One kid

Not too long ago I sat around a table of other moms at a coffee bar, chatting about this and that and so on and so forth. I joined in by telling them about a mom blogger I admire, who jaunts around town, experiencing and writing about her fabulous life in the city.

You know, with her ONE kid… And I emphasized the whole conversation with a big fat eye roll.

Which was awkward, because I was sitting at a table SURROUNDED by women who had only ONE CHILD. And that’s when I swallowed my gangly foot.

I make no secret that I’m often a little jealous of mothers with just one child. Scratch that — I can be down right resentful. It tends to happen when you come home from the hospital already able to claim multiple dependents on your taxes. Don’t take this to mean that I don’t realize how blessed and lucky I am to have three beautiful, healthy children. It’s just that I never got to experience the beauty of “one kid.”

See, I had a fantasy about motherhood that, like most fantasies, didn’t really pan out. I envisioned trips to Target and the coffee shop. I imagined lazy, sun filled days in my spotless house, just my baby and me. First we’d listen to classical Mozart so she would be all smart and stuff, then we’d cue up some old Radiohead so she would see how cool I was. And man, I would be cool. Also thin.

And then I brought two tiny babies home after a 5 week NICU stay. To say my fantasies were grotesquely shattered is an understatement. Immersed in the cycle of constant feeding, rocking, and staring blankly at them, wondering what to do next, I found myself mourning the version of motherhood that I never had the chance to experience.  There were no trips to Target, no leisurely afternoons at the coffee shop. I couldn’t conjure up an appropriate kids’ song to save my life. They wouldn’t sleep (at the same time at least), they were always hungry, and someone was always crying.

Other twin moms, deep in the trenches of double infancy, always ask if it gets easier. Really, it really just gets different. Once out of the baby phase, I still had to deal with wrangling two children who instinctively knew to run in opposite directions. Library story times were a bust. The grocery store was overwhelming. My life in general was just going to crazy town. And when they multiplied into three? Most days I felt like I was wading through quicksand. Still do. And someone is still always crying.

My three girls are amazing and beautiful and sweet and awesome. But surely if I had had one kid, it would have all been easier, better, I would convince myself. My husband and I could switch off instead of the constant man on man defense. She’d get all the attention she needed from me. We could run errands together, nap together, watch reruns of LOST together and wonder what the deal was with Kate’s man arms. Hell, I could hold her all damn day if I needed to instead of crying from frustration and guilt that I had two babies and only one set of arms. There would be no double poops with only half my grocery list completed. No chance of double tantrums in a public place where people gape at you because how dare you leave the house with two babies?  But by the way, are they identical? Did you use fertility drugs? Are you breastfeeding? Insert additional invasive and inappropriate questions here.

It’s interesting how five years later I still carry some of this burden. Life is getting easier, but with that ease I also trade age, and the aging is killing me. Why must they get older in order to start to act like actual human beings instead of monkeys on meth?

Of course now I know that it’s all relative. My hardships are my own, and your hardships are yours. I still jokingly wonder how couples can complain about the work involved in having A BABY, but I’ve never experienced just one. And they’ve never experienced two. When it’s all you know, it’s all you know, you know? (Although when we had Zoe, I was all THIS ONE BABY THING IS AWESOME.)

At times I’ve felt that I’ve done my kids a disservice in the fact that they all came so quickly. I feel like there’s so much they’ve missed out on, like getting their mom or dad all to themselves for an afternoon or leaving the house more than once a month because we are out of toilet paper and wipes and paper towels or anything that can remotely be used to wipe butts. But then again, they don’t know any different. And neither do I.

I guess ignorance is bliss. Now I know that my fears and insecurities about having two babies also sat in the minds of the mothers with only one baby. Basically, we all just want to know if we are doing this silly job right.

 

 

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30 Comments

  1. I don’t even have twins but somehow I still empathize…because I imagine I might feel the same…and I’m pretty sure twins would’ve killed me. If it makes you feel any better, when I just had one I still wasn’t able to pull off that fantasy comprised of the lazy day/spotless house/Mozart and Radiohead. It was just chaos and overwhelm, with maybe a slightly larger supply of wipes and toilet paper.

