Motherhood: I’m doing it ALL WRONG

Last fall, I came across this article (10 Things Your Mom Never Told You) on Facebook, and it really rubbed me the wrong way. It’s that treacly stereotypical garbage that obviously means I’m an absolutely terrible mother. In fact, I’m such a bad, lazy mom that it’s taken me four months to actually get around to sharing my response.

1. You made her cry… a lot. She cried when she found out she was pregnant. She cried as she gave birth to you. She cried when she first held you. She cried with happiness. She cried with fear. She cried with worry. She cried because she feels so deeply for you. She felt your pain and your happiness and she shared it with you, whether you realized it or not.

Okay, yes, totally. Completely. There have been a lot of tears on my end. Anxious ones, happy ones, inexplicable ones. Even now, if I look long enough at them, they’re so sweet that I tear up.

2. She wanted that last piece of pie. But when she saw you look at it with those big eyes and lick your mouth with that tiny tongue, she couldn’t eat it. She knew it would make her much happier to see your little tummy be filled than hers.

What?! No way, man. I’ll give you a bite, sure, but that pie is mine!

3. It hurt. When you pulled her hair, it hurt; when you grabbed her with those sharp fingernails that were impossible to cut, it hurt; when you bit her while drinking milk, that hurt, too. You bruised her ribs when you kicked her from her belly; you stretched her stomach out for nine months; you made her body contract in agonizing pain as you entered this world.

Obviously. (Though I had a c-section [bad mother!], so that last pain was from the major surgery, not labor, in my case.)

4. She was always afraid. From the moment you were conceived, she did all in her power to protect you. She became your mama bear. She was that lady who wanted to say no when the little girl next door asked to hold you, and who cringed when she did, because in her mind no one could keep you as safe as she herself could. Her heart skipped two beats with your first steps. She stayed up late to make sure you got home safe, and woke up early to see you off to school. With every stubbed toe and little stumble, she was close by; she was ready to snatch you up with every bad dream or late night fever. She was there to make sure you were OK.

Oh, yes, I’ve had fears in the back of my mind since we found out about them. So many, too many sometimes, and they’re not even in school yet.

5. She knows she’s not perfect. She is her own worst critic. She knows all her flaws and sometimes hates herself for them. She is hardest on herself when it comes to you, though. She wanted to be the perfect mom, to do nothing wrong — but because she is human, she made mistakes. She is probably still trying to forgive herself for them. She wishes with her whole heart that she could go back in time and do things differently, but she can’t, so be kind to her, and know she did the best she knew how to do.

Eh. We have two babies. We’re doing it all wrong, probably. Ain’t nobody with two babies got time to worry about being perfect.

6. She watched you as you slept. There were nights when she was up ’til 3:00 a.m. praying that you would finally fall asleep. She could hardly keep her eyes open as she sang to you, and she would beg you to “please, please fall asleep.” Then, when you finally fell asleep, she would lay you down and all her tiredness would disappear for a short second as she sat by your bedside looking down at your perfect cherub face, experiencing more love than she knew was possible, despite her worn-out arms and aching eyes.

DUDE. I am not spending even more time NOT SLEEPING than I need to. I will hold and comfort and soothe (and I still check to make sure they’re breathing, more than two years in), but then I go BACK TO BED. Like a normal human person.

7. She carried you a lot longer than nine months. You needed her to. So she did. She would learn to hold you while she cleaned; she would learn to hold you while she ate; she would even hold you while she slept, because it was the only way she could sometimes. Her arms would get tired, her back would hurt, but she held you still because you wanted to be close to her. She snuggled you, loved you, kissed you and played with you. You felt safe in her arms; you were happy in her arms; you knew you were loved in her arms, so she held you, as often and as long as you needed.

Maybe this is a twin thing, because once they’re older than a few weeks, it’s nearly impossible to hold two babies at the same time. And now, when there are two thirty-pound toddlers demanding to be held (“up! UP! UP!!”), there is no physical way for me to do that. I have to put one down, or sit on the floor/couch, or put one in an Ergo. And I can’t carry even one for very long anymore, either. I guess I haven’t earned my mama stripes if I am unable to carry a baby more than a certain amount of time. Am I not allowed to be a mother if I give in to an aching back?

