When Twins Are Both the Problem and the Solution

Some things are actually easier with twins.

IMG_6674(Well, making dinner isn’t. Mercy. And don’t look at my counters.)

When I found out I was carrying twins, mostly I only felt grief and fear. I grieved for some lost things. It might sound crazy to grieve about twin pregnancy after doing fertility treatments for six years, but I wasn’t alone. I found entire chapters devoted to grief in my twin pregnancy books. Parents of multiples actually go through the stages of grief, often in order. We have to deal with letting go of all of the preconceived notions we had. In my case, I grieved about:

1) Future adopted children that I can’t have: We would never be able to adopt again through our church agency because LDS Family Services only approves couples who have no more than two children.

2) My oldest son: While I can’t predict how he will feel, I never intended for him to be the only adopted child in our family. I didn’t want him to be the only one who didn’t biologically resemble us.

3) The ideal pregnancy I wouldn’t have: Having two babies in there at once is almost less…. intimate. At first, I couldn’t tell who was who; I couldn’t bond one-on-one. I couldn’t really even explain it to myself, but I felt kind of outnumbered. It made it harder to bond, feel cozy together, and to imagine the future. In addition, my pregnancy was a living hell that I would not wish on anyone. I won’t go into too many details here, but I can throw out a few hellish keywords: morning sickness until 17 weeks; contractions starting at 18 weeks; choking and almost fainting while lying down by 20 weeks; being unable to walk up stairs without crying by 24 weeks; outgrowing maternity clothes and going on bedrest by six months; heart enlargement, anemia, narcotics, and an inability to sleep, shower, or care for my bodily needs in the last month. Maybe I should write a blog post about that. Let me get on that.

4) The ideal birth that I wouldn’t have: I had to give up my ideas about birth, because I knew it just wouldn’t go the way I wanted or expected. I couldn’t choose which hospital, or which birthplan, or any of that stuff. But maybe that’s a relief. I saved a lot of time not doing any research!

Ten years ago, I was so much more of a know-it-all, or a “breastfeeding Nazi”, or a no-gray-area kind of person. I think having an adopted child really loosened me up. I couldn’t breastfeed, so obviously I had to let that go. (See Tina Fey’s thoughts on silencing the “Teat Nazis” with “Adoptive Mommies” *) We didn’t have time to choose the most perfectly-rated carseat or decorate a cute nursery. We just picked the lightest-weight carseat and threw our kid in the guest room.

And, then, with the twins, I felt a similar feeling. We may have had the luxury of time this time around, but it was not a normal pregnancy. The normal rules didn’t apply. I couldn’t exercise, I had to gain more weight, my body contracted and acted like it was two months ahead of where it was, and I had to give up any ideas about choice that other moms have about their pregnancy or birth. In a way, it was kind of relaxing. It actually didn’t make me sad or upset- it made me let go and quit worrying. Too many choices make us crazy. That’s why people like Costco. (When I ask my husband to bring home laundry detergent, there are a couple to choose from, so he always gets it right. I call this my Costco Theory. )

Besides the grief upon finding out I was carrying twins, I had so many fears. I guess I had “Infertility Aftermath”. People who have been through miscarriage or IVF go through a kind of PTSD, even if they do get pregnant. We worry more and can’t enjoy the pregnancy like other people. I had so much anxiety and fear from my last miscarriage that I felt cheated out of enjoying my pregnancy.

Basically, I was scared to lose them and scared to keep them.

Other fears that kept me awake at night included:

1) Taking care of the twins + a toddler alone at night and during the day after Mr. Okayest would go back to work
2) Having to birth one twin vaginally and one through c-section (yes, it happens!)
3) Failing at breastfeeding
4) Succeeding at breastfeeding
5) Not using migraine medication during breastfeeding too
6) Having 3 kids under 3 (shudder)
7) Having 3 kids in diapers – who does that? Honestly? People have a kid, he grows, they potty train him, then they have another. It’s the natural order of things. What the heck did we do?
8) Never being able to go to the store again. At least until R is old enough to walk beside the cart.
9) Buckling 3 kids into carseats
10) That Mr. Okayest and I might be mean to (or at least snippy with) each other for the next two years
11) My body! What lovely things were awaiting me? Saggy boobs, stretch marks, exhaustion, no libido, jelly belly, blah blah blah… ? And the guilt I felt about worrying about those things when Heavenly Father has affirmatively answered my prayers- oh my!
12) You know that moment when your kid is in bed and the toys are picked up and the dishes are done and the husband’s lunch is made, and you can flop down on the couch and watch whatever mind-numbing drivel you want to? Or even read a book? Would that ever happen again? It was my favorite part of the day, no matter how much I love my kids or how long I waited for them.
13) Having the house to myself while my toddler “naps”. I doubted I would ever get three kids to nap at the same time and ever get the house to myself again.
14) Dealing with migraines with three kids under three
15) Hmmm, what euphemism to use for “marital intimacy”….?
16) Bedrest! What if I needed bedrest? It was quite possible with twins! Who would take care of my toddler?
17) Mr. Okayest’s grad school. He planned to keep going, no breaks, even when they were born. How would I handle that? I worried not only about the looooong days when he would be gone from 5AM- 9PM, but also about all the homework and papers that would require me to care for the kids on my own.
18) Cleaning. How would I keep up with keeping the house? I was already struggling at keeping up with 4000 square feet and a toddler. How would I ever find time or energy with 3 kids? (Well, it’s pretty dirty now- who am I kidding?)

