Friday, December 3, 2010

Twinspin - Comfort

So the stats are in. Twinspins stay!

Thanks for your comments and kind support. There are more of you than I realized. Twin parents I've never met, new friends, friends of old friends. Your words were like balm to this battered mama's soul.

We do our best, we go it alone sometimes. But to know you are out there experiencing the same strains and joys, well, it made me misty-eyed. I want for this small place on the web to be a safe circle in which we can help and encourage each other. Thank you.

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So Twinspins stay, but with the tiniest tweaking. I'm dropping the "Tuesday" and calling it a plain 'ol Twinspin. Trying to confine these posts to Tuesdays was stressing me out. So let's blow the calendar wide open.

If you've agreed to write a Twinspin, please email me your post (500 words or so), including a picture of your twins or your family. When you can. No rush. And if you'd like to pose a question to the masses, email me (contact info in nav bar) and I'll make sure it gets out there.

For today, the Twinspin is about Comfort.

What do you do when you don't have enough hands to hold your babies? How do you comfort both (or more) when everyone needs you at the same time?

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It's tough. I've never liked feeling inadequate. But you can't ignore the numbers. Two arms with two or more little ones means not everyone is going to be held when they want to.

So let's talk practicalities first. The reality is, it's almost impossible to comfort two at the same time. I do it now and then. Sit on the couch and cradle one on each leg, hold one on each shoulder. It can be done. But there is usually head-bonking and leg-tangling. Or my biceps simply give out.

So, here's how we survived the early days.

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Two babies crying would have put me over the edge if we hadn't had two swings. Even then, some days I teetered. I know some moms have done it with one. But for us, swings (plural) were the saving grace.

I kept our twins on a pretty tight feeding schedule. If I didn't, someone else in the family didn't get fed, dropped off at preschool, bathed, or dressed for the day. The routine was all about survival. So I figured out this little trick. Every time the boys (or girls) were ready for a nap I would put them in the swings until they started to get drowsy. When I saw their eyes fluttering, I scooped them up carefully and transferred them to their cribs. (This was part of sleep-training too. An entirely different topic.) When I had time I would snuggle and sing to a baby. But because I couldn't do both at the same time (and they were on the same schedule), the swing acted as my other pair of arms.

Jump ahead 18 months. Our babies are now toddlers. Here's where "mamies" come in. At our house, each child's favorite blanket is called a "mamie." Eliza came up with this name for her blanket one May while we were driving through Cambridge, MA. She was one year old. I was sure she was calling out "Mommy!" But when it became obvious that I was not filling her need, I reached down to the floor and picked up her blanket. Voila! She was comforted. And the word "mamie" stuck.

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This picture was actually taken that very day. Eliza in Cambridge, in the car, with her mamie.

Now all three girls call their blankets mamies. And the boys (although they can't talk yet) know exactly what we mean when we say, "where's your mamie?"

Before twins I was worried about comfort items. Pacifiers, blankets, thumbs - you know. Some books make you think your poor child will be sucking their thumb when they pack their bags for college if you don't nip the habit early. But while nursing Ali and Sami, I decided the combination of Eliza's "mamie" and and her thumb was a pretty great alternative.

It's good for children to learn how to self-comfort, find something else that is soothing besides mamma.

In our home, comfort items may have worked a little too well. Ali will choose her mamie over mommy every time. Just today she slipped off the table. (Why is it that children love to sit on, not at, the kitchen table?) I tried to pick her up to comfort her, because my hands were free. But she scrambled right out of my arms crying, "mamie! mamie!" Up went the mamie, in went her fingers (she sucks two fingers), and she was fine.

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Ali's mamie has been loved more than most in our house. It looks like that even after a washing.

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I'm not saying we should encourage thumb-sucking or other oral-problem-causing devices. That's not the point here. I guess I'm just saying, comfort items are okay. Especially when there's not enough of you to go around. And you shouldn't feel guilty about it. (Although we have thought about setting up a separate savings account for orthodontic bills.)

On the flip-side, every moment is a moment of choosing. As we turn inward and sense what is right, we can know the kind of comfort needed in a given situation. Maybe it won't be a blanket or a binkie. It will be you. And it will mean leaving the dishes in the sink and drying your hands so you can sit on the couch for a few minutes and hold one of your babies. Maybe it will mean holding one for a few minutes, then holding the other. We can know what is right.

One of the characters in Annie Dillard's newest novel says of her friend's baby, "Hold him as long as you can." And I would add, for twin moms, as often as you can.

We all have our comfort items, don't we? My favorite sweatshirt, flannel pants, oatmeal chocolate-chip cookies, orange-spice tea. These things make my world a better, softer place. And a hug from my husband when I'm about to yank my hair out. That helps too.

Thoughts, ideas, observations? Talk to me about comfort.

17 comments:

  1. Oh my thank goodness for swings, I used to swaddle my twins and put them in one of those swings together all smashed in (when they were tiny) they loved it, worked much better than me trying to hold both of them.

    I wish my 19 month old twins were attached to something besides me. It used to be their bottles, but I took those away recently. So now I hold both, or hold one and pat the other's back if he's crying too. I agree though, I just try to hold each of them, crying or not as often as possible so they feel loved and comforted. As for the three year old, his time is the twin's naptime. It was hard for him at first, but now he thinks it's special so I guess it's just perspective, right?

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  2. I can't get my 18 month old attached to an animal or blanket...how did yours "bond"?

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  3. Another place of comfort is siblings. I am often surprised at how the baby will calm when his older sister sings to him. In the car, he holds her hand and he smiles the most often when playing with his older brother. Do you find your twins comfort each other?

