You have two sets of twins and a singleton, and run a photography business, how do you juggle it all?
I get asked this all the time. And quite honestly, I’m not sure. If I stopped and sat down and thought about it I’m sure it would be overwhelming. But we just go day by day and somehow it all gets done. It helps that my husband is extremely supportive of my photography and realizes how important it is for me. One thing that does help is schedules. The kids have set nap times (and we’re very lucky that our 4 year old girls still nap!) and during those times, my son and I get some quiet time. Then when my husband gets home we have family time until 7pm. Then at 7pm the kids get ready for bed and go to sleep (I get the babies ready and Drew handles the big kids with baths, teeth brushing, etc…) Usually they are all in bed and asleep by 8:30 at the latest and that gives us about 2 hours to spend together (alone time with my husband is extremely important for us since it’s what keeps us on the same page). I also limit my photography to what I can handle and don’t overwhelm myself with bookings. It’s important to know your own limits whether you have 5 kids – or 2 or 10. Family is the most important thing to us and it always comes first. Then the rest just fills in the time.
You told us you’re an AP MoM, can you tell us a little bit about that?
Sure! I’m a big advocate of AP (attachment parenting) although I kind of stumbled into it after the girls were born. There are 8 basic principles of AP (you can find them here: http://www.attachmentparenting.org/principles/principles.php. When we had our son I knew nothing about any of it. Then along came the girls and we knew we had to change our perspective. Having twins meant that we needed to adapt.
My first foray into AP was babywearing. I picked up a baby carrier (my first one was a Moby wrap) and it worked so well for us that I started looking into other carrier options. For the first time I could get things done! I could either wrap them both or have one on my back and one on my front. It was very freeing! We could go for walks without a stroller if Drew had a baby on his back and I had one on my front. And I could even wear my older son. Now, at age 4 the girls still get word occasionally. For instance, the other day we thought Meg might have broken her foot and had to bring her for x-rays. But I needed the stroller for the babies since it had the basinette attachment on it. The solution was to put Meg on my back in a wrap (it was a Didymos wrap – much stronger than a stretchy wrap), push one boy in the stroller, my mom carried the other boy and Teagan walked along side. It must have looked very funny watching us try to get everything out of the car – but it worked! It’s times like that I’m very thankful for babywearing and toddlerwearing!
Nursing was a no-brainer for us. I had nursed Colin and had planned on doing the same with the girls. They were born at 29.5 weeks, with 7 weeks of NICU time so our plan changed a bit. I ended up pumping for almost 4 months and then nursed exclusively after that. The boys were 35 weekers with no NICU time so I’ve just been nursing them too. I think the thing I want MoMs to know is that you CAN do it! I know many MoMs that nurse exclusively (some with HOM). Not only is breastmilk the best food for your baby, but it’s also a wonderful way to bond with your baby. I love snuggling with the boys as I nurse them. I don’t schedule their feeds – they just eat when they are hungry. For us that’s very important since it lets them know that their needs are listened to and met. It provides babies with security that will stay with them as they grow up. And it’s also free, so we don’t have to spend our money on formula (which can get very expensive when you multiply by two!)
We don’t practice CIO (cry it out) or any other sleep training. I know this is controversial, but we believe our babies will sleep when they are ready and when we have given them the opportunity to sleep. Babies don’t cry because they are trying to manipulate us – they cry because they need something. It could be that they need to be hugged, or fed, or changed – or maybe they just need to see your face and know that they are ok because they are scared. By letting babies cry for long periods it teaches them that their parents aren’t listening to their needs and therefore can’t be trusted. I read a very fascinating blog the other day. It was about the CIO method. It pointed out that if we left an adult who couldn’t move or help themselves in bed crying for help for a long time it would be called abuse. But people do that to babies all the time trying to “teach” them to go to sleep. And most of the time the babies don’t stop crying because they realize they have to go to sleep, they just simply give up asking for help from Mom and Dad. I know how difficult it can be with multiples trying to get them to sleep. And we did CIO with our son before we knew better. We didn’t with the girls and we won’t with the boys.
