Birth and Beyond

Lesson 7 of 8: “Taking Care of You”

Becoming a parent of multiples is exciting, busy, overwhelming.  In the midst of the chaos, it can be easy to forget about yourself!  But looking after yourself is a key factor in parenting success and overall personal satisfaction.  Below are a few things to think about, when you are not busy making up bottles, changing diapers, doing a load of laundry or some other baby-related task…

Feed Yourselves!

It is not uncommon to become so engrossed with looking after the babies’ needs, that you forget your own!  Especially if you are breastfeeding (but even if you are not), it is important to eat and drink plenty of water.  Make up a bottle or jug of ice water with lime each morning, and finish it by noon, then pour yourself some more!  Hopefully you have stored some dinners in the freezer, or if not, you may want to consider a meal delivery service, at least for the first few weeks post-partum.  (We always found that even with frozen food, it took three adults to manage at dinner time:  One to hold and deal with each baby, and the third to heat and get the food on the table, then we’d take turns eating and passing babies around.)

Muffin Recipe

For a quick and nutritious energy boost, try out this muffin recipe — it is low fat, and packed full of vitamins, minerals and other good stuff.  You can make a double batch and freeze them in clusters of four.  Grabbing a muffin is a quick, easy snack.  If time permits, add a little triple cream or other cheese — yum! (but no longer low-fat, hehe.)

If you live in Etobicoke or surrounding area, you may be interested in Supperworks. Across Canada, Supperworks Delivery will deliver prepared healthy meals to you.

Post-Partum Mood Disorder

Also known as Post Partum Depression (or PDD for short), this mood disorder is a medically recognized state that may occur for up to two years after birth.  It is primarily linked with hormones, and as you can imagine, the hormone drop when you give birth to twins, triplets or more is significantly more drastic than giving birth to a singleton.  The public focus also tends to shift:  Formerly, Mom was the important one, the person carrying “precious cargo”, and probably enjoyed many benefits of being an expectant mother of multiples.  But now, suddenly the focus shifts from you, and it’s all about the babies!

moody family of 4To add to the situation, your body is saggy, you look and feel tired, and you may be leaking from all orifices!  Not a great way to face depression!!!   Be aware of this shift, and prepare for how you will handle it emotionally if it becomes abnormally intense.  By whatever means available to you, schedule in some time for yourself, so that you can do something as simple as take a bath while someone else looks after the babies for 20 minutes, or take a walk around the block without the babies.

And be sure to discuss any symptoms with your partner.  Dads/partners, familiarize yourself with the symptoms of PDD, and if you notice any of them interferring with Mom’s ability to manage day to day, please get help.  Dads and non-carrying partners, please note:  It is not uncommon for fathers of multiples to also exhibit PDD symptoms.  It is thought that the increased stress of being financially responsible for two or more babies, coupled with the extreme sleep deprivation, may be contributing factors.  Multiple Births Canada has an excellent fact sheet on PDD.  It is free for members, so check it out by clicking here.

PDD is a real disease which affects everyone in the family.  But it is curable!  Please do not be ashamed or afraid to seek  the help you need.

Bonding With Your Babies

Mom reading to twinsLooking after two or more newborns can seem all consuming.  Your days may seem filled with dirty diapers, sore breasts or bottles that need washing, and endless loads of laundry.  Try to make some time for having fun with babies as well.  Take the time to read to them (it’s true they don’t understand the meanings of the words yet, but the sound of your voice is soothing, and they will develop a love for books as you read them pattern books like “Squishy Turtle and Friends” or “Brown Bear, Brown Bear”).  Sing your favourite childhood song in the language of your choice.  Get down on the carpet and talk to your babies while they are having tummy time.

Playing in the SnowOne of the challenges of raising multiples is finding individual time with each child.  Schedule time for someone to look after one or more babies, while you take just one baby out for a walk, to the library, or one parent can stay home and the other parent can take one child for groceries or other errands, or go to a local early years centre.   Many of these places offer free programming, but it can be difficult to manage two newborns out in public at this stage.  Go with one if you can, and enjoy getting to know one child at a time as you travel incognito (no one will know he’s a twin, triplet, etc.).  Taking a little extra time at diaper and bath times are two other ways to schedule some one-on-one time.  These separate outings also teach the kids to be separate from each other, which can, in the long run be a very good thing.

