Last updated on September 28th, 2021 at 01:41 pm
I can still vividly remember the “Expecting Twins” class that my husband and I attended at the hospital. Above all else, the main point that was stressed was that we would need HELP. So much help. “Line up your help now before the babies arrive! Family, friends, nannies – recruit them all for that first year!” We both began to feel a sense of unease. Neither of us had family nearby. We had recently moved from one coast to the other, and most of our close friends, particularly those with kids, were far away as well. A nanny was not a possibility, and the plan was that I would be staying home with the kids when they were babies. I realized I would be raising twins without a village.
The girls came via c-section, and the recovery was difficult (I still get mad seeing how c-sections are portrayed in the media as the “easy way out”.) My husband took two weeks off of work, and somehow we muddled through it in a daze. Thankfully, my mother was able to come stay with us for a few weeks after my husband went back to work. Although limited by health issues, her moral support got me through tough times. I don’t think I could have survived those early weeks otherwise. The levels of sleep deprivation, stress, and pain (hello, multiple bouts of mastitis!) were such that I’ve pretty much blocked out a lot of the newborn period.
And then, two months in, I was suddenly by myself all day with the girls. It was such a strange feeling, to be never really alone, but feeling so lonely and cut off from the outside world. I felt confined to the apartment with the babies. I didn’t take them out on my own until they were 5 months old. Mostly it was the logistics of getting them out of my apartment building, coupled with anxiety about things going wrong, that kept us indoors at first. Getting out of the house was key to getting some sense of normalcy back. Once I realized that I could do it by myself, it made me feel less trapped and more confident in my parenting abilities.
I tried to set realistic goals for each week. When the girls were infants, park visits on a blanket were the most fun. Maybe we only got to the park one day out of the week; it was still an accomplishment. Kids have milestones, and sometimes I think twin parents do too. Grocery shopping with the twins in tow? That was a milestone. I was eventually able to get a little help a few hours a week from a mother’s helper that I hired, which was great. I rarely used the time for myself — it was mostly to have an extra pair of hands on outings — but sometimes just having another adult to talk to during the day was worth it in itself.
Without a village, you do the best you can on your own and find a support system. I had joined a Mothers of Multiples (MoMs) group when I was pregnant but had not really participated much in the first year. I wanted to meet people in the same situation, who were also craving adult conversation and normal things like that, but it’s hard to make friends with someone just based on the fact that you both have multiples. However, I finally did meet some MoMs that I can honestly say I’d be friends with even if we didn’t have crazy replication powers. There is nothing that can compare to having people in your life that truly get your situation and support you. Besides hanging at playdates, we listen to each other vent on really bad days, make plans without kiddos, and understand when those plans fall apart at the last minute.
Not having that village also means that the kids may not have as many chances to socialize either. I wanted to make sure that the girls had the opportunity to interact with other children and adults, since they were not in any type of daycare either. One of my daughters had pretty strong separation anxiety and it took a long time before we could even leave her with a babysitter. Besides playdates, library storytimes really helped us out and it brought both girls out of their shells a little.
Even though we don’t have family nearby, the girls know who their family are and love them. My mom has been able to visit at Christmas and birthdays, and one of my brothers has visited from overseas as well. The girls chat to my mother-in-law in the UK on FaceTime. It’s really important to me that the girls associate photos and special gifts with their relatives. One of my daughters likes to name the people that she loves everyday, and the list has grown from just family members to include speech therapists, a babysitter, and her other twin friends. The village is growing.
As I write this, preschool is just around the corner. When I think back to all the days of stressing over feedings and counting ounces of milk, and the sleepless nights of dual teething pain, it seems like a lifetime ago. Yes, it would be nice and a lot easier to have family close to us, but we’ve managed to make it this far and made a lot of nice friends on the way. Here are five tips I feel can help when you’re on your own:
- Get out of the house with the twins, even just for short trips. I wish I had done it sooner.
- If you can get any help like an occasional sitter go for it, but remember that you can do it alone as well.
- Join a Mothers of Multiples club. Even if you don’t make it to events, the online community will be a huge help and you can meet others with kids close in age.
- Don’t be shy – it’s good for you and your kids to socialize! Playdates, solo playground visits, and storytime are all great reasons to get out of the house.
- Remember that it gets easier. The girls are now 3, and I’m dealing with potty training and tantrums, yet none of it is as hard as the first 6 months were.
Lakshmi Hutchinson lives in Glendale, CA with her husband, 2.5-year-old fraternal twin girls, and tuxedo cat. In her spare time, she likes to go to concerts and her dream is to have time to read books again.