This Kind of Mother

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My husband just left for work. My mother is moving home today, back to California, which may as well be the moon. I’m sitting in bed in the dark with one of my twins asleep in my lap trying to give myself a pep talk, but I am not very good at giving myself pep talks.

I don’t usually say things like, “What kind of mother does x?” Still, I turn that judgmental little phrase on myself sometimes.

What kind of mother is afraid to be alone with her kids?

The answer is laced through the question. I don’t have to spell it out.

I’ve been here before, the day my mother moved away and my husband went to work and I was alone, truly alone for the first time, with my baby. He was probably ten weeks old. I had never been alone with him longer than a few hours for TEN weeks.

Here we are at about nine weeks with my twins, and I have never been alone with them at all. I have been by myself nursing them while my husband is unavailable in the shower. I have been inside with them while my mom is outside playing with my toddler. I have gotten the babies out of the bedroom and into the living room by myself, mainly just to prove that I could because I knew today was coming. But I have never been at my house with no other adults here, mothering my two infants and toddler.

I am terrified.

I’m not afraid I will hurt any of us. This isn’t a cry for that kind of help. But I am battening down the hatches and watching the day descend upon me too quickly, too slowly.

What am I afraid of? I’m not afraid of them dying or being injured. I’m afraid of helplessness, choicelessness, having my hands tied. I’m afraid of the many hours in a day. I’m afraid they will all cry, and I won’t have enough arms, and their need will be bigger than I ever could be. This is not life and death, but it is. Because I’m the kind of mother who cannot accept the inherent imbalance of motherhood. I will always want to give my kids all that they need, and they will always need more than I have.

There are parents who know from day one that they can handle their babies. First baby, tenth baby — it doesn’t matter. They just know, or at least they fake it really well, that they have a job to do and they are capable of that job. I envy that.

When this day came the first time, I cried over my baby and held him on the couch all day. Every time he cried, I offered my breast, and he nursed back to sleep, or at least back to quiet.

I haven’t figured out how to pick up two babies at once. I can put one on the bed and go get the other and lift them one at a time into my lap or onto a nursing pillow, but it’s not quick, and once they’re there, I am stuck under them. The process for getting them to another safe place is also slow. I haven’t mastered burping two babies at once. They writhe and fuss, and the only thing I can do is put one down. But not feeding and burping them together also has its drawbacks. Once I have one at the breast, I can’t do much for the other one. A clock starts ticking, counting the time I am with one and not the other, comforting and neglecting, soothing and abandoning.

And this is just two of them. There is still a third child. His needs aren’t as urgent, usually, but he has them.

There is a version of things where I am enough. It’s a version where one or two or three kids are crying at the same time, and maybe I am crying, and all I can do is hold one, pat another, tell the third I am sorry, I know this is awful, I’m so sorry. It’s not pretty, and it’s completely exhausting. And somehow, I know, even this will get us through the day. It won’t be nearly enough, but it will be enough. I will always want to be better, but I will be enough.

The day is here, heavy. On the other side, I will be the kind of mother who has taken care of her kids alone. It seems a little silly that it’s taken nine weeks, that I’m still afraid, that this is such a dramatic milestone. But there it is. Wish me luck.

Comments

  1. Carol says

    Melanie,
    This simultaneously breaks my heart, because I know this panicky, heartachey feeling, and makes me so very proud of you, because I know the mother you are.

    You can do this. You’ve been doing this. You’ll find what works, whatever that looks like, and you’ll find your groove.

    I loved being here with you and your beautiful family. I’m in awe of you and Josh. Hold onto the knowing that this day will pass and that you will all get through it.

    I love you and believe in you!

  2. Stephanie says

    The first day alone is such a HUGE undertaking! Obviously I have no experience with twin babies, but I do with three. I definitely felt the frustration of only having two arms and three kids, which clearly doesn’t balance! You’ll get it done, and hopefully with a good bit of fun and joy along the way. Whenever things would be “good” aka, quiet, nobody on the verge of disaster, for even just a minute, I’d look around and think how lovely it was. Then chaos would start again, and back into the trenches I’d go. No worries, it’s supposed to be chaos. They have you, and whatever you can give them is exactly enough, since you’re their mother for a reason. I spent tons of time crying about how I was ignoring the big ones while nursing the baby, or the baby was crying because I had to get lunch on the table. It’s normal (I hope!) to doubt and be overwhelmed, but your still enough. Good luck, and prayers for happy kids!

    • says

      Yep. When both babies cry I buck up and get in there. When they (occasionally) both sleep, I breathe and realize it’s not always at full tilt. Thank god for that give and take.

  3. Rebekah says

    “I will always want to be better, but I will be enough.” Words of truth for so much of life. I have a new mantra to add to my list.

    You’ve got this, Mel. I have seen you in action.

  4. Miranda G says

    Melanie, We’ve never met, but David sent me your post today :) I had a 2.5 singleton when my b/g twins were born and I felt *exactly* like you do. That first day alone, I was terrified (and felt terrible that I was scared to be alone with my kids). Not going to sugar-coat it – there will be tough days. There will be times when all of them need you and you’ll have to do like a triage nurse and figure out who needs you most. But the great thing is that they don’t remember anything before age 3 so you’re good 😉 But really, you’ll find a system, you’ll make it work. And it’ll become easier as the twins get older and can sit up more. Hang out with other twin mommas who know what you are going through and can help hold out when you need an extra set of hands. You will get through this and it will become second nature (you are a super MoM, don’t you know!). My oldest is 4 and my twins just turned 2 last week -proof that it is possible to survive! Feel free to PM if you ever needs words of encouragement :)

    • says

      Hi, Miranda! Thanks for the encouragement! I’m so glad I’m not the only one who has felt this way. It really is like running triage. Luckily, so far, they’ve only all been distraught at the same time once. It’s a little like whack-a-mole, but we are managing. Congrats on the two year mark! Every month feels like a milestone to celebrate right now. :)

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