Harrowing Happiness: The First Month
So we got through the first few weeks. We made a semi-load of mistakes but we survived and the kids thrived. We win! After the first few days, we decided that if a mistake didn’t end in blood or fire, it was totally fine. We’d fix whatever the problem was the next time around.
Our twins are one month old today. They are mostly clean and usually fed on time. I haven’t divorced my husband yet and I’ve partially reclaimed the lower half of my body. Most days I feel like I almost certainly don’t suck as a mom.
Here are a few observations from the newborn trenches:
Will they like me? Will I like them? And, if not, can we send them back for a refund?
The anticipation surrounding meeting your baby is intense. Much is written about the importance of bonding, and more than a few new parents are anxious because they don’t feel “bonded” immediately.
I was one of those nervous moms concerned about bonding as soon as they slid out of my body. In reality, when they were lifted out of my body, I was too busy vomiting to hold them. “Holy hell,” I thought, “I missed my big moment! My one chance! We were screwed! My first act of motherhood and everything was f**ked! No sense in even taking them home! We will never love one another! Waiter, check please!”
Thankfully, that’s not how bonding works. A month into parenthood and I can assure you that bonding not only happens but it will happen in the most unexpected moments:
When they make eye contact for the first time and really see you.
When they snuggle on your chest so sweetly and then pee all over you.
When you’ve been holding him for three hours and he finally decides to quiet down and you two enjoy your first quiet waltz together in the glow of the Winnie the Pooh night light.
Not only will bonding happen when it’s right for you two (or three or four), your bond will strengthen continually as your love for one another grows throughout your lives. At least, that’s what I’ve been promised.
The first night of the rest of your life.
Sleeplessness and physical exhaustion are considered forms of torture for a reason – they fray the mind and break the spirit. Not only was I exhausted after labor and delivery but I was also nauseous. As a result, I spent the first night of my children’s lives alternately trying to breastfeed them while not vomiting on them. This proved to be a difficult balancing act which made our first night miserable. Unless you’re giving birth at home, many facilities offer the choice of either in-room (keeping the babies with you) care or nursery care. We opted for in-room care because we were so excited to finally meet the twins that we couldn’t bear the thought of being separated so soon. We should have beared the thought. After delivery, not only was I sick and exhausted but my partner was stressed and exhausted. Having a night, or even a partial night, to sleep and recoup would have allowed us to take better care of the kids and enjoy them more during their first week of life.
We had a tremendous amount of assistance from family and friends. From holding the babies to doing our laundry and cooking our meals, they made our lives livable. I highly recommend making sure you have a support system in-place prior to the birth. As it was, when my parents arrived a week after the birth, my mom said that we already looked like refugees from some third world country who hadn’t eaten or bathed in months. Sometimes, the best help comes from those who are not interested in doing the “baby thing.” They can cook, clean, do laundry, run errands, and basically make sure that your life remains functional.
These are the Days of our Lives
Unfortunately, life is not a soap opera. Never have I had occasion to wear a sequined ball gown at noon or slap a devilishly manipulative spray-tanned older man. However, a Susan Lucci-sized sinkhole has appeared in my emotional landscape due to post-pregnancy hormones. Multiple times a day I have the heated impulse to break glassware while swearing. Whether triggered by screaming infants, a trying-to-be-helpful husband, or nothing at all – I come close to turning our family into a daytime melodrama. The top three solutions to Lucci-itis that I’ve found are:
- To calmly narrate all of my actions especially when they’re crying. Talking to babies is not only recommended by doctors to help build language skills but it helps me focus on what I’m doing and reassure both myself and the kids that everything really is fine. For example: (in low tones to a screaming infant) “I’m just changing your diaper. I know it’s cold and icky to have someone wipe your tush but you’re going to feel so much better and you won’t be stinky anymore. Let’s sing the ABCs until we’re done.” (singing commences).
- To put the twins down somewhere safe and head to the bathroom. I flip on the fan, enjoy the whir of white noise, and sitting alone in my own space for a few minutes. Maybe even read a favorite magazine. If there’s time and someone else can watch the kids, a quick walk around the neighborhood also helps. A bit of peace and quiet allows me to regain perspective, and reign in my temper, resulting in a calmer mom and happier babies.
- Create a play list of gentle music that we like and compiled a stack of books that we enjoy reading. During the first few weeks of life, we were in survival mode. We listened to music and read aloud to get us through the long nights. What we discovered was that the twins didn’t much care what we listened to/read to them as long as the music was gentle and our voices were soft. So, we listened to music that we like and read from books that we enjoy. This approach makes the nights shorter and less painful for us because we have something to focus on that we like, and still allows us to soothe our infants. There’s plenty of time for nursery rhymes and lullabies but by preserving shreds of our sanity at night, the days also became easier and we are figuring out a manageable routine.
These are the few things that have kept us somewhat sane through the craziness of the twin’s first month. I know every week, every day, every hour is different and brings new challenges. I will keep you posted.