My sister had twin girls three weeks ago. I packed up my two kids and flew up here to Alaska to visit and help out as much as I could. I feel a little useless since I have to deal with my own brood and can't wait on them hand and foot, but at the same time, I think it's good that they are getting only part-time help so they can transition to zero help once we're gone.
One thing that I have realized while being here is that when you have a baby, you go through the stages of grief. What? you say... But you just had a precious baby! How could you possibly be grieving? Well, while you gain such a wonderful joy (or in my sister's case, TWO wonderful joys), you lose your former child-free life. You can't get up and go to bed whenever you darn well please. You can't go to the bathroom when you need to. You can't randomly drive to the coast for a romantic weekend with just the clothes on your back. You have to be home for nap time. You can't leave sharp knives on the counter or fragile vases on the coffee table. You need to keep sharpies locked up. You really can't have anything nice in your house.
My sister and brother-in-law are in their 40's. They have spent many years collecting very nice things in their home. They have gotten used to doing what they want when they want to. They have a dog who they love more than anything in the world. They are grieving.
They have the first stage down -- Denial and Isolation. Many times a day I hear "I just need more sleep," and "How can she be hungry already?" They bought an iPad and have a program that tracks everything - feeding, sleeping, diaper changes, amount of milk pumped, etc. J made a comment yesterday that they used to go four hours between feedings. I replied that when they're brand new, they sleep a lot, so they nurse less. When they start becoming more aware and staying awake for longer periods, they get hungry faster. [Deer in headlights look from J]. "But don't worry," I reassured him, "As they get bigger, they will drink more at each feeding and spread out the time. This is just the time they start needing more. That's all." [Deer in headlights look does not get any better.] I think he changed the subject.
This morning, J came down to the kitchen while I was making pancakes. He barely acknowledged me, and gave me short answers to my questions. Having babies makes you feel quite isolated. You don't think that anybody could possibly understand what you are going through. Even those who have children, because they don't have YOUR children. And when you have two at once, well, then you can easily talk yourself out of any help or advice from the parents of singlets.
Of course, with the stages of grief, you don't sit in one stage, then advance to the next and the next until you finally hit acceptance. You wallow in one, jump up to another, fall back to the first, etc. My sister hit the anger stage the other day. J had left the house (I thought he had gone upstairs to the bedroom) to plow the drive and I was downstairs messing around on Facebook. D came downstairs after a little while with a screaming baby. I asked her if she needed anything. She said "No. I just need to grow two more arms." She went upstairs and then I looked out the window and saw J. Oh shit. I failed. I went upstairs to help her out. She was in the middle of changing a diaper. I talked her into using gDiapers because they are a cloth and disposable hybrid, so there is no plastic when you use the disposables, and since she has twins, the amount of diapers she's gonna go through is too high to even contemplate. The thing is, when you change a newborn in g's, you need to set up the new diaper before you take the old one off. My sister did not do this, and since I was remiss in my duties as the helper, she did not have any prestuffed with the disposable liner. So one of the babies pissed and shat all over the changing table. My sister lost it.
"I'm fucking done with these gDiapers!" She yelled, "I'm going out and buying Pampers tomorrow!"
And who can blame her? She has two babies crying, she hasn't had a full night's sleep in months (because the last trimester of a twin pregnancy sucks sweaty balls), and she is still teaching an online class for the college. What the what?!?! Of course she's going to be angry about systems that are not working when she is still working this other job and has just been given the world's most difficult and stressful job.
While I adore gDiapers and will never use anything but, I knew this was not a time to lecture my sister about landfills and the environment. I simply nodded and sighed with her, changed the girls' diapers, and helped get them back on the boobs.
Another thing my sister hates: the twin "My Breast Friend" pillow. Why? because when she has both babies on, she's completely restricted inside the pillow. It wraps around her, giving her support everywhere, but if she forgets to move her water before she latches on, she's screwed. Oh, and where's the remote?
Currently, I'm listening to my sister type on her computer upstairs as one of the girls cries. J is trying to keep her calm while my sister finishes what she needs to do. She's already said she just needs to quit her job because she can't get anything done. I'm sure she'll hate her job this week (if she doesn't already) because of it.
I think it takes a couple years to hit acceptance. I remember when E was 6 months old, I planned on going out for drinks with a friend of mine. I wanted to get her to sleep before I left. Babies seem to know when you have something important planned, so they don't cooperate. I remember sitting on the floor crying, since I couldn't go out with my friend because the baby wouldn't sleep. Damn kid!
Heck, even a year ago, when E was 2 1/2, I got bent out of shape because she came down with a fever the night of her school's Parent's Night Out auction and fundraiser. I remember telling my husband "If we didn't have kids, we'd be able to go!" I was so mad, because I couldn't remember the last time we were able to go out. He responded "Honey, if we didn't have kids, there would be no Parent's Night Out." Oh yeah.
I hope in the next week and a half I can help my sister and brother-in-law through some of this. I know they feel isolated and want to do as much on their own as possible. That's what new parents do. After all, isn't asking for help a sign of weakness? And, if they ask for help now, how will they be able to handle things once I leave? I want to call bullshit on that, but it's hard to bust in and say "Hey, fuck you! I'm helping you out because I love you, and this is what you need." I'm not Type A enough. Maybe I need to be. I'll try that tomorrow and see where it gets me. Until then, I'll let them grieve for their former selves tonight, and hope they feel a little better in the morning.