When people found out my partner was pregnant with twins, they laughed, gushed, and wished us luck. One baby at a time is hard; two at a time can feel like a slow death. Yes, yes. Double the joy. More to love. #blessed.
But it wasn’t just that we were going to have two babies at once, it was that we were adding two more children to the toddler already nipping at our ankles. Our family growing from three members to five felt like an explosion. Of course, we were excited, but we were also terrified.
People warned us that going from man-to-man to zone defense was hard. We would be outnumbered, shuffling along with our hands in the air and hoping to fill space. But how in the world could we hold more hands than we had to offer? How could we take care of ourselves when we could barely care for our babies? Who would support us?
I don’t like to ask for help. I am getting better at it, but it takes a lot of vulnerability to admit you can’t do something on your own. Before my twins were born, I knew my partner and I could not function without the help of friends. I was not wrong. Three kids under the age of three (oh, and we had a dog too and moved into our new house the day we brought the twins home—NBD), a partner who was either nursing twins or napping with them, and my work schedule meant there was no way in hell our house was functioning without outside support. But I had to push all of those unhelpful thoughts aside that told me we shouldn’t ask for help.
I told myself we had made this bed (albeit a bed that no one seemed to be sleeping in), so we had to also lie in it. This was our second time around, we should be pros. There are families bigger than ours, probably making do with less. There was so much crying and pooping. There were so many dishes to clean and baskets of laundry to fold. Who would want to sign up for that? We had nothing to offer in return.
Thankfully for us, the ballooning of our family equated to the expansion of support we received. With the willingness of friends who saw beyond the size of our family, we got the help we desperately needed. Because guess what? Moms with more than one kid need help too. The moms with more kids than lap space and patience, not just for their newborn but for their first born and any babies in between, need support too.
Families come in all different sizes and instead of feeling guilty about our brood or shamed for being the loud ones who take up space, we should be able to have exactly the family we want. And without taking advantage of it, we should expect the same level of kindness given to smaller families or families bringing home their first child. We need to show up for parents of many kids too.
The best thing given to us was a meal train and chore chart electronically set up by a friend days after the twins were born. For a month, people lovingly signed up and showed up with food. From bags of bagels to three course dinners, friends and coworkers excitedly fed us. They brought treats for my toddler, caffeine and chocolate for me and my partner. They also brought energy and a desire to help. People mowed the lawn, walked the dog, folded laundry and ran to the grocery store for us. They held babies and played with my toddler so I could unpack boxes, shower, or just stare off into space for a few minutes.
I am so appreciative of the people who seem to get happy by giving happiness away. It really was an endless cycle of emotional bucket filling. What I had to offer was gratitude and a void that someone could fill. This filled their desire to be helpers and to pay forward something that was done for them.
As the kids got older, people offered to stay with them so that my partner and I could leave the house at the same time. Until the twins were a couple of years old, it took two people to make this happen; it took one person just to handle the twins while the other person made sure my oldest wasn’t left to her own devices. Friends without kids would team up for a few hours at a time. Couples with kids would add theirs to our mix and claim everything would be just fine; we could return the favor at some point. We eventually did and it felt amazing. We are doing our best to raise healthy and happy kids, but we need to be happy too.
There were moments when I still struggle with guilt. People would walk into our house and navigating around toys and jumpers and littered sippy cups was the easy part. The noise took some getting used to. Trying to have a conversation while being interrupted by little voices, big cries, or stinky diapers took selfless patience. The tension between partners who just needed a minute to breathe was acknowledged, accepted, and forgiven. And I know there are plenty of families with more kids, but our family of three babies felt huge and I appreciated everyone who showed up and supported us.
But the moment that meant the most was the day I stopped at home for lunch during my work day. A friend was at the house with my partner and the twins, who were maybe a few weeks old. She had been tandem breastfeeding them without supplementing with formula. She wasn’t opposed to supplementing, she just didn’t think she needed to. But something wasn’t right. She was more than exhausted, she was absolutely depleted. Because we had so much support, I relied on it. I asked the neighbor to come over and help. I needed both her and our friend to take over baby care so my partner could sleep. She didn’t experience postpartum depression with our first child, but I was worried that she was susceptible this time around. She got the care she needed when she needed it because people stepped up in big ways for our big family.
It can be hard to support frazzled moms with lots of kids. Everyone is busy, and has their own stuff going on. But we need you, and we are so thankful that we are just waiting for the chance to be there for you too—we might have a few kids in tow, but we got you.