive care unit? The only words of comfort I had were of sympathy. It seemed out of place to tell her that M and J, after 3 long years, had finally overcome the setback of RSV.

Update, 9:36 am CST

My friend emailed to say, “Good news today!  She’s off of both oxygen and pain meds.  They want to watch her today to ensure that she continues to do all right without them.  If so, we get to go home tomorrow!”

Have you dealt with RSV? Do you have words of comfort for my coworker and her husband?

Classroom Placement: Part III – Full Circle

This afternoon, I received an email from my daughters’ school informing me that a spot had been secured in Mrs. G’s 1st grade classroom for our daughter M. She starts Monday.

Mrs. G is a great teacher, and a warm and lovely person. I once ran into her at the grocery store and we chatted for an hour. I’ve met her granddaughter, a sweet, well-behaved little girl. In the classroom, Mrs. G is loving but firm, supportive but demanding. Still, my head began to pound as I tried to think through the repercussions of this placement.

Our daughter J, you see, is already in Mrs. G’s class. At the recommendation of J’s kindergarten teacher, and following much agonizing soul-searching, we decided to allow her to skip 75% of kindergarten and 25% of 1st grade to join Mrs. G’s class midstream. M stayed in kindergarten for a further 9 weeks, which brings us to today.

Having M skip to 1st grade mid-year is a no-brainer. The academic work is no challenge for her, and her wonderful kindergarten teacher took the time to make sure that M is emotionally ready. M even spent some time in the 1st grade classroom before the holidays to confirm that she wouldn’t be overwhelmed. My husband and I have already talked through the consequences of J being a year younger than her peers, and having one fewer year in school. The same concerns apply to M. Weighing everything, we decided to let J move on up when her teacher recommended it, and we’re simply doing the same with M. That headache has, for the most part, dulled.

The source of today’s headache is that M and J will be in the same classroom. A lot of thought went into our choosing to exercise our right to have our daughters placed in different classrooms when they entered school. In a nutshell, we thought that the girls needed to establish themselves as individuals, both in their own perception and in that of their peers. Texas state law gives us the right to demand that our daughters be separated, but I recognize that the school has already gone to lengths to accomodate the girls’ learning styles, prior education and emotional maturity.

I may be worn out by the emotional drain of trying to make the right decisions for our daughters in uncharted territory. I certainly don’t have any desire to fight the school. My husband and I spoke briefly this evening, and agreed that the basic goals of splitting the girls into separate classes had been accomplished. They have separate friends. They know that they are liked as individuals, and not just as a set. They have learned to rely on friends for companionship, and to do so without Sissy to fall back on. J and M understand that they don’t have to do everything together.

There’s an entirely new set of concerns now. Mrs. G’s class is J’s territory. Will M be treated as her own person by the other kids, or will she simply be seen as J’s twin, the target of all the attention and assumptions about twins we were trying to avoid?

The girls are a little hesitant about the change. M doesn’t want to leave her kindergarten teacher, whom she loves dearly. J isn’t quite ready to share her spot as class cutie. She was a little miffed at her classmates’ excitement when M visited last month. She told me that she felt that the girls who told M she was cute were “M’s 1st grade girls.” They usually tell J that she is cute; she’s the class clown. She didn’t say that it had upset her, but I could read between the lines. Mrs. G told me that she had sat M next to another child during the school day, but recess and lunch are a different matter.

Mrs. G is someone we trust to teach our children, so it’s time for a leap of faith. We can always request the school to place M and J in different classrooms next year.

What do you think? Should I be asking the school to accomodate M and J’s placement in separate classrooms for the rest of the school year?

Sadia and her husband parent their 5-year-old daughters in El Paso, TX as full-time volunteers. They each have income-generating careers on the side, she in IT and he in the military.

You got to have (mom) friends

It was actually a smaller gathering than we’re used to. And a much higher adult-to-child ratio, too.  Normally, when we’re hanging out in this particular backyard, we expect to see about 10-12 kids under 3 and maybe four or five adults.  This time it was down to only seven kids, and a whopping six adults.  We hardly knew what to do with ourselves.  Ah, Memorial Day weekend with your twin mom friends.

Memorial Day BBQ

Building a community and a support system is always important.  You need people to talk to, people with whom you can share advice and stories and favors.  But while I am certainly a big fan of getting to know people with a wide variety of experiences, I also think it is key to find birds of a feather. Full-time at-home moms need to find other full-time at-home moms.  Working moms need other working moms. Homeschoolers need other homeschoolers.  And twin moms need other twin moms.

Memorial Day BBQ

While there are plenty of things that all moms have in common, there are most certainly different challenges (and joys) when you have multiples. So it’s key to have other people who understand you. Even if it’s in a virtual space like blogging, at least that’s something.  But in person is even better.

Memorial Day BBQ

What a difference from when we used to have “playdates” that involved babies asleep in carseats or bouncing around in the exersaucer.  Now we’ve got a pack of toddlers who know each other’s names, steal fruit off of each other’s plates, and play interchangeably as though they were all siblings.

Memorial Day BBQ

And the moms can hang out and marvel over how much easier it has gotten over the last two years.  Because, tantrums aside, this is oh so much more fun.

Memorial Day BBQ

We’ve survived breastfeeding (or not), first foods, sleeping through the night, shared viruses (ugh), and all the rest of it… times two. It’s nice to have people who have that shared understanding. We know the craziness, we know the fun. We are, perhaps as much by necessity as by personality, a fairly laid-back and practical bunch (just don’t get us started on people who keep their kids up too late or don’t have a nap schedule).  We get each other.  And that’s a mighty nice thing to have in your life.