Vera with StrollerDo “get out”!  As one mother of Quads I have contact with noted recently, “We are always out and about in our community. We are always happier when we are outside.”

One thing I did when I was home with my boys the first few months was take them for a walk in the stroller.  It did me good to get outside, and they usually fell asleep, so then I left them out in front of the house in the stroller, while I came inside and made myself a big batch of french toast or fresh guacamole.  I would sit in the sun and eat it, and just enjoy the solitude for a half hour or so, until one of them would wake up and demand to be fed, and the whole cycle would begin again.

Montage

Although it was sometimes difficult to wrestle two carseats into the car along wiht the stroller and all the other acoutrements that go with multiple babies, we did try to make some outings when they were tiny, for example, to the local music shop to visit my friends at the drum dept.  As of two months of age, we also took the babies to church with us, walking and carrying them in a sling.

Keeping the Flame Alive

Ensuring the strength of your marriage can seem like a sometimes insurmountable task when multiple newborns are forever in the foreground.  And yet, it is vital to look after your collective selves.  Trust me, if you do not schedule in regular times for each other, they simply will not happen, and in five years when your kids go off to kindergarten, and you are sleeping through the night, you will wake up one morning, look at each other and wonder what you are doing in bed with this stranger!!!  A recent Multiple Births Canada survey found that for some couples, the arrival of twins, triplets or more signalled the first time that the word “divorce” had entered their vocabulary!  On the other hand, this same survey reported that couples who made it through the first three years felt their marital relationship had grown significantly stronger.

You CAN make it together.  Watching your partner grow from lover to parent is an exciting time.  Just be sure to ensure you build in opportunities to remember each others role as lovers, too!  May I remind you of that 11-year-old you were going to hire to be a parental helper:  Once he or she turns 12, pay her a few extra bucks, and walk to the coffee shop on the corner without the babies, to share a latte and stare into each other’s eyes!!!

Vera and Trevor with Twins in the Kitchen

And in the meantime, enlist a mother-in-law to help out once in a while so you can take a walk, go out for dinner or just take a drive or busride somewhere, child free! 

(If hired help is not available, you could also consider renting a movie once a week, and putting the babies to bed before watching a movie.  But note, if you go to bed late, the babies will still wake up at the appointed hour, so this late date may be a double edged sword, you will NOT get to sleep in for a few years, my friends!!!)

Coping with Crying

Apart from the sleep deprivation, crying can be a serious assault to the senses. There are many reasons babies might cry. Stop for a few moments and think what these might be. (You may want to jot them down, then compare notes with your partner before continuing.)

More and more research is confirming that most healthy newborns cry.  They do this to release stress, as well as to engage their lungs.  Of course, babies also cry when they are hungry, tired, bored or in need of a new diaper.  If you listen carefully, you will begin to recognize  the different cries with which your newborns are communicating with you.

Take a moment now, to play “The Crying Game”, below.

Note: This game requires Flash, which is not available on mobile platforms, such as iOS / Android.

 Launch Game!

Some people have a lower threshold for crying than others.  Know your limits, and plan for some “time out” when you need it.  Both our boys were colicky, and the first several months were a challenge in trying to meet their needs.  I remember going out on the front porch sometimes and closing the door so I wouldn’t have to hear the screaming, just for a few minutes.  A few deep breaths allowed me to regain composure, and return to the battle!

If you find yourself stretched to the limits, and have run out of ideas, make sure the babies have clean diapers and are fed, then put them in their beds and step outside the house for a few minutes!  Do NOT pick anyone up and give them a shake, even a small one.  The consequences can be dire and irreversible.

Another alternative is to pick up the phone and call a friend who also has multiples. Many local twin and triplet chapters have someone to call for suggestions, advice, or just to talk. We understand, and we know the journey you are taking. We are here to support each other. If you were to receive such a call, you would walk them through it too – that is the way of parents with multiples. We have all been stretched to the limits, and reaching out is important.

 

Investigate your local library, Early Years Centre drop-in or community space to see what programs and classes are offered for parents with new babies.  Tell them you are expecting multiples, and see if they have any experience, or might be willing to accommodate you when the time comes.

 

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