It’s my favorite email to get; “I (or my friend, sister, cousin, friend of a friend, co-worker, boss, sister-in-law, or some such other important woman in my life) just found out I (or she) am (is) having twins, HELP!” Understandably this news is shocking, to say the least because we are accustomed to babies coming one at a time. However, this news is particularly shocking when you are not expecting multiples as an option. With fertility treatments these days, most people are educated around the fact that multiples are an option (and a statistically common option), but for those who are unassisted, news of multiples comes as a huge surprise. The following is my “advice” (which you will find contains almost no advice) to fellow mothers-to-be of multiples. Please forward it to everyone who you know who is expecting multiples, bookmark this post and have it at the ready when you hear the news from a friend.
It doesn’t matter whether the news of multiples was a surprise or not, or when in the process you found out, the first thing I tell people is not to be sad or ashamed if your first word wasn’t “yippie!” So many people say, “I just want to have twins and get it over with…” and while I understand that sentiment, the reality of incubating, delivering, and raising twins is overwhelming if not downright scary. Of course it is a blessing, but that doesn’t make it less daunting. So, if your first feelings were a little more like, “OH MY GOODNESS, I DON’T THINK I CAN DO THIS,” (with the addition of multiple colorful four letter words) it’s okay. (Much of this applies to any mother-to-be, so consider it a mommy pep talk, directed mostly at mothers expecting multiples).
First of all, you can do this, and more importantly, you WILL do this. You were MADE to do this. It may not always be pretty, there will be times that you may cry more than the children, but as mothers, we are remarkable creatures, we expand to meet our relative need. Life will quickly become an adventure, and you’ll be on the ride of your life. It can be hard to hear other people say with amazement, “I don’t know how you do it,” because you will know that even though you have no choice, you don’t always feel like you are “doing it.” This is a rule that applies to all moms, but MOMs (Mothers Of Multiples) feel it doubly so.
The best advice I got from another MOM was this, “expect that it is going to be the hardest thing you’ve ever had to do, and you will be surprised at how much easier it is than that, and how much more joyful it is.” There is so much truth in that. Within the first week, I was amazed at how much fun (yes, FUN) it was, and I said at least a dozen times, “this is nowhere near as difficult as I imagined.” Many will tell you that the first year is the hardest. I am in my second year, and I will tell you I think this is so much harder. It is HARD work, but it is good work. You will never grow tired of watching your children interact with each other. The secret twin language will amaze and amuse you. From the very beginning, their different personalities will intrigue you. It is fun work. Focus on the fun. (As I type here, I am listening to my 17-month boy/girl twins sing to each other in their bedroom. They have a relationship with each other that will never be replicated. It is the very definition of beautiful.)
Lower your standards. Once you’ve got them nice and low, lower them another notch. Here’s the deal, you are going to be stretched to the limits of your limits, and then stretched even further. Start letting go of what is not important now, and set yourself up for success. I am sure that sounds discouraging but trust me on this. The dishes will still be dirty tomorrow, the laundry will wait, and that showering every day thing is highly over-rated. I’m actually serious. The more you can get used to a little chaos in the midst of your order, the less it will surprise you when it happens naturally.
Find someone right away who isn’t afraid of two babies. Find out what night of the week they can consistently give you two hours of their time. Ask them to come over at 8:00 pm each week on the day they have chosen. Put the babies down for bed, and run like the wind to the nearest food establishment to spend one hour with your spouse among adults. You don’t have to spend a lot of money, get an appetizer and a beverage, and enjoy the sound of laughter and glasses clanking around you. Breathe it in. It will relax and rejuvenate you. Committing to this activity will do wonders for your marriage. Raising multiples is stressful. There’s no two ways about it (pun completely intended).
Do not, I repeat, DO NOT buy one single book about having twins. They are useless, they will take up 45 times as many pages saying what I have just told you on this blog post (and this post has cost you nothing). You WILL find your way. Rely on the community of other MOMs and ask direct questions about whatever you fear. We’ve walked the road. Those books did nothing more than tell me that it was all going to be possible (which was great information to gain, but didn’t answer any of my concerns). Ultimately, the advice of a small handful of other MOMs brought me to a place where I was not afraid. Okay, that’s a lie, maybe less afraid. So reach out, MOMs are more than happy to reach back, because others paid it forward to us. Then, once you’ve earned your stripes, you’ll feel awesome when someone comes to you. I have found that the MOM community is far less judgmental and far more encouraging than the average mom community. This is my observation, and I will probably get a little flack for it, but I’m willing to go out on the limb, because I really think it has a lot to do with the fact that we’ve been forced to get used to going much easier on ourselves. We simultaneously take parenting so seriously, and ourselves not at all seriously (remember that thing about lowering standards…)
That’s my pep talk. Come back tomorrow to see my personal list of the “must-haves” for parenting multiples. There are plenty of gadgets, and I’ll tell you about my personal favorites. Things that made my life easier, and things that I could have done without, but was darned happy to have.