Last week, in my local Peet’s Coffee, I found myself in line with two other moms. One wore her gurgling baby in an ergo. The other, like me, appeared to have more than a casual need for afternoon caffeine. She leaned on the handlebar of a double stroller, and I peeked beneath its canopy at two bundled-up babies, both sound asleep.
“Twins?” I asked.
“Yeah,” the woman said, heavy-lidded but smiling.
“I have twins, too!” I said, excited.
I hoped this reassured her that I wasn’t going to launch any of the commentary that we twin moms inevitably hear in public. “You must have your hands full!” “Glad it’s not me!” “Did you do fertility treatments?” I wanted only to say hello. As a fellow mom of multiples, that woman was my people.
With twins, you’re highly visible–everyone sees your caravan and crew. At the same time, you’re also invisible, as so many people simply don’t get it. I know this is true because I didn’t get it either, until having twins myself.
Before parenthood, in my mid-thirties, I pictured myself like that singleton mom at the coffee shop. I would simply wear my contented baby all around town! I would easily travel with my husband, socialize with my friends, and save for my child’s college.
Fast forward through three years of infertility–with its myriad tears, treatments, and torments–to the six-week ultrasound after one round of IVF. I’d already learned, after a blood test two weeks earlier, that I’d conceived. The infertility clinic ultrasound would show whether the pregnancy had stuck. My husband and I gazed at the screen, along with our doctor. To me it looked like gray static. The room filled with an ominous quiet.
For many parents of multiples, this moment remains vivid.
“Is that what I think it is?” Ken asked.
“You guys have twins,” our doctor said.
I felt shocked. Sure, I had transferred two embryos, had prayed they’d both thrive, but hadn’t really thought, in reality, like real reality, that I’d end up having twins. I welcomed the news–two babies!–and at the same time felt a chill of raw fear. How would we do…anything?
Soon after that, I stopped a double stroller mom on the street, a friendly-looking woman pushing two blonde girls with applesauce smiles.
“Twins?” I asked her, my throat tight with panic.
“I’m pregnant with twins.”
I felt relieved. Surely you don’t say “congratulations” to someone who’s doomed? “Is this…doable?”
“Totally. It’s amazing.” She peered into her stroller, inciting cute babble.
I had the right instinct, because twin moms know it’s not cool to bring other twin moms down in a vulnerable time. Of course it’s hard! But so are so many things that matter most deeply. I have other twin parent friends who have even articulated this pact, “We realize what we can and cannot say.”
Through the rest of my pregnancy, I flagged down double strollers like someone desperately hailing a cab. I got great advice. Hire help if you can. Set up a schedule. Sleep train the babies. One twin mom suggested I join my local twins club. “They have tons of ideas–like, what to do if your babies won’t sleep more than twenty minutes.”
I recoiled. No way was that going to be me.
Soon enough, however, the strain of a multiple pregnancy drove me to seek likeminded company. Between morning sickness, aching hugeness and generalized terror, I joined a twin parenting support group.
People inside twinland understand the intensity of the early days at home with newborn infants: the trying to double breastfeed while healing from a C-section; the level of sleep deprivation; the total stuckness in your house. There’s an isolation to it. Invisibility is perhaps at its peak. It’s basically a slow emergency, with interludes of beauty thrown in.
General reactions to your newborn twins fall into a few categories. There are those who outright pity you–they are the worst. They’re rare, but they make you wish you’d added a taser to your baby registry. Then there are the people who don’t get it, and may deliver well meaning lectures about why you shouldn’t be so rigid about your twins’ schedule or nap. Finally, there are those who do get it–these are the angels, the day makers, the beautiful helpers–and heavily represented in this group are other parents of multiples.
I should be crystal clear that I don’t advocate for any number of kids, for twins or no twins. Some of the best moms and friends in my world have one, two, and three children. Some have none at all.
I speak of and celebrate my twin community here because twins are what I know, have, and love. My connections to other parents of multiples, through my twins club and otherwise, have made me richer in wise advice, in kindness, and in solidarity.
When I was pregnant, they listened to me weep. When my sons were born, they answered questions at all hours. When one of my children wasn’t walking at 20 months, a twin mom I’d never met spoke to me for over an hour from her vacation, about her own daughter’s physical therapy. It’s like special forces parenting: leave no mom behind. We’ve all been through battle together, in separate hospitals and homes.
So, chatting with that twin mom in Peet’s was an upbeat and friendly barrage of half-sentences that said twice as much. We talked about sleep, lack of sleep, camp, and coffee. My boys were three, I told her. Hers were twelve weeks old.
Suddenly, a man seated in the front of the café with two kids waved his hands and called to us, “These are twins, too!”
“How old?” I asked.
“Twelve and a half.” The girls looked mildly embarrassed, but tolerant.
Then, a woman walked through the door said, “You all have twins? So do I!”
We all gushed. I felt bad for the other singleton mom–we think you’re cool too, we just a have a thing.
I felt totally seen.
The last woman whispered to me, “It’s quite a journey, isn’t it?”
Yes, it is. I’m thankful not only for my sons, but for the fine company I have along the way.