by Leah Wyatt
My fraternal boy-girl twins turned one last week, and we hosted the requisite first birthday bash, complete with cake smashing photo op. As with all first birthday parties, ours was really for the parents. In addition to allowing my husband to sip wine with other adults without leaving our house, the planning and execution of the event became an exercise in reflection. As I ordered the cake, decorated the yard, and eventually, surveyed the chaos that ensues after welcoming hordes of tiny humans into your home, I thought about my first year as a twin parent.
Time flies, and also goes so slowly
This past year, in defiance of whatever scientific laws govern the passage of time, has been both the longest and the shortest year of my life. Roughly a year ago, I was massive, in pain, and emotionally drained from the stress of a high risk pregnancy. Seattle was enduring a hellish heat wave turned apocalyptic by wildfire-induced smoke, and these conditions were not helping my mental condition as I awaited my scheduled C section. This uncomfortable state of limbo now feels shockingly remote. At the same time, like every other parent, I can’t believe my babies are one year-old already. But mostly, if I’m honest, it feels like the past year has been a long one.
Adjustment takes longer
Parents tend to describe their child’s first birthday as a major turning point, after which they feel more competent, calmer, and that life has settled into a comfortable rhythm. With my oldest daughter, things felt notably easier by the time she burned herself by grabbing her birthday candle (our twins’ party? candle-less cake). One year in with my twins, I still feel like I’m barely hanging on at times. May I be allowed two years to adjust, one per baby?
New highs and (predictable) lows
I have three children now, each of them under three years old. This exponentially intensifies the experience: compared to parenting my oldest during her first year, the highs have been higher, and the lows have been absolutely miserable. One low that comes to mind? Sleep, of course. The sleep situation with newborn twins was, candidly, horrific, and took much longer to improve than it did with my oldest daughter. But, the twins’ sleep did progress over time, making the challenges inherent to life as a twin parent feel much more manageable.
A high? The intensity of love in my life as a parent of three. To love several small people so much can be almost painful. As a person who tends towards emotional reticence, I work on embracing this love, and letting myself sit with it daily. At times it overwhelms me with the purest joy I’ve ever experienced. And then I think about how many diapers I’ve changed over the past three years and how many I still have to change, and I want to tear at my hair and run screaming from my house.
I’m more experienced, that helps
When the twins arrived, I’d already raised one child to toddlerhood, which has been both extremely helpful and deeply stressful. The parenting experience makes things easier overall. But, as I consider my older daughter, how far she has come, and how relatively far the twins have to go, anxiety drifts in. I find myself wanting to accelerate time to the day when they all walking, talking, and no longer shriek when I leave the room. Although I theoretically know better than to compare them to each other, with twins plus an older child, there are myriad ways to fall into the comparison trap and emerge feeling like they, or more likely I, am falling short. The comparison angles are endless, and the dynamic can resemble a sordid love triangle.
Fitting in is different
After having twins, my feelings towards parents of singletons have shifted. I look at friends with one new baby and find it hard to relate to them, while at the same time remembering how intensely challenging it was to parent my first child. I have felt grippingly jealous of non twin parents. I envy them the luxury of snuggling with and staring at and loving just one baby. I yearn for that experience, in place of constantly feeling like I’m neglecting someone.
Asking for, receiving and accepting support
In a year shaped by innumerable, drastic, and sometimes contradictory extremes, what have I learned? Having three small children so close in age means I’ve essentially been forced to accept assistance. I’m getting better at welcoming and even seeking out help. I am beyond privileged to have a supportive husband, family, and paid child care, and yet things still feel incredibly difficult at times. The magnitude of help I receive remains a source of guilt and shame for me, especially when I consider how much I still struggle, day to day.
Despite the trials, the tears, and the mountains of dirty diapers, one year in, I feel pretty damn strong. Day by day, I’m figuring out life as mother of three, and while it’s definitely not easy, I’m proud of my family, and of myself, and of how far we’ve come.
About the Author
Leah Wyatt is a stay at home mom of one year old twins and a three year old who also dabbles in freelance writing. When not wrangling children, she enjoys reading, yoga, cooking, and watching horrible Bravo reality TV while horizontal on her couch.