I was never someone who spent a lot of time thinking about life as a mother. In fact, prior to naturally conceiving unplanned twins in May last year, I had been told I had a low number of eggs left and as such had spent even less time thinking about it. With my fiancé an older parent of two, I thought, ‘if it happens, it happens’. And happened it did as we welcomed fraternal twin boys, Henry ‘Harry’ and Aengus (family name) ‘Gus’ on Friday 22nd January born via Caesarean section at The Mater Hospital in Sydney.
The twins came home last Thursday and as you can imagine it has been a steep learning curve. So here is what I have learnt in my first week of being a new mum, and the things that would never have crossed my mind previously.
1. If you aren’t prepared to change a nappy, you can’t visit
As you can imagine, everyone wants to see the twins. Of course, I understand, but the truth is that very few people are actually very helpful. Everyone wants to hold the baby’s, pass them around and smell their heads but no one wants to do any of the crappy jobs that mummy does – the prolonged burping that comes with premmie bubs; the constant nappy changes; the settling when they are unsettled because so many people have held them. In fact, last weekend 4 adults held baby Harry (the bigger twin) who literally had a steaming nappy and all the visitors ignored it. Now baby Harry is pretty easy going, but seriously let’s be honest, they all knew he had a dirty nappy but didn’t want a bar of changing him. So a new rule at baby central came into play that day, if you are not prepared to change a nappy, don’t visit because then you are just more work for me, and I have plenty of work already.
2. Have a daily goal
Since I have been home I have been setting small daily goals to help structure the very limited spare time I find – the first was to get to the coffee shop. The next to write one article a day. Here when I do find a few minutes in between feeds, or am making a plan for the day, I have something to base it on. On both days I have wanted to get to the coffee shop we have managed to leave the house by 9am, simply because I planned for it and everyone at home knew that’s what we are working towards to make sure the twins were fed, dressed and in the pram ready to go nice and early.
3. Get up, get dressed
I made this rule before I gave birth – that I would not stay in PJ’s all day, that I would get up, have a quick shower, even a minute or two and throw on some clothes and make up. I can ultimately do this in 5 minutes or less if need be, and it means I feel organised and in control for the day. As I know if I get downstairs and start tending to hungry, dirty baby’s before this has happened it will be 11am before I know it and I would still not be dressed.
4. You have to eat
As a Dietitian myself I have always had to watch my weight closely so the thought of loading up on meals and carbs simply to ensure I make enough milk is crazy but trying to breastfeed two baby’s as much as I can means I have to eat, a lot. In fact I have never eaten so much in my life. And I have to prioritise it, so even if the twins are unsettled I have to find a way to slip in meals and snacks (I am becoming a master at the one handed toast spread) otherwise I have no milk. I often have mothers who coming trying to lose weight who report not having time to eat, but you have to make time and prioritise it – this I now know firsthand. So if you have a friend who has just had a baby (or two) don’t take flowers, take food, lots of it that she can heat quickly and that will fill her up. Pies, quiches, pasta bakes and healthy home baked treats are perfect.
5. Men need direction – make a daily plan
Now don’t get me wrong, my fiancé having already parented two teenage children is pretty good at home. Most of the time he cooks and does the washing and all the boy stuff around the house but I have noticed with the twins if I don’t tell him what to do, he does not have the intuition or insight to undertake a task unsuggested. As such after 4 days at home I have been giving him clear direction on what I need him to do to help me. Now I actually hate this role, as I hate being told what to do myself but in this instance it seems to be helping him and us as a new family unit work together.
6. Feeding time is important
Rushing is in my nature, and I could easily rush feeding the twins to give me more time to do other things (like work and sleep) but I am trying to make this a special time whether I am breast or bottle feeding knowing how important meal times are for baby’s and all of us in general. So, when feeding time comes, I stop everything, put some nice music on (who would have thought an Enya CD would be so useful) and take my time. The twins feed better when they have a good 40-60 minutes to be burped, come back for seconds if necessary and then get rocked to sleep. It is a really nice process even at 3am.
7. Make your own rules
At the hospital the midwives told me one thing, my friends another and then my paediatrician another when it came to feeding and I have simply taken the advice that suits me and ditched the rest. For example, I am breastfeeding when I can and it suits (when my boobs are not too sore); I am expressing when I can and then using formula as a top up or when I need a quicker feed. That is working for me and the twins so far.
8. Get out of the house early
My observation of clients and friends over the years has been that if you do not get out of the house early, it is not going to happen. As such, I try and make a plan to get out of the house with the pram at least once a day. Admittedly I only try and do it when I have another set of hands around, but I know it is better for my body and for the twins if we get some fresh air and sunlight even for 20 minutes most days.
9. Concentrate on sleep in total
Going into this time, I practiced getting up for a couple of hours each night. Admittedly I was not sleeping well carrying 15+ kilos of twins and was up each hour peeing anyway, plus my fiancé was getting up for breakfast radio but I think it has helped. I also do not let myself think of the sleep I am missing rather counting up at least 6 hours a day even if it is broken. For me it doesn’t matter if I am sleeping in the night or day while the twins are sleeping as long as I get at least 6- 7 hours in total, broken or not.
10. Remember this time will go so quickly
I have been acutely aware throughout this entire process that I am only planning to do this once and as such I want to enjoy it. Little ones grow so quickly before we know it the twins will be demanding toddlers and this beautiful baby phase will be over so I keep that at the forefront of my mind and try and enjoy every second of my new baby’s who still smell like apple pies.