A twin will often care more about the approval of their twin than they will about the approval of a parent. As a parent of twins, I know this to be completely true. In my case, replace “often” with “nearly always.” As one can imagine, this makes twins difficult to parent. However, the benefits of parenting twins far outway the negative. It is exciting and novel and never boring. Not even for a second. Not even if you wish it would be.
Perhaps you adopted your sweet babies. Perhaps your twins were conceived as a result of fertility treatments. Perhaps twins run in your family (this is only possible with fraternal twins from the mother’s side). Perhaps (like me) you had one fertilized egg that split while developing, thus resulting in spontaneous identical twins and the most surprising news you will ever hear, “you are expecting twins!” Perhaps your partner was so surprised by this news that he went into a state of shock and remembers nothing about the ultrasound he was in the room to witness. However your twins came about, it is something that you get used to but never really get over. I still have moments when I cannot believe that I have twins.
One such moment was recently, as we were getting ready for swimming lessons. The doors to the change room open about five minutes before the lessons are to start. I suppose that this is enough time to get one child ready, but with two I really struggle. My boys are six years old now, old enough to do many things on their own, but they still need my assistance with their swim cap, their goggles, and with staying on task. Add my other son who needs constant supervision to the mix, and we are consistently the last in the pool even though we arrive early. This experience made me think of all the times I was doing twice the work of friends with one baby but didn’t even realize it. Obviously, this extra time needed becomes your norm, and you are not forced to think about it until you are under extreme time constraints.
There are also baby classes that you will miss out on. With my oldest son, a singleton, we did many playgroups, swimming, and all sorts of activities that I could not participate in on my own with two babies. Not because I could not handle it, but because I literally was not allowed to participate in something like swimming with one parent and two babies. I wore my oldest quite a bit on walks and outings, I never wore the twins. I know that people do babywearing with multiples, but I could not figure out how to make it work and safely run after an active two year old.
Not being able to participate in as many activities allowed me to figure out what I ACTUALLY like to do with my children. It is not playgroups. Our favourite outings are parks, walks, hikes, and playdates with friends whom we enjoy. We like music and art and being creative whenever possible. We became more focused as a family, and I started to feel an increase of peace and joy in the simplicity of our day to day life. This has been a wonderful gift for us all. Once you let go of competition and the trap of busyness, you can really enjoy your life as a parent.
Accept all the help
When my twins were newborns, I needed help. I am not someone who enjoys asking for help as I am very independent/stubborn and used to living far away from family. The twin pregnancy was complicated, the boys suffered from TTTS (twin to twin transfusion syndrome), which is common among babies sharing a placenta. Because of this, I had extra doctor’s appointments and scans. Just shy of 34 weeks, it was clear that we would need an emergency C section to ensure the survival of the babies. One of my sons only spent one night in NICU (neonatal intensive care unit), one spent over two weeks.
As I was recovering from surgery, caring for a newborn, caring for a two year old, and travelling back and forth between the hospital and home to be with my other newborn, I was pragmatic enough to understand that we needed someone at our home actively helping us. I invited four women whom I trust and love to come visit us for a week at a time during this period. I also had my father-in-law staying with us in the weeks up to and directly following the births of the twins. I could not have survived without these people. I am forever grateful for their service to us!
Don’t be afraid to ask for help! A multiple pregnancy is considered a high risk pregnancy. Even if everything goes as planned, you will be exhausted. Remember that newborns need to eat about every three hours and multiply that by two. Plus the burping, laundry, baths, and don’t forget that you will have to eat and bathe yourself. Multiply everything by two, including your depleted energy level and your love for these new little people. Your heart will grow like the Grinch on Christmas Eve and all the work will be worth it.
I am fortunate that I did not experience postpartum depression although I do feel like my anxiety was heightened at this point. Talk about how you are feeling and seek help for this as well. You are the most important person in the world to your babies, so treat yourself accordingly!
Getting help and getting though the newborn period with twins made me feel like superwoman. Think about it, if you can do this, you can do anything. Be proud of yourself and your accomplishments! Celebrate your babies and yourself.
I often hear people say that silent toddlers are likely up to no good. In my case, it was (and still is) laughter that signalled trouble. When my twins were busy dumping out boxes of cereal, playing in the toilet, cracking eggs all over the house, throwing spaghetti in their bedroom, dismantling their beds, climbing into each other’s cribs, drawing on the wall… they were most certainly laughing! My stern voice or negative consequences did very little to deter them from engaging in naughty behaviour, because they were much more interested in their brother’s laughter and approval. One of the only “punishments” that works is to separate the boys.
If I take one of the twins on an outing or to the store, they come home and want to see their twin right away. They think of each other while they are out and talk about their twin. When one of them is out with their dad it is the same. They come home wanting to see their twin, not their mom (I think I am usually second place). At first this hurt my feelings, but I have come to understand and respect the bond that they have with each other. It is a beautiful rare thing, and when they are not misbehaving I encourage it wholeheartedly.
A major benefit to having twins is that they have their best friend with them at all times. My boys have never once asked to have a friend from school over to play. Sometimes I even offer, incase it just has not occurred to them that they could. They are completely besotted with each other and happily play together literally all the time (with a few squabbles thrown in but quickly forgiven). It’s wonderful and makes my parenting life a lot easier. I have a theory that twins are always having more fun than the rest of us, and so far my research has shown this to be true.
Two times the joy!
Overall, I find raising twins to be a beautiful gift. I did not ever dream of having twins, but now I cannot imagine my life without them. They bring so much fun and energy to our home. They take care of each other and their older brother (who is lovely and autistic and definitely more challenging than twins). If you are expecting twins or lucky enough to have twins in your home, please let me congratulate you, because you are in for a lifetime of two times the joy.