Laying on my back in my doctor’s office, I tilted my head and watched grainy, black-and-white images throbbing on a monitor. I’m not an expert at reading sonographs but I could clearly see two hearts beating. I was only seven weeks pregnant and now expecting twins. Unbelievable. I was flooded with emotions, most of them being fear and anxiety.
I cried myself to sleep for weeks. I was never one of those little girls who dreamed of having twins some day. I was terrified and doubted if I even had what it would take to care for two babies at once, in addition to my 5-year-old daughter and 2-year-old son.
My twins are now 3 years old and we’ve officially made it out of the “tough stage,” or so we are told. Turns out raising twins has been one of the biggest privileges of my life, though not without sacrifice. I’ve also found that my tearful and fearful reaction to our life-changing news is very common among women expecting twins. It just feels like such an unmapped world.
I received some amazing advice during the twins’ first well-baby checkup; they had only been home from the hospital for a few days. My pediatrician, a twin dad, looked at me with a serious face and said, “Twins are not actually double the work, only about one and a half times the work.” He turned out to be right. He also told me, “if you can make it past the first two years, you’re good to go.”
I try to pass along the advice. Often I get phone calls and emails from friends or friends of friends asking for twin-related advice, even comfort, as they prepare for the journey ahead. Here are the most common questions and my best attempt at real, honest answers:
What do I really need for the babies?
It may be too much information, but invest in a really good breast pump. In order to make it through the night the first few months, I needed a solid routine. I would prepare the bottles in advance and have them ready for the next feeding. Breast milk is good left out for four to six hours. So the routine went: feed babies, change babies, get babies to sleep, pump, prep bottles, nap for two hours and repeat.
You will need lots and lots of pacifiers, and I recommend assigning each child a different color (though you really can’t keep them from trading when they are older).
A quick and easy sanitation system is important. You can even buy microwaveable bags that sanitize bottles and pacifiers in less than two minutes. Use them because you are about to lose half of your dishwasher space.
Use a marker to label each baby’s things. Not that it will really matter because they will share everything anyway, but it will make you feel better. That being said, I recommend naming them so they have different initials. You’ll be glad you did.
Obviously you need two car seats, but get one of those awesome inline double stroller frames so you can snap the seats right onto it and go. Never wake a sleeping baby, even if you have to transfer from the car to the house.
You’ll want lots and lots of blankets, burp clothes and sleepers (as well as laundry detergent).
Stock up on two Boppy pillows, two Bumbo chairs, two swings and possibly two cribs (though for a long time my boys shared a crib). And don’t be afraid to borrow or buy second-hand. I borrowed an extra swing, excersaucer and high chair.
As for other activity toys, you just need one and rotate them among infants. Although, when the babies become toddlers, you may very well need matching sets of everything or a certification as a professional referee to stop the fights.
What do I need for myself?
Assuming you have a good support system, this answer is much more simple. I’d start with lower expectations, a sense of humor, paper plates, chocolate and caffeine. It’s also a good idea to stock up on easy lunches and healthy, protein-packed snacks. You will forget to feed yourself, all the time.
Can I really do this?
You will be totally amazed at what you can actually do and handle. You can do hard things! You’ll be surprised at all the things you can do at the same time: feed two babies at once, tickle two babies at once, cuddle two babies at once.
As for sleep deprivation, you get use to it after a while. And, I promise, it is totally worth it. You may even feel sorry so many other parents don’t get to experience raising twins.
What about the older siblings?
I often thought the hardest part about adjusting to twins was helping the older siblings learn to adjust to twins. It was a bit rocky. My son was 3 years old when we brought the twins home. He didn’t like them much and he wasn’t very nice. The twins quickly learned they didn’t like him much either.
The nurse in the Newborn Intensive Care Unit where my boys stayed pointed out something I hadn’t noticed. I felt quite torn between my family at home and my family in the hospital and she said, “These babies don’t know when you are not here, but those big kids do.”
Any other advice?
Take a break from the busy-ness of life if you can. We quit dance lessons and soccer for a time and reduced our church and community obligations. I just couldn’t do it all. We focused on basics like eating and sleeping instead.
And finally, accept service. One of the nicest things anyone ever did for me was take my daughter (then a kindergartener) to and from school, every single day, all year long.
This article originally published in Motherhood Matters on KSL.com
Image from freedigitalphoto.net