The Thoughtful Friend: Twins
Today I'm so excited to share alongside Karin Rambo! Karin is the founder of Truncation, a blog that seeks to show that “ordinary” life is meaningful and important. She especially loves to help other mamas find ways to simplify their lives: both in the expectations we put on ourselves, but also in the amount of “stuff” we allow in our homes. She is wife to David, mother to Kit, Ella, Rosie, and dog mommy to Oscar.
The Newborn Twin Mom (Karin)
Twins are one of those things that you really can't know what it's like unless you have them. I've had a lot of really well meaning people try to compare their situation of having two children to my situation of having twins. And I get it, kids are a lot of work... just ONE kid is a lot of work. Add anything else to that mix and you have a whole bunch of crazy. And to be fair, I've never had JUST two kids so maybe it really is just as hard... maybe. But if I'm being honest, I have my doubts. In fact, there are three things I wish my friends understood about having twins.
The first is that I'm not just being dramatic when I say how hard it is. Unlike having two children of different ages, twins means you are almost always responding to two of the same exact needs at the same time. It's exhausting... both emotionally and physically. When you have a toddler and a baby you at least can find comfort in knowing that your toddler has some capacity to understand why mama isn't responding to their cries. With two babies, only one cry can be attended to at a time, and it's REALLY hard to just let your infant cry. And having to make a choice about who you're going to let cry is really tough.
The second thing I wish my friends knew is that there is a sort of mourning that comes with twins... because you're never going to have the typical newborn experience with twins. You won't ever just get to sit and cuddle your baby for long periods at a time. And in my situation, I wasn't able to nurse them so you mourn the connection you feel you should have had. It's really very confusing because you love your babies so much, but you worry that your bond won't be the same.
And finally, the thing I want my friends to know is that I wouldn't want to be in any other situation. Yes, it's incredibly hard. Yes, we never leave the house and my life revolves around bottles and sleep schedules, but having twins is one of the greatest things that has ever happened to me. I feel beyond blessed that I get to be a twin mom.
The Toddler Twin Mom (Me!)
It's hard to know what is different about twins because we don't have other kids. So since I've never been a mom before twins I can't compare but here are a few things I know are different.
First, twin toddlers take forever-to-do-everything. Because it's not just "times two" it's more like "times two hundred" because while you are attending to one toddler there's still another toddler to deal with. So for example, changing diapers in a public place. First of all I have to wait for the handicap stall because I can't leave my stroller outside the bathroom stall cuz...well theres a baby in it. (Side note: no stranger. I do not need you to hold/watch/feed my baby while I tend to the other one. Cuz as much as I need help I really don't want my child to be kidnapped.) Then inevitably at some point during the diaper changing, the other baby has some sort of existential crisis that needs to be dealt with NOW. But then as soon as I start dealing with the one in the stroller the one on the changing table decides to roll or stand or who knows what. Now I'm yelling "no. stop. don't touch your poop. don't touch the toilet. DON'T LICK THE TOILET (this happened today people), don't crawl under the door. don't stand in your stroller. don't scratch your brother." while two children scream uncontrollably because I won't hand them veggie straws (i.e. chips. they're just vegetable colored chips) because I'm pretty sure I have poop on my hands and their pacifiers are on filthy bathroom floor. So this thing that started as just changing two diapers really is much more about wrangling two uncomfortable kids in a filthy place as quickly as possible. So when I come out of the bathroom 15 minutes later please know I'm doing the very best I can by myself. This also means that if we have plans I'm thinking about those plans hours ahead of time because even getting into and out of the car requires strategy. I don't expect you to carry the burden of that but you should know. A few months ago a girl stood me up cuz she was "too tired" fifteen minutes AFTER we were supposed to meet to go on a hike. What she doesn't realize is that I'd literally left my house 2 hours earlier and drove to the park so my kids could get a nap, diaper change and feeding before she arrived. It was so demoralizing and felt so disrespectful. But in the end I realized that she just didn't understand how hard it was for me to get there. Which leads to my next point.
I wish people knew how much help I needed. I agree with Karin, it's tough to not want to eye roll when you get comments about how their kids are 'basically twins'. In adoption world I've certainly met some people who have 'basically twins' cuz their kids are weeks apart. But for most families there were, at the very least, 10 months between children. And 10 months is a world of difference in the first three years of life. And the help thing is just really hard. It feels like there is no solution because we desperately need help but less people want to help us because no one feels confident with two babies. I get it. At first I received the lack of help as personal failure. I assumed other people weren't offering meant I should be able to do it by myself. Now I know that's not true. We aren't made to parent alone. So if you have a friend with twins offer to help. And when they tell you no, just keep offering. It's not that she doesn't need help. It's that she needs so much help she doesn't even know where to start or how to use you. So start by offering to just come play with her babies and I promise it will be a blessing to her.
Finally, I want people to know what a joy it is to parent twins. The bond is just overwhelmingly beautiful and I do think that the fun is "times two hundred" as well. Because you don't just get all the cuteness twice. You also get to watch the twins react to one another's cuteness and it makes it all worth it. So comments about "hands being full" or "double trouble" don't really resonate with me. The other day an elderly woman stopped in her tracks pointed at the stroller and yelled "Oh my God. TWINS?! You are so lucky!"
That's how I feel too.