This was written for an article in August 2009:
My oldest son, Dylan was a mere 11 months old when I suspected that I was pregnant, little did I know that I was in for the surprise of my life. I think that I was in major denial that I was pregnant to start off with as I was in a bad relationship and wanted to end that. I decided that I needed to get away shortly after Dylan had his first birthday so off we went on holiday to Cape Town to visit my dad. While there I got the strange sensation that there was more than one baby in my tummy as the movements were insane and as much as it freaks me out I think that I knew that I had twins in there before it was really confirmed, I used to speak to “them” That was my last holiday before I got blessed with the twins and in fact probably my last holiday for many years to come.
When I got back from Cape Town I was in agony, which I have now learnt was possibly SPD, so it was off to the gynaecologist with me. I walked in with my mother pretending to go for a routine check up, I made sure that my mother stayed in the waiting room so that I could break the news of this pregnancy to her myself. I sat down and was still in shock at the aspect of actually being pregnant. My partner at the time was overseas, knowing full well that I was pregnant and caring for Dylan. I explained the pains that I was having to my gynaecologist and told him of my “suspected” pregnancy. It was at that point, during the sonar, I was informed that I was indeed pregnant, and in the words of my gynaecologist, “Well my dear, not only are we pregnant but it’s twins” I was in complete shock and horror, I could not believe the words that I had just heard, even though I had suspected it, to hear it loud and clear was a complete moment of insanity to me. I was 16 weeks at that stage; how I managed to hide my pregnancy at that point I have no idea. I made him show me the two heads on the scan to confirm that neither him nor me were completely off the mark. I was told that it was a boy and a girl at that point, only at the next scan did I find out that it was two boys. I honestly think that I was in a state of disbelief until the day that they were born four months later. When I left the gynaecologist my mom asked me if everything was ok, I burst into tears and said, “I am pregnant ….. And it’s twins” I do not know who was in more shock, me or my mother. She remained so strong for me, so that I could break down and sob my heart out and I am ever so grateful for that.
I was very fortunate to have had an easy pregnancy with two growing babies inside of me. When I hear of the horror stories out there I truly have so much to be thankful for. During the pregnancy, I would say that the name choosing was the biggest challenge, and I mean that, I sailed through with not an ounce of morning sickness and not a complication in the world, in fact I worked up till two weeks before Jason and Grant were born, at that point my gynaecologist had recommended that I stop working, otherwise I would have worked until the day before. I was tiny for a twin pregnancy and so it was not that challenging. The only thing that I battled was the heartburn and for some bizarre reason I got bronchitis and developed asthma due to the pressure on my lungs and chest, these poor noonskies were so squashed in there. I was due anytime from 28 September 2007 and I managed to carry Jason and Grant until the 18 October 2007. I went into hospital on the 16 October 2007 to get the cortisone injections to make sure that their little lungs were fully developed when they were born. Dylan was only 19 months at the time and such a little angel he was. He was so excited to invite his brothers into the world, he used to come to my tummy, touch it and say, “My brothers” so protective and they were not even here yet.
The day that they were born was the day that I realized my life would never be the same again. I all of a sudden went from being a mother of one to a mother of three. Jason weighed 2.1kg and Grant weighed a mere 1.8kg when they were born. I have never seen such small, yet such perfect human beings in all my life, they are just skin and bone and I was petrified of them. Their chests were sunken in and their poor little bums had no “meat” it was the most frightening thing I have had to face in my life. I am however so grateful that I got to hold them directly after they were born and these little fighters only had to go to NNICU for four hours, merely for observation. Grant gave us a little bit of a scare in his first days of life and he lost quite a bit of weight and when you only weigh 1.8kg that is not a good thing at all. They really battled with sucking reflex too, so they were tube fed for the most part. I was so adamant that they get breast milk though and so I used to express before every feeding time so that they could get it through the tube. I really believe that I gave birth to two children so determined to live that they never gave much hassles. Jason, the bigger of the two, was discharged at the same time as me but we took the decision to leave him at the hospital with Grant, after all they had been squashed together for eight months, I felt that it would be traumatic for them to be separated so soon after birth. I convinced the doctors to let Grant come home two days after me as I had enough milk for an army and I promised that if he started losing weight again I would bring him back. Thankfully the nurses there knew me from when I had Dylan and so they pushed for them to let Grant come home too.
Dylan used to come and visit them in the hospital twice a day and I have never forgotten that instant love that he had for them. He was obsessed with them and just wanted to kiss them all the time and when it was time to leave I could almost say that he was sad to leave them behind. On the day that they came home, Dylan was so sick that we rushed him to the pediatrician for fear of Jason and Grant getting sick. Turns out that he had a very bad bacterial infection and was to be kept far away from his new brothers, not the easiest thing to explain to a 19 month old boy who is in love. We used to let him into the room for five minutes at a time so that he could love and kiss them at least. I also took the decision to keep Dylan home from school for the first two weeks that Jason and Grant were home so that he could see what was happening when he was not there, I believe that this made them bond the way that they are now. I have never felt as proud as the day that my 19 month old son sat on the couch with his one week old brothers, feeding them their bottles, makes my heart melt every time I think of it. He is truly the world’s greatest big brother in my eyes.
