- Family and Parenting
How to keep your sanity after having twins
Having twins is quite a challenge, to say the least. So, you really need to make sure you don’t lose your mind in the process, because if you do, who will take care of the twins?
Everyone knows having children is hard work. One only understands how much hard work after they are born, until then it’s all about notions and theories, which one seems to be able to grasp, although in reality one is totally off.
So, this hard work doesn’t double if you have twins. Psychologically, it triples. It’s not just having to feed both babies or change both babies, it’s that when you change the second you already changed the first and you’re already tired and so your patience has gone down in the process and you really want to get it over with. It’s the never ending tasks. Where you never get to sit down and rest or relax or even talk to your husband. It’s an ordeal trying to have an adult talk when 24/7 there is always someone crying.
So, one is very tired, both mentally and physically, probably all the little things one liked so much are impossible to do: have a relaxed evening in front of the TV, have a coffee at a promenade, go for a walk. It plain and simply disappeared and at some point one will probably realize it will never go back to what it was and at this point, if one hasn’t slept for many days, one actually increases all of these thoughts and strangest things go through your mind, like never again will one be able to leave the house without 2 hours preparation, only to come back half an hour later, carry tons of diapers and bottles and a bundle of things - this is the moment you know you are starting to loose it.
This happened to me: at some point the twins reality, as babies, became something forever and permanent. After all the lack of sleep and rest, the non-stop crying and a change in my reality so dramatic that I could not begin to imagine such a thing existed, I began to think that was it, it would never change, that was my new life and nothing more. It makes no sense, right? Obviously. Babies turn to infants, then teenagers and then leave home. But I was really on my way down. So, the moms that have twins must create some strategies to deal with this new reality.
I will not even talk about the moms who have three or four or more children at the same time, it goes without saying, to me they are truly heroines.
Browsing the web, when I had the twins, to find some info and advice on how to deal with this new reality I found out how little existed for us. A lot of information for just one baby, but having two has nothing to do with having one, so I’m hoping my experience and my thoughts may help those moms that, like me, find themselves faced with this challenged. Half of it, I think, it’s keeping a sane mind. If you accomplish that you are halfway there, but if you loose it …
Some tips to keep you sane
Don’t try to compare yourself to moms of singletons. If you start doing that you will push yourself too much. You probably won’t be able to do the same things, at least not for long and you will get depressed and frustrated. Obviously, if one just has one child one can give him an one hour bath and do a massage afterwards and rock him until he falls asleep. If you have two you simply don’t have the time, nor the amount of arms necessary. Don’t worry, your babies won’t be sadder because of this. Babies adapt and also because they never knew about the one hour baths followed by massage, they won’t miss them. They will find the 5 minutes baths perfectly alright. And about falling asleep: in the long run it is actually much better that you never got them used to all the rocking, at some point they will fall asleep in their beds on their own, as they should, and you won’t have to rock them to sleep until they are five years old.
Establish routines. If you have two babies you can’t go with the flow. You really need to establish routines for you, your babies and your husband. Soon everyone knows exactly what to expect and at what time ( and trust me – even as small babies – they will) the better. And no one should interfere with these routines family or not. Now it’s about you, your babies and your husband. You see, the importance of routines, with all the babies, but specially with twins, is that you have everything scheduled. 15 minutes differences are okay, but if it’s too far off, it will not be very agreeable. Let me just try to clear my point: you decide to go out with the babies. You go to a restaurant, you like that restaurant, it takes a while to get a table, but it’s worth it. So, your schedule is off the window by now, because you should be sitting down with the babies feeding them half hour ago, so now they start crying, everybody is giving you the look, you pick one up, your husband picks the other up and you try to settle them, but you are really annoyed and stressed and the babies sense that, so now they are crying harder and you haven’t even started eating. Finally you get your table. At this point you just want to eat asap and get out fast as you can. Your head is blowing up with all the crying, at some point you stopped feeling your arms, it seems like you will have to eat holding your baby. You look at your husband, same look as you have and not a word. Meanwhile it’s past their nap time, so you need to add that to the crying. Well, I could go on, but I think I made my point. So, routines.
Don’t obsess. Before they were born your house was always tidy and clean, nothing out of place, your laundry faultless. Now, everything is a mess, bits and pieces everywhere and apparently every piece of clothes you put on, the babies seem to spit up. Consider this a phase. It will pass, one day you will wake up and your house will be impeccable once more. It’s not important, it doesn’t matter if your clothes have a small stain, if their clothes have stains, if the house is a mess. Everything will fall into place again with time, so just take it easy.
