This is not a challenge. I am not throwing down some sort of virtual gauntlet, begging for other moms to prove to me that it is not so bad.
This is my reality.
This has been my reality for two years, despite the fact that my sons are less than eighteen months old.
My twin mom guilt began the day I found out that I would be having twins. That afternoon, I felt my first twinge of twin mom guilt. It came when I realized that I had only ever wanted two children, and there was a really good chance that, one day, one of the flickering heartbeats that I carried inside of me would think that maybe he was not the wanted one.
I love all three of my children. I love them with all that I am. I love them in ways I never thought I could. I wanted that second heartbeat in my belly as soon as I knew it was there, fighting to become the toddling son I had crawling up my back this morning.
But sitting in the car, completely stunned at the revelation of a second baby, thinking about all of the things I never knew or expected, I felt guilty because I only ever wanted two children, and there would be three.
My twin pregnancy was riddled with mom guilt. I felt guilty about how my decision to have one more child became two more children, and I did not know how that would affect my singleton. I felt guilty for never considering the possibility that I might use the word “singleton” to describe Sunshine, despite the fact that I was an almost twin and must have carried the same gene that made my twinhood possible. I felt guilty that I could not move as quickly for Sunshine, that I could not carry her three year old self around, that I had to stop going places with her and Saint Daddy. I knew she missed me. I felt guilty because I asked her little heart to be understanding when that goes against the very nature of preschoolhood.
I felt guilty for what I could not do for my sons that I had done while pregnant with Sunshine. I could not maintain my activity level. I ran to nine months with Sunshine, but stopped running before the end of my first trimester with my sons. I felt guilty that I was secretly glad that Grumpy’s placement made a cesarean guaranteed. I had prepared for a medication free delivery for Sunshine, and despite needing Pitocin, I accomplished my goal. For my boys, I was glad for a breach Baby A that meant not risking a double whammy delivery. I felt guilty for not wanting to risk a double whammy delivery. I felt guilty for putting my comfort first. I felt that guilt even though the choice was out of my hands. Grumpy was in the same position from the fourth month. Grumpy got to decide how he and his brother entered the world, and I felt guilty for agreeing with Grumpy’s decision.
My mom guilt doubled after they were born. I stopped nursing. It was the right thing to do. But even now, months after their first birthday, having successfully breastfed them for a year, I feel guilty. I feel as though I could have done more. Been more.
Every time I hooked up to the pump instead of playing more or cuddling them close, I felt guilt. They needed me; I needed them. Instead, I had a motor and tubes and plastic. I wished I could have done things differently. My guilt filled me, and I carried on.
And here is where it gets very twin mom. I feel guilt every time I have to choose which of my sons to focus upon. They are both babies. They have nearly identical needs. I feel guilt every time I choose which one to turn my attention to. If we are playing on the floor and I am rolling a ball to Sleepy and he is laughing and repeating “ball, ball, ball” over and over again, I feel immense waves of guilt weighing down upon my soul because Grumpy is not getting that time.
It seems simple, I am sure, to just play with both of them simultaneously. But it is not. They are babies after all. They do not quite grasp playing with each other. Simply because Sleepy wants to pass a ball with me does not mean Grumpy does. Grumpy may want to play with a dinosaur or stacking toys. He may just want to be held, which is often the case with Grumpy.
And I feel guilt because I have to decide.
There is only one of me, and there are two of them. I cannot be the same mom that I was for Sunshine when she was their age. I want to be, and I feel guilt.
I often think about their first year. There is not too much to think about because Saint Daddy and I were firmly entrenched in Twin Haze. When Dad would call on Sundays, he would ask, “So what’s new with you?” And I would say the exact same thing every week: “It’s all the same. I’m knee-deep in motherhood. Just hoping to survive.”
Their first year was a beautiful blur. I remember so few distinct moments. I decided that social media would have to do the remembering for me. The first three months were spent in three hour cycles: wake, change, feed, play, pump, feed, sleep. I am not even sure I showered. I know I went to the dentist a few months after they were born and apologized to my hygienist because I could not remember if I had flossed in weeks. “I had twins. I know I’m brushing. But flossing seems like too much to ask of me.” She did not even admonish me. Bless that woman. Bless her.
I remember long nights. I remember Saint Daddy giving up and sleeping on the twin bed in the nursery when he could no longer stand another wakeup call. I remember considering the practicality of fleeing to another country in the middle of the night and allowing Saint Daddy to take care of it. “Would he let me come back home in six months? I don’t even know…”
I would tell Saint Daddy, “It’ll be better after six weeks.” Then twelve. Then four months. Then six months. Then a year. And it was. Every time I said it would be better, it was. We developed a routine. The boys found their schedule. We made it.
But I feel like I missed moments in the blur.
And I feel guilt.
I feel guilt because I can no longer remember who rolled over first. I can no longer remember when they crawled. “Sometime around eight or nine months” does not compare to “The day before Valentine’s Day. She had a double ear infection, was teething, and decided she wanted nothing to do with her bath seat that night. I set her on the floor to dress her for bed, and she crawled away.”
And maybe that is a first and second child thing. But I believe it is because I had two to remember in quick succession. I will never really know, and for that, I feel guilt.
Mom guilt is real. I feel it in regards to Sunshine as well, but there is just no mom guilt quite like twin mom guilt. It is double the mom guilt. It is guilt for them as individuals and guilt for them as a set.
Having twins is an experience I would never want to trade away. It is unique and full of wonder. I feel privileged to have the opportunity to mother my amazing boys.
Having twins comes with challenges that are hard to explain to other people. Often, when I express my twin mom feelings to mothers of singletons, I am met with “I deal with that too.” But they do not. Not really. Not in the same way. I know that women interact in that way. It is not usually a one-upping; it is an “I understand.” But there are parts to my role as a mother of multiples that my mothers of singletons friends could never truly appreciate, and sometimes, their “me too” is not actually something I need to hear.
I feel guilt for that too. That one is not mom guilt, though.
I wish I could put less pressure on myself to be a million things. I am a good mom. I love my children. I feed them. I play with them. I read to them. I sing silly songs while brushing their teeth. I plan holidays and birthdays and little adventures. I love their father very much and I respect his role in their lives (something I find to be an integral part of being a good parent). I am not perfect, but I do my best.
I wish that was enough for me.