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Friday, March 23, 2012

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That is a spectacular comment from your sister - He had to send you twins to teach you that lesson! I love that so much.

You're a wonderful person, Arwen, and I think your new philosophy, of keeping everyone YOURSELF INCLUDED as happy and healthy as possible is a wonderful one.

I respect your experience and your journey. But I take deep issue with one thing that you said here because you've made a general statement about ALL twin moms : "HOW did they do it? Well, I've been a mother of twins for more than ten months now and I can tell you how they do it: they don't."

I take deep offense to this statement. I have 17 month old twins and I can tell you how I DO it: with love, with joy and by putting their needs ahead of mine.

Mothering twins is exhausting and has definitely challenged me. But I don't think it is right to suggest that parents of twins are giving their children less than what singletons get. My lap is big enough for two and even at more than 20 pounds, I am still known to carry both my babies. But aside from meeting the physical needs, I don't think that my kids have ever had less love, nurturing or personal attention than singletons.

Erin, as I read your comment I thought, "She misunderstood me!" and then I reread my post and realized that it was my own fault entirely. I did not say what I meant. I edited the post and it now says exactly what I mean to say about my own experience. I *hope* that the newly edited post does not offend you, but if it does, we'll just have to respectfully agree to disagree about what twin parenthood means to us. All the best to you!

I really like your updated philosophy, Arwen! Striving for balance in caring for your children, your marriage, and yourself is what it's all about, in my opinion.

Dear Erin, I am certain Arwen did not to intend to cause you deep offense. As you correctly said, she is writing about her experience and her view of her parenting journey. I can hear your fierce love for your children in the intensity of your response, but it seemed unnecessarily hurtful toward Arwen. We all love our children with everything we have, and I would encourage you to approach other moms with whom you disagree with more gentleness. Peace and happiness with your twins!

I just want to agree with you, Arwen. I had my "twins" first--my son came to us through adoption at 4 months old, when my daughter (biological) was 6 weeks old. They are three months apart and have grown up very much like twins from that early point forward. Having had my twins first, I did have to learn the lesson early that my ideal style of mothering probably wasn't going to be the best choice for our FAMILY; though I could have spent every waking moment holding and nursing those babies, I would have suffered physically and emotionally, my health would have suffered, my marriage would have suffered. So we made some compromises (and this is the important part) that we could live with--not compromises that negated the heart and soul of our parenting and family goals, but compromises that, though uncomfortable, we weighed as ultimately less important than we had thought they were. It was a difficult pill to swallow, but it needed to be done and I don't regret it.

And here I am now with 5 children under age 6 (and coming on 6 children under 7--I'm pregnant with #6 now) and I have had to make a few more changes and adaptations to accommodate our family's needs. But you know? That's perfectly fine by me. I have come to terms with the compromises, and I have not compromised on the things that my husband and I have always believed and will continue to believe are absolutely essential to us as parents. The trade-off for me would have been having fewer children, or not having them so close together, or having a damaged marriage, or or or... Instead, I am healthy and happily married with six beautiful children. All is well.

Oh, and I do not mean to say that everyone has to compromise their parenting ideals. Not at all. But I do think that parents of many children or parents of close-in-age children are more likly to have to do this than others.

Hi Erin!

I feel compelled to jump in here just to suggest, gently, that your comment seems just as hurtful as the statement you were objecting to. By saying:

"I take deep offense to this statement. I have 17 month old twins and I can tell you how I DO it: with love, with joy and by putting their needs ahead of mine,"

you seem to imply that if Arwen isn't "DOING it," it's because she lacks love, joy, and selflessness. Remember that, in addition to twins babies, Arwen has a 3-year-old and a 5-year-old. She is not talking about a decision to put her needs above the twins' needs; she is talking about coming to terms with the fact that sometimes the twins' needs conflict *with each other.* She has had the experience of being able to devote her whole attention to a single baby; it seemed to me like what Arwen meant by "they don't" is "they don't love two babies at once the way I have been able to love one baby at a time." The fact that both Linus and Ambrose sometimes need their diapers changed at the same time--and that Arwen only has one pair of hands--is not a reflection on her character at all; it is just part of her experience.

I'm sure you didn't mean to imply that Arwen's thoughts about her experience indicates that she's less loving and selfless than you, but I hope you can see how it might have sounded like that.

Love this post, Arwen. God is sneaky sometimes.