    1. It took me way too long to realize how relative it all was. And seriously. We go through about a roll a day with these kids.

  2. I can’t even imagine what it’s like to have two babies at once. I was barely managing to keep my sanity with one. I admire twin moms, greatly.

    You’re doing so well, Leigh Ann!

  3. I’m one of those moms with just one kid, and yes, I’m finding it to be pretty glorious sometimes. But, I’m also sad that now that she’s almost seven and keeps asking for a baby brother or sister, we’ve waited too long just basking in the glory of just one kid. I’m pushing 40 and what’s the point of a 7+ year age difference between siblings? Cue the never ending mom guilt. Sorry for the rambling… Anywhoo, I wholeheartedly commend you for all that you do with your littles and I totally love your writing style 🙂

    1. Thank you, Sean. I think siblings can be good at any age. They’ll just have a different relationship. My husband and his oldest sister are 6 years apart (although there were 2 between them), and they are very close. His youngest sister is 15 years younger than him, and she’s grown up looking up to him since he was such a caretaker for her. 🙂

  4. You are a good mommy!

    Having only one is pretty awesome when I see my mom friends of two and more struggling… I honestly don’t know how you do it. Guess I’ll learn soon enough, huh?

  5. I have two kids who are two years apart, and I barely made it through the baby years intact. Moms of twins (or more) are rock stars and super heroes. The end.

    You’re so right – why DO we have to trade aging with ease? Can’t they figure out how to do things when they’re babies? What a bunch of slackers. Furthermore, why does raising children make us look ten times older than the number of years it takes to raise them?

    Okay, that last one is only me, then. 😉

    1. Oh, it’s not just you. I have furrows where I didn’t realize I could have furrows.

  6. I don’t know how twin moms do it. Seriously. My Mom is one. My husband’s Mom is another. I think it takes a seriously awesome person/juggler to have twins IN ADDITION TO a singleton. For real.

    1. Oh thanks, Keely. It’s amazing what kicks in when you don’t have much of a choice. But I always appreciate the sentiment from others because damn it is hard sometimes.

  7. I had one child for six years and moved heaven and earth to get the second. And the third. Granted it’s hard to raise children close in age but I bet a lot of those one child mommys out there are looking at you can feeling the same way — jealous (of your three.)

    1. I would never ever ever want anyone to think I didn’t realize how incredibly blessed we are. That’s part of the guilt and the feeling so torn about it all. I feel terrible complaining when I know there are others struggling to have children, and I wholeheartedly appreciate comments from others who tell me how blessed i am with these beautiful children. But that didn’t make those early days (or these days) any less hard and frustrating sometimes.

      Thank you for your comment and for telling me your story. 🙂

  8. It’s so hard, and there’s always something we wish was easier. A lot of days, even as feeding the girls gets “easier” (as in, I know what to do), I still lament the fact that I have to pack all the birthday treats for school, keep snacks stocked for school, bring our own meals to family gatherings, research restaurants, etc etc etc.

    I did enjoy the things that you talk about when I had my first. I can’t imagine having twins. I also couldn’t imagine being a single mom, and I did that. As moms, we take what we’re given and make the best of it, right? Your girls are so lucky to have you and each other.

    1. We do what we have to do, right? I think I’d take being a twin mom over having to convert to a gluten free household. You’re such an awesome mom, Greta.

  9. you rock, my friend. My first was a colicky mess. clearly not the same as two babies, but my dreams of exactly what you described were shattered as I stood swaying a screaming child all day. there were not naps together or leaving the house. It sucked. So yeah…I get all jealous and resentful when people have the first baby and it’s a breeze. but Charlie was a breeze, so I got mine too…even though I had a lunatic 2.5 year old at the same time.

    the grass is always greener, isn’t it?

    but you are doing fabulously. we all are. in our own way.

