Twin pregnancy can be grueling — mine was uncomfortable to the point that the actual birth was the most relaxing part — and I’m talking about a C-section, a surgery for which I was awake and watching.
For most of the months leading up to the arrival of my sons, I felt like a bread machine into which someone had mistakenly crammed two loaves. Don’t get me wrong — I wanted that bread, and had struggled with failed fertility recipes for years. I had opted to transfer two embryos through IVF, so the fact of twins wasn’t exactly a shock. Nevertheless I worried that the dough-baking appliance — in this case my body — was going to bust under the sheer strain of cooking up two.
Pregnancy after infertility is fraught. Your faith that things will go smoothly has been severely disrupted, and statistically speaking, twins come with higher chances of all manner of risk.
Twin moms quickly discover that much of what is written about twin pregnancy addresses medical and practical issues, and that’s crucial. The stakes are high. Far less is said about how the prospective mother of twins can maintain sanity and comfort during the pregnancy. It’s not a doctor’s job to trawl the Internet for the perfect Uggs for waterlogged feet, or take daily calls at 4:00 a.m. to chat over feelings of angst.
Though I’m not entirely sure that I stayed “sane” during my twin pregnancy, here are ten things that helped me stay “sane adjacent.” This list is no by no means complete, and I’d love to hear what others might add. Here are my standouts.
1. Join your local multiples club. If you do nothing else on this list but this, you are already in better shape. I cannot say enough good things about my twins club. I joined originally to access the club’s grand annual yard sale, but the support group turned out to be a lifesaver. I’ve made close friends with other parents of twins and feel these fellow parents of multiples are my tribe.
2. Find a doctor with twin pregnancy experience. This one may trump joining the twins club. Obviously not everyone can jump around with doctors, but if you can, find someone experienced with multiples. So many things can go wrong — or right. An experienced doctor can help you parse which symptoms need to be checked further and which are simply crazymaking.
3. Realize that being scared and/or ambivalent is ok. For me, achieving long-awaited pregnancy didn’t register with unmitigated joy. I felt downtrodden by the discomfort and haunted by the complications. Though YouTube carries videos of couples celebrating in bliss at the news of multiples, I know people who cursed and fell in to major depression — people happy in their families now. I fell solidly into the ambivalent camp — blessed by the idea of two children, terrified at what it would entail.
4. Give yourself a pass. Your body is doing something incredible. It’s building two new bodies — two new brains! You may be exhausted, emotional, eating strange foods and uninterested in activities that formerly fit easily into the fabric of your life. I tried to maintain the same schedule I did before pregnancy, and found myself so exhausted I’d be in tears by the end of each day. People love to say, “Do everything you want to do before children arrive.” If you’re carrying twins, I’d amend this to, “Do only what you want” — to the extent that’s possible.
5. Build a nest. If you sleep with only one pillow, you are probably going to expand your cushion cache. Those maternity tube-shaped pillows can be great, as can a wedge pillow. For heartburn relief, it’s helpful to be propped up. During a peak period of morning sickness, I slept semi-upright in a papasan chair. Later in the pregnancy, I snoozed with an array of pillows bolstering my back, the bump, and my legs — a padded zone that at least allowed bouts of semi-slumber.
6. Consider specialized maternity clothes. I went crazy in the first trimester buying maternity clothes, only to outgrow them in the second. On the one hand, necessity and hormones can make it hard to resist, but in some cases, twin pregnancy is going to mean that the singleton mama stuff just isn’t going to fit for long. The top three items that I wore through the pregnancy’s end were: Ugg boots, belly brace, and a shirt made especially for mothers of multiples.
7. Ignore the naysayers and doom mongers. It still mystifies me how many people love to say things like, “You’ll never sleep again,” or even, “I’m so glad it’s not me,” right to your face, while you’re standing before them, hugely pregnant. It’s unfortunate you can’t time morning sickness as an immediate response. Obviously, the brain-to-mouth filter in such individuals is broken, and/or they are simply projecting their own struggles onto you. When possible, let their words be noise in the air.
8. Only take advice from other twin parents. Or, at least, take advice from singleton parents with a grain of salt — it may or may not be relevant. Parenting twins is a special situation. So much of the blah-blah “wisdom” won’t apply to you, so sift accordingly.
9. Treat yourself with kindness to the full extent. Twin pregnancy generally means you are going to have extra discomfort, extra worry, and extra medical supervision. Everyone else’s focus is on your babies — be sure to focus on yourself too.
10. Be nice to the bump. A twin pregnancy baby bump can reach behemoth proportions. I needed a brace from the second trimester onward. Either a soft fabric band, or the more hardcore Velcro strap/wrap items, can be immensely helpful. None of the lotions I tried for stretch marks or itchiness did much good, but I did find cold towels, pool time, and extra pillows could buffer some discomfort.
Every twin pregnancy is unique — but the one thing they have in common is that it’s a different ballgame than birthing a single baby. If you are reading this because you’re expecting twins, I wish you my heartfelt congratulations. If you’ve had multiples and you have other ideas, please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.