There are so many things in life that you can’t understand until you experience them. For me, parenting twins takes the cake! I thought I was prepared to be a mom. I couldn't WAIT to be a mom. All of my life decisions–education, husband who was family-oriented, my teaching career– all centered around someday becoming a mom. It was hard for other people, but for me? I'd be a pro! I was the oldest of three, babysat for years, volunteered in my church's nursery for a decade, was an elementary school teacher… I KNEW KIDS! Then my daughter came. A colicky newborn with a poor latch, low birth weight and just plain inconsolable for 3 months. She chilled out, was an amazing toddler and then my son came 22 months later. Not a bad baby but a much more challenging toddler. I could spend hours describing their personalities and how parenthood changed our lives! By the time we found out we were pregnant with our third child two years later, we were experienced enough to know that we didn't know much, but hey, we already had two so we were becoming experts, right? WRONG. That ultrasound at 9 weeks revealing fraternal twins, rocked our world! TWINS?! We weren't even sure we wanted more children, let alone twins! But those blessings have changed our life in so many good ways, they are so worth it! Doesn't mean it's easy though!
So after 18 months of twin experience and 6 years as Mom, here's some of the down and dirty things no one tells you about parenting twins (or at least things you think will never happen to you)…
So much poop. From day 1, charting the colors/consistency of your newborn's dirty diapers at the hospital. Then worrying about how your breastmilk or formula choice is affecting their poop. Hard enough to keep track of with a singleton, but twins? Ridiculous! You'll have so many conversations with your partner and worry so much about your children's poop! Then you add solids 6 months later and those are diapers you can never be prepared for (and my twins poop almost at precisely the same time everyday, twice a day usually. Do the math x 18 months.)
Moving on to potty training–accidents, constipation, child withholding because they're “scared” or it's “gross.” Those child suppositories you see at the drug store? Pray your doctor NEVER recommends that you purchase and use those on your 3 year old. None of you will recover. You’ll spend hours every week, sitting on your bathroom floor coaching, singing, reading, whatever you have to do to get your toddler to feel comfortable with the toilet. Then they're potty trained and taking care of most of their bathroom issues, and all they want to talk and joke about is “poop.” Walk up to any child older than 4 and just say the word, “poop.” Guaranteed giggles.
Or lack thereof. You know that newborns wake up a lot, you know that twin newborns will keep you up a ton. But you can never fully be prepared for the extreme sleep deprivation that a parent experiences, to the extreme with newborn twins. Where you're so tired, you want to cry and scream and pass out at the same time. And then if you have older children, it's pretty much guaranteed that as soon as you and your husband get the twins back to sleep and collapse in your bed, an older child will wake up…sick, hungry, scared, want to tell you a story or maybe all three. You'll soon learn that 4-5 hours of sleep, especially in a row, is all you need to function and you'll adjust, as will they. But in the middle of your sleep deprived with twin newborns stage, you'll wonder why you ever complained of not getting enough sleep pre-children and chuckle silently (or not so silently) to yourself when that college student or young adult complains of being “tired.” You have no idea, friend.
Whether you breastfeed or use formula for your babies, there's always the worry of, “Are they getting enough?” “Are they crying because I ate a bowl ice cream last night and maybe they're sensitive to dairy?” “Are they allergic to this formula?” Then starting solids. “What do we start with?” “Should we do baby-led weaning and skip puréed food altogether?” Then you find food that your toddlers like and the next week they hate it! Trying to remember what one twin likes and the other doesn't, is enough to make your head spin!
We are currently in the, “want to snack all day and hate meat and sitting down for meals” stage with our 18 month old twins. I thought family dinners were supposed to be this wonderful, enjoyable time. Not at this age with preschoolers and toddler twins. More like you try to make a nice meal and everyone cries, throws it to the dog under the table and then you look at the huge mound of dishes from your efforts and want to cry. I'm staying strong (most days) and trying not to cater to everyone's preferences (within reason), but that discipline is way harder than making five separate meals, trust me on that! I hear that the consistency will make family dinners enjoyable when they get older, but no one tells you how many years you spend in tears at dinner time before you get there!
Oh, the messes. I remember walking into a friend’s house who had two children before we did and there were toys and piles of laundry, dishes, papers, etc. everywhere. I couldn’t imagine living that way. It took four kids for me to give up. I try, trust me, I still try but it’s a thankless and seemingly pointless effort. We refer to our twins as the “twinadoes.” It’s like they have a secret nod they give each other to see who can make the biggest mess. And the 4 year old and 6 year old aren’t much better.
I love their creativity though and when I look closely, I can see the imaginary scenes: Batman in the Barbie car rescuing a litter of stuffed puppies from a cave under the bed. It makes me smiles and see that it’s not all just a mess. I have to choose joy daily. I have to fight for it! And I’m accepting the messes and play, and trying to teach my children to be responsible for their things. I recently saw a quote, “Cleaning with kids is like brushing your teeth with Oreos.” Pretty much. I know someday I’ll miss it though. Or so people say…
Even though parenting twins is WAY harder than I ever imagined, parenthood is so much more beautiful and wonderful than I could have believed possible. Although I was NOT fully ready to be a mom as I thought I was, we have been so blessed and love our four littles more than life itself! You may be more tired, you WILL lose your cool too often and have to repeatedly ask for forgiveness, your personal hygiene standards may drastically drop, but you’ll accept it and even realize you’re better for it! Being a parent, and experiencing the joys of being a twin parent too, is my favorite thing about my life! My twins’ first word was both, “Mama!” I’ll never forget that. Those kisses and snuggles, the cries at night instantly soothed when you rock them, are more amazing than I ever dreamed and would do it over and over again.
Carly Cory is a happy wife and mommy to four sweeties–a 6 year old daughter, 4 year old son and 1.5 year old boy/girl twins. Before staying home with her children, she was a 3rd grade teacher. She's now a professional diaper changer, snack distributor, nose wiper and plays some pretty serious twin toddler defense.