So, you’re pregnant with twins. Or maybe you just had twins and are in a newborn haze. As a mother of almost 2 year old boy/girl twins as well as a daughter who is less than two years older, I’m here to set you straight. Let me clear up some misconceptions that you might have about what life will be like raising 2 (or more!) young children at once.
You will not feel like this forever
Of course the first few weeks with multiple newborns will be brutal. Of course having multiples is harder than having a single baby. Of course you will feel exhausted and overwhelmed at times. However, you will not feel like this forever. In fact, things will probably feel much easier by the time your babies are 3-4 months and will probably continue to improve from there. Even during the hardest times, there are plenty of ways to make things easier on yourself and your partner.
You will feel like your old self again
When I was pregnant with my twins and when they were newborns I can’t count how many adults (none of whom had twins or triplets) told me how hard things must be for me. They told me that they prayed that their baby (or child) wouldn’t be twins. They told me that they feel sorry for me. If only I had a twin mom mentor of sorts to tell me that I WOULD feel like my old self again. I WOULD have time alone with myself and with my husband. I WOULD get back to sleeping full nights. I WOULD have a social life. Let me be the one to let you know that you’ve got this. I promise. Just keep reading and take my advice.
Here are the 6 biggest misconceptions about having twins:
- You won’t have any alone time with your partner. Obviously as parents of twins (especially in the newborn phase), you’re not going to have as much couple time as you did when you first started dating. You probably won’t spend Sundays snuggling on the couch and reading the newspaper. However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t make time to focus on each other. When the babies are tiny, this could mean taking a long stroller walk together a few times each week. As they get a bit older, it might mean having dinner alone (no cell phones or TV allowed!) while the kids are asleep. As long as you have your twins (and siblings) on a schedule, there will be predictable time slots for the two of you. Try planning a standing “date night” every week where you put the kids to sleep, eat take out and share cocktails or a bottle of wine. To take things up a notch, plan a monthly date night out or an overnight (or multiple night) trip with just the two of you. If you have helpful family who are willing to babysit, TAKE ADVANTAGE! If you don’t and can afford it, hire a responsible high school or college student to watch the kids for a few hours each month. Never feel guilty about leaving your kids for a date or a trip. By taking care of your relationship, you’re giving yourself and your partner the strength to be better, more patient parents and also setting a good example of what a healthy relationship looks like.
- You’ll never get back to your pre-pregnancy weight after carrying multiple babies. Being a pretty active person for most of my adult life, this is something that I definitely worried about when I was pregnant with my twins. I don’t feel like myself if I’m not exercising. To make things worse, I was put on bed rest at 18 weeks pregnant. The good news is that 21 months after giving birth, I am actually 10 lbs below my pre-pregnancy weight. I don’t have a nanny, a personal trainer, or a nutritionist. I didn’t do any popular diet, take pills, or do a complicated workout regime. I lost the weight by doing only 2 things: counting calories and tracking what I ate (using MyFitnessPal) and tracking my steps (with an $18 pedometer, then a Fitbit). Obviously those two things wouldn’t work for everyone but I do think that everyone can find a way to be healthy that fits their lifestyle. My advice is to find a way to be active that you like and that you can realistically stick to. If you’re a morning person (or can adjust to being one), wake up for a walk or workout DVD early in the morning before the kids get up. If you do better at night, work out in the evening after the kids go to bed or when your partner can watch them. If you’re home during the day, join a gym that has childcare. Even many inexpensive gyms have childcare facilities where you can leave your little ones for an hour or so! Note: It might take your twins a few weeks to get used to the childcare facility, especially if they’re toddlers. Bring them as many days as possible, even if it’s just for a short time, for 2-3 weeks and I promise they’ll become comfortable there. (This advice goes for babysitters and preschool too!) One last point is that, yes, your body will probably look a little different after giving birth (tummy not as tight, smaller or larger bra size), but it’s still possible to be healthy and to get your body into a shape that you feel proud of!
- You will break the bank buying two of everything. There are tons of baby items that you either don’t need two of, or that you don’t need at all! Things that are really not essential: wipes warmer, bottle warmer, glider, baby bath, and expensive baby bedding. Some examples of things that you’ll only need one of: travel crib (since you won’t be using it very often, borrow the 2nd from a friend. Better yet, pair up with another twin mom and borrow from each other), baby monitor (You can buy one monitor with two cameras or buy a second camera used. Just make sure it’s compatible!), nursing pillow (buy a double nursing pillow, like Twin Z, that can be used for nursing both babies at once or for a resting place for both babies), and zip-up sleepers (even if you have boy/girl twins, I highly recommend buying designs that either gender can wear so you can grab and dress quickly over the first few months). For items like swings and rockers, either buy used or let your babies try it at a friend’s house first. Different babies respond well to different soothers so you could spend a ton of money on something that one or both babies hate.In terms of items that you do need more than one of, there are so many ways to save money. Buy generic brand diapers, wipes and formula. Borrow as much as you can from friends, search Craigslist and local Buy/Sell/Trade pages for free and cheap items, buy items that can be used for more than one purpose, and buy from stores that offer a twin discount (see TLC’s list from our Expecting Twins class). Pay it forward buy selling or giving away your baby items when you’re finished with them!
