Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Wisdom for the Expecting Twin Mom

Now that my girls are clearly in toddler mode, I'd like to share some thoughts on what I learned in my first year as a twin mom.

1. Your pregnancy will suck (or it won't), you'll have horrible morning sickness (or you won't), you'll gain a ton of weight (or you won't), you'll be on bed rest (or you won't), you'll deliver early (or you won't), you'll have to get a c-section (or you won't) and your kids will be in the NICU (or they won't). For many twins moms, all of these are true. For me, basically all were (though I would probably say my pregnancy didn't suck overall, just stressful near the end). The truth is, you can't really do a lot to change the outcome providing you are already listening to your doctor. I know plenty of twin mom friends who made it past the magical 38 week mark without bedrest, delivered vaginally, and took their kids home without any NICU time. On average, it seems like most twin moms deliver between 32 to 38 weeks. I was told I had about a 50/50 chance of my kids spending sometime in the NICU. I'm not going to sit here and tell you not to worry (because I sure did! Preterm labor and thoughts of the NICU are scary!) but worry won't help so try your best to focus on what you can control like eating healthy and setting up your nursery.

2. Be flexible with your ideas of a perfect delivery. I have always pictured approaching labor with the thoughts of TRYING for a natural birth (I am not opposed to an epidural, I just wanted to see how it would go.) But with twins your perfect labor might not come true. And that's okay. It's really not a big deal in the long run. I think what was hardest was not seeing or holding your kids right away. When you deliver preemies, there is no kangaroo hold immediately following. Instead your kids are whisked away and you'll barely get a glance. I didn't get to see or touch my girls till FOUR hours after delivery, and didn't hold Brooklyn till the next day and Bailey the day after that. Do I feel cheated a little of not having that moment? Maybe. But as a twin mom, you won't have time to really think about that anyway. I promise you will get so many cool moments later that others will never experience that it won't matter in the long run.

3. The NICU is hard. Having a sick baby is hard. Having a newborn sick baby hooked up to breathing machines, tubes and living in an incubator where you can't pick them up is very hard. Getting discharged and leaving the hospital without your babies is awful. Remind yourself that it's temporary. For me, having 34-weekers meant that we didn't have any serious issues, it was more about gaining weight, learning to swallow and breathe at the same time, etc. The days go fast and the nurses are wonderful.

4. Breastfeeding is hard. I was not prepared for how hard. Between my c-section, early delivery and my kids being in the NICU (and therefor not able to breastfeed around the clock), I had low supply issues. I was drinking a beer daily, eating oatmeal, taking all kinds of herbal supplements (fenugreek) and pumping around the clock. Plus I had many sessions with the lactation consultant while in the NICU. I even took some prescription my doctor wrote me to increase milk production that has a potential (rare) side effect of locking your face muscles permanently. In the name of love, right? I only made it to 10 weeks. Whether you breastfeed or not, just do the best you can. Breast milk is the best choice for a baby but if you have to switch to formula, I promise your kids will be alright.

5. The first few months pass in such a crazy fast blur. When babies are on an eating every 2 to 3 hour schedule, and it takes about 1.5 hours to feed/change two babies and then pump, you'll have very little time before the next feeding. You'll be tired but you'll survive. I would always remind myself, the only thing that matters is making sure the babies are fed and the babies are changed. Dishes can pile up, laundry can overflow. Focus on survival at first while you adapt to your family.

6. It really did get a little easier around the 6 month adjusted mark. I know everyone says 6 months is a magical age, and it was in some ways for us. I think the first few months were almost easier in that I was on maternity leave and they were preemies/newborns so they slept all the time. Months 4 to 6 were tougher. Then it started to get a little easier. And a little easier. They are 15 months now and while some moments are hard with any 15 month olds, it is a night and day comparison to having two newborns.

7. No one will understand what you mean by the adjusted age. People who have never been around preemies won't understand what you mean by adjusted age. Let me explain. If a baby is born 6 weeks early, when they are 12 weeks old, they are only 6 weeks adjusted. When they are 20 weeks old, they are only 14 weeks adjusted. Why does this matter? Developmentally they will be behind. Obviously they didn't have as much time to develop in the womb so you can't expect them to be on par with babies who were born full term. The pediatrician told us ours should be all caught up by 2 to 3 years, though I've heard from most twin moms the 18 to 20 month mark is about when they catch up. So try not to be offended or annoyed when people roll their eyes at you or think being born early doesn't make any difference. It does.

8. You will make a scene anywhere you go and EVERYONE will want to comment and/or talk to you. People get so excited to see twins. When we walk into the coffee shop with the girls, literally EVERY head will turn to look at you and smile. You'll hear whispers of "twins!" or "I think they're twins!" or some variation. And you'll get stopped all the time to talk about your babies. ALL THE TIME. Personally, my favorite topic in the world is my adorable babies, so by all means, let's talk about them! Also, everyone will ask you if they identical. And when you say no, they will still ask how you tell them apart. Resist the urge to answer "by looking at them." People mean well!

