Double Trouble: Will Our Marriage Survive Multiples?

new mom
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Family

When I first learned I was having twins, I did what any self-respecting woman would do: I panicked. I also scoured the Internet for advice, war stories — anything that would help my husband and I survive becoming first-time parents to, not one, but two newborns. The information I found wasn't terribly reassuring.

The book Babyproofing Your Marriage suggests that having a baby is like throwing a grenade into the middle of your marriage. So two babies meant two grenades. Great. I warned my husband about this impending explosion, but he just shrugged it off. While I appreciated his faith in the strength of our two-year marriage, I couldn't help but feel that he didn't quite get it.

Luckily, the message boards on BabyCenter.com did. They were chock full of advice for moms-to-be of multiples. "Don't be afraid to ask for help." "Nothing said at 2am should be held against you." And the crown jewel: "Don't consider divorce until after the babies' first birthday. If you can survive the first year, it does get easier."

When I brought that gem home to my husband, he paused. He thought. And I think he realized for the first time that the year ahead might not be too fun for us. We joked about the Divorce Rule, but it really helped us prepare mentally for what was ahead. And I think because we had this worst-case scenario in our heads, nothing has seemed as bad as we expected.

It doesn't hurt that we wound up with two seriously adorable and relatively well-behaved babies (a boy and a girl!). They started sleeping from 11pm to 4am around three months old, allowing us parents to get a solid five hours of sleep, which, as any parent of a newborn knows, is a godsend. Dirty pans in the sink, overflowing trashcans, and cluttered dining room tables don’t seem like such a big deal after five hours of sleep. These things still annoy us, of course, but it's nothing to fight about. I'll hear my husband muttering in frustration as he cleans up the kitchen, and I'll try to guilt him into giving the kids their baths for once. But minutes later we'll be snuggled on the couch, each holding a dozing baby, marveling at our luck.

Now, it's not just the twins that threw us into a tailspin. Right off the bat, it was mayhem. Four days after the babies were born, Hurricane Sandy hit. We lost power at our house and spent nearly two weeks living as refugees with family members. Our daughter was in the NICU, we had to battle gas lines when we could find an open gas station at all, and then -- for fun -- a snowstorm hit, nearly stranding my husband at work.  Those pre-baby catastrophes showed us that things would happen, out of our control, and it wouldn't be the end of the world. We'd survived some major stressors in the twins' first two weeks of life, so we’d be able to survive double 2am feedings, simultaneous poo-splosions, and having two babies screaming in stereo.

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Mind you, I said we'd survive. I didn't say we'd survive and be sane. So my husband and I implemented an unwritten rule in those first few weeks: Only one of us can be the crazy one at any given time. If he's been holding our crying daughter for twenty minutes and can't seem to calm her down, we'll switch off so he gets our sleeping son. Whoever is least stressed out in that moment has to step up and be the rock, the calming force. It works for us.

It also helps that we are true partners in parenthood. Message-board posts abound complaining about husbands who can't do anything right (aka, the way the wife wanted), have never changed a diaper, or refuse to help with cooking duties. That just wouldn't fly for us with twins; it has to be all hands on deck. My husband has probably changed more diapers than I have, especially in the middle of the night. There are things each of us is better at, but that doesn't mean we criticize the other person for not doing it the same way. We trust each other, we aren't afraid to ask each other for help, and we're okay throwing up our hands and saying, "You're in charge right now, I need a break." Often at the end of a particularly trying day, one of us will remark that parents of singletons have nothing to complain about (knowing full well that, of course, everyone has struggles).

One thing is for sure: we can't be selfish anymore, at least not without making sure the other parent is on board with being the primary parent for a few hours. We work in "me" time when we can -- but never for long, because someone is always left home going a bit crazy dealing with two squirming babies.

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We also need to plan time for each other, which is a big change. No more spur-of-the-moment dinners out (we've yet to take them to a restaurant). No more lazy Sunday afternoons dozing, unless it happens to coincide with the babies' naptimes, assuming we can get them both sleeping at the same time, which we rarely do. We are lucky to have two sets of grandparents waiting in the wings, eager to babysit, and we've probably had more "date nights" than many new parents. This has helped us tremendously, as we can focus on each other, knock back a few beers, and relax for a few hours without worrying about the babies' needs. We can be "us the couple" again, rather than "us the parents." It's important that we don't lose our identity as a couple, as much as we love our new identity as parents.

And then, of course, there's our sex life. (Cue husband: "What sex life?") There's the obvious issue of finding time to be alone together when the babies are asleep. By the time they go to bed around 10:30pm, I just want to brush my teeth and go to sleep. Not the best time to approach me for some nookie. And then there's the other issue: my body. I'm a different shape now, with a new scar to boot. I don't want to see myself naked at the moment, let alone bare all for someone else -- even if it is my husband. I just don't feel sexy. So it takes a bit more effort for me to be feeling up for extracurricular activities. My husband tries to be understanding, but his kidding threats that he'll soon be getting a mistress reveal that he's feeling a bit lonely in the physical regard. So he tries to understand my hesitance, and I try to understand that our physical relationship is still very important to him, and we meet somewhere in the middle.

So, even though we are somewhat sleep-deprived, definitely sex-deprived, and often have dinner conversation that involves the contents of the day's diapers, we are loving it. When things get ridiculously stressful, sometimes we just take a step back and laugh. Our son just peed all over the changing table? Hilarious! Both babies are crying, in unison? Worth a chuckle (albeit a slightly crazed one). And we've been known to each hold a beer and a baby at the same time.

We get to see each other in a new light, which I think has only strengthened our marriage. And we each have a mini-me; it's frightening how much our daughter looks like me and our son like my husband. Heck, I'm almost looking forward to adding another kid to the family! In a few years, of course. I'm not that crazy.