Tuesday, April 30, 2013


I once read somewhere long ago, long before having children of my own, a story of a woman who had just had her first baby. She was still in the hospital when one of her best, albeit cynical friends came to congratulate her. She held up a glass of champagne and said something along the lines of, "Well, it's all worry and guilt from here on out. Cheers."

I remember thinking about what a terrible mentality that was, and assuring myself that someday when I finally had kids that I would never, ever let worry and guilt rule my life. I would make all the right choices, I told myself, and would have nothing to feel guilty about ever. (Along with a long list of other things I would do/never do when I became a parent.)

This is the part where, if you have kids, you are laughing hysterically at my naivety.

It turns out all the right choices aren't so easy to decipher. What might be right today might be horribly wrong tomorrow, or even a few minutes from now. What is wrong for your kid might be right for mine. Even what is right for one of my boys might not work out for the other. But that's ok. We do the very best we can and at the end of the day that's all that matters. Right?


Then why are we as new parents constantly plagued with guilt?

We are bombarded with information about how to best raise our children, from all angles and all sources. We are newborns ourselves, figuring out how to do the basics in this helping-a-new-human-thrive business and it is scary. We are vulnerable. We are often skeptical, but we are sleep deprived and haven't eaten because we were feeding our babies and haven't held our partner in our arms in weeks (see: months) because we were holding our babies close and so when someone tells us that they don't need naps or they do need naps every x hours or that they will get polio if they don't get vaccinated or that they will have grand mal seizures if they do, we listen. We listen because our children need our help and we don't have all the answers.


Before becoming a parent I was so sure of myself. I didn't care much what other people thought of my lifestyle and was confident that every choice I made was the right one. If I made mistakes along the way I knew that they were opportunities for growth and I would do my best not to repeat them. But taking care of a new little person, knowing that your choices don't affect just you anymore, but that every decision you make is quite literally influencing the rest of someone's entire life... It's a whole different story, and it leads to a lot of second guessing.

Maybe I'm being a tad over-dramatic. Today I bought my first container of formula. I haven't used it yet. I don't want to use it. It took me days of research to figure out what kind to buy, and that was after days of researching whether it would be better to start my boys on solids a little earlier than we'd liked or give in and start supplementing with formula. Now instead of praising myself for having made it almost five months exclusively breastfeeding two babies, I am sitting here with a tub of soy ice cream and cookies mourning my recent purchase because it feels like a little part of me has died. Instead of celebrating my accomplishments thus far, why do I feel like such a failure?

Because of guilt. Because I want to do the very best for my babies, even when it is impossible, and when it turns out in the end that I can't, I feel guilty. I feel inadequate. I feel like I can't even nourish my own babies by myself. I want to be the happy lady in the perfect picture of how to tandem feed twins, smiling like she's not worried they both will get enough milk. I want to be the mom who knows 100% that her decision was the right one.

The thing is we can never know 100%. There is always a chance our decisions won't work out in the end. But that's ok. It's up to us as new parents to weigh the risks and take the chances. Let's be honest. None of us really know what we are doing. We all spend most of our time in the dark, fumbling around bumping our way along towards hopefully figuring it out. We are bound to stumble from time to time. It's how we learn and grow as parents and as people.

So why do I feel so guilty?

Because I am a good parent and a good person. Because I am aware that my lifestyle influences the lives of other little people. Because I am aware that, like Newton said, to every action there is an equal and opposite reaction (usually from naive childless people like my old self) but I act anyway. Because I am aware that my decisions have consequences. Because I am worried about the future, when my babies are no longer babies but grown-up people, responsible for their own actions.

A little worry and guilt every now and then is healthy; it keeps us in check, keeps us asking questions about the decisions we make - and we should be asking questions. We should be looking for second opinions. We should be second guessing, and sometimes third guessing. We're taking care of someone else's life for goodness sake! It means we love our babies enough to ensure they are truly thriving.

And that is why at the end of the day, I will still welcome those cumbersome old cynical best friends of parenthood - worry and guilt, into my room to help celebrate whatever milestone comes next. In fact, if I wasn't hooked up to the breast pump as I write this, I'd raise up a glass of champagne and toast the old broads right now for always keeping me on my toes.


Monday, April 29, 2013

twice the love.

A friend of a friend recently found out she is pregnant with twins, and I was asked for advice. I am far from an expert. I am just doing the best I can, and I don't know any better. But there are a few things I wish I had heard before giving birth, and there are a few things I did hear that any woman who is pregnant with twins should hear.

This just my two cents. Any and all mamas of multiples, please add to this rambly list any sage words of wisdom of your own.

Just breathe. It seems like a lot - it is. Get over it. Have your freak out and then don't focus too much on it because too much thinking is overwhelming.

Start making lists, and get everything you'd like to get done in the next five years done before 30 weeks. You will not have time for anything other than babies when they are here, and after 30 weeks you will be comically huge, making cleaning and driving and other daily tasks hard to do.

