Catherine Jones is the rookie mom of two year-old BBG triplets (that’s Boy, Boy, Girl, OMG) named Alton, Baxter, and Charlotte. She offered to share some of her lessons learned in the trenches; these are the calming words of wisdom, AKA her Mom-mantras, that she repeats to herself to get through any given situation. We hope that her tips help parents of multiples as well as all rookie moms. Thanks, Catherine!
Though my days are often filled with beautifully calm, happy, or hilariously funny moments, these same days are dotted with seriously stressful triple break-downs or general parenting doldrums. When all goes south in the world of triplet parenting, I have a few “mantras” or, as my husband calls them, “momtras” that run through my head.
“It’s Us Against Them… It’s Us Against Them… It’s Us Against Them”
The first year was the hardest primarily because of the sleep deprivation; oooooh, the sleep deprivation. The sleepless nights were endless and the rolling cycles of crying babies needing milk, changing, comfort, singing, rocking, & walking were torture. Sleep deprivation can really do a number on a marriage. My husband was a walking zombie who was beginning to seem emotionless, I was far from a zombie since my moods swung from laughing, to crying, to snapping at anyone and everyone within moments. We were struggling. We were losing. The babies were wearing us down, reducing us to our least desirable qualities at points and I began to fear that our marriage was starting to suffer.
One night as we went to bed, I quietly said to my husband, “We’re in this together, it’s us against them. Good luck and good night.” I understand that this sounds kind of weird. Us against our babies? Well, that’s slightly combative and not at all nurturing. We laughed at the ridiculous notion that we were in some type of on-going battle against our three tiny preemie babies who were so helpless, yet so powerful. Regardless, at that moment I needed a battle cry, a pre-game pep talk if you will, because this triplet parenting thing was intense and in order to survive, we needed to band together as a unit, a team, and root each other on.
“Leap of Faith… Leap of Faith… Leap of Faith… “
It’s hard to get out and do things with triplet infants or toddlers… REALLY hard. Regardless of how hard it is, I desperately need to get out of my house and try new things. Simply going for a car ride was virtually impossible when our children were very small because getting our babies into their car seats quickly turned into a screamfest. When all three babies were crying at full throttle I’d think, “This isn’t working; there’s no way I can do this. We need to stay home.” At that moment “Leap of Faith…Leap of Faith” comes in mind, and I’d muster up the strength and courage to lug each screaming infant carrier seat out to the minivan with the faith that my babies would be fine and would stop crying very soon. “Leap of Faith” is the only way I got out of the house to take walks, go to car shows with my husband, take overnight road trips to visit great grandparents, visit friends, go to the mall… I think you get the point.
“Five, Ten… Five, Ten… Five, Ten…”
When the triplets were about 7 months I became a serious sleep trainer finding a balance between a few different theories and religiously following my method. Every time I closed the nursery door and heard a baby cry, my nerves frayed a bit and the “second-guessing myself” game began. As part of my routine, I’d sit down, ground myself, and say “Five, Ten… Five, Ten” while watching the clock.
Though the words “Five, Ten” are based on the Check and Console sleep training approach (waiting 5 minutes before calming the baby, then 10 minutes if necessary, etc), this mantra is not about “sleep training” at all. “Five, Ten” is about having confidence in the sometimes hard parenting decisions you’ve made for your family and sticking to them when you begin second-guessing yourself, you feel judgment from others, or your stress begins to fog the plan. Though it often takes some time to figure out what’s right for your family, there’s a lot to be said for deciding on a approach and sticking with it.
ps the method we used is from Weissbluth’s Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Twins which I read cover to cover and it sat on our coffee table (figuring out sleep was VERY important to me). During my pregnancy, I created sleep charts with three columns to first, track what was happening and then to eventually sync their feedings and naps. The sleep charts were all in a binder which sat next to my book.
“Change is Near… Change is Near… Change is Near… “
Some days with infant multiples really felt like Groundhog’s Day: there were moments when I felt like all I was doing all day long was changing, feeding, burping, and swaddling babies. My arms were tired since our triplets could not yet walk, but they were getting heavier and heavier. My legs were sore from climbing our stairs so many times to deal with naps, etc. During a phone conversation with a friend who is the mother of four (all different ages) I said “I can’t take it anymore. I’m exhausted and sometimes it seems like all they do is lay there or cry” (we had two with colic).
