Look beyond a smile

Looking back at old photos on hubbies phone and I just found this one, how knackered do I look and absolutely covered in cold sores!

It was the eve of the twins due date and they were 9 weeks old. They had been home from NICU for 4 weeks but twin one had only been home from PICU for his re admittance for Bronchiolitis and hypothermia for 1 week.

The boys had awful reflux, they took 45 minutes each to feed and 25 minutes each to wind and I fed them individually because I couldn’t do both and hold the bottles. That meant it took 2 hours 20 minutes to feed and wind them both. I would then put them down and they would squirm and moan in pain until they finally projectile vomited up half their bottle, I would clean them or change them if needed, change their moses basket sheets and they would finally fall asleep. This left me a whole 45 minutes to an hour before it would all begin again!

I would sit and feed one baby whilst listening to the other cry and I would sob because there was nothing I could do to comfort my crying baby. I would try to alternate who would feed first because I worried one would feel neglected but obviously they established a routine so one (it escapes me now which) would usually be picked up first. I would then often be feeding one when the other would projectile vomit but he would have to lie in his own sick until his brother had finished feeding. Only the mother of twins will understand how devastating that is to have to witness, what a failure that makes you feel.

I was sleeping on the sofa because it was March and I could keep the living room warmer and also it kept their crying away from my then two and a half year old and hubby who had to get up for work, plus what did it matter I only closed my eyes for 2-3 hours a night in 1 hour blocks I could have slept on a friggin pin head.

I was terrified twin one would get another chest infection or hypothermia so I checked his temperature constantly, pretty much pulled my toddler out of nursery and stayed in the house all day every day where I could control the temperature and the bugs. I blamed myself for his Bronchiolitis because I’d allowed visitors, it didn’t matter that the hospital said he had caught it from his big brother who was full of cold and on antibiotics, to me it was my fault and I was wracked with guilt.

I also worried about how the events of the previous 9 weeks would have impacted upon my toddler and whether he felt left out, neglected or jealous so the moment the twins had fed and been sick and changed they were put in their moses baskets and left so that I could play or do crafts with my eldest.

The twins were hardly ever held, they were never rocked to sleep and they never napped on me which obviously ate away at me like I was a shit mother because I couldn’t hold or comfort my babies. This wasn’t only because I needed to be with my eldest but because I only had one pair of hands which as a mother of multiples is something you quickly come to resent.

As well as all of these emotions I was trying to process what had happened over the previous 9 weeks and what I had witnessed and all whilst seriously sleep deprived and juggling 3 under two and half alone all day long.

I was still in a lot of pain from my c-section and my hormones were in chaos. It was around this time I was signed off from the health visitor who I think saw my military like precision in the running of my home and children as a signal all was well and I and the boys were deemed ready to have no medical support apart from the GP and 6 monthly checks for the boys with their consultant.

Despite all of that I was also overjoyed that they were alive, overjoyed they had survived their 50% chance of life inside my womb, overjoyed they had survived NICU and twin ones traumatic brush with death just 10 days before and overjoyed that I got to hold them when I wanted not when I was told I could.

All of this was whirlwind around inside my head and the truth is I could probably put none of it into words at that moment in time.

Why am I telling you all of this? Because that’s what was going on behind that tired smile, behind the cute picture of a new mum holding two adorably cute babies.

To the outside world this is a picture that may deserve a like on their Facebook feed, it could be your friend or your sister or your daughter and you think “what a nice photo, she’s holding them both, aren’t they so cute and tiny” but this is an insight into all of the things that could be going on behind that photo, behind that smile.

So if you know someone who’s had a preemie or twins or both or just a new mum who looks tired and a little lost please stop and think what she may be feeling underneath that smile but that she isn’t able to put into words.

Instead of tapping like on your phone pick it up and call her, pop round and make her a cup of tea, cuddle one of her twins so she can cuddle the other without feeling guilty she’s leaving one out, do her washing up, hoover her floor, put the washing away, hug her and ask her how she really is.

Life is busy, we are all snowed under and so full on in our own lives so I know it’s hard to do something like that. I was lucky and I had a close circle of friends and family who would do one or all of those things or they would offer to and that meant the world to me. A small act can help keep someone you love going.

Look a little deeper for World Mental Health Day tomorrow and everyday.

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