Not too long ago I sat at a table with other moms at a coffee bar, chatting about this, that and so on and so forth. I joined in by telling them about a mom blogger I admire, who jaunted around town, writing about her fabulous life in the city. You know, with her one kid … And I emphasized the statement with a big fat eye roll.
Which was awkward, because I was sitting at a table surrounded by women who had only one child. And that’s when I swallowed my gangly foot.
For years I made known my jealousy of mothers with just one child. At times I was downright resentful. It tends to happen when you come home from the hospital already able to claim multiple dependents on your taxes. Don’t take this to mean that I don’t realize how blessed and lucky I am to have three beautiful, healthy children. It’s just that I never got to experience the beauty of having “just” one kid.
See, I had a fantasy about motherhood that, like most fantasies, didn’t pan out. I envisioned trips to Target and the coffee shop. I imagined lazy, sun-filled days in my spotless house, just my baby and me. First, we’d listen to classical Mozart so she would be all smart and stuff, then we’d cue up some old Radiohead so she would see how cool I was. And man, I would be cool. Also thin.
And then I brought two tiny babies home after a five-week NICU stay. To say my fantasies were grotesquely shattered is an understatement. Immersed in the cycle of constant feeding, rocking, and staring blankly at them wondering what to do next, I found myself mourning the version of motherhood that I never had the chance to experience. There were no trips to Target, no leisurely afternoons at the coffee shop. They wouldn’t sleep (at the same time at least), they were always hungry, and someone was always crying.
Other twin moms, deep in the trenches of double infancy, always ask if it gets easier. Really, it just gets different. Once out of the baby phase, I still had to deal with wrangling two children who instinctively knew to run in opposite directions. Library story times were a bust. The grocery store was overwhelming. My life, in general, was just going to crazy town. And when they multiplied into three? Most days I felt like I was wading through quicksand. Now, with three children in separate classes and activities, who jump from best friends to worst enemies at the drop of a hat, I still feel that way.
My three girls are amazing and beautiful and sweet and creative. But during those difficult years, I convinced myself that surely if I had had one kid, it would have all been easier, better. My husband and I could switch off instead of the constant man-on-man defense. Our one baby would get all the attention she needed from me. We could run errands together, nap together, watch reruns of LOST together and wonder what the deal was with Kate’s man-shoulders. Hell, I could hold her all damn day if I needed to, instead of crying from frustration and guilt that I had two babies and only one set of arms. There would be no double poops with only half my grocery list completed. No chance of double tantrums in public where people gape at you because how dare you leave the house with two babies? But by the way, are they identical? Did you use fertility drugs? Are you breastfeeding? [Insert additional invasive and inappropriate questions here.]
It’s interesting how long I carried this burden. At ages 8, 8, and 6, life is getting easier, but with that ease, I also trade age, and the aging is killing me. Why must they get older to start to act like actual human beings instead of monkeys on meth?
Of course now, I know that it’s all relative. My hardships are my own, and your hardships are yours. I’ve never experienced just one, and many other parents have never experienced two. When it’s all you know, it’s all you know.
At times I felt that I had done my kids a disservice in the fact that they all came so quickly. I felt like there’s so much they had missed out on, like getting their mom or dad all to themselves for an afternoon or leaving the house more than once a month because we are out of toilet paper and wipes and paper towels or anything that can remotely be used to wipe butts. But at the time, they didn’t know any different, and neither did I. Now we can go out and enjoy lovely days together, with mostly no diaper disasters and mostly no tantrums. All three can even swim, which is immensely less stressful than the days I had to keep three children within arm’s reach at the pool.
Over the years I’ve learned that ignorance is bliss. Now I know that my fears and insecurities about having two babies at once also sat in the minds of the mothers with only one baby. We all just want to know if we are doing this silly job right.
This is a post written by a fellow mom of multiples and has been syndicated with permission to Multiples Illuminated. If you wish to contribute and share your multiples story/ tips, please head to our Submissions page for more details!
Leigh Ann Torres documents the good, the bad, and the ridiculous of life with twins plus one at Genie in a Blog, and serves as co-producer for Listen to Your Mother Austin. She’s often funny, sometimes poignant, but always real. And tired. She’s always tired. Follow Leigh Ann on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram