this is what it was like, and how we survived.
THESE ARE THE DAYS of dreading to enter your bedroom because it’s turned into Never Never Land (as in “You’re Never Never going to find what you need in that mess.”) The Black Hole. The Drop Off Zone. Or maybe more appropriately nicknamed “The Twilight Zone.” Take your pick. They all mean the same thing for our used to be “bed” room. Chances are it’ll happen to you too when you have newborn twins at your house. At first, we tried our best to at least keep the outer rooms decent so we wouldn’t be too embarrassed when company dropped by. However, this wasn’t always possible, and people understood and never looked down on us (they can only imagine what you’re going through and don’t expect your home to look like a picture out of a Good Housekeeping magazine.) Keeping those outer rooms “cleanish” meant spending the 10 minutes before we knew we were expecting company gathering up armfuls of items as quickly as we could and dumping them in our bedroom. Hence, “the Drop off Zone” was born. I felt like a little child again shoving everything in my closet and pushing the door closed, only this time my entire bedroom was my closet. As our twins got older and slept more at night, we slowly had a little more time to clean in the evenings (but even so, there were more important things to do -- like get some sleep ourselves -- so our bedroom is still our most neglected room.)
Survival Tip: Sometimes you just have to put up your blinders and just clean what you absolutely need to for the time being. "Don’t worry; be happy." That's not a little song I wrote, but it was a tune I learned to sing, especially during the first year with newborn twins. Do your best to ignore the mess and focus your energy and time on what’s most important: your family and your sanity. For example, one day (when our twins were around six months old) I wanted to make cookies with my two and four year olds, while their baby sisters were napping. When I walked into the kitchen and dinning room area, I was overwhelmed with the mess and wanted to dig in and get some cleaning done. However, if I started cleaning away I knew we wouldn’t have enough time to make cookies because our twins didn’t nap all that long. Fortunately, I listened to the quiet promptings of the Spirit telling me, “Put up your blinders: just clean off the counter so you can make cookies with the kids and do the rest later.” Putting my family first was more important than having a clean home. In times like these, I like to say to myself, “So my sinks don’t SPARKLE, and my floors don‘t SHINE, but my children are GLOWING ‘cause I give them my TIME!”
And just keep remembering: there will come a day when order is restored. Slowly, the tide will reside and you’ll start to see your bedroom floor again.
THESE ARE THE DAYS of soggy cereal. That’s right, you can pretty much guarantee that the second I decide to pour cereal on my milk (because I think I have five minutes to eat it) will be the exact moment I’m needed elsewhere (i.e. my two-year-old says he needs to go potty, our twins start crying because they need a diaper change, My four-year-old wants me to slice her an apple, or, as many parents of multiples can attest: ALL THREE OF THESE HAPPEN AT THE SAME TIME! Sometimes, I wish we could grow a new set of arms with each new child we gave birth to. Granted we'd look pretty strange, but HEY, I'd finally be able to help everyone at once!).
Survival Tip: Learn to say: “One thing at a time” or “I can help one person at a time” to your children when you feel pulled in different directions because several (or all) of your children are demanding your help at the same time. Ok, back to planet Earth, where we don't grow a new set of arms with each additional child, this is the soundest advice I have on the subject. "HaHa! Tell the lady with twins that she needs to help one person at a time!" Even though I believe Our Heavenly Father must have thought I could take care of two at a time, since He entrusted me with twins; I don't think He literally expected me to always be able to help both at exactly the same time, because there are cases when that just isn't possible. These are the times, I need to breathe deeply and not blame myself or feel bad about being unable to do what is humanly impossible. My Loving Father knows my human limitations, and He knows when I am giving it my all. When I remember this, and truly do my best, I can be at peace and feel good about how I'm doing as a mother, even if one of my children is crying because they are having to wait until I'm able to help them. My mother had a homemade plaque that read: “Mom’s Busy: Please take a number.” She used it too. I remember holding my wooden heart with a 1, 2, or 3 on it and learning to wait my turn. I wish I had one of those signs now. Maybe I ought to make our family one. I’m learning that I can’t help everyone at once, even though that often means someone has to cry while they wait their turn to be helped. Hearing your children cry is a hard thing, and one I don’t cope well with, so this is extremely hard for me to not get worked up about. Deep breathes. Pray. Help one at a time. Sing songs or talk to the crying one(s) to try to preoccupy them while they wait their turn. They have to learn to wait too -- patience is a virtue we all have to learn in life -- children are no exception, even if they have lungs and know how to use them. *smile*
**UPDATE: My mother recently gave me her sign for Christmas with a note that said, "I'm not a busy mommy anymore (I'm a busy Grandma), but YOU are, so I thought you could use it more than me now." :) I sure will! I can't tell you how excited I was when I unwrapped your gift, Mom! Thank you so much! I love you!!! Only problem now is: I've been too busy to hang up my "Mom's Busy" sign. **
THESE ARE THE DAYS of finding socks in the Mesozoic Period of your sedimentary-layered laundry mountain range. You know you have newborn twins when your laundry piles show the history of when you washed each batch (clean) and what you’ve worn (dirty), or when your husband asks you where some clean socks are and you say, “In the thin white layer near the bottom” and he says, “Oh, you mean they’re in the Mesozoic Period.”
