Third Wheel?

Our twins were our first kids, unplanned for and unexpected. On days when I cannot meet my work deadlines and haven’t showered in three days and the girls are refusing to eat and my house smells suspiciously like something has died in the heating ducts, the idea of getting pregnant again seems quite laughable. But on other days, it seems a little less terrifying than it used to. And some days, when my 20 month-old girls are giggling hysterically and keeping themselves entertained, the idea of getting pregnant again is actually kind of enticing.

I know a lot of people who had one child and then had twins. Or they had several children and then had twins. And in those families, the non-twins all seem completely level-headed and happy. But I wonder if a younger child growing up in the shadow of older twins might feel, well, like a third wheel. And then I think, well, if we have a third, we should probably have a fourth, so that he/she doesn’t feel that way…and it feels sort of funny to be thinking so far ahead about bearing a child just so another one won’t feel left out.

I’m curious about the experiences of other MOMS who have had another child after having multiples, especially if the multiples were your first children. Obviously you can try to ensure that your youngest child is included and doesn’t feel left out, but I imagine that having older identical twin sisters, as would be the case for any new child that I might have, would at times feel lonely, what with having no twin of your own. Have any of you found that be true? What have you done to help the non-multiples in your family not feel left out?

To be sure, the idea of having a singleton after having twins is very attractive. When the girls were young I used to day dream about breastfeeding only one baby and hearing the cries of only one baby. Did you all find raising singletons to be that much easier than your multiples? What was different about having one baby at a time versus two or three (or four?)

16 thoughts on “Third Wheel?

  1. I’m a DOM instead of a MOM, but one huge factor that my wife and I considered… if you conceive twins naturally that shows that you have some tendency toward twins and you have a MUCH higher chance of conceiving twins again than the average couple.

    Personally, I recommend that you wait until they are at least 4-5 before making up your mind about a new baby. All the twin to twin play time ours had at 2 years old turned into fighting, pushing, and tattling at 3. I’m interested to see how it evolves now that they are approaching 4.

  2. My twins were a month shy of 2 when my youngest was born. She was not planned. We always said that we MAY want a 3rd, but if the time came to actually make the decision, I don’t think we ever would have done it. But she’s here and she’s awesome.

    My pregnancy was harder, believe it or not. I got preeclampsia again, milder than with my twins, but I had to sit on the couch a LOT, and being pregnant while caring for 2 not yet 2 year olds was hard. They were not in MDO at the time so there were some long days. My c-section recovery was almost twice as long as well.

    The time in the hospital with just one baby? Awesome. Breastfeeding just one baby, even in the middle of the night? No biggie. It was the dynamic of the 3 of them that was hard: the baby waking and needing to be fed JUST as I sat the big girls down for lunch. I learned to nurse and cut oranges simultaneously.

    I don’t think she gets lonely just yet. At 19 months, she tries so hard to be like them and join in their fun. I remind them to pay attention to her when she’s obviously trying to join in or trying to get their attention. It will definitely be interesting to see how the three of them grow up together. I imagine having identical twin older sisters will be a hard shoe to fill, but I don’t want her to feel like she has to fill ANY shoe.

  3. Oh, and in response to W’s comment, if your twins are identical, you have on greater chance of conceiving twins again than you did the first time, unless your age is a factor, since the chances of conceiving fraternal twins increases with age. Identicals are luck of the draw, as I’m sure you know. It’s not unheard of to have another set, but I wouldn’t worry too much about it. The age at which you decide to try again is completely up to you. Was it hard to have twins and a baby 2 years apart? Absolutely, but the hard part is short compared to the years that they’ll have being close in age.

  4. Yeah, Leigh Ann, that’s kid of my thinking — that things are so crazy now anyway, I may as well introduce any new children I might have now, and then, perhaps, enjoy some slightly increased level of peace once a new kid is, say, 5 and the twins are 7 or 8 and everyone is in school during the day. But who knows, maybe like W recommends, having 5 year-old twins around to help entertain and maybe even help care for a newborn or toddler might be really nice. Though my girls already fight a lot, so I can’t imagine it’s going to get much worse (famous last words)…

  5. I had my baby #3 when my twins were 20 months old. So far, things have been terrific. He is now 13 months old (the twins will be 3 in November) and they play surprisingly well together. Actually, I think my sons (one of the twins and baby #3) will be very close – they are so cute together, two peas in a pod.

    Obviously, the age difference between your twins and a third baby would be bigger but I don’t think that’s such a big deal. My brother was the 4th child and the only boy. My sisters and I were very close in age (all just one year apart) but I don’t think he felt left out. And if he did, I think he was glad to avoid the drama! Us girls were always fighting with each other :)

  6. I am a MOM (my boys are 16 months old) and am planning to try for our third soon. (and we hope to have a fourth as well) However, I am also the third child in a family with twins. I have older brothers who are fraternal twins. They are 4 1/2 years older than I am.

    I think I did get lonely sometimes as my brothers had each other to play with and I didn’t. But it also meant I had more one on one time with my parents. I also think a lot of the loneliness was less because they were twins and more because of the age difference. We had nothing in common until we were much older and the age difference was no big deal (ie when I was in high school/college).

    Maybe it was because I was a girl and they were boys, but all in all it was ok. Vacations my brothers either went off on their own (as they were older) or did crazy stuff with my mom (ie roller coasters I wasn’t old enough for yet) while I spent time with my dad. Or my brothers stayed with my dad I went off with my mom to do girl stuff. I’m sure my parents worked hard to ensure the one on one time and I think they did a great job.

  7. Our identical girls will be 30 months when we have our new baby, in November. This baby was planned, and what Bonza said is exactly what we were thinking — let’s have a CRAZY few years, then everything will settle down again! Plus, we want all of our children to be close in age. As for the singleton feeling included, we plan to treat all of our children like our children, not “the twins and the other one”. We will have the same expectations for inclusiveness and friendship for all of them.

