Having twins – a father’s perspective

A guest post by IP on the first year of becoming a twin daddy.

img-20140919-wa004Life 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.

img-20140927-wa002The 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.

Mommy is at breaking point

Today I feel completely defeated, deflated, exhausted, finished, and kaput!

I suppose it’s partly just that time of year, but it’s more than that…

Being a parent is hard work, and being a parent of twins is harder still.

Trying to parent while working, buying a new house, planning a move to a new town, and maintaining a marriage is even harder. But I guess this is all just part of life and being a grown up, and I know I should just stop complaining about these things, because actually, they’re all my biggest blessings – my children, my husband, and our new adventure in a new town to look forward to. But I’m tired, and sometimes it’s all just a bit much to deal with. Sometimes I just don’t want to be a grown up for a little while.

Right now I feel like I’m trapped in this crazy, sleepless, frustrating world of toddler-dom. Having two two-year olds who fight me every night at bed time, and who just want me all the time at the same time throughout the night is exhausting.

I’m not complaining about my children wanting me, I’m their mother, after all, and of course I want them to want me, and I will always be there for them. But sometimes I also just need a break. I just wish I could tuck them into bed and they’ll roll over and actually go to sleep and then wake up happily the next morning after sleeping through the whole night. But alas, that’s not what’s happening in this house at the moment and it’s really starting to take its toll on all of us. Both girls are fighting bed time with all their might and it’s become a joint effort for them to see who can scream for mommy the loudest. And then they’re both waking up at least once in the night, with HJ refusing to go back to sleep in her own bed once she’s awake, so she ends up in our bed or in the spare room bed, and AG wants me to stay with her in her bed if she wakes in the night, so I end up going from one room to another in a silly game of musical beds for most of the night

And I’ve started screaming back. I’ve become this horrible dragon mom who I really don’t like very much right now. And what’s worse, I’ve become this horrible dragon wife who I like even less.

It’s all just too much at the moment and I feel like I’m at a breaking point.

I do believe it might be time to call in the reinforcements. It might be time to get in a sleep trainer. We have to do something, because something needs to change. We can’t keep running on this never-ending treadmill of craziness.

I’m sure one day we will look back and laugh at it all, but not today, today I just want to cry.

Here’s hoping things get better soon…cos this mommy is sooooooo tired.

Two toddlers, one mommy – how do I split myself in half?

It’s been a tough few weeks in our house as both our girls are going through a rather clingy phase where they both just want mommy, and they both just want mommy all the time, at the same time.

I’m sure many other twin moms will understand how this goes – it’s something we’ve had to deal with right from the beginning – having two little babies at the same time and trying to balance our time and attention for both of them. I think this is one of the most challenging aspects of being a parent of multiples, and I’ve especially felt it over the last few weeks with my two toddlers.

It all started when we were on holiday in Australia last month, and I think they were feeling rather insecure being in a strange environment with lots of strange people, and naturally they clung to their mommy. But ever since we’ve been back it seems to have gotten worse and they’ve become more demanding in their quest for my attention. The girls moved from their cots into single beds a couple of weeks ago, and I think this has also been a major contributing factor at the moment.

It’s been very trying for both IP and I, as it’s exhausting for me to be in such demand all the time and it’s difficult for him not to be able to help in any meaningful way because they don’t want him, especially in the middle of the night. They’ll happily spend time with daddy and play with him during the day, but when it comes to bed time and waking in the night, they just want mommy. This has been when all hell breaks loose because they’ve been waking each other up in the night, and then they both want me to lie on their bed with them. So I am constantly going from one bed to the next to try comfort them, and they will both scream if I am sitting on the other’s bed, and if I pick one up and sit with her on the other’s bed then they both get even more upset and scream at each other.

It’s heart-breaking not being able to adequately see to both my children’s needs at the same time when they seem to be feeling so insecure and just really want their mommy.  The situation is exacerbated by my absolute exhaustion and dwindling patience, and there have been a few times when I’ve felt like I was going to lose the plot completely.

