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Friday, September 18, 2009

Part Two - If I was having twins again: The first few months

I almost have to pause to write this post as, truth be told, there are much of the early days that are just one big fog.


You other twin mommies know exactly what I'm talking about.

When the twins were around one month old I went to write in their baby book.

As I started looking at the questions I kind of thought in panic, "I DON"T REMEMBER."

It's actually been one reason I've been so thankful for this blog as it holds a lot of memories and details I doubt I'd recall otherwise and have been able to transfer to the girls' baby books.

So on that note - on with the post! : )

I have good news and bad news about life with brand new baby twins.

Bad news first? The beginning months of having twins were more exhausting than I was prepared for.

The good news? Life reached a level of function much sooner than I anticipated.

I believe in being realistic and honest.

Newborn twins are hard.

There is no way around it.

Twice the babies.

Twice the feedings.

1/3 of the sleep.

Equation doesn't quite seem right - does it!
I have no idea how octomom does it.

And since many newborn twins are smaller than your typical newborn, the transition to better sleeping takes much longer to accomplish.

I don't say any of that to panic you.

But I guess more than anything, I want to help any new mommy-to-be accept that it is ok if it you can't do it on your own for a while.

Newborn twins are constant and exhausting but with the right help and expectations in place, you CAN and WILL do a great job!

I'm going to share some of things Ryan and I did as a part of our life with twins and what worked/didn't for us.

Please read all of it through a filter of "this worked for us."

Every family and every baby(ies) are different and we all have different philosophies when it comes to babies.

And much of our experience with twins came alongside the fact that I was breastfeeding, which does add a whole new element to the experience.

But I'm saving all that for my next post.

So with that said . . .

First?

The hospital experience.

Eat it up.

Soak it in.

Enjoy it.

Much of me feels like when it came to Kate and Olivia as newborn babies, my time in the hospital was largely the only time I had nothing to do but snuggle, soak them in and marvel.

Ava was taken care of.

Undone household chores weren't staring me in the face.

Moving from the upstairs to downstairs after a c-section wasn't an issue.

It was just Ryan and I and our babies (and fun visitors!).

So use that time to snuggle and get acquainted as much as possible. You won't regret a second of it.

Second? Coming home holds lots of dynamics (or did for me).

The miracle of two is both a wonder and a hardship.

I had read, in many of the books I'd gone through, that bonding can sometimes be an issue for moms with twins.

I wasn't prepared for that to be true for myself but it was.

From the instance I saw my little girls I loved them without a doubt.

But I wasn't quite prepared for this dynamic of feeling like anytime I picked up one, I felt like I was "choosing" to not pick up the other.

Or the fact that the caring would feel so constant at times or that I didn't have that constant desire to snuggle them like I had with Ava (which was emphasized with feeling like one twin always got the "rough end of the stick").

Or even just the fact that I didn't really have the opportunity, time or energy to snuggle them like I had Ava.

On top of it all?

Put a 19 month old and two newborn babies together and a 19 month old will win every time in the fight for attention.

And a lot of that is ok and completely normal.

The twins were not hurting if it was daddy, a grandma, aunt or cousin snuggling them instead of mommy while Ava was.

I can remember long ago, when my sisters were having their kids, my mom telling them that a baby will not remember having to cry for a little bit. An older child will.

So I did make a conscious choice to, as much as possible, to spend available downtime with Ava if I could.

But a realistic consequence of it?

While I knew I loved my girls, I didn't feel as much of that lovey, dovey "in love" that I had experienced with Ava.

About month into the twins being home, I was talking to my sister about it.

A month of constant help, lack of personal space and no sleep was catching up and I was finding I was much more emotionally vulnerable, snappy and just resenting anyone in my way.

We are being honest here - right?

I had an "AHA" moment.

I realized that for a month solid, I was doing "all" the work when it came to the twins.

Because I was breastfeeding, no one could take a feeding for me.

I had been on a 24 hour, 3 hour feeding cycle for a month straight that looked like:

feed babies, change diapers, pump, stuff food and water down, try to give Ava 10 minutes of quality of time (if she was home), occasionally shower, until I finally crashed into bed to try and sleep for an hour/hour and a half.

Repeat.

On a really good stretch I got 2 hours of sleep. : )

So I felt the exhaustion of the twins, but none of the sit down, snuggle and soak them in fun.

Don't get me wrong.

I chose to breastfeed and given the choice, I'd choose to again.

It just definately adds a dynamic of further exhaustion when it comes to twins.

But if I had to do over, I think I would change some things.

I think I'd try and take one baby to bed with me for a nap every so often to snuggle instead of being so dogmatic they had to be in their cribs.

Given, I still wouldn't let them be snuggled for all their naps as I am a big believer in getting twins to self soothe early.

But one nap a day for each of them wouldn't have ruined it.

I'd be a little more intentional of asking to keep a baby after I fed them instead of handing them off to whoever was over helping.

After a while, at times, I almost found myself resenting others for being able to enjoy my babies more than me.

How's that for honest?

Yet the bonding and feelings do come.

