Twin Motherhood: Changes, Challenges and Choices 

 

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I had been searching for the inspiration for my next blog post. A new song came on the radio while I was driving around with my twins. I listened to the song, looked back at them and smiled. I was inspired…

“Ain’t it funny how life changes

You wake up ain’t nothing the same and life changes

You can’t stop it just hop on the train and

You never know what’s gonna happen

You make your plans and you hear God laughing

Life changes and I wouldn’t change it for the world”

– Thomas Rhett, Life Changes

Every morning I wake up to the sound of my twin sons chatting away and I am amazed that they are my children and I am their mother. It’s been 18 months and still I can’t believe this is my life. It’s certainly not the life I planned for or expected but I wouldn’t change it for the world.

Long before my sons were born, they started teaching me that no matter how much I try to plan out everything, change is inevitable. I had worked very hard in my career as a social worker and landed my dream job in a school. I felt great pride in my work and my accomplishments. I felt personal satisfaction and received validation from clients and colleagues. I loved going to work everyday but something was missing.

My husband and I had planned out a timeline for when we would have children and how this timeframe would align with our career and life goals. We knew we wanted to accomplish a lot and make a difference. We also knew we wanted a family. We spent years in and out of fertility treatment trying to get pregnant while trying not to lose our minds or resilience. This is when we began to see no matter how much we planned, change was inevitable and life would take us down unknown paths.

My plan was to have a baby, take my leave of absence, return for a couple of years and take another leave with my next baby. This plan seemed so perfect because it would give me time with both my hypothetical children and keep me on track in my career. Then we found out we were pregnant with TWINS! Again we saw that no matter how much we planned, change dictated where we went.

Recognizing the need for change again, I made a new plan; I would work up until I had the twins, then take my leave and go back to work. Then about half way through my pregnancy, I was put on bed rest and had to take my leave abruptly and immediately. At this point it was clear that I was not in control of the plan. Before my sons even came into this world, I knew my life was about to change in so many ways and no matter how much I prepared, I needed to be ready to go with the unforeseen twists and turns.

My career was an essential part of who I am, where I put my focus and how I lived my days. Over the last 18 months, my husband and I have come to realize the enormous burden in maintaining both our careers and caring for our boys. In every family, the dilemmas of balancing work and family are unique, complex and difficult. I have come to realize there are no magic formulas for making this decision and no amount of planning that can prepare you. Every parent has to do what is right for his or her family. For our family we decided that for right now it would be best for me to be home with our boys.

This decision was not made lightly or easily. I still question daily if I have made the best decision. As the school year begins and my colleagues return to work I feel a pang of loss. On one hand I know that no matter what I chose I would feel a loss. On the other hand when I see my boys I am filled with pride and excitement. Toddlerhood is something I could have never anticipated. They are incredibly needy, easily frustrated and constantly on the move. Toddlerhood is both exhausting and exhilarating. The boys learn new skills everyday and I love watching them explore the world.

In my career I have always strived for professional growth. I always had mentors and people supporting me, letting me know areas where I could improve and acknowledging when I found success. Miles and Henry are not able to say “great job today mom” and some days I wish they could. No longer part of a professional team where feedback is plentiful, as a mom, I now find my feedback in forms of kisses, joyful interactions and a delight in seeing my boys chatting and playing with each other.

What this whole journey has taught me is that I can plan as much as I want and try to give myself the illusion of control or I can learn to live and love each day of my life as it comes. I never anticipated getting pregnant, being pregnant and having twins would challenge me in the ways it has. I also could have never anticipated how I would step up to the challenge.

My career is on hold, but it does not mean that I have given up my goals and aspirations. I am where I am meant to be right now. As a mom I am learning to look inside and find my strength from within. This is a change and challenge but I can do it. As I watch Miles and Henry achieve so much, I feel proud to be their mom. I am still the person I was before but now I am also the mother of twins. I am the mother of twins who can confidently watch my boys on my own. I have so much to be proud of and none of it is what I expected.

 

 

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Our Journey Through Storytelling…

Last Friday I was honored to deliver the D’var Torah (Sermon) at our synagogue, Vassar Temple. It was an opportunity for me to reflect on my children’s’ journey to independence and their journey as Jews. Here is what I wrote:

Miles and Henry love books. They have learned to walk over to their bookshelf grab a book and ask me to read it to them. After we read a book they like they will look at me with the sweetest look and say “moorrre Mama.” To be honest there are times when I get tired of reading the same story over and over again. However, when I take a moment to reflect I realize they are asking for this because it is in the repetition of storytelling that children (and all of us) learn the lessons and meanings of a story. In this week’s Torah Portion, Devarim, Moses uses this repetition of storytelling to teach and prepare the Israelites to enter into the Promised Land.

