Yes, you read that correctly. The Cub Twins are a month old! (Well, by the time this is written, edited and published, they’ll be even older than that!)
Most of you delight in expressing your shock that my pregnancy went so fast and that the boys are basically ready to submit their college applications, but I can assure you that I have not been living in the same time warp as the rest of you! The pregnancy was loooooong. And this first month isn’t a blur: it’s a slow-motion movie. A slow-motion Hallmark movie starring a truly happy and fulfilled mombie, played by yours truly.
I can also liken this first month as a mom of four to a relay race in which I am constantly a lap behind. I’ve already described our two-week stay in the NICU in my post about the boys’ birth and about parenting in the NICU, and it’s truly thanks to those difficult two weeks that I don’t feel like I’m three laps behind. I was able to start my journey caring for twins at home with a home-field advantage, better known as a few consecutive nights of decent sleep!
Papa Wolf and I brought the boys home from the NICU the day before Good Friday—just in time for the Easter long weekend and the arrival of Grandpops. My mom (aka Popo) had already been with us for three weeks, and my poor Dad was getting rather lonely on his own back in BC. Cub had the day off school so he was anxiously awaiting the arrival of his brothers (whom he had met briefly in the NICU), and Miss Cub was at daycare and blissfully unaware that her life was about to drastically change.
How The Big Cubs are Adjusting
Because Cub was so entirely oblivious to his sister when she was born, I wasn’t really expecting him to care that much about the twins. But two years makes a big difference! When he met them at the NICU, his grin said it all. He wanted to hold them, give them their bottles and was just constantly petting their heads and touching their fingers and oohing and awing over how tiny they were. He couldn’t wait for us to bring them home and has been an adorable big brother ever since. He gives them their soothers and even likes to help with their bottles. He’s really excited to watch them grow, and he is currently fixated on when they will start getting teeth.
Because Miss Cub was so enthralled with our foster kittens, insisting on carrying them around by their throats and climbing into their bed with them, I was concerned she would be overly excited and possessive of the twins, to the point of putting them in danger if I turned my back! When she got home from daycare on the day of their arrival, she peered into their Baby Box and was awestruck. She does try to pick them up occasionally, but she is willing to let me do the lifting as long as she gets to help by passing me cloths, unbuttoning pajama snaps or shaking up bottles of milk. She is so clearly in love, adopting “baby brother” into her vocabulary almost immediately. She’s really interested in breastfeeding and likes to push their heads towards my nipple if they’re not latching right away. It’s pretty hilarious!
While smitten with their brothers, both kids are extremely clingy with me and Papa Wolf, which I think is pretty darn normal. Cub has always been a “No! I want mommy!” kind of kid, but since the twins have been home he’s shifted his preference to his papa. Miss Cub has been getting an extra day of daycare (three instead of two) this month to give Papa Wolf and me time to catch our breath. She’s also had to quit sleeping in bed with me cold turkey, and I know that’s been hard on her. Her most frequently uttered phrase right now is, “Carry me!”
My parents stayed with us just over a week once the twins were home. My mom had already been with us for a month, which was invaluable during the exhausting last legs of my pregnancy and the challenging two-week stretch in the NICU. When they left, it was time for Papa Wolf and me to adjust to the new normal: being outnumbered by our children. Thankfully, Papa Wolf has been on paternity leave and will be until the beginning of May. Had this not been the case, I suspect I would’ve forcibly prevented my mom from leaving!
Caring for a newborn isn’t new for me, so the biggest adjustment with twins has been bottle feeding. In the NICU they were taking some breast but mostly bottles, and I had initially thought it would be really easy to transition them to full-time breast once we got home. I also thought that I wanted them to be full-time breastfeeders.
I soon came to realize that while lacking the convenience of breastfeeding, primarily bottle feeding the boys my expressed milk was going to be the new normal. And you know what? It’s not so bad! With two other kids to look after, exclusively nursing newborn twins would be next to impossible for me. With bottles, Papa Wolf or other visitors can help with feeds. I basically bring them to the breast when it’s convenient and we have the time to chill out a bit and snuggle. Neither of them is getting a full feed at the breast yet nor do I have the energy to try to force them. It’s no secret that they get their fill from a bottle faster than from the breast, and that’s just a different kind of convenience for me at this point.
