10 April 2008

Life with Newborn Twins

I always get the impression that parents of singletons resent it when parents of multiples go off on how much easier it is to have one baby instead of two (or more). I can see why. It's a bit rude of us parents of multiples to imply that having one baby is some kind of walk in the park, a life of leisure.

The thing is, that's not what we're trying to imply, at least not this mom of twins. We fully acknowledge that having a baby—or babies—is a huge adjustment. Whether you have one or six, the experience of becoming parent rocks your world in ways you could never imagine, good or bad.

But here's the thing: THE MORE BABIES YOU HAVE AT ONCE, THE HARDER IT IS, at least logistically. There's just no two ways around it. Sure, parents of multiples get some payback as their kids get older and become developmentally appropriate playmates for each other, and all that, but especially during the months of infancy, it's harder. It really is.

Below is a painfully accurate description of life with newborn twins, taken from Akeeyu, whose girls are almost two months old (emphasis mine):
Even under the best of circumstances [the girls] never have solitude or anybody's undivided attention, or at least not for long. [ . . . ] On average, I think I spend about 136% of my waking hours doing just damage control. I don't dangle educational toys and coo sweet nothings, mostly because all my available energy has been taking up keeping the girls from crying, or trying. I wouldn't even chalk up today as particularly successful in that regard, but at least I didn't find myself saying, "Oh shit, don't kick your sister's soft spot!" Not today, anyway. This is not the kind of parent I thought I would be.
That feeling of spending all of my energy on damage control is so, so familiar. In those early months, it was all about controlling the crying. Not that I think a baby should never cry, but we are talking about babies, here, and often they cry to let you know they need something, and it's your job as a parent to say on top of those needs, and as a parent of multiples, this is all you do. Stay on top of needs. Rare is the moment to just enjoy your baby, because let's face it: babies are needy. 

Then they get a bit older and gradually less needy, at least physically. But the emotional needs ramp up and the tantrums start and then there's a whole new kind of damage control that kicks in. 

It's exhausting. And it forces compromises. And the compromises can lead to guilt. The many ways parents have found to feel guilty is legendary, and exponential for parents of multiples who cannot possibly give their undivided attention to more than one person at at time, no matter how much they want to.

I'm not writing this as a woeful plea for all and sundry to feel sorry for me or for other parents of multiples. Not at all. Just be gentle with your friends who have multiples. We all need a little tenderness, don't we?

41 comments:

Nina said...

I have no problem saying that parents of multiples have it much, much harder than I did with just one newborn. I would look at mothers of twins and just want to shake my head and give her a hug. You all deserves medals. With ribbons attached and everything.

I once saw a new mother of twins (she also had a three year old at home) trying to learn how to tandem breastfeed at a breastfeeding class. Out of desperation, she said, because she was literally breastfeeding non-stop trying to feed them both separately. All the other 20 mothers in the class had singletons. And we were all just in awe.

Jen said...

dude.. you already know that I've got you marked in the "heroic" category. i'm going to get you a cape.

as a mom of a singleton.. i have three friends with multiples (you included) and i marvel daily at how they can get through the day.

we've got two parents.. only one kid.. and we STILL are dragging our asses at the end of the day.

you need a theme song. i'll start working on it. something like theme from "greatest american hero" but different..

Goddess in Progress said...

So, so true. I remember commenting to a fellow twin mom (when my kids were maybe 6 weeks old, hers were two months older) that I felt like I spent so much time managing them that I never got to enjoy them. The constant cycle of feed, burp, put down, pump, repeat... leaves no time for the singing, cuddling, and other things I had been so sure I'd do with my kids. Then a fellow mom in my Isis class claimed that her 8-week-old "loved books." "Oh crap," I thought, "when on earth am I supposed to read to them?"

Man, I'm so glad to be past those first months!

Mama Nabi said...

Oh hell, I am in awe whenever I see ANY parent with twins. I simply would have broken down in tears... having just one was so hard. And, knowing how hard it was to pretty much do everything by myself, as a pseudo single mom, to ONE baby... I just don't know how a true single mom with TWO kiddos do it. Really... BIG BIG *HUGS*

jbp said...

