Bringing the twin boys home sent my 22 month old daughter’s life into a total tizzy. I wondered and worried like all mamas about bringing a new baby home from the hospital. And then I worried more about bringing two home when we found out at the second ultra sound we would be bringing home TWINS. I actually cried when we found out, worried for my little girl. You see, she was my everything and I was HERS and hers alone. I would rock my baby girl to sleep every night and we would talk about our day and sing songs. We made breakfast together and we planted flowers and went on long walks. We played and swam and colored. We danced and danced and ran outside and danced some more. I am blessed to stay at home with her and I know it! I took this PRIVILEGE to heart and worked my hardest to make sure I was doing the best job at the most important job of my life. And now I was faced with bringing in another baby and sharing my Mattelyn time with him or her and I couldn’t imagine how she was going to react. It scared me and made me feel guilt like I had never experienced. It actually would make me panic and feel like I could be sick. Toward the end of my pregnancy, I would sit and rock her with my huge tummy and major pregnancy hormones raging with tears just streaming down my face as I pictured new babies and my inability to care for them all at once. I would try not to let her see my sadness but it was real.
I am not telling you anything you don’t already know or haven’t felt but I wanted to share with you what I lost sight of and it almost makes me sick that I didn’t notice.
I was a little insane with worry about my daughter’s well-being before I had the babies. I had my maternity photo shoot with my daughter and made the focus on her and the beauty of our relationship before the boys arrived. I wanted to be sure she knew that she made me the mommy I am today and made it possible for us to bring her brothers into this world for her. I made her a book of our photos that she can look at forever and wrote her a letter telling her exactly how I feel so she would always know how important that time of my life with her was. I want her to know she is my first born and my only little girl. I treasure her little companionship and I will love her to the moon and back for always and forever.
The look is undeniable when your baby recognizes that the new babies are there to stay. It doesn’t matter what anyone says to prepare you and what you imagine it will feel like is not even close to how terrible it really feels. Witnessing her little face when she realized, “This is real; they were ours and they’re not going anywhere,” is forever burned in my mind, heart and soul. They feel replaced. They feel left out. Their little perfect worlds are TURNED UPSIDE DOWN. And now they have to share you. What do you do??? How can you reason with a toddler who can’t even talk to let her know you are giving her a lifetime best friend? That it is extremely important and they will be in each other’s lives longer than any other person?
I read books and blogs about how she was going to feel and tactics that can help prepare me to help make the transition smoother and what to do in the hospital and in the household upon returning home with the babies. Give her a gift in the hospital from you and your husband, bring a bag of activities that she can play with that are special for the hospital only, give her a gift (to give to the twins) from her, give her baby dolls that will be “her babies” so she can mimic mommy, be lenient with rules, etc. Show her “Big Sister” t-shirts to wear proudly. Read the books written for toddlers that are about bringing a new baby into the home from their perspective. Let her play in “brothers’ nursery” and allow her to lay down in her brothers’ cribs. Don’t make big changes for your toddler when you bring the babies home, such as trying to potty train or ending the use of a bottle or stop being rocked at nap time. We did it all – and MORE. There wasn’t anything we DIDN’T do. For the first two weeks we were home with the babies, both sets of grandparents were here – talk about every child’s dream situation!
And honestly at first, I thought I had dodged a bullet with her. Mattelyn didn’t have a terrible reaction like I was told she would, with the exception of a few mean looks and not wanting to go with me but rather grandma – and when isn’t that all normal behavior anyway? We all held our breath as she walked into the hospital room where I stayed for four days after my c-section. I was warned she would be angry, wouldn’t want to look at me, wouldn’t want to hug or kiss me. And she didn’t do that – she almost ran to me and sat on the bed next to me and looked at her gifts. She sat on my lap and allowed me to hold her. She was just fine. For about four weeks.
Our household has been complete chaos since bringing home the twins – not one part of the old routine is in place other than eating, but Mattelyn has had plenty of love and family around.
There is always a grandma here taking care of her (lucky girl) and we have had visitors every week and on weekends, grandpas come. She has been the center of everyone’s attention.
The big change I noticed began a couple weeks ago, a month after bringing them home. After she finally realized, “These babies are here to stay,” it was a difficult moment and I saw it in her eyes. Everything “clicked” and she saw RED. Her anger was out of control. She is 22 months old and the “terrible-twos” have definitely kicked in. She throws books, bites, hits, smacks, pulls hair, kicks HARD and has full-blown temper tantrums multiple times daily. She will do ANYTHING for attention now, including jumping off of the staircase landing to the floor and jumping on and climbing on all the furniture. Scariest of all, she tries to open hand smack the babies every chance she gets. They are so tiny and I mean hitting with the force of a seven-year-old boy on a playground pissed that someone just took his toy truck. No kidding. She pulls their pacifiers out of their mouths while they’re sleeping. She pushes their swings extra hard and tries to climb on the swings or tip them over.