With exhaustion setting in and both me and Papa Wolf sick (he with tonsillitis and I with another nasty cold), I decided to add a few formula bottles to the mix in order to pump a bit less and get longer stretches of sleep. Right now the boys are getting about two feeds of formula in a 24-hour period, and the rest is my expressed milk. I have heard from other mamas who are guilt-stricken about feeding their babies formula (for whatever reason), and despite being genetically predisposed to misplaced feelings of guilt, I’m surprisingly very comfortable with formula feeding. I see it as a pretty logical trade-off: a more rested mama is a healthier mama, and adding formula to their diet affords me more rest.
The Struggle is Real
So back to why this month has felt like one endless relay race where I’m the underdog. Every day is constant triage, as another twin-parent so aptly described it to me. Every moment is evaluated along the lines of “Who needs what and who needs what they need soonest?”
Newborns are all about eating, sleeping and pooping, and it’s a supreme balancing act when they’re both doing these things at the exact same time! And when they are sleeping, which for now is pretty much any time that they aren’t eating or pooping, it’s a matter of pumping my milk, sterilizing and preparing bottles, doing laundry and keeping some semblance of order in the house. On top of that, there’s triaging the needs of my big kids and keeping myself fed and somewhat clean. I’m grateful for full-day kindergarten and for daycare—they give me a bit more flexibility to lavish much-needed attention on the bigs once they’re home.
Overnight is hard. Being used to simply dream-feeding one nursling, it’s been a big adjustment to actually have to get out of bed multiple times a night to take care of two. I do it on my own not because I’m a glutton for punishment, but because it’s honestly what’s working best for us. Papa Wolf gets up with Miss Cub (she is in a phase of waking up crying every second night or so) but overall gets a decent stretch of sleep at night so that I can nap during the day. (And since he can feed them, I can actually nap without being woken to feed a hangry baby!)
I am not getting any more than two-hour stretches of sleep right now. The boys wake up to eat at almost the same time, so again, it’s triage. Sometimes I prop both of them up in my TwinZ nursing pillow and hold each of their bottles. If one wakes up first then that’s a bit easier, but it also takes longer! I do bottles overnight because they eat faster, and I can stay awake easier if I have to hold a bottle. I play podcasts to keep myself alert, and I set up a feeding and diaper station next to the bed each night to make the night as smooth as possible. It’s not going to be this arduous forever, so I’ve got my nose to the ground to get through the first three months.
Thanks to their “training” in the NICU, once they’re fed, I simply swaddle the boys up and put them back in their playpen. And they sleep. Without me. This is novel considering my first two pretty much only slept next to me for their first two years of life.
During the day, they are still pretty much asleep if they aren’t eating. They sleep the day away in their bouncy chairs, getting picked up to be changed and fed as soon as they start fussing. If there’s only one parent around, whoever fusses first is the one who eats first. If it’s a day when Miss Cub is at daycare and Cub is at school, Papa Wolf and I will watch Netflix while we feed them. (We’ve finished season two of Santa Clarita Diet, are onto the fourth season of Shameless and I’m on the second season of Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency.) The day passes pretty quickly, and I do my best to end it by catching up in the relay race so I’m not too far behind the next morning!
Papa Wolf goes back to work in May, but it’s not until the last week of the month that I’ll be truly flying solo. My mom is coming again for a bit, followed by my brother and sister-in-law. The most challenging part of being home with all four by myself will be getting us out the door to get Cub to his bus stop in the morning.
I’m enjoying being a mom to twins, and I’m grateful that my twins are my third and fourth babies rather than my first and second. I’ve already got the skillset and confidence required for newborn parenting, so all I’m doing now is learning to double it. I do not envy the parents of multiples out there who become parents AND parents of multiples all at the same time.
The secret to long-term success here is to continue to let things be imperfect, which is definitely not my forte. I only have two hands (although I’m really learning to use my chin and my feet to compensate), so there will always be someone whose needs aren’t being perfectly met at any given moment. A lot of times, that person is going to be me, but thanks to bottles, I’ve already been able to take more time away from the twins than I was able to do with their older siblings.
In many ways, this might be the easy stage of twin parenting, lack of sleep notwithstanding. They really do spend most of their time asleep, and wherever I put them is where I’m going to find them if I have to leave the room.
It is with excitement and trepidation that I look forward to the months and years to come!