Lessons from a Twin Mom
As my twin boys approach their third birthday, I can certainly say it’s been a true adventure. There have been days where I’ve been so proud of having figured out some great twin Mom parenting hack, followed by days where I have felt clueless and lost. There have been (many) days where I have burst into tears from frustration only to find myself, minutes later, laughing uncontrollably from how sweet and silly they can be with each other. No matter how tough the day has been, every night before I go to bed, I sneak into their room to watch them sleeping side by side. I am so grateful for the experience and know that I wouldn’t change anything for the world.
Here are some things I’ve learned along the way over the last three years that worked for us. And I’m still learning each and every day . . .
It’s okay to ask for help
This goes for the newborn stage, as well as the toddler stage. In the early months, with two babies needing to be fed and changed every three hours if not more, you seriously will have very little time for anything else if you do it all yourself- at most 1.5 hours between feeds. So if you can have family or friends or some paid help, take advantage of it. Otherwise you will burn out.
For some, asking for help can feel like a sign of weakness. All moms need support. Asking for and accepting help is a good way to take care of yourself. Give yourself permission to attend to your needs. You deserve it.
You don’t have to do everything - neither does your partner
Along the same lines as the above . . . I know many parents of singletons where both Mom and Dad get up for same the night-time feedings- or perhaps one feeds the baby, and then the other parent changes the baby’s diaper and gets them back to sleep. With twins, I would recommend taking turns. In the middle of the night, we never both woke up to each fed one baby- we would alternate feeding both so each of us would have the opportunity to sleep for a few hours uninterrupted. Granted, I was pumping, not nursing, so this was possible. But the same idea can be applied to other situations.
Even now, we usually alternate days of the week for early wake ups so that each person can have a little bit of a break. If we’re both home, we often do bedtime together because we want to, but there are plenty of nights that only one of us does so that the other one can either work a little later if needed or do something social with friends.
Adjust your expectations (maybe)
If you asked me the year before I got pregnant, I envisioned a natural birth and nursing my baby for a year. But one of my twins was breach and in distress, and I ended up having a C-section. My twins were 6 weeks early and in the NICU, one for a month. I didn’t imagine leaving the hospital by myself and coming home without my babies. Initially, I wasn’t allowed to breastfeed because they were too small and hadn’t yet developed the suck/swallow reflex, so I started pumping. Ultimately, though I tried to transition them to breastfeeding, I continued pumping and bottle feeding, supplementing with formula when I needed to. Sure, I was disappointed that it didn’t go as planned, but rather than lamenting over it, I learned to focus on the positive. I ultimately did bring home two healthy babies and I gave birth to them in the safest way possible. I fed them and nourished them in way that worked for all of us.
I applaud the twin Moms out there who do have vaginal births and tandem nurse - you are truly incredible. And I also applaud the twin moms who had to adjust their birth plans and feeding expectations, as I did, but know that they are doing a great job anyway. And for the twin Moms who go into birth and feeding open-minded, saying they’ll go with the flow and see how it goes, you really do have it all figured out.
The same mindset is true as your twins get older. As a twin mom, you must be nimble and take it one day, or hour, at a time. There are many times when I would try to do an outing or go out to lunch with a mom friend and my twins, and I just had to accept that I had twice the chance of a meltdown as a mom with one baby. So sometimes I had to leave, and rather than getting disappointed, I try to just accept it for what it is.
You may be calmer than you would be with a singleton
This may seem counterintuitive, but for me, it was true. The busyness of the first year (or the “deer in headlights” feeling when both were crying simultaneously) quickly changed some of my perfectionist Type A tendencies. It dispelled me of the expectation that I would always be able to hold each twin when he was crying. If I was feeding one, I couldn’t rock the other to sleep.
Even as very little infants, they had to learn to wait and share. I didn’t have time to make homemade baby food all the time, and I didn’t feel guilty. I had to learn not to hold myself up to unrealistic expectations of what it meant to be a good mom in order to actually be one.
And once they became toddlers, I learned not to stress over the constant state of disarray in my house. There’s usually spilled milk, cheerios, random puzzle pieces, books, art supplies and articles of toddler clothing in most rooms of the house on any given day. I braved parks, supermarkets, stores, libraries, and museums by myself with two very rambunctious boys often running in to different directions.
My husband and I endured uncomfortable glances and occasionally comments while on planes with our very loud twins (and I only cried once in flight). Yes, I did try feeding him and I know it might be his ears. Thanks. When friends or family members comment about how cool and collected I am in the face of this chaos, I simply think as a twin mom, you have no choice.
Respect your twins as individuals
Your twins are their own unique people and should be thought of as such. I try hard not to always see them as a pair. I dress them differently (unless it’s for a cute photo op) and try to foster their own identities and nurture their individual preferences, even if it’s as simple as what color they prefer for an outfit or toy. I attempt to do one-on-one time with each of them once a week, even if it’s just running an errand, and my husband and I try to take them on individual “dates” when we can.
Strangers will say the most invasive things to you
At the top of the list are:
“Are they natural?”
“Do twins run in your family?”
“Did you want/try for twins?”
“Were you hoping for one boy and one girl?”
But the list goes on. People are not as concerned with how someone conceived a singleton. I suggest planned responses.
On the other hand, you probably also get more than two times the cute baby comments when out. Twin are just that magnetic.
It gets easier, then harder again, then easier again
Some twin Moms ask, “When does it get easier?” It gets different, but I’ve found that twin parenting ebbs and flows. The newborn phase with it’s frenetic feeding schedule and lack of sleep is really challenging. But then there’s a lull when your babies (and you) develop a rhythm and hopefully start sleeping for longer stretches, and you can breathe a sigh of relief.
But then there are other tough periods, like sleep training and potty training simultaneously, or two-year-old tantrums times two, and the constant competition for attention that can start as early as late infancy. We have some weeks that are relatively calm, and then other weeks that are more trying. But even during the tougher weeks, there are so many beautiful moments to appreciate.
You will miss out on a few things but embrace so many more
There are times when I just couldn’t hack a toddler class I wanted to try with two kids. And maybe I didn’t wear my baby as much as I would have the first year because I always needed to bring a stroller anyway. And during the first few months, I feel like I missed some of the quiet cuddles of a baby sleeping on me because after a feeding, I would often have to put down Twin 1 and switch to feed Twin 2. So yes, there are a few things you miss.
But when I see the boys laugh at a joke that only they understand, or when I stand outside their bedroom at night and I hear them chatting and singing to each other, I am in awe of their bond. The first time they hugged each other unsolicited and said, “I love you brother,” was an affirmation that this roller coaster ride was all worth it.
They are so lucky to have each other, and I am so lucky to have them. Over the years, you will watch the beautiful bond between your twins grow and develop, and we as twin parents are so lucky to get to be part of something so magical.