I have always prided myself on my ability to make a list and get it done. Not just get it done, but get it done well, and in the given time frame I allotted for myself. I’m a to-do-list-maker-always-have-a-plan kind of guy. Just to clarify, it’s different from a Type-A personality, or at least that’s what I say when I feel the need to defend myself.
This is the exact frame of mind I assumed when I learned that my wife and I would be having our first baby. Game on. Grab me my legal pad and let the planning begin!
But five weeks into the pregnancy, my perfect plans were dealt a crushing blow when the doctor found another baby in Mom’s one-baby belly. This wasn’t in the script that I had written. It wasn’t even one of those scenes that gets deleted from the final production and appears somewhere in the “extras” portion of the DVD. Mom felt sick at week five of her pregnancy, so we were treated to an early ultrasound, which is the exact time I had to scrap my old plans, and make new ones, although that seemed impossible because twins were a foreign language to me. I literally could not make sense of it.
So to the Internet I went, only to be frustrated by the lack of content for parents expecting twins. Each website was the same. Multiples were sometimes mentioned, if at all, as an afterthought, or as something that certainly did not merit its own page on the site. Great. Now what?
The only lifeline I had was my wife, who was a full-time nanny for twelve years. Basically, I was partnered up with the Peyton Manning of child rearing. She was precise, calculated, and could handle anything. The girl can swaddle flailing arms and legs with her eyes closed.
But my wife is far from naive and she knew the reality of what we were getting ourselves into. At this point, we braced ourselves for the unknown.
Mom became very detached during the first trimester, while I tried to find the silver lining in everything. This is how our relationship has always worked. I’m an eternal optimist and she’s a pessimist — I mean, a realist. Every time I pictured cute moments of our future as twin parents, and shared them with her, they were rebutted by her examples of the grim reality we faced, which were mostly financial obstacles. How could we support two babies and ourselves on my teacher salary? It was daunting to say the least.
At this point, I took to writing in an effort to deal with the emotions I was feeling. I had an excitement that I could not share with my wife, who is also my best friend, and I had a fear that I did not want to share with anyone. I decided to start writing a daily letter to my babies. Better than bottling it up or punching stuff, I guess.
The letters always began the same: “Dear Babies”. This salutation was usually followed by whatever I was feeling at the time. I frequently told them how excited I was to have them in my life, and how I would be the best father they could ever ask for. This was often my time to explain the feelings that Mom was dealing with. I tried to explain to them that Mom is going to love them unconditionally, but that right now she was struggling to accept the idea. Really, it was my thinly veiled attempt to understand and cope with the situation. No matter how despondent the letter was, they always ended in the same way: “I can’t wait to meet you. Love, Dad.”
It was a pretty hard time for me as a dad, husband, and all-around-normal-guy because I couldn’t share these thoughts with another human being. The last thing I wanted to do was paint a poor picture of my usually happy wife, because all expecting moms are supposed to be thrilled about their future baby, but it just wasn’t the case. It was as if she was experiencing postpartum depression before the babies had even arrived.
On top of this, our best friends were also pregnant and their baby shared a due date with our twins. This should have been cause for celebration and excitement, but it wasn’t time for that yet. You see, their singleton pregnancy was falling perfectly into place and their gushing excitement just made me feel more guilty for being afraid of what was to come. But we refused to show that, and we faked joint-happiness for those early months.
So I continued my letters to my future babies. I explained that Mom wasn’t on board with buying any clothes or nursery items because she just wasn’t ready yet. I gave them some background on me and Mom, and explained how Mom is a champion nanny who will provide them the best care they could ever imagine. I told them about my mom and dad and sisters and explained that everyone would be so excited to meet them. When we finally told our parents that we were expecting twins, I told them how excited their future grandparents were to hear the news. Of course, I excluded the parts about how Mom cried after telling them. No point in rubbing salt in the wound I suppose.
I understood her concerns and I appreciated the fact that she was not trying to hide them from me just to keep me happy, but I was ready to be happy now. I could never resent my wife for her feelings, and I tried not to blame her for the funk she was in, but sometimes it was hard. Very hard. It wasn’t fair for her to keep me from talking about our future twins. I wanted to start making plans, but at times, she didn’t even want to acknowledge the two babies that would be here in a few months. I had some serious guilt about this too. I was actually getting annoyed with her because she wasn’t feeling the feelings that I wanted her to feel. How dare she!
