First time mum of a singleton versus second time around with twins.
I sit down to write this after having successfully accomplished meltdown hour on my own (aka dinner, bath, story, bed to my three little peaches). High-five to me! I say on my own as like many other parents, my partner travels for work and I am the chosen one (aka ‘primary caregiver’ and at times, sole care-giver). I don’t say it to sound better than those mamas out there sharing the load with their partners, heck, I say it because I wish I was you! I get settled and look down to realise I’ve got Rusk smeared all over my tights. Yes I’m in ‘activewear’ and no; I didn’t go to the gym today. Today it was about comfort…oops.
Pregnancy and Birth
The big day of my singleton had come! I was induced, the midwife saw me through my labour and my obstetrician was there for the finale. Curtains (aka legs) were drawn and out came my first-born ‘singleton’, Oscar. This is when the brutal honesty shall kick in… no I wasn’t the mother that instantly grabbed my baby and kissed him all over. Naïve me, thought I was in a movie and they would wipe him down and pass him to me all wrapped up. I was wrong. With slicked-back hair from maternal goodness (amniotic fluid) and a mix of vernix caseosa and blood all over his body, the midwife immediately placed him on my chest for the ‘skin-to-skin’ moment. I looked at my son in complete shock. The love was instant, the bodily fluid was real but most importantly, I had become a mother and I had this little bundle of perfection wrapped in my arms. Life instantly changed for the better.
A year on and I was pregnant again. With the return of work, a one-year old running around and just life in general, I only found out I was pregnant at just over 10 weeks and the following week found out it was TWINS! This is when the term “multiple” entered my vocab and I am now constantly talking singleton vs multiple. I was adamant that I wouldn’t treat the pregnancy any different, I would still exercise, and I would still go about my days as normal and enjoy the time with my singleton before my identical twin girls would enter our family. While I made every effort, it didn’t quite happen so smoothly.
At my 13 week testing, I was told I would have to have an ultrasound every fortnight as the pregnancy was at a much higher risk. From fortnight-to-fortnight, I would get poked and prodded and treated ultrasounds (usually 1-2hr appt. with twins) as forced rest for the week. We would get good and bad news about the growth but generally; the girls were doing well for a ‘multiple pregnancy’. However, my body was struggling. I had developed Gestational Diabetes, which crushed me. I was injecting four times a day by the end and constantly checking my sugar levels. I had developed an inguinal hernia and I had Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction. I’ll be very honest again and say there were days I felt sorry for myself but then there were days that I felt so lucky to be carrying these precious girls and thought of all the people who were struggling with fertility that would do anything to be in my shoes. Life is good. We just need to shift our perspective sometimes.
At 32 weeks, I had to go in for surgery to repair the hernia as it was becoming quite painful and could cause problems in labour. I had a spinal block but I was awake for the whole surgery, my surgeon was playing his music in the theatre and talking me through the whole process. It was such a surreal experience but I’m so appreciative it was a success and my girls were monitored and coping the whole time. What can I say? They take after their mother! The journey to recovery (which also continued post-pregnancy) was painful, really quite painful. I could barely move because the weight of my uterus and babies was pushing directly on the site of the surgery. Nevertheless, I am woman, hear me roar. We are strong. We are invincible. We are
I was induced at 36 weeks partly because I didn’t want to be waddling around anymore and sending photos of my swollen ‘cankles’ to my friend and partly because with identical twins, there are risks the further along you get of twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome which simply means one twin becomes dominant and takes the nutrients and oxygen while the other twin can be starved of these. I was adamant about having a natural birth (vaginal birth – yes we are all adults) and I did just that. I was able to give birth to my twins the same way I did my son. My obstetrician was quite proud, the midwives as they changed over shifts would come and congratulate me so as a result. I am also quite proud. Willow (Twin 1) came out and needed oxygen immediately; Amelia (Twin 2) came out heavier, more colourful and breathing well. This is the moment I realised for two days (as my son would turn two and we would have his “party” in the hospital room) I had three children under two… Complete madness. This birthing experience was completely different to my first, it was calm, it was quite quick, and it was almost pleasant. I actually feel guilty when people ask and assume there is going to be a long story. It was short and it was sweet and to this very day, I would do it all over again compared to my singleton experience.
The fun begins when you get to take your singleton or multiples home. When I say fun, I am really referring to the part of the marathon that can at times be never-ending. To sum it up, at first it is comparable to Groundhog Day. Eat. Nappy change. Sleep. Nappy change. Play. Nappy change. Then comes day 2 – 7. When you have multiples, there is no ducking out in public like you do with your first simply to show them off (and for some women with good genes, also strut their post-baby bods). You sit and figure out if you will demand feed (hats off to all those mamas) or work on a routine (clearly the chosen choice for someone with self-diagnosed OCD AND a toddler). This is the part where you get to take ownership of your choices with your babies. I say this in hindsight (as I tried every path with my singleton until I figured out “my way”) but do what works best for you and your family. By following someone else’s path, you may not lead to success but rather failure and disappointment. Have faith in yourself as a mama because no matter what, someone is looking up to you!