8. It broke her heart every time you cried. There was no sound as sad as your cries, or sight as horrible as the tears streaming down your perfect face. She did all in her power to stop you from crying, and when she couldn’t stop your tears, her heart would shatter into a million little pieces.

Every time? Every time? Really? You sure about that? When one of them falls and bumps his head–absolutely! Poor sweet baby, come here and let me make it all better. But when it’s 4.30am and it’s the fourth wake-up of the night and you just want to sleep, for the love of all that is holy? Nope, nothing shattering over here. Let me give you a hug and then PLEASE GO TO SLEEP.

9. She put you first. She went without food, without showers and without sleep. She always put your needs before her own. She would spend all day meeting your needs, and by the end of the day, she would have no energy left for herself. But the next day, she would wake up and do it all over again, because you meant that much to her.

I hate this idea that mothers are “supposed to” sacrifice everything for their babies, and love it. That mothers’ lives aren’t meaningful on their own, that somehow being hungry is a badge of honor of maternal pride and accomplishment. I *do* shower, and sleep, and eat. I don’t think that should be special or unique, either. (I also wear pajamas most of the day. Nothing wrong with that!) All mothers need and deserve to do basic biological things like eat, for god’s sake. I’ve said before–and I think it’s RIDICULOUS that it even needs to be mentioned–mamas are people too, and mama, YOU MATTER. Go wash your hair, go take a nap, go finish that pie–you deserve it!!

10. She would do it all again. Being a mom is one of the hardest jobs anyone can do, and it will take you to your very limits sometimes. You cry, you hurt, you try, you fail, you work and you learn. But, you also experience more joy that you thought was possible and feel more love than your heart can contain. Despite all the pain, grief, late nights and early mornings you put your mom through, she would do it all again for you because you are worth it to her. So, next time you see her, tell your mom thank you; let her know that you love her. She can never hear it too many times.

My little toddlers run grinning into my arms when I pick them up from daycare, and they have also just recently started to say, “I lub you, mama,” and dammit, there goes my heart shattering every time.

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So maybe I’m doing something right after all?

Things I Love Thursday: My Babies

On some Thursdays, I’ll share something random that I’m really liking, enjoying, or appreciating. Just a little post to share a little snippet of life right now. I’d love to know if you also like these things, and what you’re randomly into these days!

 

IMG_6495Last night as I was putting the twins to bed, I started singing “You are my sunshine.” In the middle of the song, I started crying and couldn’t finish the song. (The song also made me cry in those commercials last year, so it’s not a huge surprise.)

Really, I am so blessed. I am pretty sure I’m a mostly-mediocre mama (ooh, that would’ve been a great blog name!), but these two little creatures are pretty wonderful. They’ve recently started to give kisses, on demand but also sometimes on their own. Their little faces light up when I come get them, they touch me and say, “mama” in those adorable little voices. They love getting tickles and playing games and singing songs and being silly–and getting cuddled. They still back up and sit down in my lap to read a book, and sometimes their little hands rest on my arm, and I snuggle in to their thick hair and give them kisses and hugs.

They are amazing. And a handful, and overdramatic. And the cutest, most incredible things. They really do make me happy when skies are gray. Or blue, or any other color. I love them so much.

The Mama Matters

I’m in a lot of online groups, and many of them revolve around parenting or babies/kids. Often there are posts from moms who are exhausted and frazzled and emotional. I never have much actual advice, but I like to chime in and say something like, “Your mental health and sanity is really important. You matter too, mama!”

A few weeks ago, it hit me like a brick: I’ve been talking to myself.

*I* matter. My subconscious has been hard at work trying to convince me, all this time.

The first few weeks (months? I have no idea) of life with twins, I cried about many things (though I did my best to do it quietly or out of the way. It wasn’t all the time or anything. I don’t think?). I felt frustrated at many things, and I was trying really hard to do All The Things. I kept trying to make my husband take it easier, or not do as much–like go take a nap, or watch some extra tv or something. And he never listened to me. Which I found (and still do find) extremely, extremely frustrating. He would say something about me taking a nap or taking some time ‘away’ or whatever, and I would say, “No, I don’t matter.”

