Twins Week: Walking my way to sanity

Today’s thoughtful post about finding your groove as a twin mama is shared by Rachel Gurevich. Rachel mothers four amazing kids, writes about fertility for About.com because she has been there and done that. Thanks Rachel!

Twins are really cute in photographs. They make great viral video material, and the idea of having a best buddy for life is sweet. Caring for newborn twins, on the other hands, is not always sweet, cute, nor suitable to be videotaped and posted on YouTube.com. Not without lots of warnings for adult content. (That would be for the swearing, the crazy-no-sleep-blood-shot-eyes look, and the sore nipples – because if you think nursing one baby is hard in those first weeks, well…)

Don’t misunderstand me – I love my twins to death. (Almost literally, when you consider the fact that I thought caring for them in the early days would kill me.) I struggled to conceive for seven years, and when I learned of my double blessing, I laughed so hard in excitement that the ultrasound technician couldn’t do her job.

But I also cried, because while I was ecstatic to be getting a two babies at once, I *knew* this was not a two-for-the-price-of-one-deal. Twins do not lead to twice the work. It’s more like triple the work.

While our family custom is not to buy anything for the babies before they are born, we did buy car seats and a double stroller — car seats to take them home, and a double stroller so I could leave the house as soon as possible. This was, to me, extremely important.

I spent much of the pregnancy on low key bed rest. It wasn’t total bed rest, but I couldn’t do more than get myself to the doctor and back without having contractions and feeling like my back and my expanding tummy might break.

While with my older kids I was a baby wearing mom, I wanted a stroller for these two from the beginning. I have a Baby Bjorn and Ergo Carrier, but I needed to be realistic. Was my broken, out-of-shape, just-off-bed-rest body capable of baby wearing in those early months? No way.

My effort to be realistic did not take into account, however, how hard it is to get out of the house with twin newborns.

I tried a few times during the first weeks. I’d nurse one baby, nurse the other, supplement one baby, supplement the other, pump, change their diapers, get them dressed to go outside, go to the bathroom myself and then… it’d be time to start all over again. So I thought I’d wait until we had the whole feeding thing under control.

I tried again when I was only nursing and no longer pumping. But still, it seemed impossible. Nurse one, nurse the other, diaper one, diaper two, coat and socks for one, coats and socks for two, bring the stroller down the stairs, run back up for baby one, run down with baby one and strap him in, run back up for baby two, run back down and strap in baby two, start walking, and 10 minutes later, time to nurse again. Plus, I was physically exhausted before we managed the first block.

After giving this a try a few more times, I gave up. I sat at home and cried. I started to think I would never, ever go anywhere again. When I pictured my future, I saw myself on the couch, pale from lack of sunlight, a baby nursing at each breast, for the rest of my life.

I wallowed in self-pity for a few weeks. But as the weather got nicer, and my cabin fever grew, I became more determined to get out. I knew exercise and sunlight were key to kicking postpartum depression’s butt to the curb. I couldn’t just sit inside and cry forever. I never let nursing or any other baby related handicap keep me from getting outside with my older kids.

Plus, I had looked forward to having another baby for seven years – was this miserable, overwhelmed state how I wanted to remember their first year?

Then, I started to wonder if it really mattered how far we got on the walk. I mean, just getting the babies into the stroller – that was progress, right? And all those stairs, up and down with the babies, that was exercise, right? So even if we never got past the block, even if we never got further than strapping the twins into their seats, I was still doing something. I was still getting out of the house.

I promised myself that every day I would attempt to get out. And if I didn’t make it, I declared to myself that I would be ok with that. I wouldn’t see the end goal as a walk to a certain place. If I got my shoes on, and that’s all I could manage, I patted myself on the back for a job well done, even if the perfectionist in me tried to object. (I learned this seemingly simple and yet amazingly powerful mental trickery from Jennifer Louden’s Satisfaction Finder.)

The first few days, I got my shoes on, but not much further. Then, I started getting good at the whole stroller-baby-transfer process. I figured out how to save trips up and down, and I started to see the steps as part of the journey, not just an obstacle to overcome.

Eventually, I found myself going on real walks, almost every day of the week. Walks that covered several blocks, walks that lasted longer than 5 or 10 minutes. I started getting adventurous, taking turns down streets I didn’t know, for new views. Usually, I listened to music on my iPod, but sometimes I listened to audio classes or just enjoyed the sounds of nature and life.

My twins are 14 months now, and we go on a walk at least four times a week. These walks saved my sanity in the early days, and they continue to be a life saver now. In those early days, walking helped me get out of the house and enjoy some sunshine. These days, the walks allow me time for myself (in my head, anyway) and provide at least an hour of time when I’m not rescuing climbing toddlers from counter tops and bookshelves.

Once the twins fall asleep, as they often do during a walk, I’ll find a bench and do some cloud watching. Eventually, I’ll find myself staring at their precious faces, and that’s when I feel the love bubbling over in my heart. Because those walks give me inner peace and comfort, and they allow me to see the twins the way outsiders do – cute, sweet, and totally YouTube.com adorable.

Sending another big THANK YOU to Rachel for sharing her experiences with us for Twins Week. If you want more Rachel, check out her book, The Doula Advantage, which received endorsements from Dr. William Sears and parenting author Ann Douglas.

[Photo provided by Farrah Ritter]

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RookieMoms co-founder & mom to 3 boys in Berkeley, CA. Bossy big sister and project manager turned blogger helping moms enjoy their first years of motherhood. Find me on my other site on 510families.com or hiding in my minivan eating dark chocolate.

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