By K.K. Goldberg
Now that my twin boys are nearly 4 years old, I look back on the advice, warnings, and forecasts I received from the moment I learned I would be gestating multiples. I’ve thought often about what I wish someone had told me then, as a complement to the fearful facts of medical risks and the chortled predictions of sleepless doom.
Here’s my added input, distilled down to these ten ideas:
1. It’s going to be okay, though your definition of okay will likely change. The minute you learn you’re pregnant with twins, you’ll probably also start to hear the statistical realities of higher risks and extra complications. Hardly anyone will tell you it’s all going to be okay—but it will, because your understanding of what’s okay will broaden. Okay might include the NICU, a c-section, or any number of things that weren’t part of your original plan. You will get through it.
2. It’s natural to be ambivalent. It’s only human to be shocked and daunted by the fact that you will be gestating and then tending two new lives, rather than one. Many mainstream images of new motherhood involve a one-on-one mom-baby scenario, not a “football hold” double breastfeeding scene. Go ahead and balk. In every hero’s journey, there’s an initial turning away from the necessary task. This is part of your preparation. It will pass.
3. All the weird stuff people say to you is really about them. Carrying twins is not like a singleton pregnancy. Much of the advice and input you receive simply won’t apply and will often be distressing. Whether it’s a lecture on breastfeeding or the ominous “jokes” that you’ll never sleep again, people are actually describing, however inappropriately, their own experiences and hang ups. They might not even recognize this, but you can, even through the haze of hormones.
4. People will emerge to support you. Many advise expectant mothers of twins to organize a “food tree” or to fill the freezer with ready-made meals. If you can, that’s great. But if you aren’t a spreadsheet afficionado or super meal planner, do your best. Be open. Be willing to accept help as it’s offered, when it arrives. If you’re doing this twin-raising business with a partner, he or she will likely be heavily involved. This can be a beautiful thing.
5. Parents of multiples are an amazing community. Other moms of twins and triplets are like the Navy Seals of parenting, and local twins/triplets clubs are an incredible resource for moral, emotional, and tactical support. You will be amazed to find there’s a ready-made club of women and men who utterly understand what you are going through. Even if you aren’t near a local twins’ club chapter, the resources online are fantastic. Welcome. Enjoy.
6. You are getting a head start on releasing the images of perfection in how you’ll parent. For mothers of twins, the opportunity to abandon certain parenting fantasies starts early. It’s okay not to be gloriously posing half nude with your baby bump on a magazine cover, or maintaining upper arm tone, or doing anything other than what’s necessary and comfortable. It’s okay if you are worrying over survival and finances rather than nursery themes and birth plans. All parents arrive at this moment of reality eventually. Parents of twins get there faster—and it opens the way to savor the good stuff, too.
7. You will sleep. Don’t listen to the scaremongers and naysayers. The first months will be intense, and sleep deprivation will be part of that. However, most twin parents get their children on a schedule and become organized about sleep. You may find yourself with glorious blocks of slumber, once the “survival phase” is over.
8. It’s fine to get fat. Your body is doing something extraordinary, and the social constraints on size and appearance simply don’t apply to you. A Navy Seal isn’t going to fret about his figure, and you don’t need to either. Be proud. You need to get through this mission, and that’s all that matters. See this article on weight gain for twin moms.
9. There’s no magic number. Building a family doesn’t unfold according to the ideals described by doctors, economists, bloggers, parents, neighbors or social scientists. There will always be those touting the idea that one child, two children, three children or no children is the new “ideal.” What’s optimum is what you happen to have. That’s the beginning and the essence of radical love.
10. The twin bond is beautiful to behold. All the books tell you to emphasize the individuality of each of your twins. Don’t dress them the same! A shared birthday cake will scar them for life! Of course, your children will be individuals and should be treated as such. Far less is written about the beauty of togetherness that emerges between twins—the companionship and depth of friendship. Even with complexity and conflict inevitable, it’s dazzling to arrive in the world with a soul mate. Treasure this bond.