Finding out you are expecting twins can be an exciting and incredible time. Finding out you’re expecting twins when you already have an 18 month old can be downright scary and sometimes overwhelming.
After a difficult pregnancy that had me in the hospital for three weeks before the girls were born, and then an additional 80 days of NICU time, I felt like my son — just barely two — was being left behind, and wouldn’t understand why his mum was gone for so long. I felt like a bit of a failure as a parent, allowing my son to be overlooked.
When finally all five of us were home, instead of always running out the door to see the girls, my day was filled with telling my son, “Just a minute, I need to feed your sister,” “Can we play in a bit? I have to change your sister’s bum,” and I still felt like a horrible mother who couldn’t figure out how to balance a two-year-old and newborn twins.
Of course, we were all getting used to each other and every day gets easier. It would obviously be much easier to give one-on-one time to my son if I had someone watching the girls. Sometimes that happens, but for the most part, I have all three kids at the same time, and finding ways for him to feel included are not always easy.
Thankfully for us, our son loves to help out, and one of his favorite things is to feed the girls; he loves to scoop out the formula, shake the bottles, and help hold them as the girls eat. Sadly, he does not enjoy changing bums, but maybe we’ll get there one day! It became easier to ensure he didn’t feel neglected when I could keep him to a mostly consistent schedule. No matter what was happening, he knew I would always get him breakfast in the morning and come tuck him in at night. Having that daily ritual of just the two of us ensured that we had time to chat and for him to feel loved.
It would be lovely to be able to have one-on-one time where we got to go on adventures together, but being on maternity leave severely restricts the budget. One of our favorite mama-son activities is, if you can believe it, grocery shopping. He loves to come with me and hold the list, pick out the fruit he wants for the coming week, and opening the freezer doors for me. He loves to help me pay, which of course means pushing the buttons of the debit machine. Still, it’s nice to have solo time with my boy who is so quickly turning into a little man. It may not be exciting, but it’s the time together that makes it special.
Our family loves music and books, especially my son. We love to sing together and he favors the songs I made up for him as a baby, that have now been updated to include his sisters. When the girls cry and get cranky, I sing to them, and he sings along. Often, he makes the request for the song and duets with me. He also loves to sit on the floor, the girls in their bumbo chairs, while I read the three of them stories. Again, it’s not that we’re doing anything especially out of the ordinary, but it’s more about the fact that he gets to help mama and pick the songs and stories for the girls.
I have to admit that we did try to make him feel special when the girls first came home by allowing him to pick out toys at the store, something I never would have done before. He got a lovely present from the girls the day they came home from the hospital that included a new train, a book, and a new bridge for his train track. That really should have been enough, and he loved it. Instead, every time we went out to do errands, he was getting one or two toys because I felt bad. It didn’t take long before I realized that while he really liked his new toys, he loved getting to have special time with each of his parents, and he really loved when he was included and got to feel like a special helper.
I won’t lie; it’s not easy having three kids under three, all with their own needs. I feel like I am constantly running around just maintaining a level of chaos, and some days are tough, but I wouldn’t change our family for anything, even given the hard pregnancy and even harder NICU time and its complications. I love getting to see my son be a big brother, showing his nurturing side and even learning about empathy and compassion. Yes, it would be easier with just him, or even him and one baby, but we have three amazing children, and they will each get to feel special and loved, no matter what.
Alyssa Keel has worked as a social worker in both Canada and the U.S. for several years. Living in Toronto, Alyssa is mum to a rambunctious, curious, and loving two year-old boy and four-month-old identical twin girls. During her high-risk mono mono twin pregnancy, Alyssa began blogging, an extension of her love of writing. Alyssa loves taking photos and impromptu dance parties with her son. Follow Alyssa and her family’s adventures at adventureswithmultiples.com.
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Are you a new twin parent? Check out Natalie Diaz’s new book “What To Do When You’re Having Two: The Twin Survival Guide From Pregnancy Through the First Year”, available in stores now!
The rate of twin births has risen 79 percent over the last three decades, and continues to increase. A mom of fraternal twins and a national guru on having two, Natalie Diaz launched Twiniversity, a supportive website with advice from the twin-trenches.
What to Do When You’re Having Two is the definitive how-to guide to parenting twins, covering how to make a Birth Plan checklist, sticking to one sleep schedule, managing double-duty breastfeeding, stocking up on all the necessary gear, building one-on-one relationships with each child, and more.
Accessible and informative, What to Do When You’re Having Two is the must-have manual for all parents of twins.