Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Notes from the Twin Trenches: "This Too, Shall Pass"

I officially know too much.  

I have over-educated myself on the importance of sleep for infants and, thus, it has in turn made me a neurotic sleep nazi who's mood is in direct correlation with the number of hours my babies sleep through the day.  This is not a fun way to live.

"Oh, let them be.  They'll sleep when they want to sleep.  You can't force them" you say.

Luckily you are not saying this to my face, or else I might have to punch you.  Like, for real.

That laissez faire approach might work for one child, but when you have two infants (and a two year old) to contend with, letting the babies "lead the way" is just not feasible unless you have the time (or the extra hands) to constantly be at one child or another's beck and call.  Following this logic, my day might look something like this:  Child "A" gets up for the day, child "B" remains asleep.  Child "C" gets up, child "A" needs feeding.  Chid "B" wakes up, while child "C" goes down.  Child "A" needs a nap, child "C" needs feeding.  Child "A" is waking up, child "B" is hungry. Child "C" wants to play, child "A" is hungry again.  Child "A" needs nap #2, and child "C" needs a diaper changed.  Child "B" needs nap #2, and child "A" is just getting up.  And so it goes...  This type of schedule (or lack thereof) allows for zero down time and you can forget about getting out of the house or accomplishing anything like, say, taking a shower or running a comb through your hair.  I'm sure some mom's of multiples have done the "baby led" way, but the ones who I have been speaking to and reading about swear by one thing and one thing only:  get the twins on the same schedule.  According to fellow MoMs, it's the only way to maintain one's sanity.

But this is much easier said than done.

And, yes, I am referring to both getting them on a schedule and maintaining one's sanity.

Because the fact is that twin sleep scheduling is not for the weak hearted.  First of all, twins are different people and not just a convenient pair that do everything in tandem.  While some lucky moms have kids who just seem to fall into these patterns naturally (I secretly hate these moms..well not really, but sort of), most twins have to be taught how to do this.  Our girls are fraternal and have completely different personalities, temperaments, appetites and sleep needs.  So is it even possible to get them on the same schedule you ask? According to the experts (and fellow MoM's who have been down this road before me), yes, all children - even fraternal twins - can learn how to sleep and can be taught how to keep a (relatively) similar schedule.  It just takes work.  A heck of a lot of work.  And an equal amount of time, tons of selfless dedication (right now my life more or less revolves around their sleep needs), and an ungodly amount of patience.

I'm not there yet, but the many sacrifices I am making (mentally, physically, emotionally) in this relatively short time period now will hopefully result in well rested, happy children who go about their days with some predictability in the months and years to come.  This is what "they" tell me, at least.  I am growing skeptical, but keep reminding myself that we did this with Isla and, after a lot of work and effort, everything "clicked" and it worked (and still works) like a charm.

Don't get me wrong, there are days when I see my efforts paying off (for the record, I follow the "Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child" approach).  On those days, the girls go down for their morning nap with ease and sleep anywhere from one to two hours.  They take subsequent naps every two hours throughout the day, and fall asleep unassisted within mere minutes of each other.  I get to shower and might even put on something cute.  On the good days, I put our girls down for bed at 6:30pm and they sleep, peacefully and without protest, until 11:30 or later.  Night feedings are simple, straightforward and result in two full babies who go right back to bed for three (or maybe even four or five) hours. I actually get to lay down in bed and might even catch an REM cycle or two.  On the 'good' days, the babies are mostly happy, content and - of course - well rested.  The 'good' days are when I feel like a boss mom.  When I can say with gusto "I got this!"

Then there are the other days.

The evenings where one or - God forbid - both are gassy and screaming in their crib.  The days where I soothe one and an instant later, the other is up and flailing.  The nights where I get no more than two hours of sleep at a time because one baby (usually Haven), squirms and grunts for hours and hours.   The nights when I wake up to one baby's cry and look at the clock to see that only one measly hour has passed since the last feeding. The times when one child goes down for her nap, while the other protests for that entire nap's duration.  The moments when I cry in exhaustion right along with the babies, hoping for a break and asking the Universe for more grace and patience (because I am running on reserves some days)....when I lament, "If it was just one baby, this would be so easy!"...the nights when I read a mom complain about her single infant on Facebook and want to scream at the top of my lungs.  These are the days when I am put to the test.

