Welcome to post #2 of our M.O.M. series. This month I am sharing some thoughts and advice from an amazing woman who just happens to be one of my oldest and dearest friends. Like our previous M.O.M., she wasn’t a first time parent when she had her twins. Together with her wonderful husband, they set routines early on that have had a positive and lasting effect on her girls sleep and eating habits and allowed her to make the time she needs to focus on her well-being. I am so excited to bring you our Mother of the Month for April: Julia!
Q: What is your favourite thing to do on the weekend?
A: This varies depending on the time of year. In the nice summer months I like to get up and out the door (alone or with kids) walking, searching for yard sales or just sitting in the back yard and enjoying the peace of early morning. During the cooler months I like when Sam (my husband) gets up with the girls and I lay in my warm bed getting up at my leisure. I usually don’t sleep in since I do most mornings with the girls, not having to deal with breakfast or get them dressed really is a big treat for me!
Q: What was the last event you bought a ticket and went to?
A: S and I had to really think about this. Excluding the 5 day Disney tickets we just used, we think it goes back to Sept 2011 when we went to see Pearl Jam. Now we are on a mission to hit up a few concerts this summer because this answer makes us both a little depressed.
Q: What is your ideal down-time activity?
A: Usually relaxing in front of the TV or playing Candy Crush..honestly. Not very exciting but it feels so great to turn off the brain for a while. If I really need to unwind I light some candles and have a dark quiet bubble bath.
Q: Where/what is your “happy place” or “happy activity” right now?
A: I am finally back into an exercise routine. 5 days a week. I feel better then I have in years. In the warm months I will go for a walk in the evening as the kids are getting ready for bed with Sam or early mornings on the weekends. During the winter I exercise in the basement. With Sam’s unpredictable work schedule it is hard for me to commit to anything outside of the house so this has made an amazing difference in my energy and having a healthy state of mind. I also call on my mom and father-in-law regularly when I need an extra hour or two (or 6) of me time. I also like to have dance parties. This happens a lot but to be honest it probably happens more often when I am alone. I do my exercising at night so after that and before I get into the shower I have a dance party alone in my bedroom. The first time just kind of happened and I enjoyed it so much I make sure it happens regularly now.
About the TWINS:
Q: How many children do you have? And how old are they?
A: We have 3 daughters. Our oldest Dahlia is 6 and our twins, Eleanor (Baby A) and Celeste (Baby B) are 3 ½ years old.
Q: Do you remember when you found out you were having twins? How did you feel? How did your partner, your family and your friends feel?
A: I will NEVER forget how that felt. Describing it may be a little difficult though.
We were in for our 12 week ultrasound. I had been through this process before so I knew that at this clinic they would show me some images after she did her work. Shortly after she started she asked if this was my first. I told her I have a daughter who was not yet 2. She smiled and said “oh boy, you sure are going to be busy!” I thought this was a little odd seeing as lots of people have 2 kids but I just shrugged it off and tried not to think about how badly I had to pee. Once she finished she called in Sam and immediately suggested he take a seat. We both looked at each other obviously concerned with what we were about to hear. She didn’t waste any time telling us the news. “I have news. There are two…” I bolted into a sitting position to clarify “BABIES?!?!”
Sam and I both had no words. Neither of us expected this. Leaving there was, and still is a complete blur. I was in shock but beyond excited. I had always wanted twins but figured it was a long shot. I was also anxious, nervous, and every other emotion imaginable. Also, what about Dahlia? She was our everything and now we were getting a lot more then we bargained for. How will this affect her? How will she react? Will I be able to give her what she wants and needs? A lot of anxiety about my biggest baby.
Sam immediately went into stress mode. Having baby #2 was financially thought out for us. So throwing #2 and #3 in at one time had him concerned about money (and it hasn’t stopped since). However, he became very excited about it all when we began to share our news.
Our family and friends were all just as surprised and excited as we were. The reactions varied from tears (of joy), full on cheering and also laughter (from my brother-in-law). I told my dad on the phone who claims they had to pull him out of the freezer at Sobeys.
Q: What struggles do you remember when they were younger?
A: I have no memory… Ok. Seriously. The struggles with twins were much the same as the struggles with a singleton.
-Lack of sleep. Newborn baby sleep deprivation is in a class all its own.
-Lack of communication from the newborns (“I don’t know what you want!!!”)
-Lack of milk supply (I had virtually none with the twins). Trying to get healthcare professionals, midwives and doctors to stop making me feel like I HAD to breastfeed. We started solely with breastfeeding. Then we topped up with formula in a bottle. Sometimes the bottles we made weren’t enough which meant we would make ANOTHER bottle. Meanwhile, Dahlia would be sitting around waiting for me to finish. Sometimes an hour or more. She was so patient and never complained but I felt so guilty. So we decided that we gave it a valiant effort and moved onto bottles only.
