Being a mom to twins and a toddler is a lot like a flight on an airplane to me. It takes off on time, with zero turbulence, landing nicely with your bags waiting or it’s the opposite. Your flight is late, you get stuck next to a smelly guy eating a burrito, you are freezing from recycled air, there is insane turbulence, you then miss your connecting flight just to finally land to lost bags. We have all been there…that is being a mom! You feel me? You never know what is about to come or what your day will be like.
Momming is hard – can I get an AMEN? It brings so much joy and laughs & even more love than you thought you were capable of but there is the messy stuff nobody likes to talk about and that’s okay, I will. I have always struggled with anxiety to some degree. In the work I have done to understand myself, I have come to realize it all came from never really feeling confident in myself and truly caring what others thought of me. Thankfully I was able to release a lot of that over the years and not feel that way. I have always put pressure on myself and expectations that could not be realistically met. I was on medication for a few years in college due to panic and extreme anxiety. I immediately went to Auburn counseling to learn how to manage it myself. I have been managing my anxiety levels for 10+ years now with no medication or counseling and never truly felt like I couldn’t manage it by myself. Mountain conquered-no big deal! Fast forward to becoming a mom. We meet again, Anxiety!
My first pregnancy was seamless, an adrenaline rush, joy to the max. I had my girl with no problems at all. I pushed for 15 minutes and didn’t feel a thing. Dream girl! We were on cloud 9!!! I went back to work with no problem other than the occasional mom guilt of being a working mom but nothing I felt was out of the usual. I knew everything I was feeling was completely normal and I just built a new normal with a new baby. This is a piece of cake!
Let’s jump to 2 years later – pregnant with twins. Say WHAT!!! I was shocked and will most likely still be shocked until they leave my house to go to college. The twins were immediately high risk since I was having a mono-di pregnancy, meaning they shared a placenta but had separate amniotic sacs. The information that came before us was just overwhelming. We spent the regular routine doctor visits which quickly turned into once a month, to twice a month, to twice a week, to every 2 days. This was a lot to take on especially with a 2-year-old being dragged around to every appointment and demanding her own ultrasounds and stress tests be done to her so she wasn’t left out. By 30 weeks, the twins were diagnosed with IUGR and we needed to get them out. IUGR is growth restriction and their percentiles were extremely low. Insert here this news was on a Tuesday and my family was leaving Thursday for my brother’s wedding in Tennessee. AHH! The doctor told me I would start rounds of steroid shots immediately that day and check back in 2 days to see if they showed interval growth. I completed the rounds and the results were exactly what we were looking for, interval growth. We kept them in utero for 4 more weeks- God is so faithful. Another mountain climbed! No problem. We made the wedding Saturday morning and the babies were healthy joining us on their first trip to TN in Mama’s belly.
At 34 weeks, we delivered the cutest twin girls you ever did see. They were in the NICU for 7 weeks and despite how hard that was, we did it!! We brought the girls home and quickly adjusted to our new normal. I’ll never forget the feeling of the first night having 4-hour stretches of sleep and making coffee that next morning. Tom and I felt like we were killin’ it! I am pretty sure one of us said “like this is even hard?” We had adrenaline and were a bit delirious. Quickly we noticed the girls having a lot of issues that made me start to worry. Having a healthy older daughter, we just weren’t familiar with what was to come. They were suffering from silent reflux and were in a lot of pain. They would choke and stop breathing with eyes bulging wide because of the reflux. Milk would shoot out of their nose and I felt helpless each time an episode took place. They were always irritable, extremely stiff, projectile vomiting, you name it. With endless attempts at fixing this, we were then referred to cardiologists and occupational therapists in addition. Babies with issues x two will drive any parents insane. You feel helpless. Let me preface this by saying, I would like to think I am an extremely realistic and laid back mom. I am a teacher for goodness sake, a lot of things do not phase me. The twins pushed me to another level. Fast forward again, 4 months – issues were getting a lot better and looking like they were in the far distance. The twins were sleeping 11-12 hours a night. Tom and I were rocking this schedule and I was so confident in what we had going on and still do. Everything could not have been better but something in me was changing and it was changing quickly.
I started to experience high anxiety. My heart was pounding at all minutes of the day. I felt like when I was in bed, the bed was shaking.
I was sure I was keeping Tom up by my heart pounding alone. I had no idea what I was “worried” about. The twins literally were eating on schedule, sleeping through the night and my toddler was also on the best schedule I could hope for. We were rolling. What was happening to me? In the back of my mind, I thought, “there is no way I am experiencing postpartum issues- that wasn’t going to show its ugly face up in my house!”
If anxiety wasn’t enough, I was struggling with OCD-like behaviors – I wanted everything spotless. When I say spotless, I mean spotless. It brought me extreme worry when things were disarray. I cleaned up right behind Ella constantly- (was I even letting my child be a kid in her own house?) I scrubbed the counters over and over, I even folded the burp clothes over the pack n play until they looked just right hanging there, dishes and laundry were constantly finished and put away. I chopped my pillows every hour when Ella would just jump on them again. It is almost hard to describe the way I felt. My house did not look lived in. This may just sound productive but it was out of my character to actually worry about these things. When I knew it was a bit much, I noticed myself walking to the door Tom came in after work and looking into the house. I would do this 4-5 times to make sure I saw what he saw when he walked in from work. I would adjust anything that looked out of place. I wanted him to see perfection because I was at home all day. I didn’t want him to think I was doing nothing. Not Christin! I am a go-getter. I do not SIT on my ass all day and do nothing.