9. You'll get questions/comments a parent of a singelton would never hear. Because you have twins, everyone will assume you did fertility treatment. While many people are bold enough to ask about this, many will hint around it by asking if twins run in your family. This is secret code for trying to figure out if you could have had twins on your own or if you used fertility treatment. I am so amused by this question because I wonder why it really matters. Ours were not fertility babies. But even when you give this answer, people don't believe you. You can either be offended or just let it go. I say let it go. People are just curious and excited and I don't think they really grasp that it's not appropriate to ask a stranger that. You'll also get asked lots of questions about your pregnancy and delivery from strangers that a mother of a singleton typically wouldn't hear. How much weight did you gain? Did you deliver early? Were they in the hospital long? How much did they weigh? Were you on bed rest? When did you find out you were having twins? Do they run in your family? Did you use fertility treatments? Again, people are just curious. The only super weird thing anyone has ever said to me was some crazy woman at the grocery store who asked what my husband did for a living. When I answered "sales" (note: not his job) she said that wasn't good enough and he needed to find another job. Ha! I told her thanks and I would be sure to tell my husband she said so. All you can do is laugh.

10. Learn to laugh with your partner and make time for each other. Even the strongest marriage will have moments where you are super annoyed with each other while caring for two infants (I am assuming this is probably true for one infant, too). I remember times when my husband would take a shower and feeling irritated that he wasn't helping. How dare you shower! I have two babies alone out there! (And yes, Darren knows I am writing this post and gives his blessing.) So what can you do? Communicate. Laugh. Be honest. Find a sitter. Enjoy moments together. You'll get through it. And don't be a mommy martyr. You need to be upfront when you need help. This is a modern age of co-parenting. Without hesitation, you can tell your partner its his turn to get up when one of (or both) are crying in the night (and they will cry in the middle of the night. Oh they will.) In the same respect, thank each other and express appreciation for all the hard work. Because it is hard. And it's not a contest. You are in this together. No one else will understand what you are going through better than your partner. You play for the same team. Remember that!

11. Buy what you can used. Babies are expensive and twins means expensive times two. I think we spent about $5K on formula that first year. Holy mother of God. So trust me, when you are pregnant and doing all this research on the best double stroller and trying to decide if it's worth spending $500 on the top of the line model, it's not. BUY EVERYTHING USED. Even car seats. I will probably be lynched by the mom mafia out there that would NEVER buy a car seat used but do you realize to buy two convertible car seats for each car at $200 each you would fork out $800???? Instead I got two used for $160 and the other two used for $130. And they are all Britax Marathon. You can probably find a local mom of multiples sale and if you are a member, you can shop early before the general public. Also hit up craigsist and any other local PTA sales. There are tons. Obviously at your shower you will get some new things (you will get a lot of clothes) and that's great. Our stroller was new and our cribs were new. But if someone asks what you really need, you need diapers. And formula. So much formula.

12. You can lose the baby weight. Don't worry about it while pregnant. I gained A LOT while pregnant with twins, and it was all off by the time the girls were 8 1/2 months old. It can be a stressful pregnancy and coupled with limited activity and bed rest, you can see where the pounds may pack on. My doctor gave me the best advice on this. She said being pregnant with twins can do some funky things to your body. Let your body gain as much weight as it needs to, as long as you aren't sitting around eating bon bons all day. So, yeah, eat a ton of protein and do what you need to do. Worry about weight loss later. My tip for you to lose the baby weight? Get the weight watchers app on your phone, STAT.

13. Sick baby times two sucks. Babies get sick. It's inevitable. From croup to Roseola, you'll start learning about all these weird childhood sicknesses that all babies get. And having them both sick at the same time is really, really hard. I'd like to share a coping strategy here but there isn't one. Both girls got croup the week after their first birthday while my husband was out of town. What a hard week. Ask for help and hang in there. You'll get through it.

14. Find twin parent support. Joining my local MoM club was the best decision ever. Seriously. I've made some really good friends in the Westshore Mother of Twin's Club. You can find parents with kids the same age as yours who will know exactly what you are going through, as well as parents with kids who are older that can pass down wisdom (and sell you used equipment). Sometimes we have mommy nights out and grab drinks together. Sometimes the husbands go out for drinks, too. We do twin survival picnics together and the twins all crawl/walk around doing their thing. It's nice to have people to talk to that will understand your concerns on diaper rash, night time rituals, pacifier dependency, twin aggression, etc.

15. The second year is easier. I promise. There are new challenges. They climb everywhere and are just starting to walk. But I don't feel like a zombie everyday. They sleep now (most of the time!). We've mastered eating. We have a (loose) schedule. They have adorable personalities and make me smile and laugh everyday.

16. Twins are hard but totally awesome. There are going to be some hard moments but I love having twins. I love the bond they are already forming. I love seeing them laugh and giggle with each other. I love watching them interact through the cribs on the monitor before they go to bed. I love dressing them alike and hearing people tell me how adorable they are. I love how Brooklyn puts her carrots she doesn't want to eat on Bailey's tray. I love how Bailey will sit inside their tunnel (the wagon box) while Brooklyn open and shuts the doors and they just laugh in a never ending peekaboo session. I love the "monkey see, monkey do" moments when one will copy what the other is doing. You experience so many awesome moments that parents of singeltons never will.

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