Life with the twins / by Martha Keyes

Whew. This past 3 weeks has been indescribably crazy. The days and nights blend together in a way I never knew was possible. Being quite a researcher, I felt as prepared as I could be for the insanity that would be life with newborn twins. But there is something so very different about living it. I also didn't account for the extra challenges that low birth weight and prematurity bring to the picture. Being a 9.5 pound baby myself, I never anticipated that I would have small babies. And yet our little Jonah weighed less than half of what I did when I was born. Sleep has been so very elusive, and it has made me realize something that I already knew in my head but can now speak to with so much conviction: SLEEP IS EVERYTHING. 

Our two nights in the hospital, we sent the babies to the nursery at night. The nurses would bring them in every two hours to feed. Brandon and I knew that it was our last chance for decent sleep in the near future, so we took advantage of it. My mom had planned to be at our house to help us right when we got home, but she got sick the day before we left the hospital, so we spent our first couple of nights alone. And they were ROUGH. Most parents of twins swear by the 3-hour NICU schedule the nurses get their babies on (since such a high percentage of twins end up in the NICU). Because our babies didn't spend time in the NICU, they didn't come home with this 3-hour regimen, yet they did come home with all the struggles attached to prematurity and low birth weight. We barely slept those first two nights, and my hormones were out of control. I cried all the time. If anyone asked me how I was doing, I cried. If someone left the house, I cried. I pretty much just cried all day at the least provocation. I'm not a big crier, either, so it was very strange.
I remember the second day home, we had just experienced a terrible night of no sleep. Truly, we got an hour and a half, I think. Most of the night was spent replacing pacifiers in babies' mouths every two minutes. Anyway, I then spent 2 hours on hold with the insurance company--like I have 2 hours of my day to spare nowadays!--and at the end of 2 hours, I was hung up on before I even spoke to a real, live person. I cried. And then I got a call from the lactation specialist at the hospital. She was wondering how I was doing with breastfeeding. BAD TIMING. I blubbered and sobbed to her, literally incapable of controlling my emotions. The combined stress of figuring out nursing, recovering from birth, running on no sleep, and just generally trying to adapt to being a mother of two tiny infants shook me really hard. I see so many people post about how utterly blissful life is with a newborn, and ya know what? No. There are wonderful things about having a newborn in the home, but it is HARD. I love my little babies so very much, but that doesn't mean that I haven't had moments where I just don't know how I can possibly function another day, let alone another hour.

Getting to know and understand two babies at once is complex and difficult. So many times Brandon and I have said to each other, "Can you imagine how different this experience would be with just one baby?" A new baby is an adjustment for anyone and everyone. But it takes both of us being 24/7 stay-at-home parents to just keep the babies fed and diapered. I can't imagine having triplets or more. Brandon wakes up with me for every single feeding, and we both devote ourselves to one baby. It takes anywhere from an hour to two hours to complete the feeding, diapering, pumping, putting back to sleep ritual which means that, on a good night, we get a few hours of sleep. On bad nights, it ain't pretty. And you just never know what you're gonna get on any given night. Our babies do their best sleep stretches during the day. My mom will often take them in the mornings so Brandon and I can get in a nap. I honestly don't know what we would do without those naps! My mom is a lifesaver.

My plan with the twins was always to breastfeed. However, I also tried to keep an open mind since breastfeeding twins is quite a task and milk supply can be an issue for many twin moms. So far, supply hasn't been the issue. It's been latch and prematurity issues. Premature babies often have a hard time with breastfeeding, and that has been true of our babies. Breastfeeding is tiring for them and latching is hard, which means shorter, more frequent (read: constant) feedings. So for now, I am exclusively pumping. It's tough, but it's free, and it allows us to see how much the babies are eating plus getting them the nutrients in breastmilk. They've been growing like champs! At their two week checkup, Micah was 7 ounces above his birth weight, and Jonah was 10 ounces above his.

Now for a bit of a photo dump. First, some pictures of the nursery. Nothing elaborate! We have a second crib but haven't put it together yet. The babies don't sleep in the crib anyway, but even when they do, they'll sleep together until they start rolling and bothering eachother. Our nighttime sleep arrangements have shifted many times, from bouncers to a cosleeper back to bouncers and finally to rock n plays. The rock n plays have been life savers! It keeps the babies on an incline to help with reflux, and they sleep so much better in there than anywhere else we've tried. 

Some pictures from the hospital stay up next. 

Since coming home from the hospital, I've left the house twice--both for pediatrician visits. On our way home from the boys' two week checkup, we pulled into the garage, and Brandon said, "Now we don't have to leave the house for 6 weeks!" That's how it feels getting two tiny babies out of the house. It's exhausting and stressful. Yesterday, Brandon and I went on a walk up the block (okay, so I've left the house three times). It was windy and freezing, and it made me think that perhaps I won't venture out of the house until springtime ;) Not really. I wish the weather were better, because I'd love to take the boys on walks--for their sake and mine--but for now, the house is where it's at.

Despite the many challenges of this new phase of life, we are pretty darn obsessed with the boys and love them like crazy. No matter how many times they wake us, no matter how little sleep we get, it's impossible to direct any frustration toward them. They are going through every bit the crazy transition we are, and we are all just figuring this out together. We crack up countless times a day as we watch them and play with them. Our home is a new place entirely with them around. Watching Brandon care for them and care for me has grown my love for him in a totally unexpected way. I was excited to watch him become a dad, and I love watching him with the boys. But it's the small, everyday (more like hourly) ways in which he helps and serves me and the babies that have really grown my love for him by leaps and bounds. In many ways, it still hasn't sunk in for me that I'm a mom. I have to remind myself that I'm not just caring for someone else's babies--these boys are my own, and all their nurturing and growth and love depends upon Brandon and me. What a responsibility, and what a privilege!

Now, for a bit about the boys! I can't believe how different they are physically. Jonah is our little white boy with light hair that often looks a bit reddish. Micah has Brandon's coloring, and so far his hair is darker than Brandon's even is. Pretty sure Micah's eyes are already turning brown. We joked about having a white twin and a brown twin before they came, but so far, that's what actually happened. Apart from their physical differences, the boys are also very different in personality.

Micah:
Grunts constantly
Squeals rather than cries
Rolled over from his front to back at two and a half weeks old (four times!)
Likes being on his tummy
Looks around with the widest eyes
Gets the hiccups multiple times a day
Easier to get back to sleep at night
Has the hairline of a 90 year old man

Jonah:
Hates having his diaper changed
Talks in his sleep--the cutest thing ever
Our constant eater
Has fuzzy, light hair
Can turn his face 50 shades of red and purple
Burps like a grown man
Startles himself when he goes potty

Things I love about this phase:
How unbelievably tiny they are--their hands, their ears, their legs, their nostrils
Being able to snuggle and kiss them as often and as much as we want
Their sudden arm and leg movements
Watching them be mesmerized by the world around them
Their gummy smiles
Their hilarious facial expressions--from huge smiles to heart-breaking pouts to pursed lips
The noises they make when they eat
How simple their needs are