Here’s the cruel thing about pregnancy: for however difficult these nine months can be, the next few months after giving birth are worse. Tired from peeing five times at night and having no stamina to do anything productive? You’ll be even more tired with nighttime wakings and even less energy. No time to cook a decent family dinner? Expect to rely on donated, frozen or take-out food once the baby is here. And if you’re worn down from meeting the needs of an older child—one who has only known full attention and nothing else—trying adding another kid (or two!) to the mix, and you can get a glimpse of the thoughts running through my head. Namely: Can I really take care of a three-year-old and two newborns, all the while healing myself on nothing but sleep-deprivation?
You see, despite this blog’s moniker, sleep has been pretty easy for us as of late. Every night, our three year old goes down to bed and usually sleeps 12 hours straight, with the occasional night where we have to tend to his needs. (The silliest one to date? He got out of bed because he needed help rolling up his monkey’s sleeves.) Every night, I relish the fact that my husband and I can read, cook, watch a movie and not have to take care of a kid, knowing full well that this freedom will be gone the second those babies are born.
In addition to sleeping less, I’m anxious about how my three year old will adjust to sharing his parents’ attention. Like most first borns, he only knows a life where he is the center of attention. And while I make sure he gets plenty of independent play, at the end of the day, he is still our only concern. With the babies’ arrival, not only will he have to share our attention, he’ll also most likely have much less of it compared to his brothers.
I’m especially in a bind because, admittedly, my son is more attached to me than anyone else. Chalk it up to the fact that he spends the most time with me, the fact remains that the boy has a difficult time letting me go in lieu of spending time with other people. I imagine it’ll be difficult for him to understand when other people say “Mama has to take a nap; why don’t we play in the living room?”
And all of that is just one side of the equation: I still have the newborns to contend with. For instance, as much as I’m trying to drill the idea of twins in my head, I still think of the babies as one unit. After all, I’m only dealing with one pregnancy, and their needs in utero remain the same.
But once they’re born, they will have separate needs, whether it’s that one baby has jaundice while the other isn’t gaining weight, or that one baby can’t latch on while the other doesn’t sleep well. Never mind that they probably won’t wake up, burp, feed, sleep, poop or do everything synchronized right down to the second. Rather than one baby, I have two, and that scares the world out of me.
I understand this birth order has been done many times over, by all sorts of moms in perhaps even worse scenarios than myself. Yet I still try to imagine life with a preschooler and two newborns and am left with wondering, How?
- Is it just a matter of resorting our bodies to the bare bones with minimum sleep, improper hygiene and poor nutrition, aka survival mode?
- Do older kids just have to toughen it out and experience being ignored?
- And I’ve read and heard many times that twins will never know the same kind of attention that a singleton baby would have, simply because there is absolutely not enough time. What of their individual needs?
Before the babies are born, my husband and I are doing our best to help our preschooler transition to perhaps the most drastic change in his life just yet.
- For one, we try to glorify his new role as the big brother, and praise the times when he takes good care of me or the babies, such as when he “puts me to sleep” or lotions my belly. I’m hoping this new role will be one he’ll embrace with pride, especially when he sees just how much more he can do that the babies can’t yet do for themselves.
- We also try not to blame the babies for changes in his life he may not appreciate. When we moved him from his toddler bed to a twin bed, it wasn’t so much because the babies need a place to sleep in, but because he’s growing bigger and needs more space. Or when we’ve had to tell him that I can no longer rough house or even walk around the block with him, the reasons were due to my own tiredness, with no mention of the babies.
- And we’re acclimating him to spending more time with others and having a life apart from the babies. In addition to attending preschool, we also plan to drop him off at his grandmothers’ homes more often so that he’ll have a slew of people taking care of him.
I know in the long run, we’ll survive, just as we did with our first born when we thought the madness would never end. Perhaps human instincts just power through, churning out efficient means of getting things done without completely depleting our resources.
For now, I savor the quiet time after putting the little guy to sleep, where I can choose to do whatever I want, where no one depends on me, at least for another few months. And when I start to question my predicament, I try to tell myself that life will work out, as it always has.
How did you transition from one to two (or more)? For those who are expecting like I am, what concerns do you have regarding adding to the family?