Friends and complete strangers would feel compelled to comment on my massive uterine orb while I carried my twin sons. During the last trimester, my amorphous shape did attract a lot of attention, however even crazier comments were uttered, leaving me shaking my head. I was showered in similes and metaphors by both friends and strangers: Double trouble, Oh you’re having two for the price of one, You’re as big as a house, Can you tie your own shoes?, How do you shave your legs?
I had no idea becoming a mom to multiples would catapult me to near star status. Yes, once my twin sons arrived, I knew what it was like to be a celebrity. I felt like the Beyoncé of my time. I was already a mom to an 18 month old daughter when my twins were born. I had no idea of what to expect; trying to venture out and about on errands was dotted with paparazzi wherever we went. My husband stayed home with me for the first week, then he returned to work and it was time for me to execute my personal grit. I’d always had personal motivation, an indomitable spirit and I was going to persevere through this exciting time as well. I was breastfeeding these newborns, using cloth diapers and preparing organic homemade meals. I wasn’t going to let my daughter suffer from a lack of attention nor would I turn her into Mommy’s Little Helper. Oh my lofty self was running a mental marathon of how this feat could be accomplished with a tenacious adherence to perseverance and planning.
I heard the strong dialogue inside the hallways of my mind. I prayed, I chanted my personal mantras, yet deep inside my gut there was an apricot sized fear beginning to gnaw at me. My husband and I had each taken one baby on at a time during our first week home. I had delivered these 9 pounds each boys naturally so I could do anything; at least that’s what my husband would say to me on the first morning he left for work. I didn’t live near family and all of female friends were working mothers or childless. I would become familiar with a new type of loneliness I’d never experienced.
No time for commiserating upon my situation. My little crew would be awake soon, it was time to activate a plan, a schedule and model for my young daughter that mommies can do anything and be anything.
It was my first real alone time in the shower. During the first week, I was always rushing because in my true heart, I didn’t believe my husband could handle the babies without me. My dog, Logan faithfully followed me into the bathroom. He flopped on the floor with a sigh and stared up at me as I began to disrobe. Though it was slight, I noticed how Logan cocked his head and stared. I looked down at my body. I’d never seen the belly skin of a woman who had had housed such big babies simultaneously. I tenderly ran my fingers over what now felt like rough seersucker of ugly kitchen curtains in someone’s camper on wheels. This wasn’t the typical stretchmark, it was fiercely red and it was stretched so far beyond its limit, a mosaic of divots were punctuated all over the skin. This flap of skin had become its own entity, it could be lifted with two hands and shifted to the left, to the right. It could probably do its own version of the Hokey Pokey. When I’d given birth to my daughter, I was quickly back in shape and slipping into my pre-pregnancy clothes by six weeks. I gave this new part of my body a name; this pendulous dewlap was my Dewey Parker. As I stepped in beneath the water, I burst into tears. My breasts were sore, my long blonde hair was scraggly thinning and I hadn’t been able to have highlights done for months. An unrecognizable dark color of hair demarcation near the part on my scalp had widened significantly, my butt cheeks had little red bumps appear and the muscle tone in this area was now as flat as a pancake. Every question I asked the doctor about these bodily changes had the same answer, “It’s all those extra hormones.”
The first lesson was how to pick up both twins at the same time. I laid them side by side on my bed and scooped them up simultaneously by sliding my palms beneath their sacrum and slid it up the spine, I bent my body at 90 degrees and stood. I learned quickly there is no gentle coddling with this method but it was most effective. Getting three children ready for the first two week check up appointment with the pediatrician was an awakening. Three car seats, a monolithic diaper bag, a parking garage, forgetting the stroller and having no one to help me with my little daughter. I placed each boy in an infant carrier, slung the diaper bag cross body style and told my daughter she had to hang onto the edge of my shirt no matter what because we needed to make it past moving cars and onto the elevator! I grew amazing pipes and arm strength. I gave up on coordinated outfits, makeup and a ponytail was my new go to hairstyle. I did manage to brush my teeth.
