In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. ~ Proverbs 3:6

Saturday, May 30, 2015

When You Don't Have a Village - How we survived our twins' first year without having help.

They say it takes a village to raise a kid, but for some of us....we don't have a village.  

We don't live close to family.  Our closest family, my side of the family, is about an hour away.  That's close enough for an occasional visit, but not close enough for regular help when we had our babies.  

And by regular help, I'm simply referring to someone to watch the the twins, so I can: occasionally go to the grocery store without two babies (especially when it is the middle of winter with snow, slush or below zero wind chills), go the gym a few times a week, go to the doctor with just one sick baby instead of dragging one sick baby and one healthy baby to the appointment, have an extra set of hands in the evenings when my husband is traveling out of town, or have an occasional date night with my husband.  I'm not talking about watching my kids for a few hours every single day.  I'm just talking about the normal help that you get when family lives close.

All of my husband's family is at least one state away, and his mom is a twenty hour drive or a plane ticket away.  We had twins....but we didn't have family that lives close enough to help out with the twins.

We're also not super social people....ok, we're not social at all!  I'm an introvert by nature, and my husband does not have any apparent need to speak more than two sentences at a time to anyone for any reason...Ha! He's a quiet man, and I love that about him.  Because, we live somewhat of a hermit life, we really don't have any close friends.  We have acquaintances, but no one that we "hang out with" on a regular basis.

When we had our twins, we were the only ones at the hospital.  My mom and brother stopped by for a few hours, but that was it.  There wasn't an entourage of people ready to greet our double blessings, and we were ok with that....actually, we were sort of happy about that....I wouldn't have wanted an entourage. 

My husband and I came home from the hospital, and he had one week off of work to help me out with the babies.  The following week, we had his mom visiting with us to help me out. After that, we were on our own!

My mom does occasionally come up for a visit. She came to visit the boys at our house for the first time when the twins were one month old, and she tries to come visit every six to eight weeks for 48 hours at a time.  I love when she comes!  Life with twins is so much easier with Grandma in the house!  If you have twins, or even one baby for that matter, and are able to live close to your mom or other don't know how blessed you are! I am completely jealous of you!  I never cared that we didn't have family living fifteen minutes away until I had kids.  

Since my twins were born, I have said to myself numerous times how much I wish my mom lived ten minutes away....or even better, lived in my neighborhood....or how about just living with us, that would be best, haha!  Even having my sisters or my mom live close enough to drop by for an hour a week, would have been such a blessing when my little guys were tiny! 

Now don't get me wrong, this is not a woe is me post.  We knew when we saw two heartbeats on the monitor at our seven week ultrasound that we were going to have "our hands full", as they say.  We knew we were not going to have family close by or be able to pay for any kind of hired help 1-2 days a week.  We knew we wouldn't have a village, and that never bothered us. 

Lot's of people parent one, two, three or more kids just fine without having a big support system.  I'm simply saying that I believe it would be easier if new parents, particularly parents of multiples, had a built-in support system to encourage them and help them during the first year.  But for those of us who don't, and I know there are many of us like this, I'm here to say to you .....You Will Survive!  

You may feel more exhausted than you ever have in your entire life, but I promise you that your exhaustion will not ruin your babies' lives!  Your babies will have no memory of the sleep deprived, hasn't showered in three days, no make up, hair in a messy bun, still wearing the same close from two days ago self, because all of your days and nights run together and all you do is change diapers and feed babies!  Your children will only remember the hugs, kisses and love you gave them as they grow up.  That first year of parenting multiples, will soon be a distant memory.  Just do what I did and take lots of cute pictures of your babies, so when you look back, you'll think the year was nearly perfect and you'll forget about all of those rough days and nights, ha!

Sure, having family nearby would have been awesome, but we got by just fine on our own.  That's not to say that you are any less of a parent  if you do have help or family that lives close to you....or that you don't have rough days!  I'm just saying that is it is possible to get through the first year of twin parenting on your own!  Here are some things that I would say to other couples who find themselves in a situation similar to ours.

Parenting is a Team Effort!
Not having our family close to us, just makes me and my husband realize how much we rely on each other.  Daddy may be gone at work all day, while I'm at home being a mom to twin boys, but the moment he gets home from work we parent together.  He doesn't sit on the couch and watch TV, while I continue to solo parent.  He helps out.  And with twins, he was just as much a part of the night time feedings as I was.  We had a system.  We were a team.  We made these babies together, and we take care of them together. 

Schedules and Organization
I really can not stress this enough.  I know I already shared about the importance of organization in this blog post, but makes my life and my babies' life easier when we stick to a routine!  For me, it is all the more important, because for the most part, I'm doing this twin mom thing on my own every day from 6am-6pm!  And because every six to eight weeks my husband will need to travel for work,  I find myself doing this twin mom thing on my own for up to 2-4 days at a time, depending on how long my husband is out of town!  When you need to get stuff done....and you don't have your mom, your sister or a BFF nearby to give you a thirty minute break to get stuff done....keeping things as organized as you can is very helpful!

