How to Survive the Early Years with Twins
"That looks like a second heartbeat." Those are life changing words. In my experience, if you have heard these words you will react in one of two ways. Delight, followed by some panic, or simply panic.
Two babies? One baby is a lot, right? Just ask any parent of a newborn and they will nod their tired head at you. The idea of having two babies at once is difficult to imagine. It is, however, completely do-able. In a few years you will likely even find yourself thinking that this was the best possible thing to have happen.
Right now you are panicked by the idea of twins. You have to buy double of everything. You have to contemplate how to carry two babies, feed two babies, send two babies to college...You can very quickly get overwhelmed. Before you start plotting an addition to your house and buying a mini-van, please take a breath.
Focus on those first few years.
The first few years with twins are a little like boot camp. This is maybe not the optomism that you were looking for, but it is honest. The optomism is this: you will survive boot camp. You can get through those first few years and I know exactly how to get you there.
Like millions of twin parents before me, I am on the other side. My twins are four and a half right now. They are energetic, they are busy, and they are currently in their room bouncing on their beds boycotting laundry folding, but they are delightful.
The advantages to having twins are huge if you were planning to have more kids. You get two with one try. They have a playmate. It is easier to plan a vacation, buy toys, and plan a schedule around two kids at the same age rather than two of differing stages.
What about if I wasn't planning to have more? This one was supposed to be my only or be my last? I still say that twins are awesome. Your twin has a playmate. This will in the end be far less work for you. The bond between twins is fascinating and fun to watch. This might not be what you planned, but it will be good. You just need to get through that first year and a half.
So, how do you do that? Below are my simple guidelines, along with amazing advice from some fellow twin mamas. They will take work to implement (remember the boot camp reference) but they will carry you through to the other side. The magical point when your kids will scamper off to play together and you will drink a cup of tea. I did that for like a whole 10 minutes this morning. It will happen for you too.
Everyone always talks about twin moms. If you are a single mom you are officially being elevated to super woman status and I highly recommend reinforcing a support system. If not, get your partner on board with double teaming your twins. I talked a lot about how to build a parenting team in this post. You can read the details there, but please do not try to do this on your own. This can mean a lot of different things, but starting with your relationship is key to surviving life with twins. Then arrange more help. Some people want help with the babies. Some people want help with the house. Some people need help with meals. Whatever that means for you, try to arrange help before the babies come. For me, some to bring me dinner and someone to occassionally watch the kids is what I needed the most.
From the moments that second unexpected heartbeat pops up on the monitor life with twins is never dull. Surprises are a part of parenting but you seem to find yourself in uncharted waters more frequently with twins. Your pregnancy will be different than others you have had or the ones you read about in books. Their birth is not likely to follow your birth plan. Bedrest, NICUs, preemies...these are all frequent words in the multiples world. This is scary, but I share this not to scare you but to just point out the extraordinary surprises that go along with being a twin parent. Even as toddlers and beyond, life with twins deviates from singleton parenting. It is often unexpected. Most of this is truly in the best way possible.
The need for a schedule cannot be emphasized enough. I am sure that there are some parents that manage to parent twins without a schedule, but I have no idea how. Get those babies on a schedule. Get them sleeping at the same time, eating at the same time, playing at the same time and you have hope. You have a chance of eating and even getting some sleep. This takes work. HARD work. The first few months it will seem impossible, but push through that and you will be so glad you did.
Start with a good double stroller. I used a stroller considerably more than my friends with one baby who could carry them into a building on their hip. Buy one that will last and is easy to fold and push. Then consider the other things you will need. This might be less than you think, but there will be some things you need in double. Here is my list of twin essentials.
Our number one rule when purchasing things for our twins was to think long term. Buy convertible car seats. Buy high chairs that grow into toddler chairs. Buy cribs that convert into twin beds. Think ahead and you will save yourself money in the long run.
I think this is important advice for all pregnant and new moms, but it definitely applies to twin moms. Take time for yourself. Make rest during your pregnancy a priority. Once the babies come, find a way to take a break. Have two friends over to hold your babies for an hour or two. Take a moment to quickly shower, drink a cup of coffee, or whatever it is you need to feel somewhat human. An exhausted parent is no good to anyone.
It is normal for parenting to feel overwhelming. Whether you are having two kids, five kids or 15 kids, parenting is hard work. There is no one right way to do this. There is no one perfect magic way to make children behave or produce happy off spring. There are a million ways to do this right and only you know your kids. Only you can decide what is best for your children. I'm giving a lot of advice here and you will get countless more suggestions over the years, but you are the parent. Do what feels right. Follow your gut and it will all be okay.
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