Bringing home a newborn from the hospital can be a real wake up call for new parents. Bringing home two at the same time can blow your mind. You will hear all sorts of people, even strangers, trying to give you advice on how to cope, and often from unqualified busy-bodies.
Two of the hardest things to manage once you bring your babies home are taking a shower and eating a proper meal. You will find that you graze on snack foods throughout the day because you are too tired and/or too busy to make a proper meal, let alone sit down and eat it. Consuming all of that junk or skipping meals altogether will lower your already depleted energy stores. The best thing to do is to fill your freezer to the brim with meal items like breakfast casseroles, burritos, and dinner entrees starting around your 32nd week. Your friends will likely love to help you in this task by making a few of their own signature dishes to add to your stockpile. This way when you and your babies come home from the hospital you will have a large enough supply of healthy breakfasts and dinners to last you through the first few sleepless weeks. (Twiniversity tip: Invest in a deep freezer if you’ve got the space.)
While you are still in the hospital recovering, friends and family will be asking you how they can help. Asking for gift cards for restaurants and take out lunch places that are close to your house will be very helpful. Either you or your husband can run out quickly to grab some fresh and healthy lunches for you both.
Limit Visiting Time
It is fantastic to catch up with friends and show off the new members of your family, but you will find that extended visits leave you feeling exhausted. Set your partner up as the “gatekeeper.” Anyone who wants to come and visit must go through them first. This way when he speaks with them he can give them a time frame for their visit. This helps you avoid extended visits that leave you feeling exhausted or people just stopping by unannounced. Along that same line, your out of town family can be even more exhausting. When I have out of town guests I always feel I have to do so much more than if I am by myself. As helpful as they may be, we still have to expend much more energy in their presence. My husband and I made a pact not to allow more than one set of out of town guests per month. It helped a lot.
Lower Your Standards
If you are anything like me (a total control freak) this idea will be the hardest for you to wrap your head around. In fact it is something that has actually taken me years to accomplish. Prior to having twins my day started with a giant to-do list and I was hell bent on completing every last item on it. After having twins I kept up that list, but even though I ran myself ragged I wasn’t able to get through even half of it and it turned into a bit of an exhausted shame spiral that ended with me crying on the phone to one of my girlfriends while sitting on the floor of my closet. I have learned that it is OK that dishes pile up, you don’t vacuum every day, you forget the last time you dusted, washed windows, or don’t have your laundry carefully folded and put away. This is a time for survival; so eating, sleeping and your babies need to take precedence. The state of your kitchen floor should be at the bottom of that list.
This can mean so many things. It could be you lying on the couch and watching some guilty pleasure TV or going through the Starbucks drive-thru on your way home from a pediatrician appointment. It is little things like this that will keep you going. As a new parent of twins you find yourself being pulled in every direction and that can be hard. Taking the tiniest moment for yourself can oftentimes make all the difference in your outlook on the world.
I am sure that you have heard, “sleep when they sleep,” more times than you can count. The truth is that isn’t always a possibility. You have to do small chores in order to survive the day like washing bottles, baby items, eating, showering, and general picking up. A lot of times these things are not possible to do in the short bursts in which your babies are awake. The truth is you will feel just as rested if you simply go to bed when they go to bed at night. Don’t stay up late like you used to; it is OK to go to bed at 7 pm. Things that may help your babies stay asleep when you put them to bed are white noise machines (if you have light sleepers), and swaddle sleep sacks (sleep sacks with swaddle wings that affix on top of the sack). There are many apps that you can download to your phone for free or you can purchase a standalone sound machine. I mention the swaddle sleep sacks because they are the best of both worlds; the tight and soothing hug of a swaddle but with the stay put-ness of a sleep sack. A swaddle alone, no matter how tight it is secured when they go to bed, can over the night be shuffled to cover your babies face; the arm holes of the sleep sack prevent this from happening and therefore help you and your babies sleep more soundly.
It won’t last forever
This time will soon pass. Keep telling yourself this on the days when you are having a hard time, when you are bickering with your partner; when you feel overwhelmed. There will come a morning at around 6 weeks, or sometimes earlier, when you wake up feeling refreshed and realize that your babies slept for a 5-6 hour stretch. Just keep this in mind during times that you are struggling and just remember that it will get easier fairly soon and that you just have to hold on a little bit longer.
Prior to my twins I rarely drank caffeinated beverages of any kind. After my twins. . .well that is certainly a different story. You can’t be functional on even a basic level with only a few hours of sleep day after day. Caffeine is the thing that helped me get through those first few sleepless weeks and if I am being honest it continues helping me get through chasing after my three rambunctious and adventurous boys. I can only pretend to be the dragon in the cave, the pirate on the ship, or the astronaut on the spaceship for so long before feeling pretty spent. (Editor’s Note: I’d like to caution that caffeine may not be your friend if you are nursing. Some babies are not sensitive to it but some are. Babies take much longer to metabolize caffeine, so it can build up in their system.)
A severe cold in your newborn twins can feel like it might break you. The extreme lack of sleep and the constant crying can feel like you have been pushed to the edge. Making sure that everyone who comes over washes/sanitizes their hands before touching the babies will go a long way towards keeping them healthy. Additionally, since your babies are not able to get the flu or DTAP shot you should make sure that all of your visitors have been properly inoculated by getting both the flu and DTAP shot at least a week before coming to visit. The year my twins were born there was a deadly outbreak of whooping cough and our pediatrician advised us to not let them near anyone who hadn’t had the vaccine even if they appeared to be well (they can still be carriers).
In the end you have to find out what works for you, but hopefully these tips will get you started. You just have to hang on and know that the early stage, though exhausting, leads to them sleeping through the night, smiling at you, laughing at you, and many more rewarding moments.
Destiny Effertz is a stay at home mom to 3 boys under 4. Prior to having children she worked as a paralegal in a large civil litigation firm. Now she uses those research and organizational skills formulating new pie recipes and planning family vacations.
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.