Thursday, February 27, 2014

Twin life: Connected already

I have been so eager to see the bond between my twins as they grow, but I haven't had to wait long. Beth and Sadie are just 7 weeks old, and already the twin connection is strong. 

My girls love to snuggle together, cheek to cheek, and I was reminded last week of how powerful that action is. 

The other morning after putting them back to bed, no matter what I did they fussed and fussed. Out of options, I laid them together so their faces touched -- and instantly, they calmed. Sadie even popped her binkie out and relaxed with a sigh, as of to say, "Ahh, that's what I've been asking for. Thanks, Mom. Love you, Beth."

It's not always a cure-all, unfortunately. Some days one will want to cuddle and the other not so much, but there are other pitfalls -- like yesterday, when Beth spit up ... All over Sadie's face. Luckily it didn't wake Sadie, but still. GROSS, girls. 

Even less ladylike is what my sister calls "zombie" behavior: One twin will be searching for a binkie or a bottle, but instead find her sister's head and say, "This'll do," and latch on vigorously. This does not bode well for the twin being snacked on, but since they do this in equal share, it's the law of the jungle. 

"Om nom nom!"

Another twin quirk that is slightly adorable but mostly maddening: Their cries sound exactly the same, not just in pitch and tone but cadence. When they both get going, it is a sound that defies description, but I'll try. Say you had a recording of a newborn crying, and you made a copy of that recording. Then say you put those recordings on CD and put those CDs in two separate players. If you push play on one, wait two-and-a-half seconds, then push play on the other, and then somehow magnify that sound until it resembles the cries of 10 babies, there you have it. Imagine this at 3 in the morning, muffled yet amplified through a baby monitor, you can see why we jump when one baby cries and try not to wait until both get going at a fever pitch. 

Luckily, one sister's crib crying does not wake the other. Lying side by side it seems to have no effect, but separate the two and then you have a situation -- and adorable yet slightly tragic situation. Say one baby is in the bed and the other on the changing table. If one baby starts to wail a scared or painful cry, the other will instantly become unsettled. It's like a scene from an action movie when one hero has been captured and dragged away, leaving the other hero to wail in response, "What have you done with her, you monster?!"

But so far the most unexpected manifestation of the twin connection is this:

Two babies, one pose, randomly and spontaneously yet in perfectly coordinated choreography. 

ADORABLE. And I can only assume it will get better. 

And throw big brother into the mix, and it's bound to keep melting my heart. 

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

A day in the life

At a doctor's appointment the other day a nurse asked how life was with twins and if I was enjoying them. I confidently and truthfully answered that, actually, the girls are a piece of cake and, yes, I am really enjoying them.

Her eyes practically popped out of her head.

"Really?" she asked, incredulously. "I have never heard anyone say that before about twins."

And she's known a lot of parents.

Nobody could have been more shocked than I that this would be our reality, just four weeks after Beth and Sadie were born. I spent months preparing for the worst, and now here we are with every best-case scenario coming to be.

But maybe that's partially why things are so good. I was completely prepared (well, as much as you can be) for life with twins. I had read books, blogs and articles covering every aspect of newborn twin parenthood I could think of. I've polled twin mom message boards and sought informed opinions and advice every step of my pregnancy. And when it came to sleep — that thing we got none of for the first nine-plus months after Evan was born — I was more than prepared. I had a game plan, as well as Plans B and C. So although I embarked hesitantly on this journey, I had done my due diligence, and I was ready.

When you're a first-time parent, you get home with the baby and think, "Now what?" Even though I expected the first few months to a year with these girls to be complete and total anarchy, at least I knew the "what." The house was ready, and not just the nursery. Our living room, kitchen, and family room are stocked with baby swings, Boppy pillows, high chairs, and baskets with diapers, wipes, burp cloths, binkies, and blankets. The swaddle blankets and white noise are at the ready, and the kitchen is stocked with bottles and all associated feeding necessities. Plans A, B, and C were waiting...

But with these calm and mellow babies, we only ever needed Plan A.

