Every mother worries how her first-born will adapt to life with a new baby. How can we quantify and plan for the way our hearts expand to supply enough love for more babies? When preparing for twins, I wondered how bad it would be to bring twins into a family that already housed a three-year-old.
It turned out not to be a matter measured as, “how bad,” but more “how different.” From the beginning, we were keenly aware of how important it would be, during those first few weeks, to give her a role to play as big sister, and to keep up on our promise to love her. Love comes in cuddles, extra helpings of dessert, shared bubble baths, movie nights and special walks together, at least when one is three years old.
The First Days at Home
My husband and I kept a close eye on how our oldest handled the transition. It was important to involve her in as many of the new changes as possible, so we did: She bottle-fed, sang to them, changed diapers, and drew pictures to decorate their nursery. Anytime a visitor came with a gift for the babies, we made sure to express our gratitude, but not evoke much fanfare if there wasn’t also a gift for the new big sister. This was the beginning of our learning the lesson of being even-Steven with everything in a family with multiple children.
We chose to do a combination of direct breastfeeding and bottle-feeding pumped milk and formula, which gave my husband and I some free time to spend one-on-one with our oldest girl. This. Was. KEY. Honestly, having a energetic three-year-old was often more work than having twinfants. She did not care if we were sleep-deprived, and she had more needs to be met than ever before. Initially, this intimidated me, and fed my worry about how I would ever have enough time and energy to satisfy each daughter.
Each day, I took a moment or two to capitalize on time together. If she woke before the twins, we would enjoy a quiet breakfast together, just us two. If the twins happened to nap at the same time, I would take her for a walk, or a quick trip into town. If all were awake, I would pile everyone onto my lap and read books, letting my oldest have a chance to ‘read’ to her sisters.
Let Their Bond Grow Organically
I watched my oldest with our twins and recognized there was a new dynamic in the family that required very little from me. New sister relationships were forming, and I moved out of the way. Sometimes, she was too rough with them, and they would cry or whimper in response. Rather than scold her, I watched her face process the twins’ reaction, and she learned how to better handle them. Giving her the space to learn how to be a big sister to twins on her own has given her the confidence to forge ahead, to the beat of her own drum.
She has learned when to shut them out (kindly), because she needs to be alone and doesn’t want to be a big sister sometimes. That’s her prerogative, and rightly so. In turn, the twins have learned to idolize their big sister, and today at age three themselves, they are elated when they are invited to play with her.
We also let her paint on their faces; It was non-toxic and washable!
When Our Hands Were Full
There were, of course, times I was busy feeding the twins, or rocking them to sleep, and I couldn’t physically respond to our oldest’s requests. I would do my best to explain I could help her with my words, but not my hands. I would sing songs if she had a tantrum, I would play word games if she was amenable. I even took to setting up a pile of stuffed animals beside me as I nursed, so I could throw them at her if she was getting into something she wasn’t supposed to!
Telling her, “I’m sorry, mama’s busy feeding” was heartbreaking and, I’ll be honest, is a guilt that doesn’t go away, although it changes as they grow older. I never feel like I am giving each of my (now four) girls everything they need at all times. How can I possibly? I cannot raise four girls with 24/7 individual attention from their parents, but I am happily raising four girls who have established a true sisterhood. They have learned from infancy the values of cooperating with others, empathy, shared joy, and patience.
Sarah is the mother to four girls, two of whom are identical twins Hailey and Robin. They were born in the Yukon in a very small hospital at 35 weeks, and though they were small, they were mighty. She now lives in Ontario, where her high school sweetheart husband works very hard, and she stays home with the girls, freelance reporting on the side. In her past life, she was a journalist who covered everything from fast-paced federal politics to cats stuck in trees. Her writing has appeared in local newspapers and magazines, and in national publications like the Globe and Mail and ParentsCanada Magazine. She is a yogi, a mediocre cook, an awesome Beyonce dance move imitator, and an avid blogger at Cure for Boredom.
Don’t hate me, but I love toddlers. Yes, there are tantrums and days full of “I do it!”, but there are also hugs around your knees and the adorable language I call “toddlereese”. I was an early childhood education major in college and spent many years teaching young children before I became a mom. These experiences helped me immensely when my other three children were toddlers, so much so, that this stage has always been my favorite. Then I had twins. They are 19 months old and I am tired. Just for fun I used my Iphone to record our morning. I won’t bore you with the video or the entire morning, but here’s a transcription of part of it:
It’s 8:00 and Oliver, my 4 year old, is due at school at 9:30. I still have to get myself, Oliver, and my 19 month old twins dressed. I’m already feeling frazzled and I’ve only been awake 30 minutes. So far I’ve fed all five kids and have kissed my older two boys goodbye as they left for school with their dad. I meant to wake up earlier so I could get myself ready in peace, but Rhodes slept with us last night and kicked and squirmed so much I didn’t sleep well. When my alarm went off I opted for 30 more minutes of sleep.
8:05 I’m standing at my sink brushing my teeth while Oliver is taking a shower. Laurel has toddled into the bedroom and is rummaging through my night stand. Rhodes is standing at my feet whining to be picked up.
8:07 Oliver has gotten soap in this eyes and is screaming. Rhodes is still whining and Laurel comes back from the bedroom covered in cuticle oil.
8:08 I grab Laurel and put her into the shower with Oliver. I’m rinsing Oliver’s face and hair when Rhodes’ whining escalates into crying. I glance at him to find he’s hit himself in the mouth with my hairbrush and has a bloody lip.
