Surviving Six Months

Our little twin girls will soon be six months old. There’s something about this milestone that feels important. Like, a reeeeally big deal. We’ve made it this far. We’ve survived the newborn stage, just barely, and come out the other side with more wrinkles, bigger bags under our eyes, and two little perfect girls who are showing their personality more and more every day.

In Canada, we are very fortunate to have one year maternity leave, if your job enables it. Some can even choose to go off for 18 months. But if you choose a year, as I did, once you hit six months you know you’re halfway through the leave and then, at least in my previous experience, those last six months fly by. Maybe it’s because there is a running countdown in your head of when you are going back to work. Or maybe it’s because pretty quickly, your babies go from fairly stationary, nursed or bottle fed babies, to solid food eating, crawling, climbing, and walking little beings. As their movement increases, so does yours, and even though you thought the first six months were busy and tiring – the busy-ness of babies on the move is a whole other stage where sitting becomes a luxury.

These past six months have been filled with so many firsts. Little moments so small you might miss them, and that may seem so minor to many, but for their parent are each worth celebrating.

The first time they looked up at me and made eye contact while feeding.

The first time they focused on our faces and the corners of their lips curled up and they smiled at us, as if seeing us for the first time.

The first time their little fingers rested on the side of the bottle or my body as they fed.

The first time they outgrew a sleeper.

The first time a little giggle escaped their lips.

The first time they sat in a bouncer and discovered they could move it up and down on their own.

The first time you could hold them without having your hand right behind their head, knowing they now had the strength to hold it up on their own.

So many firsts, and with each one, your heart stretches a little more as you feel pride and surprise and dismay all at once at their movement into being a bigger baby, a bigger person…and needing you less and less.

In these first six months every day feels somewhat the same and yet when you look back at it as a whole all you can see is change. All these little moments collectively help form the foundation of your love and connection, every little first and beautiful little moment intensifies your bond. When I had my first child, as soon as she started smiling at me, I remember spending so much time staring at her little face, deep into her little blue eyes, and it was like I could feel all those feel good hormones surging through my body. It was the purest type of happiness I think I’d ever experienced. I made this human. I love this human, and her smile tells me she loves me too.

That feeling doesn’t go away with your second, third, or fourth child. That first smile and all the smiles that follow are the ‘good stuff’. One of the things that helps keep you going through all the challenging stuff. This is your babe, your sidekick… it’s you and her against the world! Until she starts talking and tells you she needs some alone time.

But all these ‘baby steps’ that come even before they’ve made actual baby steps, seem so important. You live and breathe them. Even baby’s first cold is in some way treasured. Holding their little body upright almost all night long so their congestion can be relieved enough to sleep. Feeling the relief sweep through your body when the thermometer finally settles on a normal reading. Feeling the emotional fatigue of constant monitoring and worrying begin to lift as they start to feel better. And yes, even using a snot sucker in an act of desperation when their congestion is extreme. I mean, that’s when you know undeniably, hands down – this is true love. I will stick a small part of this weird contraption gently up your nose and from the other end of a long tube, I will suck that snot as quickly and as hard as I can to try to get it out of your tiny little nostril if it brings you even a moment of relief. Even though as I’m pulling it away from my mouth I identify a faint taste of salt on my tongue and eye the suspiciously small ‘filter’. Ahhh yes this, is love, and sometimes, well, it’s disgusting.

But you do it!! Because if you have a way to stop them from suffering, well, you’re going to try! This baby – THESE babies, are relying on you. So suck it up. Literally.