They say that everyone comes into your life for a reason; to teach you a lesson, to show you something about yourself so that you can grow to become a better person.  I'm talking about the challenging people too: when we find fault in others, dislike someone, or are frustrated with another - we're supposed to look inward.  "Why does this person bother me and why am I giving them the power to do so?" (perhaps they are right about something and I am in denial?) "What, exactly, don't I like about this person and what does that say about me?" (perhaps I don't like in them what I don't like in myself?) "What am I getting frustrated about and why?" (maybe I am reminded of another situation that hurt me in the past?) Usually, you will find that the problem lies within you.  Everyone who comes into our life acts as a mirror for ourselves.  Sometimes we like what we see sometimes we don't.  It's tackling the stuff that's hard to admit and difficult to look at where we stand to learn and grow the most.  Of course, this is not easy.  It's much more convenient to lay blame outside of ourselves where we can push the real issue away.  But then that's taking easy road.  Real growth takes work and some serious self-evaluation.

Where am I going with this?  I think the Universe gave me twins for a reason.  I'm not sure exactly what that reason is yet, and maybe I never will.  But I know one thing, Haven and Mira are teaching me a ton.  About patience (I need more), about flexibility (I need lots more), about expectations (I need fewer), about control (hahaha!!!) and about myself (I have a lot to work on).  I'm doing my best and - on the good days - I feel awesome.  Like a supermom even.  But on the bad days I feel like the very worst version of myself; grumpy, tired, frustrated, snippy, angry, bitchy, impatient and stressed.  I don't like who I become and I don't like how I treat the people around me.  I need to take a chill pill.

But I also need to give myself a break.  I am sleep deprived, I am human and I am flawed.  I am doing my best for our babies (and what beautiful, wonderful, awesome babies they are - don't get me wrong!).  I have to remind myself that this is a gift and we are blessed beyond belief to have three healthy children.  I have to remind myself to take the bad days with the good and that for every two steps I take forward, there will inevitably be one step back.  It's the nature of child-rearing.  It's also the most important, difficult and rewarding job that those of us who chose to do it will ever do.  That's a tall order.

I have to let go and take a deep breath and remember that "this too, shall pass".

In the meantime, there is wine.  Lots and lots of wine.


Unknown said...

Funny you bring up this phrase. I am a twin and when my sister and I screamed for hours at night because of colic, my mom would call my Grandma to vent. My Grandma's response . . . this too, shall pass. My mom didn't much care for that phrase as a response! I think she would have preferred more sympathy and empathy but she can laugh about it now. :)
You're doing a great job and I enjoy reading your posts! Your daughters are lucky. One day at a time!

Anonymous said...

I love your post. I have two sets of twins and sleep training is incredibly rewarding as well as emotionally and physically draining. Noone truly relates other than another MoMs..I cling to this too shall pass and am learning that if its not one thing it will be another. I wish you the best your a wonderful mom!!

TheCambrians said...

I've been following your blog for a little more than a year and just wanted to say how relatable this entry is to even those of us without children (let alone 3! Seriously, you rock!). I'm not trying to compare my situation with yours (they're not even in the same ball park) but some of our experiences have been similar.
We have a 17 year-old dog with dementia (on a boat) and you just articulated what life has been like for me over the past six months -- a lot of highs, lows, tears, frustration, bitchiness, sleepless nights, and overall exhaustion). With or without kids, it's nice to know your not alone so thank you so much for sharing! I wish I had some words of wisdom to help you with the sleepless nights but I'm assuming that our solution (medical cannabis for pets) is totally not the right way to go (like I said, I don't have kids ;) ). Good luck with the sleeping schedule -- it makes perfect sense to me! Cheers!

Emily said...

Another mom of twins here, empathizing with and saluting your sleep training efforts. It is NOT easy, but so worth it when it clicks. We're going through a "refresher round" of sleep training with our two-year-old girls, and this post was a well-timed reminder to have faith and keep the wine close at hand. ;)

One day at a time, for sure. You've got this!

Anonymous said...

I have a two year old and just found out I am pregnant with twins. I stumbled upon your site somehow... (I think I must have searched "God please save me I'm having twins" ;)) and although this post is more than two years old am very grateful (and SCARED) to read your blog. Thank you for posting your parental adventures and sharing the good and the bad with all of us. Twins and a toddler... WOW.

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