Congratulations, You’re Having Twins

Dear Twin Mom-To-Be | Rockstar Preemies

Dear Twin Mom-To-Be,

When I found out I was having twins I was a little, oh…terrified.  Maybe you felt the same?  I hadn’t even considered the possibility of more than one child prior to that day, and the realization that I was going to have two babies was immensely intimidating.  I wondered what it was going to be like, how it would feel, how gigantic I’d end up becoming.  I thought about giving birth to two children and then taking them home and never sleeping again.  What did I get myself into?  

(Sound familiar?)

As you’ve probably realized by now, being pregnant with twins is no laughing matter. It is hard and scary and can be very uncomfortable.  Twin morning sickness is the kind that makes you run to your doctor for a prescription, when you’d originally thought you’d just, I dunno, meditate and drink kale smoothies (“haha”, says my first trimester Taco Bell cravings). You pee all day long (when you aren’t puking and/or thinking of puking, that is), and you become a human furnace who needs to keep all the windows wide open in the dead of winter.  Everything seems to hurt all the time, eventually it becomes hard to eat and breathe (because there is less and less room for those things to happen), and you wonder if all the women out there claiming that pregnancy is a beautiful, magical time are just lying sadists.

Then there are the comments from the rest of the world.  You know those comments.  “Oh wow, TWO? I could never have TWO!” (uh, I didn’t think I could either, and yet, here I am!). “You’re going to have your hands full when they are born!!” (gee, I never thought of that!). And my personal favourite, the one that EVERYONE asks, “Do you have help? You’re going to need help!” (help is nice, accept it ALWAYS without guilt or hesitation, but don’t let anyone tell you that you won’t be able to handle it!).

But the thing that gets you through, the thing that gets all of us through, is thinking about your beautiful babies, the ones you will give birth to and hold and love and want to show off to everyone you see like you’re the first person to ever procreate. For some of us, this happens sooner than it should and life gets a little rocky while you spend some time in the NICU, but no matter what, there is that hope – that pretty soon you’ll have two infants, the infants you’ve been dreaming about, even if you thought you’d much rather have them one at a time. You buy baby clothes and nursery furniture and read lots of books and take prenatal yoga and your whole world revolves around the prospect of birth and infancy, how it will change your entire life, and how much you’re going to miss this incredible, blessed time when it’s gone.

Well, Twin Mom, it turns out the infant stage is over really, really, really quickly.  No, really, it’s true.  It was all I ever thought about, the part I figured I’d enjoy most, when they’re cute and squishy and new and snuggly.  But what they never tell you is that a) having infant twins kind of sucks and b) IT GETS SO MUCH BETTER.

When Madeleine and Reid were a few months old, the three of us hanging out at home pretty much 24/7 (leave the house?  Yeah right!), I remember thinking how jealous I was of singleton moms, the moms who could pop their babies in slings and have both hands free, or who could give their children all of their undivided attention because they didn’t have to wonder about what the other baby is doing or what he or she needs. I wanted to go to Mommy and Me groups or to the grocery store without feeling like the most frazzled, stressed out human in the world. I was sad that I couldn’t enjoy it as much as I wanted to.  I was worried that I never would.

But here we are at sixteen months, and our life has evolved so much. We’ve been doing this for a while now, the three of us, figuring it out together. I never feel like I have to entertain or micromanage – the only thing that is firm is bedtime (seriously, make sure you are firm about bedtime!).  The rest, we figure out as we go.  When we go out, it’s like a group field trip, a little party for three, where we chat and share food and make funny faces.  I get to eavesdrop on their special, unintelligible twin conversations when they’re alone.  And now, if I’m lucky, I’ll even get voluntary hugs and kisses before bed from my two most favourite people in the world. There are meltdowns, sure, and plenty of days where I still feel like I have no idea what I’m doing and I still feel intensely stressed and frazzled, but with each passing month, there are more and more days that also feel really, really fun.

I’ve often tried to think about what I wish I could tell you, Twin Mom, about what was really ahead.  But how do you convey the highs and lows, the immense challenges and the equally-as-immense joys?  How can I reassure you that it can still be the best thing ever, even if being pregnant sucks, or if your twins are born prematurely, if the first few months are gruelling or if nothing goes like you think it will?  How do you explain having two babies at once?

A few days ago, I met a mom of nine-month-old twins at the grocery store (FYI, there are lots of us out there and WE ARE YOUR PEOPLE.  Don’t be scared to talk to us.).  We chatted about the usual things like birth weights and personality differences and the weird things strangers say when they see you pushing a double stroller.  We talked about the craziness of meal times and bath times and the frustration of the kids keeping each other up at bedtime when they just need to GO TO SLEEP ALREADY.

And then, it hit me.  “Isn’t it the best thing ever?”

She smiled knowingly.  “Absolutely.”

So, congratulations, Twin Mom. It is going to be so, so amazing.

Conquering The Park

The thing about being a mom (at least in my experience) is that suddenly, plenty of normal, everyday things become completely terrifying. This is very different, of course, from the legitimately terrifying experiences that occurred between the twins’ birth and their discharge from the hospital. I’m talking about the stuff that should be easy. Like, uh, leaving the house. Eating at a restaurant. Going on a trip. Being alone at home while your husband is away on a business trip. The kind of stuff you wouldn’t bat an eyelash at during your pre-baby days that now seem akin to, I don’t know, getting a root canal. Without anesthetic.