Moses and the Israelites have now made it through their 40 year journey in the desert. Moses must prepare the Israelites for the next stage of their journey while he knows he may not join them. Moses is facing one of the greatest challenges of parenthood; how do we help mold our children’s future by teaching them about our past? How can we help them make the right choices in the moments we are not there to guide them?

As I watch my sons grow, each new stage of their life brings new excitement and new fear. They are walking, running and climbing on everything! They are fascinated by how everything sounds, looks, feels, smells and tastes. Watching their excitement brings a joy I never could have never imagined before becoming a mother. With this joy comes great worry. I don’t want them to taste the wrong thing, to climb too high or to get hurt. I want to protect them from all of life’s obstacles but I can’t. What I can do is teach them the skills they need and have faith that they will use them. It is my job as a parent not to foster dependence but rather to empower my children to feel confident in themselves and to find independence.

This is easier said than done! The world can be a scary place and no matter how well I prepare my sons for the challenges ahead I cannot shield them from all the obstacles they will face. I want to keep them close and protected from it all but it’s impossible. I can tell them stories that teach them how to manage challenges, how to build resilience and how to build empathy. Moses knew that the Israelites had to understand the struggles they had faced to understand how valuable their lives and their future would be. He knew there would be challenges ahead but he saw the Israelites’ strengths in the challenges they had already faced. From slaves, to wanderers to freedom it is crucial we understand where we came from to understand where we are.

Like Moses I need to empower my children and like Moses I hope to pass down the teachings of G-d, the Torah and Judaism. My own Judaism has felt so powerful and special to me because in many ways I cultivated it on my own. My parents told me the stories; they sent me to Sunday school and suggested I join the children’s choir (no singing talent necessary). I chose to keep going, I chose to become an active member in youth group and NFTY (North American Federation of Temple Youth), I chose to go to camp and I chose to remain active in Judaism in my adult life. Feeling empowered to make these choices made my Judaism so much more significant. It feels like something that is uniquely mine and yet something that makes me feel a part of a community.

It was very important to Dan and I to find a community that could feel special to us and to our children. We feel blessed to have found that here at Vassar Temple. At Vassar Temple we have found a community where the storytelling is exciting and where children are empowered to ask questions and to seek out their own Jewish journey. The moms alongside me today and all of our children come together monthly for baby Shabbat. Rabbi B, (as the babies know her) sings songs, teaches about traditions and of course tells a story. The babies love it and so do we! I feel blessed to be surrounded by these women as we work together to help our children enjoy the earliest moments of their Jewish journeys.

In our home Dan and I read stories about our traditions and our history. Our sons are so blessed to spend the Jewish holidays surrounded by our families and to hear storytelling from many generations of great storytellers. Dan and I plan to make Shabbat dinners an important part of our family life where we take time to thank G-d for our amazing family. Like Moses we will tell the stories and teach the traditions. Like the Israelites it will be up to Henry and Miles how they choose to live their lives and how they choose to practice Judaism. We will continue to create a world filled with stories and pray our incredible little boys will grow up to tell their own stories one day.

In Moments of Fear and Joy My Gratitude Grows

I thought being a twin mom was the hardest thing until I feared I would not be one anymore. I had planned to write my next blog post about understanding and accepting limitations with twins. It can be difficult when I cannot go to the park with the boys by myself. Things my singleton parent friends can do without a thought can be extremely challenging for me. Getting out of the car requires careful planning in order to avoid either of my boys running into traffic! Sometimes these limits are upsetting, sometimes they are emotionally and physically draining and sometimes they feel so unfair. This was what I planned to write about until the scariest day of my life came this past week.

For a moment, I thought I could lose my son. When this moment came, all I wanted in the world was to hold onto being a twin mom! My son Henry had two seizures. The first one occurred while I was at work. My mom called me to let me know what happened. All I could hear was “Henry”, “ambulance” and “hospital.” I ran out of my office, got in my car and got to my baby as soon as I could.

