Lifehacks for parents of twins and triplets
THREE MUMS OF MULTIPLES SHARE THEIR STORIES AND OFFER SOME HARD-EARNED TWIN AND TRIPLET LIFEHACKS.
Christchurch couple Katy Anderson and Tom Wilson were “completely shocked” to hear they were having twins. “We were silent for the rest of the scan as we were just absorbing the news,” says Katy. Perhaps it’s not such a big surprise though – Katy herself is a twin and there are two sets of twins on her father’s side of the family.
Baby girls Frankie and Scarlett were born one minute apart at 37 weeks and two days, Frankie weighing 2.56kg and Scarlett 2.5kg. They’re DiDi (Dichorionic-Diamniotic) twins which means they had their own sacs and placentas, and are non-identical. Katy shares her story.
A TWIN PREGNANCY
“I was incredibly lucky because I had a very healthy, normal pregnancy. I was monitored with growth scans every two weeks from 28 weeks on. The biggest challenge was getting my head around the fact that we were having two babies, not one, and the financial implications of that! My biggest food craving was chocolate eclairs and ice cream. I had horrible morning sickness from eight weeks up to around 14 weeks when I had some relief, but it returned again around 32 weeks.
A TWIN BIRTH
I was booked in for an induction at 37 weeks. I had an epidural and I was glad I did as I was in active labour for 14 hours! The girls were basically blocking each other from moving and getting increasingly distressed so I had to have an emergency Caesarean section.
THE FIRST FEW MONTHS
I stayed in hospital for five days. When we got home we were almost lulled into a false sense of security as the girls were so tiny they slept a lot! However, we had a lot of trouble with feeding, made even more challenging by them both being jaundiced. We were put on an intense three-hourly feeding schedule day and night to get their weight up, which was utterly exhausting. You go into survival mode, and each month gets easier.
USEFUL TWIN ADVICE
Always wake and feed the other baby when the first one wakes, day and night. It might seem crazy to wake a sleeping baby, but I could guarantee if I didn’t, then as soon as the first baby was fed/settled/asleep, the other would wake 20 minutes later. It also meant they fell into a very similar routine to each other.
A twin feeding pillow! When they’re tiny babies it’s perfect to feed them on, and as somewhere safe to place them. Also, by switching to cloth nappies at four months, I’ve saved hundreds of dollars.
WHAT WORKED WELL
Team work and communication with your partner is hugely important. Dads of twins are a very different breed so don’t underestimate them! Listen to their advice and opinions, allow them to help, not just change the nappies. Now when I go away for work or out with friends, I don’t have to lay out any clothes or prepare meals as my partner is so in tune with what the girls need. That’s invaluable.
✔ Don’t compare yourself to anyone, especially friends who have singletons of the same age as your babies. Having twins is a completely different ball game!
✔ Have lots of ready-made meals in the freezer.
✔ Routine, Routine, Routine! Only other parents of twins will understand the horror of two over-tired babies! By the time the girls were six weeks old we had a nightly bedtime routine which has definitely paid off.
✔ Join the Multiples New Zealand group. We’re from the United Kingdom and have zero family in New Zealand so this was an incredible source of information and support.
✔ Get out of the house! Going out with two babies is daunting, but do it in little steps. Don’t let twins become an excuse to not do anything.
Wellington-based Amy Teague had an inkling early on that she could be having twins because morning sickness set in when she was just five weeks pregnant. Amy and her husband Michael’s baby girls, Gemma and Stella*, were born 38 minutes apart almost five weeks early and weighing just 1.8 and 1.9kg.
*Amy has asked to keep her girls’ real names private.
“I didn’t have any serious problems other than morning sickness. I was unwell every day from week five to week 22, when I got a two-week reprieve before it was back. I also had sciatica, which was hideous, but it didn’t last long.
The morning sickness was the biggest challenge. How do you eat enough to grow healthy babies when you can’t keep anything down? I also struggled with work and went on maternity leave earlier than Planned. I’m lactose intolerant but oddly I craved pizza and ice cream and was able to eat it.
A PREMATURE BIRTH
My hospital birth was perfect, amazing and life-changing. Both girls were delivered without intervention and as preemies they went off to the NICU, while I was up and mobile within the hour. Although I hadn’t slept in over 20 hours I was buzzing. I felt like Superwoman… A few days later I felt like I’d been beaten up by Superwoman.
THE EARLY MONTHS
We spent almost three weeks in NICU and it was the hardest time of my life. I hated the lack of control and got upset over silly things. In the very early days life was just a cycle of expressing, feeding and nappies. The girls were very small and latching was hard for them. We were on a three-hourly schedule of care and feeds. We had to give nasogastric tube top-ups, as they were too sleepy to take full feeds, so I was feeding and expressing which was gruelling. My husband Michael and I got it all down to an art form in the end.