-Getting out with all 3 of them on my own. This was especially hard when the babies weren’t big enough to sit up on their own so the car seats and stroller were almost always necessary. In turn this limits how many groceries you can fit.
-I struggled with Dahlia. Was she getting enough attention? Was she feeling neglected? Are we letting her watch too much TV to make our lives easier? Internal struggles only.
Q: What successes can you remember from when they were younger?
A: Some days brushing my own teeth was a success story. I haven’t really considered what our successes were. It has all felt so rewarding I guess I didn’t feel a need to. One thing I’m often proud of is that all of our girls are great sleepers. They all slept through the night from an early age (3-4 months) and I give most credit to the dream feed. This taught them from early on how to sleep for long periods of time without waking up. For the most part we read books have short snuggles turn off the light and leave the room. Awake or asleep they will usually stay quietly in their rooms until morning.
Q: What are your beliefs on a routine/schedule?
A: I strongly believe that in order to keep some sanity you need a scheduled routine. Whether you have 1, 2 or more babies. When our girls were younger it helped to plan my day. I rarely had to pack bottles when going shopping because I knew that I would be home before the next feeding time. I could plan my alone time with Dahlia in the afternoons when I knew the twins would be sleeping. And on the really long exhausting days I knew that at 7:00 the kids would be in bed and I could have some time alone or some much needed quality time with my husband.
Also knowing I had from 7:00PM and later free meant I could plan late dinner dates /coffee with friends (as the kids got older it was easier for 1 person to get them into bed meaning we didn’t have to make late dinner plans). One other thing we often did at this time was our grocery shopping or other errands. I could go alone and not have to be rushed because I knew everyone was sleeping. Added bonus? No one goes grocery shopping at 8:00PM so the lines don’t even exist.
Schedules can be frustrating when you want to just be able to go where the wind takes you but my girls all slept and ate better when we were consistent with the routine.
Q: What tips do you have to set a routine/schedule for the twins?
A; From the beginning when one wakes up to eat, get the other up. At night I would let them wake me. I would then take them both downstairs for feeding. I would feed the one who woke up first meanwhile her sister would usually still be sleeping in the bouncy chair/ swing beside me. Then I would switch. The second one wouldn’t always eat as much but at least they were topped up so I knew when we went back to bed I wouldn’t be getting a wake up call in another 30 mins.
Day time routines are different. Honestly I kind of let them dictate for the first month then I would base my schedule on when they liked to eat and nap.
All my girls were best with a short morning nap and a long afternoon nap. I have friends whose kids were best with a long morning nap and a short afternoon nap. Every child is different and for best results on schedule it should be based on their natural sleeping habits. If your twins are sleeping side by side (ours did until after 5 months) they will most likely have the same sleeping patterns. Once sleeping is figured out fit your feedings around it. Young babies really do eat, sleep and poop. Not much else. As they get bigger they eat quicker and you can fill that extra time with fun peek-a-boo games….or boring errands. Actually I would sometimes run errands during morning naps letting them sleep in the car seat carriers but almost always had them at home in bed for the long afternoon nap.
As our girls got older (around 4-5 months) we started a “dream feed”, meaning we would go in to their room around 10:30/11:00PM and without waking the babies too much (low light levels a must) do a quick diaper change and a quick feed. This usually got them through the night to 6:00/6:30AM or later. As they got older and were into a good solid food diet we put less formula into the bottles until it wasn’t even enough to bother with and stopped altogether.
Q: In what ways did you involve your oldest daughter in helping with the twins?
A: Anything and everything she was interested in. Grabbing diapers or wipes if needed, soothers, change of clothes. Her favourite was hugs and kisses of course but she also liked helping mommy or daddy with the bedtime bottles. Feeding two at once is a challenge so having the bottles handed to you was actually a HUGE help. Dahlia has always been a proud big sister. At no point has she been resentful, bitter or shown any anger towards her sisters.
Q: How did you partner’s role change with the twins vs. with your oldest daughter?
A: Sam naturally is an extremely hands on father. I probably would have said that he couldn’t be more helpful then he was with Dahlia but I would have been wrong. He and Dahlia are very close, so his commitment to her didn’t change when the twins came along. He obviously helped me out a lot with the twins but his extra attention was going to D. We had agreed on this during my anxiety during pregnancy. When she was the newborn his extra attention was for me. (He literally sat on the couch beside me and fed me my breakfast when she was cluster feeding as I didn’t have time to feed myself.) I don’t say any of this to sound resentful. She was in a much more sensitive situation. She needed the attention more than I did. He did the right thing.
Q: And Finally: What was the best Halloween costumes your twins ever had?
A: Thing 1 and Thing 2 (with Daddy as Cat in the Hat). We actually had people ask permission to take their picture as we walked down the street.
WE’RE NOT IN THIS ALONE!!
Each month we feature a mom of multiples and share how they handle life and all the unique situations that come with parenthood. Check out previous M.O.M posts here.