Raising Twins at Different Stages of Development

Raising Twins at Different Stages of Development

Since my first outing with my now 16 month old twins there has always been one conversation I know is inevitable. It always starts with “How old are they?” Once I tell people they are twins I know what the next question is going to be. Filled with dread I wait for them to ask me the most painful question of all. “If they are twins then what is wrong with your daughter?” Honestly I have been guilty of doing it myself. I have a great friend who scolded me for telling another mother that my daughter has problems. The moment I said it she turned to me and said, “Don’t say that. She is perfect the way she is. She is just a little behind is all”.

I knew when I delivered my twins at 25 weeks, following a laundry list of complications, that there were going to be hard times. All my time in the NICU and copious conversations with experts had prepared me for delays in developmental milestones. I was told that each milestone would probably happen about 4 months late until they were about two years old. Adjusted age was something I was going to have to consider for years to come. What I was not prepared for was all the other factors that would come into play. Most importantly I had no idea that a minor brain bleed too small to even rate would cause such major delays. I didn’t realize I would be struggling with it physically and emotionally for years to come.

shannon3Coping with developmental challenges is hard emotionally. In the beginning I struggled every day with feelings of guilt. Even now, more than a year after their release from the NICU, I struggle. When I watch my daughter fight to do something that my son is able to do with ease I feel that stab of guilt. I have had to come to terms with the fact that there was nothing more I could have done. Some days reciting my mantra of it’s not my fault, I did nothing wrong, and that the choices I made saved their lives. Then, on days when I can keep these demons at bay there is another list of emotionally difficult tasks to complete. I have to tackle the thoughts of, “Am I doing enough to help her? Am I giving my son enough attention? Are her developmental problems permanent?”

Over the past year I have watched my son blossom developmentally as my daughter falls further behind. Currently she is 16 months old but is developmentally equivalent to a 6 or 7 month old as she cannot sit or crawl.

The greatest resource I have is an early intervention program that comes to my house every week to evaluate and work with the twins. Having a professional there has been vital to their development and my own emotional health. They help me understand what is normal, what to expect from the twins, and how I can help my children progress. My biggest concern since I started to notice my daughter falling behind was if the problems were going to be permanent. The numerous professionals that I meet with regularly have more insight into what causes particular problems than even the pediatrician. It is encouraging to have them tell me that they have patients with the same problem that have progressed and even caught up eventually. Although there is no way to tell for sure at this age if everything is completely normal, the constant reassurance makes every day easier.

Developmental delays in one twin also bring an assortment of physical challenges as well. Every parent wants a healthy child and to be able to enjoy every moment but when there are problems your time has to be allocated differently. One of my favorite pieces of unusable advice is, “Get the twins on a schedule so you have time for other things”. I find myself trying to get them on a different schedule in order to have enough 1-on-1 time with each, which is exhausting. I have to spend hours every day working on teaching my 16 month old daughter how to sit and crawl. I do this while my son is napping. I always felt guilt-ridden when the twins were on the same schedule. My daughter would get the lion’s share of the attention while my son would play alone. Now I alternate their naps with my daughter going down right as my son wakes up so that he and I have time to spend together alone.

shannon4-1It is important to make time for the other twin. Emotionally it is hard for them when you spend a lot more of your time with their sibling. I never want my son to feel like I love my daughter more. On busy days I can see my son acting up because his sister is getting more attention. He throws food when I am feeding her but he has to feed himself. He cries when he has to sit in the cart at the grocery store while I carry his sister. Each time she gets special attention and he doesn’t, it is a fight; but when the time comes for his alone time with mommy, he couldn’t be happier. His alone time is filled with lots of cuddles, kisses, hugs, and talking. He loves to be close to me because when I am working with his sister he does not get that closeness. The best part of the day for us is when I get him ready for bed and put him to sleep and it can just be the two of us for a little while.

The most important thing to me in my coping process was to have a sense of normalcy. I wanted to be able to create the memories every parent has. There are many ways to create great memories even if they are a bit fudged. With developmental challenges it requires a little extra effort. I have often been asked by other parents how I did smash cake photos. I desperately wanted to have the adorable first birthday pictures. In order to get smash cake photos we had to come up with a special idea. We had them both sit in Bumbos and my husband and I broke up the cake and smeared it on my daughter so that it would look like she was able to do it.

shannon2We also had to make special arrangements for pictures with Santa.

Although we have had to put in the extra effort to make things work, it is worth it. It has always been and always will be worth it.

Developmental delays can be hard especially when only one of your twins struggles. Surround yourself with a great support group and always remember that it is not your fault. You are a great parent that does everything you can to help your children grow and learn. Make time to enjoy both of your children as individuals and show them the love they deserve. Don’t skip memory making opportunities as these are important and you can come up with fantastic and unique ideas to make your dreams come true.

Related Articles

Twins, Nine Months Apart

Early Childhood Intervention: Helping Kids with Delays

When One Twin Has a Disability

shannonchoateShannon Choate is a stay at home mom of 16 month old boy/girl twins Alaric and Phyllis. Shannon achieved pregnancy after years of fertility treatments. She appreciates every minute with the twins after a complicated pregnancy caused them to be delivered at 25 weeks. She spends her time actively participating in support groups for parents of multiples and fertility treatment patients. She promotes awareness of fertility treatments and complicated pregnancies through her blog http://enduringoptimism.blogspot.com.