*Disclaimer* Everything shared in this post is solely from my experience, as a new mother/parent of newborn twins. What works for us now might not be working next week. How I’m feeling today doesn’t mean I feel it every day, and everything can change in an instant. This post is intentionally written with the raw, vulnerability I’m dealing with and how I’m actively working to adjust to it. I don’t expect every mom/parent to relate to this, but I do hope being transparent with the ugly, as well as the beautiful, parts of the Fourth Trimester opens the door to discussing it more and further understanding how to best support a new member of the parenthood tribe.
As much as I knew bringing home a newborn (let alone twins) would be a HUGE adjustment for both Thomas and me, I didn’t truly know how much this lifestyle change would affect me/us until we were living it. Despite feeling as prepared as possible, the Fourth Trimester wasn’t something I dug too deep into learning about and that’s 100% on me to now feel the repercussions of it. In my head, I felt like there’s really no preparation you can anticipate until you’re in it – and most of that is true. However, I wish I took the time to understand what I would need as a new mom, and us as new parents, the moment we brought the girls home instead of making sure the nursery was all done or if the girls’ Super Bowl onesies would arrive in the mail on time…lol.
Having one newborn is tough, having two at once is mind-blowing. But we’re making it work – because we have no choice! I keep thinking about how I’ll never know what it’s like to be a mom of one yet at the same time, I know how fortunate we are to have had two healthy babies at once. Plus, I’m not the first person to have twins and some women have 3+ at a time! They make/made it all work, so I have no excuse haha. Jokes aside – this newborn phase is brutal and magical. Both can coexist. One minute you’re crying because your baby is crying and the next minute you’re crying because you love them so much. Hormones & sleep deprivation make for some chaotic moments that’s for sure!
Obviously we’re only 1 month in and no experts, more often flying by the seat of our pants. But having been thrown into the Parenthood ring full force, now responsible for keeping two dependents alive, has definitely encouraged us to be quick on our feet and to anticipate everything going up or down in a minute’s notice. It’s been SO HARD at times – whether it’s an all day struggle or just the morning/night hours that feel beyond discouraging. And yet then there are mornings like today (as I’m writing this) where they’ve been asleep for 2+ hours and been complete angels since 6am… for now. I’ve had several emotional breakdowns, been beyond overwhelmed and occasionally question every single thing that creeps into my vulnerable mind.
However, these moments quickly go away as they arise – overall, I’m much happier than I am sad, and I make sure to check-in on myself every day to ensure I’m doing ok. PPD/PPA is something I’ve been cautiously monitoring since my Perinatal Depression diagnosis, and there’s no shame in feeling great at the beginning and having it all spiral downward a week later. The important thing is to make sure you talk about it with your partner &/or doctor and get the help you need before it becomes worse or unmanageable. At the end of the day, your baby/kids need you. A happy mom = happy baby = happy existence for all.
As someone in the pure thick of it, my memory of this time hasn’t become a blur yet. So if you’re someone expecting, know someone expecting soon, or someone currently in the trenches of sleep deprivation & desperate for some loose suggestions on how to survive this time without losing your entire mind – hopefully this post will provide some reassuring guidance.
Here are some honest things to possibly expect, one way or another, during the first four weeks home with a newborn
Every Day Feels The Same, and It Gets Old Quick
You Will Ask Yourself, “What The Hell Did I Get Myself Into?” A Lot
You’ll Mourn Your Former Life at Least Once a Day
Washing Bottles & Doing Laundry Becomes a Daily Chore
Sometimes You Won’t Be Excited/Eager to Hold Your Baby
Even If You’re Not Actively Upset, Tears Will Still Be Shed at Random
You’ll Be Living in the Chaos of an Untidy House, and It’ll Frustrate You
At Times, You’ll Resent Yourself &/or Your Partner
You’ll Miss Your Friends & Your Social Life More Than You Anticipated
Your Day Will Never Go According to Plan
Leaving the House, Alone, Will Be a Rare Occurrence
You’ll Miss Your Relationship with Your Partner – Sleeping In The Same Bed To Having A Meal Together Uninterrupted
There Will Be Days When You Don’t Feel Joy
Here’s how I actively try to replace the above moments with more positive, reassuring thoughts
Your Baby Feels Safest In Your Arms
You’re The Whole World To Your Baby At This Time
There’s No Better Parent/Mama For Your Baby Than You
You’re Doing The Best You Can Right Now
It’s Ok To Feel Discouraged
You’re Allowed To Do Something For Yourself (i.e. Take A Walk Alone/Shower)
This Is An Entirely New Job You Have Zero Experience In, You’re Learning
As They Grow Up, They Won’t Need You The Way They Do Right Now
Eventually, They’ll Fall Asleep and Stop Crying
You’re Allowed To Take A Step Back When You Need It
The Chores Will Get Done At Some Point
This Moment In Time Will Exist Temporarily
Not Everyone Enjoys This Stage, You’re Not Alone In Feeling That Way
Here are some ways you can prepare yourself to better manage everything the Fourth Trimester will throw at you
Figure Out Your “Goals” – For Yourself / With Your Partner
Before Thomas and I welcomed the girls home, we had an honest discussion about our own “goals” and expectations of one another as new parents. I’m so lucky and beyond fortunate that Thomas wants to be equally involved for taking care of the girls and was able to take 4 weeks off of work from the start. And once he returns to work, it’ll be a slow roll of 2 days a week, then 3, and so on – all remote until the summer. As someone who’s self-employed, my goal was to return to work by 6 weeks postpartum (gotta pay the bills.) However, I have even more flexibility to make it feasible as a remote business entirely.