Survival Tip: Take Some Laundry Shortcuts
1) Only fold what needs to be folded. Do washrags, underwear, socks, bibs, etc. REALLY need to be folded? I also stopped folding my oldest children's clothes altogether at that time because, at ages four and two, let‘s get real: their clothes never stayed folded in their drawers anyway, so why should I waste my time folding them? You’re nodding your head because you know--one of their favorite games at this age is to dress up or just dump all their clothes out onto the floor while searching for their favorite outfit to wear.
2) Use large Rubbermaid totes or laundry sorting bins for clean laundry too. It will make it that much easier to find necessary items that haven’t had time to be folded yet if they are at least sorted by owner/category in large bins in an easy access place. This came about after Matthew’s remark about the Mesozoic Period. I was sick of digging through mountains of laundry to just find socks, so I tried to keep the whites separated in their own bin after that. Then I expanded this idea to the rest of the laundry to save on headaches: towels in one, clothes to be hung up in another (haha), twin’s clothes in one (so I could easily find a onesie or sleeper to replace an outfit after a blowout, etc. instead of spending 10 frustrating minutes wasting my time digging through the mountain range of laundry); kid’s clothes in another (since they were too young back then to fold their own clothes, but now our five-year-old can fold and put away her own and our three-year-old at least puts them in his drawers, although I can’t promise they’ll stay folded.)
THESE ARE THE DAYS of counting your blessings when you have time to squeeze in a five minute shower. Hey! Trust Me. A five minute shower is better than none! Looking Back: there was no time to even get to take care of my own basic needs. My Day: nursing twins, feeding twins from supplemental bottles in addition to nursing them (until my milk supply was sufficient to feed twins), pumping (again to kick up that milk supply for twins), cleaning the pump & bottles, then feeding our older children (and playing with babies while the kids ate), cleaning up kids from meal, helping kids go potty, changing the babies' diapers, laying babies down for their nap, trying to sit down and play with the kids for ten minutes before trying to get a little shut eye myself (if a caretaker was available to watch our older two), then starting the cycle all over again. Rinse and repeat four times a day (three naps for newborns, plus nighttime). Now mix in potty training two children under four (all the time this requires to supervise and train them in the bathroom and to clean up their accidents). Add to this hectic schedule all the countless times mommy is needed to play referee as conflicts arise between her two and four year old, discipline unacceptable behavior and teach them cooperative skills and how to resolve their problems. Not to mention the countless doctor visits you have to go to with newborn multiples, and the hours it takes you to get everyone ready and in the car for these. Then, of course, we can't forget the meals to prepare, the dishes and laundry to wash, the table and highchairs to wash down after every meal, the booboos to kiss, and the bumps to put ice-packs on, from accidents that happen to all little ones, which always seem like catastrophes in their little eyes. Is your head spinning yet? Mine was. Looking back and reading over this list, I turn and ask my husband, "Is it any wonder that our fish died?"
Survival Tip: Make Time to Take Care of Yourself
HA! How do you do that? Make time where there is none? Looking at our schedule, it's no wonder I had no time. With no time, it was easy to overlook my own needs. Still, here comes the impossible tip (and I hope you figure it out better than I did): we must MAKE time (where there is no time) to TAKE time (that's right, at least a little bit) to take care of ourselves. We’ve all heard it: you must take care of yourself before you can take care of others. It’s like the oxygen mask in airplanes -- strap on your own before you strap on your child’s. Although it goes against a parent’s natural instincts, you must do so, or else you won’t be able to help anyone else because you’ll be dead. This was something I struggled with, since my needs were often taken care of last (I’d finally be able to eat breakfast once our twins were napping) and sometimes only able to be squeezed in by functioning in super speed mode (hence, the five minute shower).