8:09 After a quick cuddle I put Rhodes in the shower too and cross my fingers that it will clean off the blood and keep him entertained long enough that I can get dressed. It’s at this point I’ve realized the extra 30 minutes of sleep weren’t worth it.
8:10 I’m in my closet trying to squeeze into a pair of jeans that I swear fit last week (Darn Easter candy). I make them work and throw on a blousy shirt in hopes of hiding the muffin top my now too tight jeans have caused. I do some lunges on my way out of the closet. Yay! Multitasking! I’m exercising and stretching my jeans!
8:11 All three kids are playing so I take the opportunity to throw on my makeup. I realize that Rhodes has chewed on all my makeup brushes and they are wet and gross. I use my fingers to apply eye makeup and blush.
8:13 My hair is too dirty to pull back but there is no time to wash it. I briefly toy with the idea of using one of Laurel’s head bands to hide my roots and greasy part. I decide I’m too old for that and use a bobby pin to pull just my bangs back.
8:14 The water has gotten cold so all three kids are fussing to get out.
8:15 While I’m getting Laurel out and dried off Oliver escapes and runs thru the house soaking wet.
8:17 Both twins are dry and as I’m walking them to their room to get them dressed I slip in a puddle of water. My bottom hurts and the twins are crying because I yelped when I fell.
8:18 We make it to the twins room and Oliver joins us. He’s still naked and is fussing because he wants to play on his older brother’s Itouch. I try to ignore him while I’m picking out clothes.
8:20 Rhodes and Oliver are now dressed but Laurel is nowhere to be found.
8:21 I find Laurel in the utility room eating dog food.
8:22 Laurel is throwing a fit because I’ve disturbed her second breakfast and Oliver is still whining. Rhodes is pushing cars around the playroom.
8:24 I’ve given in to Oliver and allowed him to play with the iPod Touch. Laurel is dressed but now Rhodes is crying about another bloody lip. He was crawling too fast, fell on his face, and bumped his lip on the car he was pushing.
8:26 Rhodes is calm. Oliver is calm. Laurel has once again disappeared.
8:27 I find Laurel in the bathroom where she is happily shredding toilet paper. I decide the mess is worth the peace and go looking for our shoes.
8:30 Victory! Everyone but Oliver has on shoes. He is pouting because I can’t find his Buzz Light Year socks.
8:33 Negotiations are complete. I’ve convinced Oliver to wear plain socks in exchange for allowing him to play with the Itouch in the car on the way to school.
8:34 The twins are gone. The house is quiet. This. Is. Bad.
8:35 I find them both outside. They have crawled through the pet door and are splashing in the bird bath.
8:40 I have wrestled the twins into new clothes. I’m sweating and grouchy. If I hurry I can make a cup of coffee to take with me.
8:42 I put all three kids in front of Curious George and head to the pantry.
8:43 Oliver is screaming because the Itouch’s battery is dead. Rhodes is screaming because Oliver is screaming. Laurel is in the pantry looking for cookies.
8:44 I’m charging the Itouch and holding Rhodes. Laurel has decided a cereal bar will work since we have no cookies. She has squished it while bringing it to me so when I open the package the bar crumbles to the floor.
8:45 Laurel is on the floor rolling around in cereal bar crumbs crying for cookies. I decide to not change her out of the sticky, crumb covered clothes.
8:47 I’m now holding Laurel and Rhodes and trying to put a coffee pod into my Kureig using my teeth. The twins explode into giggles.
8:50 Coffee’s made and we are on the way to the car. Everyone is happy!
8:51 I drop my bag and as I bend over to get it I spill coffee all over my shirt. I briefly contemplate sucking it out of the fabric.
8:53 Oliver is buckled into his seat. The twins have decided it’s time to ride bikes and are fighting over a ride on toy. Rhodes pushes Laurel and she is MAD. I scoop her up just as she’s lunging to bite him.
8:56 The twins are buckled into their seats but are not happy about it. Laurel is screaming for cookies and Rhodes is screaming because he can.
8:58 Silence. Everyone is watching the video and we are finally on our way.
I’m sure many of you a shaking your heads and smiling because you have been there. You know how it feels to run from one problem to the next all while trying to keep the day moving and actually be productive.
There are several universal truths to parenting toddlers. These apply whether you have one or five. All parents of children this age can relate to these things:
There is a constant battle between independence and needing/wanting to be cared for. It’s hard for them to decide what stance they want to take in any given situation and it’s even harder for parents to read what their child wants. What’s ok one day just might not be the next.
You will witness wonderful creativity. I’m always amazed how toddlers can turn anything into a toy or game. I watched Rhodes play this afternoon with a cup, bowl of water, and a rock for over 30 minutes. Never underestimate their ability to entertain themselves without toys or technology.
Toddlers crave and respond to routine. The need for a schedule doesn’t stop at the end of infancy. Knowing what to expect and what’s coming next is reassuring to children of this age. I find when I stick to our routine that tantrums are greatly diminished.
Parenting toddler multiples is very different. I was naïve and really celebrated when my twins turned one. I remember telling a friend “They are sleeping through the night, nursing is done, and they are learning to walk and talk. Things are bound to get easier now.” So far that hasn’t happened.
Here are the ways I find parenting toddler multiples different than singletons: Whether you admit it or not you are always comparing them. When I was parenting my singleton toddlers comparisons usually happened at playgroups or in online forums. The anxiety of “Why aren’t they____?” was usually confined to that situation or to the few moments I’d spend replaying my day. Now I find myself not only constantly comparing them, but also trying to compensate for imaginary weaknesses. For example Laurel’s language is very advanced. Her adjusted age is only 17 months and she’s already stringing together words to make sentences. Rhodes isn’t doing this. He knows several words, but isn’t close to speaking in sentences. His speech is exactly where it should be for his adjusted age, but I find myself grabbing a book and pulling him into my lap more often than I do Laurel. I’m constantly repeating his gibberish back to him correctly and engaging him in songs. None of this is done intentionally and I know I’m intuitively trying to encourage his language development because his sister’s is so advanced. If he was a singleton the poor kid wouldn’t be subjected to my constant singing and chattering.
