My 17-month old boy/girl twins are my first and only children. The pregnancy was not a surprise, but the doctor saying “here’s one sac, and….here’s another sac” was certainly a shock. We knew people who had twins and they seemed to be surviving, so how hard could it be?
We were ambitious. We could do this. And…well…it was happening so we needed to be on board with it.
I remember telling my former boss that I was pregnant with twins. After she squealed with delight, she told me that she had a friend who’d recently had twins and who was constantly telling her how “coo coo bananas” it was at her house, day and night. Having two young children herself, a 4-year-old and a 2-year old, she remarked that she couldn’t fathom how it could possibly be that much harder than what she went through. Not having the foggiest idea what I was about to experience, I agreed with her and hoped that we were both right.
We were wrong. Now that we are in our second year of twin parenting, we are finally starting to learn that there is no amount of ambition in the world that can prepare you for the first year of twins. Or as my mother-in-law said (somewhere around week 6): “Having twins is not like one baby times two, it’s like one baby times eight.”
We are finally starting to learn that everything is temporary. As soon as we think we’ve mastered the newest challenge, that one goes away and another one takes its place. It’s an endless merry-go-round of mistakes, more mistakes, survival techniques, giving up, giving in and the ultimate test in learning to choose your battles…times two.
So for those of you who have two (or more) little ones and don’t understand why us twin parents seem so much more exhausted, here’s why:
1. You Don’t Have The Benefit Of Lessons Learned
Most new parents have absolutely no idea what they are doing. Everything you learned from all those wonderful baby books and classes goes straight out the window when that tiny little person arrives. But you learn as you go, you make mistakes but eventually you find a rhythm and at some point, you think “Wouldn’t it be nice for the baby to have a sibling?” and decide you want to do this all over again. This time, you know more…a lot more. You know what to worry about and what not to worry about (which in my opinion is half the battle won); you know roughly how long each phase will last; you have a toolbox full of tools that have been tested and approved; you have experience and depending upon how old your first born is, you might also have a helper!
When twins are your first children, your toolbox is completely empty and now you are responsible for two tiny humans who, although they are twins, need completely different things at completely different times. You’re extra exhausted because there is always one baby who is wide awake (and probably crying). You’re sore because (1) most likely you had a C-section, and (2) if you are breastfeeding, there are no breaks and no time to heal; you are either feeding someone or you are pumping.
It’s true that the first few months is hard for everyone, but if it’s your second or third go-round, you have a bag of tricks to get you through the Dark Ages.
2. It’s Really, Really Hard To Be Alone
Being alone with newborn twins is bonkers. I don’t speak from a place of much experience because I was so terrified of being alone with my twins that I did everything in my power to make sure it almost never happened, at least in the first few months. But, occasionally it did happen and I vividly remember counting down the minutes until my husband or my mom or any adult human would come through the door to rescue me.
Managing two screaming, hungry babies trying to latch onto every part of your body while you are negotiating with a twin nursing pillow will put your nerves into overdrive. Then (if you’re lucky) you have two sleeping babies on your lap once you realize that (1) you desperately have to pee because you are drinking tons of water every day in order to make sure that you can produce enough milk for two babies, (2) that you haven’t eaten yet today and you are starving because you just gave all your nutrients to those two babies, and (3) that your cell phone is…um…who knows where it is? Even if you could figure out how to get one of them into a bassinet without waking them, what about the other one? Someone is definitely waking up and that is just unacceptable so you sit there, on the couch, starving and praying that you don’t pee your pants before someone rescues you.
3. People Ask You Questions That Are None Of Their Business
There are a lot of funny posts and articles about the absurd questions and comments that twin parents get when they’re out in public.
“Are they identical?” Well, one is a boy and one’s a girl and they look absolutely nothing alike so…no.
“Did you have a natural birth?” Pardon me, do I know you? And what does that even mean?
“Since you had a boy and a girl you must be done, right?” Done with what? Life? This conversation?
The most famous one that’s not really a question but still gets me every time: “Oh! I always wanted to have twins!” Am I supposed to offer you mine?
Also,“Two for the price of one!” Oh, you think so? Tell that to my uterus and my wallet.
And my personal favorite, “Are you their mom or just babysitting?” I get this one because I am brown and my kids are multi-racial, fair skinned and my son has blue eyes. For this one, I’ve toyed with different smart-ass answers, but lately I just give a fake smile and keep it moving. I’m sure that people with non-twin children get silly questions too, but I suspect it’s not nearly as often or invasive and at least they had the experience of going out in public with one baby and perhaps just getting the obligatory “Oh, he or she is so cute!”
4. At Some Point You Will Have Two 2-Year Olds
5. There Are No Hand-Me-Downs
Having twins can be very expensive and if they’re your first children, there’s no car seat from older brother or clothes from older sister. You have to purchase everything and most things you have to purchase twice. Two high chairs, two car seats, two cribs….you get the point.
6. There’s Never An Only Child
They always have each other. Always. Even when they don’t want to. They never have the experience of being the only child and we, as parents, rarely get the experience of bonding with a single child. In those rare moments when I get to spend time with a single twin, I try to live in that moment, cherish it and let them feel the uniqueness of it along with me.
I never imagined being a mom to twins and as hard as it is, I would not change one single thing. OK, maybe I would change a few things, but those are mostly things about me and nothing about them. They are the most wonderfully imperfect, perfect, funny, curious, rambunctious, silly, stubborn, exhausting, beautiful beings in my topsy-turvy world. If they choose to become parents someday, I hope I am there to help them navigate their way through this ridiculously tough job, whether it’s for one baby, two babies, or more.