“Sleep when they baby sleeps.”
“It will pass.”
“They’re only this age once. Enjoy it.”
“If you get frustrated, put the baby down and take a break.”
This is some of the advice we’ve heard in the last month. Well-intentioned. Factually correct. Spoken by people who have survived and lived to tell the tale. Although these pieces of advice have merit, if I’m being honest, they discourage us.
Everybody has a hard time during the newborn phase. Parenting is a journey, not a competition, and we’re not trying to win a martyr contest. But life with twins is just different sometimes from life with singletons.
Let me paint a picture.
Sunday, February 24th, 2019 – 11 pm
I started writing this blog post at 11 pm by dictating into my phone and typing with one thumb. My other arm is under Justine, buried under a fuzzy blanket, and is starting to go to sleep. I’m hungry. I also have to go to the bathroom. But I dare not move because she has finally stopped screaming.
I’m sure any parent can relate to this feeling. However, in our house, she is only 50% of the equation. While she has been screaming and crying in alternating waves since 5:30 pm, her brother has done the same. Other days this week, they took turns: she screamed (there is no other word for it) from 6 pm to 11, he screamed from 11 to 3 am.
Do you know what it feels like to be in a house with two screaming infants for 3 to 6 hour stints? Sometimes in stereo, sometimes in alternating waves?
Several hours ago, I tried to let Josiah have a nap by soloing the kids. He didn’t sleep until 3 am last night, and then I had to wake him at 5:30 am for emergency help. We both need sleep before the night starts, but him especially.
I tried. So hard.
Justine finally found solace by sleeping in the Moby wrap against me, so I kept her there while servicing Jayce. It was tricky to change him, position us all on the couch, do the bottle and burp him with one hand, but I did my best. The real challenge was what to do when he finished. Justine needed serviced. He was fussy if I put him down, so I decided to take her out and put him in. Not so easy. When I removed her so I could install him, she screamed. Her freaking head. Off.
I ignored her. I tried installing him but now the wrap was off kilter. I put him down to reconfigure. He started wailing. I did a sloppy job of wrapping and stuffed him in just to keep him quiet. His head was at a weird angle.
I ignored it for now. Just need to get her changed and bottle in mouth so she stops hyper sonic screaming.
Josiah needs sleep. Night is coming.
I got her changed. He was sliding out. I removed him. Back to both twins screaming. I abandoned the wrap. I would just hold them both.
Do you know how hard it is to safely pick up and position one infant on you, then reach down and do the same for #2 without #1 sliding away? How about installing the burp rag and holding the bottle so #2 can eat while #1 reclines?
The crying volume climbed. I scrambled. It was no good. Josiah came down and took one infant while I fed the other. By then, she was too upset to eat and cried around the bottle. It took a long time for us all to calm down.
We’ve been suffering the fallout from this for four hours. Josiah is still holding Jayce. He won’t stop wailing. Walking, reclining, carrying, pacifier, no pacifier…Nothing works. Justine is done eating and has returned to practicing her super powers of sonic boom.
I’m being serious about the super sonic thing. We downloaded a decibel app just because we wanted validation. Her “medium” volume is louder than power tools. Not sure about the top volume because we don’t have the spare hands to try it when she’s THAT mad.
And where are we at in the evening? The eight night-time bottles still need to be made. Diaper trash cans are overflowing. I’m still hungry. Not sure when I ate last. My lower back hurts from picking her up/putting her down constantly so I can get things done in spurts.
Jayce? Still wailing in Josiah’s face. Nice.
We’re finally ready for the night, although no one has gotten any extra sleep. Now I’m sitting with her in the living room recliner. Josiah takes Jayce upstairs to at least space out the noise. He pauses at the top, and we have to shout to communicate the nursery iPad code.
I rock Justine in the glider with her pacifier. Another hour, hour and a half passes. Finally—FINALLY—she stops screaming. I give it a few more minutes to make sure. I can hear Jayce crying still and don’t want to leave Josiah with two going off.
I bring her to him in angry tears. He is nearly in tears too. This is our fourth (fifth?) night like this. There were some last week too.
I have to get to sleep so I can relieve him at 3 am. Last night, I never slept because the kids didn’t settle down until midnight. By that point, I could tell Josiah just needed a break so I stayed on duty and let him sleep until 3. It was broken and not great, but we tried.
Tonight, I have no idea what will happen. He will probably be up with one—hopefully, only one—inconsolable infant for several hours.
This may pass quickly from the perspective of an experience parent. For us, this feels like death.
