Your family just got home from the hospital with more than one new baby. Where do you start? Your babies likely had a stay in the Intensive Care Unit. How will you care for them at home the same as the professionals did at the hospital? There are things in the house that still have to be done. When will you get those things done that are required just to function? You have a singleton at home. What will their reaction be to a new sibling…and more than one at a time?
You're new first-time parents. How will life change with your family doubling? As parents of multiples, we’ve all asked ourselves at least one of these questions. These questions and thoughts that evoke one of the first of many overwhelming feelings as new (first time or not) parents of twins may be accompanied by panic. They may send a sense of urgency and doubt into your mind. But those feelings don’t have to stay. Your panic, urgency, and doubt have an outlet. An outlet through the help of others.
Oh yeah! Didn’t so-and-so say to let her know if we needed anything? That’s right – the family from church said they’d pick us up anything we needed any time of the day…or the night because they’ve been in our shoes. And didn’t Mrs. Downthestreet offer to bring us a meal when we got home? If there's been any kind of announcement or public knowledge whatsoever that you were expecting twins or more, there’s surely been someone to offer to help. Take it. And say, “Yes, please.”
Although multiples pregnancies are becoming more common, you may be the first family that someone knows personally who has multiples, so since they can't relate, they may feel an extra need to help or they may even feel sorry for you. No matter their emotional rationalization for offering to help, take it. And remember to say, “Yes, please.”
We’ve all heard the cold and empty offers someone says because they feel like they have to out of obligation. You know, they hear you’re expecting twins, you tell them your due date, and then they respond with something generic like, “Oh wow. Let me know how I can help.” Their offer doesn’t even sound sincere. They likely won’t even remember they offered. But, hey, you need toilet paper during your first week home with the babies and you don’t exactly have time to run out with two crying newborns and a living room full of unpacked hospital stuff and a kitchen full of empty take-out bags. So, remember their not-so-sincere offer, and ask them to run out and buy you toilet paper. Who can turn down a sleep-deprived twin mom in need of toilet paper? After all, they offered. Take it. And say, “Yes, please.”
If you’re on the shy side, and don’t feel comfortable taking people up on their offers to help (even the sincere ones), enlist a friend. This friend is best to be an organized one and one who will kindly and with initiative follow up with those who have offered to help. As a bonus if you can ahead of time, for one less thing to keep track of in the heated moments when you need the help is to, before the birth, keep a running list of those who offer to help. Literally, make a list of who offers to help and what you think their strengths are; or even better, ask them specifically how they’d like to help. Then, when you or your friend are ready to line up help, you’ll have a list to go to and you won’t have to rack your already exhausted brain when you need it most.
This is sure to be helpful to have meals walking in the door with no effort for them on your part, a clean house in your sleep (literally), last minute baby supplies arriving seemingly from thin air, and babysitters awaiting your request. Doesn’t all that sound wonderful? It may all be possible with two words. You know what they are? “Yes, please.”
Although people are willing and excited to help your newly expanded family with nothing in return, they deserve respect and appreciation, no matter how much sleep you haven’t gotten. Their enthusiasm to help (and to come back to help) will quickly fade if you’re a bossy, demanding, unappreciative Momzilla. They’re taking their time to help you, so you can make an effort in your haze of the first few days, weeks, or even months, to tell and show your appreciation for them.
Simply being pleasant and having their task to help with somewhat prepared is a start. For example, if they’re coming to your home to help by cleaning, be prepared to take time to show them where you store the cleaning items they’ll need to use and even what you’d like cleaned, if you choose. A detailed cleaning list isn't necessary, but simply having a goal to share with them is sufficient; so they know what you expect. Or if a group of friends plan several days of meals for your family and ask what you prefer or can't eat, be sweetly honest and specific so they know what to purchase and prepare. After all, you want to be able to eat it and enjoy it because that’s less meals you have to plan and prepare. Your attitude and gratitude will be appreciated. Maybe they’ll even recruit others to help!
As a soon-to-be or new parent of multiples, you can likely quickly think of several things you'd happily say, “Yes, please” to having help with. There are several, and each is dependent on your needs, your requests, and what’s important to you and your family. The go-to way to help is typically meals. This is usually a no-fail option. Whether it’s for parents of a singleton newborn baby or quads, meals are a blessing. We all have to eat, and pizza delivery gets repetitive, expensive, and fattening, so a home cooked meal brought to your kitchen is a welcomed sight and smell.
Freezer meals have been around since our grandma’s grandma, but seem to recently be all the rage in meal planning and giving. They’re almost fail proof and as long as the recipient has a working freezer, you can’t go wrong. And of course what makes freezer meals a unique treat is that if you wait long enough to forget you have them, then are in a pinch for a meal and happen to look in your freezer for the frozen pizza you think you may still have, then you spot the homemade baked spaghetti freezer meal from three months ago, you use what energy you have to jump for joy-a real meal! And all you have to do is put it in the oven! An option to home cooked meals for those who may not have time or skills to cook but want to provide food, is gift cards to restaurants. These are just as valuable as a casserole. They can be used on your own time, when you choose. Dads, other family or friends, or pretty much anyone with a car and self control not to eat your takeout on the way home, are usually the perfect people to pick up the meal with the gift card. They’ll likely look forward to this task as an outlet to briefly escape into the real world.
Besides the tradition of gift giving meals, here are additional ways others may help and can allow you to say, “Yes, please.” Meal preparation, this may take place in your home using things you already have and can be as simple as someone coming over to make you and your family grilled cheese and a can of soup…just so you don’t have to. Or with more thought and time, it can be as extensive as a group of people spending hours at your home preparing a quantity of freezer meals that may last you weeks.
- House cleaning is a wonderful help too. This could be an ongoing help if enough people (or one really enthusiastic cleaner) are willing to spend time consistently coming over.
- Babysitting may be the most obvious way to help. This could be watching the new babies so you can get done what you choose for a few hours, or keeping the older sibling(s) for a period of time to give them and you a break.
- Help feeding may be a way others can allow you to take a load off. This depends on how you’re feeding your new multiples of course. But if possible, scheduling a time for others to come over to bottle feed and cuddle the new bundles may give you an opportunity for a free feeding session to feed yourself, get something done, or even accomplish such a simple necessity as taking a shower.
- Laundry, that’s a way for someone to help who may not be so into babies. For someone who is willing to help, but would rather not handle the new little ones. That is an easy task to send them to the laundry area and have at it. While the loads are doing their things, you’ll have an opportunity to spend time with them.
- Dog walkers may be helpful too; professional or personal. They both get the job done. With four new tiny legs in the home, it’s easy to spend less time and give less love to your four furry legs who were there before the new ones. So, recruiting help to give exercise to your existing fur baby is important. Other dog parents in the neighborhood will likely be happy to do this – they already walk their dog anyway.
- Sleep sitters. Enough said. Ahh, what a glorious idea. Recruit someone (or a rotation of people if you can) to come sit in your home and attend to your new babies while you sleep. It’s as simple as that. Now is your opportunity when the babies are small to take good advantage of those who feel sorry for you…I mean, who are willing to help. You have newborn multiples. Even if it’s a 30 minute window of sleep, not many people will turn down helping you get sleep during this time.
Liza Mead is a stay-at-home-mama to fraternal twin boys and has a background in interior design and marketing, both of which she works in second to her favorite titles as Wife and Mommy. In Raleigh, North Carolina, when her twins are content or sleeping, she spends time organizing, being involved in church events, and event planning. She’s thankful for the blessing of each day’s new memories created. For articles by Liza on Twiniversity, click here.