Twin babies feet

10 Things I Learnt As A First Time Mum Of Twins

Ever poured orange juice in your cereal instead of milk?

I did. More than once.

While the joy of being a new parent comes with the awareness of late-night feeds and sleep-starved days, nothing quite prepares you for the reality of being a first time mum of two.

Fast forward the excitement of the 3-month scan, choosing matching Moses baskets and deciding on the most fitting names for two bundles of perfection – you start to fray at the edges a bit.

So, from double breastfeeding, trying to catch a bus with a double buggy in the pouring rain, finding the nearest Tesco Mum and Baby toilet before heading to lectures…

Here are 10 of the best things I learnt on the way. 

You can save the world on 3 hours sleep

‘God has a sense of humour’, said my mum when I told her we were having twins.

I had no recollection of babysitting and I went out of my way to avoid childcare duties. Now with two of mine, easy to see why she thought Karma came for tea.

For the first 3 months as a first-time mum of twins, night times were a haze of tandem breast and bottle feeds, an assembly line of nappy changes and trying not to drop a baby or two while nodding off.

I lost count of the times I hastily shoved baby formula in my mouth (couldn’t muster the strength to get myself a snack) and my hips of course – thanked me for the needless calories.

Day times were spent wandering around in last night’s PJs, watching the days roll by, finally succumbing to sofa naps while dirty dishes and laundry watched on helplessly.

Lesson – A full night sleep won’t come round till much later. Zero in on the two hours you can catch at a stretch (daytime or night time).

They are the rocket fuel to help you get through the next 6 hours. That is how long you need to plan ahead anyway.

If your double buggy can get through it, there’s space for 6

As a new mum of twins, a double buggy is a must. Not just to restart your dwindling social life (if you had one).

But for midwife appointments, baby weigh-ins, milk and nappies shop, and perhaps a contraceptive appointment (should you have such plans).

Getting through the shop doors is another issue.

A toss between trying to wedge the not-so-automatic door with the buggy (watch out for a baby’s leg!), sacrificing the back wheel of a not-so-cheap buggy just to browse through that quirky shop at the corner of the high street, or relying on the kindness of strangers to heave-ho the buggy with babies, changing bag, formula and nappies into the shop without much damage.

I once left the back wheel of the double buggy on the bus (not on purpose). Home had never seemed so far, all 10 minutes of it. So, on days when my nerves were too jangled from lack of sleep, I just settled for shops with wide-opening doors, fresh air and then straight home.

Lesson ─ Your spatial awareness goes through the roof. You can size up a doorway, steep stairs (or how many treads before your back gives), the closest lift and sniff out kind strangers (well, should you need help lifting the double buggy).      

Two is company, three is a crowd

Even as newborn twins, the differences in my daughters’ personalities were obvious.   One was curious and quiet, the other demanded cuddles and lots of food.

Yet they are so in tune with each other’s moods, language and needs. A kind of got-your-back-first code that can sometimes make you feel like an outsider looking in.

In a new school or place, they settle in quicker knowing they are together or within reach. Locking eyes across a room, they feel more at ease exploring their surroundings and making new friends.

From playing together to multiple inside jokes – twins have a head start on life skills like communication, compromising, sharing, resolving differences and tolerance.

A bit like a plug-and-play WhatsApp group that sometimes need prompts to include others.

Lesson ─Whatever you do, when refereeing a match or pointing out who was wrong, always be aware they are each other’s besties (whether acknowledged or not). They reconcile in a flash and you might find yourself quite the villain.

An odd pair of socks or babies with full tummies?

I went back to uni when my twin babies were 6 months old.  Had to defer my admission the previous year since morning sickness and fainting spells made it hard to sit straight during lectures.

Money was tight so I had to take a night job while my husband kept his day job. The changing bag was packed every night with everything the girls needed for the next 12 hours.

Hubby handed the twins to me at 7 am (end of my shift) so he could get to work on time for 8 am.

Then began my mad dash to the nearest Tesco or Morrisons (clean and wide baby changing rooms).

One after the other, I cleaned them, got them dressed and bought myself breakfast at the café so I could get them fed in time to drop them off at the nursery before heading to my 9 am lecture at uni.

The pace was fast, I nodded off during class sometimes (minus the snoring), read for the wrong exam once (can’t live that down) but my babies were growing well.

So, when the nurse pointed out the girls were in mismatched socks during an immunisation appointment, I told her it could be worse giving all it takes to show up every single time.

Lesson─ Making sure the babies are healthy and happy is the first priority. Anything else you can fit in, including trying to make sense of your life or career, will take a hit.

Exacting standards won’t be back for a while. So, when you do slip up, try to be kind to yourself.

Quite a few forms to fill, so pull up a chair

With twins, you not only go through twice the average number of nappies and baby formula – you also commit to a decade plus of filling in forms and staying behind.

You pull double duty on school admission forms and try not to lose it while clothes shopping for two. Longer stays on narrow school corridors on PTA evenings, poring over piles of school notes while trying to think of sensible questions to ask the teachers.