My not-so Rookie Mom friend told me that “right when you feel like you can’t take anymore, something usually changes.” I wasn’t completely sure what her comment meant, and then the smiles came. Smiles and giggles; little gifts and parenting gems to reward my husband and I for our hard work. That was the change. It’s amazing how it seems that child development aligns with parental tolerances and they grow into a new stage when we’re all at our breaking points.
Listen, I’m all about living in the “now” and being grateful for who our babies are today, but there are tough moments when you need to remind yourself that something new and exciting is around the corner.
This morning I said “Change is Near” when we had a triple tantrum or when my son skillfully heaved himself onto the kitchen counter for the 5th time in 45 minutes while, in the other room, my other son spit milk on my daughter as she laughed hysterically. Yes, “Change is Near”. A few hours later we tried Ring Around the Rosie for the umpteenth time and I watched three 2 year old siblings holding hands together in a circle and heard hints of singing along – both of these were a first and I was shocked. These were my gifts; thank you babies.
“2 Pounder… 2 Pounder… 2 Pounder… “
This one comes into play when I’m feeling a little mopey and sorry for myself. I know, no one likes a moper, but sometimes it happens. Before I got pregnant I was a relatively successful marketing professional who traveled, hung out with friends, went shopping for clothes, threw fun parties, got mani/pedis; and the list goes on. One day this year I was having a hard day and I went off on my husband. It was not attractive; but I let it out. I told him, “I miss my friends, I miss working, I miss who I was before, I don’t know who I am anymore, and, frankly, I’m a little lonely!” I vented this as I was bringing out three plates of toddler dinners and he stopped me, paused, and said “You see that one? That one was a 2 pounder.” I laughed because he pointed at my little daughter as if she was the catch of the day. I looked at my little girl with her strawberry blonde sprout sticking out of the top of her head and remembered the fears of our NICU days.
So yes, for me mopey can happen once in a while and that’s fine, but “2 Pounder” takes some of the mopey out and puts some grace back into the moment.
“Good Sleepers, Good Eaters… Good Sleepers, Good Eaters… Good Sleepers, Good Eaters… “
Many of us have visions of what type of mom we’ll be before actual motherhood. I’m sure I thought that I would be a progressive mom with a fine blend of natural mothering combined with realistic expectations and a sense of humor (whatever that means). Yes, we’d be using baby sign language and my child would be an early talker (of course). There would be no TV, we’d only have wood toys, and I’d have Waldorf kids (ummm).
Well, we used TV as a distraction tool well before the age of 2 (gasp), the triplets know some sign language, but only because our speech therapist taught them (speech delays), and some days I look at the family room floor wondering if a plastic factory barfed all over it. So we’re not always going to do everything the way we thought we’d do it. True confessions; some days I need to psych myself up to get down on the floor and play with my children and I beat myself up over it.
This is when “Good Sleepers, Good Eaters” comes into play. I need to give myself some credit for what I do really well. My kids sleep really well, eat wonderfully, and get tons of love. We’ve got a good foundation. This isn’t to say that I don’t look up Waldorf activities and methods on Pinterest once in a while in the efforts to keep the dream alive (heck, we’ve even done some), but when I feel like I’m falling short in the parenting world I say “Good Sleepers, Good Eaters”.
Other phrases that keep me going (if you haven’t had enough)
- “Fair Doesn’t Mean Equal… Fair Doesn’t Mean Equal… Fair Doesn’t Mean Equal… ” – Sometimes one baby or child needs just a little more than the other and it’s ok
- “Go it alone… Go it Alone… Go it Alone… ” – How leaving the helpers behind can be incredibly empowering
I feel like I’ve already told you so many of my Momtras that you could read my mind at any given crisis of the day.
Let me know in the comments which Momtras work for you!
Triple thanks to Catherine for sharing her experience with us. I think, as a not-so-rookie mom of three, the momtra that means the most to me right now is “Change is near”. OMMMM. Catherine keeps a family blog to share her experience as a first-time mom to triplets: Three’s a Charm.
[All photos by Catherine Jones, all rights reserved]