I’ll never forget the day that my husband and I went in for my first sonogram when I was six weeks pregnant. We were over the moon about the pregnancy, and couldn’t wait to see the first image of our little nugget on that grainy, black- and-white screen. When the doctor told us I was having twins, both my husband and I instantly burst into tears of joy.
And then a few hours later, the panic set in. Two? At the same time? We didn’t know what to expect or what we were in for. When our twins arrived, we were overwhelmed with both happiness and responsibility, learning something new almost every day. “It’s like living in the Discovery Channel,” twin mom Natalie Diaz, author of What to Do When You’re Having Two, and founder of Twiniversity, a global support network for parents of twins, tells Yahoo Parenting.
Our twins are now 3 years old. While we’re still ensconced in the exhausting, wonderful whirlwind of parenting little ones, we’ve learned a lot about raising twins these past few years. If you’re pregnant with twins, are raising a toddler twosome, or are just curious about what twins are like, here are some unexpected lessons that we’ve picked up along the way.
You’ll become a diaper-changing pro in half the time. When you have twins, you’ll learn the parenting basics quickly since you’re doing everything — from diaper changes to swaddling — twice, which speeds up your learning curve.
It is all hands on deck. There’s no kicking back while one parent is dealing with the baby because — guess what? — there’s another baby and she needs you now. Having two babies at the same time is doubly demanding, which is likely why parents of multiples have a higher divorce rate, points out Diaz. Having a plan of who is doing what, from feedings to bath time, helps. “You can’t wing it,” she says. “Both parents need to know they have to be really in it. Even if you’re getting full-time care it’s not going to matter, because at the end of the day, the only two people responsible for those kids are you two.”
Diaz’s advice: “You shouldn’t keep score, and you should never speak to each other after midnight and until the sun comes up. Nothing good comes out of those conversations.”
Breastfeeding two babies at the same time is possible. Tandem breastfeeding isn’t for everyone and can be daunting, but with some planning and patience, you can do it. I chose to breastfeed both babies simultaneously because it gave me more time between feedings, which were every three hours in the beginning.
It’s hard not to compare them. Having two babies side by side is ripe for comparison, but it’s important to remember that they are two completely different people. Even though they’re twins, they may not reach developmental milestones, such as talking or walking, at the same time. For us, one twin walked at 12 months while the other walked at 16 months. Were we a tad concerned when one twin didn’t start walking around the same time as her sibling? Sure. But then we realized we were falling into that comparison trap. Often you need to remind yourself that your twins are individuals who will reach their milestones in their own time.
Their personalities will switch. As much as you might try to peg their personalities when they’re little — such as “she’s the shy one” or “he’s the artistic one” — they’ll switch things up on you, instantly invalidating any theories you may have had. It’s a valuable lesson in what a waste of time labels are.
Simultaneous tantrums are surprisingly rare. I expected that tantrums might be contagious and that if one twin lost it, the other would follow. But in three years, the dreaded double meltdown has occurred only about three times. It is thankfully rare, and I believe it goes back to their different personalities.
You’ll be stronger than you ever imagined. My twins want to be picked up at the same time on a regular basis. I don’t like to leave one out, so I’ll scoop them both up in my arms, which have gotten progressively stronger. It’s one of the main reasons why I keep showing up at the gym: I want to stay strong so I can hold them for as long as they’ll let me. Bonus: Carrying heavy bags of groceries is now a total breeze.
It feels strange when you’re just with one baby. If one twin is still napping while the other is up and ready to play, you’ll have this nagging feeling that something — or rather, someone — is missing the entire time. When my husband and I find ourselves with just one baby to entertain, we can’t believe how quiet (and easy!) it is.
You’ll have bouts of singleton mom envy. I remember there were several times when I’d be pushing our twins in their stroller, which is the size of Cadillac, down the block, and I’d see a mom of a singleton stroll by, wearing her baby in a carrier as she ran errands and sipped her latte. Or I’d watch single mothers dashing off to Mommy and Me Pilates class — something that is not designed for moms of twins. It can be hard not to feel a bit jealous.
Not all twins have their own language. Along with “Are they identical?” and “Who’s older?” one of the most common questions twin parents get — and sometimes wonder about themselves — is whether twins speak their own language. Some do, but it’s not a given just because they were born at the same time. Our twins never developed their own secret language — at least not yet.
You go through each phase once. Parents who have kids of different ages get to repeat milestones and phases years apart, but with twins, you go through everything mostly at once, notes Diaz. That has its plusses and minuses: I’m happy not to have to revisit those bleary-eyed, middle-of-the-night feedings and potty training, but having to pack up and donate their baby bottles and boppy pillows, knowing we’ll never go back there again, was hard. Also, if you don’t have any other kids, you’ll have an instant empty nest. I can’t even think about that one.
You can do this. Raising twins is one of the most challenging things my husband and I have ever done, but it’s also the most wonderful and amazing experience we’ve ever had. We wouldn’t trade it for the world.
(Photo: Rachel Grumman Bender)