Twins? Or more?
The discovery of being pregnant with multiples can be quite a shock, even if you knew your chances of twins (or more) was higher than normal – if it “runs in the family”, for example, or you had an assisted conception.
Often accompanying the shock is the anxiety and a multitude of questions…
- will I make it to full term?
- can I have a vaginal birth?
- how am I going to look after two (or more) babies at once?
- how are we going to afford this?
- will I be able to go back to work?
- do I need to buy two or more of everything?
- how is this going to affect my existing children?
- do we have to buy another car and move house?
When expecting multiples so many things change, your due date changes – if you are having twins usually 38 weeks is considered full term, 36 weeks for triplets and 34 weeks for quads. Mothers have extra check-ups, extra scans and particularly, if having identical twins/triplets/more, even more scans and monitoring.
So what do you do?
- research, asking all these questions and many more of your health care providers
- get support – from your partner, family, friends and support groups (see links below)
- read about what to expect when you bring your babies home
- do not be afraid to ask for help
And when it’s time to bring them home
Bringing one baby home from hospital is overwhelming but very little prepares you for having two at once.
“Bringing one baby home from hospital is overwhelming; bringing two home is twice as overwhelming. And if twin mums had a dollar for every singleton mother who said ‘My kids are 15 months apart, it’s just like twins’ (a crazy comment to which I always reply ‘No … twins are born at the same time’) then we’d be wealthy enough to stop whinging about double the expense. Very little prepares you for having two babies at once.
Mothers who already have a child, or children, have different challenges compared to first-time mothers who don’t have any experience feeding and settling one baby, let alone two. First-time mums with twins enter motherhood with an enormous bang – adjusting to motherhood as well as adjusting to being the mother of two. But, as a first-time mother with twins myself, I liked to tell people, ‘At least I didn’t know any different’.
Here are four ways to help adjust to life with twins
1. Find yourself a strong support network
It’s important to establish good support systems. First port of call is usually family and close friends. They can be invaluable to help with chores, errands or just an extra pair of hands when you have two babies to settle.
One thing you quickly realise, though, when you have twins is that, despite their best intentions, mothers of singletons really cannot understand what you’re going through. To chat with other mothers of twins you can get in touch with the Australian Multiple Birth Association (AMBA) – they can help you find your local club, where you’re put in touch with experienced twin mothers and mothers with twins of the same age.
In hospital with newborn twins, mothers get a lot of attention from staff. In my situation, I wasn’t ‘allowed’ to leave hospital until I was breastfeeding my twins properly and, because I became engorged and couldn’t feed for a couple of days, I had a team of nurses massaging my breasts around the clock! Then, when things were back to normal again, I had another team of nurses helping me attach my boys. It was a struggle. I found that no sooner do you attach one baby, then simply moving your arm to pick up the other would make the first baby come off! Ten days later we left the hospital, feeling more confident – but there was a feeling of being all alone after getting so much help in hospital. That’s where having other twin mothers around me really helped.
2. Don’t be scared to ask for help
While many twin mums love being thought of as a ‘supermum’ – don’t try and be a superwoman. It’s not always easy to ask for help but swallow your pride and, if you need it, ask – even if it means asking a neighbour to pick up milk and bread. I know a woman who put her entire street (a small cul de sac!) on a roster, with some people cooking, others helping with housework and others just being an extra pair of hands to hold one baby while mum was busy with the other.
The amount of help you get in those frantic early weeks can make a big difference between enjoying this amazing experience, or looking back on it with a shudder and groan.
3. Make a plan with your husband/partner
Some women are blessed with very hands-on partners – others have to literally beg their partners to change a nappy. If possible, expectant twin mums should plan ahead and discuss who will be doing which chores when the babies arrive. One person can take over in the kitchen while the other looks after the housework. One person can be in charge of bathing the babies – most twin parents I meet say that a big advantage in having twins is that their partners had no excuse not to change a nappy! It’s also important to get a little bit of time to yourself, even if it’s the time taken to soak in a bath.
4. Try to establish a routine
Contrary to popular belief, twins do not do everything at the same time! In a perfect world they’d sleep at the same time – for the same amount of time – soil their nappies at the same time and feel hungry at the same time. Of course this isn’t the case. But, as impossible as it seems, getting them into the same – or similar – routine is do-able. When one baby wakes for a feed, it’s often wise to wake the other baby, so that their tummies will be ‘full’ at the same time.
However, whether you’re breast or bottle feeding, it’s not always easy to feed a sleepy baby who might not be interested in a feed. Many twin mums struggle with the dilemma of having a larger/hungrier twin who sleeps well between feeds, versus a smaller/less-hungry twin who doesn’t sleep well between feeds. For me, it was a lot of trial and error. There are no easy answers and everyone’s situation is different.
And finally, some tips for family and friends
- be supportive and listen to your friend/relative and try to resist saying ‘I know someone who had twins …’
- phone before you visit and accept it might not be a suitable time when you want to visit
- instead of cuddling a baby, wash some dishes, take over a freeze and reheat friendly meal or babysit or take the other children in the house out for a few hours
- be sure to address multiples by their names instead of using the phrase ‘the twins’, ‘the triplets’ etc. Multiples are individuals.
- separate gifts and cards for birthdays.
- try very hard not to compare multiples against each other.
– this article written on behalf of the Australian Multiple Birth Association