November 28, 2005

So, you say you want twins

Often, when talking to people who do not have twins, they tell me that they wish they had twins as well. I know what they mean. It’s hard not to want two cute babies at once. And there are benefits to having two at once. For example, they will always have each other to play with. For women, only having one pregnancy and one delivery is enticing as well. For us, we always have a baby to play with. We have never once fought over who gets to hold/feed/read to/play with the baby – because there is always one to play with.

But before you go wishing for two at once, I thought I might shed some light on what happens behind the scenes of twin parents.

Pregnancy Issues
First, there is the initial shock of finding out you are having twins. I walked around the house saying “Two Babies” over and over again. I had to keep repeating that we were going to have two babies in order for my mind to finally start to accept this as fact. So many worries were flowing through my head – most of them of the financial manner. Two childcare payments, two teens driving at the same time, two college tuitions, two young adults moving back home… You get the picture.

Second, the woman is dealing with two babies in there! The morning sickness is unbelievable, and by the time you’re 26 weeks pregnant, everyone around you assumes you’re going to give birth any moment. There’s also the real risk of the babies coming very early. This can be stressful. Thank God Andrea was able to carry the twins to 38 weeks but this is very rare. Often, twins have to spend time in the NICU and that can be scary for any parent.

The Early Days
I used to have sympathy for parents with a newborn baby who would tell me how tired they were. “I have the 3 a.m. to 7 a.m. shift” they would tell me. Well, when you’re breast feeding twins, there is no shift. Mommy needs help getting the twins set up to feed and because twins are often smaller, they are not the most efficient breast feeders. It would often take us close to an hour to feed them and then we’d sleep for about an hour and a half (tops) and then be right back at it again. Sleep deprivation is horrendous. I got, at most, 3 to 4 hours of sleep for the first six weeks of the babies being home. Andrea got even less. Let’s just say you find yourself saying things to your spouse at 4:00 a.m. that you would never say at any other time.

People say the darndest things
Once you are out and about with twins, you get treated like a b-list celebrity. People point and will say things as you pass. Mostly, it’s “How cute! Twins!” The more brave people will ask some of the most moronic questions or say the same things over and over. Here are a sample of these…

1) Are they twins? Not really an inflamatory question but sometimes it’s pretty darn obvious.

2) Oh, a boy and a girl? Are they identical? Um, no. One has a penis, the other does not. Definitely not identical.

3) Boy, you have your hands full. No, really? Thank you for that brilliant observation.

4) (Prior to having the twins) Get some sleep while you can! What? We won’t get to sleep? What are you talking about? All babies do is sleep, right?

5) Do twins run in your family? Andrea is adopted. We have no idea. Our standard reply is “They do now!” This is usually when people start to tell us that twins run in their family (like their uncle’s father’s brother’s daughter had twins). I have started to give people an education about twins. “Actually” I’ll say, “Fraternal twins (due to the release of two eggs at once) are hereditary but only on the female line. I had nothing to do with us having twins. While there is some evidence that identical twins may have something to do with the father, it’s mostly by chance that someone has identical twins.” Also, many times, I get the feeling that people are asking because they want to know if we had the twins naturally or through fertility treatments. Um, is that really your business?

There’s two of them!
So many complications come up when you have more than one baby. Often, I think how easy having one baby would be. Here are some examples of when those thoughts pop up…

1) While playing with one, the other looks at you as if to say, “How come you’re not playing with me?” It’s so hard to have one-on-one time with the twins. It’s rare when I can spend time with just one. And when we do, it’s usually for a pretty short amount of time. I begin to start keeping score in my head. “Okay, I played with TheMonk on my lap for 10 minutes. Now, I have to go get Swee’Pea and do the same thing.”

2) Sleeping. We have been fortunate. Swee’Pea has slept through the night for a long time. Now, we’re trying to get TheMonk to stop waking at 4:00 a.m. We’re using the Ferber method but the first step is to remove Swee’Pea from the room as soon as TheMonk starts to fuss. Otherwise, we have two crying babies at 4:00 a.m. Nap time is also difficult. They get tired about the same time but one usually falls asleep faster than the other. It’s not uncommon to spend 15 minutes trying to get one to nap only to have the one who fell asleep first wake up soon after. They cry and wake the other up. Ugh.