Take it one day at a time.....
As organized as I try to be, there are some days when life just feels chaotic....and that's ok!  I can't control what comes my way every single day.  There will be days where I deal with  colic, teething, ear aches, more teething, sinus infections, stomach bugs, teething again....and the list goes on.  Sometimes my days get interrupted with doctor appointments or unexpected errands.  Sometimes  my nights are sleepless from comforting a little one or two.  When these days come, it's ok to let the laundry pile have the bed go let those snotty nose prints, sticky messes and cracker crumbs go unwiped.  It's ok to get nothing done but babies some days.  In the beginning, there will be a lot of those days.  It doesn't make you a bad mom when you put your babies down for bed at night, look around you and realize that your home appears to an explosion of baby gear, and then look at yourself and realize you haven't showered, brushed your teeth or combed your hair at all that day ~ it just makes you a normal mom who survived a rough day!

Sleep Whenever You Can!
They say to sleep when your babies sleep, but if you're a mom of multiples you want to throw two bottles and a couple of dirty diapers at the person who says that to you!  

For one, nap times are when you get stuff done!  Without naps NOTHING WILL GET DONE!  When will the laundry get done? How will dinner ever get prepped and made? And what about that pile of dishes in the sink?  Oh, and the bottles?  The never ending pile of bottles....they need washed don't they?  I'm not even talking about keeping a spotless house...I'm just talking keeping up with the necessities of everyday life.  And when you don't have any help, it's up to you get stuff done when you can... which for most of us is nap time! 

Secondly, even if I didn't have stuff that needed to get done, it was very rare for my twins to sleep at the exact same time for the exact length of time.  Usually I would get one baby to go to sleep....then twenty minutes later I finally got the other one asleep....then twenty minutes later one starts fussing and I have go shush him back to sleep....then twenty minutes later the first one wakes up for good, but we still have to try to be quiet so the other one sleeps a little bit longer....and so on and so on.  Get my point?  

I say you sleep whenever you can.  If that means nap time, then great!  For us, we caught up on sleep as best as we could on the weekends.  My husband and I would each be in charge of one baby.  When it was time for naps, we would go lie down with the baby in our bed and fall asleep with our baby.  When our baby woke up, we woke up.  And yes, we had one twin that was a horrible sleeper, so to be fair we took turns with him, ha!  

Seriously, this is the part where I do not think that people can relate unless they have had multiples, because when you have more than one baby.....a solid amount of sleep is rare!  I never slept a full eight hours of sleep until after my twins turned one!  Seriously, it took one of my twins almost a year to start sleeping through the night, and even now he still won't sleep past 5am. The little guy wakes up screaming every morning long before day break.  He will eventually fall back asleep for an hour or so, but our sleep still gets interrupted every morning between 4 and 5.

Take whatever help you can get....
You might not have family that lives near by or have close relationships with anyone that can help you out on a regular basis, but when someone does offer to help out....TAKE IT!  The truth is that most of us are not going to ask for help.  You might have people say all the time, "if you need anything, just let me know", but in reality most of us are not going to call someone up and say, "hey, remember when you said if I needed anything...."  For us, we got the biggest blessings from people who showed up and did stuff for us without asking us what they could do.
  • The first 4-6 weeks, it was not uncommon to have someone from our church show up once a week with dinner.  We greatly appreciated these nights! Making a meal for anyone with a new baby is always a huge help!  They did call us ahead of time and tell us they were going to bring dinner by, so I knew I wouldn't need to cook that night.
  • I also had friend from our church who was an avid walker, and once in awhile she would volunteer to take the babies for a walk if she was in our area during a time of day where taking the babies for a walk would be helpful to me. It seems small, but something like that was a great help to me when my boys were tinyl. Sometimes, she would call and it wouldn't be a good time for us, due to the babies sleeping or a scheduling conflict.  That's ok....the point is that when it worked out, I gladly accepted her kind gesture.
  • When we first had the boys, there were a couple of times a few different people volunteered to watch the boys for a few hours, so Matt and I could get out of the house for a bit.
  • Within the past few months, we've have two ladies from our church volunteer to babysit for us a couple hours once a month, so we can have a date night.  This has been a real blessing for us.  We maybe had two or three date nights total during our twins' first year, so we gladly accepted their offer to watch our twins once a month  Getting away from the babies for a few hours and being able to focus on time with my husband is priceless.
  • When family does come to visit, we let them have ALL the baby time they want, and we often take advantage of the visit and get out of the house ourselves!
  • We do have a sweet lady who is like family to us that lives nearby.  She and her late husband were like grandparents to me when I moved to their area.  The first six months after the boys were born, she was recovering from a surgery, so she wasn't able to visit with us as much as she liked.  Now that she is better, she stops by and sees her boys often, and is always willing to do whatever she can to help, as long as it is within her physical limits. But for the most part, my husband and I parented our first year with the twins without any help....and we survived. 

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