Everything is more. The noise, the mess, the laundry, the… you get the point. Laurel is a screecher and Rhodes is a yeller. Happy, sad, mad, all require screeching and yelling. My house regularly sounds like a pet store. Double the toddlers means the playroom regularly looks like tornado hit it. Unfortunately both twins are “dumpers”. They love nothing more than to walk up to a basket of toys and dump it out. They don’t do this to look for a specific item. They just enjoy pouring all the toys. When you have one child that screeches or pours toys it’s annoying. When you have two a bad day can bring you to your knees.
Outings require pickiness. I have a friend whom I love dearly but I will not bring the twins to her house. She has an elderly grouchy dog, a very tall slide, and a sunken living room. With one toddler I could manage all these variables by keeping the child in my line of sight. With two toddlers who are inevitably drawn to different areas I just can’t do it. I’ve also run into this when choosing parks and restaurants with out door seating (is it fenced?). Any place I’m going to have to follow them around in order for them to be safe is out.
Confinement is necessary. My morning adventures would have been much easier if I could have gotten us ready to go out from our playroom. We have put a lot of time and effort into making it a room that is comfortable for adults as well as fun and safe for the twins. There is really nothing they can do to hurt themselves while playing in it. The furniture is bolted to the walls, all outlets are covered, the floor is soft, and most importantly they can’t go in separate directions. It’s so nice to have a place where we can spend time and the twins will be safe without me needing to be in two places at once.
You can’t mess with naps. When my singletons were toddlers there were times when I’d force them to make do with a nap in the car or go without one altogether. I’d pack lots of snacks and expect to have to keep them really busy. Most of the time this would work and we’d get to enjoy whatever event was happening during their nap time. Unless it’s a once in a lifetime event or an emergency I won’t do this with the twins. Not much is worth the risk of potentially having two tantruming toddlers.
Toddler relationships Children of this age generally don’t play together. They usually engage in parallel play (side by side) or spectator play (observing and mimicking). Very rarely will two toddlers actually interact during the same activity. Laurel and Rhodes play together. They will roll balls or cars together or look at the same book and chatter to one another about it. It’s amazing and adorable. I have to say that this is my favorite part of this stage. I love watching them interact.
This season of my life is challenging to say the least. It’s full of rushing, managing, planning, and adjusting. Despite these difficulties I can’t remember a time I’ve been happier. Rhodes and Laurel are amazing and I’m so blessed to call them mine.
What differences have you seen raising singleton toddlers vs. multiple toddlers?
Having a set of b/g twins 2.5 years after their sister puts me in a position to be able to compare and contrast the experiences of having twins and having a singleton– really having twins vs having two singletons. Now that the twins are 19 months old and Big Sis is 4, I feel I’ve gotten enough under my belt to do a little analysis. (Of course, everyone’s situation will vary, and all experiences depend highly on the temperament of each child as well as the character of each household, but I do find that there are some definite differences).
Developmentally, I’ve got two kids doing the same thing. They generally play the same way, eat the same things, like the same places. They are in the same age group in any classes for which I’d sign them up, and very soon they would be able to play with each other. It’s one drop off and one pick up for both kids to grandma’s, and to preschool/school later on. At least until they’re old enough to pick their own separate activities, they’d be doing most things together. Big Sis will always be 2.5 years older, which means they would rarely be doing or liking the same things.
Two kids at the same age also means they’re more or less on the same schedule. There may be days when their naps are off, or even weeks during transitions when one does something that the other doesn’t yet. But even accounting for those differences, I consider them a unit for eating and sleeping. Big Sis has a different naptime and bedtime from her siblings; and actually she doesn’t even get to nap anymore because of the scheduling difficulties, even though she really could.
It’s a given that children cost a lot, but I think twins come with some economies of scale (assuming the comparison is between twins and two singletons). I get to buy many things in bulk, and sometimes I can even get a twin discount on stuff. But having twins over singletons is more of a time saver than anything else. Making two bottles at once only takes slightly more time than making one bottle, when I change one child I usually just change the other– almost everything we do takes less time than doing them with two children of different ages.
They have each other. They get to grow up together, learn together, support each other, and never be lacking a sidekick because their twin will always be there. Older/younger siblings do a lot of things together too, but it’s just not the same, at least not until they’re adults.
And the BAD…
“Double Trouble” is true! It was actually easier when they were infants, when as long as I figured out how to feed them simultaneously, they were happy. There was a rough patch getting them on the same sleep schedule, but after that it was pretty good going until they became toddlers. Now, sometimes there are just not enough hands (or eyes). Example: toddlers on the move in the park. One was making a beeline for some stairs, while the other was attempting to topple a large trash can. Big Sis required minimal supervision, as she had found some little friends to play with.
The twins are also much more aggressive than their sister ever was. They are much more vocal in what they want, and will fight, even bite each other! They egg each other on when they’re misbehaving. “Group mentality” perhaps. One climbs on top of the play kitchen, and the other will climb it too. One screams and throws food, other other ups that by tossing a sippy cup too. Alone, perhaps they would not dare. Singletons just don’t get away with as much.