- You will never have a full night of sleep again. Let me disclaim by saying that this one is a little bit sticky because my twins are only 21 months so I have yet to switch them to actual beds. I know this will be crazy and I’ll probably lose a few nights of sleep, but I figure they’ve got to start sleeping again by the time they’re in high school, right? The time period that I CAN speak for is 3.5 months until the twins move to toddler beds (which I was able to hold off until almost 3 years old with my daughter). Even this will probably be comforting for you new parents who are barely sleeping at all right now!Speaking of the newborn phase, there are ways to get a respectable amount of sleep even from the beginning. Besides following Harvey Karp’s tips from his book “Happiest Baby on the Block” (rent the DVD from the library!), I highly recommend pumping as much as you have time for so that you can delegate at least one feeding per day to someone else. My husband and I created “shifts” where he was in charge of feeding and soothing both babies every night from 7pm- midnight and I was in charge from midnight until 6 the next morning. We were able to do this even when he was back at work. Because he would feed the babies right before putting them down at 11:30, I was usually able to get solid sleep from about 7- 1:30 or 2am and then some spotty sleep between then and the next morning. 6.5- 7 hours of sleep feels pretty great when you’re in the busiest stage with your babies!
Once your babies are 4.5 months or so, you can sleep train them. If you choose to do this, double check with your pediatrician first. Once you get the okay, it should only take about 1 week to have both babies sleeping 11-12 hours consecutively. I’ve sleep trained all of my 3 kids and it has worked perfectly until they reach about 3 years old. From there, you can find books like “1,2,3 Magic” that cover issues that come up. Many parents also swear by hiring a Sleep Consultant who has experience with multiples.
- You can say goodbye to your social life. This might be the biggest of the misconceptions. I’m not saying that you’re going to have the SAME social life that you had pre-twins (you probably won’t be staying out until 1am dancing, then stopping for greasy diner food on the way home). What I will say, though, is that having multiples opens the door for conversations with all kinds of people as well as an instant connection with other parents of multiples. When you’re out in public with your littles, you will have people stopping you left and right to tell you that you’re a “superhero” or that it “looks like you have your hands full.” 99% of the time, these people are just being friendly and have good intentions. I’ve ended up having conversations with twin moms and dads who are now in their 80’s as well as teenagers who just want to tell me how cute my babies are. I’ve even made a few friends (without twins) who originally started chatting with me after seeing my twins. Besides all of this, I highly recommend joining your local Parents of Multiples group. I became close with many of the moms in my group during our weekly stroller walks (most of us in a sleepless daze) with our newborn twin babies. It’s so nice to have someone to talk to who’s going through the same thing as you. Before my twins, I was commuting 3 hours to work every day and hadn’t made any new friends in the suburb that I’d moved to when I was pregnant with my oldest. Now that my twins are 21 months, I know tons of parents here.
- You’ll never get out of the house. I’m definitely not saying that getting out of the house with twins (plus more siblings) is easy, but it’s absolutely doable and so important! Being home alone with little ones all day, every day and be isolating. It’s so important to get out even if it’s just for a change of scenery! After reading this, make sure you check out Joanna’s blog post called “Going Out With Twins in Tow.” For the first few weeks your babies shouldn’t be in public places or around other children because of risk of getting sick before their vaccinations. During this time, you can still take them for walks outdoors or meet up with friends at a park. You can also run out between feedings (if you’re breastfeeding) or have a partner or relative bottle feed the babies. Getting out of the house alone, even if it’s just for a trip to the grocery store, will make you feel so much more like your old self! Once the babies are a little older, you can take them to run errands with you (bonus if they’re good stroller/car sleepers!). I used to leave my house with my twins every day from 9-12 when they were tiny because it was the easiest way for me to get them to nap. I walked with other twin moms, went shopping, sometimes I even drove aimlessly while eating a treat in the car. Once the babies become active toddlers, make sure that you keep using the stroller for as long as possible and as frequently as possible so that they’re used to it. The stroller will be the best way to keep them safely contained. The last, and possibly most important, piece of advice, always plan to be ready to leave the house about 20 minutes before you actually need to leave! Worst case scenario, you’ll only be a few minutes late and best case scenario, you’re ready early and can relax for a bit before having to leave.
This too shall pass
So as you can see, this probably won’t be the easiest and most fun year of your life, but with a little bit of planning, it can be manageable. And if all else fails and you’re sitting up at 3am with 2 screaming babies, covered in spit up and poop and tears begin to fall from your own eyes, just remember the most important fact of all: EVERYTHING is a phase and this too shall pass! Oh, and there’s always wine!
About the Author
Allison Merriman MA, TLC’s San Francisco Associate, is a licensed Literacy Specialist as well as mother to 3.5 year old Evelyn and 1.5 year old twins, Abby and Jack. Her passion has always been working to support young children, beginning as a camp counselor and nanny (to identical twin boys!) and continuing on to become an elementary school teacher and Literacy Specialist, coaching parents and educators on how to best teach children to develop a love for reading, writing and language. You can contact Alli at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information about our services in San Francisco.