After the launch of my M.O.M. series a few weeks ago, I’ve been thinking more about the role of Dad in families with twins. Having new born twins requires both parents to be on duty at all times, which I hear is not always the case with a singleton. Sure, I am the C.O.O. and most decisions are “approved” by me, but they are made and executed by both J and I. Not just because J is an amazing husband and father (which MUST be said), but because once again – raising twins is just different than raising one child.
So I bring you a 3-part series I am calling SHE SAID/HE SAID, where J and I will share our thoughts and experiences throughout the ride thus far. This first round are questions I have chosen to get the ball rolling but I am looking to you to post a question on the comments section below (not on FB) and we will answer them in Part 2 and 3. So read on.. and ask away.
Part 1: “….so there are 2 in there…..”
Q: First reactions/thoughts/fears to finding out we were having twins?
She: We immediately laughed and high-fived. I felt shock and excitement that whole day but remember waking up the next morning thinking “oooookay – how are we going to do this”, “there goes the idea of easing one little baby into our lives”, “I’m going to be so HUGE” and “shit – this is a full on family”. Everything changed. We were lucky that our midwives arranged to do shared care (twins are classified as “high-risk”) so we were able to keep working with them and our amazing Dr. My goal to have a home birth seemed overwhelming now and I was anxious about how big I was going to get. As for fears, J and I actually wrote these down and discussed them often. Mine included:
Not being connected to the birth process.
Being overwhelmed by the birth process.
Losing J and K – the couple.
Losing my drive to make plans – socializing
Not knowing how to parent
Not knowing how to ask for help
Having to recover from birth
Not having ‘me’ time
It was necessary for me to write these fears down and talk about them with J because I was finding myself in a sort of zombie like state with the pregnancy. In a way I was numb… not scared, not overly excited just present and aware that my body was growing two humans and my job was to keep it nourished. It was both an out of body experience and a very aware of body experience but I didn’t want to read books or prep a baby room.. I wanted to just BE which was in complete opposition to how J was prepping.
He: I knew there was a chance of having twins because Kendahl’s mom had twins. However when we started seriously thinking about having a baby I didn’t envision for even one second that it would happen. I believed that twins were a special gift and I didn’t think it would ever happen to me. So when I was in the waiting room for the first ultrasound my 100% expectation was to be called into the doctor’s office and hear one heartbeat. When the technician invited me in, I sat down and the first words out of his mouth was “there are two in there”, I was so surprised that it would have been the best moment to capture me on camera. I remember giving Kendahl a high-five (when it did finally sink in), and I thought it was the most amazing news.
For the next 24-48 hours it was definitely elation….and then at some point the practical started making its way into my brain and it got real. Education was the only way to calm any anxiety so I switched my night reading material to baby/twin/family information books. I pretty much stayed away from babies my entire life (I’m much better with toddlers) so everything was pretty new and I was glad to at least familiarize myself with all the information, terminology and parenting strategies. The intention was never to pick a parenting model, but to piece together what logically made sense to me.
Q: How have you been able to support each other and when were times you just needed to walk away?
She: My girlfriend has the best line when it comes to being asked a baby specific question by her husband. She says “How would I know…. I met him the same day you did”. As the mom (especially the nursing mom) you are the gate-keeper to all things food, diaper and sleep related and as much I hated repeatedly being asked “when do they feed next, when did they poop last, how long did they sleep this time”, I did know the answers and when J tried to “interfere” (aka help) it would throw me off. I needed to stay focused in order to survive that first year. I wasn’t able to focus enough to delegate (skills that have slowly returned) so I had to do things myself to know I wasn’t forgetting anything. This was hard with J because he is such an involved dad and would suggest ways or methods he thought would make things easier but those suggestions only made me feel stupid. When you’re in hormonal and nursing hell – the last thing you want implied is: “I can do this better” especially by someone whose hormones and nipples are still intact.
J was just as sleep deprived as I was, but he was still able to think clearly and quickly whereas my process was slow and cloudy. Accepting that my hormones were out of wack allowed me to recognize when I was being difficult or getting irritated so I could TRY to explain to J that my resistance was usually caused by my extreme sensitivity and not because I didn’t think his ideas or approach would work. We had to be really honest in those first few months and learn how to communicate again so we could make the right decisions without arguing… or in my case crying.
He: With the small amount of sleep each of us were getting it was a balancing game of who was teetering closer to the edge. If I had any energy my goal was to give Kendahl the feeling of a “break”. That could mean a break from the babies, from grocery shopping, from cooking, or even from me. After years of not falling into traditional husband/wife roles, we reached a reality that it might fit best given our circumstances. I was working lots of hours that were not in sync with the household. Kendahl was pretty much making sure the house ran smoothly and the babies had a reasonable schedule. Acknowledging this was important, but acknowledging that this was short term was equally important.
Kendahl provided for our kids during pregnancy and the first year and now that they are toddlers my new role isn’t just about helping around the house, but reminding Kendahl how amazing she was pre-babies, and post-babies. Until we started talking, and I mean some real heart to heart conversations, I didn’t understand the huge shift this has had on her life. Honestly for me it just felt like I got a whole lot busier, but for her having the additional label as a Mom has put added pressure on her. I’ve never understood the immense amount of pressure many females tend to put on each other for a variety of reasons, and it felt like she had more people to answer to than I did. I wish my support could have be as easy and as effective as saying “the people closest to you are amazed at what you are doing, stop listening to the outside noise”, however that seems rarely possible. Having compassion to this was an important step in providing support and not judging what she needed.
I’ve also become a little more aware about using sarcasm in conversations. I’m not an overly funny person, but I do enjoy sarcasm although it’s not the most uplifting way to make a person smile. With all that in mind, there have been times when it’s just too much. Most of these situations I feel are brought on by the Internet. It’s great for a lot of parenting issues, such as reviewing scientific studies, or trying to identify a flu versus something more serious, however the internet almost always takes a side, it’s very black and white. The moments when I’ve become the most infuriated or frustrated have usually come when outside sources are influencing our opinions and Kendahl and I aren’t on the same page. There have also been moments where in the middle of the day I just need alone time for no reason what so ever. I’ll let Kendahl know, go to our room and take a nap. Without that I’d be a cranky man the rest of the day so I try to deal with it immediately to be properly functional.
The reality: You have to talk to each other. You have to let your partner know when you’re overwhelmed, or scared and then be prepared to support him/her when you’re feeling strong. Any communication issues you had before having babies only get amplified so the sooner you can be honest about what you’re going through and ask for what you need the sooner your partner can begin to support you.
Check out more SHE SAID / HE SAID posts here and let me know if there is anything SHE and HE can share our perspectives on. Sometimes it takes seeing an other person’s view to understand how you truly feel about an issue.. it’s not about being right or wrong. It’s about being honest.