I wasn't raised Catholic, and I'm not a religious person, but I did inherit a fair bit of "Catholic guilt" from my maternal side of the family. Over the years, I got pretty good about brushing off that immediate instinct to feel utterly terrible and responsible for every bad thing that happens in life, but then I became a mom. And the minute those two girls came screaming into this world, I instantly became afflicted with a healthy dose of "Mom guilt".
The baby is crying? It must be my fault--I'm not producing enough milk, or holding her comfortably, or changing her diaper the right way, or putting her to sleep properly, or dressing her in the right clothes. We can't make it out the door in time to show up fashionably dressed, fed and happy for a playgroup--I'm failing at motherhood and obviously can't keep up with every other mother who is somehow able to find the energy and ability to leave the house.
A lot of those feelings were PPD related--I beat myself up about pretty much everything for months, and was pretty sure I'd made a huge mistake thinking I could be responsible for one helpless human, let alone two. But as the fog lifted around 6 months post partum, and the babies stopped spitting up or pooping all over me and themselves anytime we tried to go anywhere or do anything, life started to get a little bit easier, physically, mentally and emotionally. I think getting more than 3 or 4 hours of sleep in a stretch helped out a lot.
But even now, there is a certain amount of guilt that I can't shake. About something that has worried me ever since that day six weeks into my pregnancy when we heard two heartbeats. Am I ever going to be as good a parent to two babies as I could have been to one baby?
How can I give them both enough attention, enough patience, enough cuddles? I know that I am fully capable of loving them both with all my heart. I realize now that I could have fifteen babies and I would love them all with my whole heart--differently, of course, but fully. But the other aspects of parenting are harder.
I am guilty both for feeling envious about friends who are able to experience one-on-one bonding experiences with their babies and for not being equipped with enough arms to engage in them myself. I wish that I could bring Charlotte and Annabelle to swim classes, music classes, dance classes, but with only two arms and hands, it seems both unsafe and quite frankly, unfun.
I know that in just another year or so, it will get easier to provide them with classes and activities that will engage and educate. I know that they won't even be able to remember these first years and hopefully won't hold it against me that I wasn't able to do everything that I might have wanted for them. I just can't help but wonder how they might have developed differently or have been better off if I had been able to give them my entire, undivided energies and attention.
But then I see them playing together, working out the concepts of sharing and social interaction, without even having to leave the house, and I know that they're learning things now, important things, that they might not have been able to learn as easily if they didn't have each other. Maybe the twin relationship will help make up for whatever might have been different if it were just me and one child.
I love having my two girls. I would never, ever trade this experience for another. I don't wish for them to be any different than what they are, I just hope that I can be enough for them. And really, I suppose that's every mother's hope.
Early this morning, when they woke up to eat, I got them out of their cribs individually. I brought each girl back to my bed, in turn, cradled her in my arms as she nursed. Gently stroked her head. Held her tiny hand. When she finished, I placed her on my chest and held her for a few silent minutes, listening to her soft breaths, and feeling her heart beat next to mine.
We don't have many one-on-one moments of silence, and the older they get, the fewer and further between those moments will become. But just in that moment, I felt like maybe I was enough.