I'm still astonished when someone notes that I have twins, then follows that up immediately by gushing something along the lines of, "Oh, I've always wanted to have twins!" with a dreamy look in their eyes.
I admit to looking at them like they just admitted to wanting their house to burn down so they can remodel. I can see the plus side, but are they really looking at the minus side?
You get both. It's all one package.
People picture the pregnancy as hard, sure. But it isn't just harder than a singleton pregnancy. For many moms it is two pregnancies at the same time. Twice everything. Twice the nausea, twice the vomiting, twice the swelling, twice the pain and discomfort, twice the stretch marks, twice the peeing. And twice the fear. Or rather, twice the anxiety and a much more valid basis for real fear about the well-being of the babies. Yeah, it varies. Sometimes a mom gets one or another symptom much milder than with other pregnancies (if they have something to which they can compare). And sometimes they 'get' to worry frantically from the start about the health, or even survival, of one or both babies. Twin-to-twin transfusion, placental insufficiency, discordant growth, surgical birth, preterm birth, micro-preemies, diet requirements, water water and more water, dental care (it counts - good dental care can help reduce risk of extreme preterm labor)... it gets to be a lot to carry around.
The peeing and nausea thing were my first clues, but I brushed them off. I've apparently got the world's largest bladder, because I never had to get up at night to pee with my first two. I did get nausea pretty bad both times, enough that I mastered the fine art of throwing up at work without messing up my work clothes. But hoo-boy, I was up at night trundling back and forth with the twin pregnancy. Gotta pee, excuse me, coming by...
And the nausea. I clearly recall one day sitting at my desk, trying to hold on to a slippery fragment of reality, the world kind of shifting behind a mist, and then putting my face down on my desk because it was cool, and it was the only thing I could think to do. Purely from the nausea. I wasn't puking, I just desperately wanted to, for hours and hours at a stretch. Which I think is worse. One of the managers came by, took one look at me (I was at that point vertical again, but I'm betting I had the imprint of the desk on my face), and told me to go home. Which was fine, except that it was an hour and twenty minute commute home. Whee. I actually felt a bit better while driving, for some reason, but at that moment, it still seemed a long way to sanctuary.
So, pregnancy, not a dreamy-eyed proposition with twins. Yes, some moms sail through. At first I think there's a tendency to feel envious of those who have a smooth and simple twin pregnancy, but reality soon strips most moms of the emotional leisure to feel too much at anyone else. It's just applaud as those one sail by, cross fingers, maybe ask them if there was something they did in particular that we might try. I ended up being one of those, despite the misery - 38 weeks, 3 days gestation. I swear by fish oil and DHA-enhanced eggs, myself. (Someone is studying to see if DHA blocks prostaglandins, which trigger labor. I haven't seen anything on the study lately, so maybe not, but... at least the multiples-specific nutritionist info supports DHA boosting...) I 'sailed' through, though. Sailing through includes my pelvis feeling like someone had poured kerosene on it and lit it on fire every night. I could feel every square inch of those two big bones, like they were outlined inside me, and every square inch was agonizing. Thank heavens for hypnotherapy (which I'd used with Mr B's birth, and which provided relief from the pain). That's sailing, when it comes to twin pregnancies.
You don't get to be dreamy-eyed about the birth, either. Odds are 50-50 that it will be a c-section if you're close to term. It sounds like a lot, but first twin breech is not recommended (it's hard to do the breech thing well with preterm births when there's another baby in there, too), and before 36 weeks, only about half of singletons are head-down. Being squashed in place, it is amazing that more twins aren't stuck breech before that point. Granted, I ended up with first twin breech vaginal birth, but that was with a pelvis known to be 'generous' (big babies, no problems).
And then there's breastfeeding - which is actually not as catastrophic as people tend to imagine, as long as you have some help. Yes, more trouble with supply, and preemies add huge complications and pumping and... but it isn't a flat-out 'are you crazy?' the way many people assume it should be. Where the outside view loses the rosy glasses is also inaccurate.
And it keeps going... Handling even the small health problems is exhausting, recovery for mom takes longer, and then there's sleep deprivation, deciding if one really can do anything 'on demand' with two (yes and no), and huge numbers of diapers.
And people dream of this? Okay. Granted, most of these people haven't had a baby yet. (Many of those look at me and say, 'ohmygod, you poor woman!' - which isn't entirely necessary, either.) (Note: I give a complete pass to anyone with IF issues, because getting two babies when you were iffy about even having one is enough to counterbalance the crises.)
But for everyone else? What they're dreaming of likely has more to do with two kids dressed the same, clean and sparkling for the first time that week, playing together quietly. It's the Easter Sunday version of twins.
Or perhaps it is a wistful admiration of the twin bond, which looks from a distance like having a best friend plus a sibling by your side always looking out for you. Magical, safe, secure, always tenderly embraced by that unfathomable bond.
Closer in, it looks a lot more like, 'MINE, you go away!' 'No, that MINE, mine is blue!' 'No, blue one mine! Yours green!' 'WAAAAHHHHH MINE BLUE!' ... that is, unless I'm trying to do something untoward with one of them (like get them dressed when they would rather not), whereupon the twin is more like a trained tiger protecting their sibling. "MOMMY STOP! You hurting her, she my SISTER, you STOP!" (even knowing I'm not actually hurting anyone, it is disturbing to be told that I am, especially so fiercely.)
Even the fun points can require some extra patience. Miss M decided she wanted to feed me my daily supplements. Within a second, Miss R needed to help. I do it! Me, too!
Fight ensued. Both owning the process, both needing to be the only one. I had to coach them through the frustration and disappointment of sharing, once again, when they wanted to not have to share, or take turns, or wait, but just be the center of the universe all by themselves.
But it does get better. Now that they're well past 4, and at the peak of their regulation phase (just about to transition out of that... eep), we get a lot more of the stuff that I think people are imagining when they picture the dreamy life of parenting twins.
I help you.
I gave her my bouncy ball.
You can go first.
She was sad, so I let her have the book first.
Slow, eventual payoff for the endless rounds of separating them, handling one set of feelings, handling the other set, asking them to look at each other and assess what to do next, asking them what they need, getting them to step through the problem-solving, lather, rinse, repeat.
And we still get backfires on the upside stuff, too.
NO, I didn't WANT you to help me!
PUT IT BACK!
I don't want that book!
I don't want a hug!
I wanted to do it MYSELF!
And so we end up coaching through the next layer - Remember to ask what she needs. Before you help, ask if she wants any help. Be respectful. Give her time to be with her feelings. Let her choose. Talk it out with each other.
We've got the next layer of the process coming up, but hopefully we've laid enough groundwork. Very hopefully. Because next up is Friendships. Like, she's MY friend! No, she's MY friend, not your friend! That's already starting, but it will get a lot more intense in the next year.
Yeah, I'm already getting all dreamy-eyed over the next stage of life with twins.