Before my twins were born I had an idealistic vision of what leaving them with a babysitter for the first time would be like. I imagined planning a fun, romantic date night for my husband and I. We would get to do all the things we used to do before we had kids, like spend thirty minutes just trying to decide where to eat. A set of grandparents (or maybe both sets) would dote on them for as long as we wanted. No need to check our phones obsessively or stress about getting home on time. I was not going to be one of those parents. I would never obsess over how my babies are doing every five minutes or question why the sitter didn’t text back right away. Our first date night away from our twins was going to be epic.
Reality hit when my husband and I needed a babysitter just days after our twins were born, but not for a chance to get away. Our son was not allowed to go with us to visit his twin sister in the NICU. The day we brought our son home, we promised we would visit his sister every day until she came home, too. This was easier said than done. Arranging for a sitter for one night is doable. Making sure someone is there every day, for who knows how many days, is a serious challenge
Both sets of grandparents and one of our close friends volunteered to help. My mother in law was on duty the first night. I always thought I would have more time to prepare before leaving our babies with someone. I thought I would have time to write out a detailed itinerary with graphs and charts. My plan was to hunt down some checklists and charts from Pinterest that all babysitters must have. At least we were fortunate enough to leave our son with family that first time. We were so focused on getting to the NICU we forgot to prepare anything in advance. If we got there on time, one of the nurses would help us feed our daughter with her special bottle. We couldn’t wait to finally get to help care for her, hold her, sing songs or read to her. Anything to help get her home sooner. The Pinterest checklists were the furthest thing from my mind
Halfway through my turn rocking our sweet girl, I panicked. It’s funny how a moment of stillness can jog your memory. You suddenly realize all the things you forgot to do. Did I leave diapers? Did I remember to change our son before we left? Of course, I didn’t. I also forgot to let my mother in law know about the bottles in the refrigerator. She needed to know about them. I was alternating bottles of pumped milk with formula. She could mess up the whole flow if she didn’t know about those bottles. She also needed to know about burping our son during and after feeding. If you waited to burp him it would inevitably result in an eruption of spit up all over your shirt. Maybe my husband remembered to tell her. I looked over at him. He looked like he was trying to keep his eyes open. I asked him if he told his mom about the bottles. Nope. His blank stare back at me meant he was too sleep deprived to remember.
I decided to send my mother in law a text, just in case. She had raised four children of her own and could probably figure it out.
I sent the text anticipating an, “Everything is fine!” response right away. I waited. My husband had his turn rocking and feeding our daughter. More waiting. Maybe the hospital’s WIFI signal was nonexistent in the NICU. Except, I knew this wasn’t the case. What if something happened? What if she couldn’t text back because she was trying to avert a crisis or something happened to her? My imagination led me down a path of wild scenarios, which made focusing on our daughter a struggle. What if there had been a fire? What if she tried to take our son somewhere and he wasn’t properly strapped into a car seat? I mean, things were different back in the 80s when she raised her kids. If only there was a way to be two places at once.
I honestly have no idea what my mother in law’s response was, but waiting for it was torture. I’m pretty sure it was something like, “He’s asleep. He ate. He needed a diaper change. He’s fine.” Why? Because now I know this is what newborns do. They eat, sleep, pee, and poop. Most responsible adults can handle a newborn (or two) for at least a few hours. They will be OK if you don’t leave detailed lists or instructions (unless they have specific needs). A set of diapers, wipes, bottles, and the baby are usually enough. Maybe a pacifier or two, if they like them. If only I had come to this realization sooner. After we gave goodbye hugs and kisses to our daughter, I checked my phone again just to make sure everything was still fine. No missed calls or texts. I decided to just assume my mother in law was so busy doting over our son she didn’t have time to call or text. He was probably doing so many adorable things she forgot to let us know about them. As we walked in the front door the house was completely quiet. This could mean everything was fine or it was definitely not. I spotted my mother in law reading on the couch with our son in his bouncy seat nearby, sleeping peacefully. Everything was fine. We survived our first time away from him. We had peace of mind knowing we could visit our daughter while our son was well taken care of by trusted family and friends. We could not have survived those first few difficult months without them!
Melissa Titus taught Kindergarten and 2nd grade in the public school system for ten years. She is taking a break from the education field to begin her new adventure as a SAHM to her boy/girl twins born in July 2016. When she’s not spending time with her husband or taking care of her twins, she loves to write, bake using her great grandmother’s recipes, support others still in the midst of infertility, and explore the great outdoors while attempting to photograph it. You can follow her on Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest.