In the first exhausting year of having twins, I was overwhelmed by the attention my babies received, an endless barrage of “double trouble” comments and well-meaning but repetitive questions.
Now that my boys are strapping six footers, what do I do when I see a wan-faced mother pushing a double buggy with smiling twin babies? I get just as gooey as the next person over the total magical gorgeousness of twins.
Let me tell you, the first year is one of relentless fatigue. But once the sleep deprivation and slapstick absurdity of feeding, carrying and getting two babies out of the door finally eases, you get a chance to appreciate the joys: those glorious gales of laughter when they’re egging each other on to more silliness; the way they clasp hands automatically when debating whether to brave the ‘big’ kids in the sandpit; and, later, their genuine bafflement when people ask, “what’s it like being a twin?”.
Here, other parents reveal the first year horrors and joys of having twins.
Pregnancy And Birth
1. At five months pregnant you will look full term.
Walking to the local shop to get some milk becomes a marathon trudge. And you’ll just love all those “ready to pop” comments and “can I have my space hopper back?” shouts from White Van Wits.
“Then imagine the body destroying impact carrying two babies for months more has,” says Lauren Eells, from Tooting, South London, mum to girl-boy twins Effie and Ruairí, now 15 months old.
2. Your chances of premature labour are increased.
But you’d really rather remain in blissful ignorance until the birth. Effie and Ruairi were born two months prematurely, as were Jenny Gordiano’s twins Frankie and Alfie, now two. “We were invited to attend a twins session at the local hospital when I was five months pregnant, which included a tour of the special care baby unit,” recalls Jenny, from Salford.
“When you’re expecting twins you know your chances of going into labour early are high and you’re seeing shockingly tiny premature babies with transparent skin it’s a bit of a brain mess. Predictably, the twins were born six weeks early and were in that same SCBU for three weeks.”
3. Yes, it’s possible your twins will be born differently.
“Stitched up both ways!” says Lauren with gallows humour of giving birth to one twin vaginally and the second by emergency C-section.
The First Year
4. You will feel catatonic with exhaustion.
″‘Sleep when baby sleeps’ so does not work when you have twins, and it’s also very unhelpful advice when you have older children,” says Olivia Vandyk, from Hertfordshire, who is mum to Henry, 11, Elliot, seven, and twins Imogen and Jemima, aged four-and-a-half.
5. Other parents with twins are a lifesaver.
Not the ones with older twins who breezily tell you how it gets easier after the first year and you want to jab them in the eyes because you have 10 MORE MONTHS to go till that point.
But the ones whose twins are a similar age and truly understand, they’re great.
6. Getting around is double the stress.
When you’re a new parent to a single baby, leaving the house in between nappy changes and feeds and getting to grips with the baby sling or buggy brake can seem terrifying.
As Lauren says: “Only a twin mum has to worry about whether it’s even possible to get in somewhere, like the bus, because her buggy is too wide. Only a twin mum has to worry about whether people will help her lift the buggy and have to take the buggy everywhere she goes because twin slings are just not possible. Only a twin mum has to worry about where the other twin goes whilst you load one of them into the car. Only a twin mum has to admit it’s impossible to carry a heavy baby in a car seat in each hand.”
Kay Worboys’ twin girls, Eloise and Sophia, are 11, but she still recalls the trauma of “trying to take your twins to a playgroup or activity when the double buggy doesn’t fit through doors and neither of your 18-month-olds walk. You have to judge which one to leave crying while you carry the other in; then leave that one in tears while you dash off to ferry the other one in. It was so stressful.
“I had no mummy friends – the buggy was a literal barrier to chatting. And I couldn’t get into people’s houses for coffee mornings.”
7. Cutting corners does no harm.
And it’s the only way to stay sane. When you’ve wrestled two rolling babies into their clothes and changed four nappies before you’ve even got out of their bedroom, are you really going to do all their vest poppers up?
“I used to come down the stairs every morning with each wriggling baby under my arm like rugby balls,” recalls Jane Weston, from Islington, North London, mum to twins Sophie and Jessica, now eight.
8. Strangers won’t stop commenting.
Yes, you know your twins are amazing and people are very kind to compliment them, but it would be lovely to walk down the street without having to respond to all the very predictable comments.
“I thought about writing out a series of signs I could hold up: ‘Yes, girls. No. not identical. Yes, they are a handful. Double trouble – ha ha, haven’t heard that one before.’ The irony is that now I always stop and coo over twin babies,” says Jane Weston.
Lauren Eells is still in the cute baby zone. “Those same ridiculous questions every day. ‘Are they identical?’ Um, they’re a boy and a girl,” she says “And the number of times people think it’s fine to ask: ‘Are they natural?’ Why does a total stranger need to know whether I had penetrative sex to have my babies?”
The Twin Bond Is Real
9. It gets easier earlier.
Or so says Jason Burg, from Stoke Newington, London, dad to twins Ollie and Louis, now 18. “With our older daughter, she was a tyrant demanding our total attention. With twins, they have each other from the moment they start noticing each other.”
Lauren agrees: “Womb mates truly make the best mates. The absolute joy that two babies playing together, giggling at one another, brings is just magical. I look at single mothers and think – oh, their baby must be so lonely, they don’t have a 24-hour friend. Other mothers have to go to play groups to get their babies to interact, we have it in the comfort of our own home.”
Natasha Murray, from Twickenham, London is mum to non-identical twin girls Alex and Izzy, now 17. She loved “the time when they both became fully aware of each other, around four months, and an explosion of joy and laughter burst forth from both of them.”
Amy Condon from Perth has eight-year-old twin girls, Tabitha and Georgina. She says the bond makes everything worthwhile. “I remember Tabby waking up early from a nap and refusing to play or do anything fun – she just demanded ‘Joo-Joo’. When they first learned to talk, they also called themselves ‘Gigi-Tata’, as though it was one name for both of them, even though I was militant about them being separate and different.”
10. People can be ‘twin blind’.
The moment you introduce your twins, brain fog can descend and that person seems incapable of remembering the names of your totally different sized and hair-coloured kids. They also do really odd things, like giving both children the exact same book before they can read. Like any parent is going to read the same story twice from different books.
11. You’ll get anxious twice over.
As a parent of twins, you can feel more anxious about the life stages and how each child will cope with rivalry, failure and success, from class streaming to not being picked for teams. It may be that parents of twins feel this more than the twins themselves, who’ve never known anything else. “Having to celebrate with one while commiserating with the other can be hard,” says Natasha.
12. Twins will always have each other.
And as the parent you can sometimes feel on the periphery. “Twin rage is awesome and terrifying – but the love is immense,” says Natasha. “Their bond with each other may be stronger than the one they have with you.”