This is going to be the most selfless time period you’ve ever been through -- be prepared to sacrifice because this is going to require the most selfless service you’ve ever given. They say, in order to function at our best productivity, we must take breaks in order to “sharpen your saw,” but with newborn twins there’s hardly time to feed yourself and get the sleep you need and take bathroom breaks. So, the reality is, those tiny "taking care of me" moments are going to be the majority of your "sharpening your saw" time. In other words, don't expect to get an hour of luxury hobby reading every night (or whatever way you enjoyed relaxing in your leisure time before twins) because time is just not a commodity when you have newborn twins. As impossible as it seems to be able to do right now, though, it is important to allow ourselves some time to replenish. How can you do this when you have no time? Just do your best to squeeze it in where you can: like reading some fun books as you nurse (this one will come in time, since the first several months of nursing twins usually requires your full attention and often doesn't allow you any free hands to be holding a book, but you can listen to books on tape). Another idea is to ask your husband to spoil you when you don‘t have time to spoil yourself (give you a foot massage while you're nursing your twins, etc.) We did many of our dates (playing short card games, watching a movie, etc.) while I was nursing. Why are all my examples ending in "while I was nursing"? Because that was what I spent the majority of my time doing those days! :)
THESE ARE THE DAYS of sharing a Valentine’s dance with your sweetheart under the romantic mood lighting of your Christmas tree. This happened to us, because our twins were only two months old after Christmas -- try getting anything done, let alone putting down Christmas decorations, with newborn twins to take care of.
Survival Tip: Put first things first. Don’t sweat the small stuff.
Even if that means your Christmas tree doesn’t get put away until March. At least everyone is fed and taken care of. And you rightly chose to spend your free time slow dancing with your husband instead of putting away Christmas decorations.
THESE ARE THE DAYS of your twins developing sixth sense. That is, every time you lay down in bed, one or both of them use their sixth sense (or maybe there's an invisible string linking your beds that rings a bell only they can hear) because they wake up every time you lay down in that bed, and I'm not kidding. How do they KNOW?
Survival Tip: You’ll hear it from everyone: Get as much sleep as you can! They’re all right! So many people will tell you to sleep when your twins are sleeping; but, that isn’t very possible for those, like me, who have other little ones to care for. Even so, I did it when I could, and that was only when friends or family would care for my older children while I slept. Sisters from our church asked how they could help and I said the greatest help they could give me was to watch my little ones while I took a nap because sleep was what I needed the most (because I got so little of it -- the first year seemed like one long never-ending day because I was only getting catnaps here and there). They were so kind to come and do this for me and I will forever be grateful to them! I would recommend it to you. If your babies or any of your children are having sleep problems, I highly recommend my favorite sleep book, Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child, by Dr. Marc Weissbluth. I've read so many books on helping our children get the sleep they need (because my first child had a really hard time learning to fall asleep on her own as a baby -- it wasn't until she was about 14 or 15 months that she finally learned good sleeping habits -- so I read book after book searching for answers and the strategy that would work for her) and this was the book that provided me with the most helpful and effective answers/solutions so she (and I) could finally get some sleep! Granted, every child is different, so different approaches and tips work for different children. This was the one that worked for mine, though.
THESE ARE THE DAYS when strolling through the Botanical Gardens in your city feels like a getaway to the Bahamas.
These are the days when outings take three times as long to get there and you wonder if it was worth all the hassle. IT IS! Those Saturday family outings were like a breathe of fresh air for me after feeling like I was cooped up all week. Matthew would encourage me to get out at nights anytime I wanted throughout the week, so I did. However, I loved these Saturday family outings the most because that was when I really felt like I was living -- getting to experience life and make beautiful memories with my family. (Of course, countless memories are formed in the home too, but getting out together is so good for your whole family's health and well-being during these busy days with newborn twins.)
Survival Tip: S-L-O-W down and ESCAPE with your family.
