Do you have twins? Or triplets, or even quadruplets? Chances are good that if you don’t personally, you know someone who does. My father had a pair of brothers who were twins. My cousin on my mother’s side gave birth to twins. Our next-door neighbors have twins. So does my girls’ Scout leader. So does dear husband’s grad-school buddy and buddy’s wife. And a friend from college and his wife. And a mama in my book club. And some of the youth at church. That’s 8 sets of twins (six of them around the age of my kids) – and that’s without even thinking about it too hard!
Births of multiples have been on the rise globally since the 1970s, due to more women postponing childbearing until their 30s and the increased use of in-vitro fertilization (IVF) and other assisted reproductive technologies (ART). In the United States alone, births of twins, triplets, and higher-order multiples (HOM) increased from 2.1% of births in 1985 to 3.5% three decades later. To put it a different way, in 1980 one out of every 53 American women who gave birth had twins; by 2008, that number was one of every 31.
Given the increasing numbers of twins out there, it’s worth considering whether this scenario might be part of your future. Especially if (like me) you’re an older mama, or (like several of the multiples mamas I know) you’re considering IVF or other ART. Being a parent is hard enough; parenting multiple newborns can be multiple times harder.
Which brings up a key question: How do parents manage with twins, triplets, quadruplets or even more babies born at once?
There is no one secret that will make everything a piece of cake. And I admit, I am NOT a mama of multiples; all my experiences along these lines comes from watching friends and family manage. Having said that, these tips can help make life with multiples easier for all parents.
How Parents Survive – and Thrive! – With Multiples
1. Prepare yourself
There are a few realities that most moms of multiples I know have experienced:
- You will not make it to 40 weeks of pregnancy; and
- You will probably not get to bring your babies home from the hospital with you.
Most multiples arrive weeks (if not months) premature. Babies that tiny don’t go home after 2-4 days; they remain in NICU (neonatal intensive care) for a month or longer, until their bodies have finished the maturation that most singletons do in the womb. In 2015, approximately 60% of twins were born prematurely, compared to less than 8% of single babies; 11 of every 20 twins was born with low birthweight, compared to about 1/20 of singletons.
Understandably, it can be hard for parents to adjust mentally to the fact that their babies won’t be coming home with them, and that so much of their early weeks and months will be spent at the hospital. My neighbors were expecting their twins in February; instead, their girls decided to arrive in early November! So the sooner you realize this, the better you can mentally prepare for this scenario. (Not to mention get things ready at home.)
2. Get the right equipment
For mothers who’ve been told they’re expecting twins or even triplets, most mothers need to have a last check in the third trimester to be able to see and count all the babies. Early ultrasound scans can accidentally hide one or more babies.
Once you know for sure how many bundles of joy you’re expecting, you can invest in the right equipment. For example, the ZOE triple stroller if you’ll need room for triplets (or maybe twins and an older sib). Not to mention making sure your stockpile of onesies and diapers is up to the challenge.
3. Start saving as early as possible
While a twin can remain hidden during the first two-thirds of the pregnancy, triplets or more tend to be more easily noticeable, even though you may not know the exact number until the last trimester.
If there is any doubt as to how many babies you are going to have during the first ultrasound scan, it’s best to start saving money early during the pregnancy. Think about it: other parents may be able to pass down clothes, equipment, etc. from one sibling to the next. But parents of multiples need to have multiples of EVERYTHING throughout their babies’ lives!
Having a baby is expensive. Having two, three, or more is even worse! Plan ahead for these extra financial burdens. And consider ways you can save money on all these purchases; shopping children’s resale events is one of my personal favorites.
4. Learn to multitask and plan
You don’t have the time to be lazy when you have multiples. You need to learn to multitask and manage your time effectively.
The best tips of mompreneurs also apply to managing the first few years with your multiples. Only instead of thinking about balancing work time and family time, parents (especially mothers) need to think about balancing baby time and “me time.” Otherwise, you WILL burn out.
You can team up with other parents to free up thinking time and share the charges. Looking for support groups in your area for mothers of multiples is crucial; if you can’t find one nearby, you can network with other moms of multiples online. (Ask your OB/GYN or delivery hospital for information about these groups, too.)
At the end of the day, you need to reserve some time to recharge your batteries. If you don’t, you will have nothing left to give your babies. And this leads to my next point:
5. DON’T try to go it alone!
There is much wisdom in the cliché that it takes a village to raise a child!
Let’s be honest; having a baby is exhausting and stressful. Having multiple babies is even more exhausting and stressful. Just take feeding, for example: Feeding two children takes a lot longer than feeding one! Not to mention diapering, bathing, and all the other minutiae of daily care of an infant.
Once you and your little ones are all home (or in some cases, even before that!), ask for help from those around you:
- If you’re already part of a mommies’ group (whether for moms of multiples or all mamas), see if they have new-meal benefits for their members.
- Or see if your church/synagogue/mosque will arrange a meal share for you. Or if you decide to use a doula, ask her to do this as part of her services. (My neighbors also attend the same church as we do. Our church’s New Moms Support group provided their family with meals for the first 6 months of the twins’ lives, as the girls were in and out of the hospital for much of that time.)
- Line up whatever help you need from your personal support network – for example, setting up a regular schedule for your closest friends and family members to come give you a hand, say for one hour or one afternoon per week.
- Don’t be afraid to ask other family and friends to give you a hand when you need to rest. Many of them want to help you, but might be afraid to ask.
- You can also hire a babysitter or nanny for a day here and there, to give you a break.
How do parents of multiples manage? Let’s face it, it’s a one-day-at-a-time process. Twins, triplets, and HOMs are challenging, especially when you’re not experienced. Don’t worry; it’s a learning process. With time, it’ll get easier.