Coming to terms with an exponentially growing family isn’t easy, especially when postpartum depression creeps in. Here’s how we adjusted and coped.
Twins are a blessing. Double the joy. Twice the love.
That’s what everyone says, anyhow.
But let me be honest: It took me a while to get to that point.
Ever since I was a little girl, I wanted to be a mom. I even daydreamed about the possibility of having twins one day (Ashleigh and Alyssa). My mom used to say, “Twins don’t run in our family, sweetheart. Don’t get your hopes up.”
And then in my early 30s, I had my first, a singleton. But I didn’t experience the “love at first sight” new-mom feelings I was expecting.
I felt disconnected from her, the birthing experience (an unexpected and last-minute C-section), and motherhood in general. Instead of feeling elation, I was terrified.
Though she had spent 42 weeks in my belly, this little being was a stranger to me — a stranger who required my full attention 24/7. And I, a first-time mom, had no idea how to care for her. This made me shake with worry, and also feel like a total failure.
This was the one thing I had truly wanted, but I had no idea how to properly do “motherhood.”
It took time — well, over a year and a half, in fact — for me to actually realize I was suffering from postpartum depression and anxiety. Once I finally sought help, I realized recovery would be a process — one in which I still need to challenge worrisome and negative thoughts every single day.
The condition took its toll on my sense of self, the way I parented — can you say overbearing helicopter mom? — and my marriage. My husband was incredible through it all, however, and even joined me for several therapy sessions to learn the inner workings of my brain and how he could best support me, us and our family. This made a huge difference.
When it came time to discuss having more kids, we were worried. I actually wanted to have more for a few reasons: I wanted a sibling for our first, and I deeply desired a chance to have the new-motherhood experience I always dreamed of — the one in which I could actually enjoy the moments instead of living in a constant state of fight-or-flight and weepiness.
My husband wasn’t so sure. He’d finally gotten his wife back and didn’t want to lose her again. He had always wanted more than one child, but he told me having more wasn’t worth the disintegration of myself or our marriage again.
I disagreed. I set out on a mission to prove to him I could do it — that things would be different this time. Eventually, he agreed: It was time to go for it.
Struggling to conceive
And then, though it was a cinch to get pregnant with our first, it wasn’t so easy conceiving the second time around.
With each month — and negative pregnancy test — that passed, I felt more defeated. But the struggle made me realize with even greater certainty how badly I wanted this second child.
And then, after almost a year of trying, we finally got pregnant!
My OB’s office wanted me to come in to check my HCG and progesterone levels. He wanted to make sure this was, indeed,
a viable pregnancy.
Sadly, it wasn’t. My HCG hormone and progesterone levels were both incredibly low. I remember his words clearly: “I’m so sorry, Marissa. You are going to miscarry at some point in the next few days.”
I was devastated. And the worst part was waiting — waiting for it to happen — knowing I was pregnant, and that soon … I wouldn’t be.
It happened in a Starbucks bathroom. I looked down, saw the red, and knew for certain I was miscarrying. It was so early in the pregnancy, that if I hadn’t been calculating my cycle so meticulously, I may have mistaken it for my period. But I knew exactly what it was. And I was brokenhearted.
After that experience, my OB suggested we try Clomid, an infertility medication that helps with ovulation.
“But,” he warned, “there’s a 10 percent chance of conceiving multiples on Clomid.”
My husband claims he never heard the caution. I heard it, but dismissed it. I knew tons of people who used Clomid, and still were unable to get pregnant.
So I took it.
An ovulation boost
I’m one of those people who, when I ovulate, can literally feel the eggs bursting through the follicles. It hurts badly, a condition known as mittelschmerz.
The pain on Clomid was even more intense. I’ll never forget it: I felt an egg release on my left side around 1 a.m., and then, around 3 a.m., I felt another one release on my right side. I woke my husband in disbelief; this had never happened before.
“I just ovulated twice!” I cried. “What if we get pregnant with twins??”
He didn’t seem to think it was a possibility and quickly told me to go back to bed.
I did, but the worry didn’t fade. I barely survived after having one child, how would I ever manage with twins AND a toddler?
A few weeks later, after a positive pregnancy test and HCG levels that were through the roof and consistently doubling, I knew in my gut it was multiples.
I was panic-stricken. And then the tumbleweed of anxious thoughts began: What if an egg splits and I end up with three? Or both split and I have four? I can’t do this! I’ll never manage!
I worried myself into a frenzy. My husband still thought I was nuts.
“Relax,” he’d say. “Let’s not get worked up until we know what we are actually dealing with.” (Sheesh. Men are so rational.)
A definitive ultrasound
Well. We finally learned what we were facing at my six-week ultrasound.
There they were — our two babies, in two separate sacs.
“It’s twins!” the ultrasound technician cheered. “I love when it’s twins!”
My husband about fell off his chair, and all I could do was turn to him and say, “I told you so!”
After hearing this news, we couldn’t just go back to our regularly scheduled days, so we went to lunch to decompress. I made him order a shot of tequila simply because I couldn’t.
We cried, we laughed, we worried, we smiled. By the end of our lunch, I was still totally scared, but at least I knew I had an amazing teammate and wasn’t in it alone. Together, we would figure this out.
Tackling the reality
It took me a while to fully get on board with the idea of having twins. But then, at some point during my second trimester, it finally hit me: This was really happening, and denying or dreading it wasn’t going to help; I needed to start accepting it; and I needed to get prepared.
And so that’s what I did. I accepted the fact that there were two babies in my belly, who would eventually come out and be my second and third children.
I joined a local Facebook group for moms of multiples and learned about all the things I needed for twins: I read books; I went to therapy; I talked in person to other twin moms; I ditched my SUV for a minivan (at first I cried, but now I have a love affair with my van and I’m never giving her up) and so on.
None of this is to say the fears went away. (I still have several!) But what did emerge was confidence. Instead of focusing on “I can’t do this,” I started telling myself, “I can do this.”
The twins are now almost 3 and my oldest is 6, and I can definitely say that this switch of thinking has made all the difference.
Depression — and delight
I did suffer from another rough bout of postpartum depression about six months into my twins’ lives. It was a bleak time, and once again I felt helpless and hopeless. But my husband and I recognized the signs much sooner, and I sought help right away.
With therapy, medication, and support, I felt better much faster the second time around.
It took quite some time, but now I realize that focusing on the fact that having twins is “scary” and “challenging” just doesn’t do me (or them) any good.
I never envisioned having three kids, but that’s just life: It throws unexpected curveballs. Having my twins has taught me (a Type-A+++ control freak) that not everything can (or should) be planned.
This is where the real learning, confidence-building, and growth lies — in rolling with the unexpected and proving to yourself you’re capable of handling it.
They may not have been part of my meticulously drafted game plan (well, Ashleigh and Alyssa were, but I changed my mind about them after I had my singleton!), but I’m so glad these two sassy, silly, sweet little girls are mine.
My twins (and their amazing big sis) are most definitely a blessing.
And their names are Mila and Grace, not Ashleigh and Alyssa.
Marissa Bader — when she’s not kissing owies, playing dress-up or mediating sister squabbles — enjoys dancing (you should see her get down when nobody’s watching!), writing and serving as the Twins Editor at lucieslist.com.