It’s emotionally and physically exhausting, and we really are hoping things will settle again soon.

Have any other multiple moms experienced this? Would love to hear some insights!

Book Review: Annabel Karmel’s New Complete Toddler and Meal Planner

20160531_140249When my girls started solids I really needed some inspiration for mealtimes, and it came in the form of this wonderful book: Annabel Karmel’s New Complete Toddler and Meal Planner.

The book covers feeding from first stage weaning for babies through to feeding toddlers, and provides great recipes and meal plans in all the main food groups. It’s easy to use and full of bright colours and illustrations, which make for a pleasant read.

I found some great recipes in here, with some of my girl’s favourites being the chicken and apple balls and the cocktail meatballs with tomato sauce.

I can highly recommend this book for anyone needing inspiration when it comes to feeding their babies or toddlers, and especially for those just starting out with solids.

I’ve been fortunate in that neither of my girls have been particularly fussy eaters and they love their proteins and veggies, but lately they have been a bit more picky about what they eat. I’m hoping it’s just the latest teething episode that has caused this, but I think perhaps it’s time to open Annabel’s book up again to get some ideas. First on the list I’m going to try Mummy’s Favourite Fish Pie.

The five most annoying questions for twin parents

There is one thing that I think I will never get used to as a twin mom, and that is all the attention I get when I take my girls out in public. Pushing a twin pram around immediately garners a lot of interest from strangers, and with that comes a lot of stupid comments and even more stupid questions.

cropped-20150704_0839281.jpgI’m more of an introvert and quite a private person by nature, so having strangers come up to me, commenting about my children and asking me many personal questions is something that I really get tired of, and one of the reasons that I now try to avoid even making eye contact with anyone when out with the kids.

It’s almost like people don’t know what to say, but they feel that they must say something just for the sake of it.

Here are the five most annoying questions I get asked on an almost daily basis:

Are they twins?

Um, well, I am pushing around a double pram with two children the exact same size, who are dressed the same…yes, I think they just might be…

Is it a boy and a girl?

Ok, I’m all for being gender neutral and not labelling kids by the colour or style of their clothing, but when my two girls (who definitely look like girls!) are wearing matching pink dresses and someone asks me if they are a boy and a girl, well….really?

Are they identical?

HJ has very light, almost white, blond, straight hair and blue eyes, while AG has dark, almost red, curly hair and green eyes. Are you blind? Um, no, they are not identical, you silly woman!

Did you know you were having twins?

Um, what century do we live in? Of course I knew there were two babies inside me.

Are there twins in your family?

What does it matter if there are twins in my family? This is just someone’s ridiculous, and not so subtle, way of trying to find out if my twins were “naturally” conceived. And, yes, there are twins in my family now!

When the birth plan doesn’t go according to plan

Just three days before the twins were born.

When a woman finds out she’s pregnant there are so many fantasies that she builds in her head and plans she makes for the arrival of her little one. But it’s an unfortunate reality that many of our birth plans don’t come to light, as our bodies and our babies decide they want to do things a little differently. In my case, my twins were born prematurely at 32 weeks.

I had a very healthy pregnancy. I loved almost every minute of being pregnant, and, besides a minor scare of a blood clot at around ten weeks, I had no other major concerns. I didn’t even have any morning sickness. Pregnancy was this amazing miracle for me, and I was in awe of what was happening inside my body. I loved seeing my belly grow, and I stuck it out proudly. I think there is a certain amount of additional gratitude and wonder that comes when you’ve suffered the heartache of infertility, and finally after a two-year battle you have your miracle babies growing inside you. Nothing is going to stop your good mood, your excitement, your joy at what you are finally experiencing.