3) There’s no such thing as “running into the store.” With one baby, one could take the baby, put it on their hip and walk into Starbucks to buy an Eggnog Latte. With two babies, you have to get out the double stroller, put the infant carriers into the stroller one by one and then go into Starbucks. Once you’re done, you have to do it all over again – in reverse. Way too complicated. In fact, just leaving the house is like planning a small military operation.

4) When two babies cry, it is extremely frustrating. One baby crying is enough to get on one’s nerves. When two babies cry (or have a major meltdown) you feel like you want to scream “Calgon take me away!” Only there’s no bubble bath in the world that makes two babies screaming worth it.

5) No one wants to babysit twins. Outside of the slightly biased grandmother, no one is willing to take on the challenge of baby sitting twin infants. And even if someone was crazy enough to do it, I’m not sure we’d want to do this to some poor unsuspecting soul. It has taken us 6 months to get pretty comfortable with all the work the twins take but expecting someone who’s never done it before to jump right in is asking a lot.

6) Double the cost. Yes the financial concerns I had in the beginning were valid. We’ve had to purchase double the diapers (a carton of 160 diapers will last us about 10 days) and, even though Andrea has done a fantastic job breast feeding, she hasn’t quite been able to keep up with demand of two – so we purchase formula. Then there’s two car seats, two cribs, two of just about everything. In another week we’ll have double the childcare payment and in another month, we’ll have a car payment we weren’t planning on having because my car does not house twins.

So, that is a small example of life with twins. Don’t get me wrong – we love having them both. I think we’re lucky in that this is our first – we don’t know any better. In fact, I love having both. There’s nothing like seeing two faces light up with joy when they see their daddy or mommy and it’s pretty cool to see two distinct personalities emerge at the same time. But it’s tiring.

So that’s life with twins. I’m sure I’m missing some things (another side effect of twins – your brain turns to mush from lack of sleep) so you other twin parents, please feel free to add some of your experiences.

Before you go, are there any of you that want to babysit?


  1. If I could remember the first year of my twins lives, I think I would agree with every point you’ve made. hehe

    Having twins never even crossed my mind, I was in complete shock. Course my best friend used to make over my twins so much and say “I want twins!” And guess what? She had boy/girl twins almost three years ago. Be careful what you wish for, I always say.

    Comment by Katie — November 28, 2005 @ 3:02 pm

  2. Just so you know, I just drafted a post similar to this (comments we get in public) BEFORE I read yours. I’m not a copycat! :)

    When we found out we were having twins, Chris’s first words in the doctor’s office were, “We’ll both have to get up for every feeding.” Mine were, “Two college tuitions at one time.” As it turns out, I think his concerns were more valid. My God, I miss sleeping.

    Comment by amy — November 28, 2005 @ 3:55 pm

  3. No one will babysit? Wimps! Two years ago, I had THREE nine-month-olds in care, 9 hours a day, five days a week. (And that’s STILL easier than twins, because they went home at the end of the day and I got to sleep all night, every night.)

    However, I therefore know I could handle twins for mere babysitting. You care to come up here and brave the snow, and I will babysit two 5-month olds, no sweat – for, oh, four or five hours.

    Comment by Mary — November 28, 2005 @ 7:50 pm

  4. Oh, a boy and a girl? Are they identical? Um, no. One has a penis, the other does not. Definitely not identical.

    PMSL :o )

    Comment by Aginoth — November 29, 2005 @ 1:00 am

  5. I completely agree with your list. After a year and a half I still wander around the house muttering “two babies” and trying to figure out what happened. I thought the first few weeks would kill us, there is no such thing as taking turns. I try to focus as much as I can about the vast potential of having two of them around. One can make me a sandwich while the other one gets me a beer. They will be taking over the yard as soon as they are tall enough to pull start the mower. One can wash while the other dries. I am hoping that the double set of built in labor somehow makes up for car insurance in 15 years.

    Comment by gabe — November 29, 2005 @ 4:14 am

  6. Amen brother!

    I posted something last week where I was asked (becuase my twins are also boy/girl) “And you still call them twins?”.

