Double the trouble, twice the fun, two times the love, I bet you have your hands full…are all the common sayings that a mother hears when she has been blessed with twins. When they are babies it is difficult to make it through any store or event without being stopped numerous times so that people can talk to you and ask you about your twins. Then there are the others who have to stop and tell you how their cousins’ sisters’ brother and wife have twins too. Just about everyone you meet feels comfortable taking the liberty to reach out and touch your children, which I find totally inappropriate. Luckily by the time mine were 4 months old they would instinctively scream when strangers drew near. From the moment you become pregnant with them, until they reach the age of 5 or 6, twins are quite a spectacle. Although the attention is okay, it does quickly get annoying and disruptive.
The shock of finding out I was having twins was hard enough but enduring the overly cautious medical institution was enough to drive me to insanity. I had 29 ultrasounds in all, each of which was an extensive insight into every tenth of an ounce one of the babies lost or gained during their time in utero. I have to admit that it was nice to be reassured that all was well, but it was overly stressful to be subject to so much scrutiny while pregnant. By 28 weeks, I was put on bed rest for no real reason aside from the fact that I was carrying naturally conceived twins. This alarmed me even more. I can remember sneaking out of the house when my husband went to work just so I could breathe. It was always my fear that my water would break while inside Kmart or something and he would find out that I left the confines of the couch.
Despite all of this, my twins were luckily born full term with no health issues. Statistics show that most twins are. I wanted a natural, vaginal delivery however it seemed that the 3 OBGYN’s responsible for me had a different plan. After 12 hours of labor, it stalled and they followed through with a C-section. Where most women would have been given Pitocin, I was just told that a C-Section would be best. I was disappointed but definitely wasn’t brave or experienced enough to question the 3 sets of piercing eyes that were staring at me. It turned out pretty painless and easy I might add. We all came home right on time and were healthy. In the beginning though it is very frustrating and worrisome to be dealt with like you are plagued with a rare disease, rather than twins.
After all twins are a natural occurrence and there is nothing to say that a woman can’t sustain a pregnancy and deliver normally. First word of advice….take control of your pregnancy and don’t treat yourself like you are disabled just because you are carrying two. Sure, risks are higher but there is enough sound medical information and know how these days that doctors know when there is a real problem.
So then there were two. Two babies and I had absolutely no idea how to care for them. The lactation nurses urged me to breast feed and I felt under a great deal of pressure to oblige. They have a way of making you feel like a negligent mother if you opt for formula. This lasted 6 weeks and this dairy cow was done, done, done! The switch to formula proved to be not only easier and more convenient but allowed me to enjoy the babies more. Every morning I woke up and along with my coffee made 16 bottles of milk and placed them in color coded bottles so I know what to feed to whom. I warmed them up in the microwave (yes it is safe as long as you shake it thoroughly) to save time and always fed the kids at precisely the same time. I had the perfect method of propping them in my lap and holding their bottles for them. Burping was a bit more difficult.
Setting the Schedule
I knew as soon as I had the twins that I didn’t want to be dependant upon anyone else for their care. You have to take the bull by the horns and figure out the best way for you to be able to still live and have twins. This means being able to go the store by yourself with the babies and be able to take a shower during the day with the kids in the house. If you don’t assert this straight away you will undoubtedly live a tiring, boring and restrictive life. In my experience the best way to do this is to do everything at the same time. Feed them together, bathe them together, change their diapers at the same time, play on the floor with them together and put them to sleep at the same time. This way, when they nap- you get a break and you aren’t spending your entire day tending. The other rule to making life easier with twins is to never start rocking them to sleep. I have never bought into the ‘let them cry it out thing’ so we forewent the crib and bought a queen size bed for the twins room. I laid down with both of them, one in each arm and that’s how we slept. It was a pleasant, uneventful and great end to the day.
Since the whole family will overwhelm you with attention – especially at first, you must be able to stand your ground and keep to the schedule that works for you. There was nothing worse than spending a weekend with the in-laws and then coming home on Monday to crying, whining babies that had gotten used to being held all the time. You can’t hold twins all the time. Sad, but true! It would take at least 3 days to revert back to normal. If you can stick to what works for you, twins are really not as hard as people think. I can clearly remember barricading the living room so they couldn’t leave and that’s where we would spend our days together. Some days even the high chairs were brought into the living room so they could watch Teletubbies while I fed them. Keep in mind that for whatever reason, twins-especially little ones love to watch wrestling too.
Occasionally and especially as they get older their nap times will differ slightly. You will have plenty of time to bond with them so don’t feel paralyzed by guilt. Bonding with twins is not always as immediate as with a singleton, but in time when the rush of the situation calms down you will undoubtedly realize all at once that you have bonded naturally and lovingly as expected. Taking care of twins just takes a little more planning and sometimes may seem a little more impersonal. Having one baby that you can hold while you cook or throw in a sling to carry around all day is a wonderful experience. But it’s just not reasonable to expect that of you when there are two. Ease up on your expectations. And remember that the babies don’t know the difference; they just know they are being loved. No one told me this in the beginning and I spent 8 months fretting about whether or not I was doing enough. Silly thought really, when 24 hours a day I was doing something for them…
Taking the Twins Out of the House
Like mentioned earlier, taking the twins out always turned into a spectacle that was fit for the circus. I would push a double stroller and pull a grocery cart and strangers would always stop me to talk. (Like I had the time for that) If they didn’t stop to talk to you, you would hear them talking about you. I had two girls which opened up the whole can of worms about when I was having my boy blah blah blah. Even worse, my twins are fraternal and look nothing alike, but still people would ask me how in the world I told them apart. I would always say, one has blue eyes and blonde hair and the other has brown eyes and brown hair- and leave it at that. Exasperating really the ignorance of others. Your best defense when in public with infant or toddler twins is to not make eye contact with anyone. If you make eye contact you are going to get stopped. Move through the store, park or wherever it is you are without engaging or inviting anyone to talk to you. Of course in the early beginning you are so proud, but trust me it gets very annoying.