But you quickly get a picture of why help is so essential with newborn twins.

Because no where in that daily routine do you hear time for laundry, cleaning, cooking or rational thought.

Ok, I added that last one in there.

But it's kind of true.

That all is one reason I couldn't be more thankful for two incredible grandma's and a world-class, hands on daddy/husband.

They were a constant source of help and support while absorbing my emotional rollercoaster rides.

That is no small feat and I have tears in my eyes as I try to imagine my life without any of them.

They have, and continue to, bless me and are the biggest reason my life is as functional today as it is.

But you see the need for grace.

LOTs of grace.

Enough with the emotions - practical stuff?

1. I needed help with Ava as much, if not more, than I needed help with the twins or the house.

She was my wildcard as, at 19 months old, she was still very needy and constant energy. So having help with her was my biggest need especially with my level of energy/functioning.

So if you are expecting twins, and have older kids, having them taken care of would be my greatest priority if help is limited in any way. While I tried to keep Ava's life somewhat routine, she did spend many nights or days at Gpa's and Gma's.

It was kind of funny, the days I just had the twins, felt almost easy.

The day I would have thought twins seemed "easy." : )

It's all in what you know - huh?!

2. Sleep WHENEVER you can.

It becomes a bit of a two edged sword because me needing to sleep as much as I could (and NEEDING the sleep) was part of why I didn't get as much quality time in with the twins or Ava for that matter.

But it is essential.

Sleep doesn't return to you as fast when you have twins in the house and you need to give you mind, body and heart the chance to rejuvenate as much as possible.

Your children, husband, and family will all thank you.

I'm sure my whole family shudders to imagine me with even less sleep than I got. : )

The bonding will comes, the fun is there, and YOU WILL get to a point you aren't constantly needing to catch up on sleep. So for now, you need to take care of you so you can care for others.

3. Get your babies on a schedule as soon as possible.

I'm a HUGE believer in Baby Wise.

The whole idea behind Baby Wise is establishing a routine that creates stability and content babies (and mommies!) who understand what to expect from their day. If babies know what's going to happen next, they transition well, sleep well and are happier. And if mommy knows what to expect - well we all know that makes a happy mommy AND home! : )

Baby Wise encourages you to create a distinction between day and night. So during the day, you wake the baby up and keep them on a schedule. At night, you let them sleep and they learn a routine.

It also encourages helping babies learn to put themselves to sleep which, while it blessed me with Ava, has been a HUGE blessing having TWO munchkins needing to go to bed.

Trying to rock two babies asleep for each nap and at night would take time from my day I don't have.

Baby Wise also has a small multiples sections that helps addresses the extra dynamics involved.

One applicable reality of our situation?

Since I was breastfeeding and wanting to build my supply up, I wasn't wanting to supplement with formula.

So for close to 2 months, I kept the twins largely on a constant 3 hour schedule, often even during the night, so I wouldn't have to supplement with formula.

I wasn't wanting to do this at the expense of their weight so I did it at the expense of my sleep. (Brilliant - huh?! : ) )

After their weights, and weight gains, were more solid, I started really letting them stretch at night.

They have always slept in the same room and we did not run to get a crying baby out.

As a result?

Unless it is the end of a nap, they have rarely ever woken each other up.

It is SO tempting to do that in the beginning.

You are exhausted.

And the thought of another baby waking up is excruciating.

Yet as much as you are able, let them go.

There are exceptions and we definately made some (nothing is black and white when it comes to parenting).

But overall, we kept an idea of what we wanted, self-soothers to sleep, and I am so blessed by it today.

It took longer than Ava took but we did get there.

So see - while the beginning is rough, you CAN and WILL get there.

Around 2 months old I remember thinking, "I can't function like this any longer."

I had once heard someone say around 3 months is a big turning point for twins.

It is.

It was shortly before then the twins started settling into longer chunks at night where I would get functionable stretches of sleep.

Glimpses of a routine started appearing in my day.

Ava knew what to expect.

The girls started acting like they knew what to expect.

Ryan and I had more of a system down.

And we started to move from wondering if we were going to be able to do this to knowing, by God's grace, we could and we would.

At 6 1/2 months old, the girls sleep all night from 8:30 - 7:30 with good naps during the day. They are happy to go in their beds, go to sleep on their own and wake up happy and content. I am SO blessed.

How your twins sleep will hugely impact your days. It's worth pursuing.

Keep a schedule when it comes to feeding as well.

In our home, anytime one twin woke up to eat, the other girl got woken up as well.

With as time consuming and constant as taking care of twins is, I can't fathom trying to maintain two different eating/sleeping schedules.

Even to this day, the girls always eat and go down for naps at the same times.

Kate is a better sleeper than Olivia, so many times, Olivia wakes up first and I do get her up. I don't expect them to sleep the same length of times always. But with the rare exception of one very fussy twin, they always go down together.

It's just one more way of keeping routine to our days and giving me periods of planned down time.

4. Start getting out.

If I had to pick what has been the hardest part of twins for me it is by far being limited in going out or connecting with others and Ryan.