Activities for twins are difficult when there is only one adult. At least at my twins’ age, everything is much easier when the ratio is 1:1, or even 2:3 when including Big Sis. One adult to a set of twin toddlers is sometimes impossible (as in the case of Parent and Me swim class), but even when possible, it can get very stressful and overwhelming (Mommy and Me classes). Even if different-aged children are in an activity together, they would not need the same kind of attention at exactly the same time.
lunchldyd is a high school teacher on summer break in the Los Angeles area. She wonders how this comparison will change as her kids get older.
After finding out I was expecting twins my brain started spinning. How would we fit in our current car? What about bedrooms? How would my 38 year old body handle this pregnancy? After I adjusted to the idea many of my initial worries disappeared, but one didn’t. How would our barely two year old Oliver handle things if our babies had a lengthy NICU stay? I had a history of preterm labor and had had all three of my boys at around 37 weeks. That’s not very early, but I was worried that my body would kick into labor even earlier while carrying two babies. Sure enough right around 28 weeks I started having contractions and my Dr. put me on Procardia. I quickly realized I would need to prepare Oliver for not only the babies, but also for the time that I’d inevitably end up away from him. To complicate things my mother (who is our primary source of childcare) has a chronic illness that makes it difficult to predict how much help she will be able to provide. In the event that she became ill at the same time the babies were still in the hospital I’d need to have things ready for someone else (who may not be familiar with our routines) to step in. Eeeeeeek! No pressure, right?
Since Oliver isn’t in school or mother’s day out he spends the majority of his time at home. I knew that I needed to focus most of my energy on creating an environment that would keep him busy and allow him to be as independent as possible. I also wanted to simplify things so that whoever was caring for the boys wouldn’t have as much to clean and keep up with. The first thing I did was purge the playroom and kids’ rooms of any toys they hadn’t played with in awhile, were broken, or sets that were incomplete. I was brutal and got rid of almost half our toys. I was surprised that the kids never mentioned things were missing. After the clean out I sorted the remaining toys and put half away in a closet so they could be switched out periodically. This served three purposes. It made it easier for the big kids to keep things put away, it kept Oliver interested in his toys, and it kept him from being overwhelmed. By limiting his choices he actually started playing with his toys instead of doing what I call the dump and run (where toddlers pour all the toys onto the floor only to walk away without playing) After our playroom was organized I started on our back yard. Once again I got rid of any toy that was broken or in bad shape. I added new sand and toys to our sand box and made sure we had plenty of bubbles and sidewalk chalk. One addition that worked surprisingly well was a plastic easel. We kept it on the patio and would put paper and paints on it as needed. Oliver enjoyed being able to paint whenever he wanted and my mom loved that clean up was so easy. My husband did a safety check and made sure our fence was secure and the play scape didn’t have any loose nails or splinters. My goal was to make our backyard another place where Oliver could play independently and be safe.
I knew having a schedule would make it easier for Oliver during our NICU stay. Thankfully we had already established a routine and flow to our day (It kept my type A personality happy). As we got closer to the babies coming I typed and printed our routine and added it to our household binder (more on the binder later). The further I got in my pregnancy the more tempting it was to let our schedule slide. I was so tired and achy that I reeeeeaaalllly wanted to throw it out and let Oliver sleep late in the mornings and fall asleep wherever he happened to collapse at night. For the most part I tried really hard to stick to our routine knowing that it would make things better for everyone later. We started practicing what Oliver should do after we ate (put his plate and cup in the sink), where he should put his dirty clothes, where his shoes were kept (the basket by the door), and how to get to the “approved for Oliver” snacks in the pantry. While helping him learn how to be more independent certainly made things easier for whoever was caring for him I was also hoping it would increase his confidence. Going from being the baby of the family to the middle child of five kids was going to be hard. I hoped knowing what to expect and how things worked in our home would help Oliver find his new place.
Knowing I’d be hard to reach in the hospital I decided to make a reference book for our family. I was worried that there would be a question and nobody would be able to get ahold of me. After looking at several examples on pinterest I decided the household binder was the format I liked best. Our binder is organized by the topics: schedule, food, school, miscellanious phone numbers, and in case of emergency. The schedule area holds our daily schedule and all our routines are written out. This served almost as a script for our day. For example if my dad wasn’t sure what bedtime or bath time looked like for Oliver he could read about them before hand. The food area holds ideas for breakfasts and lunches, take out numbers, and a grocery list for items we typically need every week. The school tab is full of the bigger boys’ school information (schedule, phone numbers, lunch menu, and teachers contact information). Miscellanious phone numbers included the numbers to our plumber, air conditioner repair company, our pediatrician, and various friends who know the kids and could help if needed. I really thought I was going overboard adding this tab, but it turns out my parents needed it! While the babies were in the NICU our air conditioner went out. August in Texas is brutal and thankfully my parents were able to get it fixed quickly. The emergency tab holds copies of our health insurance card and a generic letter giving my paremts permission to seek medical care for the kids. I also included directions to our pediatrician and the closest hospital. While my parents knew most of the information included in the binder I wasn’t sure who else would be caring for Oliver and the bigger boys. Now that we are home and settled the binder serves as a great resource for our baby sitter.
Rhodes and Laurel were born at 34 weeks and spent two and a half weeks in the NICU. Thankfully Oliver and the bigger boys did beautifully while we were gone. My mom did become ill in the middle of our stay but continued to help out as much as she could.
We are now one week into our 2nd school year at home, and I’ve learned a lot. Not about geography and grammar and other boring stuff, but about my children.
