Thursday, November 22, 2007

Bonding With Two

When our oldest was a baby, I nursed him back to sleep each time he awoke. Later, when he switched to formula, I gave him a bottle and rocked him. Finally, our pediatrician said that he would sleep through the night if we'd just kick the bottle habit. We did and he slept and I learned that for occasional wakings, all he needed was soft caresses on his back.
Our daughter didn't like to be cuddled. She still doesn't unless it's on her own terms. But we figured her out too. She needed to be changed and to know that we were there. With the simple comfort of our presence, she could dream again.
But those memories were at least five years old when the twins were born and I was filled with fear. What if they didn't sleep well? What if I was up all night every night, first with one and then with the other? I harbored no sentimentality about getting these little guys to sleep. I was militant. I'd feed them once during the night and only after 3 a.m. After that, they were on their own.
And it worked.
Until they started teething.
On a typical night, the boys will fall asleep between 7 and 8 p.m. and then wake around 5:30 a.m. I'll feed them each a bottle and leave them in their cribs to play. Sometimes, they will go back to sleep until 7. Other times, they'll get up with my husband about 6 a.m. But they've always been good natured about it.
Teething has changed everything.
They had been so good about going back to sleep on their own, that I had never bother to figure them out. So when Jonathan woke at 10 p.m. the other night and cried and cried and cried despite a bottle and a diaper change and medicine and attempts at rocking, my husband and I were at a loss. We were up with him for two hours before he could stand it no longer and he crashed.
It happened again a few nights later.
I panicked.
What if this became a habit? Our oldest son has trouble falling asleep, so he keeps us up later than we'd like. He'll lie there for an hour or two pondering important things like whether a spider who lost a leg would grow it back exactly as it was and how strong that leg would be when he first started walking on it. He is very good about staying in bed, but I just can't fall asleep when he's awake. So I wait.
Our daughter has her own issues. She is very intelligent and a perfectionist. With that comes high anxiety and vivid nightmares most every night. So she usually wakes up once, cuddles with us until she feels better, and then we bring her back to bed. Her pediatrician believes she will get better with age and she is improving, but it's going to be a long road.
That is hard enough.
I couldn't bear the thought of being up with the twins as well. On those two nights when Jonathan woke up, I barely got three hours of sleep and what I did get was interrupted. So last night when Matthew woke up shoving his fist in his mouth, I tried a different approach. I didn't even change him. He was wearing a night diaper and had only been in bed for an hour.
Instead, I gave him a little Tylenol and started rubbing his back. About ten minutes later, he was asleep.
Jonathan woke an hour after that and I tried the same method.
It worked again.
It was then that I realized how much I'd been missing out on with the twins. I sing to them while they sit in front of me on the living room floor, but I don't sing to them while I rock them in my arms like I did with the other two. I can't. When I try, the other twin crawls up to the chair and tries to pull his way into my lap. Then he cries.
I don't carry them around the house on my hip while I do chores, talking them through each step to help improve their vocabulary. Instead, I let them wander more and explore every nook of the house. I show them flashcards with animals on them and make funny noises. I let them crawl all over me while I lie on the floor.
I don't cuddle them on my lap while I read them book after book after book. I can't do that either. They are too wild. They grab the books out of my hands even if I give them other books as distractions. So I read to them after meals while they sit in their highchairs.
It got me thinking.
It got me thinking that I am not as in tune with them as individuals and worrying that the lack of intimacy will somehow hurt their emotional development. Maybe I should try harder. Maybe I'm being too selfish.
Then I caught myself doing it. I razzed Jonathan's belly and kissed him all over his head and neck after I changed him on the changing table. I do that almost every time I change him because he loves it.
I scooped up Matthew and saw that look on his face that said he was about to plant a kiss on my cheek, so I held him close and whispered, "Kisses, kisses, kisses" while he soaked my cheek with his love. Then I swung him around. He loves to be flipped, swung and bounced.
And sometimes, I mix the boys up for just a second. Then one of them does something. He moves a certain way. He makes a particular sound. He lunges for one toy instead of another. And I know instantly who it is.
The thing is, I am not bonding with one baby. This is different. I am bonding with two individuals and with the twins as a unit. At the same time, they are bonding with each other. I am not missing out. They are not missing out. It's just a whole new adventure for all of us.

1 comment:

Mommakitten said...

I read this and cried. I feel the same way day in and day out. Since our boys were so early they were in the RCNIC at Children's for their first 2 months of their lives. They don't like to be cuddled and it hurts my feelings. Badly. But I don't know what else to do. So I am going to try your approach. See what works best for them. Thank you for posting your experiences! It helps me grow with my boys knowing that I am not alone in my feelings and their feelings.