I remember it just like it was yesterday. It was my first ob-gyn appointment after two confirmed, positive pregnancy tests and I was a ball of nerves and parched from the August Austin heat. I had no idea what to expect and the receiving nurse gave me a knowing look and asked me, “Is this your first?” I nodded and she told me she could tell by the look on my face.
In the exam room, the doctor explained what was going to go where so we could see the heartbeat, I braced myself for the first of many “Let’s take a look.” I had no idea what I was looking at except I saw the flicker of rapid movement on the screen. I was relieved and in awe of the truth of it.
It’s real, he or she is real.
Then she jokingly said, “Well, let’s see if there’s another one.”
I laughed nervously. “Sure,” I thought.
“Wait a minute, there is another one!” I didn’t understand and for a brief second it’s like the volume just got turned way down and I felt like I was waiting for instructions on how to feel or what to do or how to react.
“Oh my gosh!” was all I could muster as a tear I didn’t know was there rolled down my cheek. I called my husband and I told him, “I saw the heartbeats.”
He whispered back in a low intense tone, “What?!”
I told him again, “I saw the two heartbeats. We’re having twins!”
Nothing could have prepared me for that moment, and nothing prepared me for how scared I felt afterwards. I mean, I was happy. We celebrated right after with a meal at Red Lobster, where we ran into our then parish priest. He prayed over us right there in the middle of the restaurant while wearing his Snoopy t-shirt. Relaying the joyous news to family filled me with a deep sense of pride and breathless elation, but I was scared. Scared for what my body was about to undergo, scared for my babies, scared for our finances, and scared for the two of us who barely had enough time to be husband and wife.
This was our first pregnancy and looking back on it now, we learned many hard truths about parenting during the pregnancy phase that still ring true to this day.
Surround Yourself with Positivity
In those first few weeks I “Googled” and read nothing but doom and gloom. I was finally so exasperated that I started typing in things like ‘happy twin births’ and ‘funny twin mom’. I wanted to find stories about women that had carried their babies to term and stories about what to really expect. My doctor and others assured me that life as I knew it was over. We would never sleep again, we would never go out, and we would change countless diapers.
Early in my pregnancy, I found a book called Twinspiration by Cheryl Lage. I read it and clinged to every word because it gave me an idea of what to expect and how to start planning all with a lighthearted, uplifting, genuine candor. I was so grateful for something positive and informative. I also found a wealth of blogs like this one through the author’s blog site. It made me realize that I always needed to surround myself with positive, uplifting, resources, outlets, and people. Yes, those first few weeks after the girls came home we were in survival mode and yes we went through countless diapers. My husband at one point created an excel spreadsheet to quantify formula and diaper costs and nothing was coming to me “naturally.”
The spreadsheet didn’t survive the week.
All those things that they said were true and I squinted with bleary, sleep-deprived eyes every time our new realities came to light. However, surrounding myself with positive uplifting resources, outlets, and people made becoming a good parent to two at a time seem more possible. I also sought out my local Mothers of Multiples group. The website alone had a variety of resources as well. Seeking out the right people and sites for information is something I still do. It is so important to me to gauge what’s going on with our kids by reaching out to friends, family, blogs, and books.
Parenthood is an Open Forum
Nothing opens the forum for discussion on all aspects of your private, personal, life like a 33-week twin belly. It gives a new meaning to the phrase to put yourself out there. I think I was 33 weeks pregnant measuring in at 42 weeks and I was aware of how huge I was, but perfect strangers felt the need to remind me. The colorful commentary that ensued as I grew left me confettied with questions and comments I would never ask or tell a pregnant woman.
“Were they conceived naturally?”
“Are you going to breast feed them at the same time?”
“How are you going to do it!?”
Even though at the time those questions and comments seemed intrusive, I’ve learned that when you become a parent, the forum is always open. I see our children as outward extensions of my husband and me. I see the familiar traits that run through each of them and I see how at times it seems as though they are under a microscope. We are under a microscope. I’ve slipped into that mode of thought that their successes are our successes and their failures are our failures. The failures always superseding the accomplishments. People are looking at us for everything that is going well and everything that is not. When there has been a triple tantrum melt down you’d think tantrum watching had become a new spectator sport.
I’ve asked myself repeatedly, are we doing enough for each individual child? Are we damaging them somehow? Are we parenting correctly? How do I not take their out bursts personally? We learned early during my pregnancy that someone will always have something to say but it doesn’t encompass the whole work in progress. The internal questions and commentary are colorful enough and when I silence those thoughts and do the absolute best I possibly can, that is all that really matters.
Worry is Ever-Present
The initial fear I had when I found out I was with children was new and momentarily took over my ever waking thought. I remember being so afraid of hurting either one of the girls while hefting my way into my compact car. Whenever I slept and I turned on my left side whoever was on that side kicked and nudged so hard I thought I was squishing them.
My fears were galvanized when they arrived. We had a month long stay in the NICU because the girls were born early and they needed time to get to a point where they could maintain their body temperatures, learn how to eat, and learn to remember to breathe while they slept. We were so fixated on how much they ate or didn’t eat and if they had an ABC event or not.
When they were home the fear subsided and gave way to worry. Worry that I wear like the official badge of parenthood. I have not stopped worrying since and I don’t think I will until I draw my last breath. Because I worry about them so much, I know them so well. I know what their needs are without them uttering a single word. I know the way their eyes look when they are about to be sick. I can anticipate their responses to any given situation. I can tell a pain induced cry from a pity cry and I know their truly happy belly laughs that fill me with sheer pride and joy. Even though the worry can be wearing at times it has strengthened the bond I have with each of our kids, a closeness I am very blessed to have.
We learned that fear and worry are mainstays, we need to always surround ourselves with positivity and although people will share their opinions, we know we are doing the absolute best we can. There are no guarantees in parenting and whether you have one or multiples, the truths we learned early on have helped us maintain our sanity. It is not easy by any means but we hold these truths close to our heart because our children are much more than extensions of us, they are our hearts.
What truths did you learn early on that really helped you as a parent? What are some things that surprised you about becoming a parent?