When I arrived, Henry was limp. He looked like he wasn’t alive but thank God he was. He was lying in a hospital bed connected to all kinds of wires and machines. Seeing my baby so vulnerable was an indescribable horror. I spent the day holding him close and telling him how much I loved him. Doctors and nurses came in and out to perform tests on him. He was pricked and poked so many times and cried so much. I felt helpless; I wanted to protect him; I wanted him to be happy and okay.

Eventually he got discharged and we were told the seizure was a result of him being sick. My husband went to get the car and as I got Henry ready, he had another seizure. Nothing has frightened me more in my life. I screamed for help and when the nurses came, I felt paralyzed. I was numb and couldn’t move. Henry lay on the table limp and asleep. For a moment I thought I lost him.

He was admitted to the hospital for the night and I stayed by Henry’s side. It was a long night but we made it through. Henry underwent many more tests and thankfully the tests all came back normal. As Henry lay on my chest, I looked at him and cried. I cried because I love him so much, because I was scared I could lose him and because I missed his twin brother, Miles. As hard as life with two can be, it didn’t feel t right for us to be in that hospital without Miles, Henry’s best friend. Henry and Miles are blessed to have each other and I am even more blessed to have both of them.

When we got home Henry and Miles ran to each other and laughed and laughed. I could see how much they missed each other and how happy they were to be back together. It was such a beautiful moment only a twin mom could have. 

I am blessed to have two sons who love each other so much. Days have passed since our visit to the hospital and today I am celebrating Mother’s Day. The boys are running around, getting into everything and I love it! I think back to Mother’s Days in years past where I cried because I worried I could not be a mother. Today I celebrate that I am fortunate not only to be a mom but a twin mom. I am so lucky!

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Skiing Down the Mountain and Bringing Up Twins

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Since I was a little girl I’ve had some fears. My fears kept me from enjoying some of life’s more exciting adventures. Then I had twins, the scariest thing I’ve ever done. Being a twin mom has shown me that I am capable of facing what scares me. I am raising the two sweetest adventurers and I have decided I will do what it takes to keep up with them.

Recently I learned to ski, something that at one time seemed impossibly terrifying. My husband has wanted me to learn for years, as family ski trips have been some of his happiest memories. I thought about the boys learning to ski one day. I knew I had to step up to serve as a model; if they are scared, I want them to persevere and not give up. For them, I will learn how to get down the mountain.

I took a ski lesson and my instructor helped me to see that getting down the mountain, requires many of the same skills as raising twins. We started on the bunny hill. We went up and down and up and down. It was scary but the end was always in sight and each time I succeeded I built up my confidence and skill level. I learned how to find balance, how to slow down and how to stop if needed. Then it was time to move from the bunny hill to the mountain.

I looked down from where we stood and thought I would never make it all the way down. The route was windy, long and appeared endless. I was scared of losing control, I was scared of falling down and I was scared I would not succeed. My instructor explained that the slope we would go down was only as steep as the bunny hill, just longer. He said “if you just look ahead at where you are going and take it one step at a time you can make it. If you look all the way down to the bottom you will scare yourself; if you just look ahead to where you need to go next you will get there.”

With a deep breath and a prayer, I began to head down the mountain. I took my time and looked ahead. There were lots of moments of anxiety and lots of deep breaths. As I got closer to the bottom, I fell down. It was scary but I was okay. I realized I could fall and get back up. After a minute to get myself together, I stood back up, I looked ahead and I pushed on forward. When I made it to the bottom I felt such a sense of pride in knowing I persevered and conquered this fear.

So why am I writing about my ski adventures on a blog about raising twins? Learning to ski taught me new perspective on getting down the mountain that is life with twins. Being a twin mom requires a lot of balance. It requires balance between the two boys, balance between my needs and theirs, and balance between who I was and who I am. Just as with skiing, sometimes I lose my balance but I am learning everyday that I can get back up and try again.

Some days the journey seems filled with endless slopes. There is always a new challenge or transition ahead. Most recently we shifted from bottles to sippy cups, soon we will have to think about potty training, and one day we will be sending them off to school. When I am able to be in the moment and look forward not down, we get where we need to go. Sometimes that means savoring a moment, a giggle or hug. Often times that means saying I will make it to the next week, the next day or even to the next nap and will worry about the rest later. By looking forward I am able to survive the moments that are challenging without thinking about every challenge that will come along the way.