Being a NICU mum is a special club that is extremely supportive and where everyone’s struggle is recognised. I joined the Multiples New Zealand Facebook group, and following one of my posts a member reached out and offered to visit me at the hospital, as she could tell I was feeling isolated. That hour with her (and her twin girls) was the boost I needed.
Back home, because Michael is a chef and works evenings, I was home alone with the twins for the witching hours. We don’t have family nearby but we do have a lot of good friends who have helped out. I also called Jo Chambers from Blissful Bubs and she answered my crisis call with compassion. She came over to help put the girls to bed and we had a chat. I think the chat helped more than anything as she reassured me I was doing okay.
I hear or read this a lot from mums of multiples: “The days are long, but the years are short”. I remind myself of this when I’m overtired or when the girls have a grumpy day. It helps me put things in perspective and enjoy the stage they are in and this special time when they need me so much.
My Peanut & Piglet breastfeeding pillow. I tandem feed as much as possible so a good pillow is essential. I also love my TwinGo tandem carrier because I can get the girls in and out by myself.
WHAT WORKED WELL
Having a set routine from early on really worked well for us. We have let the girls influence it and we adapt, but having structure has really helped me. I decided early on that 6pm would be bedtime for the babies. I needed the evening time, and during the rough early months when one had undiagnosed reflux and the other was being grumpy for no reason, I needed to know when the day would end and I could have a cuppa in peace!
✔ Enjoy the ride. It’s a privilege and you were chosen because you can do it!
✔ On a practical level, feed them at the same time and try to keep them on the same schedule. It makes life easier if they sleep at the same times!
Talia Metcalfe and Shanon Lloyd already had Veronica, their now-20 month-old daughter, when they discovered they were having triplets. “When the sonographer said there were three babies, I was just in shock. I remember crying a lot but I was mostly excited. I had to show [friends and family] the scan photo with my name on it to convince them that I wasn’t lying!”
However, having multiples does run in Talia’s family: her mum has twin brothers and a cousin has triplets. Talia and Shanon’s triplets are Theodore, (the ‘singleton’ who weighed 1.48kg), Rupert and Archer, who were both born en caul (in the amniotic sac) at exactly the same time, Archer weighing 1.3kg and Rupert weighing 1.74kg. The boys were born at 29 weeks and four days.
A TRIPLET PREGNANCY AND BIRTH
My pregnancy was actually quite easy. I felt heavy and sore but had no morning sickness. I craved quarter pounders, which I’d never wanted before, and soap, which was weird, but I had low iron levels so I think that was the cause.
Every two weeks I had a scan and an appointment with the maternal foetal medicine specialist. Triplet C (Archer) was always a little smaller than the other two, and because he was an identical twin, that was something they had to keep an eye on.
This pregnancy was quite challenging for me mentally. I was often gently reminded of the huge risks for this kind of pregnancy and, being an anxious person already, I really struggled with that. But I had lots of professional help to get me through it all. I found it very hard to bond with the babies due to the pregnancy being such high risk, and that’s one of my biggest regrets.
I was very nervous heading into the delivery at hospital but although the birth was early, it ended up being
THE EARLY MONTHS
The first weeks in the NICU were mentally draining, but also incredible. A lot of it is a blur and I remember not really being able to retain information about the boys very well, so I wish I’d kept a better record to look back on.
I do remember it all going very smoothly and the boys were doted on by the staff. I found it hard to go into the NICU because I knew I’d have to say goodbye to them again, but I also had a young toddler at home who I was still breastfeeding, so I was very torn. I think one of the hardest parts was learning how to take care of such little babies with so many wires and machines attached. Considering my first baby was 4.96kg at birth it was a bit of a shock to have such little babies! The boys came home with us at 69 days old.
✔ Have a routine and work in shifts with your partner.
✔ Take time for yourself. It’s so easy to immerse yourself completely – make sure you give yourself a regular break.
✔ Triplets Plus New Zealand advise you not to buy three of everything, just in case something happens to one, two or all of the babies. We didn’t buy anything right up until they were a couple of weeks old. We swapped our sedan for a van and got the carseats, but almost everything else we needed was donated.
✔ Take pride in what you do, believe in yourself and most importantly, accept the help – people wouldn’t offer if they didn’t want to.
✔ You’ve got this! These babies picked you, so you have the capability to do what’s best for them or they wouldn’t have chosen you as their parents.
For support, advice and information visit multiples.org.nz, and on Facebook @multiples.org.nz or call 08004TWINS (0800 489 467)
AS FEATURED IN ISSUE 50 OF OHbaby! MAGAZINE. CHECK OUT OTHER ARTICLES IN THIS ISSUE BELOW