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.