Having twins is a blessing, there is no doubt about that. My life has been infinitely better since introducing my twin babies to the world, and they bring me great joy every day. Sadly, despite feeling like I have taken to multiple motherhood really well, it’s obvious that the system is not set up for mothers of multiples. Here are a few things I wish I’d have known;
When I told people I was newly pregnant with twins, I had a lot of comments about how expensive life was going to be. I just accepted that I would need to buy two of everything, and I would have to budget very carefully. As I started to do my research, it turned out that I actually don’t really need two of anything! For the last year, I have managed absolutely fine with one set of bottles (I multi-fed from the start), one changing mat (which I stopped bothering to use a couple of months in anyway), one cot, one bouncy chair, and one play mat. I have 24 cloth nappies which is fine for both babies, and I know a lot of singleton mums who have many more than this for just the one baby. With the exception of a handful of matchy matchy outfits, I tend to buy unisex clothes and mix and match who wears what. In fact, the only thing I think I have had to buy two of is high chairs!
The flip side of this, is childcare. For me, I could have comfortably gone back to work after a year and used childcare services, if I had just the one baby. Alas, having two babies makes all the difference in the world and means that I would actually be loosing money if I went back to my teaching job! The astronomical cost of childcare (and distinct lack of any kind of government help for parents of multiples) means that I will be a stay at home mum until free childcare kicks in. This was never the plan, and I had always planned on returning to work after maternity leave since I loved my career. Luckily, I feel blessed to have the opportunity to spend my days with my babies, and I’m okay with putting my career on pause for a few years, but it would have been nice to have had the option to have gone back to work!
When it comes to accessibility, things can get tricky with twin babies. Twin buggies are big, it’s the nature of the beast. There’s the option of having a side by side affair, or a tandem pram where one baby is in front of the other. Trying to get one that’s as compact as possible without weighing a tonne will be a challenge, and if you manage to find one then it’ll probably cost an arm and a leg.
After much deliberation and intensive research, I decided to get a Mountain Buggy Duet. It’s a lightweight (relatively speaking), buggy that’s fairly easy to maneuver. Although it’s pretty huge, it’s sleek in twin buggy terms. I was led to the decision to get this particular buggy because of it’s size and compatibility with busses, trains, and the boot of my husband’s car. I can just about manage public transport myself with this model, and it squeezes into the boot of the Renault Megane.
While my trusty buggy mostly has me covered when I’m out and about, there are still a few situations that are problematic for me… any buildings without a lift are a complete no-go for me. Annoyingly, that includes the North-bound platform of my local train station, and a local children’s group that could have been great fun and led to some meaningful mummy relationships. I see women with one baby casually wander round with their bambino in a sling, and can’t help but feel a slight pang of jealousy. I rented a Twingo sling from my local sling library, and although I loved it, it was really hard to get on and off (complete with toddlers) by myself. So when I’m alone, I’m restricted to places that are buggy friendly. My husband works quite long hours, but when he’s around he is happy to baby wear. We each take a baby in individual slings, which means we can explore by train, and take the babies to less buggy-friendly places.
Long gone are the days when I can pop to the shop without anyone batting an eye. I don’t think I have managed to walk for more than five minutes in the last year without being stopped so someone can make a comment. Most of the time, people’s comments are heartfelt and lovely, and that’s very welcome. Occasionally, people say absurdly rude things, which always upsets me. Of course, you’ll hear the old ‘double trouble’ about fifty times a day too, so prepare yourself for that! Interestingly, on the rare occasion when I have left the house with just one baby, I haven’t had any comments at all!
When people see you have twins, they sometimes seem to think it’s an invitation to ask intrusive questions. ‘Are they natural?’, ‘Were you trying for two?’, and ‘Did you have a vaginal birth?’ … The first time I was asked these I was taken aback and just blinked in surprise. I now have a couple of staple comebacks to the inevitable silly questions.
Perhaps I was being naïve, but I thought doctors and nurses would be able to answer my twin-specific questions at health check-ups and immunizations. It turns out, health visitors and GPs don’t actually see all that many sets of multiples, and it’s been obvious on more than one occasion that I have been more knowledgeable than the healthcare professional when it comes to twins!
Last week I took my twins for their one year injections, and due to Covid-19, and the nature of the world right now, I left my husband working at home and took the babies by myself. On arrival at the GP surgery, a nurse came to tell me she wasn’t sure how we were going to be able to manage the babies with just one parent, and usually they advise to have two adults with twins.
At this point, I’m used to falling through the cracks in the system, and it didn’t surprise me that nobody had thought to discuss this, or even mention that things would be easier with two adults, on the phone with me. Anyway, the situation didn’t really phase me – as a twin parent, I am very used to juggling two upset babies at the same time. Logistically speaking, I am pretty adept when it comes to getting both babies undressed and dressed again in quick succession. This made the immunization process quick and straightforward and I could deal with one baby at a time while the other waited in the buggy. I had also brought the babies’ favourite snack (an orange) to use as a distraction tactic after the injections. The nurse seemed surprised at this, but it worked perfectly.
When it comes to the twin-specific questions (when will my babies stop ignoring / biting / crying at each other), I’ve dound that Facebook groups are the way forward. Having a group of over 100,000 twin parents means there is always going to be someone who can answer your question, or recommend the best bit of twin kit!
I’ll leave it there, but I would love to know any other things you twin mamas wish you had been able to prepare yourselves for!