Memorial Day BBQ

3 is the loneliest number…

The theme of the past year and a half of my life has been exhaustion, so it is fitting that as I type this I am, yup, you guessed it…exhausted. It really is no secret that if you are expecting multiples you can also expect to be tired, so I prepared myself for the inevitable exhaustion that comes as a result of having multiple newborns in the house. I read all of the books about raising triplets (and multiples) that I could get my hands on and I did an enormous amount of research in preparation for their arrival to make sure that nothing caught me off guard after I had the babies. But, of course, despite all of my efforts I found myself completely unprepared, and therefore ill-equipped, to deal with the loneliness and isolation that has come since seeing their three little heartbeats on an ultrasound screen for the 1st time over a year and a half ago.

I think that something strange happens when you have multiples…people start to disappear. Friends who you have known your entire life stop calling and emailing and strangers are suddenly your only intimate acquaintances. From the moment I divulged the news that I was pregnant with triplets, the people around me began to look at me and talk to me as if I were some sort of scientific phenomenon. And because I was such an interesting specimen, it granted them the permission they needed to bombard me with inappropriately personal questions and comments. I ceased being Rachael and became instead, Rachael, the sideshow freak with the triplets; people stopped asking about me and instead asked how the babies were and how the pregnancy was going. I lost my identity in the eyes of the people who know me and our encounters became awkward and forced. Friends and family, some of whom are people very dear to me, suddenly had no idea how to act around me anymore. It was as if they could no longer see me as me; and as a result had nothing to say. (Or I was just like Kate Gosselin to them…anyone heard that one before?)

I am sure that, in part, my demeanor and attitude during the pregnancy contributed to this trend, it was impossible for it to be unaffected. It was a very uncertain time for our family, and we were faced with the possibility of losing our babies on a daily basis with no one close to us to really turn to for advice and support that had actually been through what we were going through. That would be difficult for anyone under normal circumstances, but I also had the added impact of being in a hospital 45 minutes from home which made those feelings of isolation that much more intense. I slept all the time, literally, because there was nothing else I could do to make the time go by faster. I avoided phone calls because I didn’t want constant discussion about the reality of what we were dealing with. And I hated answering the question, how are you? I wanted distractions from what was going on, but all I got were reminders, so I withdrew; which of course only made the isolation worse.

When I had my first daughter at 18 years old, I thought that I knew more than my fair share about isolation and loneliness, but once I was enmeshed in the world of multiples those feelings were brought to an even higher level than I thought possible. And after the babies were born 11 ½ weeks prematurely, I was too busy to do much more than acknowledge those feelings briefly. I did have hope that things would get better once I was released from the hospital after their birth, but because my babies were born so prematurely and came home right as RSV/Flu season was beginning, I was stuck in our house with no visitors for 8 long months. Which of course only exacerbated those already overwhelming feelings of loneliness and isolation. In the beginning people extended invitations for social outings and gatherings, but they were nearly impossible to attend when I was pumping every 3 hours and getting very little of the 8 hours of sleep I need to function on a normal level. In those first few months, I was so exhausted that the thought of getting myself presentable enough to go out in public (ie: shower and put on clean clothes) was enough to throw me over the edge. I couldn’t form a coherent sentence, much less engage in conversation. I felt like a zombie.

Now that the fog of that 1st year is lifting and the fuzziness in my brain is beginning to sharpen around the edges, I am just now able to really see how much was changed by my pregnancy, the delivery and the past year of raising triplets. I find it quite ironic that though we were surrounded by help in the early days, it still felt like we were alone. People we barely knew pitched in to help us out, bringing meals or buying diapers, but my friends only talked about helping. So I was not surprised to see that not everyone stuck around long enough to make it this far with us, but I was kind of shocked to see just how much my relationships were affected. And I was surprised to see that I have very few friends left. I wish I would have had more time to devote to keeping those friendships intact, but the reality was that I didn’t. And unfortunately not many of them understood. I certainly don’t expect my friends with singletons (or my childless friends) to understand what it is like to have multiples, because I know that I did not get it before I had triplets. But I did expect some support and understanding, something that is integral to the heart of every friendship. I didn’t expect what I got from some of my oldest friends: guilt trips, judgmental criticisms and comments made with the intent to devalue the experiences over the past year and a half. I expected my friends to be, well, friends.

Thankfully, I was able to find the support and camaraderie I needed online. Without the friends I have made over the past year and a half through my blog, The Nest and The Triplet Connection I would not have been able to maintain my sanity. There are some incredible women that I have connected with and it was wonderful to have people (even ones I haven’t met) to turn to who got what I was going through and didn’t expect me to have it together all the time. I was able to vent and laugh and cry, but most importantly I felt supported and I was understood. Those friendships have become increasingly important and I cherish the women I have met online. They have given me the confidence I need to seek out new experiences and make new friends in my “real life.”

I know that though my experience is not the standard for multiple pregnancies and births, but it isn’t unique either. I know that many moms of multiples have similar feelings of loneliness and isolation in the first year after their babies are born. If you are expecting, or already the parent of, multiples make sure you seek out and use the invaluable networks of support available to you online. And I cannot stress enough the importance of seeking out other MoMs in your area in the earliest days of your pregnancy. It is the one thing I wish I would have done differently, because then maybe I would have found the support and understanding I needed. Resources I found particularly helpful were friends I met through my blog, The Nest message boards, The Triplet Connection and MOST; but they are just a few of the many places you can turn. You can also find information on local multiple support groups in your area through NOMTC or Meetup. And, of course, you can always turn to us.

I have spent a lot of time over the past 11 months evaluating who I have chosen to surround myself with and I have come to the conclusion that if a relationship is not making me happy it is ok to let it go. Though I am sad to see the friendships go, I am also hopeful that I can make new ones.