Homeschooling twins: 5 key take-aways
The bond between my kids – not just my twins – is stronger. At the end of the 2011-2012 school year, our oldest was at a different school than our twins and our youngest, who form a very tight trio. Over the last year I’ve noticed a change in how our oldest relates to the other three, and I think being home with the other three has made her feel less left out of twinhood. When most of the neighborhood kids went back to school and there was no one to play with but each other, my kids got really close. Over the last couple months my kids have been picked on and ostracized by a handful of neighborhood kids, but rather than being upset at being left out, they’ve felt pretty meh about it all. They enjoy each other. And I love it.
I have perspective on my twins’ academic strengths and weaknesses. The twin with the lower IQ finished math a full month ahead of his brother last year, and is much more successful at employing various strategies to solve multiplication problems in his head, for example. I wouldn’t have gotten the chance to see this for myself if they were in school. And if I’d placed his brother into the gifted program, the not-gifted twin wouldn’t have gotten the chance to surpass his brother academically every now and again, and build his confidence.
It doesn’t solve everything. The twin with the higher IQ tested into a higher math this year. (So far no one has noticed.) I’m still doing school work twice. We’re still dealing with “mean kids” and bullying.
They are less like twins; more like brothers. Because they are at home with people who can tell them apart, and because they are doing different work, there isn’t anything “twinny” about their day-to-day life. I don’t know that this is good or bad for them – I imagine that, for them, everything is “twinny” as much as it is not. But it is good for their older sister, and at least I know they aren’t being placed in the wrong levels or called by a hybrid name all day.
There is no peer pressure. Including peer pressure to pronounce words. Being at home with people who can [mostly] understand their garbled speech has in no way motivated my boys to work hard on speech skills. In. No. Way.
Jen is a work-from-home mom of twin boys who turn 9 today, and two girls ages 11 and almost 7.Once in a blue moon, she blogs at Minivan MacGyver about stuff like speech therapy and homeschooling and how there is not one single day without multiple kid activities and other stuff the rest of the internet seems to deal with in a much calmer fashion.
Our twins will be 5 next week. Crazy how time goes! I very clearly remember finding out that I was pregnant with them and it seems like an eternity ago.
We were living in Maine for my husband’s job. Our insurance didn’t cover pregnancy so I had not gone to see a doctor when I realized I was expecting again. Our oldest was 8 months at the time, still exclusively breastfed and I was not supposed to be able to get pregnant … I had scheduled an ultrasound at 16 weeks because I was concerned about my ever expanding figure. I was convinced something was wrong with the baby. The doctor put the probe on my belly and I started crying when I saw the two little creatures floating inside. After that I proceeded to freak out as I was counting the number of diapers I would have to change between the three of them .. about 150/wk in the beginning.
I read some books about raising twins and about the do’s and don’ts of birthday parties (sing twice, don’t give a shared gift!). But mostly I enjoyed the pregnancy, was secretly relieved that the state of Maine (the insurance companies for hospitals actually) did not allow for VBAC with twins and agonized what we’d do with our oldest while we were in the hospital.
The babies came out after one routine visit turned to not-so-routine. One of them was having trouble. I was 37wks so the little mountain hospital felt comfortable delivering the babies. They told me that they had nothing but oxygen for the babies and if they needed anything else we would be med flighted to Portland, ME. There was no nursery, I was ‘expected’ to care for them alone.
I thought I handled the first year with grace and ease. I remember thinking how wonderful it was that there was a baby to take care of and then another! What a gift! What a blessing!
Looking back I realize that I was slightly crazy that first year. Since our oldest was so young it was easy to never leave the house. I know I went grocery shopping but I don’t really remember that. I do remember going to the doctor’s office with all three of them and feeling like they wanted to be done with us quickly. I remember being scolded by the doctor for waiting a month before bringing one of them in with what turned out to be pneumonia. I remember being so tired of everyone touching me all day that I wished my husband didn’t find me so irresistible at night. I remember feeling inadequate and frustrated because I couldn’t multiply into three when they all wanted a piece of me at once and picking up one seemed to make the two others cry even louder. I once called my sister-in-law to meet me at a library parking lot to watch the kids while they stayed in the car so I could go and pick up a book I was waiting for (that I actually never read). I remember thinking that it was more important to pick up the house while the kids slept than take a nap. … like I said, a little crazy..
Because having 2 babies (and a toddler) is a lot of work I eventually learned a few things to make it easier.
Short routines: Our evening routine consisted of putting on jammies and nursing the babies. No baths, no books, no long of anything that would take time on the days when I was simply too exhausted to do ‘the routine’. I bathed the kids about every other week. When we just had one I aimed for once a week, with three of them it was too much to keep up with. No one ever told me that our kids smelled.
No feeding schedule: I know this doesn’t work for everyone but I nursed on demand and I nursed a lot. When there was a baby that was crying I first nursed to see if they were hungry. That seemed the easiest way to solve the crying. I also felt bad that I didn’t have the time to snuggle with them as much as I knew they needed to be snuggled. If they were on the breast they were getting the snuggles in too.
Strict nap schedule: I was crazy about their nap times. I was going to be home and have them take their naps in their beds. There were not many occasions that broke this ‘rule’. Because they napped 3x/day until they were past 2 it made for some really short outings. As for nights, none of our kids slept through the night until after 14 months. My husband thought I was a total push over in that regard but I just could not listen to a crying kid. I still can’t.
Lowered expectations: I had a lot of ideals of what I thought were important and that I wanted to try to strive for. Like ‘being put together for my husband’, ‘picking up the house before dinner’, or ‘working out’. I gave up on all of those eventually for a time. Some, I’ve never picked up again. It took awhile but at some point I realized it was ok to ‘just be’. To sit with the kids on the floor, watch them play and take pleasure in their excitement as they discovered the world.
