I’m a perfectionist. I like to think about things I’ve done and internally debate how to do better next time.

But what if there is no next time? Is there a point to thinking it over and over, finding ways things could (have been) better?

Probably not.

But I do.

I wish I didn’t.

I’m trying not to.

What the everloving crap are you talking about, Jenny? You’re asking your computer that right now, aren’t you?

I’m talking about the newborn stage. It’s hard to have all these one-year-ago moments staring me in the face and not think, “Did I do it right?”

I’m not sure I did. At the same time, I’m not sure I could have done any better. I’m pretty sure I could have done worse.

Did I hold them enough? Attachment Parenting law says I didn’t. Getting the most out of a once-in-a-lifetime-experience thinking says I didn’t.

Thinking back, there were definitely times when I was just touched the hell out, and even though someone wanted to be held, Rob/a grandparent/the swing/the vibrating chair stood in for me. There were times when I needed (or thought I needed) to do something housework-related, but should I have held babies while assigning the boring task to someone else?

There were also times – a ton of them – when I bounced/paced around the house with a baby in a carrier, spending an entire naptime standing with a baby attached to my front. I ate meals over a fuzzy head (and dropped crumbs on said head) and toned my legs (ha!) while trying to provide a cozy rest place for my little ones.

I didn’t do enough, or I did just enough – which is it?

They’re all attached to me and can’t stay away from me for long when we play on the floor together. They reach for me when they’re sad or sick, when they’re hurt or scared.

I obviously did something right.

So why do I continue to wish I had done better?

It could be leftover pain from the yelling I did with Rob or our parents. Exhaustion, emotion, hormones and the feeling of being constantly judged by having someone else here with me a lot of the time – it led to more explosions than I’m proud to own.

Maybe it’s the memory of my anxiety during the newborn phase (with preemies, it lasts FOREVER – they were close to 8 months old before they quit acting like newborns) that’s punching my self doubt into high gear.

At the bottom of my angsty pile of feelings lies this: I wish the beginning of our time at home together would have been more peaceful. At the very least, I wish my memories of that time were more ooey-gooey and lovey-dovey and less, “Do they remember how difficult I was to be around?”

There’s no point, though. It is what it is. Or was.

I had one baby who could probably be called colicky (Eleanor screamed from afternoon until evening unless being bounced while strapped to a chest), and one with reflux (looking back, Callista probably had a dairy sensitivity, but meds more or less fixed her symptoms, and I selfishly wouldn’t give up dairy). Toby? Well, he was easy. Chill, low-key, no issues. Just a lovable cuddlebug – the type of singleton that would allow for more kids in the future.

I did the best with what was available, and we all came out on the other side unscathed.

If I could just let go of my internal nagging, things would be pretty damn perfect.

First-time moms of multiples (singletons too, I suppose), learn from my self loathing. Do your best and accept it. Don’t beat yourself up, and don’t dwell on things. If you do, you’ll find yourself rambling to the Internet a year after the fact, too. If you’re stubborn like me and don’t listen, come find me, and we’ll¬†commiserate.

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14 Responses to Multiplied guilt

  1. Sarah-Anne says:

    Your best is all God asks for in every situtation in life :) You did and are doing a great job, Jenny!

  2. Heather says:

    This is so funny because I was JUST pondering this myself before I opened your post! I have 2 singletons and I sometimes feel as though I ‘missed’ the wonderfulness of the newborn stage of my second baby because I was so worried I was not giving my first as much attention. I was worried DS1 was missing me, I felt a TON of guilt. Guilt when we couldn’t go out to play because I was nursing, guilt when I couldn’t read a book because DS2 needed me to stand up and bounce, and on & on. Now, almost a year later, they play together, love each other, etc and I just think if I could go back in time and tell myself to enjoy it because DD1 will actually ENJOY having a brother and not hate me for it. So I think you can always second guess yourself but you did the best you could do at the time and have to come peace with that. Your kids love you and are happy. I think you did your best.

  3. Gloria says:

    Wow! You’re preaching to the choir here. And my triplets are 6 now. I still struggle with these same thoughts. Although the difference between your 1st year experience and mine is that I had a complication after mine were born that did not allow me to really participate for the first 6 – 9 months of their lives. Talk about feeling like I really lost some valuable time. I know I’ll never get it back. I know it wasn’t my fault — I didn’t ask for gestational cardiomyopathy — but, to this day, it still bothers me that I couldn’t fully participate in the care of my babies when they needed me. Thank God for family and, in the end, I have healthy, lovely, sometimes frustrating but very much loved triplets! Thanks for sharing with us. I think your kids are extremely blessed to have such a wonderful Mom!

