Raising twins is a privilege. And it’s hard as hell

In the third part of our parenting series What They Don’t Tell You, Jane Yee discovers nothing can prepare you for twins.

I’ve had a good many ultrasounds in my life. Most have been exciting, a couple have been devastating, but regardless of the extreme emotion tied to each of those appointments, I couldn’t tell you the sonographer’s name. But I’ll never forget Rhonda. 

The transducer had been on my belly for mere moments before Rhonda pulled it away and said “just at a glance, you’re having twins”.

I wanted to say “at a glance? Get that thing back on there and have a longer look woman! It could be gas! Or a fibroid! Last night’s noodles perhaps? But surely not an extra human!”

What I actually spluttered was “are you joking?” but it turns out she was not. 

And so bubbly Rhonda with the lovely Irish accent is indelibly etched on my brain because she knew, even before we did, there was a shitstorm of epic proportions tracking our way. 

I was cocky when we decided to go for a second kid. I was proud of how I’d managed with our first, Victor. He was an easy baby really, and while the newborn phase was a total shock to the system, we’d sailed through relatively unscathed and were looking forward to doing it all over again. 

Then the twins happened. Suddenly, every helpful thing I’d learnt about bringing up babies jumped on a bus and headed for Huntly. 

Victor and the twins (image: supplied).

With Victor, I felt incredible pressure to show the world what a capable new mother I was, but when the twins hurtled into our lives I had the good sense to throw that mother-martyrdom out the window. Instead, I accepted every offer of help that came our way. We were lucky to have the support of many wonderful friends and family members, but even with an amazing village around us, it was bloody hard work – and honestly? It still is. 

A lot of people say memories of those early days with a baby are a blur. For me, with the twins, they are crystal clear. Maisie and Jude spent their first week in NICU as they arrived five weeks early and needed a little help to get world-ready. I vividly remember the beeping of machines, the shuffling of nurses’ sports shoes, the overwhelming warmth and the acrid smell of hand sanitiser.

I remember being passed each tiny baby, as I prepared to tandem breastfeed for the first time, and thinking “holy shit, there are two of them”. I mean, it’s not like this was new information, but right then it really hit me that keeping one baby alive for two-and-a-bit years was not adequate training for doing it in doubles.

For the weeks that followed, feeding the babies became a production that made Les Mis at the West End look like a kindergarten singalong. Wherever possible I had someone close by to physically hand the babies to me, because it turns out it’s pretty difficult to situate two newborns on your boobs at the same time. 

Mastering the art of burping one kid while still feeding the other was an Olympic-level feat that I’m both proud of and kinda sad about. Sure, I majorly levelled-up skill wise, but there was no opportunity to just snuggle a baby and look at him or her lovingly while feeding and burping like I did with my first. The whole thing felt more like a military operation that involved doing twice as much half as well.

As soon as the feeding, burping, changing and settling was done I would whip out my ladies again and get on the breast pump. It was a double pump, obviously, because now everything in my life seemed to happen two-by-two (hurrah, hurrah). Twice as many babies meant twice as much milk required, so I spent all my “spare” time increasing my supply. While the twins slept, I pumped, and when they woke we started the whole feeding process over again.

It was beyond exhausting.

I’m not exaggerating when I say my boobs were out almost constantly. At first I tried to be discreet, doing my best to cover up when I had company. Within a week or two visitors just had to deal with the fact that if they wanted to meet the twins, they were also going to meet ‘The Twins’ – simply put, feeding two babies is not a subtle affair. 

During those early days of the twins’ lives, everything revolved around getting them fed, and I laugh/cry now when I think about how much time and effort I put into making sure their nutritional needs were met. What I should’ve done was throw a piece of white bread with a side of plain pasta at them and yell “this is all you’ll be willing to eat in two years time, so you might as well save us all this trouble now.”

There were also new emotions I had to deal with that are unique to parenting twins. Having to decide which baby to pick up first when they were both crying, constantly worrying I wasn’t spending equal amounts of time and energy on each, trying not to compare their milestones and feeling guilt-ridden when I did.

Then there was the isolation. I think it’s fair to say, all primary caregivers go through a period of feeling lonely when they find themselves at home with a new baby, and with two that was amplified. Any social life I’d managed to preserve after becoming a mum took a nose-dive when I went from one kid to three. 

Trying to get out of the house while juggling two capsules, a bulging baby bag, a double pram and the inevitable pooplosion (twice over) just as I was strapping the kids into the car often felt like too hard of a hill to climb. So I rarely did.

I also rarely slept, because … babies.

Combine all these intensified challenges with also having to meet the physical and emotional needs of a toddler and it’s little wonder I had a total, proper breakdown when the twins were 15 months old. 

This all sounds very woe-is-me. I don’t mean for it to be that way, because the fact of the matter is those two kids have brought so much laughter and love into our lives, we would genuinely be lesser people without them. 

We haven’t had to face the extra challenges of major illness, financial instability or solo parenting, and for that, I am truly grateful. However, I do believe there’s value in getting the message out that yep, raising multiples is a privilege and makes for a lot of cute photo ops, but it’s also hard as hell.

So if you know someone who’s recently had twins crash-land into their lives, for the love of god please drop around some meals, vacuum the floors and rock the shit out of those babies while their parents get a blessed hour of sleep. Call them often and ask if they’re doing okay. Listen carefully when they chirp “we’re doing great” for signs that, actually, they could do with some help.

And if you know someone with triplets or more, after dropping around meals, vacuuming floors and rocking babies etc, go ahead and erect a monument in their honour, shower them in riches and worship the very ground they walk on because those poor buggers are the real MVPs.

Previously:

Emily Writes: What I wish I’d known as a new parent

Catherine Woulfe: When having two kids is infinitely easier than having one

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