I'm not saying this to downplay the difficulty of having twins, but I'll say that the second (and subsequent, I imagine) child probably goes through much of what twins do, and the guilt I feel about screwing up the parenting with my second child sounds about like what you feel like with twins. I did try to do all that individual attention, educational crap the first time around. Now, with two kids and a full time job, I just try to get through the day. Ugh...

Good luck to us all!!

Denise said...

Friends of mine have triplets and while I was so happy for them that their infertility ended with three healthy children, anyone could see that it was harder. They made heroic efforts to do things with the children--it SEEMED LIKE they took three kids on a beach outing with more ease than we took our single one--but they had just been forced to become better organized. And they rarely had the luxury of doing anything spontaneously. They could not hang out at a cafe for a few extra minutes with a content baby, or let a baby take an extra-long nap, or even pop a baby into a stroller for a last minute walk, or even just sit around and coo at one of their kids, unless someone else was handling the other two.

moo said...

I was a nanny to twins nearly 10 years ago, when I was younger, more full of myself, and thought I was hot shit, knowing everything.

I was exhausted, all the damn time, and I was only on duty from 7 am until 7 pm. I lived with the family, though, so I heard all the shenanighans after I hid out in my room at night.

When I found out I was pregnant, and learned I was having a singleton, I was SO HAPPY you have no idea. So while the whole notion of having twins is romantic and seeing them grow up together is so special ... I understand not only that it is hard work but that it is SO MUCH more hard work than having one.

There is a woman in our community who has QUADS. She makes me tired just looking at her.

Snickollet said...

jbp--

Amen, sister. Good luck to us all is right.

-snick

Anonymous said...

Let me just say that I felt all the same guilt about not being able to give each one of my twins my undivided attention, etc...in the beginning. They are 5 1/2 now and are the happiest/sweetest/most well adjusted kids I know. Truly. Their preschool teacher says the same thing as well. I like to think they are so patient and mellow and easy going now BECAUSE they didn't have my undivided attention in the beginning. They had to wait for things. Sometimes they had to wait a lot. I now have a 10 month old singleton and she is a sassy, demanding little thing, which is completely unlike my twins. Could be genetics/personalities, etc...or it could be that she gets way more attention then they did. She has never had to wait.

All I really know is this...try and not feel too much guilt because I did feel too much guilt and mine are FINE!!! The guilt didn't do anything but make ME feel worse.

Kelly(Houston)

Jen said...

Word. I have trouble believing there's anybody who resents some parent-of-multiples venting, but I guess you have met some! One thing I've said from pretty much day one of parenting is how much more difficult it must be with multiples, PARTICULARLY as a single parent. Looks to me like it's exponentially more difficult. An order of magnitude. Wicked, wicked hahhhd. The next time someone's eyes glaze over as you vent, you give them my number. (This is Woburn Jen writing. Must be tough to tell apart the Jens sometimes. :-)) I'll set them straight. You're not being rude, dude. As difficult as parenting one can be, no question, I'll go ahead and say it IS a walk in the park compared to more! JMHO, but there ya go.

Thinking of you a lot this week. Hope you got my letter, or will soon. Love to you all!

Jen

mames said...

true, snick those early months seem like a crazy mixed up time and now that we are past them my first inclination is to go and have my uterus removed. i love my boys, but i do not miss those days. now things are still crazy but different. you said it...be nice to mamas, we need it.

Melissa said...

Oh THANK YOU, you have said just what I felt! I don't mean to make singletons sound easy, but I do sometimes feel like a LITTLE extra whining on my part with twins is OK! But no matter how many kids or how many helping hands, it is hard, and we are all just doing the best we can, right?

Eliza said...

