Let’s make one thing clear: the only reason why my posts on Facebook and Twitter are upbeat and positive is because I am generally upbeat and positive and I don’t want to be seen as a whiner. But the other day, when I asked my husband “The people who do it all well, how do they do it?” and he answered, wisely, “Maybe they aren’t”, I thought how social media is great at making us look exactly how we want to be seen.
It’s an interesting paradox in that we can reveal as little or as much as we want over social media. Some people are open books and others appear completely one-dimensional. Some are always whiny, others always rant-y, some always SHOUT and other pepper everything with exclamation marks!!!! I realized, while reading over some of my Facebook Friends’ posts, that I could be equally guilty — if guilty is the appropriate word because I don’t think that posting too little is a sin — of making life with newborn twins in a large family look like a walk in the park.
Let me preface what I am about to write by saying that I am not looking for advice (unless you want to provide it). This post is not meant to make you feel bad for not helping more. It is not meant as a pity party and I don’t need you to write to let me know that I am not fat, lazy and stupid (unless you really want to). But looking back at the last 2 months, I get the impression, confirmed by every mother of twins I have met, that I won’t remember much from the first 6 months of my babies’ lives. And so this post is as much to let you know how it really goes down around here as a personal chronicle of the good, the bad and, yes, the ugly, of those infamous first 6 months.
In the last 2 weeks, I have really hit the wall. The twins are 6 to 8 weeks and our family life has to return to a semblance of normalcy. In the last 2 months, I have barely slept. This is a true fact. With a singleton, you don’t sleep a lot. With twins, you don’t sleep at all. On the rare occasion when I get-up in a controlled mood – not even good, but not flying-off-the-handle – I realize how much parents influence the mood of the family as a whole. These days, it seems like everyone is barking at everyone and I can’t escape the fact that this is the tone I am setting. Each member of my family needs so much more than I am able to give right now, extreme fatigue and the relentlessness of caring for twin infants are limiting me physically and emotionally. My youngest children need more of me. My oldest children need more from me.
Every book will tell you that housework can wait but what about the things that can’t wait? Like keeping my toddler from killing herself, teaching my son that he doesn’t have to whine all the time or trying to understand why my teens or pre-teens are in a funk? In the Pits of Post-Partum, it’s not the dirty toilet that overwhelms me. While housework does make me feel like I’m not quite keeping up, it’s all the missed and messed-up opportunities to be an adequate parent that grab me by the throat. The more tired I get, the more help I need but the more tired I get, the more uncooperative my children become. It’s a vicious circle that I won’t break without investing more time in forming the children; not only correcting their lack of cooperation but also giving something in return, like gratefulness, understanding and appreciation.
There is literally 100 important things competing for every minute of time when I am not caring for the babies. And the more time goes by, the more things don’t get done. The constant gasping for more time is the biggest challenge of our large family. At any given moment, there are two kinds of stuff: stuff that needs to be done and stuff that isn’t getting done. I have developed a quasi-allergic reaction to idle time. Angst washes over me whenever I find myself idle with apparently nothing to do because it means that I’m forgetting something: a load of laundry, some boiling water for the bottles, a kid’s lunch.
In the Pits of Post-Partum, I don’t only anguish over the things I’m not doing now, I’m also worried about the things I should be doing soon, like exercise and lose the 20 extra pounds the twins have left behind. But right now, I can’t imagine having the physical energy to exercise or the mental energy to diet. I keep snacking on high-energy food while doing a double-take every time I see myself in a mirror. I still look 5 months pregnant for goodness sake!
And yet, even in the Pits of Post-Partum my beautiful family is what I am the most proud of. When we go out as a family I just want to yell “LOOK PEOPLE! 8 KIDS! I have 8 KIDS!” And maybe therein lies the rub: in the Pits of Post-Partum, I feel in short cycles tremendously blessed and terrified that I may be coming-up short.
It says we only live once. There is no second chance.