I do wish I had made a better effort to sleep when they were sleeping during the days. It always felt like such a waste of time. Even if I did nothing ‘productive’ I wanted to enjoy the quietness of the house when they were asleep. I was looking through the old pictures awhile back and was surprised to see the exhaustion on my face. And that’s another thing, I wish I had taken more pictures. I thought I would have everything permanently instilled in my mind but come to find out, lots of it didn’t stick. Must’ve been that sleep deprivation …
How about you? What are your strategies making the first year survivable?
Hanna is a mom to 3 lively kids. She lives with her superb husband in the Boston outskirts and works part time in one of the nearby hospitals.They are loving the parenting thing and are starting the process of becoming a foster family. Her family recently moved ‘to the country’ and after some challenges with the old house everyone is adjusting great and are negotiating on what animals to have as pets.
I’m going to try something new. I’m going to let my twins write, or rather dictate, this post on twinhood. They started to tell me a story on the drive home from summer camp that seemed appropriate for this audience. My 7-year-old daughters could have typed this up themselves, but it’s much faster for me to simply transcribe our discussion.
M: Soooo… today at summer camp, I met a girl who said that just because we weren’t wearing the same clothes and we didn’t have the same hairdo and J’s hair was short and mine was long and we didn’t have the same shoes and J was wearing socks and I wasn’t, she said that we were not identical twins. Not even twins. Sadia: So, what did you tell her? M: Well, I told her that even if you aren’t wearing the same things, one has socks and another doesn’t, no same shoes, no same hairdo, no same size as hair, it doesn’t mean that someone isn’t a twin with someone else. Sadia: What was her response to that? M: Well, she said, “Wrong!” Sadia: She did not! M: Yes, she did… I said, “You don’t know anything about twins!” … “I do too know about twins,” she said. And she said that identical twins have to wear the same things and shoes and do everything the same. If one gets a haircut, the other gets a haircut. I just yose that as a example…. I told the teacher. I told her this story. And she said, “Ignore her.”
… J: A few minutes after that, I gave her a lesson. At first, she didn’t wanna listen, but she didn’t like to hurt people’s feelings, and I knew that, so I said, “It really hurts my feelings when people say me and my sister aren’t twins.” And it was true. I wasn’t just saying to get her attention. First I said, “Twins doesn’t mean that people look the same or have the same voice. It matters about their birth. To be a twin, you have to be born from the same mother and the same day… And I cut my hair because 1) It was a way to tell me and my sister apart since we’re identical twins and 2) Because I kept chewing on my hair. Don’t tell anyone.”
Real Time Version
Sadia: So, what should the title be? J: Nocturnal Twins and Identical Twins. Sadia: Uh… Well… Okay.
J: Did I say, “nocturnal?” Sadia: Yeah. J: Is that right? M: How are twins different from identical twins? Sadia: Identical twins are one kind of twin. M: But it’s a twin? What’s another kind of twin? Sadia: Fraternal. J: Fraternal? M: What’s a fraternal twin? Sadia: Ones that come from two different eggs.
Sadia: So, shall we start again? M: Yeah. Mommy! Sadia: What? I’m writing down our conversation! M: Mama! Sadia: Mm-hmm? Okay. J, you were telling me a story in the car. J: About what? Sadia: About the girl… wait… was it you, M? J: No, me. About what? Sadia:giggles M: No it was me. I told you about the girl who said that because we weren’t wearing the same clothes… Sadia: Yes. That story. J: One second.
Sadia: Okay, so why don’t you get started? M? M:giggling at my typing Soooo… today at summer camp, I met a girl who said that just because we weren’t wearing the same clothes and we didn’t have the same hairdo and J’s hair was short and mine was long and we didn’t have the same shoes and J was wearing socks and I wasn’t, she said that we were not identical twins. Not even twins. Sadia: So, what did you tell her? M: Well, I told her that even if you aren’t wearing the same things, one has socks and another doesn’t, no same shoes, no same hairdo, no same size as hair, it doesn’t mean that someone isn’t a twin with someone else. Sadia: What was her response to that? M: Well, she said, “Wrong!” Sadia: She did not! M: Yes, she did. Sadia:gasps M:(whispering) You gasped. Sadia: I got it! M: You forgot the… waves her hands to indicate italics. Sadia: I’ll do it later. I just want to get the content now. So, J. J:running off Yeah? Sadia:Where are you? J: returning Hmm? Yeah? Sadia: I understand that you… M: Mom, I’m not done with the story. Sadia: You’re not? Oh. M: I told the girl. Wait, where are we? Sadia: “She said, ‘wrong’.” M: Oh, yeah. Right. I said, “You don’t know anything about twins!” (laughing) Okay, back to where we started. I don’t mean started. I mean stopped. (giggling) You’re typing it down!? Sadia: Yep. Okay. Continue, pleeeeeeeease. M: “I do too know about twins,” she said. And she said that identical twins have to wear the same things and shoes and do everything the same. If one gets a haircut, the other gets a haircut. I just yose that as a example. Sadia: Mm hmm. It’s a good example. (long pause) Is your story done now? M: No. So, ah, oh yes. I told the teacher. I told her this story. And she said, “Ignore her.” The End from M. Sadia: I love you. M: Hello to J! Sadia: All right, pumpkin. You ready? J: For what? Sadia: To tell your story. J: What? Sadia: You were telling me you gave her a bit of a class? J: Uh huh, uh huh, uh huh! Sadia: If you wouldn’t mind, I’d like to hear what you told her. J: Uh. Uhhhh. Uhhhhhh. M: Mom, can anyone do this? I mean, read this? Sadia: Yeah. Is that okay? M: Mm hmm. Sadia: I’d really like to hear your lesson. J: A few minutes after that, I gave her a lesson. At first, she didn’t wanna listen, but she didn’t like to hurt people’s feelings, and I knew that, so I said, “It really hurts my feelings when people say me and my sister aren’t twins.” And it was true. I wasn’t just saying to get her attention. First I said, “Twins doesn’t mean that people look the same or have the same voice. It matters about their birth. To be a twin, you have to be born from the same mother and the same day.” Am I true? Sadia: 100%, baby. M:giggles at my typing again J: M!!! Stop giggling! Stop giggling! M: “100%, baby!” Sadia: Was that the whole lesson? J: Mm mm. “And I cut my hair because 1) It was a way to tell me and my sister apart since we’re identical twins and 2) Because I kept chewing on my hair. Don’t tell anyone.” Sadia: But if I write it, people will know. Or did you tell her, “Don’t tell anyone?” J: I told her, “Don’t tell anyone.” Sadia: So, I can write it, and that’s okay? J: Yeah. Sadia: Was that the end of the lesson? J: Yeah. Sadia: Well, you know what? I think you guys handled that situation very well.
