Thursday, November 02, 2006

10 Secrets to Surviving the First Year with Multiples

This was e-mailed to me from another triplet mom. I thought it was very interesting and wanted to share with my friends.

You Can Do It!
10 Secrets to Surviving the First Year With Multiples
By Elizabeth Lyons

While pregnant with twins (or more), you are likely to receive more
than a few comments – most often from complete strangers – about how
rocky the road ahead is going to be. Some folks will seemingly try to
convince you you'll be lucky not to fall into a giant manhole at
every step. I've always found this most unfortunate. In truth, these
folks are partly right; it will be tough. But what they don't realize
is how rewarding and amazing an experience it will be at the same

My husband and I went from one child to three in a matter of
minutes. (Our daughter was 2 when our twins were born.) I've decided
that it's tough raising any number of children. In fact, I'm
convinced that it's the hardest job there is! There's no perfect
spacing, no perfect age range. You are blessed with what you can
handle – what you're meant to handle – plain and simple.

That said, there are ways to ensure a less stressful first year
raising multiples.

1. If you aren't one already, become an organized and efficient
person as soon as possible.
If you are already a proficient planner, capitalize on it and get
even better! Trust me, this is doable. Even if you are the most
frazzled person on earth, you are going to learn to be efficient and
organized quite quickly, because it will be necessary to your
According to Stephanie Winston, author of Getting Organized (Warner
Books, 1991), "Order is whatever helps you to function effectively –
nothing more and nothing less. You set the rules and the goals,
however special, idiosyncratic or individualistic they may be."

As with nearly everything else during this year, take life day by
day, and do what works for you in terms of organizing yourself and
your family, even if your mother-in-law thinks you're nuts (mine, by
the way, swears she does not).

2. Don't turn down help.
Many people are, by nature, simply more independent than others. It
seems that mothers of multiples often fall into this category.
Therefore, when help is offered, many of these women shy away from
accepting help, often feeling as though saying "yes" is the same as
admitting (at the top of their lungs) "I can't do this by myself!"
Additionally, many women seem to feel that the person who has offered
some help surely has a million other things on her own plate and
therefore, she shouldn't accept her offer.
I consider myself to be a relatively independent person, so I feel
quite comfortable giving you a direct order on this one: ACCEPT HELP!
Be sure that the help actually fulfills your definition, however.
Having someone else rock and sign to your babies while you cook and
clean is often not viewed as "help" by a new mom of multiples.

Accept the offer from anyone willing to bring a meal, clean your
house, do some laundry or run an errand. You will have more than
enough time sooner than you think to return the favor. Think about
it: When you offer to help someone in need, you genuinely want to
help. So does everyone volunteering his or her time to you right now.
Say thank you and open your door (even if you're in your pajamas)!

3. Realign your expectations.
This is of paramount importance to getting through the first year.
Relinquish your need (if you have one) to have your entire house
clean and in perfect order all the time. One secret I rely heavily on
is scented candles (I prefer those by Yankee Candle Company).
The "Banana Bread" scent will give the impression that you've been
cooking all day. "Clean Cotton" will fool visitors into believing you
cleaned the whole house just before they arrived. "Lavender" will
soothe your mind at the end of a long day.
Also, pick up a copy of Forget Perfect (Perigee, 2001) by Lisa Earle
McLeod. McLeod reinforces the importance of putting ourselves at or
near the top of our priority lists instead of the grime behind the
kitchen sink or the toys strewn across the family room. Says
McLeod, "You are not trying to create a perfect childhood, you're
trying to create a functioning adult." Your time would be better
spent singing nursery rhymes than scrubbing walls.

4. Invest in a crock pot and few good crock pot recipe books.
The crock pot is a marvelous invention. Did you know that you can
make quesadillas in a crock pot? The recipes for this contraption
have come a long way, and it's not just for beef stew anymore.
Whenever you have a spare second during the morning, pop the
ingredients in and turn it on. By dinnertime (whether at 6 p.m. or
midnight), you have a fabulous meal cooked and the house smells
fantastic. If, by some small chance, one of the babies needs you the
second you dish up your plate, just put your meal back in the old
crock pot and it'll be warm whenever you're ready – no more cold
dinners! I'm thinking of giving my crock pot a name this year and
looking at it more like my own personal food butler.

