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.
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.
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.
Then, a woman walked through the door said, “You all have twins? So do I!”
Alyssa Embree Schwartz is a screenwriter and author based in Washington D.C. Her latest YA book series, Georgetown Academy, is out now.
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.”
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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.
Survival Skill #5: If someone asks you if they can help, SAY YES! Even if you don’t have a job for them at that exact moment, say yes because you will. Twins are an all hands on deck situation those first few months. I don’t care if this person is a satellite friend you barely know, they said they want to help, so let them!
It gets better. When I was pregnant, the twin moms I know indoctrinated me into their club by informing me of the twin mantra I would be repeating to myself every day for the first few months. I had no idea what they were talking about because I was happily decorating the nursery, buying adorable baby clothes and going on organizational rampages through the house (the tape on my label maker had to be replaced several times). My biggest concern was if my newly formed cankles would ever go away. Then my husband and I brought little Theo and Gemma home from the hospital, and I called all my twin mom friends and made them remind me of the mantra every day. Because those first few months were crazypants.
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.
Survival Skill #7: Repeat the twin mantra whenever you’re feeling yourself downward spiral. IT GETS BETTER. The first time your babies smile at each other is the coolest thing ever and nothing compares to that moment. Oh, and the other piece of good news – those cankles totally go away.
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.
Suddenly, a man seated in the front of the café with two kids waved his hands and called to us, “These are twins, too!”
Soon after that, I stopped a double stroller mom on the street, a friendly-looking woman pushing two blonde girls with applesauce smiles.
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.
Survival Skill #3: Don’t hang out with singleton moms for at least a month after you give birth. Being a mom is exhausting and challenging for everyone and I’m not taking any part of that away from singleton moms. But for that first month, it’s tough to hear them talk about how hard it is with one baby. That being said, I imagine a mom of triplets would think I’m a complete wuss. But take my advice on this one because in your exhausted state, you don’t want to say something to one of your friends you’ll regret later once you’ve gotten more than two hours of sleep and your filter is back intact.
Yes, it is. I’m thankful not only for my sons, but for the fine company I have along the way.
We all gushed. I felt bad for the other singleton mom–we think you’re cool too, we just a have a thing.
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.
“Twelve and a half.” The girls looked mildly embarrassed, but tolerant.
Survival Skill #2: Invest in two swings. You don’t need two activity mats, you don’t need two Sophie the Giraffes and you definitely don’t need those twenty Aden and Anais swaddle blankets you panicked and registered for at the last minute. But two swings are the gift that keeps on giving. My babies fell asleep in them when they were under three months and now that they’re six months, they immediately relax and play with the mobile part while they’re swinging. Two days ago they were both upset from teething and I put them in the swings with their teether toys and they were smiling within two minutes.
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Now my babies are six months old and I wanted to share a few things that helped me adapt to my new situation. The last time I had to adapt to a new life this quickly was when I arrived at USC my freshman year from my small town in Virginia. Unfortunately frat parties and jungle juice were not going to get me through twin parenting.
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Seven survival skills from a twin mom to help adjust to life with two.
by weeGuest · Published February 13, 2014 · Updated March 25, 2014
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.
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.
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?
“Totally. It’s amazing.” She peered into her stroller, inciting cute babble.
Survival Skill #1: When your babies are both crying at the same time, force yourself to laugh at how ridiculous the situation is as you go back and forth soothing them. Because this will happen and it sucks. The good news is, for me and most of my twin mom friends, you usually have one mellow baby and one feisty baby. This will cut down on the dual meltdowns, although in my case, we had a Freaky Friday situation and the mellow and feisty one switched places around month three. That was slightly confusing, but hey, we were happy one was still mellow.
The last woman whispered to me, “It’s quite a journey, isn’t it?”
Survival Skill #6: Learn the art of the double bottle feed (and make sure your husband, boyfriend, partner, etc. does too!). First, you need two of these rocker chairs (obviously there are many options, but I found these to be the best). Then bib up your babies, take a seat in front of them and feed them both at the same time. When you need to burp one baby and the other one is screaming because they want to continue eating, you can prop their bottle up with a few blankets. And like everything else with twins, this gets sooooo much easier as they get older.
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.”
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.
Survival Skill #4: Do your dark circles a favor and blend YSL Touche Eclat with Benefit Erase Paste all over those swollen bad boys. First put on the Touche Eclat, then the Erase Paste. The combo is unbeatable and I at least looked fifty percent less exhausted than I felt when I finally left the house for my first big grocery store outing.
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I felt relieved. Surely you don’t say “congratulations” to someone who’s doomed? “Is this…doable?”