This is rather late, given that our babies are 7 1/2 months old, but I wanted to write about the first few weeks of being home with newborn twins. It. Was. CRAZY. Seriously. Neither hubby nor I really remember those first few weeks. We've talked about "what was it like?" or "were we really awake that much?" and we settle on "I don't remember, but it was nuts."
Our girls were 4 weeks early and even though we were blessed with big babies (5 pounds 9 ounces for baby A and 6 pounds 4 ounces or baby B) and NO nicu time needed, they were still preemie babies. Our lactation consultant had us on a grueling schedule: feed them every 2 1/2 hours. And she had them on a very limited amount because babies that tiny don't need tons of food. Each feed took us over an hour (I nursed for about 20 minutes, with or without the SNS, and then we did bottles. I would then pump for 15 or so minutes, sometimes longer, to "send a message to my body that more milk was needed." At first, I would get 15 ccs. Over time, I had enough that my babies were entirely breast milk fed, and by about 8 weeks, I had some leftover at the end of the day that stayed in the fridge. I never ever got to freezing my own milk, but I was proud to have entirely breast milk fed twins.
So, back to the schedule. Most times, because they were preemie, we'd wake them up for a feed. And have to keep them awake for a feed (tickle them, blow on them, strip them of clothes so they weren't too warm). We had live-in help for the first 8 weeks in the form of grandparents.
I rented a scale so I knew how much the babies were transferring and I'd know how much to supplement them by way of a bottle (of formula at the beginning or breast milk over time). Each baby would get weighed, then a grandparent would pass me one baby, then another. Using the nipple shields, I'd get them both latched. They'd nurse for as long as we'd let them, but only efficiently for the first 10 minutes we learned (the scale told us a lot of things). Then a grandparent and my hubby would take a baby and I'd get a few minutes off. Then I'd start the pumping process. And this is where amnesia set in. I don't remember what else happened. I don't remember when I napped or when I showered or when I ate. The same applies for every adult in the house: when did we do these self-care things?
The nights were tough. The babies were still eating ever 2 1/2 to 3 hours hours. From day 1, they slept in their nursery, in one co-sleeper. They were swaddled and tucked up next to each other. We were too nervous leaving them in there alone, so one adult slept in there with them at all times. We took shifts. My hubby usually took the shift from 9pm to about 1am. My mum would help him with the feed just before she went to bed, that would end around 10pm. Then hubby would sleep in there with them on camping pads on the floor. He'd wake me up for their feed that happened around 1am. We'd feed them together (I'd nurse then we'd bottle together) and then he would shuffle off to bed. He'd sleep through until about 8am. I would take the shift from 2am to about 5am, at which point, my mother would wake up. She'd help with that feed and then I would shuffle off to bed to sleep until about 8am or so. She'd sit up with the babies (it was her time to sit with them either in their co-sleeper or on her lap and she'd watch tv on her iPad). Then the day would start over again. It. Was. Nuts.
We had a meal train for the first 6 weeks (until we left for Australia) and there were days when (1) we'd get to dinner time and panic because we didn't know what to make, forgetting entirely that we had meal train. We were just that tired that we didn't remember meal train. Or, (2) someone would show up with a meal and we would not expect them because we had no idea that it was dinner time. The days just slipped away, blending into each other. They were each a patchwork of individual minutes somehow loosely sewed together to appear to be a day.
I cried so much those first few weeks. And I threatened to quit breastfeeding so so so much (another post on breastfeeding coming your way). The hormones from giving birth was raging and the sleep deprivation (the same thing that causes people to admit to heinous crimes they never committed and the same tactic used against prisoners of war) was overwhelming. And then there was the feeling of gratitude of being a new mom along with the feeling of sadness to my friends still in the infertility trenches. Slowly, my hormones got under control and I stopped threatening to quit breastfeeding. The ONLY reason I continued breastfeeding (and still AM breastfeeding) is my husband. He urged me to continue, one meal at a time. I did. It was hard. We fought. I pushed him for making me feel pushed. But in the long run, I am glad I continued. Breastfeeding is not for everyone, but for us, it is good.
The first few weeks home, my hubby was paranoid of all things dirt / dust. We live with two cats and a dog, so pet hair is inevitable. He had my mother (because she had free hands more than the two of us) on a rather grueling cleaning schedule. She did love it, but it was overwhelming to me so eventually, I put a stop to it. She vacuumed probably twice a day and mopped the floors every day. We were doing baby laundry twice a day (now I do it every couple of days and we use a lot more items so twice daily was too much - but we didn't know it at the time). There was a list of daily chores that needed to be done, including feeding / watering the chickens, walking the dog, feeding the cats / the dog, changing the cat litter. Rarely did we get to the store for more than a few items and we relied on the generosity of friends and loved ones to bring us dinner - so we got at least one decent meal a day.
Then there were the bottles, nipple shields, SNS tubes and the pump parts. A never-ending mound of plastic and silicone that grew in the kitchen until someone brave tackled it. The pump parts got changed every few hours / pumps. The nipple shields got washed after every use, as did the bottles.
My mother was a true blessing. Whenever I turned around, before I knew I needed it, she had a snack (almonds, apple slices with peanut butter, cheese and crackers) waiting for me as well as a GIANT bottle of ice water. I certainly was well proteined and well hydrated!
There were a few changing of the guards - my mother was with us from their birth on November 18 through Thanksgiving, at which point my hubby's dad and step-mom arrived for 5 days. Then my mother came back through December 26. My hubby's mom and step-dad arrived on Christmas day and stayed through New Years. We then left for Australia, where my dad and step-mum picked up the responsibilities. We got home at the end of January and for the first time in almost 10 weeks, were home alone with the babies.
We never ever ever could have gotten through those first 10 weeks without live-in help. To anyone reading this who is expecting multiples, consider having live-in help. The more-than-one-baby thing is just NUTS at first.
By the time 10 weeks rolled around, we were grateful for the time to ourselves.
And then we missed the help and thankfully, grandparents and uncles / aunts made long weekend trips to visit. For the most part, that meant good breaks for us. Someone else held babies while we (mainly me) had time without being touched. Time to shower a long showed without the door open to hear babies. Time to walk the dog without worrying about being gone too long.
People have often said - and I say to my friend with triplets - "I don't know how you do it." But for us, it was all we knew. These are our first babies, so we have never done the new parent thing with one baby. We have nothing to compare it to, so we just did what we had to do. And I suspect that is what parents of triplets / quads or parents with toddlers and then twins do - just do what they have to do. We had no choice but to get through each and every day. Each and every hour. Each and every feed. Each and every minute. And get through it we did.
At almost 8 months postpartum, we have beautiful, healthy, thriving babies. They are hitting milestones and growing and changing on a daily basis. Whenever we see our pediatrician, she remarks "they are just perfect." We certainly think so.
Life is much calmer now. For the most part, we have a schedule. It's still a rigorous one that involves multiple feeds a day, naps, bedtime, bathing two babies, playtime, starting solids But it works and it's our life and we love it.