5. Schedule weekly alone time with your spouse.
One of the biggest concerns I hear from women with multiples is that
when the kids are grown and leave the house, they and their husbands
will look at each other and exclaim, "Who are you?" It is important
to make your best effort to nurture your relationship with your
spouse to ensure this does not happen.
When your babies are young, this will be easier (though it may not
seem that way at the time) than when they start moving and talking
nonstop. However, as the babies get older and the house gets crazier,
you may feel as though you and your mate haven't talked about
anything other than where you're going as you dart out of the house
just as he pulls into the driveway.

Get a sitter when you're comfortable taking that step; instead of
viewing the cost as an extra $30 for an evening out, look at it as an
investment in your marriage and your family. Or forget the sitter and
just plan on a late dinner for the two of you when the kids have gone
to bed. Sit down and talk about something other than finances, who
tackled whom that day and how you're going to negotiate the plane
ride to Grandma's. I know some days it won't seem like there's
anything else to talk about, but there is. Remember what you did on
your first dates, fantasize about your ultimate retirement or
vacation destination, or better yet, plan a date for the following
week or month.

6. Maintain your sense of humor.
If you don't have one, get one – QUICKLY! Research has shown that
smiling causes your brain to release chemicals that make you feel
good. Additionally, laughter releases endorphins in your body that
allow you to relax. So when you can only laugh or cry, do the former.
It is more fun (and less expensive) than anxiety medication or

7. Retain an optimistic perspective.
There's an old saying, "Attitude is everything." Keith Harrell,
author of Attitude Is Everything, agrees. He says, "Your attitude
dictates whether you are living life or life is living you. Attitude
determines whether you are on the way or in the way."
And remember, as a general rule, those with positive attitudes enjoy
better overall health – a true gift from you to your new bundles of
joy. Just when things seem to be at their lowest point, remember: It
could always be worse. When I was having a particularly bad hour
during the first year with our twins, I would remind myself that
there were women in the world juggling sextuplets or more that very
second. That usually provided enough clarity to get me through those
60 minutes.

8. Schedule personal time for yourself on a regular basis.
Many mothers begin to feel as if their lives are somewhat one-
dimensional. They become convinced they are losing their own identity
in the midst of raising their family. It is extremely important to
carve out some time for yourself each day. Even if it's only to
snuggle into bed at night and read People magazine or a chapter of a
book that's been collecting dust on the shelf. Plan to spend time as
often as you can with friends in the evenings or on weekends, and
plan to do this without your kids when possible. Truly, you cannot
take the best care of your family unless you are taking the best care
of yourself.

9. Give yourself permission to make "mistakes."
Write this statement down and put it in a spot where you will see it
at least once a day:
"During this day, I will do the best I can to be a mother to these
children with the information, wisdom and energy I have at this

Hours, days or weeks from now there will be no point in looking back
and saying, "Oh, if I had known THAT I would have done it
differently. " Of course you might have, but the bottom line is that
you will never be able to go back to that exact point in time – with
the information that you now have – and do things differently. You do
the best you can with what you have to work with at the time. That's
all you can expect of yourself – and that's all your children expect
from you.

10. Ignore advice from people whose opinion you don't truly value.
You are going to get advice on childrearing in general left and right
from family, friends and women behind you in line at the grocery
store. People are going to comment on your choice of breastfeeding or
bottle-feeding. People will comment on how crazy the babies' sleeping
patterns are (and how much of that is your fault).
Sit down and think about the people in your life whose opinions you
really value. Now, are any of those people the same ones who you
would imagine attempting to give you "advice" that really feels more
like criticism of your parenting skills? I doubt it. So, when you
want advice, ask for it from the people whom you generally believe
will give it to you with your best interests, not their underlying
opinions, at heart. For everyone else, smile and keep walking. If it
happens in your own home, feign a migraine and retire to your room
until the offender leaves.

As Zora Neale Hurston once said: "There are years that ask questions
and years that answer." This year will most certainly do both – I
guarantee it! And I will make you the promise that my great friend
Mollie always makes to me: You're going to make it!

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