The other night I was a panelist for our hospital’s Preparing for Multiples class, my third time being on the panel. A little over two years ago, I sat in those chairs, uncomfortable and usually hungry, terrified and exhilarated for what was to come.
For our class, seven parents of multiples showed up: five moms, one dad, and one mom with an infant in a car seat (her five kids included two sets of twins–holy wow). They shared their stories, gear advice, and potential challenges. One mom’s twins were born at 1.5 and 3 pounds.
If her kids can survive and thrive, mine must be able to, I thought.
Now I’m on “the other side” of that hard, hard newborn period. I brought pictures of my babies in the NICU, samples of our feeding chart, and this handout:
Top Tips for New Parents of Multiples:
- Take care of yourself physically: water; healthy, high-cal food; sleeping when you can.
- Set up your nursing / feeding space well. In our bedroom we had nursing pillows, a bottle warmer, bibs and burp cloths, and a mini-fridge for night bottles and snacks for us.
- Don’t clean. If the mess bothers you, hire a cleaning service if you can. You have the rest of your life to have a clean house.
- Say yes to helpers. If someone wants to come by and “hold a baby,” they can fold laundry first. Or put dishes away. Or whatever.
- Have someone set up a http://www.takethemameal.com or something like it for you.
- Acquire baby holders: boppies. Bouncy seats. Swings. Anything that allows you to put the baby down and eat/pump/shower/rest.
- Record your babies’ personalities, activities: photos, videos, journaling, notes, whatever you can.
- As hard as it is, get out of the house. The first walk you take with them will make you feel like rock star parents.
- Connect with other parents of multiples. We’ve been there, and we get it.
- Talk gently to yourself and your partner. You are doing the best you can. You are a team. If a nap or a feeding doesn’t go well, it’s only one of many. It’s okay to get frustrated.
- Take some time for yourself as an individual and yourselves as a couple to be not-parents for a little while. You need time to step off and process the intense roller-coaster ride you’re on.
- Release your expectations. Babies get reflux. Hormones get you. A lot of things are out of your control. Figure out how to cope with what is, not what you think should be.
The panels also end up including “things I wish I had known when my babies were newborns.” Here are mine:
- I wish I knew that newborns sleep almost all the time and can sleep through anything. We might have been able to go out more.
- I wish I had known not to beat myself up for not going out more. My c-section recovery was slow; I was paranoid about them being exposed to germs because they were preemies; there wasn’t a lot of time after feeding, burping, changing, and pumping before the whole cycle started again.
- I wish I had figured out how to find ways around the “either/or”: I can either eat or I can take a shower. I can either sleep or go for a walk. I felt trapped a lot of the time by my own choices.
- I wish I knew that showers were not a luxury. Maybe my incision would have gotten infected anyway, but at least I would have felt more human.
- I wish I knew that someday I would look back and think, “That was the hardest thing I have ever done.” I maybe could have given myself more credit at the time for how survival was success. I went into “it’s not that bad because I could be starving or living in a warzone” mode. Perspective is one thing; comparison to convince myself I should just suck it up is another. Hard is hard.
- I wish I had known that I didn’t have to be SuperMom. I just had to be their mom. That despite my not being perfectly able to meet their every infant need, they would someday cling to my legs and run to me whenever I re-entered the room and want me to hold them all the time.
Some recent firsts:
- First day totally solo (except for a surprise afternoon visit from Uncle Colin), including first time taking all three to music class by myself.
- First time at the newly renovated neighborhood playground.
- First splinter extraction (from Audrey’s palm). I was afraid of her reaction, but a binky, Munny, and the deft handling of a sanitized safety pin helped her handle it like a warrior.
- First glycerin suppository insertion on a toddler. Not something I look forward to having to repeat.
- First time taking all three kids to the park by myself. Since there’s construction, the space between the outside fence to the sidewalk and the inner construction fence is open; mostly it’s used by dog owners as a mini off-leash park. But it’s also perfect for keeping three almost-two-year-olds contained while letting them run.
Which reminded me today that with every first there’s a last. We went for a walk in the wagon today, and didn’t get very far before there was a request to see diggers, and with that the park to kick the soccer ball and run. We used to take hour-long walks in that wagon starting last summer, when I had what seemed like huge stretches of time by myself with them.
Some transitions are anticipated eagerly: the first time we go to a playground and I don’t panic when someone climbs up the highest part of the play structure. The first time they say “I love you” spontaneously.
Some are dreaded: giving up the bottle. Giving up the binky. Potty training.
We have learned that most transitions go more smoothly than we expect them to. Which we take to mean: the expectant panic and trepidation make everything go fine, so we should continue to panic.
Seriously, I fear potty training perhaps more than I feared my first day of school as a teacher. However, I am trying to rationalize and breathe and remind myself that worry doesn’t change anything; it just makes me more miserable.
So many lasts have passed virtually unnoticed:
- the last time all three slept in one crib
- the last night feed or dream feed
- the last bottle
- the last night with the monitor on all night
- the last bath in the baby bathtub
- the last ride in the infant car seat
- the last week that Audrey was up crying several times most nights
Sometimes, especially in the first year or so, I got caught up looking forward to firsts that I lost sight of the continuum. Most things change slowly rather than suddenly. (What was their first word? Who knows.)
This is a reminder to me to enjoy the firsts, embrace the nostalgia of the lasts, and be present with these guys as they keep growing…and growing…
I spent a long weekend near Boston in late April. After the destruction that happened there, I wanted to reconnect with the city and offer my respects to those who lost: lives, limbs, certainty.
On that April morning, I accidentally got off at Government Center instead of changing for Park Street because I was trying to help a woman get her stroller up the escalator. (Really, MBTA, what century are we in: a station without handicap access?)
Instead of getting back on for one stop, I walked along Tremont Street. Commuters streamed past, everyone intent on getting to work for another Monday. Routine. Mundane.
I passed the Granary Burying Ground beside King’s Chapel, where Samuel Adams and John Hancock lie. The Park Street Church played “Hail the Day That Sees Him Rise” on its carillon. Panhandlers shook coins in Dunkin’ Donuts cups.
I passed alleyways and side streets leading to Downtown Crossing, the shopping district, where my high school friends and I used to go to feel cool and urban.
I was reminded where I learned not to wait for walk lights, but to cross at any appropriate break in traffic (BPD must not write a lot of jaywalking tickets…or they’d be doing so for everyone).
The Commons glowed green in warm spring sunlight. I met my dear friend Jen Crystal at a coffee shop; she continues to be one of my inspirations as a writer and as a human being. (Here’s some of her writing.)
Then I arrived at Copley Square memorial:
The second bombing site:
The Old South Church ablaze with tulips:
The busker in the Government Center station played “Holy Holy Holy” on his guitar. I helped a couple clearly confused by their tiny T map find their way to Harvard Square.
Hope. Holiness. Healing.
And this, in the basement of the Boston Public Library:
Around the edge, the embroidery reads:
“We used to think that science would answer all our questions and solve all the mysteries. But the more we learn, the more mysterious our world becomes. Yet we do have glimpses of transcendence, even though no two experiences of the divine are the same.” –Karen Armstrong
So many things we don’t understand, we may never understand, about April 15. Still, I glimpsed transcendence: in the first responders, in the volunteers, in the medical personnel and law enforcement, in every small act of kindness and generosity and aid. In the visitors to the memorial who pause and share in the community of grief.
Violence makes people stagger. Cowards destroy buildings and flesh. Light and life, spirit and love, remain.
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” –MLK