Truly, I was. Good friends of ours have twins and several colleagues of mine have multiples as well. All of them tried to tell us, to prepare us for this new reality. At the time I thought I was listening... apparently I failed to grasp quite a few key concepts.
I thought that we could handle it. As you know, this is not our first parenting rodeo. Our first born, Quinn was a bit of a handful. He was a big baby and came after a long, hard, drawn out delivery. We had the usual sleepless nights, the usual adjusting, the usual first time parent panic attacks,.. we also had the baby whose cries could unravel your spinal column from your skull.
Case in point: one of our first trips to Mother Goose. I was still a little shy about breastfeeding in public so I brought bottles with me. If you have never been to Mother Goose, you have to picture a bunch of Mommies (and the occasional Daddy) sitting on the floor with their babies. After the program is over there is a half hour of chat time where parents network and socialize while the bigger kids crawl around and play with toys. Generally there is quite a few babies being fed and there will be several crying at any one time. Just after the program ended, Quinn became hungry so I whipped out his bottle and started to feed him. Naturally, we had to stop to burp and I did so about a third of the way in. As I removed the bottle he uttered one of his better soul-rattling screams as I briskly tapped him on the back to hurry this process along. I could feel my face getting redder and redder as I realized that not only had the other babies stopped crying, but everyone (and I mean everyone) had turned to stare at us, mouths open. One of the Mothers finally broke out with "Does he do that a lot?". "Every time", I managed to get out through a gritted smile. Finally he burped and I jammed the bottle back in his mouth and silence reigned supreme once more as the eyes turned away (and a few heads shook). Once the middle third was done, the bottle got pulled out again and he was almost purple as I repeated the process to my unwilling and unbelieving audience. A few watched fascinated as the last third disappeared and he turned more bright colours and threatened to make our ears bleed. Those not gaping were hurriedly gathering bags and babies and heading for the door. I don't really blame them. Eventually he burped, ceased his unholy wail and immediately fell asleep on my shoulder. We would repeat this dance until he started on solid food. It's a wonder I have any hearing left. It is also no wonder that I conveniently "forgot" [read: blocked out] most of this until Zoe came along and reminded me with her own brand of caterwauling. Sean and I started calling him "Banshee" as his sonic screaming threatened to unhinge our minds on several occasions. He was something else.
I guess the thinking went along the lines that if we survived that, twins couldn't be so bad. Now that they are here and three months old, I look back at that and wonder if I was actually thinking at the time. Zoe has her own sonic scream that sounds like cats fighting and Wyatt yells "Waaa!" in clipped bursts until he gets really mad and then threatens to stop breathing. Since my prayers of additional arms (or even tentacles... I'm not picky) have yet to be answered, I usually have to attend to them one at a time. I've started wearing my Zen a lot.
The celebrity status with twins is a truism. You can't go anywhere without being stopped, complimented and the babies cooed over. Even a simple trip to Rona takes twice as long as we have to visit with a few twin fans along the way. When we had just Quinn, no one helped by opening a door for the stroller and you can imagine the dirty looks I occasionally got on the bus... and this is with Quinn, the baby who, when not screaming, was drawing people from the far side of the mall over to be mesmerised by his bright baby blues. Well, not any more! Now the bus driver helps me get to the flip up seats (if they don't flip them up for me themselves) and complete strangers move out of the way to accommodate us. That part is pretty cool, actually, given that a twin stroller is a bitch to operate on a good day. I've also been asked by the driver if I'm trying to make a connecting bus as they would be happy to call ahead. Yes, really. At any other time, if you have the audacity to suggest such a thing, they stop just short of telling you to go f☠ck yourself. Now I'm riding Air Force One and they are clearing the tarmac for me, baby. I never expect it, so it is pretty awesome when it happens.
The down side to this of course, is the stupid human tricks or as I like to call it "Sh☠t Complete Strangers Say..." (I should start a twitter account for that). I know people mean well, but man! I'm sure they don't intend to be this daft, but I guess they just can't help themselves. Just to give you an idea, here is what I hear most often. It's like the shuffled twin play list from hell. You can't help but get sarcastic after a while. Keep in mind that each of these have come from complete strangers:
"Two babies? Are they twins?" (No, I got the bulk pack at Costco)
"Are they both twins?" (No, just that one...)
"Awww, a boy and a girl. Are they identical?" (No, they have different parts)
"Have you got two in there?" (No, the other is a dummy for balance)
"Do twins run in your family" (They do now)
"They can't be twins, they don't look alike" (Are you calling my flabby stomach and Section scar liars?)
"Are they yours?" (No, I'm just leasing them to start)
"You must have your hands full..." (Occasionally. Sometimes I put them down.)
"Do you sleep?" (Are you kidding me?)
"Did you take fertility drugs" (No. Should I have?)
