Year One With Twins: A Survival Story

Jamie is 37 weeks pregnant with fraternal twin girls.

37 weeks.

She is a rockstar. I was a whale-like, sweaty, sleep-deprived, bloated, hot mess at 34 weeks, when I delivered Luci and Nicholas.

This is the last photo of me pregnant with Luci and Nicholas, taken at 32 weeks at my great aunt's 80th birthday party. I believe I spent the majority of the party in this chair, because I was too gargantuan and exhausted to heave myself out of it. To say I was uncomfortable, miserable, and panicky every single moment of every single day in those last few weeks doesn't quite cover it.

Jamie has lasted 37 weeks, and as of Wednesday night had cleaned, mopped, and vacuumed her entire house.

While 37 weeks pregnant.

With twins.

It's nearing Luci and Nicholas' 1st birthday, and Jamie is scheduled to deliver her twins on Monday (at 38 freaking weeks-yay, Jamie!), so I figure it's a good time to answer the question she asked me back in July, and that question is:

How do you survive the first year with twins and a toddler?

Oh, did I also mention that Jamie has an adorable 22 month old son as well?

Here are my Top 8 Survival Tips, in no particular order. I would like to add the following word of caution to Jamie and my other readers who are currently pregnant with twins.

My twins were (and still are) extraordinarily tough babies. I have several friends with much more even-tempered twins, better-sleeping twins, and twins whose screams do not break the sound barrier and make you want to pry out your eardrums with a dull knife. My survival tips are based on my own experiences, which when negative, will hopefully NOT be your experiences.

1. Line up help for the early weeks/months. And by "help," I don't mean relatives who want only to hold your babies, and who have no interest in giving you the help you really need. If they don't volunteer to wash the week's worth of dirty dishes in your sink, throw a load (or 12) of laundry in the machine, or cook or buy you a meal, since the crust from your toddler's peanut butter sandwich does not constitute lunch, consider asking them to postpone their visit until the twins turn 10.

I was extraordinarily fortunate to have my mom stay with us for the first 7 weeks of the twins' lives. She shopped, cooked, and cleaned for us, in addition to pitching in day and night (and middle-of-the-night) with twin care. Other relatives brought food, did my laundry, and watched Isabella. When someone asks you what they can do to help, do not be shy. Tell them exactly what you need. Most are more than willing to help.

2. Embrace the TV. I was entirely anti-TV until Isabella turned two years old. At that point, I started allowing her to watch an episode of Sesame Street a day, and as she neared 2.5, she started watching Clifford and Caillou. I really wanted to avoid having to constantly switch on the tv to keep her occupied while I was nursing the twins in those early months, but she chose the times I was stuck in my nursing chair for up to an hour to all but set the house on fire. So, a couple times a day I would stick her on the couch with a snack and she would watch one of her shows while I nursed. It kept her content, safe, and occupied like nothing else would.

3. Cook ahead. I did a little bit of cooking ahead before the twins were born, and then before my mom left, she stocked my freezer with a lot of meals. This is something I've kept up with to a certain degree, when I have the time.

I can barely remember the first 6 months of my twins' lives. Taking care of high-needs infant twins and a toddler is so all-encompassing that dinnertime would approach and if I hadn't thought to pull a meal from my freezer, we all would have eaten cereal for supper. I just didn't have the time to cook.

4. Make some time for your older child. Longtime readers will know what an emotional mess I was in the weeks leading up to the twins' birth over how their arrival would affect Isabella. Once they arrived and I saw how much she adored them, and how her behavior wasn't out-of-control as a result of her two new siblings, I relaxed and tried to figure out how we could spend some one-on-one time together. Two weeks after their birth, Isabella and I went to a toddler Halloween party at our children's museum. Every Thursday, she and I went to her gym class together. I am still looking for ways to give her my undivided attention. Some days I succeed. Others (sadly, most others), I don't. Twins require a lot of care in the first year, and even if your older child is still just a baby herself, she suddenly becomes the "big kid" and your expectations of her will change, sometimes unfairly. Having time alone with you makes her feel special, especially when a lot of attention from friends and relatives is lavished on the twins.

5. Get out of the house. If you're staying home with the twins, leave the house as soon as your partner gets home. Take a walk, grab a coffee, do whatever it takes to see the light of day (or the dark of night) and breathe the air outside your home. Even if you think you can't leave because one twin is screaming, and your toddler is begging you to color with her, if you've been immersed in newborn twin hell for 12+ hours on your own, you need a break to keep from burning out. I didn't do this enough, and I really, really should have.