And then I would tear up or actually cry. Because at the same time, I felt two conflicting emotions: that I and my needs truly did not matter, and that it made me fucking sad that I thought I didn’t matter.

Now, my husband was and is pretty much the best partner in this baby thing as anyone could dream of. It’s never been a question that he does the babycare/parenting work. He’s not a babysitter or an “involved dad”; he’s just a parent. No question. So even though we have twins, which is fucking hard, our twins have been good babies, and I’ve had it really pretty good. We got a nanny two days a week when the babies were 2 months old, mostly so that I could do things like take a nap and go outside by myself. Seriously, I have nothing to complain about.

But those first few brutal weeks, I still felt like I didn’t matter. That I was not important, unworthy. The least important person in the house. I stopped saying it, because it made my husband upset (rightfully so!), but I continued to feel it.

Once a new baby arrives, all the attention is directed there. When new twins arrive, there is lots and lots of attention! Not just out at the grocery store, but at home. And not just between the nuclear family, but also the extended family. Grandparents, aunts and uncles, everyone’s so excited and thrilled about the adorable squishy baby! And well they should be–babies *are* exciting! (Well, more in theory than in practice; generally they just sit there.) But the parents–especially the mother, I think–get lost in the baby shuffle. Nobody  pays attention to the new mom.

Plus there is or was some remnant in my head of the idea that anything the dad did, was extra, bonus, not to be expected. So I felt guilty, and extra grateful, and extra dependent, and extra beholden. And I was beholden–I physically needed him to do a lot of work those first days, as my body recovered from the c-section.  But I also didn’t want to put him out too much. I didn’t want to be helpless.

Listen to me: I didn’t want to put him out too much? Like I would have to tiptoe and hope and beg for such a favor as to please change diapers today because my torso was sliced open a few days ago and my drugs aren’t doing enough?

There’s a lot of culture at play here–I would have sworn I was immune to this patriarchal nonsense. But look at these words coming out of me without even realizing it! It’s a real thing that women, especially mothers, do and want to and should (????!!!) put themselves last. Because they don’t matter. Or because what their kids or spouses want is more important, and the mom has to make sure to accommodate all of that and mitigate all of that, because her own needs have to take a backseat.

It’s hard to really see and escape this kind of thinking that’s embedded in our society. Sorry, I didn’t mean to get political, but it’s kind of really the core of the issue here.

I didn’t think I mattered.

If that’s not something to make you/me tear up, I don’t know what is. It’s heartbreaking! But apparently it’s taken me this long, and the impartiality of a social network screen, to learn the lesson that I matter. That I was and am an important person, not just for the sake of my children, but for my own sake, as a fully functioning human person. I’m not a vessel or a robot. I’m allowed to have space, time and opinions of my own. (How very 20th century of me!)

So, listen. No matter what: YOU MATTER, MAMA. Always. Along with your partner, you are one of the two most important people in your new baby/ies’ life. Of course your baby needs a lot of attention, and grueling, tedious attention it is for the first few endless weeks. (But you’ll also get to snuggle with your sweet new baby!) Parental needs get pushed to the back burner for awhile.

But, please please remember: You are a person too. You are not just a feeding/diapering machine. You have wants and needs, and you are allowed to have them. And! you are allowed to get them. Sleep is a biological need, not a selfish want. So naps aren’t indulgent, they’re necessary! You deserve to be at your struggling best–you probably need some rest, time and space away for a few minutes. Away from everything and everyone, blessed quiet for your frazzled new-mama mind. It doesn’t have to be a day at the spa (though you certainly deserve a massage at the least!). Just a few minutes to breathe. A few minutes to take a shower, walk through the grocery store aisles, feel the sun on your face–all without a tiny person all up on you, demanding all of your attention and energy. A few minutes to be YOU.

Maybe that means your partner hangs out with the baby/babies solo for awhile. Maybe it means that your free time is only in the evening. But go find that time. Ask for it, demand it. Figure out a way for each of you to get some naps, some alone time, to get some you time, to get that space and that silence. It is so, so important.

You’ll feel better, and you’ll be a better parent for your sweet new baby. Your baby deserves healthy, rested parents

YOU MATTER.

