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Postpartum Woes: Times Two

One mama recounts her tumultuous journey to bond with her twins during pregnancy and beyond.

Postpartum Woes: Times Two

It was just like many other mornings--I had missed my period, and peed on that little stick we all have had under our bathroom sink (just in case). But this time it was different. A plus sign. For a glimpse of time I felt it: pure happiness. We hadn’t been “trying” but we had mutually agreed; we are married, we are happy–why not? But that moment of pure excitement was fleeting. During my first ultrasound, we saw our little poppy seed sized baby...actually, two of them.

We left with our heads spinning, and I cried. How would I ever love two babies at the same time? It seemed impossible.

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Not in that ultrasound, nor any other, did I ever have that movie moment where I was so excited to see what I was creating inside of me. But I kept it to myself and played the excited new-mom-to-be role.

Carrying twins was not easy for me. I was miserably uncomfortable, and all I could think was: I can’t do this, I hate this. I succeeded in what I considered “my job,” and carried our two babies to full term. Lying on the operating table, as my children were being born, I secretly thought to myself: thank god I don’t have to carry this around with me anymore.

Then I held them and I thought to myself: am I supposed to feel different than this? The only stories I had heard were the ones about immediate love and bonding. Instead, I felt the weight of pure responsibility...times two. All of a sudden, I was expected to nurture and breastfeed TWO babies?

What is wrong with me, I kept thinking to myself. After all, I am usually a loving and emotional being. I love everything, and I “bond” with complete strangers.

The first months blurred by as we pushed through new parenthood. Home alone with two newborns, I dreaded 6 a.m. when my husband left for work. I felt trapped, scheduled, exhausted. I didn’t feel love or an emotional connection. I talked with my other new mom friends and just listened as they swooned about how in love they were with their babies.

In a desperate, 3 a.m. and I haven’t slept in days moment, I googled, “Twins Not Bonding.” I read an article asserting that twin moms don’t bond like other moms do, and it made perfect sense to me.

With twins, I didn’t get to live the mom life I fantasized about. I didn’t have a chance to hold my baby all day and night, and be completely available to meet all of his or her demands, which is what I secretly imagined “singleton” moms did, even though I know they don’t.

As the months passed, things started getting better. However, it was more about gaining knowledge and feeling more comfortable in my role. My husband and I knew how to respond to our babies better than anyone else, but I still didn’t feel a true connection. I still had glimpses of worry.

I returned to work, and what felt most distressing was not dropping my babies off to be cared for by someone else. My major concern was that their teacher would get them off the schedule I had worked so hard on. I was not worried that they would love her more, or that she would get to spend more time with them. I was concerned that they wouldn’t eat for her, they would get diaper rash, or they would completely lose their napping schedule and stop sleeping at night. God, don’t let them stop sleeping through the night, I prayed every day when I picked them up at daycare.

And then it happened. The thing I most feared would never happen, the thing I convinced myself was ok because “twin moms do it different.” We bonded, all of us.

I can say confidently, now that they are five months old, that I love my babies fiercely and they love me. But looking back, I can also say confidently that connecting with them had nothing to do with being a mom of twins. I just didn’t bond immediately. It was much easier for me to cope with this paramount change through practical tasks and not emotional connectedness. It doesn’t mean I don’t love my babies as much as the next mom, and it is completely ok.

If I felt this way others must too--twins or not. And no one should have to sit up in the middle of the night, googling “how to bond with your baby,” and feel like a lesser mother because of it. Maybe I can never measure up to your perfect “When I felt the first kick...”, “Natural birth was magical,” “As soon as I held them, my heart exploded” story. But I don’t need to. For some of us, bonding happens immediately, and for others, it’s at five months, or a year or beyond.

What I know for sure is I will never be the all-positive or all-negative storytelling mother. Friend, family, co-worker, or stranger, you will know the full story. I hated being pregnant, I sometimes seriously disliked my newborns (and I sometimes dislike my infants as well), and I still daydream about my days of no responsibility. But I also think my babies are the greatest, and I love everything about them. Being a mother is the best present and responsibility I have ever been awarded.

This journey is different for all of us. At a time when we are pumped full of hormones and about to change everything in our lives that we have ever known, we need to lift each other up. We are a team: Team Mom.

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This is how we’re defining success this school year

Hint: It's not related to grades.

In the ever-moving lives of parents and children, opportunities to slow down and reflect on priorities can be hard to come by. But a new school year scheduled to begin in the midst of a global pandemic offers the chance to reflect on how we should all think about measures of success. For both parents and kids, that may mean putting a fresh emphasis on optimism, creativity and curiosity.

Throughout recent decades, "school success" became entangled with "academic achievement," with cases of anxiety among school children dramatically increasing in the past few generations. Then, almost overnight, the American school system was turned on its head in the spring of 2020. As we look ahead to a new school year that will look like no year past, more is being asked of teachers, students and parents, such as acclimating to distance learning, collaborating with peers from afar and aiming to maintain consistency with schooling amidst general instability due to COVID.

Despite the inherent challenges, there is also an overdue opportunity to redefine success during the school year by finding fresh ways to keep students and their parents involved in the learning process.

"I always encourage my son to try at least one difficult thing every school year," says Arushi Garg, parenting blogger and mom of a 4-year-old. "This challenges him but also allows me to remind him to be optimistic! Lots of things in life are hard, and it's important we learn to be positive during difficult times. Fostering a sense of optimism allows kids to push beyond what they thought possible, like biking without training wheels or reading above their grade level."

Here are a few mantras to keep in mind this school year:

Quality learning matters more than quantifying learning

After focusing on standardized measures of academic success for so long, the learning environment this next school year may involve more independent, remote learning. Some parents are considering this an exciting opportunity for their children to assume a bigger role in what they are learning—and parents are also getting on board by supporting their children's education with engaging, positive learning materials like Highlights Magazine.

As a working mom, Garg also appreciates that Highlights Magazine can help engage her son while she's also working. She says, "He sits next to me and solves puzzles in the magazine or practices his writing from the workbook."

Keep an open mind as "school" looks different

Whether children are of preschool age or in the midst of high school, "going to school" is bound to look different this year. Naturally, this may require some adjustment as kids become accustomed to new guidelines. Although many parents may wish to shelter our kids from challenges, others believe optimism can be fostered through adversity when everyone is committed to adapting to new experiences.

"Honestly, I am yet to figure out when I will be comfortable sending [my son] back [to school]," says Garg. In the meantime, she's helping her son remain connected with friends who also read Highlights Magazine by encouraging the kids to talk about what they are learning on video calls.

Follow children's cues about what interests them

For Garg, her biggest hope for this school year is that her son will create "success" for himself by embracing new learning possibilities with positivity.

"Encouraging my son to try new things has given him a chance to prove that he can do anything," she says. "He takes his previous success as an example now and feels he can fail multiple times before he succeeds."

There's no denying that this school year will be far from the norm. But, perhaps, we can create a new, better way of defining our children's success in school because of it.

This article was sponsored by Highlights. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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