I've been meaning to write you for a while and
I think there's a reason why most parents just have one baby at a time. There's nothing quite like looking at a new, scrunch-faced little person who is screaming his or her head off and realizing that you are the one responsible for meeting all of his or her needs. It's humbling and more than a little terrifying. When you look down and see both arms full of babies (babies! there's more than one!) and both of them are red-faced and yelling at you, it can be overwhelming. It's enough to make even the bravest, most experienced mama shake in her slippers.
Here's what I know about you, though. You're strong and resourceful. You have ways and means of soothing your babies that you haven't even discovered yet. Your mothering instincts, however undeveloped you might think they are, are going to take over and carry you down this road when you're too tired to walk down it yourself. (And you will probably be too tired to walk down that road at some point, likely not too far in the future.)
The thing about twins is they are just like singletons, but more. The same stuff happens. They cry; you rock them. They are hungry; you feed them. They are wet; you change them. They're hungry again; you feed them again. It's just harder to catch a break when they're both going at once (or, worse, when they start tag-teaming you and you never get a moment to sit down.)
Advice isn't worth much. This is a learn-as-you-go kind of situation. You'll figure it out, and soon, you'll be the one dispensing wise words. Still, I want to tell you 5 things I wish I had known when my own twin-venture began.
1. Don't be afraid to ask for help. And if someone offers help, say "yes" immediately (even if you don't know what you want them to do).
I know. You're an independent mama. You like to do things for yourself. I get it, because I'm like that, too. I'd rather fail than ask for help. The thing is, you're going to have plenty of chances to do things on your own. It's better to take the help while it's offered so you can work up to flying solo gradually. Besides, when twinfants are involved, there really is just more work to do than one person can handle. You need help. Trust me.
Start making a list of everything people can do for you, big and small. Here are some ideas:
- Wash, dry and fold clothes.
- Bring food.
- Clean out the refrigerator and throw out all the old leftovers from all the food people brought.
- Collect and return dishes from the food people brought.
- Water your plants.
- Cut your grass.
- Clean the bathroom.
- Read to/play with your older child.
- Hold the babies so you can take a shower.
- Sweep the floor.
- Unload the dishwasher.
2. Lower your standards a little. Whatever it is, it's probably not as important as you think.
This goes for your helpers as well as for you. When other people do stuff, they don't always do it the way you would. That's okay. They're doing it. You can be perfect later once you've figured out how to be Supermom. (Then you can call me and offer to help out over here.)
Maybe you end up using disposable diapers when you thought you'd use cloth. Maybe you use jarred baby food instead of making your own like you always planned to do. Maybe your babies see an episode of Sesame Street before they are 2 against American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations or don't get as much time being worn in the sling as your first child did. Maybe your floors don't get vacuumed often (or at all!) or there are always dirty dishes in your sink when you used to keep a pristine house.
Guess what? No one will die from these things.
Things are not going to be exactly perfect for a while. Maybe not ever. That's okay. You are not hurting your children by having more than one join your family at a time. Most people enter the world and can count on nearly a year, at minimum, of being "the baby." During that year, their needs are probably first on the list of everyone's priorities. Your twins are going to enter the world and already have to share. Sometimes, this is going to be really hard for them. Later on, though, when that first year has passed (and even before then, in some cases!), the benefits of being a twin are going to far outweigh any momentary disadvantages they might have experienced. Having siblings is always a gift. They'll be okay. So will you.
3. Even if you mess up something that's actually important, you've got to give yourself a break.
I've written before about how most of us need to just relax a little about not being good enough at parenting. I still believe it. We all make mistakes. Sometimes, we make big mistakes. When this happens, we fix things the best we can and move on. What's done is done, and continuing to beat yourself up and feel guilty about it is not helping to make anything better.
I truly think most of us are doing our best every day given the circumstances in which we find ourselves. Some days are better than others, but we're doing our best. If you're not doing your best, you probably already know that. You can try again tomorrow, okay? No more of this "my best isn't good enough" stuff. (Good enough for what?)
Your children, including your multiples, are yours for a reason. Take care of them the best you know how. If you don't know something, ask. When they need something, tend to them (or ask someone to help you tend to them, or teach them to tend to each other or themselves). Love them as much as you possibly can.
All the rest of that stuff- the lovely newborn photo shoot, the elaborate birthday parties, the handmade clothes, the perfect cookie-baking-togetherness, the beautiful bento box lunches filled with organic, local food- all of it is good, too...but it's extra. Your kids aren't on Pinterest, and they think you're awesome just the way you are.
They're right. Don't forget it.
4. Do your best, and then let it be.
Sometimes, your best actually isn't enough...but it's all you have to offer, so it will have to do.
I have spent chaotic days with my children that ended with my putting them to bed and wondering why I felt like I hadn't seen them all day. You can't do it all, no matter how hard you try.
Until Costco starts selling extra pairs of arms that can snap on and bear part of the load, you and I are always going to have slightly more than we can carry. You'll develop skills for coping- ways to carry two children and an enormous diaper bag through a grocery store parking lot while keeping another child from darting into traffic; ways to prepare a meal (notice I didn't say "cook" - remember #1) with little people dangling from your arms and legs and hollering at you, ways to bathe more than one baby at a time (or not bother bathing them at all, which is also fine...come on, Rosie, back me up, here?).
The thing is, like all skills, this stuff takes time to develop. Learn what you can ahead of time, if you want, but be prepared to figure most of it out as you go.
You will figure it out. You kind of have to, right? You'll amaze yourself, I promise. And the things you never seem to get to finish?
Let them go. No one does it all. The benefit of being a twin mom is that you actually have a good excuse.
5. It gets easier.
Whatever is happening in any moment, no matter how tough it feels, is going to pass. You might have moments when you think you can't possibly handle it for one more second...but you will. You'll go on, and the moment will go on by, and things will be good again. One day, you'll look around and think it's actually easier to have more than one baby at a time. Really, you will. And in the meantime, you can occupy yourself with feeling superior when people in the line at Target tell you things like, "Oh, I just couldn't possibly manage twins."
Maybe they're right. Maybe they can't. But you...you can totally manage twins. You've been doing it already by helping your body meet the demands of a twin pregnancy and by preparing your life and family to accept more than one baby at once.
You were made for this, mama, even on the days you don't feel like it.
You are their mother, and you'll be their mother tomorrow, and next week, and next year...and it will be the most frustrating, most exhilarating challenge you can imagine.
It will not kill you, even on the days you think it might. You will stretch, grow, adapt and expand in ways you can't imagine. You'll learn to laugh when you could choose to cry instead. You'll struggle, and you'll get stronger in the process. You'll be exhausted. But eventually, you'll be wise, and you'll be encouraging some other mama who is just starting on this journey.
You've got this.
Now, go out there and rock this twin parenting thing like only you can.
I'm rooting for you!