I have to admit that when I see a mum with twins my thought process is something along the lines of: “Oh my God, how on earth do they survive?”. I’m guessing many of you probably think the same, when one at a time is hard enough? Well, the truth is, much to my surprise, apparently it doesn’t have to be all about surviving…but also..dare I say it…enjoying! Here to open our eyes to that very notion is my first guest writer Sonya D:
Let me stipulate from the off, that having a baby is hard work. Having two babies is really hard work! Having three children is sometimes excruciatingly hard work. My patience has been tested, and found wanting, more times than I would care to admit. However…
I love having twins. I love having three boys (no, I won’t be trying for a fourth, for a girl, I’m very happy, thank you!). There is one thing which is at the heart of everything that made having twin babies a whole lot easier: they were my second children. I cannot overstate how significant this was for me. Becoming a mother is an incredibly intense emotional experience, as is having twins. But I didn’t have to do the two together. When I had twins, I was already a mother.
First time round I was insecure, defensive of my parenting style and choices, unsure, and learning at an incredible rate. When it came to doing it all again, to say I was more relaxed is an understatement. Sure, there were challenges unique to having two babies simultaneously that I was facing for the first time, but my decisions were led by an already established confidence and parenting philosophy. The change from the first to the second of my mothering mind-set was that I looked for coping strategies rather than try to force changes, such as when and how long they slept.
It’s a cliché but life with babies goes so fast (“The shortest year with the longest days” is one of my favourite descriptions of that first year). Truly understanding and appreciating this hugely helped me to enjoy and relax with my twins, unlike with my first. My husband and I decided early on that we would ‘enjoy’ not ‘survive’ them.
Developmentally, most children get there in their own sweet time (I fully appreciate I am lucky to not have children with disabilities) and it’s a thrill to sit back and watch it happen. Seeing two babies learn to crawl, cruise and walk really is double the joy – it’s just as exciting when the second twin learns something that his brother has already mastered.
There is no perfect baby, despite what the books will have you believe. I saved so much time and energy not trying to make my boys fit into any social conformities, particularly with sleep and eating etc. I co-slept with one, as that’s what he needs, but his brother was happy to be alone in a cot from three months, and slept through the night from 12 months.
Co-sleeping isn’t a miracle cure for tiredness, that mind-numbing, nausea-inducing exhaustion that is the reality of being awake a lot at night with a baby. But for me it made it that bit easier to deal with: I didn’t have to get out of bed, which meant I could fall back to sleep more easily. My twins are now 17 months old and my husband and I are both far less tired than when we had one at 17 months and I thank co-sleeping for it.
Co-sleeping also aids breastfeeding. It took two weeks to establish breastfeeding with them – essentially constantly pumping and feeding in that time. But once they were established, feeding was a lot easier. It was still eight times a day, and for the first few months, it was a boot camp, a rigid routine. I have fond memories of binging on The Killing in the middle of the night, or playing Civilisation in the bedroom – truly, anything goes! My husband was fantastic – in the first few months I would sleep from 7-11 (ish) pm while he took charge. Having one round of deep sleep a day, even if it was the only sleep I got, kept me sane.
When I found out I was having twins I was overwhelmed with feelings of guilt that they wouldn’t get from me emotionally what their older brother got as a single child. I was adamant that I would breastfeed them just as I had him, and I’m so proud for having done so. As the months passed and these tiny babies emerged into their fascinating unique selves, my anxieties of guilt about not meeting their needs gradually evaporated. As parents of more than one child will attest, somehow you just find a way of parenting each child for himself, multiples or not.
I already had my established network of friends from first time round, and with a fantastic family close by I looked for support. It can be hard to ask, but believe me, people want to help. I found that support from the hospital gave me the confidence to persevere with breastfeeding in those early days. And the local Twins Club run by Homestart allowed me time with my eldest and enabled me to share with other parents of multiples.
And really, really, finally, corny as it sounds (hey, it’s my life!), my boys, Jake, Rhys and Myles, are the reason I enjoyed my first year with twins.
Guest post written by Sonya D.