My husband and I always talked about how it would be fun to have lots of kids close together in age. Sometimes in life, you get exactly what you hoped for in an altogether unexpected way.
All was going smoothly with our first son, so we allowed nature to take its course again. Happily, I found myself at my first prenatal checkup for our second pregnancy when our eldest was a mere 9 months old. Little did I know that I was about to have an out-of-body experience in the ultrasound suite of my obstetrician’s office.
You see, there were two flickering hearts on that fuzzy black and white ultrasound image, like communicating stars in the Milky Way, about to expand my personal universe. These two blips on the screen were my identical twin boys, and the reality of their imminent world debut sent shivers down my spine. I’ve always meticulously planned every detail of my life—believe me, this was not part of my plan.
My years of professional training to become a pediatrician did not allay my fears one bit. Also not reassuring was the fact that I had just survived the infancy stages of my older son—when you understand the workload involved in rearing one baby, your head spins when you multiply that by two.
It turned out that my anticipatory fears were blown way out of proportion to the reality of raising two little guys simultaneously; your mind has a way of escalating things beyond the reality of the situation. So if you’re pregnant with twins, calm down, take a deep breath and consider some advice from a mom who’s been there.
Whether your twins are conceived naturally or via the assistance of fertility treatments, you will probably experience shock and awe when you hear that you’ll be having multiples. What can you do to prepare during pregnancy?
The earlier you can prepare for your twins the better since twin pregnancies are considered full term at 36 weeks, a month earlier than singleton pregnancies. You’ll become more and more enormous the further your pregnancy progresses, and you may be put on some form of bed rest to minimize the risk of early labor, so it is best not to procrastinate. Prepare early, use the Internet, ask everyone for help and delegate responsibilities when you can. Channel your nervous energy into preparing your nest.
Shop carefully when preparing your nest for twins. The baby product industry would have you believe that you need 20 pairs of baby booties, a dust ruffle for the crib and a diaper pail for every room in the house. Baby product marketers take advantage of new parents’ feelings of anticipation, anxiety and inexperience by subtly hinting that the "good parent" is the parent who bought the most, and most expensive, stuff, but this is simply not the case.
Babies really only need a few things: something to eat (breastmilk or formula), something to pee and poop into (the diaper), a safe place to sleep (crib) and a safe way to ride in the car (car seat). All the other bells and whistles are just extras. All parents, especially parents of twins, need to remember this when planning their budget.
When you have twins or multiples, the most important mantra to remember is to keep the babies on the same schedule. It is the only way you can hope to survive. When one wakes up to eat, it doesn’t matter how gosh-darned cute the other guy looks sleeping, you’ve got to get them both up for the feeding.
The twin-feeding pillow, an oversized version of the familiar singleton feeding pillow, is the greatest innovation for parents of multiples to coordinate feedings. If you don’t coordinate the babies’ feedings, you could easily spend the entire 24 hours of a given day feeding the two babies, one after the other. This is impossible if you ever hope to sleep a little bit, spend any time with an older child in the family or recognize that vaguely familiar person over there who reminds you of your spouse.
Here we are, years later, and I still can’t believe I have these hilarious 3-year-old twins. When they’re not busy cracking each other up, they’re cracking up their baby sister, older brother, Daddy and me or all of us simultaneously. My pregnancy fears are a distant memory, replaced by the hectic and fun pace of our "multiple" lives today. As I had seen on that early ultrasound, our universe truly does keep expanding.
Shelly Vaziri Flais is a pediatrician currently taking a sabbatical from clinical practice to experience the best training of her life—raising four kids. She lives with her family in New Lenox.