Those fears came true. Well, not #2. But most of the others came true. But you know what? Now that the babies are almost one year old, I am realizing that a lot of those fears came true, but only for a short time. It was temporary, and we survived. Actually, I would say we thrived. Yes, I didn’t sleep for months on end, and I wanted to die, but the babies learned to sleep through the night by six months. Yes, I had not a single moment to myself for months, but I eventually trained all three to nap at the same time in the afternoon by seven months. Yes, Mr. Okayest still goes to grad school, and it sucks, but we also have help from my mother-in-law and from a mother’s helper. Yes, I can’t grocery shop with three little ones who need to sit in the cart, but Mr. Okayest has learned how to grocery shop (and even use coupons!). Yes, Mr. Okayest and I snapped at each other more than we ever had, but we knew it was temporary and were welded together by what had happened to us. Yes, my house is filthy, but I clean it a little bit, once in a while.

Now that they are almost one year old, I am pondering all the positive blessings that twins bring. These bonus things were not on my mind during the terrifying months of bedrest and recovery and sleepless nights. But I see them now. Some of them are trivial and some of them are amazing.

1) I never had to refer to my in-utero offspring as “it” before I knew the sex. The pronoun “they” is so much better.
2) We picked one name before the birth (to appease curious family and friends) and announced the other name at the birth (to surprise family and friends).
3) They keep each other company. They are never alone; they are never friendless or bored.
4) They don’t cry at naptime or bedtime, unless one twin is late getting into his crib. They look for each other, sigh, and just go to sleep.
5) They can entertain each other for an hour in their cribs in the morning before I have to get them up. They wake each other up with a Pterodactyl Scream of Joy.
6) They teach each other things. Watching a mirror image of himself learning to eat, sit up, crawl, and stand must really change a baby’s brain chemistry. (The downside of that is the mischief that comes on quicker!) I really hope this will be helpful during potty training.
7) They don’t mind riding in the car. Our oldest son was miserable in the car, but maybe he would have been happier if he always had brothers to look at next to him in the backseat.
8) I never waste baby food, formula, or an avocado. As soon as I open something up or serve it, I am sure it will somehow get finished by someone. (Today, my three babies ate six eggs in one sitting.)
9) I can always buy diapers and wipes in bulk to “save” money.
10) People take pity on us and donate far more clothing, toys, and gear because we have so many little ones (I think).

Forgive me for so much list-making, but I am usually typing while someone cries. I can’t always organize my thoughts.

Anyway, Okayest Mom has learned a thing or two since the terrifying moment when the doctor said, “What would you say if I told you it was twins?” I was sad; I was scared. The books told me to do it one way, but I forged my own path and became an atypical twin mom. I try to focus on the joyful moments, even if I don’t feel giddy all day long. And I am realizing that having a toddler and babies at the same time might be divinely inspired: a toddler wants nothing more than someone to watch him do weird repetitive things all day long, while babies want nothing more than for someone to do weird repetitive things in front of them all day long. I win.

***

*“Teat Nazis” , from Tina Fey’s Bossypants

These are the women who not only brag endlessly about how much their five year old still loves breast milk, but they also grill you about your choices. You can recognize the TNs by their hand-carved daggers:

“Are you breast-feeding? Isn’t it amazing? I really think it’s how I lost the weight so easily. Did you have a vaginal birth? I went natural and I didn’t even tear. Are you back at work already? Do you feel weird about going back to work? I just love my baby so much I can’t imagine going back to work yet. You’re not nursing? She’s only fifteen months; you should try again!”

Now, let me be clear; millions of women around the world nurse their children beautifully for years without giving anybody else a hard time about it. Teat Nazis are a solely western upper-middle-class phenomenon occurring when highly ambitious women experience deprivation from outside modes of achievement. Their highest infestation pockets are in Brooklyn and Hollywood.

If you are confronted by a TN, you have two options. One, when they ask if you’re breast-feeding, you can smile and say, “Yes. It’s amazing.” (You owe it to your baby to lie.) Or you can go for the kill. The only people who can shame the Teat Nazis are the Adoptive Mommies. If you have a friend who has an adopted child, especially one from another country, bring him or her around, because they make the Teat Nazis’ brains short-circuit: “How can I… feel superior… you… bigger sacrifice… can’t judge…” and…they crumple to the ground and disappear.