Perhaps it's because, like the other Erin, I found the original post offensive, or perhaps it's because I know the other Erin and don't think she intended to be me...either way, I think she was speaking her mind about what she read, and I don't really see it as being that harsh. I'm sorry your feelings were hurt, Arwen,

I have to say that Miriel's explanation of your feelings also read as a bit offensive to me. "She has had the experience of being able to devote her whole attention to a single baby; it seemed to me like what Arwen meant by "they don't" is "they don't love two babies at once the way I have been able to love one baby at a time."" I wholeheartedly disagree. It might not look the same, but the love is the same. Having to change two diapers at the same time doesn't reflect on anyone's character or their ability to love and care for both children. I seriously don't think that my daughters have suffered greatly or felt less loved because they waited a minute longer for a diaper change.

Anyhow, I'm not trying to be nasty or start a fight here. Just stating my own thoughts on the matter.

I found this link through @daniellebean and have only to say that parenting is a gift and adventure sent from God along with the corresponding graces. Having two sets of twins myself followed by 3 singles all in under 8 years, I can testify that God provides. I also suspect that since my first 4 were twins, my experience was very different. Our 5th baby was our first single! But I've loved every moment, have a crazy house filled with joy and a wonderful husband who loves us all beyond measure. I occasionally get to blog about it too! http://mom2sixunder6.blogspot.com/

I'm pretty sure what we have here is what academics (like moi!) call a "definition of terms" problem. In other words, Erin (the second--hey lady!), I totally agree with this: "Having to change two diapers at the same time doesn't reflect on anyone's character or their ability to love and care for both children." It seems to me like that's pretty much exactly what Arwen is talking about!! (though of course she can speak for herself, if she wants)

BUT. There *is* a _sense_ in which there is a difference between "the way you love one baby at a time" and "the way you love two babies at the same time." It's pretty much mathematical: there are two of them!! The love the parent has for the child is not finite or divisible; the parent's time and external resources are both finite and divisible, and sometimes--as you said!--you have to change one of them and let the other one wait for a minute. It doesn't mean you love the child LESS, it just means you love the child (in your actions--perhaps it would have been clearer had I said "serve the child") DIFFERENTLY, because if there were only one baby, he would never have to wait for his brother's needs to be met before his needs were met.

So there are two senses of "love and care for":

One is the existential sense--"love and care for" on the interior of the parent--in which case, I think we ALL agree that parents of twins "love and care for" their twins just as much as, and in the same way as, they would (or do) love singleton babies.

The other is the practical sense--"love and care for" in the exterior, meeting-basic-physical-needs sense--in which case, it seems incontrovertible to me (from observation and from your own admission) that sometimes twins are "loved and cared for" (again, perhaps "served" is clearer) in a different way than singleton babies are, because there are two of them and only one mama. This doesn't seem offensive to me at all, and it is--if I understood correctly--the only kind of "love and care" that Arwen was talking about.

I don't mean to beat a dead horse, but I thought that clarification was necessary in order for the conversation to make any sense.

Exactly, Miriel. It's different, but not less. Obviously, taking care of two babies is different than taking care of one. At least, I would assume it is having never been blessed with a successful one baby scenario. Unfortunately, it's not uncommon for some moms to imply that twins just don't get enough love and attention. I recognize that Arwen didn't mean that, but it does come up. It's hard as a mom of two babies who busts her butt to love and cherish and care for her children to read that maybe it's not good enough. Anyhow, beating a dead horse.

Arwen, I'm sorry that this turned away from what your post was truly about. Hope you find peace in your parenting.

Amen to that!

I love your new philosophy, Arwen, and I LOVE what Miriel said about God sending you twins. Wise words from your little sister.

I'm sorry that part of your post seems to have been misinterpreted. I think Miriel has already cleared up the definition of terms issue far better than I could have!

Arwen, thank you so much for this post! I admire you so much - from the outside you seem to mother with such grace. If nothing else your witness reminds me every day that if you can do it, then I can do it too!

I love your post Arwen but of course I love everything you post and say. I am a big silly fan. Reading this makes me wish all of our lives were lived more communally. I feel like if we all lived in multi-age, multi-family situations, we would all learn these important parenting lessons earlier and without having to have twins. As our lives mostly are now, we all stumble through before finding peace. Peace with our parenting styles, our families, ourselves. Thank you for your frank thoughts.

When I read your post I could so relate! I am a full time working mother of 4 and often get "asked how I do it" by those with only 1 or 2 kids. My answer is I don't. I had to come to terms that I couldn't do everything and be everything. Something has to give. So I do the things that are important and the rest can wait, triage. When they were little I used to joke someone was always crying, maybe me. But even now that they are older it is still a juggle. Everyone can't get my undivided attention but that's ok. They all know I love them, can help each other and are independent with many little things. For me the "How do you do it? I don't" comment is about giving up that perfectionism that makes me crazy. Thanks for being real.