Hiya Snick--in case you don't know me, I have one with a developmental delay, purposefully had another kid three and a half years later (good interval, right?) who turned out to have a way WORSE developmental delay, and then because vasectomies are not all that you hear they are especially when the patient is not 100% compliant with testing, AHEM, fourteen months later had a third kid who had all kinds of medical disasters during the first year of life and currently eats through a tube. Also I am chronically ill with a wide assortment of things, including the same connective tissue disease I passed to all three kids without knowing, hypothyroidism, adrenal failure, a mysterious bony growth in my neck, and occasional MRSA.

And you know what? I wouldn't trade it all for having to live the first year with two healthy, term infants. No. Fucking. Way. I remember carrying an infant carrier through the snow with a late-walking toddler on my hip telling the almost-five-year-old to "hold on to the baby's chair! Hold on to the baby!!!" heading, of course, into Costco to buy MORE DIAPERS, and saw a haggard woman with one teeny baby in a sling and another in an infant seat, obviously twins, pushing HER giant cart full of diapers on the way OUT and thinking "OMG that poor woman!" Because having two fourteen months apart who are developmentally the same age sucks, but not the way having two tiny, frantic, screaming newborns must've. Damn. I no longer get mushy about tiny babies and feel that longing ONE LITTLE BIT.
I'm with the people above--can we like, get together and sew you a spandex uniform to show off your WW figure with like, a cape, and then pin a few medals (WITH ribbons) on you? Seriously. I'm in. Now who wants to draw straws for childcare duty at Snick's awards ceremony, MUAHAHAHAHAAAA...

Jolene said...

just letting you know that I'll be thinking of you tomorrow...I know it will be a tough day. Lots of love and hugs...

soralis said...

Ah yes Damage control... it still feels that way and my boys are 2. I must admit now that I have also had just one I have even less sympathy for my friends that have just one because I have found that it is less than half the work of 2. (I can't even imagine folks with triplets!) Maybe I don't have sympathy for them because they phone me to complain all the time about all the work they are doing and how hard it is to get one baby out of the house. So anyway I am just bad now because when I am sick of listening to their complaining (just enjoy your marvelous baby!) I usually say 'try doing it with 2' and leave it at that! I am quite sure they don't appreciate when I say that but hopefully they will take a hint and stop complaining at me.

That being said I also do not like when I go out and some woman leans over to her husband and says in a not so quiet voice 'that poor woman'. I guess there is just no making me happy!

I am with Jen though, I do think you are heroic as well. I can't imagine how difficult it must be parenting twins alone and you even find time to blog! You are amazing!

Take care

Anonymous said...

Ok, any singleton parents who resent parents of multiples saying how much harder it is to have two babies than one need a smack upside the head. Seriously.

I have one child, with another singleton on the way, and I don't get how it is not totally obvious that two children the same age are WAY harder than one (or one at a time). It's more expensive since you need two of everything and it's just more impossible. As a new parent of one child, I remember thinking that two hands were just not enough. And that's with one baby. And then there're single moms with one baby -- my hat's off to them, because man it's brutal to never get a break. And then there are parents of twins, because they've got two babies to try to care for. And then single parents of twins like you...I don't know how you get through the day. Truly, you amaze me! And higher-order multiples? Just wow.

bobbi said...

I have 4 kids, but had them 1 at a time....my hats of to you who have more than one who are the same age. My girlfriend has trips, and always complained that, even past the impossible newborn stage, as toddlers/preschoolers, they invariably all took off in opposite directions. Make me tired just thinking about it. And to do it as a single parent? I cringe whenever I have to do single parent duty for ONE DAY. All the time? *shudder*

You rule. Seriously.

bobbi said...

Gaah! Please ignore the ridiculous typos...2 year old getting molars and no one is sleeping here...

Molly said...

Yeah?! How the hell do you guys do it? So many questions. If they are both crying, which one do you go to first? How do you cross the street with both of them, and hold the diaper bag and push the stroller? I the answer lies in the comment, you just have to be MORE ORGANIZED. Seriously. It must be like being a general in an army. I am endlessly fascinated with how easily you handle your twins as a single parent. You are just amazing! I can get very frustrated with one (although it is getting easier and easier each day).

