Written By: Amy Towarnicki
Think about when you brought your beautiful baby home from the hospital. Those first few precious days, where you are exhausted, amazed, overwhelmed, excited, and mostly in a sleep induced haze. You’re dealing with changing diapers, feeding, burping, waking up all night long, being covered in bodily fluids (spit-up, breast milk, pee, poo), and just in general trying to figure out what this wailing tiny human in your arms needs at all times. If you’re a mom, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Now take all that, and double it – and you’ll have a glimpse into life with newborn twins.
Like most parents, I think I have glossed over (or maybe just forgotten) those first few days and weeks after we came home from the hospital. I had researched as much as possible about how to survive twins, so thankfully I had a pretty good support system in place when they arrived. My husband was off work with me for the first month and then my mom stepped in. I still remember when my younger sister visited from B.C. and came early with my mom one day to help. They arrived around 7am to be greeted by me crying hysterically, trying to get the twins changed for the second time after one had already pooped through his outfit and the other puked all over hers. I was covered in vomit from a reflux projectile vomiting baby, trying to hold both babies at once, and my two- year-old was holding onto my leg crying. This was my sister’s first time meeting the babies, and I could see the shock in her eyes. I think she had envisioned cuddling two peaceful sleeping bundles. My mom joked that the scene was great birth control!
What I remember most with the twins those first few weeks was just how hard we worked at feeding them and how incredibly sleep deprived we were. Like most twins, ours came early – 4 weeks in our case. Many people with twins are dealing with medical issues, and/or time spent in the NICU. We were extremely lucky in that we only spent 3 nights in the hospital, but our twins were still considered premature and had trouble gaining weight. We ended up doing ‘triple feeds’ to help them gain. This involves breastfeeding, pumping, topping up with a bottle, for each baby, every three hours, around the clock. This whole procedure took a minimum of an hour for us, and this is with my husband topping up one baby with a bottle while I started nursing the other, not to mention washing all the pumping equipment and bottles as well. This means we basically didn’t sleep more than 2 hours at a time for about a month.
The other difficult aspect was actually physically caring for two babies at once. It was a huge learning curve figuring out how to juggle (literally sometimes) twins. What do you do when both babies are screaming for food at the same time? You figure out how to tandem breastfeed on a giant twin nursing pillow, or get really fast at making bottles. You get used to babies crying, because if you want to move from one room in your house to another, you have to carry them one at a time. You figure out that even if you can pick both of them up at once, it’s REALLY hard to safely put down one newborn, while holding a second one. You baby wear, sometimes both at once. You get really strong arm muscles from carrying two bucket seats at once. Every twin parent figures out their own little hacks for survival (and thankfully many of them share it online to help the rest of us)!
You survive. You figure it out. Just like all parents do, you adjust to your new situation. You lower your expectations for your house, your appearance, and how much you’ll get done in a day - and then you lower them some more. You rely on other people more than you feel comfortable with. For me there was just an overwhelming sense of guilt. Guilt that my mom was spending every day at my house. Guilt that my husband and I barely had time to talk to each other some days. Guilt that my two-year-old was getting so little attention. Guilt that sometimes one baby just had to cry because I was right in the middle of changing a diaper or feeding the other. The guilt and stress was sometimes so overwhelming that I would cry along with them.
That guilt still happens even as they approach a year, but I’ve gotten better at letting it go; because I know now all the joy that comes with twins too. I know how beautiful it is to watch your twins notice each other for the first time, smile at each other, interact with each other. I’m comforted knowing they’ll always have each other to lean on, a “built-in best friend” to experience life with. I love watching my now three-year-old son hug both of them at once and tell people he loves ‘his babies’. I love when all three kids are being adorable and my husband and I smile at each other and say “can you believe we have three kids?” And I’ve found that I’ve become a part of an amazing community of other twin moms, where we share advice and company with people who get it (shout out to the Hamilton Twin and KW Twin groups). No matter where I go, I seem to run into other twin moms and we smile knowingly at each other. So many times I have been comforted when moms of older twins tell me “it gets easier, I promise”. The twin newborn phase was chaos, but we survived - and I can’t wait to see what comes next.