    1. It took me way too long to realize that I likely wouldn’t have lived out those fantasies even if I’d had one. Yes the grass IS always greener. 🙂 I feel especially bad admitting this when I know so many others who struggle to get pregnant.

  10. I had only one, for over three years but it still wasn’t all that dreamy like that. And I’m sure you know that most of the time it isn’t. That shit’s only in movies and magazines. I went back to work and there were very few play dates or coffee outings.

    But I know what you mean and I have NO idea what it’s like to care for two babies at a time. You’re are ROCK STAR in my eyes. And woah girl, how GORGEOUS are those girls of yours?!?

    xo

    1. Thank you, Elaine! And this…”That shit’s only in movies and magazines.” YES. If I hadn’t had twins, I don’t think I could have justified quitting my job. So it really was the best thing.

  11. As with so many things in motherhood, parenting, etc. I come back to your damned if you do.. damned if you don’t. I did have the one kid thing first (as you know). For about 15 months I lived in that world- and it was great. I relished it. But what ended up happening (the damn part) is that a) I harbor guilt that I experienced that time with B and not the twins and b) B has some kind of ‘one up’ on his brothers in that I was there for him – alone.

    But I tell myself that that doesn’t matter. They know no different and they love me for what I am to them- their mom. As do your girls. Every day we do a better job than the day before and keep trying. Keep kissing. Keep loving. We’re so lucky- and yes- I too look at friends with a single child and think.. wow- how easy would that be? But I wouldn’t know! You only know AFTER you’ve experienced it and I bet all the money in the world that you and I both would not give up what we have for anything.

    1. I felt that way too when Zoe was born – that the big girls were going to miss out on a lot. A friend brought us dinner and when I told her that, she said, “But are they happy? They will never miss it because they won’t know.” And now that they’re older, we’re getting to do those things that I was always in such a rush to do when they were littler. And it’s much more fun now anyway.

  12. I had an “only” child for 6 years before I had the other 2. Having 1 was so easy. When my house gets to be crazytown I fondly remember those days. Two at a time would have done me in for sure.

  13. I understand you in many ways. I have “Irish twins” and got pregnant again when my first baby was only 4 months old. I spent that entire pregnancy, hormonally depressed, stuck in the house with a screaming banshee baby day after day alone watching the clock till my husband got home and i could go to bed. So I never had the “one baby” experience either. I struggle to get out the house with 2 boys who cannot for the life of them sit still or be quiet. I too, get the looks like, why did you bring two babies out? I also get invasive questions about what it is like to have 2 children 12 months apart. Everyday is hard and there is always a catastrophe but it is all we’ve known, like you said! I feel guilt that neither of them ever get 100% of my attention but i do give them 110% of my love and I trust they feel it.

    1. “I feel guilt that neither of them ever get 100% of my attention but i do give them 110% of my love and I trust they feel it.” <--- I LOVE that. So perfectly said.

  14. Hahaha, I remember having those fantasies of the spotless house and Mozart and being able to make organic meals every night and look totally presentable when leaving the house. That did not happen. I only have one child. I can’t imagine the work involved in 2 or 3….really, can’t fathom it. But I suspect the fact that all of those things I mentioned above don’t happen because they are no longer priorities. Sure, we could put our kids in bouncers/swings/jumpers for 30 minutes to an hour and let them cry while we get our house clean or fix our hair/put on makeup/find clothes that match or are at least clean and not 95% constructed of spandex….but we don’t. I suspect because deep down, we know those things are so much less important than they once seemed when we were all just dreaming about how life would be with a baby. I totally understand grieving the loss of the idea of having one child to pour all of your love and attention into. I’m sure I would do the same. Just wanted to chime in that even if it had worked out that way, it’s highly unlikely that the spotless house dream would have come true =) I wrote a little post about this awhile back….
    http://ourwestcoastnest.wordpress.com/2013/02/09/she-really-let-herself-go/

    I love your blog!
    Christina

    1. Thanks, Christina. It took me way too long to realize that my fantasy was indeed a fantasy. 🙂

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