In response to my ease with having twins the nurse said, "You must have them on a really good schedule." Yep, I do. They eat every 3-4 hours, after which I try to keep them awake for another half hour to an hour, then they get put back to bed for a few hours before starting all over again. And that's it: The easiest newborn schedule you'll ever find, and also the best for babies (according to my extensive research, that is).

So, for all other twin moms or moms-to-be like me looking for an idea of what life is like with newborn twins (and a rambunctious older sibling), here's how it goes, a very detailed, step-by-step account; a day in the life:


The babies wake up between 6:30 and 7:30. If they're up early enough, Aaron helps with the first feeding before heading to work. But usually, he keeps his morning routine: Getting ready and starting the day with Evan, who gleefully informs us he gets to "wake up early with Daddy and eat a snack and watch TV." I try to finish the feeding before Evan's movie is over, then I put the girls back down to bed for a few hours. This allows me to spend the first of the day one-on-one with Evan so he's not starting out feeling neglected from the get-go. We eat breakfast and play a bit, and if he hasn't watched too much TV yet I put something else on while I go take a shower and get ready.

(The cutest couch potato)

The girls wake up again around 10 or 11, ready for a bottle. If one wakes up before the other, I try to trick the still-sleeping baby into thinking her sister is still snoozing in the crib with her, coaxing another 15 minutes of sleep so I can finish feeding the first.

(Yes, this normal-sized stuffed animal is larger than my itty bitty Beth.)

If that doesn't work, or if they're both starving at the same time, I put them in their bouncer seats and prop them with a bottle. (I find this works better than holding one and propping the other, because I'll need both hands free since they'll both at some point drop the bottle or cough or spit up or need to be burped.)

(Post-bottle chill time)

At this point I consider this their official "morning," so I open the curtains, turn on the lights, change their clothes, and talk and interact to get them awake. I find that a diaper change after a feeding is best, because it gets them really awake so they don't fall asleep again right after they eat. They'll stay awake from anywhere between a half hour to an hour-and-a-half. Unfortunately, it takes me about this long to feed and diaper both. Then they're ready to be swaddled and tucked back in bed, curtains closed and white noise on, for their first nap.

This is the time of day I struggle with Evan. He has never been good at playing by himself, and any progress we've gained went out the windows when the twins were born. So I put together a huge box full of "busy bags," little games and activities he can do while I'm busy with the babies.

(Matching letters to cards with our names on them) 

Turns out these bags only keep his attention for about 2 minutes before he's in the nursery with us, so I try to engage him while feeding and diapering two babies — which, as it seems, is not easy. Sometimes he sits by me and we read, sometimes I give him my phone to play with, sometimes I turn on music and he wanders in and out with toys. Mostly he comes barreling in demanding I put on a movie, then wails and stomps when I tell him no because he already had a movie, or he's crashing his Transformers or trucks into their crib and bouncers and I become a broken record telling him that if he can't play softly in the babies' room he has to leave. But despite his antics, he usually gives the girls soft kisses while they eat and occasionally helps me burp and wipe their faces. This sweetness is worth the weeping and wailing, I assure you. Then again, once feeding and diapering and a little chill time is over, it's time to put the girls back to sleep for another nap.

(A little face time in the crib.)


Next Evan and I have lunch together, then play before he goes down for a nap. Oh yes, my 3-year-old still takes naps, and yes, I am well aware of how lucky I am! He sleeps about 2 hours, and during that time the babies usually wake to eat again around 2. I love this time with just my girls and me, even though it takes Evan's entire nap to take care of them one at a time (which is why I usually race through the house tidying up after he's gone down but before they get up).

Admittedly, his post-nap time period is my least favorite part of the day. Evan and I used to break up the drudgery by going somewhere fun, or even just running an errand, but it's no small feat to get out with my three kids in tow. It's not awful, but it is exhausting. If I don't need to leave the house, we don't. So for now, we are shut-ins. If Evan is particularly needy or I haven't slept well the night before, I usually cave and put on another movie, then we snuggle or I snooze on the couch while he watches (and climbs and jumps all over the couch while I'm on it).