Arwen, this is so beautiful. I loved the first version, I didn't read the second version, but I will go back now and do so.

I am astounded by how parenthood unfolds us. I love the changes that come at such cost and with such gain. Here's to new philosophies!

Hi everyone! I popped over here to comment as well, as I also am a twin mama (twins first, then two singletons).

I absolutely agree with what Arwen originally said (being read as quoted in the comments) as well as how she's edited it to state it more clearly. I am a little stumped at how anyone can be offended by what she said, as being honest about one's experience with motherhood, to me, is never offensive.

And with twins? You DON'T meet their needs like a single baby. You just... don't. I found this to be the hardest part of having twins: I would nurse one (tandem nursing didn't work for me), and she would fall asleep all curled up, so perfectly pink-cheeked and sighing, milk drunk and I wanted NOTHING MORE than to just hold her and dose off myself, blissful with my baby. But RARELY (if ever) did that happen, because her sister was waiting for me. So I'd have to force myself to pull her warm damp body off my chest and settle her someplace else (bouncy seat, another set of arms, etc) so I could feed her sister. And when her sister would fall asleep in the same way? Maaaaybe I could enjoy her there for a bit, but often the first baby was now needing me again. And anyway, I felt GUILTY at times cuddling one when I wasn't able to cuddle the other.

The other thing I found very hard was the concept of doing it myself. People often think the solution to multiple babies is to HELP the parents and YES we multiple parents appreciate help SO MUCH. HOWEVER. Those were *my* babies. *I* wanted to be the one to hold and feed and change and cuddle and MOTHER. I needed help, I appreciated help, but... it broke my heart a bit that *I* couldn't always be there the way I wanted to be for them.

One thing that helped me was that, while they never (not even on the day they were born) had my undivided attention (they've had to SHARE my attention from their first moments earth-side), they INSTEAD had this beautiful gift of EACH OTHER. It's not fair that a newborn baby, or a tired toddler has to WAIT THEIR TURN so much of their young lives, but the flip side of having that sister just your same age is really wonderful.

Now that I've had two single babies, I realize just how stretched I WAS back when the twins were small (they're 9 now). A single baby's needs can so easily be met, and I am deeply satisfied meeting those needs, being in those moments that I couldn't enjoy with my twins. When people say to me "I don't know how you DID IT with twins," I respond, honestly, "I DON'T EITHER"... becuase I DON'T. We just... did it I guess, which is all anyone does with a challenging situation.

My twins stretched me in beautiful ways, and I learned more about myself from that experience than maybe any other so far in life. But I'll take one baby at a time ANY DAY. :)

I think part of the confusion might be love as a verb vs love as a feeling. Of course a mother of twins loves (feeling) her babies just as much (amount) as a mother of a singleton. But that love (verb) is applied differently. I love what Marie said about how twins having each other compensates for the lack of one-on-one attention from the mother. There are benefits and drawbacks to every family configuration!

Also, I share your philosophy that babies should be happy. Their needs are simple (and necessary to their development), and not being able to meet those needs as timely as I wanted with my twins was very hard. Frustrating. Heart-breaking. I did my best, except for when I didn't (and those days we simply "survived"), and we all learned from it... but MAN. TWINS ARE HARD. Feeling like there was never enough of ME to go around was HARD. Not because of the sacrifices, but because I WANTED there to be enough of me for them.

That is all.

Like Marie, I had my twins first then two singletons (and one more coming in June.) Miriel was most definitely right when she said God sent you twins to teach you a lesson. God knew that I needed that lesson early and fast. I was such a perfectionist and being the mom of twins, you need to be able to set aside the idea of perfect mothering that you have in your head. Taking care of twins is different than taking care of a singleton. They must learn to take turns at an early age and I needed to learn how to prioritize their needs. I had to let go of the "mom is the be all and end all" mentality that I had, so that I could let other people help me care for my girls. The big lesson I've learned, over the past 10 years is that I'm not "the" perfect mother, I'm "their" perfect mother. Just perfect my MY kids. In a world where nothing is perfect, I'm perfectly happy with my imperfections, and they've learned to live with me this way.

I have never had twins (only two singletons) but can imagine myself feeling exactly as you do with L & A.


Best wishes
XXXX

Arwen, I follow your blog because I like the boldness with which you share your experiences of parenting. I can relate to your life. My first two were twin boys, followed by three singles, a boy, a girl, and another boy. The task of caring for their needs became more difficult with each child. But it was the last four children, two with special needs, that has forced me to confront my own desire to make everyone happy. Although I am now learning to consider my own needs as I parent nine children, it is not any easier to listen to the crying child (or children) who must wait for my attention. God Bless!