And we followed up with a hands-on lesson in editing.
Do your kids know that they are multiples? Have they ever encountered a multiplicity denier? How do they handle misconceptions?
My husband and I had twins first. And while we have generally thought of the many benefits of having twins first, there are definitely some disadvantages. And those disadvantages are ever more clear as we have welcomed a new, singleton, baby into our home.
This past weekend, I ran (okay, jogged) a 5k race, my very first race. And it was at two months postpartum. I looked at an old blog post I had written when my twin daughters were two months old, and there is no way I was going to be running for over three miles at that point in my new motherhood career. And reading that post made me realize just how different my postpartum experiences have been.
With the girls, I was recovering from major surgery for six + weeks. I was also thrown into motherhood head-first. I didn’t know how to breastfeed. I didn’t know how to change diapers well, or how to properly treat stains, or what things you really needed, and a host of other tricks of the “trade” that you learn as you mother for a while.
But, the big difference, is that with the girls, for the first several weeks, I didn’t enjoy motherhood. I loved my girls, but I didn’t necessarily always feel it, not when I felt more like a milk cow than a mother, not when I was so dog tired, not when my kids didn’t smile or laugh yet. It was a big adjustment to say the least.
On top of all the new motherhood things I had to learn and doubly, I was also going through other big transitions, like going from a full-time student, literally the day before giving birth, to being a stay-at-home mom. And then moving across the country, from Utah to Indiana, when my twins were only six weeks old. And then not knowing anyone other my in-laws who we were living with there. It was a crazy time. The first year with twins is a general blur when I try to look back at that time. I really was in survival mode.
So, now that I have a newborn singleton, and am no longer a first-time mother, things are much different at two months out. First, I didn’t have a repeat C-section and I felt better physically so much faster after giving birth. And I loved being a mother immediately to my son. He’s just as cute and precious as my girls were, but I think having just one baby to give my undivided attention to has made my love more ready to feel and give. He has made me extremely happy already!
And having him has made me feel so extremely blessed for the family I have. I appreciate and love my twins and my husband more. I am a lucky woman!
Shortly after I had my twins, my sister-in-law who also has a set of twins, told me that she hoped that someday I would be able to have a single child because it’s so nice to just dote on one child.
And I’m glad that I have. Twins are a unique blessing and I absolutely love having them, but a single baby after twins has been a special treat for so many other reasons.
If you had twins first, did you enjoy having a single baby afterwards? And if you had twins after single babies, was it much harder than the single ones?
ldskatelyn is a loving wife and mother. She has fraternal twin girl three-year olds, and a two-month-old baby boy. She is glad she and her husband made the decision to add the newest addition, as she enjoys the new dynamic in her home. Follow her at her blog – What’s up Fagans?
So, I have wondered since what that singleton baby pregnancy would be like. Would it be similar? Would I get as big, as my womb was already very stretched out from the previous two occupants? How long would I go since I didn’t have a cut-off gestational date quite like I did with twins (38 weeks)? How much weight would I gain with just one baby? How would I feel? Would I end up with another C-section? And many other similar questions swam through my head.
I’m sure I’m not the only mother of twins who had these questions. While not all twin moms have their set of twins (or other multiples) first, many do. And for these women, I would like to answer the above questions as they applied to me.
First, my pregnancy overall was very similar in how I felt, especially in those first few months. But, I had less morning sickness/nausea this time around, though that could have had more to deal with the fact that I was at home all day and could eat a little something any time I needed to, unlike when I was pregnant with my twins and was going to school full-time and in the marching band as well. I had a similar amount of heart burn, indigestion, and fatigue. I didn’t have as much of a problem with varicose veins or Charlie horses this time though.
Joyously, I didn’t gain as much weight (my biggest fear) the second time around! With the twins I gained about 50lbs, going to almost 38 weeks gestation with them. With one baby I gained about 35-40lbs and went to just shy of 42 weeks gestation. However, with the singleton pregnancy, I started to show much sooner than I did with the twins. But, I’m pretty sure that’s just how most subsequent pregnancies go though. (See my twin belly montage post HERE)
And I did and didn’t get as round. While my belly did end up sticking out as much as my twin pregnancy (basketball/torpedo style), there was a difference: I wasn’t as round at the top. I still had room under my rib cage. I could breathe easier with a singleton pregnancy, even at the end. And the one little guy didn’t kick me in the ribs. With twins, I had no room under my rib cage as there was a child floating around up there! (See my 40 week singleton belly picture HERE)
I didn’t gain any more stretch marks on my belly (as if I could), but I did get stretch marks on my butt, of all places. My belly didn’t itch hardly at all like it did when I had two in there. I still had round ligament pain, lots of Braxton-Hicks contractions, and a baby pinching those sciatic nerves, though.