Between 5 and 6 the babies are hungry again, and this time I bring them down to the family room for their feeding. I prop them on either side of me on the couch in their Boppy pillows with a bottle and feed them while Evan plays nearby.

("Hey, Mom, you're doing all right." *wink*)

I used to want Aaron to help with the feeding when he got home, but instead I like that he and Evan keep their routine of playing together and wrestling before dinner. It's especially good for Evan, but to be honest it's still helpful to me so that he is occupied and isn't demanding my attention while I'm feeding the girls.

(Tools on the floor and enjoying a good, old-fashioned beat-down. Boys will be boys.)


Next up is dinner. We have been so blessed to have many meals brought to us, but now it's time to get back to the grind. For now we are having super simple meals, and that includes things that have been pre-packaged and frozen. The girls get swaddled and put back to bed while I get things ready, and the rest of us eat together at the table. Afterward we clean up and then have a little family time, sans Beth and Sadie for now, where we play together or get some chores done. Around 8 we start Evan's bedtime routine of teeth brushing, hand washing, room cleaning, jammie changing, book reading, prayer giving, lullaby singing, and sleeping.

Usually right on cue, but occasionally before, the babies are awake and crying to be fed at this point. Aaron and I take them to the family room with us and watch a movie while we feed and change the girls. This is my other favorite time of the day with them, where we get to just hold and snuggle the girls for a few hours. This is another reason we keep the babies up late: so we get to relax and just spend time with them while they're little. And another big bonus: We feed them before we go to bed around 11, delaying their first night feeding for a few hours.


Here's been the biggest shock about having these babies: They sleep — a lot, and well — at night. They usually wake up between 2:30 a.m. and 3:30 a.m. to eat ... and that's it. Asleep until morning, around 7 a.m. What's more, we can put them back in their crib nearly fully awake and they'll fall back asleep on their own. This is where I know we've been especially blessed, because our first child was just the opposite. While my Plan A really helps keep these girls to this schedule, they are really just that accommodating. As I've said before, we've hit the baby jackpot! So when one of the girls cries to eat, Aaron and I both get up and we each take a baby for a diaper change and a bottle. The whole ordeal takes about 40 minutes, occasionally an hour, and then it's back to bed for everyone.

And yes, they really do sleep like this:

(Heart melting. I dare you to find something cuter.)

After reading all of this, you're probably thinking, "Wow. That's a lot of work." And it is. Oh yes, it really is. On top of it, I haven't yet dropped my tidy-house standards and I refuse to do so. Mind you, this isn't deep cleaning we're talking about; I'll admit, the bathrooms are seldom scrubbed, vacuuming only happens if there's something large and noticeable to vacuum up, and who knows when I'll next get to dusting and all that. But a cluttery, messy house makes me feel chaotic and like I'm drowning in to-do's, so tidying and keeping up with the laundry are still at the top of my list. And as if that wasn't enough, I'm even working in some editing so we can afford to keep my girls in diapers.

So yes, it is a lot of work, and at some point I'll probably need to let more things slide. But for now, this is our life. And considering the alternative — chaos and crying babies and an angry 3-year-old and me curled up on the couch weeping and wishing I were anywhere else in the world — this work is so worth the effort. I am tired, but fueled by the adrenaline of keeping life going and everything and everyone on task and taken care of. And truly, it does feel great to take care of my home and family. It really is so much more rewarding than any professional career I could hope to have.

And I keep telling myself, this phase won't last forever. My babies won't be babies for long, and since we are now officially retired from the baby-making business I want to enjoy this time in our lives while it's here. I can't do that if I know I haven't been putting all my effort into it. So when I'm getting stressed or overwhelmed or just plain tired, I tell myself to put on my game face and get to work. My children need me, and truth be told, I need this. If I'm going to reap all the miraculous benefits of being a mother and putting my family first, I need to do just that: put my family first and fully immerse myself in motherhood.

So if you need me for the next 18-plus years, that's where I'll be.