Read how a newly married woman and mother of twins struggles to balance her marriage with newborn twins and provides advice to new parents.
My husband and I were rock-solid. We had one of those relationships that required those around us to take Dramamine. We were nauseatingly in love and impulsive.
We met working in a bar in NYC and flirted over rolling up silverware and taking drink orders from whiny hipsters. We spent evenings leaning up against bar walls playing trivia games while keeping tabs on our tables of first dates, one-night-stands, and 21st birthday parties. We made out in the bar’s bathroom and covertly exited one at a time so we wouldn’t get split up for our shifts if discovered (we were discovered, and we were split up).
It was around that time that we threw caution to the wind and decided to quit our jobs and move to Hong Kong for a year to teach English and travel. This all happened in a span of about eight months.
Hong Kong was an adventure. We lived together and adopted a kitten, we spent New Year's Eve on a Balinese beach, met up with my future brother and sister-in-law and ventured to Vietnam for a week. We fought, we made up, we fantasized about our future, we lived a lifetime.
We really took a chance traveling halfway around the world, a 16-hour flight from home, with only each other to rely on once we got there. We were lucky because it worked out and strengthened our bond, and only cemented my desire to spend my life with the man that made me laugh every day, matched my weirdness (very important on the compatibility scale), and made a damn good omelet.
We weren’t home for 2 months before he proposed on our rooftop overlooking the NYC skyline. That was August 2012. We took our time (for once) planning the wedding and settled on May 2014 for a wedding date.
I found out I was pregnant in October 2013 and we quickly rescheduled our wedding for New Year's Eve 2013. Our first sonogram was a few days after the positive pregnancy test, and seeing that barely visible little blob on the screen filled us with excitement.
It wasn’t until our third sonogram with a new doctor that we found out we were having twins. People ALWAYS ask what our reaction was.
I think that’s kind of a silly question. First of all, people who aren’t parents don’t really know how to feel when they find out they’re having twins because they don’t know what it’s like to bring a baby home, let alone two.
Secondly, I had never been pregnant, so I didn't know the nuances of twin pregnancies as compared with singletons (perinatologists, am I right?) I think my jaw hung open, my heart skipped a beat, and I half-jokingly asked the tech if she was sure. My fiancé stood speechless in the corner. After the news traveled from our ears to our brains, we gradually got more excited and broke the news to our families, who were thrilled.
We got married at a beautiful ceremony and an awesomely exhausting reception while I was 3 months pregnant. Our relationship was stronger than ever, with my supportive hubs running out to fulfill my mango and ramen cravings, buying me a cooling gel pillow (I had a core temp of about 150 degrees while pregnant). He took me to every doctor's appointment, holding my hand through medical procedures, blood tests, putting up with the hurricane that was my emotional stability, and telling me I was beautiful. At 5’1” and 50 pounds over your normal weight, with months to go, that’s important.
The twins arrived on a Saturday morning and we spent five days in the hospital. It was easily the worst five days of our relationship.
I know you’re not supposed to say that when talking about the birth of your kids, but those first five days were the most trying our relationship had ever been up against. We’d reached a level of exhaustion we didn’t know existed, I was recovering from c-section surgery (which was the most pain I’ve ever experienced), we had two babies that we felt we had absolutely no idea how to keep alive, and we were expected…to just bring them home?
They let you take a nurse home with you, right? No?! Whose brilliant idea was this anyway?
We were discharged from the hospital with two preemies and a prescription of Zoloft for mama after a brief meltdown and psych consult.
Suddenly, “our relationship” was irrelevant. That’s what happens when you bring two babies home. You are consumed by them. You’re enveloped by the fear that you’re doing it wrong, coupled with not having the wherewithal to see the logic that all new parents are just that: new.
We were so busy paying attention to our boys that we paid no attention to ourselves, and it very heavily started to weigh on our marriage. In the beginning, we were very kind to each other. If one was clearly having a nervous breakdown, the other would tell them to sleep for a few hours. We had our time split into shifts of 6 hours on, 6 hours off.
After months of sleep deprivation and cabin fever, this system devolved into storming into the room where the “off” person was snoring, jarring them awake (often rudely), then crashing.
We fought about everything, and it often involved a sort of competition – “I cleaned the bottles, so you have to change them” or “You always get to go out for the coffee, I’m going.” Everything became an argument.
It didn’t help that we never really saw each other, except at shift changes. We never spent time together, and I don’t mean just physically sitting in the same room. We were not a “we” anymore. We were the parents now, and that was our total existence. But of course it was, because no one tells you to make time for each other. No one warns you that you are going to be thrown into the deepest end ever, with no equipment or training. Everyone learns this the hard way, and that’s sort of comforting.
I don’t think we’re unique to this situation. In fact, I did a lot of reading and reaching out to my mom groups, and found that we are 100% not unique. Before the twins came, I read some crazy statistic about the high rate of divorce for parents of multiples.
My own parents divorced when I was 17 and it shook me to my core. It was truly scarring, and though I know in my bones that it was ultimately the best decision for everyone, I still wish that my family hadn’t gone through it.
This statistic scared the daylights out of me. And after every fight, every nasty thing we said to each other in exhaustion-fueled midnight stupors made me think about it. I understood it. I could see it happening to us. Our once saccharine love story had turned sour.
You can read and research as much as you want, but your situation will not change until you change it. You have to think of new parenthood like televised boxing. You have to expect that because of the circumstances, you’re going to do things that will hurt each other.
But you have to set ground rules. You can’t fight dirty, and at the end of the match (or day), you hug it out because you showed up and did what you needed to do. The kids are fine and you may be shaken, or your ego may be bruised, but you’re navigating how to do it better next time; learning how to be more efficient so you don’t have to dodge so many “punches” – figuratively, of course.
This comparison also works because as a new parent, you feel like people are watching. And they are! With Facebook, Instagram, or even on the street. Go out once with twins and see how many strangers talk to you. As my husband and I would say, in our best Brooklyn accents, we were the “tawk o’ the mawl” as we dragged our tired butts through the mall with that giant double stroller and were met with sometimes funny, sometimes nice, and sometimes weird comments.
We are still learning how to treat each other nicely when issues come up. It’s so hard because this responsibility is constant. You can’t clock out, you can’t take a “mental health day”. We have two and the two of us feel outnumbered. We need each other. We just have to take it one step at a time. Savor the small victories together (“We got them to sleep! It only took 2 hours! Where’s the wine?!”), recognize when the other person is feeling beaten and weathered, and tell them that they’re really doing a great job.
Physical contact is so important. Sit next to each other on the couch and lean on each other. Physically support one another. A lot of times, parents just have each other at the end of the day. Recognize that.
Bringing negativity into the house forces that one other person in the room to bear it. You need to put yourselves first because miserable parents aren’t good for anyone’s well-being. So go through the motions and take care of business, but remember that you’re in it together.
When all’s said and done, if you can laugh at the day’s hardest challenge together, you’ve won. Take care of each other. Put yourselves first. The kids are going to be just fine. Besides, your brain is going to block out all this tough crap you’re going through just in time for you to get pregnant again anyway, and at that point, you’ll be an old pro! (Big picture, guys.)
Sara Colcamiro is mom to 5-year-old twin boys and lives and works in New York with her husband. When they’re not working, they spend time taking their boys to the park, the zoo, the library, basically anywhere out of the house, or posting photos of their trips to the park, the zoo, the library, or wherever their zany adventures take them.