Let’s start off by setting the proverbial scene. At 41 years of age and have “made it” in life. I have been married for three years. I have the C-Suite job, I drive a nice car. I am married to a handsome, kind, loving man. I have one last thing to accomplish to be that woman who has it all. And that is to be a mother. Everyone else does it, how hard can it be?
Well, it is hard. We as women literally have one superpower vs. men, and that is to make babies. Two years down the line of trying naturally, plenty of operations and hundreds spent on IVF, here I was on my 40th birthday, still childless. For the first time in my life, I didn’t have control over this. Don’t get me wrong, I always knew I was going to be a mother, and the traditional way didn’t terribly appeal to me. I was happy to adopt, however, my husband really wanted to try and have biological children.
So, there I was at 41, in early labour at 32 weeks. I didn’t know what that meant, especially health wise for my twins. I was more worried about my work and how me being in hospital was taking me away from my work.
Sefora, my little girl was born at 960g and Raphael, my little boy 1.1kg.
How did I NOT know what lay ahead for me?
My daughter spent 103 days in hospital. She was deemed as “failure to thrive”. COVID hit, my son came home and on my first Mother’s Day, I refused to celebrate it because my daughter was still alone in ICU.
COVID was no help to a first-time mother working from home. I asked myself, “Do we even have a business anymore?”
I was losing myself, my identity. I couldn’t be on call workwise 24hrs a day. I had all this unwanted, unasked for advice from people who had children so close together, “They were basically twins.” Inside I was shouting, “NO! You don’t know! And you definitely do NOT know what it’s like to have twins.”
I was clueless. My daughter choked on every single bottle she had for 2 years. She slept at a 45-degree angle. When starting solids, she choked. My main job was to keep her alive, all the while posting cute pics of our happy family on Instagram. I was neglecting my son (more guilt) because my daughter needed me more. Safe to say my mom and husband brought up my son in the first couple of months (This still weighs heavily on me and every day I try and make it up to him).
6 months down the line, I thought I had everything under control – I was trying so incredibly hard, I became the CEO of the company, mother extraordinaire and good wife. I was failing at all three, or was I? If you ask my husband, he will say I wasn’t and if you asked my shareholders, they will say the same. But it was dark. Every night I would get panic attacks around dinner time, anticipating my daughter to choke, and the hours that it took to put my twins down, and the millions of times they would wake up during the night. They were still tiny, not hitting their milestones and underweight. I was feeding them every 3 hours during the night (and this carried on for one and a half years).
I remember one afternoon, my mother-in- law came to visit, and suggested formula for my son, so that I could quit expressing. I knew logically that this would help my burden, so I tried it. To my absolute disgust, my son loved formula. I felt so betrayed. And again, I felt let down by the fact that neither of my twins were on my breast milk anymore. Funny thing was, my son was happy, and so was my daughter – she is such a champ, smiling always, even through vomiting up to 8 times a day.
COVID eased up, the twins turned two, and I thought I would have my life back. But truth be told, I think the PTSD of sick twins, COVID, and running a business only hit me then. I was chronically depressed I had put on weight, and I couldn’t look at myself in the mirror. I didn’t see my friends. I stopped seeing my therapist, because I was worried to voice how I felt. I did all of this to cope.
It was such a seesaw of emotions. I was lion-like proud of my twins. They are truly my biggest accomplishment by far, but I didn’t know who I was outside of being a “twin mom”. Once the babies aren’t “cute” anymore, the help wanes. No one just reached out and said, “How can I help.” To be honest, even if they did, I probably wouldn’t have let them.
But gosh, did I look like I was killing motherhood and work life balance. The more people that told me I was doing a good job, the more I rejected the thought. I won a business award and normally this would keep me on a high for weeks… but it didn’t.
But what did help, is that I started to find my tribe. I found a fellow twin mom, who also had a demanding job. She never judged, never gave advice but just listened. I accepted help from my mom. I relied on my children’s care giver, Monica. I got closer to my female work colleagues, I voiced my frustration, my fears at being a mother, discussed my failings, and (goodness gracious, who would have thought) others also opened up to me and suddenly I wasn’t alone. I think the number one problem with being a mom or a first-time parent, is no one tells you the truth. No one voices how hard it is, how lonely, how dark.
I also started pushing back on all the unsolicited advice from family and close friends and started trusting my gut. I started to take my power back. I was secure in my knowledge of where I wanted my life to be, how I wanted to be a good influence on my children, and yes, by going to work and sometimes coming home in the dark. It doesn’t make me a bad mom; it actually makes me a better mom.
So, if you can’t tell, for me, personally, that 2-to-3-year time-period was the darkest I have ever been in. Am I “fine” now. Yes, the twins are 3 and a half. Is it still as tough? Yes. Some things get easier, others harder.
What I know and learnt through being a first-time mom:
I trust my gut implicitly.
I shut out all the nonsense.
I prioritise my children above all else and yes, this is to the detriment of my husband and friends and my own personal wants and desires, but for now, this is the route I have chosen, and I am happy with it.
I can and do have it all, I just have to put it in perspective and “having it all” just looks a little bit different.
I am still Romy, I am just trying to navigate the new Romy, just a better version, maybe.
I don’t have all the answers.
I want to leave a legacy in this world, and I can do this, while being a mom. It’s not either or.