In the beginning months, going out really isn't an option at all outside of doctor's appointments and church.

For health reasons AND logistical reasons.

You don't have time to chat on the phone or spend long amounts of time emailing.

Between exhaustion, kids, and others in our home, alone time with Ryan was largely non-existent with the exception of sleeping next to eachother.

So I, pretty quickly, felt pretty cut off from the world and others.

I think I was cut somewhat off guard by this so I want to be forthright.

It's never fun to feel like the world goes on without us but it is true.

And it was hard for me.

Yet my point in sharing this is to tell you that it will improve and much quicker than you think.

But some of that will be up to you.

I can remember around 3 - 4 months realizing that we didn't have any big obstacles standing in our way to go out and about anymore: health, schedule, exhaustion.

Ok, exhaustion can still be an issue sometimes. : )

Yet facing the thought of going out with two babies can be daunting.

It's alot of gear, alot of supplies and alot of attention from random strangers.

Please emphasize alot of attention from random strangers. I'm still not used to that.

Yet you need to do it.

Ryan and I made a decision pretty early that we were making a choice to continue to participate in life as much as was healthy for us.

Ava needed life to go on.

I needed life to go on.

We needed life to go on.

So while it takes much longer to get out and can be complicated we do it.

Both when I'm with Ryan, as a family, and on my own.

And I promise the more you do it, the easier it becomes.

And the more you do it, the more adaptable the kids become in going along.

Plus, what it does for you mentally is fully worth it in itself.

That said - Ryan and I still refuse to take the 3 kids out to eat by ourselves (although we do love the rare opportunity to go out to eat WITHOUT them ; ) ).

And I don't have any plans to take all 3 kids grocery shopping by myself anytime soon.

I think we'll wait on that one for a LONG while yet. : )

5. It is ok to express yourself honestly . . .even if it feels like what you want changes daily : )

With the demands of twins and lots of extra bodies in your home, it will be hard at times.

But you will bless those helping you, and yourself, if you can be as honest as possible with what you need.

Some days, I was so exhausted, it felt like a huge gift to have someone entertain and have fun with Ava as I slept whenever I could.

Other days?

It felt hugely emotional and hard to finish feeding the twins and watch someone else go off and have fun with Ava instead of me.

It took me a while before I finally learned to start expressing that I occasionally wanted to be the one to head out on a walk with her, take her to the park or read books with her.

Poor Ryan would get a phone call with an emotional wife on the other end.

People can't know how to best help you unless you tell them.

So be willing to be honest.

It made such a difference for me when I started pushing myself to share my needs, for that day, more often.

6. BE WILLING TO LIVE WITH A LOT OF GRACE FOR YOURSELF, YOUR SPOUSE, and YOUR KIDS.

I was just re-reading over what I've written and thought, "Good grief, I sound like a know-it-all who thinks she has it all figured out." : )

Please know such is not the case.

My favorite story to tell is how one day, Ryan came home from work to find Ava had been sent to her room, the twins were playing with their toys and I was all tears.

He quickly proceeded to ask me, "Was Ava rough today?"

no.

"Have the twins been crabby?"

no.

"what's wrong?"

To what I promptly sputtered out between tears, "IT"S . . .just . . . my. . . life . . ."

Don't smile.

Ok you can. It's kind of funny.

There are days that seem long, constant and exhausting.

Life with twins is constant.

Yet in between it all are many days that now seem blissfully "normal."

Whatever normal means that is. : )

We do have more good days than bad around here.

So having grace to give yourself and each other will make the rough days much fainter in your memory and help the good days stand out.

Sorry for yet one more novel.

And as always, if you have more specific questions you'd like me to answer directly, please feel free to email me at shineon915@yahoo.com

Blessings!

5 comments:

amy said...

I can hear mom saying point #6! point #6 is for life - no matter the stage we are in!!! i love you! xoxo

Minders said...

Thanks for all you are sharing Amber! I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and getting a glimpse into what the reality has been in your life the past year+. I appreciate your honesty and for being real in how things are.

You have done a wonderful job with your girls! Love you!

Betsy said...

I enjoyed this post, Amber. I can relate to so much of this and it's encouraging to hear from someone who is going through the same stage of life as us. I often think of what you told me about getting out of the house even though it's a lot of work. So, I pack the bags, load the stroller, get the kids ready and go out. It is worth it! Thanks for sharing!

Anonymous said...

Amber, you and Ryan have handled so many things so well this past year. Yes, there were tough times, tears and challenges that all mothers of young children and twins deal with, but there were so many times that alot of love and grace were evident in your intentions and daily living with the girls, each other and us. Thanks for being so candid in your thoughts, struggles and successes. We are so thankful that God is always there to guide and encourage you. We love and appreciate you both so much. We are excited to spend a few days with Ava, Kate and Olivia so you and Ryan can share some time together in Georiga. I don't know who I am most excited for - you or us!! Our love forever, mom

Ashley Baner said...

Amber,
Love the post but sincerely hope I never have to heed your advice :)

ashley