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Light at the end of the schedule

When you are pregnant with twins, people are full of advice on "how to do it." I did not join my local twin chapter until after my twins were born (they were about three months old), though I wish that I had. I would have loved the discussions on how other mothers of twins "did it." Throughout the whole pregnancy, I tried to go with the flow. I had a birth plan, but was prepared to throw that out the window. I had a feeding plan (breastfeeding), but kept telling myself I was prepared to throw that out the window as well (had a very hard time ending that chapter). As for scheduling, I felt that we would see what we decided to do when the time came. I did not schedule my first. He breastfed on demand. He ate meals on demand (I'm a natural "grazer" and I think I passed that down to him). He slept in our bed. He napped in the car or at friends' houses. It was much more day-by-day. I knew that twins would be different. However, when you are pregnant with twins and there are a million things going on, there is only so much that you can prepare for. Some things need to fall into the "wait and see" category. Scheduling was my wait-and-see.

Around the time C and O were 10-12 weeks, no longer being woken up every 3-4 hours to eat, their night and days switched for some unknown reason. Even more mysterious, I'm not even sure if their night and days actually switched or if they just decided that sleeping at night was for suckas. I literally slept on the nursery floor for three nights in an over sized comforter before dragging myself to our local twin chapter meeting to find out what the other twin moms were doing. A mom recommended 12 Hours in 12 Weeks: A Step-by-Step Plan for Baby Sleep Success by Suzy Giordano. The next day (our meetings are in the evening), I promptly dragged the whole crew to Barnes and Noble where I bought the book, reading the first two chapters in the car before leaving the mall and finishing the rest as soon as we got home. When my husband came home that evening, I had note cards taped throughout the house with C and O's new schedule.

After that, for me, scheduling was a must. The babies started sleeping through the night. I was able to plan when I would have time to play with D, plan when I could make dinner or do things around the house. I felt like my time was less of a battle and could actually enjoy the moment. It was very hard when I would be snuggling my new babies, feeling like I needed to be moving the laundry, or while I madly struggled to get dinner ready, guiltily feeling like I should be doing something with D. Having a schedule gave me the freedom to sit and play with D without feeling like I should be doing something else; after all, I knew the babies would sleep for another hour after I played trains, giving me time to do what I needed to. I also started feeling like myself again. Sleep deprivation is cruel, leaving horrible bags under your eyes and turning you into some sort of evil troll that feels like throwing kitchen utensils. Sleeping better lead to eating better which lead to being more active which eventually lead to losing baby weight. (Having a hard time losing those extra pounds? I highly recommend  French Women Don't Get Fat by Mirielle Guiliano, a common sense approach to food that doesn't involve radical diet overhauls or expensive gym memberships.) The schedule allowed me to plan on getting out of the house. I knew when to make doctor's appointments or playdates or trips to the grocery. I am forever grateful for the momma who suggested 12 Hours in 12 Weeks to me. The schedule is not hard. It is very practical and works off of their natural rhythms. I could do it by myself, even with my oldest home with me all day. C and O are 14-months old now and still sleep 12 or 13 hours a day, going to bed right before 8:00 pm and waking up anywhere between 8:30 to 9:30 am, save for this morning when O got his foot stuck in the crib and woke up screeching at 7:30 am, rousing the whole house with him.

The schedule was amazing until it wasn't. Around the time the babies were 9-months, I felt chained to our schedule. I felt like we had to be home for naptimes, that it was difficult scheduling playdates with moms whose babies were on different schedules. I felt frustrated when I defied the schedule and the babies wouldn't fall asleep that night. I felt like it was easier with D when I could just put him to sleep at friends' houses or feed him whenever we were hungry. I chaffed under the tyranny of my tiny dictators. They didn't care about my feelings. They just wanted to throw food to the dog. This is when I had to step back and tell myself, "Twins are different. Two babies at one time is different." What worked with D would not have worked with them, at least not with me. I know many parents of multiples that do things very different than I do. For my own sanity, a strict schedule kept my babies sleeping through the night and gave me time for my OCD couch pillow organizing. Even at 9-months I could see how the schedule was gradually relaxing from when they were 6-months. I needed to hang in there.

I hung in there. Months passed. Around 11-months, C and O stopped taking two naps and switched to one, of course during our move (don't children always have the best timing?). The naptime was flexible. Eventually they wanted to nap from 10 am to 2 pm, which sounds great on paper. To me, I felt like a hamster running in a ball. Freedom felt so close, but I wasn't able to go out and enjoy it. By the time we woke up, had breakfast, moved the laundry, got dressed, got our things together, it was 10 am and the babies were melting down because it was--ding! ding!-- naptime. My oldest and I paced anxiously around the house. He, slowly driving me crazy by repeating himself And he still hasn't reached the age of self-entertaining. I was talking to a girlfriend of mine about this and she says her oldest started entertaining himself shortly after he turned four. (Here's to hoping!) I, completing our household to-do list of things that never should actually be completed, such as organizing the hall closet, going through the pile of mail on our desk--you know-- things that you always put off until your babies decide they are going to sleep the bulk of your day away. By the time they woke up at 2 pm, they were hungry. Feeding them lunch took about an hour, bringing us to 3 pm. To go anywhere after that I needed to load up the van quickly and get us out because, at that point, we were eating dinner early, around 5:30 or 6:00 pm. Thankfully the one long nap phase was short-lived.