Look away. Turn away. Sometimes you are so tired and mentally exhausted that being around the children will not help them and will certainly not help you. If they are crying and you have no idea what’s going on, you’ve checked food, diaper, temperature and nothing seems to be wrong and you feel like you are losing your mind not knowing what to do, just back away, leave them in their playground for five or ten minutes go in the kitchen or the living room and breath. You’ll see that you will be thinking much clearer once you’ve done this.
Talk. Talk. Talk. Talk to your husband about all your fears and all the non senses that go through your mind. It’s not a shame to admit your are not super mom and superwoman, you have doubts, you loose it sometimes and other times you have no idea what to do. He is there to help and a lot of times just talking about it helps.
Don’t forget about yourself. No matter the night you had before, maybe you didn’t even sleep. Or the day. No matter how hard the kids are crying and you seem to be unable of thinking, like your brain has turned to mush. Take care of yourself. Take five or ten minutes or less if you can’t make the five, but take it, to take care of you. Look in the mirror, put some perfume on, comb your hair, do something nice for yourself. You will feel better and stronger if you feel more beautiful.
Dismiss third parties’ opinions. From family to the stranger down the street, everyone knows better how to take care of your babies than you. If you allow this from the start it will be a never ending story. It’s not helpful, it is offensive and confusing. You are not only trying to learn to be a mother and to know your two babies, but you have to listen to the babble of all the people (most of them didn’t have twins) that apparently think you need guidance. Every child is different, what works for one child will not necessarily work for another. My twins are total opposites, so I have to deal with one a certain way and the other in a completely different manner. So, stand your ground and trust you will learn and know your children better than anyone, thus knowing better what to do when it comes to them. This will take time. But it takes times for everyone. The sooner everybody around you understands your opinion prevails, the better, because probably they will back off a little, though they never really give up. This is important because usually all the inputs from here and there just generate a lot of uncertainty and that’s exactly what a mother should not feel. She should find her path and follow it, correcting the trajectory as she goes along, when she sees fit and not be pushed and pulled this way and that by the people around.
Create a united front. When children are born, so are parents-moms and dads. With that birth everything changes and moms and dads realize that actually there is a lot about each other they didn’t know. It is nothing conscious, but there are aspects of our personality that only surface after a baby is born. So, despite these new features of your partner, which you were not aware of, no matter if they are good, bad or annoying, the fact is you need to get to know another again and find a new balance where you both are comfortable. Things that you dismissed before in our partner, because you weren’t so tired and you had more patience can really get to you, then the differences of opinion of how you should do this or that for the babies, with the babies, who should do this – yes, if you have twins there is no option, the father has to pitch in – all that wears you off. So, find your balance, talk about your differences of opinion and aim for middle ground. You need to be coherent and present a united front when it comes to your children and also to those around you. For instance, if both of you agree that you know or will know what’s best for your children, you won’t allow interferences from a third party, but imagine if one of you allows these interferences…
You are more than a mother. Finally, and probably the most important tip of them all, is that you are much more than a mother. You cannot forget you are YOU. You have your likes and dislikes, your hobbies, your work and your love. You became a mother, but none of what you were before disappeared. It may had to take a step back, but it is still there and you must nourish it. You must take some time off from the babies to do what you love, to have a cup of tea and read a book, to go out for a while with your friends. This will most definitely keep you sane, taking some time off to yourself, to rediscover yourself and not to loose yourself somewhere in the middle of motherhood and diapers. And, of course, go out with your husband, date him all over again, have dinner, a quiet night, a nice talk (something that probably is incredibly hard at home), a weekend off. He needs that. You need that. Your relationship needs it and most certainly your children will thank you if you both get along as opposed to getting divorced. Balance in your relationship means you will be stronger and more able and it will make you happy, it will him happy. And isn’t that the purpose of all this?
Wrapping it up…
Basically it’s all about one day at a time, the difficult part is that some days seem to last forever, so you need to relax and think that it will all turn out okay. Each day it’s a little easier to take care of them, they start doing more, they start learning, slowly they need you less and less. So, you just need to keep cool through the most difficult part. If you do that, the rest, well, we all pick it up while we go along.
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