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We are moms

During a conversation at the soft play area in the mall the other day, a mother of singletons, as they are called in the world of multiples, shook her head and said, "I don't know how you keep up with two one-year olds! My one-year old is such a handful!" Another common thing I hear is that, "Well, I may as well have had twins. Mine are a year apart!" Or less, whatever the age difference may be.

Let me begin by saying that I have always wanted to a mom. In kindergarten when we made paper cut-outs of what we wanted to be when we grow up, I was the only one in my class with "stay-at-home mom." I started baby-sitting when I was ten and a half and loved every minute, all the stubborn children who weren't mine, the newborn babies who I got to spend hours holding, the late night jobs that required me to do midnight feedings. I loved it. And then I started having my own kids-- a whole different ball game. My oldest was a breath-holder (we've had a few breath holding episodes with our twins as well). His first episode was at 6-weeks old. His pediatrician said, "He knows what he wants, at least!" That is a polite way of saying, "Wow, you have a stubborn child." I love my stubborn child. I am stubborn. My husband is stubborn. It will serve him well when he is older and pursuing his dreams. On top of being a breath-holder, he was colicky. My husband's sub changed homeports shortly after D was born and I found myself alone with a crying baby. There were nights where I just had to walk out of the room because I felt so helpless. I am forever grateful to my parents who helped walk the hallways with him late at night. When we found out that my husband was accepted into the STA-21 program, we decided it would be a great time to have our next child. As I've said before, we were surprised to find we would be having our next children-- twins! The age difference between our oldest and our twins is two and a half years.

There were good differences between our twins and our first. First of all, neither of them were colicky, something I was extremely thankful for. Secondly, instead of nursing and napping on demand, we had them on a strict schedule, so they slept through the night much earlier than D did. Outside of that, it was, again, a whole different ball game. Besides the care of a newborn, I had to figure out how to tandem bottle feed, move two infant carriers and our stuff from our apartment to the car, how to still allow D to participate in his activities. We had to figure out bedtime routines, doctors visits, our family schedule. All these different things that were suddenly much more complicated because we had two babies, two infant carriers, feeding schedules, and a two and a half year old. When D was an infant and had a rough day or was completely off schedule, I would put him in the baby sling. He could fall asleep comfortably and I could--theoretically--get things done. I watch moms at the park with envy when I see them following around a toddler with an infant strapped on them. I cannot help but think how much easier that would be.

Logistically, having twins has proven to be a challenge. If our schedule gets off, that is two crying babies at night. Or if they miss naptime so that we can run out or go to the pediatrician, that is two crying babies to comfort (times I wish I could just throw them in the sling for a quick nap). Of course there are ways to cope and deal with these challenges. I can usually calm them down at night by "stacking" them against me, the first baby straddling my lap leaning into my chest and the second baby in the same position behind him. With them positioned like this, I can even rock them in their rocking chair. Out in town, I usually put the unhappiest baby in the sling and try to distract the other. Lately, it has been exceptionally challenging because they are almost 25-pound 13-month olds who do not walk yet. It is hard carrying them both into the grocery store--while holding D's hand-- to use a double seater shopping cart (a lot of grocery stores have those racecar carts which seat two babies and Target has the shopping carts that can seat all three boys).

However, having children of different ages is in itself a challenge. While visiting my parents recently, we went to an awesome local park that was covered in bark dust. D ran around with the other kids having a great time. C and O were tearing up their knees and hands trying to navigate their way across the unforgiving ground, stopping to shove pieces of dirt and bark in their mouths. Even though I had brought my sister with me, we couldn't stay at the park longer than half an hour, fifteen minutes of which the babies were in their stroller eating lunch. Bark dust is horrible for crawlers and it was really hard to keep an eye on all the boys. When we go to some soft play areas in the mall, especially at times when it is mostly babies and toddlers, parents glare at D as he runs and jumps. It doesn't help that he is so, so tall for his age. They must think I'm letting my five-year old tear the place apart when really he is just three. Finding activities for both ages is challenging. D wants to do everything his daddy does. I can't watch two babies around power tools or at a park that is too old for them, even if my husband has D with him. One-year olds are a full time job, most certainly so when they are in a not-baby proof environment.

I know that when parents tell me that their children, who are 18-months apart, are like raising twins it is because they are looking for solidarity. We are all parents. We are all hardworking. I think having children close in age would be challenging. I think having one child was challenging; the first one is always a huge adjustment. You instantly shift from planning everything when it works best for you to facing the fact that your time is not your own. No matter how badly you may need a nap, a sick infant won't say, "Hey, Momma. How about I cut you a break and quietly relax for the next hour so you can get some down time?" Just being a parent is a huge shift. It is hard to know what to do when a wound looks deep and nasty or a fever won't come down or a cough won't go away. It is hard to know what to do when temper tantrums keep happening or bedtimes are always a struggle. Sometimes those challenges are multiplied with twins. Sometimes I can't get a baby down and his brother won't sleep because he keeps seeing me enter the nursery. Sometimes, on top of that, D is having issues and can't sleep (flash back to the stomach flu earlier this year). Sometimes the challenges are much, much easier because I have twins. My one-year olds will play and play and play in the sun room. They crawl all over the house, chasing each other and the dog and their brother. I can get them entertaining each other while I read D big boy stories or do an art project with him. But, because we have two one-year olds, toy battles have started very early with them. I can tell D to share or to give his brothers their toy back. Those same sentiments don't translate into one-year old. "Share? Pfffff!" There can be epic toy battles in the nursery. And, I'm serious, they get spitting mad when the dog comes in and tries to play tug with their current favorite toy.

While I have needed a lot of advice on logistics with twins, my go-to person will always be a mother of three boys--singletons-- who has down-to-earth practical advice. I call her for everything: temper tantrums, breaking bad sleep habits (yes, our first slept with us, nursing on demand tends to encourage that), and feeding picky eaters. We are all moms. We are all learning as we go. We are all busy. We all have unique challenges just because we are all unique people. I love hearing different people's tricks of the trade, no matter if they have one or six. I really do think that some things are easier because they are twins (turn the stroller seats in and they can entertain each other during long waits) and some things are much, much harder (travelling with two one-year olds and staying in a not-baby proof house). But I get it. When moms tell me their "war stories," they want to relate. I want to relate with them. A friend of mine has triplets and never talks down to me, never laughs when I tell her I had a rough night. (And I don't know how she does it.) I think, as moms, we should all give each other respect. Moms, my hat goes off to you. Keep up the good work!


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