My sweet little babes have moved through these little milestones and now the more noticeable ones are on the horizon: the big physical milestones. Rolling. Sitting. Crawling. Walking. These are the ones you hear about more, even as you get older. We’ve attached a lot of meaning to them, even linked them to their personality. My oldest hit all her physical milestones on the early side. Crawling by six and a half months and taking her first steps in her ninth month, I barely thought about trying to help teach her to do any of these things, I was just playing catch up. Our second wasn’t too far behind but the twins are on their own schedule – and that’s more than fine. They will do things in their own time and trust me, I am in no rush for them to start crawling in opposite directions. But because they were born at 36 weeks, we often have to remind ourselves of their ‘adjusted’ age, which is basically their age based on their due date. So when they are six months on the outside, their adjusted age is five, and when I think of these milestones, I have to keep that in mind because they likely will hit them based on that. I didn’t think too much about any of benchmarks until I had to fill out an Ages and Stages Questionnaire for a doctor’s appointment. Now, if you weren’t paying close attention to what they are and are not doing before, once you do that questionnaire, it’s hard not to. In fact, nothing will make you obsess about them hitting developmental targets more than having to fill one of those out. It asks questions like, ‘If you dangle a toy above your child’s head, do they reach for it?’ ‘Can your child lift their head off the ground three inches for more than 10 seconds while on their belly?’ ‘Can your child translate a legal document from English to Spanish in less than one hour, without having their head supported?” Okay, maybe not the last one. But they are very specific questions. Add in that there are two children and you have to make sure you don’t confuse what they can each do, it can be time consuming and alarming as you realize you are checking ‘not yet’ more than you are checking ‘sometimes’ or ‘yes’. When I completed theirs, they had just turned 3 months and we were doing the 4 month questionnaire, which can be done anywhere between 3 months 0 days and 4 months 30 days. I was confused going through the questions because since the twins were at two months adjusted age, they were not doing a lot and they were mostly just, well,… blobs (said tenderly and with love). Adorable, squishy, precious little blobs, but blobs just the same. I mean they wouldn’t know a rattle from a rice cake at that age. But filling out the questionnaire definitely made me pay more attention to all the things they were and were not doing. But obsessing over it is useless, because in baby days, a day really makes a difference, and a month or so later they were doing all the things on the questionnaire easily (still waiting on the Spanish translation though).

After doing the questionnaire, I noticed little things a little more. Oh, okay, she just reached for that toy. Oh, look, she turned her head when she heard my voice. I felt better about seeing them develop and not missing things, because one thing I’ve learned as a twin mom and a mom of four is that you miss out on a lot. It’s just impossible to be physically present for everything for all of your kids. Some things aren’t as big a deal, like not always doing bath time. But others eat away at you a little, like missing important moments like their first goal, or being there for them when they get a needle (although let’s be honest, anyone who knows me knows I don’t want to be present for any needles! #fainter.)

And now with twins, well, the guilt cuts deep. It is nearly impossible to be there for both of them at the same time. Nap time has proved to be the most challenging, because if they are both fighting it, one of them is often crying. You can only pick them up and alternate so many times to soothe them and listening to one cry while you’re soothing the other is simply heart wrenching. There are times when you can manage to juggle them both but I am not a weight lifter and these arms start to fail me. Some days you end up rocking both of them to sleep and then, as you revel in the silence (which is really just the lack of crying), you immediately get an itch on your nose. Or your phone appointment with your urologist (what? Don’t all 37 year olds have urologists?) occurs right when you’ve settled them on top of you and you have to answer and conduct the call in a whisper and hope he doesn’t misinterpret your tone as inappropriately seductive.

So with the twins, I’ve prepped myself that I may miss some moments. No, it’s not about me, but I would like to be there for them and cheer them on. Especially when they get older…when they look up to find me, I want to be there.

The other day, I came down the stairs and saw our littlest baby girl, our “Baby B”, propped up on her forearms giving me a big smile. “Look at you! You doing some tummy time? Hi sweetie!” As I said this to her my husband looked over and said, “I didn’t put her like that.” After some quick back and forth we realized that she must have put herself that way which meant: she rolled over! On her own, for the first time. I couldn’t contain my excitement. “You are such a big girl!! Wow! I’m so proud of you!!” I was so happy but also a little annoyed at myself for missing it. I mean, I have too many videos on my phone of ‘almost rolls’ to count! My oldest took bigggg notice of all the attention this roll brought. And there’s something about babies doing these things that can take a tired, stressed household and completely turn the mood around. Everyone was happy and excited and I took a minute to type ‘first time rolling over’ in my phone with the date before I forgot.

I moved her back onto her back and put some toys around her and watched for a while hoping to see her do it again but, no rolling. I missed her first roll, but I certainly wouldn’t miss her second! But,…after ten minutes or so and no rolling, I got thirsty. I got up to quickly grab some water from the kitchen. Our main floor is pretty open, with large openings instead of doors, so when you leave the room you’re not really leaving the room. There are multiple sight lines and you can hear what’s going on everywhere on the main floor. So after a minute around the corner in the kitchen, I heard an excited squeal from the living room. I quickly poked my head around the corner and lo and behold, saw Baby B propped right up on her arms with a big grin. You gotta be kidding me. “You did it again!! Oh my goodness!! Good for you! I missed it again!!’ I couldn’t believe it. I had sat and watched her and then the minute I left, she did it. What a little turkey.