One Year

A whole year. Twelve months. 52 weeks. A year.

A year of being a mama.

I’m terrible with time anyway, but these months have been both fast, slow, easy, hard, and many other cliche opposite extremes. They have flown by at a snail’s pace.

Sometimes I try to remember last year, the experience of two babies on the inside of my body, and what a very strange and scary prospect it was. I remember how much it hurt to move while I was lying down, and I try to remember how really freaking cool it was to feel two babies rolling around in my tummy.  The kicking and the hiccuping and the salsa dancing on the inside of my body.  I also remember the uncertainty, the questions, the unknown of our future.

And now I have these giant babies, with faces and personalities, and I try to think back and reconcile, and think about them still being them, just on the inside. And it blows my mind.

I am still in such wonder and awe that these no-longer-tiny creatures grew inside my body. I mean, it’s a freaking miracle! And it happens all the time and everyone thinks theirs is a miracle, and it is.  But of course, mine are special, because they’re mine.

My birth experience was strange and surreal for me–it wasn’t wondrous or blissful or full of maternal joy. But when I held those little bodies up to my own body…it was perfect. Wonderful. Absolutely the best feeling I have ever felt. Not loud or obvious or fireworks. It was a quiet feeling of fullness, happiness, amazement, comfort, relief.

When the babies were teeny tiny, I would lean close to them to check their breathing, and every time I would be amazed and awed at the sound of their breath. They were breathing! Like real people! Who used to not exist! And now they did! Because my body literally gave them breath and life! Seriously–it’s incredible.

As they have grown and learned so many things, I have been truly amazed and agog to see the process of these tiny creatures growing and becoming. Once helpless blobs, and now moving, curious thinkers and explorers. Turning into people. It’s like a little miracle every day.

One of my favorite parts has been seeing my babies recognize me and smile at me. They know me! Their little faces light up, and my face lights up right back. It melts my heart a smidge every.single.time.

Every morning I am so happy to see my babies. Of course, every morning I am also exhausted and want to still be asleep, but it’s not an exaggeration to say that when I see them, I’m not tired anymore. (Well, temporarily, at least.) I can’t help but smile at them so big and feel so happy that they’re there, and that they’re mine.

Every evening we do bedtime stories in our living room. The babies are big enough and steady enough now that I can get them both sitting on my lap, and while my husband reads them a book, I just get to hold them, and squeeze them, and I kiss their sweet faces at almost every page. I can’t possibly hold them close enough or kiss them enough or memorize it enough.

They are so wonderful. And they’re mine!

I have two babies. This never ceases to surprise me and amaze me. I am a parent, a mama. A mother. To two small children, two small sons. These are common everyday words, but it still feels uncommon to me.

And they’re not technically babies any more. This never ceases to break my heart. It’s such a struggle to embrace the present, their presence, to live in the moment of what they’re like right now. My default seems to be wistful. They were so tiny at first. I didn’t pay enough attention, I didn’t know how much and how quickly it would change. I didn’t embrace it or memorize what it was really like. I was just trying to survive the days. And then the early days were suddenly over and I wasn’t quite prepared to move on so quickly. I’m trying to be more conscious about absorbing the moments now.

I hug them and hold them tight every day as much as I can. It’s never enough, is it?

Every day I get to hug them is the best day. It boggles my mind to think of all the days and years and changes to come, and what a privilege it will be to watch these little babies grow up. I hope I am worthy to be their mama. I am so happy and grateful I get to be their mama.

Oh, my sweet babies.

The First Big Step

Dear sweet babies,

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Tonight we put you to sleep in your own room for the very first time.

I can’t believe that you’re finally going to occupy your bedroom. You’re going to be away from us! You’ve only ever slept in the same room with us, since the day you were born. A lot of it for convenience, but also because we like having you right there. With us. Our little family, all in one room. Together.

Now I’ll have to creep in to a separate room to check on you when I come to bed. And I’ll be doing that for years to come. I think I’ll always want to check on you, even when you’re big, and I think that I will always smile when I see you sleeping peacefully.

