Read Part I & Part II
As far as I remember, and as soon as I was old enough to start thinking about it, I have always wanted to have 2 kids, preferably twins so that I would do the hard work only once. I also allowed myself to imagine it would be 1 boy and 1 girl so that I could experience the best of both worlds. (I keep harping on that that don’t I?)
Well, that’s besides the point. What I want to document here is the dilemmas and tough decisions you take when you are brining up twins. A mom of more than 1 kid also goes through similar dilemmas but when the kids are twins (or more??) things are different in many respects. (Before the Moms of more than ones begin to protest- ladies, I just said different, I did not say more difficult or less difficult!!! And that goes for the Dads too, I hate to leave them out of this)
So here goes.
At the most basic level, it is ok to have different levels of feelings/ love/ affection for either of them. There I have brought it out in the open. You may like one's smile better or the other’s looks better or likewise. It is ok to instinctively pick one child up close and let the other be comforted by another care giver. You can’t be doing both at the same time. As both the babies would crave for the Mom’s individual attention, that needs to be given. As far as they are concerned, they are the only baby for their mom & dad and they do demand their space, attention and time. It is best if it is given on a rotation basis. Even in animals you would observe that the mother takes care of the weakest the most. An animal follows its instincts as it has no social self to display. Nobody will censor the animal mom for not taking care of each baby impartially but the ani-mom instinctively supports the ani-babe that is weakest and needs her most at that time. But we human moms tend to worry about what others will comment if she pays more attention to either of her kid. This gets more obvious if the two children are of the same age and their needs are exactly the same at the same time. I was often asked which baby I love more, or I know moms love their older/ oldest kid the most or the youngest is the dearest. I still refuse to answer clearly and yes if I have to analyze in detail, there are reasons why I like Ojas better and there are other set of reasons why I like Tejas better. But nothing will make me share that, as I don’t want them to grow older, read this and mould themselves according to my blog sentiments or otherwise. I want them to be as they are and I will like them for what they are. But yes, it is difficult to choose between the two and decide whom I like better. Maybe equality does exist at a higher level.
Human beings are not designed to feed a litter. Day 1 my Gynaec recommended that I feed one and at the same time give the other the bottle else, in her own words I could never manage it. Especially when they both are hungry at the same time. The pediatrician said strictly no top feed and encouraged me saying you are doing a great job. The ped’s focus was the kids and the gyn’s was me!!
Is there a middle path?
To tell you the truth, with all due respect to my gyn ( as obvious in most of my posts related to my pregnancy and later), I did not want to give them top feed. In the backdrop of all recommendations that Mom’s milk is the best, for the 1st 6 months keep on exclusive b- feed, together with my Leo ego that refused to believe that I could not manage the two, I went by the ped’s instructions.
And it hurt. It hurt me physically when every 45 minutes or less I had one baby hanging on to me for 8-10 minutes or so. I used to sit with a time piece and stop at exact 8 or 10 minutes because of the pain. The duration of each feed increased gradually and a time came when even after 40 minutes the boys refused to relieve me. And the nights were terrible. I never slept for more than 1 hour at a stretch. Even during the day, when the boys deigned to sleep I had other activities like taking bath, kitchen, maid, cleaning etc to take care of. (I had a lousy, lazy, messy maid during that time; even I with my limited jhaadoo pochcha skills could do a better job).
It hurt me emotionally when the other baby was screaming his lungs off and I was in the midst of feeding one baby. And i could not make him release me so that the other could take over. i could feel one being frantically on the job if the other was screaming on his head and waiting in line to be next. Even they could feel the stress.
After 1 week I asked the doc whether I could express milk and give. Another no. But I did that anyway to make things easier for me. The only issue was that the boys did not give sufficient time gap for the expressing to be easy.
There were desperate situations when I used to hold one baby and feed him and prop the other one on a pillow or even better ask my mom to hold the other one and let him feed on the other side.