Monday, February 25th, 2019 – 4 pm
To our great relief, last night was not total misery. The kids settled down by 1 am, which means Josiah actually got some sleep. I went on duty at 2:45 am to do the 3 am care.
Well, I tried. Both kids went super sonic before I could get one finished, so Josiah got back up and managed one until I had a free set of hands.
After 3 am? It was pretty okay. There was more post-bottle crying at 6 am than normal, but I had them both calm by 7:30 or so. Some parental sleep from then until 8:30 am when it was time to do it all over again.
From 8:30 am until 11 am, we tried to get them back to sleep so we could grab a final hour or two before noon. No luck. The kids normally are asleep or at least happy during this time. Today they fussed intermittently. Enough to keep each other up while constantly looking like they were MERE MOMENTS from giving us a break.
They got fed at noon. We took turns eating around their care. With some holding and soothing, they were asleep by 1:30. Dead asleep. We’re talking limb arms, soft breathing noises, total stillness.
Sweet, sweet success. We ran upstairs to bed. Got under the cover. Expressed psalms of joy and gratitude for a nap.
And then got up five minutes later when SOMEBODY started crying.
Pretty sure I started crying then too.
Fussiness scattered over the next two hours, two kids. When one was fine, the other was not. Somebody fell asleep and it looked like it would stick, so I went upstairs to try a nap again.
Until I saw the pile of hospital bills on my desk. Fine, bills first, nap next.
58 minutes and 42 seconds of being on hold later, I have scheduled appointments, cleaned the nursery, and paid other online bills while waiting for the insurance people to fix my problem. Josiah has left to run an errand.
Jayce is asleep. Justine is…undecided. I keep rocking her chair to buy myself a few more minutes. I can afford to spend time writing this because I’m still on hold with the insurance.
Other things we’ve done this week? Eaten food in shifts so one person could scarf while the other holds two (probably crying) twins.
Gone to the bathroom in shifts.
Held one twin for feeding while rocking its crying sibling in the rocker with our feet.
Laid down for a nap and then one person giving up to tend to now-crying twins so the other parent can (try to) sleep.
I’m not trying to bore anyone with long play-by-plays. I’m also not trying to win any “We Have the Suckiest Life” contests. Like I said, all parenting is hard.
Parents of one kid have it hard. Parents of several kids have it hard. Parents of kid(s) with special needs have it hard. Single parents have it hard. Foster & adoptive parents have it hard. Parents with limited income, no insurance, extra life burdens, etc. etc. etc. have it hard.
Parents of multiples have it hard.
I said several blog posts ago that this is not an Instagram feed. The stories and insights I give about our family are real. And the real truth right now is: Life with premie infant twins sucks. A lot. Most of the time.
I love my kids. I want them to be safe. I want to provide for their needs. I stay up to pay their hospital bills and schedule their next doctor appointments when I need to sleep. I am eager to see them grow up. But we are not at the point yet where we are filled with happiness and joy at their presence in our house.
We’ll get there. One day, we’ll play games as a family. Go to the park. Wash our car. Sit down to eat dinner at the table. Watch a movie. Visit grandparents. Resolve sibling fights. Endure time outs. Have potty-training mishaps. Read books. Go to the library. Get the chickenpox.
But right now, on this day of Monday, February the 25th, life. Really. Sucks. I know it will pass before we know it, but if you read the above daily account, perhaps you can understand why that doesn’t give me a lot of encouragement right now. Why “sleep when the baby sleeps” is at times practically an insult to parents of multiples. How “enjoy this stage” seems like the most ridiculous suggestion I’ve ever heard.
Our kids were born a month early. Developmentally, they are barely three weeks old. We have lived through two months of newborn purgatory and only have three weeks of progress to show for it. Forgive me if I feel like this particular stage never ends.
As I finish writing this, another pair of wonderful ladies are on their way to give us a break for a few hours. I’m not sure if there is grandparent help this weekend but we are discussing it. In the next few days, I will go through my list of sitters (again) to schedule breaks for the next two weeks, and these GOD-SENT, AMAZING INDIVIDUALS will probably graciously respond with “yes,” just like they have done for the last three weeks.
Tomorrow may be better, and if not, perhaps the day after it. I’ll have funny stories to share and cute pictures to post in our digital album. The sun will set today in the evening–probably about the time the kids start screaming–and then it will rise again in the morning. But there will also be more days like today. I do not relish those.
We are not without help nor support. Thank God. Our parents, friends, and church are a big reason we are still alive. But if we answer the door a little bleary eyed and manic…if we look annoyed when you ask us how wonderful it is to have two babies in the house…if you catch us angry crying or dreading the next 48 hours of life…this is why.