|My babies at 3 months; upper left - Nicholas; upper right - Shannon; lower left - Kirsten; lower right - Erin|
Those early days were tough...no doubt about it. I would not wish the lack of sleep on even my worst enemy (well, maybe to them I would!).
There wasn't a lot of problems getting sleep the first three weeks my children were in the hospital, obviously! I did manage to get to the hospital from my home to visit them twice a day when they were transferred to the second hospital the second and third week. The first time in the morning, and the second around dinnertime. I spent time feeding them, cuddling them, changing them, and bathing them. We used a stainless steel bowl (yes, the kind you put a salad in) to bathe them. They were so tiny. I had a lot of visitors in those early days. They were very helpful.
I brought my babies home, two at a time. First Shannon and Nicholas; then two days later, Kirsten and Erin. Shannon and Nick got a ride home from the hospital in a limo! A limo company offered to take them home in their limo in exchange for some pictures for adverstising. How could we say no? I just wished they could have come back for the other two!
As I had indicated in my last post, even just having the two home first was extremely difficult. I was exhausted, overwhelmed, a little depressed even, and in all the mix, everyone wanted to come and visit. During this time, our local Parents of Multiple Births Association (POMBA) coordinated some help for us as the volunteers started coming. There were a few that were just curious onlookers and only came out once, but for the most part, there were a lot of regulars that came out every week. We made the upstairs off limits to the volunteers so that we had a place to retreat to. As much as we appreciated having them around, we needed some time to get away.
Those first months, we had a crib in the living room. Our house at the time was quite small, so we cleared out the room of couches and the coffee table. All that was left was a crib and a couple of rocking chairs, in addition to baby swings and car seats. We kept track of their feedings and diaper changes with a chart. I'd been known to change the same baby twice and forget to change another so it was at that time we decided a chart was the best option for keeping track. :) I still have those charts in their keepsake boxes.
Most of them time there was a volunteer or family member holding a baby but there was the very odd time that I was by myself to care for these four small preemies. One afternoon, when they were around 4 months old, I was by myself, and all of them started to cry. They wanted to be fed. I went to the fridge to get some bottles out, brought them back, propped two of them up in swings each, and held the bottle for the other two while they laid on the floor. It's easy for me to talk about so nonchalantly now, but at the time, I was a mess. When some of the volunteers started showing up after they were done work, I called my husband at work and asked him to come home and get me out of the house. He did come home, and we went for a beer. I was in tears this whole time. Choking down a beer and crying and saying that I didn't want to go back. LOL...like that was an option!
I did make it back, and managed the next few months with not too many issues (good meds will do that for you). I lost weight, mostly because I had so little time to eat, which I was not adverse to! I was down to lower than my pre-pregnancy weight within a few months (naturally, it's found its way back since). During this time as well, we decided to move into a larger home. We built a four bedroom bungalow in a small village not too far from the city we were living in. We moved in when the kids were 10 months old. At this time, some of our volunteers decided not to make the 20 minute trek out to our place, but it worked out just fine. By this time, I was managing a little better, and we still had the help of a few volunteers, and of course, family.
Soon it came time to go back to my job. I was lucky enough to be granted some extra time off that I had requested. I had to appeal, however, as they first said no. My argument was that if I had four children born at four separate times, I would have had two years off (at the time, maternity leave was 6 months), but I was only requesting an additional 6 months off, for a total of 1 year. Luckily it worked so I was able to stay at home with my babies. I had also tacked on some vacation and lieu time I had saved up. I went back to work when the kids were 16 1/2 months old.
While I was at home with my children, I did get to see them take their first steps, utter their first sounds, first discover each other (that was the best ever!), eat their first solid foods...most of the typical firsts. Because they were 6 weeks premature, most of the milestones were hit just a touch later than a typical infant, but overall they were very healthy and normal. I was so grateful for their health even though things were so hectic. To this day, I still feel the same.
Ahhh, going back to work was not the same. I didn't want to be there. It's not that I hated my job, but I also didn't love it either. I wanted to be at home with my kids, but we needed the second income so I really had no choice. We hired someone in the neighbourhood to look after our children. That was the beginning of a string of childcare providers. I hated looking for daycare. I'm sure every mother feels that way; it's the worst job ever. I felt really guilty that I had to go to work and have them looked after by someone who didn't love them as much as I did. I really resented my husband over that. I never verbalized it to him and I'm not sure it was fair of me to blame him, but I did. He was irresponsible with money, and I truly think, now, if I had put my foot down, and said no to some of the purchases made over the years, I could have stayed home with my babies. At the very least, only work part time. That wasn't going to happen, so I had to suck it up.
I'll likely interject some moments of their early days here and there in future blog posts, but in a nutshell this was what it was like. Some good times, some hard times...but still happy that my babies were born healthy. I kept telling myself "It's only a stage; I'll get through it". Each stage I tell myself that, and that my children are only 'temporary residents'! Eventually they will be out on their own, but until that time, it's my responsibility to make sure they get through life without hurting themselves or each other! :)