To us attachment parenting is an attitude – not necessarily a set of strict rules. We listen to our children and our babies and give them what they need to become independent little kids. I think many MoMs already practice this form of parenting – without even knowing it!
Were there differences in your twin pregnancies?
Definitely. When we were pregnant with the girls we knew there was a chance of PTL since our son was born at 34 weeks, but the Drs kept a close eye on me. Then the girls were born spontaneously at 29.5 weeks. We had no warning at all. Then we found out we were pregnant with the boys and we knew we needed a better game plan this time. It scared me when the Drs started saying that their goal was to get me into the 30’s. I wanted to get way past that – my goal was at least 36 weeks. So I had a cerclage put in at 14 weeks and went on bedrest at 20 weeks. We had u/s every other week until 32 weeks, then every week after that. NSTs started at 28 weeks. Cervical checks via u/s were done every 2 weeks. We were hospitalized overnight a few times starting at week 27. The threat of long term hospitalization was always there. Thankfully I never started dilating until 35 weeks and when they boys were born they had had 2 rounds of steroid shots (one at 24 weeks and one round at 34 weeks). They did beautifully and had no NICU time.
The deliveries were also very different. The girls were a c/s since Meg was breech and wedged up under my ribs. We thought we would need one with the boys as well since Griffin was breech up until I went into labor. They gave me an u/s when I was 9cm (my labors go very fast, so by the time the tech got there I was almost fully dilated) and we found that Griffin had flipped. My wonderful Dr. agreed to let me attempt a VBAC and it was very successful. The boys were born 6 minutes apart during a drug-free VBAC. I’m still in shock that my birth plan actually worked out!
Does Colin ever feel “different” because he’s not a twin?
Right now he’s only 5 and doesn’t seem to have any idea that he’s not a twin. Once during the boys’ pregnancy he very matter of factly told me that the girls got to play together when they were in my belly and the boys get to play together, but asked why he didn’t get to play with anyone. So I told him he got to play with me when he was in my belly – and he seemed happy with that. We don’t make a big deal about the other kids being twins. And when we’re out and people ask about the twins I’m always careful to point him out too. Within the family Colin was the first grandchild on either side – so he certainly doesn’t lack for attention there either. And since he’s the oldest he get privileges that the others don’t. So far he doesn’t seem to mind at all.
Do you get a chance to spend one on one time with each of you children? What kinds of activities do you do during that time?
Definitely. Colin and I get a lot of quiet time when the other kids are napping and we play lots of games. His favorite is memory& i-spy and a very abbreviated version of Monopoly (I suspect he just likes playing with the money). Our parents live close by too, so they’ll usually take Colin or the girls for a night and when they do that we do activities with the ones that stay home such as take them to the movies, go out for ice cream or have a special night where they get to choose the activity. Until now the girls have done everything together and since they are so different it works really well. As they get older we’ll split them up more and do things individually. The boys are so young that they are easy – their one-on-one time consists of being wrapped up and snuggled with Mommy or Daddy.
What are some of your favorite things to do as a whole family?
During the summer we do quite a bit of traveling. We go camping 3-4 times each summer and the kids really love that. It’s a great time to get unplugged and get lots of outdoor time. Every year we go on a family vacation and also take mini vacation weekends away. We also try to take walks a lot during the summer right after dinner. Our kids seem to be crankiest during that time (the “witching hour”) so getting out helps distract them and helps pass the time for us. Plus it’s great exercise for all of us. Colin’s just starting to ride a two wheeler without training wheels and the girls are riding their bikes, so for the first time in years we can go completely stroller free. It’s wonderful! During the winter we go skiing, ice skating and sledding.
What question do you have for the parents in our community?
How do you keep your identical twins feeling like separate people as they grow up? It was easy with the girls since everyone treats them differently since they look different. But I can already tell the boys are going to be treated more like a duo and I want to make sure everyone understands that just because they look alike doesn’t mean they are the same person.