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Staying in the Deep End

My twins will be 5 tomorrow, and I truly cannot believe it. The sad reality is that I have very little recollection of how we got here. I spent the first two years in complete shock, denial and terror that I actually had twins, and sought out every type of helper I could just to get through the days and nights. I don’t think I actually accepted the fact that I’d birthed two babies until they were maybe 3, or even 4. And during this time, I certainly didn’t have the confidence or faith in myself that I could handle it — that I could handle being a mama to twins, plus their older sibling. I was constantly looking around for the “real” adult to swoop in and help me — or perhaps even take over for me — the adult who knew better, and who was far more poised to take ownership over mothering these babies than I was. 

I look back on that now and feel so… sad. I missed so much. 

I willingly handed over the opportunity to snuggle, love on and mother those babies in my own way, and as such, I also lost the opportunity to soak up their infancy and their itty-bitty newborn-ness in all the ways most mamas so deeply crave.  

So here I am, on the eve of their 5th birthday, and I’m mourning this loss. And really, the loss of all three of my babies’ newborn phases, because… I never actually experienced this phase right

The first time around with my oldest, now 8, I was so riddled with anxiety and panic due to postpartum depression and anxiety that I could barely function. The second time I was so excited — so beyond excited — for the chance to get a postpartum “do-over” — a chance to enjoy the sweet newborn phase while knowing that it does, indeed, change; it does, indeed, move quickly; and that the baby will, indeed, be okay.

But the minute I found out I was pregnant with twins, those hopes were dashed. I still feel guilty about my initial reaction of disappointment, sadness and dread… knowing that I would never get that second chance I so desperately longed for.

Perhaps I went into preparation mode too quickly, trying to set up all the helpers for after these babies were born so that I wouldn’t slip into the darkness again. I never even gave myself a chance to try to do it on my own — to try to experience that newborn phase with twins. I don’t actually regret it — I’m so grateful for the help because I do believe I would have drowned in the exhaustion and angst of managing two infants plus a three year old on my own, but maybe I could have just… scaled back a bit. Spent more time with each of them, one at a time cuddling each child, soaking up those delicious baby smells, bonding with each baby so I could really, truly get to know each one independently of the other.

I have so much mama guilt and shame over this, even though logically I realize that these feelings don’t get me anywhere. But they are hard to shake, nonetheless. I wanted to be the mother who could do it all on my own — believe me, I’ve always wanted to be that mother. But after battling my way out of the pit of postpartum depression despair once before, I was truly too terrified to even try.

There were jabs and underhanded digs along the way — the ones I constantly made to myself, and the ones that came covertly or as full on in-your-face blows from others, as if the agony of the overwhelming shame I constantly punished myself with wasn’t enough. I knew well enough that I should mother them more than I let anyone else mother them; that I shouldn’t be scared to spend time alone with them — either one-on-one or both of them together — that even though I didn’t believe it, I was capable of being exactly the mother my twins needed and wanted. 

Quite honestly, it’s taken the pandemic for me to truly believe I’m capable of parenting them; for me to truly believe that I am the best mama for them — the one they do want and need. So, in many ways, as strange as it sounds, I’m grateful for this last year, because it has forced me to stay in the deep end — in the hard stuff.

For me, the “hard stuff” are the times when I’m on my own with all three, and the house is loud, messy and chaotic (elements my highly-sensitive self does not like to bear); when the kids are bickering endlessly with each other, or whining or racing past me in a reckless game of indoor tag. These are the moments I long for the “other adult” to come in, to take over, so I can go and seek respite in a quiet, safe space… at least until I can gain back my drained energy and think through how to best handle each situation. But the pandemic doesn’t allow for that — the times we’ve been quarantined in the house in the cold, dead of winter? Those times were insanely hard for me, but they have also been exactly the moments that helped me gain my newfound parenting confidence and stamina; they have been the moments in which I can look back on now and feel grateful for.

The kids won’t remember the yelling and screaming, the fighting with each other or mama losing her patience — they’ll remember the endless art projects we did, the terrariums we planted, the shows we put on, the Magnatile cities we built, the games of hide-and-seek we played, the dance parties we had, and so much more. Those are the memories that none of us myself included — will ever forget. 

And so, as I sit here on the eve of my twins’ 5th birthday and feel pangs of sadness, loss and hazy memory, I am trying my best to shake the shame and regret, knowing we’ve more than made up for lost time. My heart feels full knowing that I’m so ready — even when those deep-rooted and familiar feelings of fear and panic creep back in — to stay in the deep end, in the hard stuff, and to parent my littles with all my heart and soul until they’re bigs… and beyond.

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