On outings, people would peer into our stroller where my daughter claimed the front seat and the twins rode in the back, lying side by side. People would ask the craziest questions …
“Wait, I’m confused, these triplets are so different in size,” they’d utter and stare at us like a circus side show.
“Oh my goodness, they are all so beautiful. Now are they identical, were they artificial?”
“Do you get them confused?” Hmm…no, one is an eighteen month old daughter, sitting up straight on her own in the stroller, while talking in sentences; the other two are fraternal brothers, one with red hair one with blonde.
Despite the mayhem that followed us in public, being on leave from my career to be a stay-at-home mother to a small army I’d essentially created was a world of unanticipated events and a learning curve at least two standard deviations below the mean. I knew I wanted to breastfeed the twins, what I didn’t anticipate is that my breasts would look and feel like the Rocks of Gibraltar when my milk came in. Engorgement made it impossible for newborns to latch on. They became head bobbers, hungry and wailing, I would hot pack one breast and hook the other breast up to an electric pump trying to make the breasts soft enough so the babies could latch on and flourish. The pictures of nursing babies in tandem looked a lot easier in the glossy magazines. The mother’s had on their make up perfectly along with coiffed hair. The magazine mom was smiling radiantly as each baby had its feet neatly tucked under her arms while nursing in unison. This didn’t happen for me. I tried the football position while cupping their tiny skulls in my hand. Invariably, one would pop off and start crying; however now that I was a heavy producer and could have fed a small village, a stream of breast milk would jettison across the room spraying everything in its path. My daughter would knit her dark brows and stare at me with the most peculiar expression on. When Twin A popped off, he’d cry and the distraction would cause the Twin B to pull backward, but clamp down, extending my nipple beyond my wildest imagination. This could go on for an hour or more during each feeding time. My body was belonged to them, I was their banquet table.
They’d look precious in the wooden cradle, face to face until the flailing arm of one would find its way out of being swaddled and bat his brother in the face with his frenetic energy. They’d cry in unison and I’d have to start all over again. Babies go through growth spurts in which they eat more often. The first one came at 3 months. I learned how to switch channels on the TV remote with my toes. I essentially sat on the sofa for most of the day, nursing babies, reading to my daughter and watching her favorite shows. Laundry would back up, my organic dinners ended and faithful Logan stopped sitting by the door with a tennis ball in his mouth. He knew that just wasn’t going to happen.
On the outside, peering in it looked like we were managing. On the inside I was overwhelmed and sad. If an unexpected visitor was coming by, I hid dirty dishes under my bed, in the closets and I threw dirty laundry in the shower and pulled the curtain. Toys went into a garbage bag and sat next to anything else that needed to be hidden in the closets. I would chat along, exaggerate my joys and successes with my company, relishing adult conversation. After they’d leave, I’d snuggle all three children and say in my head that I was sorry for feeling frustrated. I loved them all with a feeling more sacred than any emotion I’d ever felt.
I had to learn to surrender. Guilt served no purpose and I was frazzled. I started spending more time outside walking on trails in the woods. Nature always calmed me. I would listen to my daughter’s questions about why deer poop in little piles. I stopped running toward the Finish Line and started slowing down. Self-acceptance that I wasn’t the best mother every day. I was the best mother that I could manage in the moment. I ceased with comparing my body to magazine body’s and on some nights we had a gourmet meal and on other night’s we went to a drive-thru at Burger King. We weren’t going to become unhinged as a family if our house wasn’t as polished and gleaming as our peers. I now drove a big van even though I always pictured it looking like an overfull deer tick, with no designer lines, but it housed my little army of love. Nobody warned me of all the things an ordinary woman would experience day to day as a mother of a precocious daughter and bust twin boys. Dewey Parker still has a residence but he’s not as noticeable, the flat butt stayed too.
I was blessed, challenged, fell apart and blessed again. I found my sense of humor and a paradigm shifted within me. The best piece of advice for a mother of multiples is reinvent yourself over and over as each day passes.