Yesterday, my precious boy-girl twins turned one. (That's us celebrating at a birthday party in our backyard this past Saturday!)
Reflecting on the occasion, somebody asked me how it felt to have made it through the first year. How could anyone possibly sum it up succinctly? Trying, I said, "Surreal and proud."
Reductive as that teeny-tiny description is, the words hint at the massive range of emotions, the enormous complexity, and the deep soul satisfaction and joy of my first year as a mom.
Here are a few things I learned along the way.
I learned it takes a village.
Duh, right? This expression is used so widely that it may sound trite. But nothing has ever felt more true. From the nurses who whisked my babies off to the nursery while I suffered a delivery complication, to the moms in my local multiples club who sent meals to our house after we came home, to my family and neighbors and friends near and far whose words and love (and gifts too!), our community buoyed us. It's impossible to even consider how we could have done it without them.
I learned the simple joy of walking.
From the very earliest days, when I was post-operative and sleep deprived, walking was one thing I could do without needing to arrange childcare. It served as both a therapeutic personal retreat into music or podcasts, as well as a special bonding time with just the babes and me. Over the course of the past year, I logged enough miles to contribute to my overall fitness, meet new neighbors, and have many deeply fond memories of these special times with my children. These have been some of my happiest hours as a new mom, and some of my most indelibly imprinted. Who knew something as simple as walking afforded so many benefits?
I learned to rely on strangers.
Before I was a mom, I'd say I was pretty independent when it came to making my way around the world on a typical day. Now, I depend on strangers to do things like open doors for me and my double-wide stroller, and hold things I can't manage. I also marvel at how willingly and eagerly so many of them offer this help.
I learned to be more kind.
While noting how often strangers have been kind to me, I've also learned to be nicer to them. Now I notice and help when I see that other parents could use a hand. (I was probably pretty clueless before). And I also like to think that more than ever before, I consider what battles strangers might be fighting on a given day. And I try to offer an extra smile or empathetic note.
I learned that nobody knows any more than anybody else.
With the exception of medical professionals who know a lot about babies, most of the rest of us are learning as we go. Much of parenting is instinct and also personal preference, so it's really about trusting your gut, remaining confident in your choices, respecting other people's choices, and staying out of the dark corners of the Internet for advice.
I have learned there's absolutely no reason to have new gear.
Late in my pregnancy, good friends offered us a ton of baby girl clothes their daughter had outgrown, as well as a swing she'd loved. Before accepting this gift, my husband and I consulted each other: Perhaps we'd want to have pristine new things for our pristine new babies? Uh, hello! Now the thought to me is laughable. Babies grow out of clothes and blow past developmental milestones in the time it takes you to make a bottle. They also immediately render everything "used" (to put it mildly). I've learned to be super organized with my gear and clothes so I can rotate it all to the next mom in need (whether a friend or through a charitable organization)... and to never say no when someone offers hand-me-downs that my kids can use!
I learned to go easy on myself.
When my babies were six weeks old, I figured it was about time my body fully recovered from my C-section. When I was eight weeks postpartum, I went back to work full-time. Almost immediately after delivery, I felt like I should be firing on all cylinders and killing it at everything. Piece of cake, right? I was impatient and unrealistic—unnecessarily so. These last few months, I've learned more about the importance of acknowledging of my triumphs, instead of dwelling on what I wish I could do if I had 500 more arms.
I learned having twins is its own beast.
I've learned to keep my good-natured eye rolling to myself when people with just one baby jauntily suggest things I can do, or ways I can do these things—because parenting multiples is an altogether different thing. It's a niche that requires a lot of finesse, and it's silly to compare my nimbleness to that of other two-parent families with one baby. Much as I would love to, I can't change the fact that I only have two arms (see above!), inconvenient though it may be. So we make our own way, our own style.
I learned how to stay in a hotel with babies.
Having taken the babies for their first hotel stay this summer, I learned some tricks and had a lot of fun. I know this first foray into traveling as a family will serve us well as we continue to prioritize the goal. Along those lines, I have learned that it's possible to travel as a parent, with and without babies: If it's among your top priorities, you can find creative ways to make it happen. That goes for anything. Yes, even as a parent of young multiples, your destiny is yours to shape!
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Photo: Sean Twomey/2Me Studios