Twin mama-to-be? this one's for you!
Twin mama, Megan Raynor shares insights from her deep dive into motherhood and tells us what she wished she'd known when embarking on this journey.
The first scan as a mum-to-be is one of the most exciting and nerve-racking moments of the pregnancy journey. It’s almost overwhelming processing all of the emotions that bubble to the surface as you see that tiny little dot on the screen for the first time. It’s the moment when you realise you really did create life and the idea of being a mother starts to feel real.
For me, it was all of this and more when the scanner told me “Oh look, there are two heartbeats, can you see the two babies?” Before quickly following up with “Let me make sure there’s no more hiding in there behind these ones.”
I remember my head buzzing as I struggled to work out whether I was about to cry, be sick, or jump with joy. From the moment we’d seen the positive pregnancy test I’d been envisioning what life would be like with our new baby – singular. This moment of realisation that things wouldn’t be quite what I had imagined turned out to be very fitting for my motherhood journey as a new mum of twins.
Two years later, and I know I’ve won the children lottery by being 'one and done' – they play together, cuddle each other, and still fit perfectly onto each of my hips. It’s double the kisses, double the hugs, and yes, double the nappy explosions!
I can’t imagine a life without having had twins, but there are some things I wish I had known before I saw those little dots for the first time; to prepare me for not only becoming a first time mother but a first time mother of twins.
LET GO OF EXPECTATIONS
Letting go of the preconceived expectations of motherhood I had in my head was the first lesson that having twins taught me. This was something I had to come to terms with early. Knowing I would have two newborns quickly put the dreams of front pack walks up our local mountain, trips to the pool, or mum n’ bub exercise classes out of my head.
It also meant I had to let go of body expectations. It sounds trivial but I’m sure many of us imagine cute little bumps when daydreaming of pregnancy. A twin bump didn’t quite fit that fantasy!
It’s a lesson I’m glad I had to grapple with from the start because it’s one I’m still working on now. Often it’s our expectations that set us up to fail, the hardest being our expectations of ourselves.
Growing children changes more than just our bodies. It changes our priorities, our mental capacity, our load, and it needs to change our expectations too. As Betty Friedan said, “You can have it all, just not all at the same time.”
By acknowledging that our self-expectation may be too high in this season, it allows us to be more gentle with ourselves. Maybe it means asking for help so that you don’t put all the pressure on yourself to clean, cook, dog walk, or anything else that’s hanging over your head. Or it could be as simple as leaving the Mount Everest pile of washing out where visitors can see it, rather than rushing to make the home appear perfect when you hear them at the door.
It’s in these small moments of letting go of expectation that we can practise for the bigger ones.
TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS
As a very achievement-orientated person, I had always doubted that I would be a 'good' mother. As part of that, I’d questioned if I would have those golden motherhood instincts that we so often hear about. Thankfully I had a couple of moments during the twins’ birth that proved to me not only was this instinct a very real trait but that I possessed it.
As a first-time mum, you’re faced with so many decisions every day. Everything is new and you feel intense responsibility for this little life you’ve been entrusted to look after. I’d almost liken it to the ultimate example of imposter syndrome – wondering if everyone can tell that you have no idea what you’re doing and if they’ll take the job back when they realise you don’t.
I found learning to embrace and trust in my motherhood instincts was a really helpful way to get past this. I acknowledge it can be really hard to know if you’re doing the 'right' thing when it’s your first time, but it is worthwhile asking ourselves where this doubt is coming from. Often it can be all of the different outside opinions and social pressures that make us question ourselves in the first place and distract us from our inner clues.
Once you realise that every person you’ll come into contact with will have a different opinion on what the 'right' thing is, then you can start to tune into what is truly right for you and your babies.
Practising tuning into your instincts might mean taking some time away from google, only seeking advice from those you really trust, or setting a boundary with family when you’ve made a decision you don’t want questioned.
For me, my mum instinct felt like resistance tagging at my insides when I thought about implementing some advice I’d been given. Or even discomfort when I read or was told what I 'should' do. I’ve found the more I take the time to acknowledge and listen out for these feelings, the more trust I have in myself that I know what to do.
Our instincts aren’t found in others, they’re found in the quiet inner tug and the more we practice listening to them, the more attuned we become.
YOU’RE ALLOWED TO HAVE FEELINGS TOO
Having struggled to get pregnant in the first place, followed by an emergency Caesarean section at 31 weeks, I know how lucky I am to have my twins. In the early days of motherhood this added to the pressure – I felt like I should be grateful every second of the day.
Motherhood is absolutely something to be grateful for – it’s a beautiful gift – but that doesn’t mean you’re not allowed to find it hard or have any of your own feelings. Part of being human means experiencing an array of emotions daily, from the sunny ones to the melancholic.
As mums, we often feel guilty for having any feeling other than joy and delight in our newborns, as if simply having human emotions makes us less of a mother. However, the best thing we can do for ourselves and our babies is to acknowledge the feelings as they come.
It's normal to have feelings of negativity, boredom, or of missing your old life. It’s in voicing these feelings that you give yourself the freedom to either move on from them or find solutions to them, rather than letting them build.
I often named my feelings out loud, and still do, as a way to get them out of my head while simultaneously teaching the twins that having feelings is okay. It has the extra benefit of giving me a chance to choose my next feeling, so I can purposefully move on with my day more positively. Other ways to do this include sharing with somebody you trust, writing it down to get it out of your head, or even physically moving to shake it off.
I do want to add that sometimes feelings can be more than simply a bad moment. Please do talk to a professional if the feelings are overwhelming you, and know that it’s nothing to be ashamed of.
BABIES CAN WAIT
Any parent with more than one child will know the heartache of having them cry for you, knowing you can only help one at a time. In the early days, this tore at me but I soon realised that being upset and rushing wasn’t helping anyone.
I started to slow down and use my voice to reassure the waiting twin that I would be with them once I had finished with their brother. It made me feel better because I had acknowledged my baby’s need, while providing some comfort for the waiting twin through hearing my voice.
This lesson in slowing down my reactions seeped through to other areas of motherhood for the better. One of the many podcast episodes I listened to during our pushchair strolls mentioned a technique found in the French way of parenting called 'Le Pause'. It is exactly how it sounds, taking a pause before responding to your child’s needs. It’s amazing how simply pausing before reacting can change what you decide to do next.
If I heard a baby cry out during naptime, a pause could mean the difference between them settling themselves back to sleep or a long afternoon of me trying to settle them. Even now, when I hear the start of a tantrum, a pause can mean the difference between an automatic yell or a more considered empathetic reaction.
Learning that my babies could wait was a massive pressure-reliever in those early days of motherhood, allowing space to breathe. Space we all needed!
There are so many learnings in the first year of motherhood but it’s these that stick with me and continue to make life more harmonious today. I say life because they go beyond mothering, these lessons continue to help in all of my relationships including the one I have with myself – arguably the most important of all.
Words: Megan Raynor
AS FEATURED IN ISSUE 57 OF OHbaby! MAGAZINE. CHECK OUT OTHER ARTICLES IN THIS ISSUE BELOW