    I especially agree with you on the pregnancy and sleeping issues. When people say that it is easier to just have twins I feel like asking them if they spent six weeks in the hospital when they were pregnant. How long were their kids in the NICU? How many sleep deprived hallucinations did they have in the first three months.

    Thanks for this post.

    Comment by Sarah — November 29, 2005 @ 6:24 am

  7. Two babies crying. That still gets to me. Even worse when the third kid joins in. I think they should hand out earplugs in the twins-new-parent packet. (You got one, didn’t you?)

    Comment by Becky — November 29, 2005 @ 7:04 am

  8. I agree with everything you said Matthew.

    And people always say to my wife and I: “Oh, I would love to have twins.”

    I agree with Sarah, “ask them if they spent six weeks in the hospital when they were pregnant. How long were their kids in the NICU?”

    I posted a similar entry on my blog months ago (could very well be the FIRST post on my blog) about people asking ‘are they twins?’. It’s amazing how often one hears that…

    Comment by Kemp — November 29, 2005 @ 8:12 am

  9. DITTO – DITTO – DITTO. You have done any supurb job in summing up “life with twins”, the first year anyway. I must add, if a couple DOES have identical g/g or b/b, then there is the “tests” of “who is who”. I may refer to this page of yours in a blog posting of mine.

    Comment by CINDY — November 29, 2005 @ 10:53 am

  10. When they told my mom she was having twins she told the doctor he was full of crap and left the room. As an older sister to twins, I could add so much to your list, but I wouldn’t want to scare you. I can say in all certainty that I never want to have twins. People always look at my brothers when they hear they are twins, and then turn and say to my mom – You really gave birth to them?” Well.. yes, but thankfully neither of them came out at 6’4′, 180 lbs. I think you guys are doing great. And yes, if you live in the LA area, I would gladly baby-sit.

    Comment by Melissa — November 29, 2005 @ 11:00 am

  11. I always thought it would be nice to have twins…especially a boy and a girl. I grew up beng friends with 2 sets of twins and good friends of ours have 5-year-old twins now. I like the dynamic that develops and the way they interact with one another. Also, I’m not getting any younger so I thought it would be nice to have more kids (in a shorter time frame.)

    Obviously, I never thought this through very far. Thanks for giving me a brief glimpse into the reality. And if you’re ever in NYC, the wife and I would be MORE than happy to babysit the kids for you…but just for a night, ok?

    Comment by MetroDad — November 29, 2005 @ 11:27 am

  12. So they’re NOT identical? But they’re both so cute, I can’t pick one over the other. You know, it’s amazing how many people did not pay attention to the whole meiosis talk in school.

    No moron, they are not identical! And yes, people just want to know if you are either rich enough or in debt enough to afford fertility treatments. We’re a sorry lot, we are.

    Comment by ieatcrayonz — November 29, 2005 @ 11:49 am

  13. There are two types of twins, you know—identical twins, and boy/girl twins. When I tell people that no, my twins aren’t identical, they usually try to figure out which one’s the boy and which one’s the girl. They have a very hard time comprehending the possibility that they would be both boys, but not identical.

    Oh, yes, and if they’re really both boys, then why in the world aren’t they dressed alike?

    One word, people. Laundry. Just be glad they’re both wearing clean clothes, okay?

    Comment by Elena — November 30, 2005 @ 2:01 pm

  14. I was absolutely petrified that my pregnancies were twins, as they do run in my family (3 grandparents & i set of twin siblings). It never seemed like an easy option to me, although I can see the benefits, especially as they get older. With LMD I made the radiographer do a second scan to check there was only one heartbeat:-)

    My mother fostered babies for most of my childhood – the stupidist twin question she ever had was when pushing along a doubly buggy holding a blond caucasian girl an ebony Ethipoian boy of about 18 months “are they twins?” was only eclpsed by “are they your twins?” (her twins were identical girls from pure eastern european stock)

    I would happily babysit twins – do you pay expences:-)

    No-one will babysit three kids either:-(

    Comment by Mrs Aginoth — December 1, 2005 @ 7:40 am

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