By Melissa Stanton
A two-minute pep talk for the expectant mom of multiples: "I'm excited, but really, really nervous," she wrote. "Getting my head around having one baby on the way has been exciting and a little scary. Now I'm terrified. I don't know how I'll manage having two babies at once!" You will manage as a mother of twins, in ways you never thought possible, but don't try to do it all alone.
A friend of a friend recently contacted me in a joyful panic. A sonogram just confirmed that she's carrying twins. Needing to connect with another mom of twins, this woman I've never met emailed me. "I'm excited, but really, really nervous," she wrote. "Getting my head around having one baby on the way has been exciting and a little scary. Now I'm terrified. I don't know how I’ll manage having two babies at once!"
While I can spend hours talking about the joys and challenges of raising twins (I have twin girls, and an older boy), I sought to assuage this woman's fears and address her concerns in the few minutes I had free before meeting the school bus. Hence, my two-minute pep talk (adapted here a bit for a mass audience).
You will manage as a mother of twins, in ways you never thought possible, but don't try to do it all alone.
A smart first step in planning for your duo is to seek help from other moms of twins. (Look for a mothers of twins or multiples group near where you live.) These moms will be able to share their tricks of the trade, including about doctors and baby gear, and they’ll be sympathetic to your current worries and future juggling act.
If you can afford help, consider hiring a doula or baby nurse for those early days and weeks after the twins are born, when you’ll be recovering from both the pregnancy (which might involve a period of muscle-weakening bedrest) and the delivery (often by a cesarean). If family or good friends are willing to help, say yes. When you have multiple babies, extra hands can be essential for feedings, diapering, bathing and cuddling. Having at least one other adult around can give a weary new mom a needed break.
Most of all, don't be afraid to ask for -- and accept -- help, wherever you can find it.
When my twins were small, my husband lived out-of-state during the week for his job. When several of my girlfriends, each one a mom herself, offered to take turns spending a weeknight at my house and manage an overnight shift, I said yes! The twin-care routine that was exhausting to me was actually fun and exciting to my friends. They got to cuddle babies, they felt good about being helpful, and each was proud to have survived a shift without waking me in defeat.
In a nutshell: Don't say, "Oh, thanks. I'll be fine." If you trust your friends' skills, and as moms I do think we need to trust, depend upon and help one another, accept the gracious offers. And if someone asks how he or she can help you, be specific: You can say, "It would be a big help if you could stay with the babies while I go to my six-week check-up." Or, "I could sure use help at bath time."
Several veteran moms of multiples (including me) report that young teen and pre-teen neighbors can be great helpers. While still too young to babysit, a 10 or 12-year-old can entertain a baby or two while you do laundry or push a second shopping cart when you take the twins to a store or trail after one toddler at a park while you track the other.
Another tip for managing multiples is to cut yourself some slack. Dirty dishes will pile up. You won't cook great dinners. Your baby weight might linger. Don't stress about it. You'll be working a double-shift, and doing the best you can.
Melissa Stanton is the author of The Stay-at-Home Survival Guide: Field-tested strategies for staying smart, sane, and connected while caring for your kids (Seal Press/Perseus Books). Prior to becoming a stay-at-home mother of three (including twins), she was a senior editor at LIFE and People magazines. Visit with Melissa, and learn more about her book, at Real Life: Support for Moms. Become her Facebook friend via The Stay-at-Home Survival Guide fan page.
Copyright © Melissa Stanton. Permission to republish granted to Pregnancy.org, LLC.