Anonymous said...

OF COURSE if you have twins it is harder - who the heck would ever say anything different? My mom had me and my sister (twins) and then 18 months later my sister - so she had 3 of us at once - I honestly dont know how she did it cuz my father certainly was no help. I say god bless you for giving it your all - I wish you were not so hard on yourself! Maggie

every tenth said...

No guilt! We are doing the best we can, and our babies are loved as much as possible.

I will be thinking of you and your babies tomorrow.

andrea said...

Yep, my twins are 10 months old now and I'm STILL plagued by the worries that what I can do for them is never enough for what they need. It is easier now that they can crawl, so they can come to me when they want a cuddle, and that they can sit up, because it means I can hold them both on my lap easily if they're both upset. But it is still so often that damage control situation. And now that they have started hair-pulling, grabbing treasured toys from each other, etc ... Cue screams and wails every few minutes.

My singleton-mum friends regularly say "I don't know how you do it" and I mutter something about "You can only go by what you know and I'm sure if I had only one I'd still be complaining". But you're right, it is a lot freaking harder and you definitely deserve a superhero cape for doing it as a single mum.

Anonymous said...

BUT, I would would have far rather have had twins (which I did) than babies spaced shortly apart! At least with twins they both generally can keep the same schedule.

And on the bright side when they get older they PLAY together (when they aren't biting/scratching/pulling each others hair out!) But seriously. I have girl/girl twins and I swear since they were about 5 they are easier to raise than a singleton. None of that "Mommmmm... I'm Booooored..." stuff. I don't think either have ever said that to me.

They are each others best friend, playmate and confidant. They keep one another in line, go to bed feeling safe in their room, and truly are a blessing.

Can't imagine life any other way. My older son and the girls.

Just you wait, someday the difficult first years pay off! They DO!

BlueBlackRed said...

I just wanted to pop on and tell you it gets so so so so so much easier!!

And secretly, I think it would be so much easier to just have one baby ;) But not near the same amount of fun!

Lisa said...

Oh, yeah.

Sometimes I've had (well intentioned) people tell me that I get to do all of my staying up all night with babies at once and isn't that great? I'm like, are you fucking out of your mind? The sleep deprivation got so bad (doing it on my own) it really became dangerous I could not form sentences or make simple decisions.(and then I hired a nanny for the first two months.) I remember one time I had the twins in their carseats on the living room floor and was getting ready to feed them and THREE HOURS later, I woke up from the floor with milk all over my chest and babies screaming bloody murder for I don't know how long. I was sure they were scared for life. Even now, whenever I have behavior problems with Aaron I think, Is this because I screwed up so bad those first three months?

I think I actually had to sort of grieve the idea of lovingly rocking your baby as long as you want to while they eat as long as they want to and fall alseep in your arms as you dreamily sing to them, because with twins? It ain't going to happen. EVER. And it never did. But I try to console myself with the thought that they had each other during that time. They weren't ever really alone because they always had their brother right there to sleep with and feel a warm familiar body next to them. And hope that was enough to make up for it.

Alicia said...

On the other hand, why would you deliberately say something to another parent that you knew was likely to put them on the defensive and provoke a reaction that would irritate you? That just seems like asking for trouble and an extra excuse to whine!

ellen said...

"Just be gentle with your friends who have multiples. We all need a little tenderness, don't we?"

Have you really been suffering a lack of gentleness and tenderness from your friends and acquaintances? That's a real shame, and they should be ashamed of themselves!

OTR sister said...

After we had our second (both singletons) my in-laws took our toddler camping for a weekend. We just had our six-week-old and it felt like a walk in the park. Why did we think it was hard the first time around?

I think it is amazing how our capabilities and perception of normal is able to expand to encompass our present reality. As moms, we do what we need to do. And you do a lot. Major respect.

Cat said...

I am only now feeling like I am comming out of the smog of newborn twins to catch a breath of fresh air. And they are already 6 months old. But with a 3 year old and 6 month old twins (and keeping a business afloat) life shure gets crazy. But Snick, for you I have just absolute respect and adoration.

