Life with twins

Double the trouble, double the fun

Sharon Black is a new mother to twins Luke and Cora.

Sharon Black is a new mother to twins Luke and Cora.

Photo By amy beck

Ten weeks ago I had twins. Given the sterile labels of Baby A and Baby B at the hospital, they are known to the world as Luke and Cora. There has been the typical deluge of nicknames, although my husband was informed early on that calling your son “Gollum” was simply not appropriate, no matter how funny he might look in those first days. Luke and Cora are lovely and amazing and precious and … yadda, yadda, yadda. They also have very needy little bodies that keep us up not just all night but all day, as well. I sometimes suspect they plotted to tag team us in utero. Their conversation probably went something like this: We’ll eat, then you sleep, and I’ll stay awake. And holler. Then we’ll eat again, and I’ll sleep, and you stay awake. And holler. Repeat as needed until all sanity dissipates.

But I am being unfair. Lucky for me (and them) they are good babies. But they are babies. And nothing—and I do mean nothing—could have prepared one of me for two of them. I still find it astonishing that the hospital even sent us home with them and didn’t just call the authorities when they had their chance. Indeed, there were more bureaucratic obstacles to adopting our rescue cats from the shelter than spawning and possessing these small humans. But the hospital staff showed not the slightest concern as they escorted us to our car. Buckle up and good luck! We’ve needed it.

My grousing notwithstanding, I have a lot of great help. My husband is more than supportive; he does half the work. My parents live in town and take the kids for an overnighter once a week, leaving hubby and me to revel in the carefree spirit of childlessness, which involves long talks, good books, the occasional dinner out and, typically, too much gin. So a new parent without such a support network may wonder why I say things have been a bit rough. Perhaps it’s akin to when I read of someone complaining about their domestic help or, forgive me, their one child.

The first few weeks were the worst, as any new parent knows. Way too many times I didn’t even get around to brushing my teeth until my husband came back from work in the evening. And of course when he was home, what could I talk about except the kids? Nothing else had happened to me. Cora seems to like this bottle over the other kind. Or Luke took a shit! My husband would talk about his global warming forum or the goings-on in Libya. What on Earth was global warming? And who was Libya? Now, a shit. That’s news you can use.

Times two

From top, Black prepares the babies’ formula, feeds Luke and changes Luke’s cloth diaper.

Photo By amy beck

Some days I feel like I’m babysitting. Except no one ever shows up to relieve me of duty, and I’m certainly not getting paid. (The terms of my maternity leave have the occupants of Dante’s upper circles of hell counting their blessings.) Somewhere around week three, all hell was breaking loose, and I abruptly stopped and said aloud, “Uncle.” Quite obviously, this was not an option. The frightening thing was how long it took me to realize it. I told myself if it came to that again I would have to march down to the doctor for some happy pills.

The biggest challenge with twins is not letting your heart break. Whatever your feelings on attachment parenting, most people agree that newborns need to be held and soothed. But what to do when there are two? My life is often a version of Sophie’s Choice: Both babies cry. I go to the crib and pick one up. The other looks at me and says —and I’m paraphrasing here—“Ah, I see how it is.”

Intake: Feeding is chaos. When we returned from the hospital, they had us on a tidy three-hour schedule. The only thing wrong with that plan was that the nurses didn’t follow me home. Alone, I would notice my heart beginning to race as feeding time approached. What if I couldn’t get one fed, burped, and put back to sleep before the other awoke? I tried the two-fisted feeding a few times, learning in the process why the two-front war is contrary to standard military doctrine. Finally, my husband and I decided to chuck the wisdom we had scavenged from books—books, mind you, written by men who I seriously doubt were stay-at-home dads. Now, our babies eat at different times, usually. This alleviates the panic, although it does keep me hopping all day. This, of course, was what the authors of those books had wanted to help me avoid. Whatever.

Output: We use cloth diapers. We have 15 for each child, which means we do one or two loads of laundry every day, at the very least. We cringe at the thought of our impact on the water table and our eco-think ideals washing down our drain pipes by the gallons. But the upside is so very up: We save money, we produce less trash, and, most importantly, goodbye diaper rash! What does this mean for the average Reno citizen? Pray for rain.

Out and about: To tell the truth, the kids and I don’t get out much. There are so many logistical problems. Take grocery shopping, for instance. One car seat sits on the top of the cart and the other goes in the cart, yes? Where then, pray, to put the food? Recently, the four of us went out and my husband disappeared for a brief moment to fetch something. I tentatively began pushing both the baby cart and the food cart through the store. I can do this, I thought. Look at me do this! Then one wheel went all catawampus, and I bumped into a display, making it wobble dangerously. I immediately aborted and waited for spousal rescue. That, by the way, was a big day out.

Baby steps

The other day in the doctor’s office, we met another couple with twins. They had been home for two weeks, and the strain of it was written all over their beleaguered faces. I told them the line I have heard for weeks: It will get better. The mother looked at me and said wearily, “Yeah, that’s what everyone says.” I understand. I always thought people were patronizing me when they said that, or trying to keep me from heading for the nearest bridge. But it’s true. It does. You eventually stop shooting daggers at each other during the Witching Hours and find a rhythm, of sorts. Your husband plays a strange version of Ultimate Fighting “ground and pound” with your son while you brush your teeth and your daughter begins to distinguish day from night. You love your spouse again, even if he is the one who got you in this mess in the first place. And you find ways to soothe two babies at once. Probably not as well as you could with one, but enough to keep your heart from breaking. For the moment, anyway, or so they say.

Heartbreak is par for the course when kids are involved. They just had their first shots. Eventually they will cut teeth, scrape a knee, lose a race and get their own hearts broken. And they will survive it, as I have survived the Witching Hours, the simultaneous cries for comfort and the long days and longer nights.

Nothing can prepare one for two. But when the reward is double, I’d say that’s worth a little heartbreak.