Sometimes I fall, I make mistakes and I want to give up. At these times, I remember I have to get down the mountain. Just as with skiing, sometimes I have to remind myself: I can slow down, stop or make a turn if needed. I can ask for help to get back up and I can learn new skills to help my trip down the mountain go smoother. Sometimes a rough meal, a short nap or two cranky babies feels like wiping out on the slopes. When I take a deep breath I realize it’s just a rough patch on the greatest adventure.

Many mornings I wake up worried about the day ahead, the challenges we will face and if I will be able to get through them. If the little girl who was afraid of heights and falling could ski down the mountain, I know that I can do this too. Being a twin mom is endlessly difficult, stressful and at times scary. Its also unbelievably fun, heartwarming and empowering. I feel more courageous and fearless than ever before and I have my incredible children to thank for that. They have shown me what I can do and are my biggest fans. I can’t wait to ski down the mountain with them and for all the adventures we will share together.

My Dream Team

A couple weeks ago I was watching the Grammys. Chance The Rapper came on stage to accept his Grammy for best new artist. His words in his acceptance speech resonated with me as a mother. He said, “I know people think that independence means you do it by yourself. But independence means freedom.” He was articulating that he was able to achieve his dreams because of the team behind him.

Raising twins is a team game. It can be very isolating and lonely. The team I am fortunate enough to have with me, has helped me find my freedom, my independence and my joy. When my boys were first born, I feared that asking for help meant I couldn’t do it on my own. Over the last year I have come to realize that knowing when I need help and asking for it is not a sign of weakness but rather strength.

For the first few months when my husband was at work, being home with two babies who needed to eat every few hours and finding time to pump their food seemed impossible. I was exhausted and felt like I couldn’t give them both the attention I wanted to. My team stepped in, to support the babies and me. We are so fortunate to have both sets of our parents close by and eager to help. For those first few months I had someone with the boys and me almost all the time. This not only helped the babies feel nurtured and loved but me as well.

After a couple months I began to enter back into the world. My husband and I had date nights and I was even able to even get my nails done. Those precious moments for myself reminded me that I am human and that I have needs. As a mother your needs and wants are often not all met but filling some of them gave me the strength to keep moving. I loved caring for my babies but this didn’t change my desire to also have moments where I was cared for. My team cared for me and this made me much more equipped to handle the challenges the boys threw at me.

As the babies got bigger, we finally got on a schedule. I felt like I was getting my life back. I could watch them on my own at this point because they were napping, eating and sleeping at the same times. I became so attached to our schedule and routine that I feared anything could throw us off. I became anxious if they didn’t sleep enough or eat enough; I worried every time a nap was shorter than it should be and I became terrified of letting go of control. If other people were watching the boys, I couldn’t guarantee they would do things exactly how I did. I feared we could lose our schedule and routine and I would have to go back to living in chaos.

I’d like to say, after a year, that I don’t still have these fears and worries but I do. However I have found ways to minimize them and have not let them take control of my life. I returned to working part time, my husband and I went on vacation and I decided to get myself back to the gym. None of this would be possible without asking for help and giving up control. The love Miles’ and Henry’s grandparents have for them is not only enormous but also endless. They would do anything to make their grandsons happy and watching the boys with their grandparents is an incredible thing.

Sometimes our parents don’t agree with our decisions, sometimes they question our choices and sometimes they do things their own way. Maybe every detail of how I would do things isn’t followed but I never have to worry if my boys are safe or loved because I know without a doubt that they are. We have left the boys for days at a time and they always get back on their routine. When we come back to them they are as happy and loving as ever. Our boys are amazing and so is our team.

I have always been someone who likes to plan, to control and to do things for myself. My husband will tell you I am strong-willed, stubborn and independent. Being a twin mom has challenged who I am in so many ways. I can’t control everything; I definitely can’t plan for everything and being independent now involves a lot of dependence. I often feel guilty that I still struggle with letting go of control and not letting our parents know how grateful I really am. I am still a work in progress. Each day that I get in a workout, I start to feel physically stronger, more independent, freer and more excited to be a mom.

As we finish the first year of twin parenting, I realize that in addition to me finding independence, I am also giving our children the gift of independence. They are able to flourish and thrive without us. Sometimes I want them to depend on me for everything, I am their mom after all. I have come to realize as the twins gain independence, so do I; we are all freer and happier.