What A Card said...

Oh, can I finally complain in a safe place? Especially after going through years of infertility, it seems especially frowned upon to complain. But I just have to say what no one has mentioned yet: the absolute worst part of twins was the pregnancy! Every symptom twice as bad, getting huge so early, being uncomfortable for so long, all the extra appointments to go to, the constant worry of prematurity and other increased risks, the much higher rate of c-sections, etc.

Whew, that felt good. Thanks!

On a plus side, even at two and a half, I can see how having twins becomes much easier and fun in so many ways...

Julie said...

Snick--just wanted to let you know that I'm sending prayers and good thoughts your way especially today. I just faced the one-year anniversary of losing my dad a few weeks back, so I (sorta) know what you're going through. Hope this weekend is a time of restoration and healing for you.

Angela said...

Snick, please know that you are in my thoughts and prayers today. Whatever you are doing I hope some time is devoted to doing something just for you. I know we have never met but your writing shows the true you, your strength, courage, honesty, vulnerability, grace, patience and humour is amazing. I hope you and the twins get through the day surrounded by love and laughter. Please take care.

Anonymous said...

I'm also thinking of you today and hoping you are surrounded by family, friends and love.

Kareer Woman said...

WOW, twins! You should be saluted, hang in there :)

culiex said...

Hey Snickollet....thinking of you today.

Anonymous said...

Just wanted you to know that a stranger in NY is thinking of you and all you've accomplished this year.

Mar

Ann said...

I think us singleton moms live in somewhat envy of the twin moms out there - doesn't everyone dream of having twins? Never quite figured out why.

I have four singletons - five years, four kiddos - we are busy busy busy. But, my husband and I look at each other and are thankful that we didn't have twins.

I have thought of that post-v accidently twin pregnancy (do a lot of people) - and it terrifies me - six kiddos. I am in awe of the multiple mom, especially the year-long breastfeeding multiple mom - no way I could handle it, wasn't made that way!

To you - a single mom, you deserve tremendous honours.

Jenn said...

I love having twins...now. I think I have PTSD from the first few months though. I really don't now how I survived. I did all the night time wakenings by myself for three months. I was alone with them more than 12 hours a day and then was exclusively breastfeeding and pumping after every feeding to keep my supply up.

I didn't even know you could be that tired.

Christine said...

Except when your mother in law constantly talks about how hard it is for your SIL because she has twins. And you have 3 kids. And she'll say stupid things to you when all 3 are running around, like "but can you imagine having two?" (Seriously, she really says that.)

But other than that, yeah. Multiples are hard, I'm sure. Babies in general just suck the life right out of you.

Kristin.... said...

Delurking to say well said. My twins are 15 months old now, and with two other children, MUCH of my time is spent doing damage control. It is a swell day when I haven't yelled at one of the older ones for a)sitting on a baby, b) taking a toy/book/object from a baby c) throwing things at/near a baby, and the list goes on.

And my thoughts go out to you often, as I think that I have it hard and you are doing it completely alone. I do hope this year brings you some peace.

Emmie (Better Make It A Double) said...

Thanks for saying that, Snick. I have a BIL who insists it's easier, but I think now that he actually has a singleton of his own, he might get how that extra baby isn't exactly saving anyone any time. Baby triage is no fun, and I'm a bit sad that I have so little nostalgia for those days. I love me an older-than-six-months baby, but I've kind of lost my attraction to infants altogether. I do think though, that while the multiples road is much (expontially)steeper, it's also a bit shorter. This is too a mixed blessing, but I feel real freedom in it sometimes. All my friends with kids born around 3 years ago have babies too, are up all the time, are still baby-proofing and dealing with kids that can't say what they want. I'm kind of happy to have some of that behind me, even if it was exhausting and overwhelming to get here. This summer we're camping, traveling to Europe, eating in restaurants, all things that would be much harder with a preschooler and a baby.