As the kids have gotten older and transitioned through all of the stages of babyhood, I’ve had to figure out how to do much of the stuff I’d really rather not do, usually by forcing myself against my will. I had to start leaving the house, so I booked lots of daytime appointments and forced myself to go to the grocery store and to meet other mothers out in public. In an attempt to not be a total recluse with kids who had no concept of social eating, I forced us to eat in places that weren’t our kitchen (hint: master the food court before you attempt a restaurant). We’ve gone to visit friends for the weekend here and there (brutal, brutal, brutal – at least one baby always gets sick!), and I’ve somehow managed to not lose my mind when Matt was away for two weeks for work. All of it still causes me to break out in a cold sweat, but I do it anyway, because I have to (and also because I am really, really good at being a hermit, and I need to desperately fight that tendency).

Our latest terrifying challenge has been the park. You guys, I hate the freaking park. It is a wide open space with lots of things my children can fall off of/scrape their knees and faces on/put in their mouths when I’m not looking. There is sometimes a splash pad, which is my own personal version of hell (“let’s go soak ourselves in freezing cold water and then cry the whole way home!!!”). And, of course, there are the invisible boogeymen just waiting in the bushes to abduct my children when I am not looking.

In my perfect playground fantasy (yes, I have one), I imagine myself totally calm, sitting relaxed on the perimeter, watching my children play and explore. Perhaps I am even having a real, proper conversation with another human being while this is occurring. Madeleine and Reid get to run around happily, and then they burn off all of their extra energy and then we go home and they take a nice, long nap.

Well, we’ve been to the park twice now. Two measly times, and yet, my goodness, the stress. Reid runs, except he isn’t very good at running. This morning he scraped both his knees, and smacked his head against the pavement. Madeleine finds the park overwhelming, with other children going here, there and everywhere, and becomes (understandably) agitated at having to constantly be carted around by mom because her brother is running off again. Into the splash pad. ALWAYS THE SPLASH PAD. Also, she really dislikes wearing her shoes.

I know that this is partially their age – almost-sixteen-months-and-newly-walking is a difficult time to try to exist in the world as a cohesive unit – and partially because there are TWO OF THEM, who never want to do the same thing at the same time. And yet, I really want to figure out the park. I would like to have that as an option.  “Hey, what should we do today?” Future Me will ask.  “Let’s go to the park!”

In these situations, I always wish I could hear what other moms are saying and thinking. Do they hate the park too? Do their kids come running back when they are called? Are they on the constant lookout for child molesters? Do their kids have bumps on their heads and scrapes on their knees and hate wearing their shoes?

One thing about having twins is that you don’t always know these things, because you don’t always do the same things that singleton moms do. It is SO MUCH EASIER to stay at home, contained, where things are safe. How are you supposed to keep two toddlers from killing themselves while they are running off in separate directions? Would it really be that bad to strap on a couple of baby leashes? (That’s bad, right?) And seriously, quit it with the homemade muffins and snacks, Other Moms. You are making me feel bad about myself.

We have another park attempt scheduled for this Friday, and naturally, I am dreading it. But, I am going to try really hard not to wimp out. Maybe it will be stressful and exhausting and maybe I’ll end up with even more prematurely grey hairs, but one of these days, we are going to conquer the park.

reidbump

(Do they make bubble wrap helmets?)

The Pain You Cannot See

The Pain You Cannot See | Rockstar PreemiesUp until today, I’d forgotten that I’d spent most of my twenties in pain. In fact, I didn’t even realize exactly how much pain I’d been in until I started to feel it again.

For years I had spent days and weeks where things just felt off. I’d wake up in the morning, and it was as though all the nerve endings in my body had become more sensitive, like someone had turned up the dial on my ability to feel pain. As soon as I’d open my eyes, I could tell what kind of day I was in for.

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How To Stay Sane In The NICU

Having a baby in the NICU is an intense experience that hits you like a giant slap in the face.  Then it waits for you to shake it off, and it dropkicks you in the stomach.  Not only are you heartbroken and terrified and desperate to see your baby grow and develop and eventually be discharged, you are also constantly on the verge of losing your mind completely from the stress and exhaustion and worry and all the emotional ups and downs.

The good news is that there are many (many!) of us who have been through it, and we’ve learned a few things about how to hang in there.  And while no families have the exact same experience, there is a lot of overlap in how parents tend to feel during a NICU stay.  So if you are pregnant, have a baby in the NICU, or know someone who does, hopefully this list will help make life a tiny bit easier.

Self-Care in the NICU

1.  All Feelings Are OK

Navigating your feelings about everything that has happened to you and your baby is a big deal.  You might be sad or angry or feeling guilty or frustrated or happy and hopeful or maybe just really ready to go home.  You might feel all of those things simultaneously.  Or maybe you won’t feel any of them and you’ll wonder if there’s something wrong with you.

There isn’t. Most importantly, you are not at all alone in feeling that way! I would guess that pretty much all preemie parents have felt similar things and can relate.

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