Saturday, June 28, 2014

The Truth About Raising Twins

There are a lot of things people like to tell you about having twins.

That the next 18 years will be a chaotic blur.

That you'll always have your hands full.

That you'll never have time to yourself again and you can kiss who you were goodbye.

And for some reason, there's always someone who will delight in telling a twin-mom-to-be about her high school friend who had to be on hospital bed rest for the last 6 months of her twin pregnancy, of her sister's neighbor who gained 100 lbs. while pregnant with twins, or her cousin's friend's sorority sister's twins who were such terrors that their bedrooms were stripped down to nothing but bare mattresses on the floor because of the wanton destruction that would ensue every time the boys were left alone together. These kinds of people also like to add statements like, "Wow, I could never be a mom of twins," or, "Better you than me."

I've heard all this and more in the year since I first found out I was pregnant with twins, and I'll likely keep hearing it for the rest of my days as a Mom of Multiples.

But here's the thing: This isn't the truth. Not really. And that's why I feel the need to tell you, right here and now, the real truth about raising twins:

It's not that bad.

Really.

All you skeptics, hear me out. I'm not glossing over the details to give false hope, or to make any mother feel bad because her twins aren't perfect angelic beings. And I'm not saying that having multiples isn't difficult. It is. But it's not the great curse some people seem to think it is. There are reasons to back up my claim — solid reasons, ones you may not be expecting, so stay with me on this.


First, let me tell you about reason #1...

I first found out I was expecting twins when I was 10 weeks along. I was shocked. And delighted. And horrified. And bewildered. And terrified. All that and then some. I'm ever the optimist, but I had heard a million horror stories about life with twins. I just didn't know what to think.

So I did what I always do when confronted with a problem I don't know how to solve: I turned to books.

I went to the library and checked out all the books they had on twin pregnancy and raising twins. Some of them were great, like "Twin Sense: A Sanity-Saving Guide for Raising Twins — From Pregnancy Through the First Year." Some of them were interesting but not super helpful in the practical sense, like "Twins: Pregnancy, Birth, and the First Year of Life."

And then there was "Double Time: How I Survived — And Mostly Thrived — Through the First Three Years of Mothering Twins" by Jane Roper. It was just what I had been looking for: a glimpse at the future, a look at what day-to-day life might be like once my girls were finally here.

It was nicely written, and at first I could really identify with Jane. She was (is) a writer, and like me she was quite shocked about being pregnant with twins. And, she struggled with depression both before and after her babies were born. As the book went on, it taught me something very important — something the author didn't intend at all, but something far more meaningful to me than any message she had hoped to convey.

The epiphany came during one chapter in particular about the insanity of having two newly-walking toddlers seeking to destroy anything they can get their pudgy little hands on. The tale was harrowing but silly, really, though it did stress me out to read about one little girl darting toward a vase on the coffee table while the other dove into the dog dish, and then the next thing you know they're both going to blows over a toy piano before wailing at the top of their lungs until being plied with more fishy crackers.

Then there was the anecdote about taking the girls to the park alone for the first time. They were about 16 months, and the experience was no less harrowing: One daughter began stuffing wood chips into her mouth as the other was about to dive off the side of a 5-foot high play structure, and later the first child tumbled head first off the slide while her sister made a break for it and started running out of the park.

Reading this reminded me of the day I first took my son to the park when he was around the same age. And though there was just one of him, the story was much the same — misadventure and frustration at every turn, until I finally packed it in and headed home. We didn't go back to the park for several months, not until he was old enough to not go blindly walking off the jungle gym or get seriously hurt by a little tumble down the slide.

So as I read all this and remembered my own similar tale of woe I caught myself thinking, "Well, that's what you get for taking a child that age to the park."

And that's when it hit me: These problems aren't twin problems. They're just mom problems — and first-time mom problems, at that. I had been through this before, and now I know to have the house baby-proofed long before my girls are walking. I know not to leave anything out that would do any harm if digested, or anything that would take more than 2 minutes to clean up after my children have crashed their way through it. I know that answering screams with crackers only begets more screams when the crackers are gone, and I certainly know now not to take my kids to the park by myself until they're old enough to handle it if I can't be there to catch them.




Suddenly I realized that having twins wasn't going to be that hard. (At least, not as hard as I had first feared.) A lot of it had to do with the fact that I'm not a first-timer anymore, but mostly, my big realization was this: Having two (or more) children doesn't automatically make it harder than having one.

No matter how many children you have, you will still have to learn these lessons by trial and error, just like every mother who has ever gone before you. It's not the number of children that makes parenting difficult. Being a parent just IS difficult. Period. But we all get through it and come out wiser in the end.

That was the moment I stopped being afraid. After all, I had survived my son's baby and toddler years, and billions of other mothers before me have, as well. Not only that, I learned from all the drama and woe and became a much stronger person and a wiser, more patient mother. Whatever my twins could throw at me, I could handle. If not at first, eventually. And we would all be that much better for it.

Now, reason #2 takes us back to the beginning, about all those awful twin stories that keep circling around. If I led you to believe that those little anecdotes I shared weren't true, I'm sorry ... because they are. The woman on hospital bed rest for 6 months, the mom who gained 100 lbs., and the holy terror twins with nothing but mattresses and light bulbs in their room are all real people that I know. What I mean to say is, even these real-life events aren't the whole truth about life with twins.

Each of these things, though dramatic and unpleasant, represent just a moment in time. They are preceded by highs and perhaps followed by more lows, but they are not constant and they don't last forever. Those brave women went on to have healthy babies and get their bodies back. I'm sorry to say that those rambunctious boys are still in that phase today, but they weren't always like this, and they won't be forever. The destructive phase will end and they will turn their energy to other things, like taking apart appliances to see how they work — maybe only slightly less frustrating, but perhaps the beginning of a brilliant engineering career. And after surviving this, I have no doubt that there's nothing their parents can't handle. Take it from me, whose first child screamed like a banshee the whole first year of his life. Now, almost 3 years later, I'm like a zen master when it comes to screaming. It barely even fazes me.

Please don't misunderstand me: I don't mean that being a mom of twins isn't hard. It is. And then some, boy howdy. But I don't need pity just because I'm a mom of multiples. It's certainly not the hardest thing I've ever been through; not by a long shot. But that's just life. Sometimes my twins are accidentally beating the daylights out of each other, sometimes screaming like a bag of alleycats while my son is stomping and whining for more TV and more crackers.


But then other times (more often than not), they're smiling and just happy to be with each other and with me.


The point I'm trying to make is, I'm not cursed because I have twins, and my life isn't infinitely harder because I was given two babies at once. I am infinitely blessed because I was given three children, and I get to be their mother.

Yes, having twins comes with its own unique challenges that parents of singletons will never experience. Like I said, sometimes it is just plain crazy. But the challenges we face aren't insurmountable obstacles. And let's not forget this truth: Having one child isn't automatically easier than having two. Take it from me, whose sweet baby girls are 10 times easier together than my wily, determined son ever was, and is. (Seriously, I hit the new-baby jackpot with these girls.) But we get through it, and my son has made me the mom I am. Together the three of them will keep testing my patience and increasing my compassion, forever changing my heart and making me far better than anyone I could hope to be on my own.




So Mothers of Multiples, MoMs-to-be, and parents everywhere take heart. Things aren't always as bad as they seem. Who knows; they could be better than you ever thought possible. So smile, grit your teeth if you have to, and cherish this remarkable opportunity to become the mother you never knew you could be.


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