“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, take a breath.
“Enjoy it! I cried when I found out I was expecting twins. My mum had twins when I was 12 so I knew they were hard work. The truth is, they are more hard work than just one (doh! there are two of them!) But they are great fun and so cute together. It’s an awesome ride. There’s no going back so enjoy it!”
Orlena Kerek. Twin Mom. Blogger at Snotty Noses
“It’s going to be great. You can’t even imagine how awesome it is going to be to watch your twins run around and play together, lay and whisper together, come up with surprises for you together…
It’s going to be hard, but it will get easier and easier and easier.”
Adrienne Danielson. Mom to Twin 5 year olds.
Focus on those first few years.
The first few years with twins are a little like boot camp. This is maybe not the optimism that you were looking for, but it is honest. The optimism 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.
“Get as much rest as you can and take care of yourself – a twin pregnancy is hard work! Twins are awesome, don’t be scared.”
-Laura Rizer. Twin Mom. Blogger at Sunny Day Family
Attack Parenting as a Team
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.
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.
“Enlist help now! Who will be with you in the beginning? It takes a village to raise a child and it takes a metropolist to raise twins!
Erica McCool, Mom to twin 15 month olds.
Expect the Unexpected
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.
“Twins can be the most tiring and awesome experience you will ever have. Be prepared to spend the first 3 years of their life answering the question “Are they natural?” Come up with your own sarcastic answer and own it (My go to: No, they are robots, aren’t they lifelike?”). If your twins are identical choose a method to know who is who until you can tell them apart (we chose specific colors for our boys). Find the parenting/feeding style that works for you. For us we set a schedule, and it was a lifesaver, but find what works for you and don’t be afraid to keep with it.”
Ticia Messing. Twin Mom. Blogger at Adventures in Mommydom
Get Them on a Schedule
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.
“Put them on a schedule as soon as possible. When one is hungry feed them both. When they are a few months old they will be ready to be coaxed into napping on the same schedule as well.”
Adrienne Danielson. Mom of twin five year olds.
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.
“Invest in the Step2 Choo Choo Wagon, Britax Convertible Cars Seats, Magna-tiles, a ring sling, and a mei tai carrier, you won’t regret it.”
-Kristen Stehli. Mom of 7 Year old twins. Blogger at Epic Childhood
“Get a car seat/stroller system that you can lift and maneuver easily. This is different for everyone. Side by side works for me, while my cousin with twins swears by tandem. Try them out in the store and buy what works for you otherwise you will never want to leave the house. AND YOU NEED TO LEAVE THE HOUSE.”
Erica McCool. Mom of 15 month old twins.
Take Care of You
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.
“Twins are truly remarkable but you will have days when you have no idea who is who and if you will ever get a shower. My advice is to fill your freezer with things you can eat with one hand. Muffins, mini meatloaves, banana bread etc. Start compiling a list of people will come over and truly help. You will need extra hands for so many things. Schedule them in now because they will be your saving grace. And, get out when they are babies and don’t move – dinners, shopping, short trips – they are great little travel companions and getting out of the house provides stimulation for them and you! And when people ask if they are twins, declare it was a 2 for 1 sale!”
Kerrie Mendoza. Twin Mama. Blogger at Family Food and Travel
Trust Your Instincts
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.
“Don’t get too caught up in what books say or other people’s advice, you are still a mother and you will have a motherly instinct just like everyone else. Twins are hard work, but the first time you witness your babies giggling together or holding hands you will quickly realize what an amazing gift you were given.”
-Meredith Magee Donnelly. Twin Mom. Blogger at Homegrown Friends
“Don’t beat yourself up when things don’t go how you think they should. They will be fine even if you never make it to one “Mommy and Me” class with them.”
-Adrienne Danielson, Mom of 5 year old twins
“You may need a c-section and you may not be able to exclusively breastfeed your twins. Come to terms with it now. I was stoked to have a vaginal delivery and pretty upset when nursing didn’t work out. MOVE ON! Do what works for you and babies…Get Amazon Prime if you don’t already have it…Your heart will ALWAYS be fuller than your hands. My twins have taught me to chill out and not sweat the small stuff. Today they learned to march and kick while dancing to Christmas music. Last year at this time I didn’t know my name! It goes quickly and twins are a unique joy for only the luckiest of moms!!!
Erica McCool, Mom of 15 month old twins.