I'm not a parent of twin so perhaps that negates my comment, but I believe this is something that every parent eventually comes to realize at some point in the parenting journey. For me, it was with the arrival of my third child. There is a limit to how much one person can do and the subsequent children are never given the time and attention in the same ways as the first. I think confronting and letting go of the desire to make everyone happy is something we all need to do before we lose our marbles!

I guess I don't understand how any parent can think they would be able to handle subsequent children as they did the first one. For one thing, they're older and more experienced, for another, the children are different...and inescapably present! Finally, there is the fact that only one child gets to be the first one with all the time in the world to be given to them.

I hope your new understanding leads to a more relaxed season in your parenting. I think you are meant to enjoy the smallness of the new kids more than you are meant to replicate the time you had to lavish on the firstborn. JMHO

Twin infants are hard, yes. But babies don't keep, and there are lots of great times to come.

Funny story--I once worked with a woman whose four kids were two sets of twins. She said everyone always pitied her but that she really didn't know any other way and had nothing to compare it to, and couldn't indulge them when they wanted to go there with her.

Arwen, I hope you don't feel chastised for sharing your pain and sorrow. I wanted my previous post to affirm you, but after rereading in light of the other posts, I am not sure that it did. Anyway, to try again. I believe that parenting is more difficult for some moms than others, for many reasons. You are one of those that have it more difficult. You have four children under four (a large family by today's standards), the first one is high needs, the last two are twins, three of the four are boys, the twins were born prematurely and are medically fragile, etc. And I believe that there is a cumulative effect because you have all of this at once. In my own experience of having parented five children through the NICU, there is also the lingering effects of fear and guilt and the sorrow of lost time. All of this together is a lot for one mom to handle. I admire your courage to share your pain and sorrow with us. You have encouraged me to share more openly about my own experiences. I can't say that it will get easier, but I think you are doing the right thing by considering your needs. After nineteen years of parenting, I am just now learning that what my kids need most is a relaxed, happy, and content mom. God Bless!

Food habit during pregnancy

I know you posted this a few weeks ago, so I'm late to the party! I've commented a time or two because your heartfelt emotions bring me back a decade...

My daughter is fourteen and my twin boys almost twelve. We also had trouble getting pregnant, and I've always felt like having three kids in under two and a half years shows God's sense of humor. And YES! Twins constantly showed (and show) my inability to do this on my own without God. I think that I *almost* could have handled two kids, but three? And twins? SO far beyond my comfort zone.

Which I realize God is ALL about doing -- me and my silly comfort zone...I think He has so much more for us outside that comfort zone. More than I ever like to imagine, but still it's tough.

Let me say a few things: you seem like a wonderful wonderful mom. SO present with your kids. As I've said before, it does get easier. Eventually Linus and Ambrose will be two kids more than they will be TWINS, if that makes sense...and I've noticed that my guys probably *are* more patient, more forgiving because they learned to wait and not have their needs fulfilled every, every time at the exact second they wanted. As heartbreaking as it was sometimes for me as a mom, in some ways, it really probably was good for them.

And remember too, as I tell my guys when they're not getting along, God had a sovereign and wonderful reason for sending these boys into the world as twins. It wasn't just an accident. One thing I figure -- he always wants them to have each other's backs (and the backs of their siblings!). He always wants each of them to be the other's best advocate. No matter where he takes each boy and eventually man in life, he has given them something special in being twins, and he will use that to His glory. And of course, to their benefit.

You have such beautiful kids, Arwen. God BLESS you today! And other days too:)

Beth K.

I just popped over to say hello---and I'll go you one higher. You are a different kind of parent now--and I'd put money on the fact that you are actually a better one. ;) Keep the faith!

I think you are a wonderful mom. I am sure you are much harder on yourself than you ought to be, and I like that you are doing the best you can for your whole family AND for yourself. Although you may not be able to do things for Linus and Ambrose in exactly the same way as you did for Camilla and Blaise, remember that your twins have blessings their older siblings didn't, too.

I think you are doing great, and I'm positive all of your children are happy and fulfilled. We are still childless unfortunately after hoping and trying for well over a year, and we are considering fertility treatments if they end up being necessary, and one of the things I'm terrified of is multiples. Especially because I have a demanding (but completely necessary from a financial perspective) full time job outside the home that I won't be able to step away from. But I have to remind myself that God doesn't give you more than you can handle, and I of course want to be a mother, so I will take whatever I am given! And read your blog for advice regardless. :)

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