A guest post by IP on the first year of becoming a twin daddy.
Life before twins was relatively simple. I looked after my immediate needs and when I look back I realise I was largely a selfish person. Why my wife and I even planned date nights before having twin girls is a mystery to me. Why do couples without kids need to diarise time to spend with their spouse anyway?! Weekends spent with my wife were blissful and fun times. We had a blank canvas of opportunity…opportunity to do whatever we wanted when we wanted. There were no long-term consequences to our decisions. Saturday mornings were spent lying in bed until whatever time we pleased, and this was largely dependent on what we did the night before. Saturday afternoons were spent walking around markets, going for a hike, and running in the forest.
Then, our twins arrived. We were blissfully unaware of what lay ahead. They were born at 32 weeks, and spent three and a half weeks in the NICU.
I remember the last night of NICU vividly. We were given a room in the hospital with two beds and two cots and for the first time there were NO nurses to assist us. I was petrified! The side wheels had been removed, and I was leaning very much to one side. That first night consisted of feeds every three hours with a helpless little baby on each parent’s lap. Broken sleep totaling three hours at the most forced me to reassess who I was. I cried. I felt weak and helpless. How was I going to be a parent to twin girls with this amount of sleep, I lamented?! I don’t remember going to work the next morning. All I knew was that I was scared, very scared of what lay ahead.
The days and weeks that followed blurred into a haze of routine. Those three-hour feeding cycles were brutal. I assigned myself to bed and bath time routine, and the early 4am shift before showering and going to work. When I look back now I don’t know how we did it, and how we coped, but we did, by God’s grace.
The human body, however, is adaptable if you beat it hard enough. In the same year I was finishing off a business degree, and I had started a new job which involved a lot of travel. The only way I thought to get through it all was to put each task into a box. Fulfilling each task eventually became a habit and coping mechanism, and I subtly sought pleasure in completing all my tasks.
I had many interests before the twins arrived. Hiking, fishing, camping, making beer, and flying model helicopters took up most of my time. Now my life consisted of milk, vomit, changing nappies and sleepless nights. I yearned to have the option of at least deciding for myself what I wanted to do and when I wanted to do it! It was tough. I loved these helpless little beings so much, but nothing had prepared me for this. Nothing had stripped me so bare. I realised I existed only for them; none of my needs mattered anymore.
Then there was my wife, the apple of my eye. I was devoted to her before the kids came. Chaos had erupted in our house and I had battened down the hatches and went into survival mode. All the focus was on the children. We were at their beck and call for every whim and need. They not so subtly reminded us of that during mammoth crying sessions in tandem. Nights were long, and it became easy to think evil thoughts and to act a little strangely at times. Sleep deprivation does that to you.
Weekends were now very different.
My wife was facing her own struggles. Being a mother of twins requires an inner strength and tenacity that no one will understand. My hectic work schedule was also not helping matters. A busy travel schedule coupled with finishing off a business degree and trying to be a parent had me thinking I was contributing towards society, providing for my family, and taking care of the kids needs. In all these “unselfish” acts I had become selfish, driven to complete all the tasks that had taken over my life, yet forgetting the most important person in my life, my wife.
I had realised that I was attempting to take care of everyone else’s needs yet failing her as her husband. This is still a very difficult thing to accept with my driven A type personality that likes to get things done and likes to solve the problems of the world and move on. Woman are not created like that. I felt helpless. I was achieving my goals in all aspects of my life and gaining recognition in my work, yet failing my wife. How could this be?
Weekend chores did not get the response from her that I was expecting. I thought all women are pleased when their husbands do housework! Here I was feeding the kids, spending time with them, cleaning the house and trying to add value to the household, yet my wife was lonely. I had not spent time with her. I had not engaged with her like I did before the children had arrived. She was not the centre anymore. I was distracted with all the chores that had to be completed with having twins that constantly demanded a routine of crying, feeding, pooping, and sleep.
I think most men can relate to the above. We work hard for our families, we do the best we can with what we know, but sometimes it is not good enough. We struggle to focus on many things. I know I certainly did. Our families want us, they want our full attention, they want us to notice them, and they want our time. We as men often fail at this. We are responsible for not just our family’s financial needs, but their physical, emotional and spiritual needs as well. It became too easy for me to fulfill the financial need through my hard work, and long hours away from home, but I had failed to see that they needed me more in the other aspects of their life.
As men, we are to put God first, love our spouses second, and then love our children. I had got it wrong, and it showed. We do our families a disservice when we get the above formula wrong. For one, loving our children over loving our wives is a disaster waiting to happen. Our wives came first, and loving them first will allow our children to grow up in a loving and secure home where everyone benefits.
I know I have a lot to learn, and I still fail, but I am aware that the only way my needs will ever be met is if I unselfishly lay my life down for them. There are moments when I realise I have gotten this simple aspect right, and it is in these moments that I realise that I am the most blessed man alive and wouldn’t want it any other way.