Double the trouble: what it is like to be mum to twins
Rin Hamburgh shares why she thinks being a first-time mum of twins was the best thing that happened to her
I’ve lost count of the number of times a stranger has glanced at me and my children walking down the street and said, with a twinkle in their eye, “Double trouble, hey?” I don’t mind – they don’t mean anything by it – and, anyway, it’s true having twins has its challenges.
I had an inkling I was carrying more than one baby from early on in my pregnancy. “Be careful what you wish for!” my mum warned, only half joking. But I’d always wanted two children and had planned to have them close together to keep the age gap down. So, when the midwife at the 12-week scan casually announced she could see a second head and heartbeat, I burst into happy tears. “I got the twins I wanted,” I sobbed.
Of course, I had no idea what I was in for – and those aforementioned challenges of having twins began immediately. That first scan showed one was significantly smaller than the other and I was quickly referred to a specialist. The concern was that they could be suffering from what’s known as twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome, a life-threatening condition that affects 10 to 15 per cent of twins who share a placenta, as mine did.
I had to go to the hospital for scans every fortnight to make sure the little one grew properly, and was told that when I gave birth I would need to be close to a specialist for medical attention, because the risk of complications is much higher in twins.
No one can prepare you for being a first-time mum. Whether you have one, two, three or more babies, it’s always going to turn your life completely upside down.
I was fortunate. The birth was as easy as these things get. The girls were born in November 2015 at 36 weeks within 10 minutes of each other and with no need for a caesarean. Summer weighed 2.3 kilograms and Harmony 1.4kg – small, but not so small they needed to go to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).
We were transferred to the transitional care unit, though, as they struggled to feed and maintain their body temperatures. It was a surreal, challenging, often lonely and even frightening time, as I tried to figure out motherhood surrounded by strangers, with my tiny babies tucked away in their plastic incubator.
It was more than three weeks before we were allowed to go home – but I know we were lucky. Down the corridor in NICU, there were twins who had been born extremely prematurely and would need to spend months fighting for their lives before they could be discharged, possibly with lasting health problems.
No one can prepare you for being a first-time mum. Whether you have one, two, three or more babies, it’s always going to turn your life completely upside down. I guess the good thing about having twins first is that I didn’t know any different. I’ll admit it wasn’t easy. Where friends from my pregnancy yoga class talked about watching endless series on Netflix while their babies fed, I would be trying to feed one of the twins as quickly as possible while the other one screamed with hunger. In those sleep-deprived, hormone-addled weeks those cries translated as: “You’re a terrible mother!” “Why have you abandoned me?” “I’m going to need years of therapy to get over this trauma!”
It’s probably worth mentioning that just a few weeks after getting out of hospital, my husband and I separated. When I think back to those early months, it isn’t that I had two babies that strikes me as the most challenging, but the fact it all fell to me. Thank goodness for my family and friends – I honestly don’t know how I’d have survived without them.
The girls also rarely napped at the same time, so getting some shut-eye myself during the day was virtually impossible. I’m just glad the girls were fast feeders as babies or I might never have slept.
One advantage of having to do everything twice is that I’ve become impressively efficient. I remember being out with a friend and her daughter, who was the same age as the twins. All the babies needed their nappies changing at the same time and so we disappeared into the public toilet. When my friend emerged, I was already waiting for her. “How did you get that done so quickly?” she said. I smiled. “Twin-mum superpowers!”
Nappies, potty training, weaning – all of it may have been that bit more stressful with two, but I only had to do it once. And I didn’t have an older child to take into account. Then again, it’s also more expensive having twins. Double buggies aren’t cheap, you can’t take advantage of hand-me-downs and buying shoes puts a serious dent in my household budget. Birthdays are twice as expensive, too, although I do sometimes cheat and buy a joint present.
The best thing about having twins, however, is that they’re the best of friends. Developmentally, they’re at the same stage, so they have similar interests. They’ve always known each other and are instinctively much better at sharing than most kids their age. Even now, almost at age 4, they take themselves off to their room to build dens or pirate ships, and play happily for hours. They don’t need me to constantly entertain them in the same way one child would, which I’m really grateful for – I’m not naturally someone who enjoys playing tea parties or make-believe!
Sure, they gang up on me sometimes and can be naughty, but listening to them chatter and giggle together, and watching how they care for each other if one is sad or ill is a delight. If you give one a biscuit, they’ll always insist: “And one for my sister.”
Those strangers in the street are right – having twins is double the trouble. But it’s also double the joy. I’m glad I have the two daughters I always dreamed of and I’m especially glad they arrived at the same time. Becoming a twin mum is the best thing that ever happened to me.
Updated: November 7, 2019 03:20 PM