Everyone said that they cry as they remain hungry inspite of the frequent feeds. They cry as the milk quantity is not enough. They cry as they digest the milk fast and therefore they are hungry quickly. They cry as they are not getting my exclusive attention.
Excuse me! I disagree; the quantity was never a problem. The 60 lactation tablets I took ensured that. It was the ability to feed for enough time that was the problem. it is humanly impossible to do that every 45 minutes for a duration of anything from 10 min to 40 min.
15-20 days into this and I decided to leave egos aside and follow the gyn’s advice. I gave them cow’s milk and that day I cried for being a bad mom. For letting them assimilate germs and diseases from the outside and facing a lifetime of low resistance.
However, I agree, that life became a lot easier. (When I say ‘a lot’ it is still a lot less easier than a normal life.) I switched them to cow’s milk every morning post bath and before bed to ensure a rested sleep post both occasions. Infact they used to sleep easily and cried lesser as their stomach was fuller perhaps. I used the bottle despite advices against it. Practical Problem. I did not have the stamina and patience (yes I am really using that word!), to sit and spoon-feed milk to both of them at that stage.
There were days when both decided to take turns in their sleeping time. When one sleeps the other does not and vice versa. In effect, the entire day I was battling with their needs- feed, clean, sleep, nappy changes. I did not believe in diapering them so I had to always have the paraphernalia, of cloth nappy, rubber cloth, washable diapers whenever needed or simply unlimited number of chaddis/ shorts. Believe me it is annoying. Diapering is much easier. But the tree hugger in me did not allow me to burden the environment. Also, my pet question- what if I had to wear a sanitary napkin all day all month all year? How would I feel then?
For a mom, the easiest way to calm the baby is feeding him/her. And even the baby expects it when he comes to the mom’s lap. So when both are crying for comfort feed, it really becomes difficult to choose. At that time it is very important to have help on hand whether it is maid, relative, mom or MIL. And it always helps to keep the milk bottle ready. The other baby who is left out gets really impatient.
When one is getting a wash and the other is left in the room alone (s)he can bring the roof down with screams. So help is handy in preventing the crying scene! Especially in the stage of- if-I-am-left-alone-I-should-cry.
Infact, I used to squirm at the idea of a maid touching my kid, forget giving them their food/ handling the bottle. But today I am depending on my 2 maids to help me maintain my sanity.
I was keen to sun them everyday for their Vitamin D. My flat does not get direct sunlight all the time which is a blessing, being in Chennai. But I wanted my babies to soak up strong, direct sunlight for atlast 20 minutes straight. So i used to take them for a walk everyday in their double pram. Rather I wanted to take them out in their new double pram instead of my old single pram. But just my luck. I will notice that both are in a good mood and not doing anything in particular (for that age!!) and will plan to take them out. Promptly one will fall asleep and I will have to take the other guy out in the old, single pram. Later on I made it a point to take them out / send them out at the same time every day to make them used to it. Also, the walk gave me the much needed exercise.
While shopping or going for parties, we do not have the luxury of Mom eating while Dad holds the baby or Dad pushes the shopping cart and Mom holds the baby. Both hold their respective charges and also the dinner plate or shopping cart. we do not know the concept of relief. Or we must always request someone to accompany us or look after the babies while we do a quick-but-always-looking-at-the-watch-and-calling-up-home-to-check shopping.
But things get better after the 3rd month and around 6 months even better. Infact progressively the situation gets better. They begin to play with each other, follow you around and have other activities to occupy them. Also we get sensitized and used to handling them better than what we were earlier.
This is as far as the early days- the first 6-8 months go. I will continue with more insights in the post- As they Grow Older which will follow.
I want to tag specifically apu for telling the other side of the story. also any other twin who would like to take it up.
The topic is- A twin's perspective towards others - how they ask you about being psychic with your twin or how similar or different you are or how they compare you both or how your parents bring you up similarly or differently, make you dress alike, you know the works. This will be a great help to me in becoming a better parent.