Yesterday I had two twin-related messages in the space of 5 minutes. The first was from a friend asking for gift ideas for a new twin mum, and the second was from a friend with the happy news that she’s expecting twins. Both of these on the same day made me decide to write a post for twin-parents-to-be.
So I’ve cast my mind back to my twin pregnancy and early days of twin parenting (my boys are now almost 3) and here are a few things I’d like to tell twin-parents-to-be:
- Any pregnancy is hard work; twin pregnancy is no fun whatsoever. There are four little elbows and four little knees poking and prodding, my babies felt like they were up in my ribs for at least half of my pregnancy. Although I didn’t get particularly big, my babies were squished up in the most uncomfortable way possible. I didn’t bloom; don’t worry if you’re not blooming either.
- It’s ok to feel apprehensive rather than excited. People used to ask me if I was excited and I would feel bad for not being able to answer yes with much conviction. If, like me, you’re a worrier, then a multiple pregnancy gives you extra cause to worry – you are classed as high risk and will be making regular trips to the hospital for extra scans and appointments. I bled most of the way through my pregnancy, which made it difficult to sit back and feel excited about the impending arrivals.
- People feel at liberty to comment on the size of your bump: whether your bump is big or small, you probably won’t appreciate this. People enjoyed telling me how small my bump was – “you can’t possibly have twins in there” is exactly what you don’t want to hear when you hope you’ve got two healthy babies growing. It is, though, good practice for all the questions you’ll get after your twins have arrived.
- Be prepared for early arrivals. The hope is probably that you’ll get to 36-37 weeks, but have some essentials packed from about 27 weeks just in case. My boys made their appearance at 33 weeks and I wasn’t prepared – dinner was bubbling away in the slow cooker, that’s how unexpected it was.
- Don’t be frightened of Special Care (SCBU). The thought of my twins going to SCBU terrified me when I was pregnant, but when I look back on it now I think of it as such a special first couple of weeks. It is totally different to a post-labour ward – the calm and peaceful atmosphere helped me get to know my new babies who received wonderful care. It’s likely that one or both of your twins will need to spend some time there, even if it’s just a night or two, so be prepared and don’t be afraid.
- You might be wondering how you’re going to cope – that’s normal. ‘Twins would just be impossible’ is what I used to say when I just had one. Now I think you just cope with what you have. It feels daunting but you manage because you have to. You will just rely on coffee and cake even more than you did previously.
- Do away with the baby related books – the advice is not aimed at parents of multiples and you will find most of it completely unachievable. In the early days, being a parent of multiples is about getting by – the good thing about this is that it takes the pressure off, so ditch the baby books…..unless they’re about multiples in which case read them, but still don’t worry if things aren’t going as the book says they should.
- If you manage to breastfeed for any amount of time, well done. Consider either expressing or using formula for one of the evening or night feeds so that your partner can help you out and you can get a bit of rest. If you don’t manage to breastfeed – oh well, whatever works for you and your family is the right thing to do. Go into it all with an open mind, and don’t put unnecessary pressure on yourself.
- If you have premmie babies, the newborn stage is a long one. It took us 14 weeks to get smiles – their adjusted age was 7 weeks so that was about right, but it felt like a long slog of feeding, changing and sleeping. I love newborn babies, but it was tough. There may also be extra complications like reflux, which will make those first few weeks that bit more challenging.
- Routine is the way to sanity with multiples. This might seem harsh with small babies but they fall into it pretty quickly. If one of your twins is asleep when it’s time for a feed, wake him/her. Keep them in sync and you’ll keep yourself sane. This is especially necessary if you also have an older child (or older children), as you’ll rely on your twins napping at the same time to give your eldest some much needed attention.
- There will not be the cuddles and cooing that you can enjoy with one baby. Your one-to-one time with each baby will be limited (almost non-existent in the early days), which may make you feel like it’s taking a long time to bond with them. That’s normal too. I used to love carrying my first baby around in a sling and having him snuggled up against me when he was new, but apart from when my husband was at home I barely used a sling for my twins: it just didn’t seem fair to have one bundled up with me and the other not.
- For the reason above, invest in plenty of equipment to put the babies down in/on and make sure you have things upstairs and downstairs. You can’t carry them around as you would one baby. Bouncers, swings, mats, activity arches – you will rely on them all. When they’re small, your day will mainly involve feeding, changing, and then moving them around various pieces of equipment. It can get tedious.
- Your friends with singleton babies will probably be out and about at all sorts of classes. Don’t worry if classes seem like too much for you to cope with (or just too expensive for two). Baby groups and twin groups will keep you going in the early days. As long as you are managing to get out of the house, even if it’s just to post a letter or buy yourself a giant pastry, your babies will be fine and certainly won’t be missing out just because they’re not enrolled in a baby yoga class.
- If your twins are identical, find a way to help you and others identify them. We decided to go for colour coding – each of our boys has a couple of his own colours which he tends to wear. Not everyone is a fan of this approach, but it works for us and avoids the ‘so which one are you?’ greeting which I imagine must get just a bit annoying.
- Having multiples can be overwhelming, terrifying and the hardest work imaginable. It is also one of the best clubs you could possibly be joining (if you need convincing, see my other post on twins here), and you will find plenty of other supportive parents to help you along the way. Your twins will provide you with non-stop ups and downs, but even the bad days usually provide you with a funny story. And the funny stories are the main reason I started this blog.
If you’re a parent of twins or more and have anything to add, please do add your comments!