As a vintage ex-pat mother living with a workaholic golf playing husband and a crazy labradoodle, I was very aware that raising boy/girl twins was not going to be easy. However, I was not prepared for how out of control I would feel once we brought the babies home from hospital. Our decision to follow a strict routine from early on was partly to ease some of that feeling but it was also what we thought was best for our babies.
We ensured the twins were up no later than 7am, to bed no later than 7pm and we worked hard to get them to sleep twelve hours over night. I remember clearly when they started sleeping through the night as it was our eighth wedding anniversary. We both woke at 6.30am the following morning and neither of us could remember getting up during the night. Mild panic ensued until we saw they were both peacefully sleeping in their cots. They were exactly eleven weeks old. I read recently in an article that one Tresillian Nurse considers sleeping through the night is only realistic around twelve months of age. Pamela Druckerman, the author of “French Children Don’t Throw Food”, discovered in her research that many Parisian children sleep through at eight weeks old. So, there are widely differing views on what is right and what is achievable. If ours had been babies with colic, had feeding difficulties or any number of other childhood dilemmas they may not have slept through so early. But as they were not premature or ill in anyway we like to accredit some of the success to our regime-like routine.
There is no way we could ever have done all that on our own. When they were ten days old we hired a consultant to set us a routine. I also had a lady who helped me three to four days a week during the day and together we taught them to sleep and settle on their own. It was hard work, especially in the first three months when you are sleep deprived yourself. I had suffered a major primary postpartum haemorrhage and also been readmitted to hospital when they were two weeks old with a complication. I was physically shattered and also suffering from post natal depression so having this help was my saviour. Not everyone is as lucky to be able to access that type of help. Many rely on families but that is just not possible when you live away from your domicile country, like so many of us do. We have exceptionally lovely neighbours too who sat for us a few times so we could get to the movies. However, without a bedtime of 7pm making the movies may not have been possible. An early regular bedtime for the twins also allowed us to eat dinner together (when the workaholic was home) and once we got to bed, know that unless they were ill, we probably wouldn’t get woken until the alarm call at 6am.
Our routine allowed us to have time out for ourselves. Golf could be programmed around sleeps as could walking the dog, shopping and gardening. Without it I believe the health of all of us would have suffered. Sleepless nights are hard when you are over forty! When they were eight months old I started taking them to a music/dance class. One that was at 10am of course, so they could still get their morning nap in before the class. I always managed to find something that we could do so that the morning and afternoon sleeps were had in their cots. I had a lovely bunch of ladies in my Mothers Group. Even though I didn’t start attending many functions until the twins dropped their morning sleep I stayed in touch and now I get to most weekly outings. I am pleased I stayed in contact because they keep me sane and not once did anyone ever judge our strict routine.
Some think it is luck that we have good night sleepers. Some believe a routine can be too restrictive. The most important thing is to do what is right for your family. If you ask my husband he would say something like, “Happy Twins – Everyone Wins”. He believes that the routine helped promote the consistent night sleeping that they do now. The twins enjoy their days more and sometimes behave rationally (I am sure he is referring to me too). Of course we still have the usual two year old tantrums and trials. Nothing can completely change the hard gig that is being a vintage mum with twins. But the husband works just a little less now, the labradoodle is learning to love just one walk a day and we mostly all get a good nights sleep on a regular basis.