I am nearly four years in being a multiple mam and as friends have their own babies and head off on their maternity leave, I have been reflecting back on how my expectations versus the reality of maternity leave were very far removed from each other. I write this not to induce fear for any twin parent, but to maybe give some insight into where my expectations fell short and caused me to feel at times, envy and loneliness. I am by no means saying having one baby means maternity leave is a walk in the park ,or if you have more than one child of differing ages, but I really did not think I was any different to any other new mother on maternity leave until I first started dipping my toes outside the safety of our home with all its baby paraphernalia ,times two!
What I will say from the outset is during your pregnancy to build a support network around you, chat to other parents of multiples and seek out a local parent group. The Irish multiple births association is a fantastic resource and a quick search on social media platforms will introduce you to local multiple parenting groups. This support is invaluable, as is the support of friends and family, but I have to be honest and say, no-one will fully understand how you are feeling and what you are feeling, than another multiple parent who has literally walked in your shoes. The earlier you can find others to talk to the more you will start to feel in control, as much as anyone can feel in control during pregnancy and beyond.
For some reason during my pregnancy I had visions of walking around town with my two adorable babies. I would meet my Mother or friends for coffee and lunch. We would do baby massage, baby yoga, baby swimming, baby anything course that has baby in the title, and I would be back in my skinny jeans in no time. We would have lots of little day trips, walks down the local river bank and did I mention coffee and cake ?
I’ve written before about how being a multiple parent can make you feel extremely isolated at a time that you need inclusion here, in When being a multiple Mam is hard. The reality with twins is how much establishing a good routine is the key to those first few months and even the first few years. I cannot stress this enough and most multiple parents will be in agreement with me, that deviating from routine means sleepless nights, unsettled babies and even more upset parents. A-lot will not understand how rigid you might be to your routine ,but I would advise ignoring their raised brows, it is not them dealing with the shit-storm that happens later that night! Raising two babies or more is hard work and you will find your own routines and ways , do what works for you and your children. For me, that extra twenty minutes whilst at times I would have loved to stay out, was just not worth the cranky ,overtired babies later that day. Feeds would go haywire and it would take several days of rigidly sticking to routine for it to be established again.
Because of the routine the feeling of being on a clock in quarterly cycles can feel overwhelming at times during those first few months. No sooner do you pack the bag, dress the babies and get out the door to do a weekly shop or meet a friend, then you are packing everyone back up again to get back for nap time. Napping two babies out and about I personally found far too stressful in the early days and I preferred to make plans around the nap schedules. Add in the fact that I was breastfeeding the twins and how I never mastered the discreet outside the home feeds without exposing all of myself ,I preferred to be at home for feeds. When I did find a keep-fit class where I felt comfortable bringing the babies I used have to pack up and get home to feed the twins at the end of class, never feeling comfortable staying back for coffee afterwards with the other mothers. That being said, All Star Moms and the lovely Sara (who now owns the Postnatal coach) was like the Holy Grail for me when I stumbled across their classes, finally I found somewhere I could work on getting fit again and bringing the kids with me.
Unfortunately that was the only class I could attend with the twins on my own, until they were a-lot older and this is why establishing a network of others who are free to meet up during maternity leave I feel is so important. Every baby massage, yoga, baby and Mammy class were one baby, one Mammy and it hurt to feel excluded from attending. It felt I was being told I couldn’t cater for both my babies, given this a guilt I feel even now as a twin mother, to find this roadblock so early into my twin parenting journey ,knocked me a little and made that feeling of exclusion momentarily takeover. When the twins got older and started toddling, you can feel even more overwhelmed when venturing outdoors for fear of literally been split in two, as they head off in different directions. Backpack reins will become your best friend and don’t give a second thought to those who look at you sideways, you need to get out to socialize, for the kids to interact and once you and they are safe and happy, the begrudgers will always have something to complain about.
I will be forever grateful to my local twin group and the wider network of twin parents I have gotten to know but in particular to the local women for their support and chats in those early months and even now to this day ,I would be lost without them. Yes it is frightening, it can be scary, it can be overwhelming, but it is also amazing that you, YOU! have grown two,three,four children at once. Not everyone can say they have felt three hearts beat, I am so lucky .
So now nearly four years on with two adorable, boisterous children, children who have such an incredible bond and love for each other, that feeling that I felt so long ago now it seems doesn’t seem so big anymore. I acknowledge as a new twin mother it could have sucked me in, it could have made me feel very alone. I have shed tears and admitted defeat on days out over the years ,but I have also spent afternoons afterwards sat on the couch with two babies curled up on my lap, laughing and content in my arms. I have cried tears of pride when I see my two little preemies running around carefree exploring ,and holding hands minding each other when we visit somewhere new. They are my world, and a very much-loved world. I realise I had set myself unrealistic expectations when there was no-one expecting anything from me, other than two babies to whom I was their world. We spent the first twelve months growing together, figuring out our way, and that is all that really matters xx
For multiple parenting pre and post natal support check out http://www.imba.ie
There are Facebook groups for local multiple parent groups