The boys turn one this week. Of course our parents are helping us plan a party for Henry and Miles. While I cannot wait to celebrate their birthday, I feel like this celebration isn’t just about them. This is a day of celebration for my dream team. We made it a year, we worked together, it hasn’t always been easy but it’s been amazing. I love our parents more than I ever have when I watch them with our children. I am grateful everyday to be a twin mom. The freedom and independence I have been blessed with because of my dream team makes this gratitude possible.

Embracing the Evolution – It Doesn’t Get Easier but I Can’t Wait for Tomorrow!

It started with fertility. My husband and I spent years trying to get pregnant. It was physically and emotionally draining but I always knew it would all be worth it when I got pregnant. Then I got pregnant with TWINS. My first trimester was brutal. I was nauseous all the time; I couldn’t keep any food down and I was exhausted. I told myself after this trimester it will get easier. Then at about 23 weeks pregnant I was put on bed rest. I prayed for the babies’ safety while losing my mind on the couch. As the weeks passed I grew more and more confident the boys would be okay and told myself it’ll be over soon and the babies will be here safe and sound.

The most joyous day of my life was the day the boys came into the world. People warned us the first three months would be hard. They said you just have to make it through and it will get easier. The boys aren’t a year old yet and I can honestly say I don’t remember everything about the first 3 months. I was so exhausted and delirious, much of it is a fog. I remember Henry having colic and walking around the house with him for hours every night while he cried and sometimes so did I. I remember pumping at 3 in the morning after feeding the babies and thinking to myself “this has to get easier!”

From fertility to bed rest to the first few months of life with twins I can say each of those stages were hard and the next were easier. This led me to think it would keep going this way. Then it stopped getting easier. 

From 6 to 9 months the twins were sleeping through the night (mostly) and taking 3 naps a day. I was finally able to sleep and it felt amazing. My life was very scheduled and I looked forward to a time when they would take less naps and I could do more. At this point I was able to put the boys in bouncers when they were awake and get things done in the house. The shift from 3 to 2 naps was anything but easier!

It doesn’t get easier; it changes, evolves and becomes more complex. For awhile I was in a funk. I threw my back out from chasing my heavy boys around the house. They suddenly needed nonstop attention and supervision and I was physically and emotionally drained. They were napping less and I felt like I could never get anything done. It seemed like they were always sick or teething and I was exhausted.

Then one day when I least expected it, Miles took his first steps. I cried tears of joy. Henry’s first steps came shortly after. Miles seemed to take his first steps unintentionally but when Henry walked, he clapped for himself and looked at me waiting for his applause. I cheered for him with so much excitement. I could see Henry was intently watching his brother to see what he was doing so he could master this new skill too. They are constantly inspiring each other to learn new things. They are so unique and each experience with them is so special and getting to experience these joys with two is so fulfilling and remarkable.

Now they run in opposite directions and fall all over the place. They’ve started fighting over toys and love wrestling. I realized I have a choice; I can stay in a funk, feeling disappointed this stopped getting easier or I can embrace how this journey is evolving. It can be stressful when the boys want different things, have different needs and are constantly depending on me. It is also exciting. No two days are the same; no two minutes are the same! They have started to interact with each other and me in a way that is so awesome. They actually make me laugh and I’ve learned to really look forward to the time we spend together.

There are things that I miss about the phases that came before this one. I miss when they would snuggle and fall asleep on me. I miss when they were less mobile and we could go more places. It’s okay to miss what was special about what came before. If I focus on the past I may miss what is special about the phase we are living in right now. I love when the babies mimic me. I love when they laugh at me playing peek-a-boo. Most of all, I love how they look at me when I walk in the room. They smile so big and jump with joy in the morning when I take them out of their cribs. It is the best feeling; I feel so loved.

I imagine as they learn to talk some things will get easier and others will get more dynamic. I imagine toddlerhood will be full of new ups and downs. One day I will have teenagers who will challenge me in ways I cannot even begin to imagine. What I have realized is that I need to embrace and enjoy these phases as they come and go. I also need to remember that each phase will be filled with unique challenges and my husband and I will take on each challenge just as we have this first year.

Letting go of the belief that it will get easier and embracing the reality that life with twins will be constantly evolving has freed me of feeling disappointment. As new challenges come I may become frustrated at times but I expect the challenges to come. Seeing my boys jump for joy when I walk in the room, watching them run around having so much fun and having my days filled with twin hugs and kisses is filling my heart in a way I never knew was possible. I cannot wait to see what is coming tomorrow!