"Twins. Wow! You must be busy" (Yes, I have my hands full.)
My all time fave:
"Did you two have help?" [meaning conceiving] (No, we were the only two there at the time).
As I said before, people mean well, they just express it awfully. One of my other favourites is the twin dreaming... I get quite a few people after the initial contact/once over, come out with "I always wanted twins". Their hands may or may not be clasped as they say this. I usually reply with a pretty taut "No, you don't". I'm usually talking through my teeth again as it's all I can do from bodily shaking them and screaming "Are you f☠cking nuts?!" . Sure, we all dream of the perfect two little peas in a pod that beam out at the world from their stroller, but this isn't the case. Assuming you live through the pregnancy (all symptoms are at least twice as bad) and the actual birthing process, there is a litany of stuff most people don't think of. The prematurity. The cost. The work. The guilt. The laundry. The time and the utter exhaustion. As a Mom and a nurse who frequents both sides of the clock I thought I had the sleep deprivation and exhaustion thing down pat. Nay, nay! There are levels of exhaustion that are only open to parents of multiples and most days I am doing my best to keep this drunken half spin going so I don't just simply drop to the floor. Ever heard of microsleeping? I hadn't either until I had to look up why I was losing blocks of time. I knew that I was really tired, but I'd be at the sink doing dishes and clean dishes would appear in the tray that I had no recollection washing. For a bit there I thought I'd become Tara. Sometimes I would have the feeling that a bolt of electricity had gone through my head; there was almost an audible zzzzzzzt! sound. After being assured that my eyelids had closed on a few of these occasions, I did some reading and figured out I was having microsleeps. Scary. That was one of the major reasons I switched the kids to a four hour schedule from a three hour one, before I became a total hazard to those around me and burned the house down or something equally as terrible.
Another common conversation piece is the "-------, so I know exactly how you feel". Let me just stop right here and say that unless you have twins (or triplets or any other amount of multiple birth), you have absolutely no idea what you are talking about. Ever. Don't try. Don't. No offense, but there is no experience that is even close. "My kids are 10+ months apart, so I know exactly how you feel". Nope. I have two babies that are exactly the same age and doing exactly the same things. Yours are at different levels and you can reason with one of them. No. As I mentioned before, knowing twins isn't enough. Being a twin doesn't even cut it as you will not remember most of the stuff that you did to your Mom that made her want to shave her head and join the Krishnas. The only person that truly gets a twin parent is another twin parent. Even before most pleasantries have been exchanged, there will be that long look with a nod and half smile; the "we understand one another" look.
I've avoided most multiple support groups and organizations as they strike me as a bit cult-ish. Maybe it's the lack of sleep and the overwhelming desire for grown up conversation mixed with a sense of organized fellowship, who knows? I generally take my twin communing where I can find it (or rather, where it finds me). One delirious Saturday morning found me in Babies R Us, slowly wafting the babies through the store as I alternately remembered and then forgot random items on my shopping list. I looked up as a deep African voice stated "I said, you have twins too!". I smiled reflexively and saw a young couple with a 3 year old girl and 18 month old twin boys. The Dad must have seen something in my bloodshot eyes as he launched into a twin tirade that had to have lasted at least 6 minutes. I nodded and smiled and tried not to burst out with hysterical laughter as this poor man described how tired they both were and how little his wife slept the first year (she just nodded along as if the conversation was the only thing keeping her awake). He went on to describe the feeding schedules, what it was like to have all three kids sick at the same time and numerous other things that were a little inappropriate to be telling a complete stranger at 10 am in the morning, unless you are in the twin club I guess. I must have a sympathetic face or that poor guy needed to get a lot off his chest. We parted company and as I rounded the next aisle I heard "Awww twins, are they yours?". I looked back for my new Kenyan friends with a chuckle and caught his eye. His expression clearly read "we understand each other" and then "you're on your own" as he sped for the door and I turned to face Zoe and Wyatt's latest admirers.
I get told almost daily "I don't know how you do it". I don't know either. Really, I don't. I will let you know once I suss it. I do find satisfaction in the craziest of places... Figuring out another thing that I can do one handed while holding a baby. Managing to get the largest of tasks done in the smallest amount of time. Figuring out how to get two babies and a kindergarten-er to the bus stop in the rain without the twin stroller because we left it in the van which is now in Mississauga... and so on. Twin motherhood is like a bubble in the space-time continuum where the boundaries of energy and time are perpetually tested. The amount of energy and time may remain finite, yet you will manage to find a way to bend them both. You also get double the rewards for your efforts; two smiles, two sets of hands grasping yours. You get to stumble into the nursery all blurry eyed and find things like this:
Dozing Double Cuteness
You get to celebrate the milestones twice and in two unique ways. With twice the pain, twice the heartache comes twice the joy and twice the love. You can't have one without the other. Just like the babies themselves.