Guys, I was putting demands and expectations on myself that could NOT be met.
I JUST had twins and I have a 2.5-year old that gets into everything. I am doing this by myself everyday- NOBODY expected for me to have folded laundry or even food in the fridge, much less chopped pillows and a house that looked like a model home. I put these demands on myself. I let that define me as a successful mom because I wasn’t working anymore. I gave myself grace when I was working because I wasn’t home to get those things done, so it was what it was. I got it done eventually. So, I went to my OB and I told her my behavior was not “typical” to me. She put me on a dose of medication and suggested counseling as she thought I was experiencing postpartum anxiety. I did everything I needed to get ahead of this so that I could feel like myself and chill the eff out. I was excited to feel better and feel like myself, not just for me but for my husband and family.
Jump ahead – 2 more months and I took a hard shove into worse. It was like going down the fastest slide at a water park. Not the fun kind, the kind that lands in a ton of water that people peed in. This was not okay! My heart pounding only progressed. I started to get hot flashes on and off all day- so badly I would wake up drenched in sweat. I couldn’t sleep or get in a deep enough sleep to make sleep matter at all. The big kicker, I was so irritable, I wanted to jump out of my skin. The irritability alone was enough for me to really know this had gotten out of my control. I just wanted to be alone. The escalation continued and the bottom of the slide was the drowsiness. If you know me at all, I am not one to nap.
People can say “but you have twins and a toddler, of course, you’re tired and need a nap.” No – this was like nothing I had ever encountered. I felt like I was being held down on the couch. Getting up sometimes seemed impossible. It was a force that was bigger than me. I couldn’t let it hold me down anymore. The thing that is confusing here is that I had so much joy, I laughed all day long, I didn’t feel unhappy with my life. I am happy, I am not “depressed”! I did not want to come to terms that postpartum depression was a part of me. PPD and PPA were strapped to me like a Baby Bjorn and my doctor knew it. She shared with me that 85% of moms with multiples experience these symptoms is some way. As soon as I finally put a label with it, I knew I had to share my experience with others. I think it can look so different for so many people. It is the best-kept secret, isn’t it?
In addition to hormones, looking back & being a NICU parent of twins who had every issue in the book- I felt like that was traumatic to me and I didn’t even know it. This could have definitely been a factor that impacted my behaviors. It has also been explained to me that it isn’t about you being unhappy, it is your hormones being so out of whack and out of control. It’s about two babies worth of hormones playing tricks on you until you break. I was trying to control what I could in ways that were familiar to me at home because I felt like I had no control over myself. Tom and I look back and thought we handled that time in the NICU gracefully. It was such a weird time and to be honest can give you slight PTSD. You do not come home with your babies. Your attachment to them is through a temperature controlled box. That is not normal what so ever. It was a weird experience even if we felt we did it with grace. We got through it with the help of so many and the grace of God but looking back, it was extremely difficult to digest.
We need to take care of ourselves and allow ourselves to adjust to a new normal after babies. We need to ensure we are the best for our children and spouses. Moms, you have been through a lot, it’s okay to not be okay.
If you think this is too much to share, that’s okay. I am definitely not forcing anyone to read what I have to say. If I can help ONE person through this, another mountain conquered. God called me to teach and very boldly led me to students with Autism. I felt lost when I didn’t have that anymore but now I know it has just transitioned to helping people in general. Helping is my heart and soul and where I feel the most like myself. The world is messy and dirty – I want to be a light and share my life so that others don’t feel alone. Mental Health has GOT to be talked about. You cannot heal in silence.
I am much better, but I still struggle daily. I am weaning off one medication, trying to push through the awful way it’s making me currently feel so that I can slowly transition to another. It is something very difficult to explain to friends and family. What I have taken away from this is that it is nothing that I did to develop this. Hormones are a part of life and sadly a trial that most moms have to face. But listen up strong Mama–It is not about what trial that is put your way but most importantly how you respond to that trial. I was basing my success as a mom on ridiculous expectations. The only way I can be a successful mom is to take care of myself. Let me repeat myself – It is OKAY to not be okay. If you need to have a good cry, run, go to therapy, go to church, take medication, get a job, blast your radio, sit in silence, drink some vino, meet up with friends, scream, or go for a drive…do it! Whatever you need to do to be okay, do that! Depression, anxiety and mental illness, in general, can feel like a thief. A thief that prevents you from seeing the light and seeing the joy in life. You can do this and so can I.
I thought it would be a good time to share because I am still in progress and I am healing with you! I will get better sharing it with you and you can get better communicating it as well. Thank you for taking the time to read. I would love to hear your stories as well and how you coped. Did it look different or the same?
Did you know….
– 37% of new mothers experience clinical depression.
– 85% of women with multiples experience PPD and PPA?
– You can experience PPD up to 12 months after giving birth?
– There are different levels of severity of PPD from crying at commercials to abandoning your family?