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Bringing Up Babies

5: How to get the help you need

We weren't the kind of gals who took people up on favors—until we had twins. Now's the time to say yes to help. Professional childcare is expensive, and since we spent a small fortune on baby gear, we had to get creative about who could help us and how they could best contribute. Here's where we found our backup:

Our husbands. Our guys tried to stay out of our way because we were like crazy mother cyclones whirling through the house. It was easy to get pissed at them for not offering to help, until we realized that they were just looking for direction. We determined their strengths—running errands for us, assembling cribs and toys, answering phone calls and e-mails about the babies, bathing them and preparing simple meals—and delegated tasks to them.

Our parents. Our moms and dads couldn't have been more delighted about our twins, but they weren't excited to do our laundry or mop our floors. We soon realized that sitting and folding clothes could be relaxing (with the right show on the tube), so we let our moms do the things they wanted to do, like change diapers and hold and feed babies. Our dads sang Irish ditties and told bar jokes to calm the screaming infants.

Our siblings. Christina's sister, who was expecting her second child at the time, visited once a day for the first three months, glad to refresh her feeding, burping, and diapering skills. And Cathleen's brothers set up kiddie-pool water slides and played backyard baseball with her two older boys while she fed the babies and focused on postpartum recovery.

Our neighborhoods. Christina's neighborhood is famous for passing around a sign-up sheet to make any new mom on the block a family dinner. Each night for a whole month, a different neighbor prepared a meal for her brood! (If you haven't delivered yet, perhaps you could start this tradition for another new mom in the hood so that you can benefit when your turn comes.)

Our gift givers. If we were given a baby gift in person, we were bold enough to ask for a pass on writing the thank-you note. We'd always hear a big "of course!" in reply. Better still, if you're creating a wish list for a baby shower, ask that one of your gifts be a reprieve from penning thank-you cards.