But the guilt was settling in and, determined not to miss the third time, I pulled a chair over to the mat and sat there ready with my camera rolling. This time I waited 25 minutes, and…nothin’. She’d get her legs up and turn her body and be sooo close, then rock the other way and spread her arms out with a squeal. Her sisters kept coming to check too, watching her carefully, watching our reactions, but she still didn’t do it again.

“Alright, I gotta grab a load of laundry upstairs quick… I’m sure she’ll roll over again when I leave!” I joked. I went up the stairs, turned and looked back – she was still on her back happily playing with a toy. I took three steps into the older girls’ room and grabbed their bin, then turned around and headed back down the stairs to see – a baby bum sticking up in the air.

She did it again!! I can’t believe it!! I waited this whole time and then missed it again! Omg! Am I the only one who hasn’t seen her do it?” At this point I realized Trav hadn’t seen it either. Both of us were somehow missing it. We joked about her having performance anxiety and even tried spying on her from behind a wall. But still, no roll. We would go on with our day and then turn around only to find her on her belly again, all smiles, looking proud as ever. This happened three. More. Times. So she rolled over 6 times in her life and I missed every single one. I mean, what a failure! At this point though, it was becoming comical. I mean all you can do is laugh. So Trav decided to set up the iPad to record so that if we missed it again, we would at least have it on tape. And I know there are people thinking, “Is this baby being left alone again?” No. Remember, open layout. We are always very careful to make sure the twins are in a safe space and one of us is always 5-10 feet away – just maybe not looking directly at her. So, once again, I go into the kitchen and after about a minute I hear my five year old exclaiming, “Oh, oh!” Then I hear the baby fussing and starting to cry so I run in, and this time she is on her belly but her arms are under her and she is hitting part of the wall. I scoop her up and calm her as Travis goes to the iPad to check the footage. We are both so eager to actually see the roll, it’s borderline pathetic. He gets it going, and we watch with excitement.

We see her laying on her back happily on the mat. Okay…yes…where’s the roll…? Then we see two small feet quietly tip toe across the screen, and then we see – NO…NO, it can’t be!

We see our five year old bend down and quickly (but gently) roll the baby over to her belly, then quickly skip away. A second later you hear her ‘surprised’ “Oh, oh!” Both our eyes widened in disbelief and my jaw dropped.

That. Little. Sneak!

All day long I had been thinking I was missing this moment over and over again, thinking she was really becoming a pro, when the whole time she was not rolling over… she was BEING rolled over. I couldn’t believe it. We’d been had – by a five year old. I tried to keep a straight face to confront her but it was pointless, the laugh came and it was such a good, tears streaming, body shaking, barely able to speak, kind of belly laugh – and we need every one of those we get nowadays – that I embraced it for about five minutes before going to chat with our little prankster.

Of course, we were told she was ‘just helping her’… but I think I know better. I think she saw how much joy it brought us and wanted to keep it going all day, which is beautiful…and also a little sad. And trust me, I’ve had many thoughts about making sure I watch more carefully, you really can’t take your eyes off them for a second. Thank goodness it was just rolling the baby over and not trying to pick her up or give her some change to count. What’s also hilarious is that our three year old confessed to watching her sister do it each time. And she just watched Travis and I go on about her doing it on her own with a Mona Lisa smile and without saying a peep. They are co-conspirators and they aren’t even pre-teens! Be right back, I just have to go install some nanny cams.

So… Baby B rolled over before she turned six months. Or did she? We were told that she didn’t help her the first time, that she did that on her own. Honestly, we’ll never know for sure, but is the accuracy of the date really that important? Does it really matter when exactly she rolled? If she ever asks me in the future, I most definitely will not remember the date. But, I will remember the story of how, on one dreary winter day, her oldest sister gave us moments of suspense, joy, excitement, and disbelief, some time before she turned six months old – and I think that is better than a date, any day. So obsess not over these milestones, they’ll happen in their own time – unless there’s an opportunistic older sibling standing close by, ready to lend a hand.

We survived these first six months with four kids under six, something to be celebrated in itself. Fingers crossed we find a way to stumble through the next six relatively unscathed, or at least only occasionally outsmarted.


6 thoughts on “Surviving Six Months

  1. Ever since your time in Europe, I have often wondered if you continued writing. Your posting on Facebook today answered that question. Somehow I missed your earlier stories but have signed up for email notifications. Don’t. Stop. Writing. You have a storytelling talent that should not go to waste.

    Liked by 1 person

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