by Amye Barrese
A multiples-pregnancy is unlike any other. Friends, parents, and well-intentioned siblings who have given birth to singletons insist they “know all about what you’re going through.” Forget it! They haven’t a clue.
I was almost 30 years old and resigned to the fact I would never have children. Suddenly I learned I was having identical twins. My husband, a fraternal twin himself, was less surprised, knowing the genetic lottery we were playing.
What we didn’t know …
• Identical twins aren’t hereditary—our girls were just a stroke of luck.
• How sick I would get.
• How big I would become.
• How many diapers we would need.
And on and on. What we didn’t know could fill a bassinet.
What we did know … is that we were very unprepared.
Normally, I am very organized, in my career and my personal life. I’m uncomfortable being disorganized. Even worse, I hate being caught off-guard. Once I regained my senses after “twinshock” and came to embrace the idea I was having two babies, I set out to prepare myself for the journey of a lifetime. But it was very difficult to find what I needed.
I was given books upon books on how to have a baby—one baby, that is. I received countless suggestions and ideas for having a baby—one baby, of course. But where was the advice and hands-on experience for moms preparing to have twins? I spent eight months searching fruitlessly. What I found was eye-opening.
Get Ready To Be Sick
Morning sickness—whether it occurs morning, afternoon, or at night—will be part of your life. With twins, it’s worse than when pregnant with a singleton. A few lucky souls manage to escape twin-nausea, but for most it is a part of the pregnancy. Morning sickness doesn’t always include vomiting. For me, morning sickness meant constant nausea for three months—24/7. Foods I had once loved, like canned green beans, I couldn’t even bear the sight of.
Allergies, whether chronic or seasonal, are likely to be greatly magnified as well. I was unfortunate enough to be pregnant during the summer and fall. I carried a whole tissue box in my purse at all times. Some mornings I couldn’t even open my eyes. Yes, this is normal.
It Happens So Fast
Avoid reading books about singleton pregnancies. They will only confuse you and make you worry needlessly. In a multiples-pregnancy, things progress much quicker. If you read in a book you should be feeling ligament stretching at 20 weeks, and you’re feeling it at 12 weeks, you’ll more than likely become upset and wonder if something is wrong. Books fail to mention that in a multiples-pregnancy, feeling ligament stretching at 12 weeks is completely normal.
Be Prepared Early
I felt like the worst mother ever when my hospital nurse asked me for the name of my pediatrician, and I responded with a blank stare. “You did pick out a pediatrician didn’t you?,” she glared. Well, no, I shook my head. I delivered at 35 weeks, and finding a pediatrician had slipped my mind. I felt awful.
A good rule of thumb: Have everything accomplished by 30 weeks. That helps ensure you will be prepared, and allows for relaxation during your last weeks of pregnancy. Believe me, you’ll need it and will be thankful for the downtime.
So what is included in that elusive “everything” you should do? The basics:
• Purchase or collect enough clothing for two babies’ first few weeks.
• Have enough bottles, diapers, and formula (if not breastfeeding) for two babies’ first few weeks.
• Decide where the babies are going to sleep and if they will sleep together.
• Line up helpers to be on-call during your first few days at home.
• Select a pediatrician.
Ask for Help
As a self-proclaimed independent woman, I had the hardest time asking for help. I had no idea how much help I would need. Having my mother, mother-in-law and stepmother on hand to help with chores like laundry, dishes, and some light housecleaning was the best gift they could have given me. Chances are you won’t sleep much at night, so having someone available to fill in so you can sneak catnaps during the day is the best way to maintain your sanity.
In today’s society, many women return to work fairly soon after having children. This is especially difficult for moms of multiples, given sky-high childcare expenses and double the “getting ready” time required each day at 7 a.m. I was very clear with my husband about our ground rules from the start: Since we both work full-time, we will co-parent with equal responsibility. Gone are the days when a man wouldn’t change a diaper.
An invaluable resource while pregnant with twins, and one I will continue to use through my babies’ first year, is online communities. Wonderful support is available from people going through the same thing you are, at the same time. TWINS™ Magazine has a variety of bulletin-board Forums for families with twins and higher multiples, from pregnancy through the kids’ teen years. Another wonderfully informative site is Pregnancy.org. These sites contain invaluable advice, wonderful friends, and when you need it (which you will), shoulders to cry on.
It Really Isn’t That Bad!
My husband still complains about the reactions he receives when he tells people we have twins. Most people respond with something like a moan and a quip: “Oh, just wait!” or “Double the trouble!”
Yet, having twins not only is not as bad as you think it’ll be, but is actually better than you ever imagined. Some benefits of having twins include:
• One pregnancy, instant family. If you never want to have kids again, you already have an instant family!
• Two kids, same age. I pity my friends who have one child finally entering school, only to find themselves pregnant again. Now they must again find childcare again, endure the nightmare of getting a baby to sleep through the night, and experience it all while raising another child.
• Their own best friends. When I put my girls down in their crib at night, if one is still awake, she never cries. Why? Because her sister is lying alongside her. They are never alone. This means more free time for mom, since they amuse one another.
Having twins doesn’t have to be scary. Support and reference material is out there if you know where to look. You may feel overwhelmed at first at the prospect of having two babies at the same time, but take solace in the fact that twin pregnancies are more common now. And with numbers on the rise, you benefit from having more people available with more knowledge, more resources, and more support.
I never knew, beforehand, the love I would feel when I see my daughters’ two heads pressed up against one another as I dim the nursery light. I know now I’ve given my children more than life itself; I’ve also given them a best friend.
Amye Barrese is a freelance writer based in Pennsylvania. She’s a graduate of Penn State, and has had poems published in e-zines, and a novel published as an e-serial by AnotherChapter.com. Amye has worked as a Traffic Manager for two TV stations in Wilkes-Barre, and as a Copywriter for an FM-radio station in Pittston, Pennsylvania.