Having our work goals prepared in advance allowed both of us to know what to expect of one another in the first month, which lightened the already heavy load of parenthood in a substantial way. Of course, not every partner has the luxury of having a flexible work compensation and certain circumstances play a part to make it difficult to share the responsibilities / have it fall on one parent to be the primary caretaker. Should that be your situation, I’d have an honest talk with your partner about ways you can support one another after working hours – from night shifts to feeding, and most importantly making time for each other.
Your relationship will be tested a lot and you’ll feel disconnected at times despite being together in the house. You’ll miss sleeping in the same bed at the same time, miss having a meal together, even watching tv together uninterrupted. Most of the things you had time to do and enjoy together gets derailed; you’re both feeling the burden of it, even if it feels like one of you is dealing with it more than the other. Having a baby is without a doubt stressful on the parents, and it’ll have its effect on you in different ways. It’s important to remember that you’re both learning how to live with a new normal, and will find different ways to cope that might not please the other. Which is all the more reason to make sure to TALK ABOUT IT with one another; open the door to discussion, make it a safe place for each of you to share your POV and how you can best be supported to feel better. Thomas and I aim to have at least one date night every 2 weeks – meaning we get to have a meal together for 2-3 hours while a parent watches the girls. Having this time together to look forward to allows us to catch up and check-in with one another, and it’s been an essential for our relationship during this time.
Say Yes To Any Help You’re Offered, Or Hire Someone To Help You
Any time one of our parents or siblings offer to come over/bring food, we say yes and have them stay for at least 2 hours should they visit. During this time, they can hold or watch the babies while Thomas and I are “free” to get some time for ourselves – run errands, do household chores, take a nap etc. It’s 100% been beneficial so far, and we’re very comfortable with relinquishing control as a result. You sort of have to if you want any time for yourself. I personally haven’t had any emotional trouble leaving the girls in the hands of family members while I scoot upstairs to sleep or watch tv in bed – if I don’t get that time for myself, then I won’t be a present and motivated mom for my girls when they need it most (like at bedtime.)
On that same note – if someone asks how they can help but you/they aren’t comfortable enough to watch a newborn (I mean, fair) then have them cook/pick up & drop off meals instead. Freezer-friendly and easy to reheat options are ideal, but you’ll find that you’ll take anything offered when desperate. I personally have had zero time to cook, let alone go to the grocery store. So I’ve asked my mom to make the runs for us occasionally, which has been a HUGE help. I know it feels awkward to take someone up on a favor that poses more as a chore, but if they truly want to help they’ll be more than willing to do it. The worst thing that can happen is that they say “no” or don’t follow through, and I think we both know where that friendship/relationship stands then… I will say, you definitely have zero time for bullsh*t now, which is kind of nice if you’ve been wanting to find the backbone to weed out the inconveniences in your life.
We’ve also hired outside help to watch the girls during the day and at night. I don’t know how we’d survive otherwise. We have a Doula come 1-2x a week for 4 hours, where she’ll feed/change/watch the girls and help with baby laundry while Thomas and I get 4 uninterrupted hours to use as we please. At night, we have a nurse come for 8 hours (10pm-6am) 3x a week, sometimes more. It’s definitely weird having a stranger come into your house and watch the kids as you sleep but when you’re so deprived and desperate, the awkwardness goes away pretty fast. Plus, we know all the nurses that care for our girls now so it’s only the first time when it feels strange haha.
This type of help is quite expensive, but it’s 100% worth it for peace of mind. I’d personally set up a fund on a baby registry if this is something you’d benefit from having a few times a week for the first month or two. In my opinion, there’s nothing more valuable than guaranteed sleep during the Fourth Trimester.
