After my last pregnancy, our family suffered. I have been open about sharing my struggles with Postpartum Anxiety and Depression. There were several factors that I believe contributed to the decline my emotional, physical and mental health, but two of the biggest were my tight-fisted clench on control (and the panic I had – and truly still do – about giving up that control to someone else) and lack of sleep.
As my twin pregnancy wore on, sometime around the December holidays, I noticed the pangs of depression and anxiety creeping back in again. As in any pregnancy, twin or other, I was having trouble sleeping. I was averaging about 3-5 broken hours of sleep per night due to the discomfort of my rapidly growing body, as well as my 3 year-old who, on the day we learned we were having twins, decided to start jumping out of her crib and quit sleeping at night. The exhaustion was too much to bear, and under the weight of this unknown future – how were we really going to manage newborn twins and a feisty, non-sleeping toddler? – I crumbled.
This time though, I recognized the signs. I talked to my husband right away, and told him I needed help.
Together, we made an appointment to see a perinatal psychiatrist, and I began seeing my incredible therapist more frequently. As a collective whole, we decided on a prenatal and postpartum care plan. Unlike the first go-around, this plan involved asking for and actually accepting help. Because let’s be honest: last time, I pretty much refused all help offered. Why? Because doing so meant I had to give up the reigns of control (cue intense anxiety), and obviously only I knew the proper way to hold and feed my baby, and soothe her to sleep.
It’s still REALLY hard for me to let someone else do these things. Like really, really, really hard. Sometimes when others are feeding my babies, I need to actually step away so I don’t jump in and tell them to do it differently, or whisk the baby away and just do it myself. But the key is, this time, just as my support team and I discussed, I realize it’s far more important to let others help me (and take care of myself when they are doing so), than squeezing firmly onto my tight grip of control.
When we talked about what this help would look like, we knew it needed to include some night care for the babies, and daytime help for me in order to effectively take care of all three children, myself, my household, AND my marriage. Because last time around, I ONLY took care of my child, and let the rest–including myself and my marriage–go. But now I know – and I mean REALLY know – that in order to have a healthy family, the foundation must be healthy first. Meaning, Mom and Dad, and their union, have to be well, whole and strong. I realize now that if you’re a parent, it’s actually not selfish to take care of yourself, your spouse, or your relationship. It’s crucial. I’ll even go so far as to say it’s mandatory.
So we have asked for help at night, and we have an amazing nanny who helps us during the day. I firmly believe that these two resources are the reason–the ONLY reason–we are surviving. That I have not had even ONE panic attack since these children have been born. That my husband has not come home to find me a heaping, sobbing mess on the floor. That I have not wanted to run away from this beautiful life we have created. That I am not hovering over my children’s beds and cribs every minute of every day to make sure they are still breathing and alive. That I am not picking senseless fights with husband or waging wars with him about “who does more” and “who does it right”. I could go on, and on, and on.
I’m sure some people may scoff at the help we’ve utilized, but you know what? This time, unlike last, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Carrying, birthing and raising multiples, plus a sassy (yet sweet) threenager isn’t easy. It’s all taken a toll on my physical body, and emotional state of mind. I am not complaining about it one bit–I feel incredibly blessed, and though not the family I once envisioned, I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I love my children beyond all belief and couldn’t fathom my life now without them. But let’s get real: it’s challenging. And we are right in the heavy, weedy thick of it: the “feeding every 3-hours, and soothing babies to sleep who only stay sleeping for 20 minutes at a time, all the while attempting to pay attention to and spend quality time with their older sibling who wants her mommy and daddy all to herself” thick of it. No amount of help in the world could make that less challenging. But without the help we do have? I am certain we would collapse. This ship – the one carrying these amazing children – would surely sink.
So yes, this time around it’s different. Everything is different. I still struggle. There are still days when I say to my husband, “Uh-oh. I’m feeling pretty anxious”, or “Shoot…I don’t know why, but I’m feeling super sad today.” But we talk through it. He doesn’t try to fix it — something he has since learned is just not helpful — but rather, he listens. And I am able to lean on this amazing team of helpers I have and know that I can trust them, and that rather than giving up control, I’m actually teaching my kids the art of flexibility and adaptability. Things may not be done exactly as I do them, but that’s healthy for my kids – to learn and see there’s other ways, and that as long as they are safe and being cared for and loved, those ways are okay.