Despite having trained for the Army Reserves a few years before having children and having experienced one child, I didn’t really experience sleep deprivation the way I did when I had twins AND a toddler combo. “Sleep when your babies sleep” they say. As you already know, it doesn’t quite work like that. My toddler has one nap during the day, the twins are now having two but do you think they are in sync? (Admittedly, I do have a case of ‘Mombie’, an exhausted mum who stays up late because it’s her only time alone but I am getting more self-control). To support all fellow mummas out there and being a 21st Century feminist, I do believe fathers need to contribute to a baby’s sleep routine. It’s important that children of any age are happy to be put to bed with both parents. Simply put, it’s more productive.
Attention and Priority
Twins are more demanding than a singleton simply because there are two. Two feeds, two nappy changes, two children to bath, two children to play with and stimulate. The sense of sharing is instilled almost immediately. Personally (no right or wrong here), I listen to my three and their whinge or cry to see who may need me the most in that moment. If there are family members or friends around, don’t be afraid to ask them to hold a baby or entertain the toddler. DON’T FORGET THE TODDLER. Your toddler was your world, your one and only pride and joy and for some families, maybe the first grandchild. The world revolved around them UNTIL they were blessed with two siblings. Expect a shift in behaviour but reward all the positives and it will encourage a smooth transition.
The 2 for 1 Deal
There is no 2-for-1 deal in a financial sense when it comes to having twins. Think double of (almost) everything. Unlike our singleton and first-born whom had everything brand spanking new, when it came to the twins and doubling up on the big-ticket items, we weren’t afraid to buy pre-loved items. If you can afford to do it, I would also highly recommend donating them to other families of multiples that may not be in the same financial position as you. Join the AMBA asap to get great discounts including discounted formula.
Both parents need to be involved. There’s nothing more to it. Whether you are the working parent or the stay-at-home parent, you both need to be present and also need a break at times. For that to happen so you both don’t burn out, you need to share the work. It may look like a one-to-one scenario, or one parent is on twin duty and the other parent on sibling duty, it may be that one parent is looking after all children to give the other parent an hour of rest (or two if you’re really lucky). Check in with one another, commit to one another as partners all over again. ‘You can’t pour from an empty cup’, take care of one another so you can then both take care of the children. If it’s not physical support at times, ensure to check in emotionally at how your partner is coping with your child/children or work.
Some will say there is no routine when it comes to babies, as they are unpredictable. However, in one day you are guaranteed to have a hungry baby, a tired baby, a baby that needs to be loved and stimulated and a baby that has a digestive system. You can very quickly work out whether you are feeding on demand or feeding to a set schedule, there is a loose routine at the very least. A strict routine may not be necessary with a singleton but speaking from experience, when I don’t have my sh** together, things quickly spiral out of control in a day. Get your twins in sync with one another, if it means waking one to help with your sanity, do it! You may only have to wake them for a few days to get them both on the same routine. And the time of the day when you can get all children together is bedtime. My favourite time of the day has become bedtime stories. My toddler will ‘read’ to my twins and I will read to all of them. In our sometimes-chaotic lives, this time (and literacy) is precious.
Everyone has something to say
With my singleton, people would at times give compliments on my son’s physical appearance and compliment his outfit or ‘big brown eyes’ but with twins AND a toddler, the comments and stares never stop. Strangers literally stop my pram to comment “Oh twins!” to which on some moody days I have responded “It’s triplets but I leave the ugly one at home”. “Double trouble” to which I have sarcastically responded “Twice as nice”, “You’ve got your hands full”, “I don’t know how you do it” (well some days I don’t know either and I thankfully don’t drink or I would be attending AA instead of the local playgroup). The list goes on and some comments can be quite shocking. It WILL happen. BUT one thing that gives me mixed emotions is the parent that comments “Oh! I can’t complain, I only have one.” NO! You can absolutely complain or comment and please do. You can talk about your pride and joy. You are entitled to feel whatever you may be feeling in that moment, of that day, of that week. Just because I have two + one doesn’t give me some magic hierarchal stance over any other parent doing the best they can or simply proud of their little one. I am not a hero because of the freak chance that I had twins after having my singleton. My son on his own was more difficult in the early days with his reflux than my girls have ever been and there are two of them.
We all endeavour to survive the motherhood marathon and we all strive to do our PB. If you are a mother of a singleton, please don’t feel inadequate if you cross paths with a parent with multiples. I am no hero. I am running the same marathon as you. I am doing the best I can and some days, on those challenging days when all three children are crying in demand of me, I have had to make a choice to prioritise one child over another, I have felt mother’s guilt BUT I have done the best I could. We are human. We are allowed to experience and feel. And the best thing is, we have one another if we reach out. So while you sit on social media to read this, feel proud that you got through the day or are getting through the day and have managed to get some much-deserved or needed time-out.
*Originally published on Mums of The Shire https://www.mumsoftheshire.com.au/singleton-versus-twins/