Before I knew it, the letters started to take a more positive tone. I told my future daughter about the cute leggings we bought for her. I told my future son about the cool, rugged flannel shirt that we bought, and explained that we would be twins (even though he already was a twin) when I wear my flannel shirts. A fresh perspective was ushered in with the springtime weather. Whenever Mom gave me a glimmer of hope that she was “coming around”, I was sure to record it in the letters to my babies. Things were starting to look up.
I was sure that me and Mom, together as a unified parent front, would become excited about the idea of having twins, and when it finally began to happen, I told the babies all about it. I informed our twins that we were already stocking up on diapers and supplies whenever we found good deals. I told them about our Craigslist rendezvous to seek out gently used baby stuff. I explained how I went to my first “mom swap”. I wanted them to know that we were excited for their arrival and that we were making a special place for them. Come to think of it, writing these letters was pretty much my way of “nesting”. Weird.
As things got better, Mom and I began to talk about the experience more and more, which wasn’t even possible in the first few months when she was mentally and emotionally anxious on top of feeling sick on a daily basis. We became a team again. My starting quarterback was getting back into shape, and she looked amazing while doing it. I’m confident she could have made it to the finals if she entered a “Cutest Pregnant Mom” tournament. She was radiant with that little bump. She played it cool on the outside when people continuously asked her, “Seriously, you’re having twins?” My wife was handling the twin pregnancy as if she had been training for it. I was amazed by her transformation. She was as active and stubborn as ever, which means she wanted to paint and arrange the nursery without my help. My wife was back!
Summer was hot, Mom was uncomfortable. Doctor appointments were more and more frequent because a healthy 32 year old woman is considered to be at an advanced maternal age for twins. Go figure. At 36 weeks, the boy went breach and they scheduled a c-section for 37 weeks.
On that fateful day, in the span of just two minutes, we became the parents of two babies. We made the most of the ever-present hospital staff for four days and went home. They slept a lot, Mom pumped a lot, but things were relatively calm for the first two weeks or so. We were head over heels in love with our new additions.
The demands of newborn twins quickly set in. We had made all of the preparations we could have made, but we were still nowhere near prepared for the mayhem that would ensue for the next few months. To say that parents of twins just do double the work is to dismiss all of the effort that is put into raising twins. Every move we make is strategic and thought out. Planning is imperative and it means having everything ready at all times, because when two babies start crying, two parents spring into action. What we really need is a third parent to grab that burp cloth or to make dinner, but that’s not how it works.
But we are surviving.
Mom and I had the chance to talk about all of those feelings she had in the first few months of her pregnancy. She knew that we would be ok, but it was hard to believe it for a long time.
But we believe it now.
Rather than wallowing in self-pity and complaining that parents of singletons just don’t get it, we have become pragmatic and proactive. We understand the obstacles that we will face and we will try our hardest to overcome them.
Those feelings of damnation and impending doom that we felt were very difficult to talk about, especially when everyone tells you that you’re so lucky to be having twins. They have no clue. The reassurances that people offered were coming from people who didn’t really understand. Parents of twins should take comfort knowing that they’re not alone in having these feelings.
As it turned out, we were so lucky to be having twins. The dynamics of our parenting experience have been incomparable. The fun moments and intricacies of having twins have far outweighed the tiresome responsibilities. We wouldn’t change a thing and we love being the parents of twins. We’re exhausted, but loving every second of it. And you will too.
Keith Lex is a high school teacher who loves distance running, home brewing, and being a dad of twins, although he hasn’t accomplished the first two since he became a dad of twins. He and his wife Megg have been married for eight years and enjoy spending time with their five month old boy/girl twins, Griffin and Scout, along with their bulldog and golden doodle. They have become multitasking aficionados and love their new lives as parents of twins. They are lifetime New Jersey residents and hope to entertain people with their twin blog, Little Lex Adventures. You can also follow him on Instagram and Facebook.
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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.