As I mentioned earlier, most people react similarly when they hear they are having twins( even if they half expect it)
- Extreme exhilaration – Oh My God ! I am so special ! I am truly blessed!
- Extreme Panic – Oh My God ! How will we manage ! How will we be able to afford two babies! Will I have to quit my job!
You know that you have this great privilege to be part of something special – to be able to see two different individuals grow up together under your care. However the moments of bliss are interspersed with that feeling of fear that almost all parents feel, in this case compounded by the sudden realization that this is going to be much much harder than you had imagined.
Having gone through this – I can tell that both these aspects are true. The joy that you experienced is probably unparalleled but the trials and tribulations are unique too. During the first year things can get really tough and your moments of joy may seem too few and far in between the non stop work and sleeplessness, but things do get better after the first year.
Here are some key takeaways from a person who has seen it all in the first year – just for some perspective before you get started on this tumultuous journey.
- Letting go – There is this period between realizing that you are pregnant and realizing that you are having twins, that you start weaving a story that involves addition of one more more member to your family. In a minor way this is similar to realizing you are having a boy when you have been dead sure you are having a girl and start fantasizing about all the cute dresses that you would buy. It is important for both of you to spend time coming to terms that your parenthood is probably going to be more chaotic, time consuming and less intimate than the one your had envisioned with your one baby. It is important for us to be able to let go of that fantasy and take our time to do it – so that we can open ourselves to the possibilities and excitement of birthing twins.
- Advance all your schedules a little earlier – including your timelines for purchasing gear etc. Most twins arrive a few weeks earlier so you are likely to have a few weeks lesser to get ready. In my case they did not want to come out and had to be nudged out at 40 weeks but that is an exception. But I did have to spend the last two months in the hospital under bed rest, which made me glad that I had got everything sorted out prior to that.
- Decisions, decisions – Some of the decisions that you might have taken for granted, now needs to reconsidered. Here are a few that we had to discuss
- Location – We had planned to continue living downtown even though my husband was working in the suburbs. Now we had to seriously consider whether we should move to the suburbs. We decided to stay on so that my school was at walking distance, but this had serious repercussions on my husband’s commute and his ability to be responsive to immediate needs.
- Smaller or bigger apartment – We lived in an awesome high rise apartment in downtown Chicago with a lake facing view. This would have been enough for us if were having only one baby – with two on the way, we had to move to a two bedroom, less exciting apartment. After a year we moved to a 4 bedroom house so that our kids could have separate rooms where they would not disturb each other when they woke up in the nights.
- Matching clothes or interchangeable ones – While my kids have totally different personalities, we did not know that when they were born. We decided early on that we would not dress them in the same clothes as far as we could so that they could retain their individuality. Needless to say it gave the ability to interchange the clothes and gave each baby’s wardrobe more variety.
- Nursing or Formula – You could of course see how this goes and decide later, but let me assure you that making this decision early on can make a big difference. Unless you are emphatic in your decision to breast feed, it is very hard to sustain it for twins. It is uncomfortable and time consuming, and you may lose motivation after a few days. Even if you are breastfeeding, I suggest you bottle feed, so that others can help with the process as well.
- Possibilty of ceaserian – Our doctor warned us upfront that with twins the possibility of undergoing ceaserian increases many times. However things were looking good till the last moment, and I opted for a regular childbirth, never mentally preparing myself for the caeserian. Eventually my pregnancy could not be induced even after 18 hrs and the doctors had to perform a ceaserian at a time when I had nearly passed out of exhaustion. This came as a shcoker and dramatically increased my recovery time. If i had gone for the ceaserian earlier on- I could have been better off in this situation.
- Saving money – When you are having twins, you need to be cognizant that your expenses are going to double. That means that you immediately look to get the best value for your money than to buy the prettiest gear out there. It is important to plan for the added expenses and make sure you are not exceeding your budget in any way. Opt to borrow at least some of the items from friends and family to ease the financial burden.
- Buying in bulk – We did not get a costco membership till the point we were having twins. Because buying bulk made sense all of a sudden. Imagine running through 100-150 diapers per week during the first few weeks after the baby is born.
- Getting Help – Raising even one kid while juggling your other demands is difficult, but it can be done. Raising two kids is even more so and if one or both turn out to be colicky or need to carried all the time, this can be downright harrowing. Do not hesitate to ask for help from your parents or in laws and friends. Makes life much more easier.
- Setting expectations – It is not unusual to see mothers taking over the bigger chunk of baby related activities in case of single babies. But when you have twins your partner has to be equally involved in all the chores. Setting this expectation is important for both you and your partner
- Connecting with other parents or prospective parents of twins – A lot of parenthood advice comes from people who just had one kid and it may not be as useful as hearing from people who have gone through or are going through the same experiences as you. FOr this reason a good strategy would be to join an active multiples group in your location. This is invaluable in my opinion – and will give you a lot of perspective as you struggle through your initial days.
- Preparing for less sleep – Parents of twins are likely to get much lesser sleep during the first year. Each of us may have different abilities and requirements of sleep and so we are likely to react in different ways to this sleep deficit. But it is important to be cognizant of what is going to happen.
- Likelihood for postpartum depression – Mothers of twins are more predisposed to postpartum depression. It is necessary for both you and your partner to be aware of this and discuss freely with each other if this is happening.
- Will you love both your kids the same – One of my babies was in the NICU for the first week and I did not even get to see him during this period as I was in no condition to visit him. In that one week I developed a strong bond with my other child which I could not replicate with the first child for several months. I felt guilty about it as I would feel guilty about spending more time with one or the other. Eventually all this vanished and I am able to have balanced feelinsg towards both of them. This may not happen for a long time though and it is important you don;t gult trap yourselves.
- Empathy – Life is going to be tough and no matter how much you are prepared, your marriage is going to go through some tough moments during this first year. The key is to empathetic towards each other and strive towards the larger goal of raising your kids without trauma.
- Finally enjoy the ride – You are special. Out of hundreds of births happening in the US, less than 2-3 will be twins. Not everybody gets this unique opportunity and privilege. True, it will get really difficult at times, but the joys and satisfaction is also manifold. You can choose to weather the first year or simply enjoy the ride, taking each day as it comes, using help wherever necessary, but ultimatley focusing on savoring this experience to teh fullest so that you look back with joy and not with wistfulness at the time lost.