Tedious waits at the clinic when they are unwell (they share infections too). I’ve learnt to ask for a seat, and sometimes a pen (milky tea if I’m lucky) when I have to fill many forms or face a long wait as a mum of twins.

After all, it’s in everyone’s best interest if I am not back correcting mistakes.

Lesson─ You are constantly trying to fit so much into 24 hours as a mum of twins.  Forms can be quite repetitive and your eyes start to glaze over.

Take the time you need, ask if you can drop the forms off later or ask for a chair. Get prepared with blankets, activity packs and snacks if you have to go somewhere with twins.

A single child after twins, a walk in the park (kind of)

Took me 8 years after the birth of my twins to try for another baby. I just needed to know I could take on the rewarding but exhausting job of raising another child.

With the added benefit of the age gap, I found it easier as a new parent to a single child.

The pregnancy hormones weren’t as raging (the morning sickness and 5kg weight loss were standard) but beyond that hill came a much optimistic ride of confidence and drawing on the many skills of parenting two with just my husband.

Late-night feeds were simpler, even less ‘combining around the house during the day despite having two older kids.

And when I felt a pity party coming, I only had to ask myself which was easier – one or two babies.

Multitasking was feasible. I once dropped off my CV (plus a quick chat with HR) with my baby in a single buggy. Collapsing the buggy while holding a baby with the other hand was unreal!

Lesson─ Being a new parent of one is still a lot of work but you don’t feel quite as overwhelmed because of the skills and confidence built up while raising twins.

Mum o’clock is clean pyjamas and a hurried snack

They do say it’s ‘the simple things in life…’ As a mum of twins, it’s the simpler things.

Locked indoors most times with the logistics of going out with twins often outweighing any obvious benefit, you find yourself trapped between knowing you need a break and mustering enough motivation to get one.

With no family nearby, husband at work, and a ridiculously long to-do list– me time’ takes on a new meaning.

Clean PJs, a few pages of my current read in the toilet, shoving down a Freddo bar behind the fridge door or the occasional coffee and a chat with a friend.

I looked forward to these rituals and tried to make the most of these pockets of time.

Lesson─ Create your own oasis and reframe it no matter how small it is. Making the most of the brief ‘me o’clock’ gives you a sense of control and recharges your batteries.

Your body takes a whack so cut it some slack

It was forceps delivery complete with an episiotomy to get the first twin baby out. Followed by an emergency caesarean to bring baby number two out 15 minutes later (she was breeched).

Even though the obstetrician told me there was a risk of having a caesarean, I really didn’t see the whole shebang coming. I wanted a vaginal or caesarean delivery, not the best of both.

Hobbling around with a hanging belly, haemorrhoids and stretch marks like tire tracks on muddy farmland – my sleep-starved brain craved fatty foods between co-codamol fuelled first few weeks.

From the flu-like shivers when the milk came in (not by the bucketload enough for twins), football hold breastfeeding position, contractions that felt like another baby coming, to an irreversible change in bra size. Couldn’t get away from myself.

Lesson ─ A twin birth takes its toll on your body. Add in lack of sleep and the sheer monotony of looking after twins, and your sense of self might take a nose-dive. You will get your mind and body back. These things just need time.

Twins look good in two of anything-even potato sacks!

The cost can quickly add up when raising twins. The grocery bill does not lie. And when it comes to clothes, you really do see double (bad pun intended).

But there is something about two little humans in complementing or matching outfits that draw compliments, comments and glances from complete strangers.

Suddenly, your wallflower self can no longer stroll down the high street (except when it’s raining) without strangers asking if your babies are twins and telling you how cute they look.

George tees, F&F leggings and ‘Primani’ sandals. You wonder what’s stunning about the unassuming style then realise – getting twins to look gorgeous takes no effort at all.

Until they turn 6, that is.

Lesson─ You do spend quite a bit on clothing as your twins grow. Outfits with similar styles or colours look stunning on twins regardless of gender so getting them to look adorable won’t break the bank.

Soft skill overload: here is your revamped CV

Caught in the whirlwind of parenting newborn twins, it doesn’t cross your mind how skills learnt as a new parent can be transferable into a career. Time management honed from finishing work at 7 am, getting my babies dressed and across town in time for 9 am lectures.

Organisational and communication skills honed by getting all the twins would need for the next day ready the night before. Resourcefulness getting to the Tesco café to wash, dress and feed the kids.

Prioritising the most important tasks of the moment, reflecting on near-misses, and reallocating limited resources to ensure the safety and wellbeing of the babies.

Not forgetting learning to give up stoically or in a blubbering mess of tears when giving a task or dream all I have got wasn’t enough.

Lesson─ Raising twins is a skill stacking experience. So many transferrable soft skills are built into the experience of being a first-time mum of twins.

My twins are anime-loving teenagers now with more published stories to their names than my age. And in true cliché style, time does pass quickly.

I find myself treading down memory lane now and again (pictures do help), marvelling at how I got through the first three years and grateful for the journey.

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