    I agree with you on not feeling guilty about pacifiers, blankets, toys, they can help us all keep sane when we can't possibly give everyone all the comfort they need or want.

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  4. Meredith - what a sweet picture. Your babies swaddled together in the same thing. I hadn't even thought of that alternative! And comforting the other with touch, even if you can't hold, I like that too. Nap times have become "special" for my non-nappers as well. It's a good for them to have that time. Thanks for your insight!

    R Fam - Tough. I found two soft blankets early on that my boys have been sleeping with since I stopped swaddling them. I'm not really sure how the "bonding" takes place. Children are selective. I thought my Ali would love a certain blanket I bought for her. Instead, she choose another as favorite, that isn't as soft. I would maybe try a handful of items and see if your toddler "picks" one. Anyone else have some wisdom to impart??

    Shells - siblings! I hadn't even thought of that. But yes - you're definitely right. My boys are comforted often by each other, just sleeping in the same room, playing alone with each other, laughing at and with each other. Thanks for the observation. And yes - sometimes it is simply about sanity!

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  5. Meredith - quit edit. I meant swing - not thing! Funny.

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  6. i'd like to hear about your strict feeding schedule. chaz is a month old now and i've been pretty much feeding on demand. but in looking at my record chart i've noticed that for the past 10 days or so, he's had almost exactly 7 feedings each day with one or two in the middle of the night. i'd like to make life more predictable when i go back to work...

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  7. I'm new to your blog. I found you through Segullah. You are such a gifted writer, and I am in awe that you are raising 2 sets of twins. My twins are now 5 years old. I have two boys who are older as well. Your twinspins are bringing back memories. We too used 2 swings...made a huge difference. Once I got the hang of nursing my little guys at the same time, that was huge. I was finally able to comfort them and feed them at the same time. I spent many an afternoon with two little ones in my lap asleep for a little while...some days it was the only way I could get them to slow down as toddlers.

    Best wishes to you this holiday season. I'll come back and visit your lovely blog again.

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  8. I always love reading your thoughts Catherine. I am still loving your swing and so far, we have been ok with just one. I think I have been blessed with really good babies as well as a great 8 year old who loves to help and hold when she is around. I want to ask all those mothers/fathers of twins how to get your babies to sleep through the night. They are great eaters and sleepers, but still wake up 1x a night. Did you eventually just let the babes cry it out? Were they in the same crib? I need to pick your brain and get some ideas.

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  9. Anne Marie - I loved your comment. So glad you shared. The image of your twin boys asleep in your lap makes me melt. When you have two, and holding time is limited, those moments are just so sacred. Let me know if you would ever be interested in posting here about some of your twin experiences!

    Em - Maybe we ought to do a post on the sleep thing. Getting my babes to sleep through the night was a huge priority for me. I don't do well without sufficient sleep. A routine with fairly scheduled nap times seemed to be key to getting them to sleep through the night. I'll admit right up front, yes - I had to let them cry sometimes. Twins, however, were easier than my singleton. They cried less and it wasn't long after letting them "work through it" on their own that they slept the entire night without waking. Are you feeding them that 1x they wake? Call or email if you want to talk more.

    Anyone else want to chime in?

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  10. We have colds this week at our house and I am feeling I am just not enough to fill their needs-and that is probably true, even though I hate to admit it. I appreciate your post (as always) and will continue to look forward to good health when their little smiles to me and to each other make my heart burst with happiness. How cheesy is that!

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  11. Meagen - more true than cheesy. We forget how good the regular busy routine actually is. And then someone gets sick! I'm so sorry! Wishing your kids a quick recovery so you can get back to those smiles. Hang in there!

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  12. My twins are 6 and almost 4 and we still have issues with comfort. They all have blankies they adore, but sometimes there is just not enough mom to go around times 4. I try to have faith that my efforts will be enough with the Lord's help.

    If anyone has a good book on helping with sibling competition/rivalry I would love a recommendation. :) I haven't found one yet that resonates with me.

    Reading all these posts about infant twins brings back so many memories!

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  13. My twins are 2 1/2 months old. When they are upset and I can't hold both I sit on the couch and lay one of them next to each of my legs (sometimes the more upset one lays on my lap.) They kind of cuddle up to my legs. I also hold a pacifier in their mouths and rest my hand on their face. It seems to help.

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  14. Jen - thank you for reminding us of the Lord's abilities. That He reaches in where and when we cannot. I have prayed often when there "wasn't enough of me" for angels, spirit, power. And I have felt all three at work in our family. I love 2 Corinthians 3:5 "Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our asufficiency is of God."

    As for a book recommendation, have you read Siblings Without Rivalry by Faber and Mazlish? It was recommended to me by a well-read mom with twin daughters. I haven't opened it yet, but it's on the shelf.

    Melissa - I love your image of comfort. With your babies sidled up to you - one by each leg. A simple visual like that when mine were very little would have been helpful. Thank you!

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  15. too cute! I didn't have swings when my twins were babies but I had rockers and I'd hold one and rock the other! oh those early days were crazy, pure crazy and you have 2 sets! wowee, well done

    I just had my 4th baby and have 4 under 5 and have to say that big sister Keira is little mummy! she dishes out the hugs and kisses while I'm feeding or busy and she's doing a great job. seeing her be so caring is really cute!

    corrie:)

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  16. Corrie - goodness! You're not far behind us! 4 in 4 years, yes? Your children are beautiful, and you are one talented (busy) woman! So glad to hear your oldest is willing to help. They're great "runners" and "entertainers" aren't they? Thanks so much for your comment.

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