The Good, Bad, and Ugly: What I’ve Learned in the First Two Weeks of Fatherhood
Our identical twin boys, Axel and Anders turn two weeks old on Friday and in some ways, it feels much shorter, and in others, like sleeping, way way longer. The anxieties and fears of week one are mostly in the rearview now and have been replaced with new ones. With another pediatrician checkup this week, and weigh ins with it, we’re now way less worried about weight loss. We also said goodbye to full time family help this week and have mostly survived. My initial time off ends soon which looms large looking forward. With the two of us, we’ve managed, but only one person at home will likely be incredibly difficult. Here’s what we’ve accomplished this week and what I’ve learned from it.
Two weeks of paternity leave is way too short. I took two weeks of vacation time now, saving my six weeks of leave for when my wife has to go back. I knew going back at the end would be difficult, but as we approach that time, it looks near impossible. I know we’ll have help during that time and find ways to make due, but it is a big fear right now. I can’t imagine having no leave time and continue to be incredibly happy and proud that my company offers good leave options.
Feeding has been going better
We’re getting a bit of a handle on things, but only a bit. The first few nights at home were torture with one or the other of the boys waking up nearly every hour. In the last two nights, they have approached a similar schedule and miraculously decided to sleep for three hours on average, with a wonderful nearly five hour stint one night. Even with less sleep deprivation, time management is very difficult and wearing. It feels like we are living in 30 minute increments between feedings and diaper changes. These times are filled up with cleanup, meal preparation, eating, or the never ending list of chores on the todo list we’ve realized as we are home. I even installed a dimmer switch which was a huge adulthood level up for me. I honestly have no idea how I’ll find this balance once work priorities are back taking up my time.
At least someone is getting some sleep
Because of this, the days seem to go by so fast. Because of the frequent wake ups, we have been sleeping in until at least 9:00 AM. We’ve been staying up a bit later, but it’s not like we have more time because of this. The boys seem to be “clustering” their feedings right before bed, meaning they eat twice between 9:00 and midnight. Because we are trying breastfeeding, but still need to supplement, feeding both takes almost the whole hour. Most of the personal time I’ve had in the past two weeks has been reading Twitter or things on my phone while holding one or the other of the boys. I’m getting used to the fact that there isn’t much personal time in my world now.
Getting some fresh air
We were able to get out of the house with the boys and the dog for walks up the street almost daily. We even got out one night and took a quick hike around the lake with them.
Getting everyone ready and in the car is a full day affair
Getting organized and out the door is a whole new adventure. After feeding, packing up seems to take all the time before the next feeding, so it can take hours to get going. The same was true for getting to the doctor’s office. We had to start getting ready two and a half hours before the appointment to get there on time. Thankfully our dog, Hershey, has been very chill about getting into the car and is just happy to get out for a walk. He’s taken up lead patrol duties for our walks and parades on point, keeping an eye out for potential threats for the boys.
Or maybe we’ll just let them feed themselves
Breastfeeding has been an ordeal. Because we got a late start with Anders because of his NICU stay, he was hard to get interested. Additionally, we were so freaked out about them both eating enough that we were heavily supplementing with formula — or is it the other way since it was mostly formula? Because of this and relying on pumped milk through bottles, it’s been hard to get the boys to try hard enough to get breastfed. They’re getting better now, but the guilt that all of the books and blogs impart has made it difficult and a bit like we were failing the boys for some time. This should not be the objective of so many self-proclaimed experts who are hurting more than helping. Luckily we found a meetup group locally that we’re trying out tomorrow that may help a little. Or it could potentially make it feel way worse. Time will tell.
For me, a big source of anxiety is trying to be an equal partner. I’m at a big disadvantage since I can’t feed them directly — though Axel keeps trying to get food from my finger. We’ve been splitting nightly diaper and feeding duties between the lads, but during the day it’s a bit harder for me. I try to mostly help with chores or other household tasks while the feeding is going on, sometimes prepping the next child for feeding with diaper changing and bottle prep, but can’t help sometimes feel I’m not doing enough.
Getting harder to tell apart, especially with the same gestures
Worries about telling the twins apart have so far been unfounded. There was a brief scare one night in a sleepy haze in the dark where got confused by swapping sides, but quickly figured it out with the lights on. Other twin parents said they could easily figure it out, and so far that seems true. Now that they are closing in on similar weights, it’s getting a bit harder though.
“Blue Steel” — Get my good side dad!
Luckily Anders has his Zoolander face and Axel has an Usain Bolt finishing pose that are so far unique. They have begun mirroring each other — the other day one had hiccups and the other started hiccuping too with no cause — so heaven help us if they start mirroring each other’s poses. Though when they do, it’s the best thing ever.
Family time proved interesting
The boys had some family time this weekend with their cousins. It was hard to decide if we should encourage bonding now since the cousins were so interested, or keep them away to prevent germs. We kind of played the middle. At least they didn’t ask where the babies had come from. I would have sent them back to their mother.
Heaven help us when the twins get this much energy
Forming that familiar bond is super important for the boys. Though my family is small, I always valued time spent with grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins growing up and want the boys to have the same. Facetime has become a hugely used app in the last week, both for staying connected with family and for use as a temporary monitor between computers. Hopefully this weekend they’ll get to meet their great grandfather in person as well as their great-aunt. Maybe they’ll get to see a bit of Lehigh as well.
Getting some fresh air is key
One thing I had hoped to do before going back was to take them out to eat, just to prove it could be done. I’ve realized that probably isn’t going to happen though as they aren’t supposed to be in crowded areas until they are older and vaccinated. We may try to take them to a winery or brewery though, where we can have them in fresh air, but still enjoy being out of the house. But that’s a topic for next week!
I’ll do my best to check in then, but who knows what surprises the next week will bring. It’s been a crazy ride so far, and the craziness keeps on coming. But we’re doing our best to roll with the punches and learning a ton on the way. It’s really bringing a new perspective to priorities in our lives.