I was 40 years old when I got pregnant with my twins. Because of my age, I would have been happy to have one baby. Having two was icing on the cake. I was really excited to be a mom. I would daydream about all the fun I was going to have with my babies -- what we would do, where we would go. Only joyful thoughts. It never occurred to me to be nervous or that having twins was going to be incredibly hard. I just assumed that I was going to be able to do it. The plan was for my husband to go to work while I stayed home (alone) with the babies and took care of them. Naive? Crazy? Maybe. I like to think I was blissfully unaware.
When I came home from the hospital with my babies (my little guy came home the same day as me, my little girl spent a few days in the NICU and then came home) I was so happy to take care of them. I was happy to feed them, bathe them, hold them and so on. I was running on pure adrenaline.
Within a few days, the adrenaline wore off. I was tired. I was doing all of the feedings (both day and night) and taking care of them for the most part by myself. I thought I could do it all and actually believed that it was my job to do so. I was wrong.
It quickly became clear that I needed some help with taking care of the babies. My parents offered -- they could feed them, stay with them when I ran an errand or even watch them for me so I could take a nap. Instead of saying “yes," I fought it. My answer was always, “No, I’m fine.” But obviously, I was not. Why could I not accept the help? Why was I struggling with saying, “yes?" I have a few theories.
I grew up in a family where everyone took care of their own kids. That was your responsibility. No one had nannies or babysitters. Grandparents were there to help out on occasion, but they certainly weren't there on a regular basis. Right or wrong, this was what it was. Even though I was the only one in my family to ever have twins (a lot different than having one baby at a time), I felt that accepting help somehow made me weak or less skilled in parenting. I thought I was going to “rock” motherhood, and in my mind, accepting help meant that I was failing. Everyone else made it through, so I could, too.
On the rare occasion when I did accept help, I would feel so stressed out about having someone else take care of my kids. I felt like I was “dumping” my kids onto them. In hindsight, I realize that this was crazy thinking on my part, but that was how I felt. I remember thinking, “taking care of the babies is so hard, how can I put anyone else through this?”
The longer my not saying “yes” went on, the more miserable I became. I finally realized that I couldn't keep up at the pace at which I was going. I was tired, unhappy and not enjoying being a mom. Time to make a change, though it was not going to be easy.
I first had to realize that accepting help was ok and that it didn't make me any less of a parent. I wasn't failing as a mom, I had infant twins. How could I not have needed help?
I started pushing myself to say “yes:” “yes” to other people feeding the babies; “yes” to someone watching them when I showered, “yes” to babysitting them when I needed to run an errand. The more I said “yes,” the better I started to feel and the more I enjoyed being with my twin babies. I no longer saw accepting help as a weakness. It was now something that was only positive and very much needed.
I currently teach expecting twins classes and make certain to let the families know that accepting help when it is offered can be a game changer, especially during those first few months. Even if you don't know how someone can help you, just say “yes,” you will figure it out. I wasted too much time trying to show everyone that I could do everything by myself. Accepting help from the start would have made my journey into motherhood much different -- probably making it a bit easier and a bit happier. It took me some time, but I did finally get there. Lesson learned.
Photography by Heather Mohr Photography.