A woman in my moms of twins club sent a somewhat desperate sounding email to our group’s listserv last night. She was going through that awful, overwhelmed period where you feel like you spend so much time managing the babies that you can’t actually enjoy them. Plus, she’s in a new moms class (probably the same one I took), and really only has the other singleton moms to compare herself to, so she feels like she’s really not “keeping up,” while all of the other moms are practicing the songs and reading books to their newborns… She got a lot of really positive feedback from the group, as what she’s going through sounds completely normal to the rest of us.
It just got me thinking. I loved that new moms group, because there really are a lot of things that are universal to the experience of being a first-time-mom. We’re all a little nervous, wondering if it’s normal for newborns to be so… noisy, and all of the other new-baby stuff. But on the other hand, there are some fundamental differences to the experience of having multiples that go beyond “twice as much of everything.” Because, especially in the newborn days, that can mean twice as much time feeding, changing diapers, trying to get them to sleep, etc. And that (obviously) has an enormous impact on what else you’re able to do. There’s very little time (and, in particular, energy) for things we hear that singleton moms are doing – singing songs, reading books, lots of cuddling. With two newborns, you almost never get to do those things, and it’s hard not to feel like a shitty mother for it. Especially when the singleton moms in your class claim that their 6-week-old “loves books!”, and you’ve yet to crack one open for your pair. When you hear that there’s some guideline that says you’re not supposed to leave them in the swing for more than 20-30 minutes at a time (I swear I read this somewhere), and that’s the only place you can get yours to sleep, or at least stop screaming long enough for you to pee. Oh, the ways in which we beat ourselves up over the things that we do just to survive those first few months.
Mom-101 wrote last month about the differences between parenting your first and second child. She seemed to be feeling the mom-guilt of not being able to do the same things with your second that you can with your first. A lot of what she said felt very familiar to me, and I thought that being a first-time-mom of twins is a lot like being a second-time-mom, but without the benefit of ANY experience at all. Lucky us!
The key for me, as I have said before and will say again, is social support in the form of a mom network. And much as I love my singleton mom friends, and I don’t mean to knock them, because parenting any newborn is hard, hard work – it’s just different with twins. It just is. And you need to be able to talk to people who have done it with two.
My pediatrician and I were chatting this morning, and I mentioned one or two of the tricks I’ve learned (like coating chunks of slippery banana and avocado with crushed rice krispies), and she laughed and said I was good at giving advice. And I’ve always loved being the person who can help people get questions answered. Tour guide, board member, whatever, I love it. But it’s not because I’m especially clever or creative. I didn’t come up with the rice krispie thing on my own, nor did I dream up most of the other tricks of the trade I’ve learned. I got them from other moms. I’ve asked questions of the women in my MOT club, whether through the listserv or at our monthly mom-support meetings (which I will soon be co-chair of, I’m such a joiner!). I’ve read the blogs of other twin moms, I’ve asked questions here and had people give me ideas and support. And I love passing all of this on to those who come after me, because I know how much it meant to me.
It’s part of the reason I started and have kept this blog. It’s the main reason that I started How Do You Do It?. It’s why I’m getting a little ridiculously involved in my moms of twins club. Lots of us live far away from our families, and it’s unlikely that most of our friends with kids also have twins. We need each other so we don’t go completely insane.
And, little by little, you start to figure it out. You pass that awful newborn stage and end up with predictable naps and happier kids. And then you realize, you’re lucky to be a twin mom when you watch your singleton friends use all of that spare time to hover over their children and freak out about every little scratch or stolen toy. As overwhelming as those newborn days are, I honestly believe being a twin mom actually makes you a lot more laid back about a lot of things, because you have to pick and choose what you’ll spend your time worrying about. You realize your kids have made you a supermom.