Tips for Preparing for Multiples
Guess who’s having twins? Me! The mommy who seriously considered having only one child. Me! The mommy who wrote an article, “Making the Case for Space,” advocating for at least two years between the births of EACH child. Me! Me?
Am I shocked? Yes, a little, but after all of my tossing and turning, wondering and worrying about how to perfectly plan and control our family size, this feels quite a bit like poetic justice. Yet, it also feels very meant-to-be, and my husband and I are thrilled.
That doesn’t mean we’re prepared, though. This summer, my husband and I had finally mentally embraced the idea of having another child and all the good (and rough) times of that decision. After all, we’ve been there and done that, so of course we could do it again. But having multiples! Well, that completely changes the game.
Luckily, as with most things, there are women who have taken this journey before and have lived to tell the tale. I’m turning to them to figure out how in the world to prepare.
Stephanie Stump, a Tulsa area mother of four including twin girls, now age 9, gave me some words of wisdom that I must share with you — all of you current AND potential mothers of multiples (because, take it from me, you never can know for sure if multiples are in your future.)
Tip 1: “Plan, Plan, Plan – but be flexible,” Stump said. Their family’s first daughter came early and caught them a bit empty-handed supplies-wise, so 18 months later, they were well stocked with basic necessities when the twins came. Some experts suggest having 140-200 diapers on hand per week! Getting squared away soon is especially important for families expecting multiples, as the babies are highly likely to come well before their due date.
Planning also involves making some lifestyle decisions early in your pregnancy. In an article at BabyZone.com, Meredith O’Brien listed some questions you’ll need to answer as you prepare for twins: “One room or two? Matching clothes or not? Side-by-side or front-back stroller? Breastfeeding or bottles? Disposables or cloth diapers?” I think my husband and I have our answers picked out for these. How about you?
Tip 2: “Buy two of some things - not everything,” Stump said. “Of course you need two car seats, double stroller, [and the like]. But I rotated the toys between kiddos, one in a swing, other in the ExerSaucer, etc.” Keep other money-saving ideas in mind, too, like buying secondhand and in bulk, signing up for coupons and freebies, and budgeting wisely for good, healthy food and simple, inexpensive toys. “And be sure to ask stores if they give a twin discount!” Stump advised. “I found that store managers would give us between 10 – 20 percent off items if we asked.”
Tip 3: Enlist help. Whether through family, close friends, hired childcare, or volunteers, arrange for someone(s) to help you. Don’t be afraid to ask for help with household chores or meals. Anything that will allow you at least a bit of time to yourself or for relaxation will be beneficial to both you and the babies. The folks helping you may benefit too. “My mom and dad came to visit when [the twins] just got home from the NICU,” Stump said, “and I swear all my dad did was sit and feed, hold, change babies, and watch golf for three days. He loved it!”
Tip 4: Prepare siblings. You and hubby aren’t the only ones who’ll be facing major changes in your lives. Giving older children some time to emotionally prepare for the twins’ arrival will make the transition easier for them. “Our first daughter was 18 months, so she did not really understand, but we did get her two baby dolls and she would take care of them while I took care of the girls,” Stump said. And even while you may not be able to spend as much time with each child as you did before, aim for quality time and enjoy special one on one time with each of your children. Stump remembers, “Reading a book to my first daughter before bed became a peaceful time for us to be together.”
Tip 5: Have a sense of humor. You can expect that moms of multiples will have tons of great stories to re-tell their children and grandchildren in the years to come. “Sometimes I was so tired that I could not remember who I just fed or changed,” Stump said. “And my girls looked so much alike at birth that sometimes I still squint at their pictures. If I think real hard, I can tell who is who.”
Try to keep your humor with curious strangers too. “When I could not get a sitter and had to get provisions at the store, I would pack all three up and head [out], just praying that we could get through the store without a major meltdown from one or all of them,” Stump recalled. “Once I entered [the store], we were like a magnet for every single person to ask me questions or comment on my situation. I almost had a shirt made that said ‘Yes they are all mine. Yes I have my hands full. So please get out of my way – I have 45 minutes until the next feeding and I just need a pack of diapers.’”
Overall, as parents expecting twins or more, we should know that we can do it. Everything may not go perfectly or exactly as we wished. We may have an emergency c-section instead of a vaginal birth; we may have trouble breastfeeding and decide to supplement or substitute in formula all together, and we may be asked one too many times from a stranger, “Are they identical?” while struggling to calm two screaming babies. But we can make it. Parents before us have indeed been there and done that—and lived to tell the tale.
Books I plan to check out:
Twins! Pregnancy, Birth and the First Year of Life, Second Edition, by Connie Agnew, Alan Klein, and Jill Alison Ganon
Mothering Twins: From Hearing the News to Beyond the Terrible Twos, by Linda Albi, Deborah Johnson, Debra Catlin, Donna Florien Deurloo, and Sheryll Greatwood
A group I’m hoping to join:
Tulsa Mothers of Multiples (TMOM), www.tulsamoms.org
A shopping event I won’t miss: Just Between Friends (JBF) fall and spring sales, www.jbfsale.com