HAVING TWINS? HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
By Kerry Dolan
Finding out you’re expecting twins is a melting pot of mixed emotions.
For me, it was a combination of delirious excitement, utter shock and the disturbing realisation that there were going to be two babies coming out of me in approximately six months’ time.
To say I was stunned was an understatement. My husband I were thrilled of course, but we were completely unaware of what life with twins was going to be like. It’s a journey and and an adventure, but it’s also a huge learning curve that requires flexibility, patience and a willingness to accept that, for a while at least, your life is about to turn upside down.
Here are some of the things that we learned along the way.
You get extra monitoring throughout your pregnancy
It was during my first midwife appointment, when she cheerfully told me that I would be sick of her by the end of my pregnancy. A twin pregnancy means you get additional midwife appointments, blood tests and you get to know the hospital scan department staff on a first name basis. Extra scans mean you get to see your babies a lot, which is always a good thing.
You’ll probably feel sick. A lot
As you’re growing two little human beings the levels of the pregnancy hormone human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) are higher so it’s likely you’ll feel very nauseous. Always carry an anti-sickness kit in your handbag – for me it was ginger biscuits, a large carrier bag and half a lemon to sniff, but you’ll get accustomed to it. You’ll also be experiencing higher levels of the hormone progesterone too, which can make you feel short of breath, cause heartburn and indigestion by relaxing the muscles, and possibly constipation. Thanks babies.
You will feel like your pregnancy has lasted three years
In the later stages you will feel enormous. Especially when people comment on how big your rounded belly is assuming you only have a few weeks (and not the reality which is months) to go. You will probably experience backache, hip pain and breathlessness and sleeping will be a nightmare. It’s a good idea to ask your midwife if there are any classes in your area specifically aimed at parents of multiples so that you can reach out to other mums in the same situation and share your woes over a cup of tea.
You’re more likely to have a caesarean birth
Talk it over with your midwife early on if you’d like to try for a natural birth, but there are often factors out of your control which mean you may need a caesarean birth for the safety of yourself and your babies. Try not to be disappointed if this is the case. You’ll need to save all of your strength for looking after your newborns, so don’t waste any of your precious energy feeling disappointed that you couldn’t give birth the way you originally planned to.
You’ll become a local celebrity
Twin babies are hard to ignore, and that’s not just because the pram is huge. You’ll soon find that even simple trips to the supermarket take much longer because you have to keep stopping for people to coo over the babies. People never seem to tire of the marvel that is two newborns snuggled up together. Act like a proud mother hen and enjoy it, you’re now part of the somewhat exclusive Mum of Twins club.
Time is rarely your own
With all the sleepless nights and the endless rounds of feeding and changing, sometimes the only alone time you’ll get is a trip to the loo or a quick shower. You will also find that you have a constant stream of visitors wanting to see your babies. Don’t feel like you have to cater for your guests, show them where the kettle and the tea bags are and drop subtle hints about your ever-increasing ironing pile; they’ll soon get the message.
You will be tired
Sleep deprivation is hard. With twins it really is doubly hard. But surprisingly, you will realise that the body really can survive on close to zero hours sleep. I used a combination of coffee, concealer and sheer determination to get through the first few weeks. Call in favours from friends and family, if you’re suffering from supermarket sized under-eye bags, ask them to watch over the twins while you get an hour’s shut eye. Don’t feel guilty trying to sleep when they do either, even if it’s only for 30 minutes you will benefit.
If you need help, ask for it
You don’t have to suffer in silence. If it’s all getting too much for you then ask for help. Relatives and friends will be only too happy to step in and cook a meal for you, or feed a baby while you feed the other. There is also free help available through local colleges; your Health Visitor should be able to set this up for you.
Childcare and nursery diploma students are always looking for experience working with families and they should be able to commit to a few hours per week. They can’t be left alone with babies, but an extra pair or hands is always welcome. I assumed I would cope with everything myself, but soon caved under the pressure. The college childcare scheme helped me immensely and we made a family friend for life.
You can also check out the Twins and Multiple Birth Association (TAMBA) which has a wealth of good advice and tips for parents.
Being a parent of twins is hard work but incredibly rewarding. As your twins grow, life will get easier as each growth stage passes so it’s important to stay calm and adjust with each phase in their development. Remember, there isn’t a rule book as all new parents learn as we go along. So, try to relax and enjoy those precious moments while you can.
What tips would you share with a parent of multiples?