When You Get A Little More Than You Were Expecting

by Mianilli

You can love your twins without loving the twin thing.

Struggling new twin moms, I see you.

You are exhausted, overwhelmed, leaking from pretty much every orifice, and wracked with guilt and worry. When a well-meaning acquaintance goes ga-ga over your double blessing, you find yourself secretly listing every person you know who might be better equipped to be so blessed—some of them could possibly afford multiple shifts of live-in nannies, some of them seem like they’d do okay since they have their shit together in the preschool line every day, and some them you kind of just hate a little bit.

While performing the endless circle dance of putting one baby down, only for the other one to start crying throughout the wee hours, you can’t help but imagine yourself in other universes—universes where you had a normal, single baby pregnancy, or maybe where you just skipped procreating altogether this time around in favor of wine, unpasteurized cheese, and a national tour of marijuana dispensaries.

I see you, and it’s okay.

It’s likely you had a hard, uncomfortable pregnancy. You may not have had many choices when it came to a birth plan, and it’s possible you had interventions you would have preferred to go without. You may have had one or both babies placed in the NICU soon after birth, and even if you got to take them both home after a few days, you were still thrown into caring for two newborns way before you were physically or emotionally healed. You’re sleep deprived on a tortuous level, and your hormones have gone berserk. You’re probably wracked with worry about just about everything, especially if your babies are preemies, low birth weight, or have birth defects.

All of this makes it pretty hard to dig the twin thing in the early months.

Even if your pregnancy was the most desired in the history of the planet, getting two for one does not necessarily feel like winning the procreation lottery, at least not in the beginning. Maybe you struggle to bond with the babies. You feel guilty because you wonder if you love them enough, if you love them equally, if you love them like you’re supposed to. If you’re the type that takes some time to fall head over heels for a new baby (and there are a lot of us), the constant ping-ponging between two can make it very hard to focus on getting to know each one individually.

I see you, and the love you give in caring for your babies is enough.

When my twin boys were very new, the wonderful NICU lactation consultant, who
happened to have twin granddaughters, looked at my drained face while we both attempted to get my screaming, tomato-faced baby to latch on. Sighing, she said quietly, “I know. You wonder how you can love two when you only wanted one.” I was so grateful to her for voicing that for me when I was afraid to say it myself. It’s okay to only have wanted one. And the very fact that you wonder if you can find enough love in you, that you guilt and worry yourself to death over it, shows that you do, indeed, have more than enough love for two.

My Twin Story

I consider all twin stories to be rare gems, but mine is especially strange, and, in retrospect, as wonderful as it seemed terrible at the time.

When I went into labor 37 weeks into my second pregnancy, I thought I was having one baby. Perfect, because we wanted one sibling (I was kind of secretly hoping for a sister) for my daughter. However, about twelve minutes after my first boy was born, his brother slid out. That’s right, surprise twins—they still show up every once in a while!

My boys, though identical, were drastically different in size because Twin B had a bad placental connection, so I took one baby home while the other stayed in the NICU for a week and a half. To top off the whole strange story, a tornado badly damaged our house and property one week after Twin B came home, so our family of five had to stay at my in-laws’ house for several weeks while I was still reeling from the birth and aftermath. We still call 2019 the year of Twinado.

It took me a long time to come to terms with the fact that I had twins.

I had severe postpartum depression and experienced deep feelings of guilt and regret. Just before the twins’ birth we had suffered a major financial setback, and I felt like there was no way we could rebuild in a way that would do three kids justice. I was sure all our lives were ruined, and that it was somehow my fault. Twin B required some extra medical care during the first year or so, and I had to learn to navigate specialists and hospitals – a world I’d never before entered.

I didn’t feel like I was connecting to the babies the way I should and wondered if I even had enough love in me for three kids. Oh yeah, and a husband, too.
But gradually, we all got used to each other. And the babies became more independent, and things got easier. At six months, I experienced moments where I felt like a normal human again. At one year, despite the onset of COVID-19 lockdowns, we seemed to have gotten into a groove—not a perfect one, but one that we could live with.

And now, two and a quarter years in, our house is hectic and I am still tired.

But, the moments I longed for in the early months are actually happening—piling up and snuggling, feeling the luxury of being able to pay attention to one kid without another one screaming at you in the same moment (at least once in a while), and watching my three children play together and love each other in the rowdy and nerve-wracking way of siblings. And somewhere along the way, I stopped worrying about bonding and grew into that intense kind of parental love where you want to devour your kids’ faces Where the Wild Things Are style.

If you feel guilty because you’re not digging this twin thing…

If you feel like you don’t have it in you to make it all work, if you feel lost and sad and beyond exhausted, know that life will change quicker than you can imagine right now, and that it will get easier. Not just different, but easier. They will grow, and you will grow, and today’s difficulties will recede. For now, find the joy when you can (but don’t feel guilty when you can’t), get the help you need, and take a lot of pictures so you can look back with misguided nostalgia on those “sweet” newborn months in a few years (you really might do this!). I see you, and believe it or not, your love is enough. And so are you.

How is your ‘twin thing’ going?

We’d love to hear your stories in the comments below!

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