  8. I had my singleton first (a boy). When he was 5 years old, I gave birth to my twins (boys). Having 3 kids is more than we ever bargained for, as the twins were a “surprise”. Whatever you decide, please consider this advice: when the kids outnumber the parents, the stress increases on the finite resources of time and finances in ways you may not expect. I find it very hard to divide my attention between 3 kids! If I started with twins as my first born, I would have been DONE.

  9. My daughter was born when my boys were 21 months old. It was tough at times, but they loved her so much and now they all play pretty well together. There are times where she is left out, but she also goes off on her own to play. I think she prefers it sometimes. Right now she has the option to sleep in the same room as her big brothers, but wants to stay in her room with baby brother (who is 18 months younger than her). I say, have them close in age. Then they’ll play so much better together. There will be tough times and fighting, but that goes with the territory.

  10. I’ve got 2 1/2 year old identical boys and a 15 month old girl…also not exactly planned. Knew I wanted my kids to be close, but I wasn’t thinking THAT close. I joke that my husband and I must have passed in the hall and I got pregnant with our daughter! Having them close in age has been great fun so far. HOWEVER, because of the male/female breakdown I think I got really lucky in that regard. The boys are really protective of their “baby” sister and she will always be special as the only girl and the youngest (had some complications with this pregnancy that prevent me from having any more.) I think whatever you choose, as long as you make an effort to treat everyone as an individual, your kids will be well-adjusted and happy. You might go nuts (I know I am!), but that’s another story…

  11. My twin girls were three years old, almost exactly, when their baby sister was born. She is 16 months old now. I love it. Being pregnant was exhausting, with twins to take care of, of course. But having one newborn and twin toddlers was easier for me than having two newborns. Nursing one baby…awesome. Waking up with only one baby was so easy, my husband and I laughed about it. My twins love being big sisters, and seeing them all together is the highlight of my life. She tried to copy them all the time, and sometimes I do worry that all her life she’ll be trying to keep up. But they are pretty cool about it, helping her, being sweet and funny. And I would echo the commenter above who said that the trade-off is that she gets way more one on one time and attention from parents than the twins did. (And do). Honestly, I wonder often if there’s ever been another child more adored, with us and her sisters loving her. When I consider having a fourth, I feel like she would lose her special status, as the baby and the only singleton, and turn into just a middle child. So I think we’re sticking with three.

  12. My twins were 3.5 when my singleton was born. Yes, I absolutely longed for that single-child experience. Plus, I do think there is something about having twins first that is almost like having two “only” children, since your life always revolves around their collective developmental needs.

    I also had spontaneous fraternal twins, so was TOTALLY freaked about having them again. Made sure to check really well at that first ultrasound.

    As for the easy-peasy experience, well, not so much. Baby 3 turned out to have a totally unexpected and mysterious genetic condition that, despite being 7+ pounds when she was born at 38 weeks, caused her to spend 10+ weeks in the hospital and significant ongoing medical and developmental needs. So much for my “victory lap” baby.

    That said, it is still so different having the single infant. A lot more easygoing and flexible, overall. And for us, the sibling dynamic has been wonderful. My older kids, while admittedly already a very adaptable pair, have handled the addition so smoothly, I’m in awe. Despite a summer full of doctor’s appointments, not a single complaint or harsh word from either of them. Every day, they absolutely fawn over their baby sister. If there is any complaint, it’s that they’re sometimes a bit *too* enthusiastic with their adoration of her.

    The age difference was a good one for us. The older kids were so much more independent and thoughtful. They can get themselves dressed, use the potty, and listen to an explanation or follow directions (at least some of the time!). While it was a little jarring for me to go so far back to an infant’s needs, it has been really great from an adjustment standpoint.

  13. Our twins were four four days after our #3 arrived. He was very much planned for, although it took us much longer than we wanted—however, four years has been a lovely split for us. The big kids are independent, sleeping in beds, have been potty-trained for a year+, in school four days a week—and happy to play big brother/big sister to the baby. As for the baby’s role, I think he will always just be the little one—whether he feels left out? Well, maybe. But I think there are many benefits of being the littlest as well, and I’m sure he will appreciate them all.

    And one baby? Piece of cake! Breastfeeding is simple–I haven’t even gotten mastitis yet, almost six months in. Sleep is much better, with the exception of a nasty 4 month sleep regression. I put him on my hip and we run errands together, run into preschool to pick up the big kids or go grab a cup of coffee. I rarely use the stroller—I’m so happy to just be able to hold him versus putting him down? For us, the singleton baby experience has been all we’ve wanted—and more. And, it’s been a pleasure to watch our big kids enjoy their new role and fall in love with the baby.

  14. Great topic. Interesting to hear about the third wheel. We have 16 month old identical boys and thoughts of a third child have definitely crossed my mind as crazy as it seems!! How do you post your blog? I wrote one I would like to share.

  15. My singleton is 21 months younger than my twins. She imitates what her siblings do and sometimes gets on well with my son and other times my daughter. She’s far from a third wheel and since none of my kids have ever know what it is like to have solo attention I’m not too worried about her feeling left out. I actually wrote a guest post on this site about our decision to try for another kid: http://www.hdydi.com/2009/07/guest-post-counting-higher-than-two/

  16. Ugh. I think about this constantly. Not sure if I want to have a third kid to have a third kid or just to get that “singleton baby” experience. I would love to be able to nurse just one baby. Or run an errand with just one baby. But I am putting this decision off *at least* until my twins start preschool. I admire all of you “I’ll just have a few crazy years” ladies but I just can’t do it!

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