The twins turned six weeks old today (!) and to nobody’s surprise, the milestone (can we call six weeks a milestone?) has sent me into reflective mode. These six weeks have been marked by brilliant highs and tear-inducing lows, and through it all I am learning so much about what it looks like to parent twins.
In a six-week span in which the entirety of my daily existence has changed, and everyday life has turned into one steep learning curve, it seems inadequate to condense what I’ve learned into a bulleted list. . . . That said, here is a highly abbreviated summation of my takeaways from this first month and a half of parenting twins.
1| It’s impossible to control your birth story or even predict its trajectory.
I obviously knew this before the twins were born—from hearing countless other birth stories gone awry, and from my own experience with Charleston’s birth. But I didn’t fully realize how far a birth could veer from the original plan. Never in my worst nightmares did I imagine that I would not be coherent for the twins’ first moments, and though I’m so grateful for our beautiful outcome with two healthy babies, it will be a long time—if ever—before I come to terms with the specifics of their birth.
2| Ultrasound measurements are laughably inaccurate.
According to my ultrasound four days before the twins were born, they should have been at least six pounds at birth. Instead they both clocked in at well under five pounds. We had this experience with Charleston, too: an ultrasound I had while in labor with him estimated his weight at around three pounds, yet he came out weighing five pounds eight ounces. These wildly inaccurate measurements leave me wondering why the medical community puts so much stock in these numbers.
3| Staying in the hospital postpartum isn’t so bad.
When putting together our birth plan, I noted that we wanted to spend as few nights as possible in the hospital. Instead, we ended up spending four nights there—on the longer end for a postpartum stay—and it ended up being a great experience. The staff was all wonderful, and it was nice to have a few days for Luke and me to get to know the twins before returning to home and real life. I appreciated the regular monitoring of our preemie babies, and of course it was nice to have all of our meals and other needs provided for while we were there. (And speaking of meals, the food was all outstanding!) The hardest part was being away from Charleston for so long, but we knew he was in good hands with my in-laws, and we were thankful he got to visit us twice before we came home.
4| Recovering from a C-Section is infinitely harder than recovering from a vaginal birth, but a piece of cake compared to being pregnant with twins.
I had no idea what to expect with a C-Section, and the recovery was worse than I’d imagined: my incision hurt, my entire body ached, and the gas pains were brutal. However, after the excruciating symptoms I experienced during my third trimester, I felt like a million bucks within a day of giving birth. Even when still hooked up to an IV and catheter, I felt like I could run laps around the postpartum unit, such was the relief my body felt at no longer being pregnant.
5| All babies—even twin babies—are different!
This is another fact I knew in theory, but couldn’t have fully understood until seeing how vastly different Kali and Sully are from each other and from Charleston. My three children all look quite different (although it’s remarkable how similar Charleston looked like Sully as a newborn), and within hours of being born, their unique personalities and quirks were readily apparent. I love seeing God’s unique fingerprints on my three precious miracles. And on the topic of differences, it’s true what they say: girls mature and progress more quickly than boys. Our Sully Bear has been trailing his sister in every area, from feeding to weight gain to motor development; he’ll catch up eventually, he just takes his time.
6| Newborn twins are a lot easier if you’ve already experienced the newborn stage with a singleton.
Although caring for twins presents its own challenges, I had a harder time transitioning from zero to one child than I have from one to three, because we’ve been through this all once before and know what to expect. I can’t imagine trying to navigate twin life while also adjusting to life as a new mom and learning the basic ropes of parenting a newborn. As a second time mom, I’m much more laid back and less “precious” about everything. And because I’ve already lived through nearly five years as a mom, I know how quickly this newborn stage will pass, and how much I will miss it, which is helping me to savor every moment (including the hard ones) with the twins.
7| Having two babies isn’t necessarily harder than having one, but it is more than twice as much work.
Everyone comments on how hard it must be to take care of two babies at once, but I would argue that it really isn’t that much harder than caring for one child. Two babies have the same needs as one would, so I’m doing the same work as I would be if I’d delivered a singleton. It’s just that I’m doing it all in double which, while not hard exactly, is very labor intensive. And Luke pointed out that it’s really more than twice the amount of work, because not only are we dealing with double the diapers, laundry, baby books, feedings, and snuggles, we are also doing each of those things with one baby while attempting to pacify the other. There are a lot of moving parts and it’s a challenge to keep everything running smoothly.
8| It’s nearly impossible to get two newborns on the same eating and sleeping schedule.
The main advice I’ve received from every twin mom I’ve asked is “keep them on the same schedule”—and I’m trying, I really am, but it’s harder than it sounds! When one twin wakes up, I’ll attempt to wake the other so that I can tandem feed, but this rarely works; the woken-up twin either sleeps through the feeding, only to wake up an hour later, or is too upset at being aroused to eat and get back to sleep. While it would be easier if the twins shared a schedule because it would mean I had some downtime between caretaking, there are perks to them being on opposite schedules: I get more individual time with each baby this way, and when they wake up at alternate times during the night, I am able to nurse one baby in the side-lying position, which allows me to fit in some sleep mid-feeding. This week, they’ve been in a fun new phase where they both cry constantly unless they are nursing, so if this is what “same schedule” looks like I’d rather go back to alternating ones!
9| Sleep, and breaks of any kind, are nonexistent when you’re caring for two newborns.