*If you’re local to the Monmouth County, NJ area and interested in what company(ies) we use for day/night nurse assistance, shoot me a DM on Instagram or an email*
Strive For A Routine, Be Flexible With Schedule
When you leave the hospital, you’re given the instructions to feed your infant every 1.5 – 2 hours (breastfed) or 2-3 hours (formula) around the clock. So naturally, the ideal scenario for our mostly formula-fed twins was to make those hours 9, 12, 3, 6 etc. Great idea in theory, but not realistic for every day occurrence. What we’ve learned in the last 4 weeks is that these newborns are the Boss. They tell us when they’re hungry, and it’s never truly predictable even with formula. Sometimes they sleep for 3 hours, and sometimes it’s 1.5 hours – it changes every day. So as much as we’d like to allow ourselves those 2.5 hours in-between feeds, it’s not always going to happen. Especially as they go through growth spurts as our girls are now, they’ll need to feed more frequently and in gradual larger amounts. At this stage of the game, we’re feeding on-demand and we let them sleep until they wake up, as they’ve been gaining weight properly & been okayed by their doctor. We’re not worried about going off-course with our intended schedule now, as you really can’t spoil a newborn this early in the game. It’s simply survival for the parents at this point and from what I’ve been told, it’s only temporary (even though it feels far from it.)
So how do we strive for a routine when a schedule is all over the place? Since feeds can’t be guaranteed in terms of timing, we can at least best prepare the girls for “bed” around the same time each night (for us, it’s around 9pm.) We’ll feed/change and dim the lights in their bedroom to prepare them for eventual slumber, which we hope will prepare them for longer stretches of sleep as they get older. In doing those tasks around the same time and in the same manner each evening, they’ll learn to expect bedtime to follow – eventual routine!
In terms of a feeding schedule at night – Thomas and I take shifts. I usually do the 10pm-2am shift, lightly sleeping on the recliner in the girls room in-between feeding/changes while Thomas gets ~4 hours of uninterrupted sleep in our bedroom across the hall. He’ll then take the 2-6am shift, I’ll go to sleep and then wake up to help him feed around 6am. Then he’ll go back to bed for an hour or so. I try to take a nap sometime between the 3-6pm feeding during the day so I’m caught up on at least 5 hours total in a 24/hour period. Yes, it’s so exhausting but having the ability to guarantee some hours of sleep has been working for us. Soon enough, your body gets used to functioning with very little and you’ll learn how to fall asleep instantly – which is a game changer for me as someone with bad insomnia. I’m asleep by the time my head hits the pillow now!
Let Go of Your Personal Expectations Outside Baby Care
Generally speaking, making “plans” or even a simple “plan” of how you’d like to manage your day (outside caring for your baby) should be thrown out the window – at least for now. Literally, let it all go. You’ll only be setting yourself up for disappointment and add to your frustration. This will also affect your PPD/Baby Blues if you hold yourself to wanting to get XYZ done in a day and find it impossible. Instead, put a list together of things you’d like to accomplish for yourself within 48 hours with the most attainable at the top (shower, laundry, go for a walk, etc.) Keep it that simple and please DO NOT expect more of yourself in those first few weeks. Trust me, as a workaholic individual who doesn’t have a real maternity leave and desperate to get some work in (as I write this post during nap time) – you will drive yourself CRAZY if you try to do it all in a short amount of time and fall short of accomplishing anything. Take a step back from yourself, think about what has to be done first (like washing bottles, restocking diapers) and start with the most important task that will make the rest of the day a little easier. Then if you find yourself with a surprising window, take that time to do something on your 48 hour list for yourself.
Free Time is Limited, Yet You’ll Use It Wiser Than Ever Before
Piggy-backing off the above, one of the things I struggle with the most is no longer having time for myself like I did prior to motherhood. Every day feels like Groundhog Day here. I rarely leave the house alone (or in general) and have found myself very sad at times mourning my former life. Which is 100% NORMAL – every mom goes through this from what I’ve been told. However when I find the rare moments of both girls sleeping peacefully, there’s no one more productive with her time than me in that window of an hour. I never used to be like this and truthfully, I love it. How I use my time has way more purpose now, because in a way it’s a now or never kind of thing. Simultaneously, there’s a feeling like I’m constantly playing catch up with chores but ultimately it gets done one way or another. Yes, sometimes I feel like I’m barely coming up for air but when I see the washed bottles on the counter, clean crib sheets in place, and notice I was able to change out of my pajamas & brush my hair, I do feel a bit better about it all.
If You Like Something, Buy 2-4 of It
That being said, laundry might be “going” but not necessarily going to be returned to the dresser drawer it belongs in that day. So if that one swaddle that fits perfectly is still in the wash and all of a sudden it’s bedtime, UH OH. We learned this the hard way with said swaddles, as well as bottles and pacifiers with a specific nipple shape. For being a month old, these girls definitely have their likes/dislikes and make sure to let us know in their own ways lol. Best to be prepared with several backups of things they like in case you find yourself needing a clean version in a snap. Thank you Amazon!