Hello, Magnolia Readers.
Over the years, I've received a lot of questions about how to manage multiples and marriage. My twins are a mere three years old, so I don't claim to be an expert. All I can do is share my own experience and hope that it will help some of you who are in the thick of it with multiples of your own or lots of little ones to care for.
When my husband and I found out that we were expecting twins, we were ecstatic. Our years of infertility were suddenly behind us and we were going to have the precious babies we had always dreamed of. After those first feelings of excitement and anticipation cooled, we began to be a little worried about how to handle our two precious babies. We had already adopted two wonderful children, who were 5 and 6 at the time. We had also had several years of experience as foster parents, caring for up to five children at a time. We knew how to handle a big brood. This would be different, though. We couldn’t anticipate a date they would be returned to their own families. We couldn’t contact the agency if they weren’t a good fit for our home. We couldn’t even call a respite provider for a few days off. We were in it for the long haul.
Our first surprise came about half way through the pregnancy, when I was admitted to the hospital for pre-term labor. We were told that we would give birth to our babies within the next 48 hours and that they would be too small, too weak to benefit from life saving measures. Our sweet babies were going to die. For both my husband and I, it was the worst 2 days of our lives. Against all odds, those 48 hours passed and our babies were still safe within me. Days passed, then weeks while I waited for their arrival in the ante-natal unit of the hospital. I spent 5 weeks on full bedrest in the hospital, 5 weeks on full bedrest at home and then one final week in the hospital before delivering my babies at 34 weeks along.
While physical intimacy was not allowed during this time, my husband and I grew closer as we passed through this difficult period of our lives. My husband took care of the children at home, but found ways to be at the hospital taking care of me, as well. One of my favorite memories is of some of those first few days in the hospital. I was finally allowed to take a shower but had to be very careful to limit my movement. My husband washed my hair, cleaned me, dressed me and then gently combed my hair for me. I knew, then, that he would take care of me, no matter what came our way in life. It was one of the most emotionally intimate experiences of our marriage.
After 11 weeks of bedrest, my husband and I were caring for 2 small babies in the neonatal intensive care unit. Our baby boy spent 5 weeks in the NICU and our little girl was there for 8 weeks, before we brought her home with a feeding tube. Those first few months were a blur. Our babies needed to eat every 2 hours and I was pumping breast milk for them both. That gave me about 45 minutes to sleep in between feedings. My husband had started a new job and needed to be 100% each day to keep the job that we all depended on so much, so I was on my own at nights with the feedings and changes. It certainly wasn’t the ideal situation. I would have loved to have had more help from my husband during those first months, but I understood that this was a sacrifice I’d have to make to ensure that my husband could stay employed and that I could continue to be a stay-at-home mom. I had my moments, though. There were times that the overwhelming fatigue would become too much. I would lash out at my husband with brewing resentments over how little he was able to help with the twins. I would sob over my husband’s need for intimacy on days when I was too tired to get a shower or do anything else but care for our twins. Usually, what I needed most, was simply the opportunity to vent my feelings about the day. Once I did so, I found that I had enough courage to make it through the next day.
Then, about 4 months after our twins came home, our lives began to get easier. The twins went longer between feedings. I was able to get a few more showers and I was able to get out in public. My figure began to return and, with it, my self-confidence and my physical relationship with my husband. Conversations no longer revolved around how much each baby ate and what the pediatrician said at the last appointment. We began to reconnect with the world around us and each other.
Looking back at that time, I can appreciate that it was only a short season in my life. There are times when our childrens’ needs trump those of our spouses and we need to accept that our relationship with our spouses will not be what it was in other, less demanding times of our lives. The important thing is, as your children grow older, to use each minute that you get back in your day to strengthen your relationship with your spouse and find ways to take care of yourself, as well. Go back to doing those things that made your marriage great to begin with. Go out on a weekly, or even, monthly date. Compliment your spouse. Flirt with them. Get out of the sweatpants and make yourself attractive for your spouse and yourself. Take time to talk and visit.
As our children have grown older and their physical needs have decreased, we’ve found more ways, as a couple, to spend time together. An early bedtime for the kids is a must. Set a regular bedtime between 7 and 8 p.m. each night, so your children know what to expect. After they’re finally down for the night, spend a few minutes doing whatever you need to do to be ready for the next day, but save the heavy cleaning and chores for later. Take an hour or two to spend time with your spouse. Watch a movie or television shows you have DVR’d. Order some pizza or Chinese food for a late night dinner. Play a game together. Take a bath together. Take some time to be intimate.
With our oldest child being only 10 years old, we have a couple more years before we have a built in babysitter. We have great babysitters that we’ve met through our church. However, we can easily spend more on babysitting than we do on our date with the rates we pay for our large family. With babysitting costs being what they are, we’ve found that swapping babysitting with another family can help us get out more frequently. Though we live far away from our parents, we found that they are always willing to babysit for us when they come into town. Also, we can take advantage of babysitting centers at the gym and recreation center when we go out for a more active date.
We’ve found that, as we deliberately invest time into our marriage, we are not only getting back the loving relationship we began with, we are getting back a better relationship. This relationship has been through hardships, inevitable ups and downs and has come out better and stronger than it was before. We have developed a deeper respect for each other and have come to realize that, as we put our marriage first, our children feel more loved and secure. I am so grateful to be married to my best friend. I'm grateful that I can call him that after 13 years of marriage. It is only through sustained, thoughtful effort that I've been able to do so. It is with the help of my Heavenly Father and a lot of prayer. I married a wonderful man. He has been worth every bit of the effort.