Around 12-13 months, they hit the stride they are in now. This momma couldn't be happier. They take one long nap or two naps a day. If they are fussy, I lay them down around 10 am. They will sleep until lunchtime, anywhere from 11:30-12:00 pm. We eat lunch and play. They take another nap around 2:00 pm. This is if we are staying home. I can make plans for just about anytime of the day, depending if we have anything else going on that day (for evening plans or nights my husband is late, I like them to be rested). If we go out, they may nap in the car; they may not. If they fall asleep on the way home, I can move them from their car seats to their cribs. Most of the time, they will fall sleep again in their cribs. The times they usually will not fall asleep again are when they had a morning nap or slept over half an hour on the way home. They sleep at night, even if naps are off during the day. They self-feed. They drink out of sippy cups. It feels like all the things that were so much work came together and are finally starting to pay off.

Scheduling was the best choice for my family. I loved the schedule in 12 Hours in 12 Weeks. I already know that we will schedule our next baby, even a singleton, though probably not as strict as we were with C and O (with twins you don't have the "well, I'll just throw them in the sling" option). My oldest did not sleep through the night this early without being rocked to sleep and, as an infant, I let him fall asleep nursing or on me before putting him to bed-- bad habits I am glad we didn't do with C and O. Don't get me wrong, every once in awhile, you need to snuggle and enjoy the fleeting phase of infancy. The phase is much more enjoyable when bedtimes happen on time and momma gets a full night's sleep, trust me.

Outside of feeling strapped to my schedule, I think sometimes scheduling made me very narrow-minded, something I am much more aware of now that we are coming out of our strict schedule. It was easy for us to keep such a strict schedule because we didn't have many friends when the babies were that young. We didn't leave the house the first two months and, after that, we did a lot of finding-things-to-do, such as the twin group playdates or park and rec classes for D. When the balance of the schedule started getting off, I started feeling stressed, instantly feeling like I wouldn't be getting sleep that night  because the morning nap went out the window. Even more frustrating was that those feelings were always well-grounded. Visiting family would tease me about insisting on keeping babies awake or protest when I put the seemingly content babies down to nap instead of socialising. Regardless of whether the jokes were in good-spirits or not, the schedule was a touchy subject for me and I adhered to it strictly. My husband understood the importance of the schedule and was always extremely supportive and helpful. Well, save for the times that he lost track of time and let the babies sleep for an extra hour because he was playing X-Box with my dad.

I also really struggled when they would reject my food options, disliking certain textures or only taking a few bites before rejecting the meal entirely. With my oldest, those phases were no big deal. If he didn't want to eat more than one or two bites of lunch, fine. If he decided that sweet potatoes had a weird texture, fine. With C and O, it was agonizing. I tried "airplane" to get them to take more bites; I tried sneaking bites in. I tried spoon-feeding them meals. I tried everything I could think of. I sat up at night wondering why they decided they didn't like bananas (for, like, three days they wouldn't eat bananas, one of their favorite foods). These phases of exploring textures and exploring their ability to say "no" were hard for me to adapt to. I also felt like, between the two of them, I was throwing out obscene amounts of food. Two bites of a hard-boiled egg eaten, the rest trash. Throwing out meal after meal day after day for two babies was disheartening. After knowing for the first year how much they weighed down to the ounce, the date of their last doctor's appointment, the phone number to their pediatrician, every specialist and referral they had, every treatment they received, how many calories they were getting a day, how many dirty/wet diapers they had that day, all these things I kept track of, it was very hard to just let go. It was hard to step back and say, "It doesn't matter if they don't eat breakfast or lunch. It doesn't matter if they have two bites of banana and are done. It doesn't matter if they reject mashed foods or yogurt or oatmeal because of texture. It is a phase." I called a friend of mine who has all these fabulous homemade baby recipes (my poor boys were lucky if I put ginger on their bananas). She sent me a couple websites. I also stumbled across this great cookbook called The Petit Appetit: Easy Organic Recipes to Nurture Your Baby and Toddler by Lisa Barnes. I called my girlfriend--the one with the three boys--and told her about our feeding troubles. She started talking about eating phases her boys went through, things she did, but that the biggest thing is to always offer the food. That conversation, combined with the cookbooks and websites, were my "step back." Feeding my boys doesn't have to be that hard. They are 14-months old. They will go through eating phases, just as my oldest did. With him, I could offer the food and move on. With them, I got stuck.

I have enjoyed shifting to a more relaxed schedule. I'm sure, at some point, we will need to make sure to be home at a certain time for an afternoon nap, just like my oldest did. I'm sure we will have many more challenges along the way. And there are plenty of things with them I need to keep my eye on. But I really think, that for the first time, we are just breathing. Relaxing. We aren't worried about naptimes and ounces and calories. We aren't stressed about a certain bedtime. From the beginning we felt blessed to have two blessings at once--twins!-- but, for the first time, we can really slow down and enjoy the fruits of our labor.


Leah said…
Glad to know there's a light at the end of the tunnel. My twins are on a loose nap schedule (10 month old girls) and take 2-3 short naps per day, but not usually at the same time. Gramma is much better at getting them to nap (when we are at work) than my husband or I are on the weekends. Most of the time they sleep through the night with the occasional wakeful girl who needs snuggles to get back to sleep. What I'm dreading is when we wean them and I have to put them to bed at night without nursing - yikes!

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