This is your first step toward independence. Don’t laugh at me, I know you’re only four and a half months old and you’re completely dependent on us still and for a long time yet. But you’re starting to notice the world around you, outside our little family, and I know that all too soon you’ll be far more interested in what’s out there than what’s in here. In no time at all, you’ll running away from us, all growed up, out into the world. You won’t be our snuggly babies for much longer.

Now you’re in your own room, where you’ll be for the rest of your childhood. Years and years.  All too soon you’ll start talking to each other, and conspiring together, playing together and making messes together. All of it in your room. As little kids and then big kids, no longer babies. We’ll move houses in the future and you’ll have other rooms, but this will always be your first childhood bedroom.

My children. My babies. Always my sweet babies.

love,

mama

A View of a Room

At night, I creep into our bedroom after my husband and the babies are asleep. The Rock N Plays stand at the end of our bed, two large contraptions holding two small babies. Somehow that view slices into my heart–I spend all day near them and it’s only after a few hours away that I get to see again how small and precious and perfect they are. It bends and breaks my heart every time. They are so tiny and wonderful and miraculous. Every night I get a moment of pre-nostalgia, knowing they’ll get bigger and louder and hopefully, if we’re lucky and pay attention, more precious too. Knowing these days are limited and sweet. Knowing I can’t hold on to them–the days or the tiny babies. Everything will change. They will change and I will be amazed and I will be bereft because it will have gone too fast and they will have grown up and grown away from me.

The babies’ room is at the end of the hallway, around the corner.  It’s not part of our life yet. We rarely go in there; it’s only partly decorated and is half storage. When I walk in the door, just like before they were born and I didn’t know what it was really like to have my own babies, it feels like I’m stealing in, sneaking in. Like I’m still waiting for those babies, that life as a mama. Like it’s on hold and still far away, unknown. I see the crib that’s never been slept in and I don’t want to visualize babies big enough to sleep in it. Even though they might be too big to share it already. Even though in my mind’s eye, I can see my sweet five pound newborns peacefully sleeping there side by side, bundled up and cozy. An image that was never real in that room and now never will be.

In that room, the babies are still more of a promise, a potential, than reality. In that room, I’m a storybook mother, beaming down at her sweet children while they slumber and smile in their dreams. My perfect dream self is rocking quietly in the corner of the perfectly decorated nursery and contemplating the perfect day everyone had together. I am saintly, patient, fully dressed. In my mind, that’s who that room can make me.

In that room lives the promise of first “Mama!”s, hugs from little arms, late night tears, toddlers with trucks. In that room, the future waits and the present is fleeting. In that room is the promise of life and of love.

the other side of the curtain

Recently I attended a brunch party/gathering hosted by our local twins club. There were a ton of people there–most of them were parents of twin babies, but a good number were expectant parents. I ended up chatting with a couple people, including one girl who’s due in a few months. She asked a few questions about my experiences and of course I shared.

Then it struck me. A few months ago I was at another brunch talking to moms/parents with two month old twins, asking about their experiences, wondering what things would be like for me. I remember being impressed that they were out and about with such tiny babies, and that they seemed fairly normal–not going crazy from sleep deprivation.

Now I’m on the other side of that fence. I’m the one out with young babies and trying to appear normal (and not just because I’m tired! Ha!). I find that incredibly, incredibly strange and unreal. Not the part about giving advice; I love doing that if I can be helpful. But the part about how I was pregnant with twins. And now I have two-month-old twin babies. What?!!

Like I’m now in a club. The pregnant club, the parent club, the grownup club. Except I really don’t feel like I should be in any of those. Someone’s mother? TWO someones’s mother? Not me! That is ridiculous. I don’t know anything!

Sometimes I look around and see all these people and their kids of various ages. I think, wow, everyone does this! How does everyone do this?? Do they have some secret? Surely they know more than I do? Surely they feel equipped and ready and adult enough to deal with babies and children? This shit isn’t easy. And this part we’re in right now is so freaking easy, compared to what’s coming! Sometimes I’m like, wow, we’re doing okay…but it’s been less than three months. We have eighteen years to go. EIGHTEEN. YEARS. Holy shit. Will we ever feel ready? Will I ever feel like I have a rightful place in those ‘clubs’?