Just take a big breath and S-L-O-W down. Realize that everything is going to take twice or three times as long now that you have twins. For example, if it took you 30 minutes to get everyone ready and out to the car for an outing before, then it will now take an hour and a half. Accept this and go with it, instead of fighting against it and trying to change it/speed up your time, because that just gets frustrating and stresses everyone out. The most important thing is family love, so it’s better to sacrifice your time (by accepting that things have to take three times as long now) instead of sacrificing family love/peace/harmony trying to get everyone someplace by an exact time. Throw the clock out the window, except for the obvious things that require a scheduled time in order to function properly (i.e. church, school, Dr. appointments, etc.). For the most part, we’ve tried our best to slow down, but there are these obvious times when we just are required to go faster because we do have appointments. For these, just try your best to get as much ready the night before so you’re not as rushed the next day.
THESE ARE THE DAYS when our children hear the fire alarm go off again and instinctively yell, "Toast!" Toast or grilled cheese sandwiches. It wasn’t until our twins were about 15 months old that I finally managed not to burn our grilled cheese sandwiches anymore. (As for the toast: I'm still working on that one.) Why would this occur? It was the result of being pulled in a million different directions every day because so much was demanded of me that I was unable to properly finish one task before I was needed elsewhere by someone else. It was more than one person could handle and I needed help. I remember so many nights when I felt like my world was caving in from all the pressure I was under, when I’d say to Matthew, “I just feel like I’m trying to hold up the ceiling of a tent that has all these collected water pools and when I move my hand away from one spot to hold up another one that is sagging, a puddle of water from that spot falls on my head. But I can’t let go or the whole thing will fall down and drench me!”
Survival Tip: Don’t Go it Alone! You don’t have to. There are those who want to help and who will come help you.
- Ask for help, enlist in it often -- from your loving Heavenly Father, family, friends, church (ward family), neighbors, support group, a hired house cleaning service (even if it's just once a month), babysitter, someone to do your errands (there are companies out there that will do your grocery shopping, etc.), etc. Gratefully receive other's offers to help you, and guiltlessly continue to ask for it whenever you need it. There may come a time when others may not be offering to help anymore because they're not aware of what you're going through and how much help you really still need, so don't be afraid to ask for help if this happens. This is a lesson I've learned from having twins (*see first sentence of "Call on the Lord for constant help" below). Don’t feel bad about asking for “more than your share”. There is no set number of service hours we’re allotted before we have to return it -- your time will come to get to pay it forward. Michelle Church, a friend of mine, taught me this. She helps me every Sunday with my twins during church because she remembers when members from her ward did that for her when her twins were babies and she is happy to get to help me now that her twins are ten.
- Find answers from parents who've been there. There are many online forums where parents discuss the ins-and-outs of parenting multiples, along with a myraid of blogs (like mine) where parents of multiples share what's worked for them. You can find a list of these resources here: http://2precious4words.blogspot.com/p/websites-for-parents-of-multiples.html. So, if you have a question, or if you're wondering how parents of multiples make it through something (i.e. sleep training, potty training, transitioning to toddler beds, etc.), then come ask it on a forum (or here on my blog), browse through the list of blogs above, or just "google" it and I'm sure you'll find some help online. :)
- Join a local support group. For our Seattle area, mine was EMOMS (www.emoms.org) Eastside Mothers of Multiples. Search for local groups in your area on the internet.
- Call on the Lord for constant help -- Matthew, jokes with me that the reason Heavenly Father gave me twins is so I would learn to ask for help (from the Lord and from others) and quit trying to do it all on my own. Of course, Matthew was a huge support, but when he was at work during 8-9 hours of the day, there were often moments when all four of my children needed me at once, and others when both twins were screaming and I just couldn’t help both simultaneously so one had to wait and cry until I could help her. In these gut-wrenching moments of frustration, I would regularly say something like, “I can’t do this alone!” or “How can anyone possibly be expected to do this alone!” On one such occasion, I glanced down to see an advertisement on the back of a phonebook which read, “The 1 to call!” I knew exactly who I needed to call and I started relying on the Lord to help me and guide me throughout the day. When I prayed and invited Him to help me, I really would hear Him whispering guidance to my mind throughout the day: simple things, simple instructions, words of reassurance, scriptures coming to my mind -- simple words and messages that He would whisper to me as if in the same room with me. These were ways He showed me that I truly was not alone. As long as I remembered to call on Him (and boy did I need Him not only every hour, as the hymn goes, but often every minute and every second!) He would whisper to me comforting words and guidance to uplift me and support me. And He still does, and He always will. For me and for you. When we humbly ask. "