For the kid’s sake, don’t dress them alike. One set of twins I know is in 5th grade and they still dress the same except for wearing different color hair bows. They are the butt of many jokes and don’t even know it. Twins means two, not all in one.
Regardless of how difficult it is to take them out you need to practice doing it as soon as you can. If you stay holed up in the house like a prisoner you will lose your mind and your twins will never be able to act right in public or make it through a dinner out. My twins were exceptional ride alongs and even better shoppers. Never let fear stop you from trying to take your twins out of the house all by yourself. It is possible and it can be a lot of fun.
Growing up Twins
Eventually it will be time for your twins to start school. Pediatricians, teachers and administrators will start beginning to talk to you about grooming them for independence. Your twins will eventually be independent creatures no matter what you or anyone else does. Use you own judgment. My kids were separated initially as I fell to the pressure from the outside world. Unfortunately it didn’t work and they were overly stressed and tense without each other. Once they were together again in class things were smooth. Teachers even commented that you wouldn’t even know they were sisters let alone twins unless someone told them. Twins are not a disruption and although many twins may thrive apart, some thrive together; so keep an open mind and stick to your guns. Laws in my state were recently changed stating that it was acceptable for twins to be classed together beyond 1st grade. Another word to the wise, when the homework starts coming, it is much easier as a parent to keep up with one set of rules and one teacher than it is two.
Here’s the other thing. Sometimes the children will begin to develop different interests and then us parents (at least I did) monopolize their choices and make them both do the same thing. One may want to play basketball and the other gymnastics. We figure since we are going to be at the ball field anyways, perhaps they both should sign up. Big no no! The kids will resent that type of thinking and it will breed competition. If they want the same, fine; but if they crave their own niche allow them to have it. The other mistake I made is constantly referring to one as bigger. She was taller and bigger from birth. Now that they are 11, I rarely tell people they are twins because when I do people always comment on their size; still. This is not optimal for an 11 year old girl who gets used to being known as the ‘bigger’ one. I know what people meant, but it has harmed the confidence of my daughter in the long run.
I have learned about twins from having them. Being a twin means competing quite a bit on a subconscious level that most people don’t understand. They constantly are watching someone else and even as babies are devising ways to one up the other. My girls tell me that having a twin is exhausting. Friends, family and other people in the world have unreasonable expectations of them and they often have a hard time finding their own friends and their own place in life. You think of one, you immediately think of the other. For eons my family referred to them as ‘the girls’ rather than by name. By the time they were 8 or 9 they were not afraid to share their dissatisfaction with that and it was easy to see how hurtful and damaging it can be to an individual to always be treated as a twin. Probably one of the reasons they fight so much.
I can say with certainty that I am no expert on twins. What I am, is someone who has been through the mostly ups and the sometimes downs that having children brings. With twins in most cases you get two kids sick at once, two mouths to feed, two personalities to learn about, two sets of problems at the same time, twice the need for money, twice the amount of needed space, twice the toys and clothes and twice the stress. But you also get twice the love, two kids for one pregnancy, and a built in best friend and play mate for your child which is one of the things that makes having twins delightful. Twins share something that is completely unique and special and as you watch them grow up you are witnessing a real miracle
Much of how we feel about our twins or about having twins comes from a totally external environment. If you have them, or are pregnant with them allow yourself the same leniency as you would in a single pregnancy. The perception initially may be that it is double the trouble, but I can say it is not. The earlier years have so far been the easiest. Now that they are preteen, it seems that it is more difficult to provide the level of individualized attention that they crave and need. Once a week I take one out to dinner or lunch without the other. It’s a wonderful experience that breeds some jealousy at home, but truly enables them to shine on their own. My twins have grown apart many times and yet they seem to always find each other when the need arises. It is a nice feeling to know that you child is out in this world, totally equipped with a best friend that has their back and looks out for them.
I can’t lie and say that having twins is a breeze or that it is no different that just having one. It is like comparing apples and oranges. But having twins does offer parents a very special gift into the development of a child. When you watch two kids raised in exactly the same environment, yet become totally different you are able to see just how little our parenting style affects personality. I think the most wonderful thing that I learned through my twins is that when a child comes in, they are different and destined to live their own traits and have their own identity. Little we do can inhibit that, but much we do can damage that. With twins the fine line is realizing very early on that although you have two, you also have two entirely different people.
If you have twins and you are having a stressful day….then just try to remember that you really were blessed with a wonderful gift and that someone, somewhere must truly believe that not only are you deserving, but equipped to handle it. You were especially chosen to be the mother of twins.