It’s funny how we have this perfect idea of how things will happen, but then, well, life happens. Things don’t go according to plan, things don’t happen how you expected them to…

In the days leading up to the birth I was on a mission to get everything ready. I guess you could say I was in the nesting phase – almost like my body knew something I didn’t. I had just finished off working full time and was going to help train my replacement over the next two weeks – she was even going to come to my house so that my big belly and I didn’t have to trek all the way into town. I had at least six more weeks to go before my planned C-section, where the girls would arrive on a calm and peaceful morning, we’d take photos and smile as I held my little miracles on my chest, close to my heart, and both sets of grandparents where going to be waiting excitedly outside the operating theatre.

Well, that never happened. My parents weren’t even in the country. They were in Australia for a holiday. They had planned their dates very carefully, keeping my due date in mind and I had assured my mom that they’d be back in plenty of time to be present when the girls came. It never even crossed my mind that they would potentially come early and my parents wouldn’t be here.

In the early hours of a Tuesday morning my waters broke. I woke up thinking I’d just wet the bed – after all I’d been getting up at least three times a night to pee. I woke IP up and off we went to the hospital. I was in such denial as we drove calmly down the dark, deserted streets. We drove in virtual silence. We think back and laugh now at those moments. We were both totally calm, he wanted to shower before we left, and I said sure, as I wanted to get changed and then we could head to the hospital.

I took my handbag and my iPad along, thinking we’d be home again in a few hours, no hospital bag. It was funny, I had everything prepared for the arrival of the babies – fortunately! And my hospital bag was the only thing I still had to pack – I still wanted to go buy some new pyjamas and slippers, but alas, that never happened.

It was an absolute miracle that IP was even in town that week. He was originally supposed to be on a business trip in Lebanon the first week in September, but just a few weeks before it had been pushed to the following week.

Everything happened rather quickly after we arrived at the hospital. Initial tests showed that the babies were just fine and not in any distress so I was going to stay at the hospital for observation, and until they were born. I was shocked. “What?” I asked the nurse. “I’m staying here till they’re born? How long could that be?” Could be a few hours or a few days, I was informed. I had the injections to help strengthen their lungs. Not long after that I started having contractions and serious labour pains, the girls wanted to come, and they wanted to come now!

After about three hours HJ was engaged and ready to come naturally, but it would have been too risky for AG, as she was breach and there was no guarantee she would turn, and I would likely have had to have a C-section for her anyway. But, there was no anaesthetist to be found for the theatre, so preparations were being made for me to have a vaginal delivery. A second gynae arrived and large open incubators were being wheeled into the room. It was all getting real now. I don’t think I’ve ever been so calm and quiet in my life as I was in that moment lying on the hospital bed. I don’t think I said a word, as activity whirled around me. The worry on my doctor’s face was evident. I had absolutely no control over what was about to happen, all I could do was leave it in God’s hands.

At what felt like the last second an anaesthetist ran into the room and we were rushed into theatre. It felt like we were in a movie, with nurses and doctors and IP all running alongside my bed towards the theatre. Within minutes I was set up and the doctors where working on me, getting the babies out. At 10:55 HJ was born weighing 1,65kg. AG came a minute later weighing 1,52kg. HG let out a wail when she came out and all was well, but when AG came out there was silence. We waited, scared, and then it came, like a little kitten, her tiny screech to let us know that she was here!

After the paed examined them, the babies where both taken to the nicu. I saw them for the briefest seconds when the doctor held them up for me to see, and was not to see them again till a full 24 hours later. There was no touching or holding my girls after they were born, there was no skin-to-skin with mommy, there was no trying to latch straight away. There were no happy photos of mom and dad smiling while holding their miracles in the operating theatre, there was no baby to hold while in recovery.

When the birth of her child doesn’t happen as a woman expected it to, there is a certain loss that she may feel, and a grieving process to endure. Many have said that I should just be glad that they arrived safely and are happy and healthy now – and believe me, I am, absolutely! But, nevertheless, these precious missed moments that any mom might take for granted, and that I never got to experience, are things that I still grieve for today.

(I’ll be sharing more of our birth story and nicu journey in the coming weeks, so watch this space!)