By: Laura Siddons, Co-Founder of The Nesting Place
When I got pregnant with my first baby in 2015, I was elated. I felt butterflies at the first site of that positive pregnant test, and a deep sense of fulfillment with the thought of a baby growing inside of me. To me, it was no surprise I felt this way. In fact, if I hadn’t, I probably would’ve thought there was something wrong because from the time I started babysitting infants at the young age of 13, I fell in love with newborns right away. That smell, their simple needs, their contentment in just being held and snuggled was dreamy to me. So when I became pregnant 18 years later at the age of 29, I knew it was everything I ever dreamed of.
My pregnancy was uneventful. I enjoyed (almost) every second of it. I constantly rubbed my growing belly, took daily belly photos and was just in awe of what was happening. At 20 weeks I switched to a midwife who would be able support my plans to have a hospital water birth, and my birth went beautifully. It was a typical first-time labor: 24 hours of early labor with 12 more hours of active labor and 2 hours of pushing.
We didn’t find out what the sex because I wanted that “It’s a ___ moment.” When she was born we didn’t even look at first, because I was cloud nine – reveling in a state of euphoria (and exhaustion). My little girl was perfect; everything I dreamed of.
The next few months were even better than my pregnancy. Of course, there were moments when she was screaming or times that were filled with new mom fear, but most of my memory of that time looks like rainbows and sunshine.
When the time came to try for another baby, I was excited to go through the whole experience again. We tried for 6-7 months before becoming pregnant. Right away I knew things were different. The nausea, heartburn and fatigue set in only a week after my positive pregnancy test. I begged my midwife for a sonogram, because I felt that I needed to see that heartbeat to keep my spirits up.
The sonogram was scheduled for a Friday but by Wednesday I couldn’t take it anymore so I called them to see if they had any cancellations. Keep in mind I was only 7 weeks pregnant – so you know my anxiety was high. Or maybe, I just had some kind of intuitive sense that something major was happening inside my body.
I got into the exam room expecting an external abdominal sonogram but the tech quickly told me to get into a gown for my internal (trans-vaginal) ultrasound. When she came back into the room and inserted the probe, I saw two black sacks. I quickly shouted “holy shit, is that twins?”. She looked at me kind of funny, not saying anything and continuing her exam. Next she said “there’s a baby heartbeat”, and then “and there’s another heartbeat”. I KNEW IT. I just knew it! What I was feeling was NOT normal. Napping at work during lunch time, dragging myself out of bed at 7am after 10-11 hours of sleep, NONE OF IT was normal (for me).
That was the beginning of the disconnect for me. I spent the next 7 months in a state of misery. I was utterly exhausted and uncomfortable. The twin-induced first trimester nausea and fatigue rolled right into physical discomfort and constant feelings of defeat.
I was hospitalized three times for suspected early labor and the only time I was comfortable was when I was in a pool (or bath) or sleeping. I slept 9-10 hours per night and took a nap almost every day.
By the time I hit 34 weeks I was DONE. GET THEM OUT. I begged and begged them to induce me early. They wouldn’t. But lucky for me my water broke at 36 weeks and 4 days. THANK GOD I thought. I couldn’t take it anymore and knew that taking care of twin newborns just had to be easier than being pregnant with twins.
My birth experience was great. I have no complaints about that. My son ended up in the NICU for 72 hours but once we got him home, all was well. That was short lived. I quickly went from a confident tandem nursing mom to a sleep deprived zombie.
The constant crying and twin mom duties were more than I could handle. Even with the help of my mom, my mother in law, two doulas, and my husband, I felt like I was drowning. There was no break, and no end in sight. The picture of myself of a confident mother had faded, and I was unrecognizable to myself. I couldn’t take care of these babies alone.
I got through it day by day, dreading every moment I knew I’d be alone with them. I was blessed to receive many, many ounces of donor breastmilk from local moms and friends which helped me, mentally, let go of breastfeeding. At 4 months postpartum I went back to work. I thought I could use it as an opportunity to get my supply back up. However, a few days in I realized I just needed a break and called it quits instead.
The first six months of life with my twins were a blur. I felt exhausted, overwhelmed, and like a shitty mom. All of the confidence I had as a first-time mom no longer existed. When they were seven months I sleep trained them and that was the beginning of a new life for me as a twin mom. I finally got to a place to have capacity to make up for lost time, to bond with these two precious gifts: Alice and Jack. I started to smell and kiss their heads again – in way that allowed me to actually soak in their perfect scent. I was able to hug, kiss, snuggle and hold them without worrying that I wasn’t being “productive” or feel anxiety because the other one was fussing. And I finally found myself as a mom again – a mom who loved her babies, this time I just took a bit of a different road to get there.
The lessons I have learned in my personal experience as a mother are ones I carry with me every day. Theses lessons are ones I could never have learned in a text book, in a class, or even while supporting another mother. I believe with all of my being that in order to support others better, I (and I only speak for myself when I say this) needed to feel the struggles, the pain, the exhaustion, the self-doubt, as well as the recovery, the growth, the strength, deep within my bones.
Laura is a mom of three, birth doula, and co-founder of The Nesting Place.