I would say that the first two months were the most challenging. At the time I was stuck in a dead-end relationship, with a partner that was so unwilling to help, this did not help matters at all. The key to my survival was to get Dylan as involved as possible and routine, routine, routine. I think that sometimes as parents we get a new baby, in my case two, and we can forget about our oldest, it is so vital to include them as much as possible, but by the same token not forcing them to bring the nappies if they don’t want to. A great trick that I was taught was to make a treasure box for Dylan, with a few fun things in it, for example, a colouring book, cars, books etc, this box was only allowed to be touched and played with when I was busy with his brothers. This made him look forward to their feeding time or nappy changing, as he got to have fun while I was busy. Also another important thing was to give him a gift from his brothers when they came out of the hospital. It was small things that made the difference and gave them the bond that they have today. We all have our own idea of routine, for me it was making sure that Jason and Grant were in the exact same routine from day one. This meant that if Jason woke up for food and Grant was still sleeping, he would get woken up and they would get fed, changed, bathed at the exact same time. This can prove a challenge if you do not have help from either a partner or domestic during the day but once you master it; it becomes so easy that you don’t even think about it anymore. To this day they are in an identical routine and it has been my saving grace.
In February 2008, when Jason and Grant were a mere four months and Dylan one month shy of turning two, my world came crashing down in a sense, to me though it is where my life really began. It was the end of my four-year relationship with the father of my three boys, I had tried so hard to hang on for the boys and also hang on in fear of how I would cope on my own raising these three precious souls. I know that this may sound harsh and most people won’t believe it but on that Sunday in February 2008, my life became a whole lot easier, my kids became a whole lot easier, and I felt a sense of relief knowing that now there would be peace in my home and I could build the life that I wanted for me and the boys. The first two weeks were my most challenging, trying to settle Dylan back into a routine at night and help him adjust to not having his dad around. It broke my heart seeing my little boy just sitting and crying for his dad, he would not allow me to console him. A vital part of all of this was making sure that no matter what Dylan’s daytime routine stayed the same and also making sure that the school knew what was going on so that they could be there to support him too if he needed it. We stayed at my mom for the first two weeks as I was left without a car and had to get the locks to my apartment changed. I think that this also helped distract Dylan as he loves his granny very much.
For me to cope it was vital that I focused on one day at a time, I had to remind myself of this daily and now it is just such a habit that I really could not tell you how I managed to survive but I know that taking each day as it came was vital and of course the routine. I think that main challenge for me was helping Dylan deal with losing his father, which proved, and still does at times, to be the hardest thing to do. A support network is also a huge part of why I am where I am at the moment. Without that network in place I would have crumbled. Whether you find support online, or by making friends who are single parents or just parents in general, it is a key part of survival. I got in touch with South African Multiple Birth Association (SAMBA) and through doing support work for them I was reaching out and building a network of people who I knew could understand where I was coming from. I also joined an online parenting forum and found not only support but truly great friends through the site. I battled depression once I became a single mother (in fact I think it was from the day that Jason & Grant were born), I think that is was all very overwhelming in the beginning and I felt the need to put on a brave face all the time. This is where the forum saved my life. I was able to open up to the wonderful “family” on there and through that I realized that I did not have to suffer through depression, I could get help and it was nothing to be ashamed of.
Joining SAMBA taught me how much I had to be grateful for, I had two perfectly healthy babies and a wonderful support network in place. Another key member is my domestic, Selina, without her I believe I would have gone insane a long time ago. She is amazing with my kids and they all love her very much. I have never come across a woman so willing and so loving, it is unbelievable. My mom is also a vital part of my sanity, she is there to support me, love my kids and remind me that I am actually doing a great job at raising these boys. She even loves me when I am going through the terrible “woe always me” days, she listens with a smile on her face and an encouragement that I cannot explain, without my mom, I would be so lost. Then there is Dianne, a lady who started out as a neighbour and has now become someone very near and dear to myself and the boys. She has more energy than I could ever picture myself having and loves my kids so much and for that I am eternally grateful.
As with anything in life there are the days that I wish that things were different, the days when I question why my life has turned out the way that it has. On those days my support network becomes even more vital than on the good days, those are the days that I really have to remind myself of one of my favourite sayings, “If God brought you to it, He will bring you through it” although I am not a religious person, I believe in God and He has my plan mapped out and this is a small fraction of my life, the best is yet to come, He knows what He is doing and in that I place my faith. I find that keeping a journal of what I am feeling and the ups and downs helps me to get through each passing day that may provide a challenge. Allowing myself to feel terrible on the odd occasion, as strange as that may sound, helps me to remember that I am only human and that Rome was not built-in a day. Most people ask me how I cope and to be honest I really do not know how to answer that question, I think that we are all so different that it is a matter of finding what works for you.
I have now been a single mother for the past 18 months and I can tell you that although it is not easy it sure is fun to be challenged on a daily basis. And coming home to three smiling, happy children makes it all worthwhile. The joy of a child’s smile, laughter, I love you’s, that is what makes me survive everyday with a smile on my face, and if they smile is not there I go to sleep knowing that God is with me, right there next to me, holding me and guiding me to be the best mother that I can be to these three awesome souls that he has blessed me with.