Now for the things I didn't do with my first set of twins, but which I totally plan on doing with my second.

6. Pump. If you're breastfeeding, pump as much as you possible can. I rarely did and now only do it if I know I have a (rare) event that will keep me away from the twins during a feeding. In the early days with Luci and Nicholas, I felt as if I spent 18 hours a day feeding them. I nursed them each 8-10 times in a 24 hour period, and these were just their normal feedings. I would also nurse them to get them back to sleep because it was literally the only thing that worked. It was all me, all the time, and while the hubs was able to do some rocking, I was stuck in my chair nursing them constantly. Admittedly, finding time to pump for twins when you also have a toddler needing attention is really hard, hence the reason I didn't do it. But I believe that if I had, I would have been able to preserve more of my sanity over the past year.

7. Separate them if necessary (and if possible). We live in a small three-bedroom house. Luci and Nicholas had no choice but to share a room, and frankly, prior to bringing them home, I had no qualms about this arrangement. A close friend's four-year-old twins have always shared a room and quickly learned to sleep through each other's cries. I thought my twins would do the same.

How wrong I was. Luci and Nicholas constantly woke each other up both when they were in bassinets in our bedroom and when we moved them to their own room. They still wake each other up all the time almost a year later. I was worried they wouldn't have a close relationship if they didn't share a room, that they wouldn't share the twin bond I've heard and read so much about.

But you know what? Well-rested babies trumps any talk of twins needing to share a room in order to bond. Knowing then what I know now, if I had had a fourth bedroom when I brought them home, I wouldn't have given each twin his/her own room, and I cannot wait to move them into their own rooms in the new house.

8. Don't be afraid to seek help for PPD. Looking back, I believe I developed PPD once the cloud of their emergency delivery and NICU time lifted. I was completely overwhelmed with their care and the care of my just-turned-two-year-old daughter. In many ways, I still am. But I didn't see my doctor, and I didn't ask for help. Instead, I blogged, which was certainly helpful thanks to the support of all of you, but which may not have been the smartest thing to do when a prescription could have helped too.

There is nothing in this world that can prepare you for the birth of twins. Throw a toddler into the mix, and you have a recipe for serious mommy burnout. If it all gets to be too much, as it was for me, talk to your OB. End of PSA.

Good luck on Monday, Jamie. I can't wait to see photos of your beautiful baby girls.

Oh, and speaking of twin birthdays, Chas' twin girls turned one year old yesterday! Happy Birthday to A and E!

8 Responses to “Year One With Twins: A Survival Story”

  1. # Anonymous Ness @ Drovers Run


    Right before point no. said,
    "Things I didn't do before my first set of twins, but which I'm planning on doing with my second."


  2. # Blogger Mom24

    Wow! I know how hard this year has been on you. There's a lot to be said for surviving. You've done a great job this year. You've kept your home intact and have three thriving children. Very impressive. It will get easier. I promise.

    I've been thinking of you so much lately. How's the new job going? I assume the move is right around the corner. Good luck with that. You're still under a tremendous amount of stress right now--three small children, a new job, new home. Don't be afraid to ask your doctor for help if you feel like you need it. Don't be afraid to ask relatives/friends for help either. People who truly care don't mind.  

  3. # Blogger Kristi

    Ness-that was a bad joke. There is no additional set of twins in my future! :)  

  4. # Blogger Jamie

    Oh Kristi, I don't feel like a Rock Star at all. I feel like a cross between a camel and a whale.

    Thank you so much for answering my question so honestly. I plan to keep this page bookmarked so when the going gets tough I can come back and read it and know that it is possible to survive. I'm feeling very overwhelmed about what lies ahead...  

  5. # Anonymous Lis Garrett

    Kristi - I think these are great tips for anyone about to have a baby, twins or a singleton.

    You've done an awesome job, really!

    And I nearly spewed coffee all over the computer thinking you might be pregnant with twins again. LOL!  

  6. # Blogger Sunny

    Thanks Kristi, this is all fabulous advice. I'm sure I will have even more questions for you come April, if we all survive that long!  

  7. # Blogger Jesser

    I'm always amazed by how well you do!!  

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