I’ve simply had to accept the fact that I might not get more than one or two broken hours of sleep each night for the forseeable future, and that the only way I’ll get anything done for now is if I have a baby or two hanging off of my boob. (Case in point: this entire post—in fact, all of my posts since their birth—has been written during extended nursing sessions.) However, as I mentioned above, I know that this stage will be over before I know it, so I’m choosing to celebrate the beautiful aspects of newborn life rather than simply looking ahead to when they are older and a bit less needy.
10| Parenting twins without a partner would be incredibly difficult, if not impossible.
I honestly have no idea how single moms of twins do it, or even moms without a second parent who works from home. Luke has been my rock through the last six weeks, helping out with diaper changes and bottle feedings, sterilizing all of my pumping gear every morning, holding screaming babies while he works so I can make dinner or take a shower, helping me get both babies into position when I was first learning to tandem feed, and entertaining Charleston when I’m all-in with the twins. We’ve taken teamwork in marriage to a whole new level and I don’t know what I would do without my partner by my side.
11| When you have three kids, date nights become a necessity.
There’s simply not a spare minute for couple time during the throes of twin infancy, and Luke and I were beginning to feel the strain. So last week, my in-laws babysat while we went on our first date night since the babies were born. We didn’t leave Charleston until he was a full nine months old, so it felt odd to be leaving the twins so soon, but we all survived and were better off for the break. Luke and I recognize that date nights will need to be a regular occurrence if we want to keep our relationship in a healthy place.
12| My body is capable of making more than enough milk to feed two.
Before their birth, I worried it would be difficult to supply sufficient milk for twins, but the opposite has been true: not only am I able to keep both babies fully nourished, but I already have a solid freezer stash and could easily be pumping even more milk if I wanted to. (I catch more than three ounces from simply leaking on the opposite side during a five-minute nursing session with one baby.) I’m so thankful for the hospital nurses and lactation consultants who insisted I begin pumping right away in the hospital, which helped my milk come in quickly and established a healthy milk supply early on. On the subject of breastfeeding, I’m also learning that tandem feeding is a lot easier than I thought it would be, but that it requires a lot of props and allows for absolutely zero modesty.
13| The best way to feed a bottle is in the side-lying position.
My mom taught me that in the NICU (where she works) they hold babies on their side when giving bottles, which best mimics the breastfeeding position. I began using this method when feeding Sully (who was having to take bottles of fortified breastmilk to help him catch up on his weight) and found it was more comfortable, shortened our feeding time, and kept him from sucking down air in the bottle.
14| Recording diaper changes and feedings is essential.
With one baby, it was easy to remember when he’d last nursed or gotten a fresh diaper, but it’s hard to mentally keep track of things with two babies. Luke and I have this app, which syncs across both our phones and helps us stay on top of each baby’s needs.
15| Attachment parenting just isn’t a possibility with two babies.
When Charleston was a newborn, I held or wore him constantly and rarely let him cry. But with the twins, that simply isn’t possible. I try to be holding or wearing at least one baby whenever I can, but the reality is that Kali and Sully cry a lot more than Charleston ever did because there is only so much of me to go around. I’m hoping to do more baby wearing when I get a carrier that fits them both (it’s on my Christmas list!), but for now I comfort myself with the knowledge that the benefits of having a twin (i.e., constant companion) outweigh the downsides (less time with Mom)—at least, that’s my hope!
16| God gives you the strength and stamina to handle the tasks He gives you.
I’ve been amazed at how I am able to function on so little sleep, how good I’ve gotten at multitasking, and how I am somehow staying sane despite overactive hormones and three children vying for my attention. The only explanation is that God has granted me these supernatural abilities in order to survive the chaos that is our life right now!
17| Going out with twins makes you the center of attention.
The twins haven’t made many public appearances (although I’m getting a lot more comfortable being out with three kids on my own), but whenever we are out and about, there’s absolutely no chance of us flying under the radar. I appreciate the enthusiasm from well-meaning strangers, but the constant stares and questions can be very overwhelming!
18| Watching my only child become a big sibling is the BEST!
Seeing Charleston with Kali and Sully is possibly my favorite mothering experience to date. Not only does he seem so much older and more mature since they were born (all of my mom friends told me this would be the case) but he has wowed us all with his love and care for his brother and sister. He is attentive, gentle (usually), and understanding of the fact that our lives are a lot more limited right now. I knew he would be a great big brother, but I underestimated how much he would love his role, and how well he would navigate this transition.
19| I do not have a limited supply of mothering love.
It’s been amazing how God has allowed my heart to expand as I learn to love these babies of mine. My fear that I wouldn’t be able to love two new children as much as I loved Charleston has proven totally unfounded; my love for each child is different, but equally immense! Not only do they each have my love, they have their love for each other—all of our hearts have expanded! That said, I’ve found that I need to be intentional about spending individual time with each of my three of my kids: being all together is great, but it can’t replace the magic that happens during quality one-on-one time.
20| Raising twins is immensely rewarding.
For all of the challenges that twins present, I wouldn’t trade this experience for the world. I love both Kali and Sully more than I thought possible, and I have a unique love for the two of them as a duo. Watching them together is nothing short of miraculous, and I am beyond excited to watch the two of them grow—independently, and alongside each other—in the months and years ahead! I am so very thankful to God for allowing me to add the title of Twin Mom to my resumé; now that this is my reality, I can’t imagine my life any other way!
Many thanks to my friend and fantastic photographer Shanyn of Shay Wills Photography for capturing these wonderful images of our family!