But, I was really nervous about giving birth, however. Since I had a scheduled C-section with the girls, I didn’t even know what a real contraction felt like. I didn’t know how I would handle it. I didn’t know how much it would hurt. I knew I wanted a vaginally delivery, but I was scared. So, I read several birthing books, and tried to prepare the best I could, although I never did make it to any birthing classes. Thankfully, I handled the early contractions and labor fairly well, though I did end up getting an epidural after more than 24 hours of labor.
But, I am so happy to report that I did not have a repeat C-section! I was able to deliver my singleton son vaginally. (Read his full birth story HERE.) While doing so meant I had the wonderful privilege of waiting 13 days after his due date until I was able to hold him in my arms, I am so glad I had a successful VBAC.
With twins at home, I did not want to laid up in the hospital for 3-4 days, be on drugs for several weeks, and have a hard time picking them and other toys and things up around the house. (Read THIS post for more of my reasons to opt for a VBAC.) I wanted an easier, quicker recovery from childbirth, especially since we would not be having any help after we came home.
To my happiness, it is indeed how my recovery was with a VBAC. My son is now 6 weeks old, and I have been feeling great, most of the time. My body has bounced back much quicker. I was only on a simple ibuprofen for about a week postpartum, not codeine for two weeks. My bottom was sore instead of my abdomen. A VBAC meant that I was still able to take care of my twin three-year olds by myself. I was able to comfortably pick them up for the first time in months (no pregnant belly in the way). I had more energy to play with them, after a short while, as I was no longer winded after I climbed the stairs, like I was while pregnant.
Also, my son spent zero time in the NICU. One of my twins, though born at almost 38 weeks, spent two days in the NICU, recovering from a partially collapsed lung. With my singleton birth, I also got to hold my child immediately afterwards, unlike with the twins. I didn’t hold either of my girls until four hours had passed after delivery, and then only one of them. With my son’s birth, I was able to leave the hospital after a short 38 hours after giving birth. I stayed four days at the hospital after I had my C-section delivery of my twins.
If you had twins first, how did your pregnancy compare to a subsequent singleton pregnancy? Better or worse? Did you have a repeat C-section (if you had one the first time)? What did you fear most?
ldskatelyn is a wife, and proud new mother to a six-week old boy and three-year old fraternal twin daughters. She is enjoying adjusting to life as a mother to three and enjoying having her body (mostly) back after being pregnant for nine long months. She blogs about her life and family over at whatsupfagans.blogspot.com
A dear friend who lives far away just had a baby. She’s been sending me pictures and I can’t help but feel nostalgic! What a curled-up, mewling, soft and sweet little dumpling! And somewhere, deep inside, I feel the irrational stirrings of baby-fever, like rattling an unopened present. You may look at me and tell me I’m crazy. After all, my babies are ONLY 7 MONTHS OLD! Just a few weeks ago I was telling myself not to look forward more than fifteen minutes in order to avoid an all-consuming panic attack! I haven’t slept in eight months!
So, you’d probably be right. But it’s not like I want a baby now. Maybe in a few years–I just can’t imagine never having another one.
But then I think about what it would actually be like. The twins would be running around and would need supervision. I wouldn’t be able to lounge around like I did with my first pregnancy. “Bedtime” with a newborn and twin toddlers? An oxymoron, surely! Sometimes I think the only reason I’m getting by now is because the twins are my number one and only priority–everything else gets thrown out the window and I’m moving too fast to look back. This wouldn’t be possible if I were to add another baby into the mix.
As hard as those first few months were (and they were, very!), I can’t help but wonder if they were actually easier than another pregnancy, another birth, another baby would be. And so, like they say youth is wasted on the young, my first pregnancy and newborn experience was wasted on my childless-self. I’ll never get another chance to rest leisurely with my feet up and complain about my swollen ankles while watching every episode of Breaking Bad and Teen Mom on Netflix as I wait for the baby. I’ll never be able to drop everything I’m doing to feed my newborn and have nothing more important to do, because I will have two other children who need me, too. Not to mention a husband!
I think being confronted with another newborn, the questions of a new mom, the pictures of the happy family–all the details, good and bad, that go into the “fourth trimester” have just been making me, like I said earlier, nostalgic. I try to think back on the day the babies were born and to my horror, I can’t seem to remember much. The whole first three months are a big blur. What a stereotypical thing for a new mom to say, but it’s true.
Whether I blame the grogginess on my medicated recovery from the C-section, the sleep deprivation, or yet another surgery and recovery at 6 weeks postpartum, it doesn’t really matter. I feel incredibly guilty for not remembering every single detail of the first months of my twins’ lives. Maybe the romance of a new baby (at least the idea of one) is my way of making up for the memories I’ve fumbled around. Maybe what I really want is not another baby, but just time with my babies back. I love where they are right now–laughing a lot, interacting more and more, but there’s something to be said for those precious new baby moments!
If you had twins first, how did your next pregnancy compare?
Mercedes is a SAHM to her 7 month old b/g twins in Aberdeen, Scotland. While she daydreams about adding another baby to the family one day, her husband fears another unexpected “handful”! For more stories and pictures of an expat life with twins, visit her blog Project Procrastinot.