  4. Lauren says:

    Thanks to Heather for her post – I think about that a lot when I consider having another baby!

  5. Nana says:

    Funny in a way, I don’t have all the same verbage the younger internet set uses, but we all have our guilts but that is why “looking back” is not all that productive,I still (30) years later loath myself for spanking a little boy with big brown eyes whom played in my oil paints and covered the carpet with paint when he should have been napping. Yet, today he is a GREAT DADDY himself..so no harm..no foul…self doubt is not productive and parenthood is not a science.

  6. Amber says:

    Okay, so I only have one, but he’s 5 1/2 months old and I can already tell you I didn’t hold him enough when he was a newborn. Oh, I tried, but he would cry and scream and I couldn’t seem to soothe him for love or milk. (Reflux and a dairy sensitivity will do that I guess.) He spent much more time with my husband and in the swing than I’d like to admit. When I would vent about his sleeping issues, people would think they were being helpful in telling me to relax and that I couldn’t spoil him by holding him too much. All that did was bring up the anxiety that I felt because, hello, I wasn’t holding him much at all. :(

    We’re down the road a bit now and things are much better. We play, we hang out and frankly, he’s now my little cuddle bug and I embrace the hell out of it. And I’m trying to quiet the guilt I have over those first couple of months.

    I guess I’m saying all of this because I only have 1 and I feel this way, so please, be kind to yourself for feeling like this having three teeny preemie babies to care for. I think you did one hell of a fabulous job getting those little ones to a year. Try to pat yourself on the back for that because it’s something that you should wear proudly. {{hugs}}

    • Jenny says:

      Yes, Amber! It’s the “you can’t hold them enough,” comments that still knife me in the heart. I think you can hold them enough because of various circumstances. The saying alone is one big setup for guilt!

  7. Joanne says:

    We are our own worst critics. I’ve had two singletons. Neither newborn phase was perfect. Lots of tears, exhaustion and arguments with hubby.
    5 weeks of hell. And that was one at a time. You survived triplets, preemie triplets at that and they love you and you love them. That’s all that matters in the end. There are always moments you wish you could change, but in the love is all that matters

  8. Ruby says:

    So recognizable. And actually, specifically around this exact age I felt the same way. I suppose it has to do with the fog lifting: hormones, daily routines, plus the growing independence: suddenly there’s a little more clarity but with it comes a kind of grief for not being able to go through that first year with the same clarity & hind-sight. It is not possible. After realizing this is impossible, you can use the things you wish you’d “done better” or differently and apply them now. That is what those lessons where for, and now you have the greater clarity, it will be much easier to work on these areneas, step-by-step and little by litte.

    But I agree: do not chastize yourselff for it, and try and get out of the circle of guilt by using it for a positive, forward momentum.

    • Jenny says:

      It certainly is clarity that’s allowing for this. Survival mode in newborn stage really allows for survival. I can only imagine what kind of condition I would have been in had I doubted myself this much while I was slogging through it all!

  9. Melissa says:

    Thank you for this. I categorize these feelings under “mom guilt.” It absolutely sucks. I have two kids (one at a time) and feel I constantly beat myself up over things I should do. I also compare myself to other parents and feel like I don’t measure up. But you know what? My kids are healthy, happy (as happy as a 3 and 1 year old can be) and I have to remind myself I’m just doing MY best.

  10. 3catsandababy says:

    I completely relate to this and I only had one. I had to start working (watching kids here at my house) after only one week and Jay had colic and was up screaming all night, everynight. It didn’t end until 5 AM sometimes. Just in time for my alarm to go off. I was a mess. Lots of yelling with the DH too.

    And I only had one.

    Sometimes I look at pictures and see how tiny he was and wonder why I didn’t enjoy it more.

    The beginning is survival mode. You can’t let yourself feel bad about it. (Although I do.)

  11. Hope says:

    You took the words right out of my mouth, although I only have one. He was a preemie too (although only slight at 36 weeks) and I wish I had enjoyed more/handled better/yelled less/cried less/had been a better wife/mother/daughter/friend those crazy first months. Some days I wonder if I want another baby someday just to prove to myself I CAN do it better. But maybe I can’t.

  12. Allison Jaquier says:

    I have read your blog for a long time but I don’t ever comment. I just wanted to say that you are a wonderful mom! I have twins so I kinda get what you’re saying, but I also know you have to do the best you can do and let the rest go. Your babies are strong and healthy and so very, very loved. What else matters in life?! Great job!!!

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