There have been so many close calls, I have to keep such a close eye on her AT ALL TIMES. She cannot be left alone EVER. Open-hand slapping with all her might is just the tip of the iceberg. She’s an ace at book flinging – hard board books fly through the air with the same force as a runner kicking off sweaty tennis shoes. Everything has become a weapon and toys and sippy cups full of apple juice are like grenades. I *wince* when she gets up in the morning and comes running, screaming, with wild, crazy eyes, like a rabid dog, into the living room where I am either pumping and holding the babies or where they are swinging. She also has been kicking and hitting our dog Mikki who is her best friend, (which was one of the early signs for me – she is going to hit the boys). Lately she has come to despise to despise the boys and me. If I walk into the kitchen when she’s in her high chair eating lunch or breakfast carrying a baby, she flings all of her food on the floor. She has begun role playing and has made two of her dolls “her twins.” She pats them like she’s burping them, she pretend feeds them, sings to them, carries them around, pretends to give them medicine, she even lays on the floor and coos and pats their heads and swings them. She lays them down to sleep. She also slaps them, throws them, steps on their heads, pulls their hair, throws them during temper tantrums, whacks their heads against the floor and the wall, pokes their eyes out, shakes them with a rage of fury while giggling hysterically, and gets downright angry with them, babbling baby talk – but real mean.
She has also become the queen of sweet deception, walking up to me while I am holding a baby, placing her little hand on his arm and looking right at me making sweet faces and takes her other hand and plants one right on his face and runs away LAUGHING. My heart goes into my stomach as I realize I HAVE A REAL PROBLEM. She is PISSED OFF! And, she is really going to end up hurting the boys if I don’t somehow gain control. I feel so sorry for her as she has no other way to tell me she is angry and JEALOUS. She is hurt and slapping a baby gets an immediate reaction from me and everyone surrounding her.I don’t want her upset and going through this everyday. It’s exhausting to me and to her.
I immediately went back to my books and Websites and blogs to read about how to deal with a biter. I read about toddlers that take out their frustrations on the new babies at home. I learned what to say when she threw books at the babies and what to do when she hurls her sippy cups into their cribs. I read from the “Toddler Whisperer” for sound advice on punishment that is effective and read about how to comfort the hurt feelings of a toddler. I solicited advice from family and friends, blogs and books, Websites and magazines. We began time outs, face-to-face talking at her level, removing her from a situation and flat out yelling (yes, that occurred when we were just afraid she was about to seriously hurt the baby!)
And then it hit me like a ton of bricks. I have been SO BUSY and SO CONSUMED by the babies, getting them on a schedule, paying attention to breast feeding and pumping, trying to stay awake, that I realized I was over looking the root of the problem and reacting to the symptoms.
She wants me. She wants her mommy. Not all day long, but as a reminder that she’s still mine and important beyond belief to me.
My sister-in-laws were the first I approached about her behavior and they both said to begin the day with something that we’ve always done that she is used to and will accept as our time. My toddler can’t talk yet to tell me she’s angry at me. She can just REACT and expect attention from us.
Every morning I have been going to get my darling when she awakes and starts babbling in her crib. I greet her first and she still does all the same things typical two year olds do like kicking when I try to dress her or change her pants. But she’s also adorably sweet and kisses her stuffed animals and wonderfully inquisitive about life outside her window and loves to skim her latest favorite book to read. I get a quick kiss and hug in first thing, too. We then go downstairs to say hi to Grandma (and the babies) and then I fix her breakfast. It’s a little more work on my part and on the part of my mom to be able to break away for that amount of time in the morning with pumping, bottle cleaning and making and then feedings. But we plan for it. We work around it (and get less sleep!) because of it.
The temper tantrums are cut in HALF. The terrible book throwing has STOPPED and the screaming fits and all of the craziness when she is about to get angry has calmed WAY DOWN. She still wants to try to smack the babies but now, when we are tandem feeding, she will sit next to me or Grandma and read books and watch TV without all of the need for negative attention. And she is role playing in the nicer way much more often now. She also wants to touch her brothers and sit with them. She wants to take a picture here and there with them and I am getting smacked, bitten and hair pulled a lot less often. This didn’t change everything but it made ALL THE DIFFERENCE IN THE WORLD for my daughter. I haven’t needed to punish her or use any of the tactics I read about. Crazy, right? It was all in the approach to the whole problem. Looking at the cause instead of how to deal with her reactions (the symptoms) was so important and key.
I can’t say I blame my baby girl. Man did it take me the hard way to learn!!! And I just thought if I could share with you, maybe you would recognize it sooner than I did and incorporate something first thing in the morning that is part of their regular routine to make your toddler understand how much you still love them, are always there for them and still remain a huge part of their life even if there are other babies now. Because in the end, it is really quite wonderful to know that she just needed ME. Her mommy. ((Tears))
It’s made all the difference in the world!
XO ~ Stephanie