Having twins

Having Twins

When a couple finds out they are having twins, it can come as a genuine surprise. Shock, anxiety and denial combined with utter joy are common reactions. “How will we manage?”, “How can we afford them?”, “Our house is too small”, “I/we won’t cope”, “They must be wrong”, are some of the more common responses.

There is no one right way to respond to the news of having twins and it can take time to process this news. This is why it helps to just aim for an easy life for the first few weeks after having a twin pregnancy confirmed and to avoid being so busy that you don’t have a chance to process the reality. Because although every woman has some chance of conceiving with twins, finding this out for sure is another thing entirely.

Whether pregnant with one or more babies, many couples choose not to share their news of a positive pregnancy until after the first trimester has passed. By then, the high risk of miscarriage is reducing and the chances of continuing to term are increasing. Though it’s reasonably common not to have a twin pregnancy diagnosed until into the second trimester, when a mother and her health care provider may become suspicious about the size of the mother’s tummy.

But sometimes it can be very clear from the earliest days of having a pregnancy confirmed that twins may be present. Early pregnancy symptoms can be so exaggerated and severe that this is enough reason to warrant having a first trimester ultrasound when two little embryos can be seen.

There is no definite time frame when couples will know they are having twins. There are just too many individual factors to consider. Perhaps twins may already run in your family, you’ve had twins before or you’ve had fertility assistance – all of these factors will increase your likelihood of having twins. Some women suspect almost from the moment of conception that “something” is different. Their senses of taste, smell and alertness change so remarkably that not only do feel they are pregnant but are strongly suspicious they are having more than one baby.

I’ve just had the most amazing dream!

Some women dream they are having twins in such detail that they wake convinced this is true. Or they’ve been so exposed to the possibility of having twins by their families that they, in turn, always assumed they would. In this case having a twin pregnancy confirmed is not so much a shock but an affirmation of what they simply knew to be true for them.

But if you’ve never had anything to do with twins other than knowing they exist, then your reaction is likely to be very different. Once you’ve recovered from the initial shock of finding out you’re having twins, your practical side will emerge. Exactly when this happens is highly individual.

It’s never too early to start planning for managing two babies and it’s worth remembering that less than 50% of twin pregnancies extend beyond 38 weeks. Prematurity is common when having twins and many couples aim to be organised from around 30 weeks. Similarly, pregnancy complications are more common, so being organised and doing some planning is important. Don’t leave everything to the third trimester because you’re likely to find yourself running out of time and getting stressed out.

Practical considerations when having twins

  • Housing – number of rooms, bathroom access, yard, living space and storage. Children may be small but their “stuff” takes up a lot of room.
  • If you are considering renovating your home to accommodate your bigger family, be aware that any renovation ALWAYS takes longer than predicted and costs more than you think it will. Do you really need this extra stress when you are pregnant with twins or is moving house a preferable option? Only you and your partner can know what’s right for you.
  • Your neighbourhood – is it child friendly, are there other families to connect with and is it safe?
  • Consider how you are going to feed your twins. Attend a breastfeeding group and speak with your midwife about what you can do to prepare your body and your mind for breastfeeding twins. Visit the Ministry of Health website to find out about ongoing support and advice for breastfeeding near you.
  • Every time you do the grocery shopping, buy at least one thing to set up the nursery. Toiletries, nappies, wipes and baby wash can all be stockpiled through your pregnancy to minimise additional financial pressure when they’re born.
  • Cook meals and freeze them for when you’re time poor after the twins are born.
  • Nursery furniture – research your options such as buying new or second-hand, doing deals for buying double of everything. Check Trademe and hiring schemes. You will be amazed at how generous other parents can be in lending their baby equipment so don’t be afraid to ask.
  • Join the multiple birth association in your area (see Multiples NZ) They often have baby furniture hire/lending schemes.
  • Access to community resources such as doctors, child health clinics, kindergartens, schools, parks. If you have to, could you walk to the shops/doctors etc?
  • Make a list of support people who you can call on for help. Get their contact numbers and availability so that you don’t ever feel you need to care for the babies all by yourself.
  • Check with your employer to see what your parental leave entitlements are. Also check with Work and Income to clarify what parenting supports you may qualify for.
  • Car size – many couples need to size up when it comes to accommodating twins, especially if they already have older children. Also check car child restraints and consider spending more on the long term options. You will have more time when you are pregnant to research this than when you have two babies to care for.
  • If you are not a naturally organised person, then learn how to be. Go to a store which specialises in storage and organisation. Get a calendar and a diary and get into the habit of entering important dates, medical appointments and reminders. The secret to managing twins is routine and if you’re a bit chaotic this won’t help. Ask one of your more organised friends for tips; they’re sure to love sharing their ideas with you.
  • Talk with your older children about the twins, how much they will be able to help you and let them know they are special too. Try to quarantine some special time with them each day.
  • Make sure your camera is working and the batteries are charged. Twins have a habit of coming early and you want to be prepared for this.
  • Pack your hospital bag nice and early. Not having to think about this and ticking it off your “to do list” will free your mind for other necessities.
  • Go away for a few days with your partner before the twins are born. Have some couple time and focus on what you both need to do to stay strong and united. The early days of caring for one new baby can be very demanding, but this is especially the case with twins.

But I don’t feel excited about having twins – am I a bad parent?

Sometimes expectant parents can feel very differently about having twins. A mother may feel more apprehensive than her partner, who could just view having twins as the best thing that ever happened. The practical reality of coping with more than one baby at a time can weigh especially heavily on mothers. Although you may feel you should be delighted, your reality may be very different.

No matter how many times you hear “you’ll be alright… you’ll cope”, you could still find yourself ruminating with worry. Building anxiety creates feelings of stress which then impacts on the ability to sleep and enjoy everyday life. If you or your partner feel this way it is important that you seek mental health support. Start with your GP who can speak to you about referral to a psychologist. Recognising how you feel and acknowledging it is the first step to feeling better.

Having twins is a joy, but it is also made easier by some planning and organisation.