Just because you are pregnant with twins doesn't automatically mean you have a high risk pregnancy. Birth is messy, and twice the babies can mean twice the messiness, but also twice as many heartbeats and kicks and hiccups. Enjoy it- you will probably never be pregnant with twins ever again!

Eat. Eat eat eat while you can. Because once they come out you will need to eat even more to keep your milk supply up, but you won't have time to eat, so eat now. And drink. At least a gallon a day, MINIMUM! Stay active. Twice the babies to push out means you need to be twice as strong. You can do it!

They say the first one paves the way and the second one just falls out. In my case, pretty damn close to the truth.

Try as hard as you can to push for a vaginal birth. It is amazing to be able to know you have pushed two people out of you all by yourself.

Delegate in advance. You will need someone with you at ALL times 24/7 for at least the first month, optimally six weeks. This is not an exaggeration. Line up family and friends, set up a care calendar, and delegate someone other than you to manage it after the babies are here. Let them prepare meals, do laundry, clean up stuff. Whenever you can, delegate.

Do not be afraid to ask for help. If you don't tell people what you need, they can't offer assistance. People WANT to help you. Let them.

Have a lactation specialist lined up before you give birth to help you immediately. Breast feeding is hard work, more than doubly so with two. But it is also more than doubly rewarding. It is not impossible to exclusively breast feed twins, but you need to be dedicated. Surround yourself with people who support you. If you can get it down from the start it is waaaay easier and less time consuming than preparing bottles all the time. Tandem feeding seems impossible at first - it's not. It is possible and it is freaking amazing. We have two boobs for a reason.

Do what works for you. Take advice with a grain if salt, especially from singleton parents. All babies are different, and all combos of twins are different. What might work for my boys might not work for yours and that's ok. You'll figure it out. That's what moms do.

Invest in a hospital-grade electric breast pump. You will need it. The Medela Symphony is a pretty standard choice. You can rent them, too. And get a pumping bra. Being able to pump with your hands free is essential with two babies to take care of. It looks freaky, but trust me. You will use it every day.

My boys are only four months so I'm still in the thick of it, but I have been told the first year is hell, but then it's way easier with two because they always have someone to keep them company. I can already see this. Trying to soothe two crying babies is incredibly stressful, but hearing two babies giggle, seeing two babies look at each other and babble and hold hands is the most precious thing ever. Twins are a very very special thing. Not everyone gets to experience it. Embrace it.

Your babies will always have someone rooting for them. They will always have someone looking out for them. They have a best friend from birth, from before birth! They have something that not a lot of people have and you gave it to them. One of my best friends is a twin and she told me by giving them each other I am giving them the best gift a mother can give. Be proud.

The absolute best piece of advice I received, which I wish I had really followed: spend as much time with your partner now, while the babies are safe and sound and quietly snuggled up inside you. Once they're here you and your partner will both always have a baby in your arms. The first few months all communication will revolve around babies so talk about other things now. Go out to eat, make out, watch movies, take walks just the two of you holding hands instead of a stroller, say "I love you" and mean it, do absolutely nothing, go to the zoo, cuddle and HAVE SEX! As much sex as you possibly can. Seriously.

Don't always put them in matching outfits. Encourage them to be their own person. But sometimes do put them in matching outfits. They are twins - encourage them to enjoy it. Plus it is adorable.

Some days you will feel like you love one more than the other. You don't. But it's ok to feel that way.

Some days they will feel like they love you or your partner more than the other. They don't. But it's ok for them to feel that way.

The most comforting words came from two different people right after we found out (at 21 weeks!!!). One told me she believed we choose our biggest challenges in life before we are born and that I must be a very strong woman for having chosen twins. I'm not sure I believe I chose this per se, but I do believe life doesn't ever give us more than we can handle, even if it sometimes seems that way. We always manage to rise to the occasion.

The second person was from Ghana. He told me where he comes from they say God takes a long look at your heart before you become pregnant. He said I must have an incredibly good heart to be blessed with two babies at once. I'm not religious, but I'd like to hope he was right.

Your heart will grow two sizes too big every damn day. Sometimes it will feel like too much love, and you will cry. Sometimes they will cry and you won't be able to figure out what's wrong and your heart will fall crooked, and it will feel like too much hurt, and you will cry. Don't worry, you will wake up the next morning (ok, at 3am, and then again at 5 and finally 6:30) and it will be right again, swollen a little bigger with love and pulsing strong in your chest. It will feel like too much love again, and you will cry. It seems like a lot - it is. Just breathe.

Trust your body. Trust your babies. Have faith in the universe. You are the exact right parent for these two new little people, and you can do this. And you will.

Welcome to the club. ;)

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

one heart.

"Making the decision to have a child - it is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body." - Elizabeth Stone