I thought I had babies pretty sussed. But then two turned up at once! Here’s 5 things the experience of having twins has taught me.
Disclaimer: I was not new to the motherhood game when I had my twins. I already had a son who was two years old when the babies arrived at the very end of 2019. So I figured I knew a thing or two about newborns, breastfeeding, sleeping, routines. I could tell you what the fourth trimester is, I had earned my 'golden boobies' for a year’s breastfeeding, I was not a newbie. I thought I had babies pretty well sussed.
I quickly discovered that I still had a LOT to learn. So here’s 5 things that having twins has taught me:
1. Some babies sleep and others … don’t
With my firstborn, I spent so much time agonising over why he didn’t sleep well. I became an expert on sleep schedules, bedtime routines, and settling cues. I just believed that if I found the right combination, he would sleep. I thought the answer was OUT THERE and I must be doing something wrong.
Awww, what could be cuter than a sleepy baby?
With the twins, I had a solid routine from the early days (because that’s how you survive!). I tried the same tactics that intermittently worked for my eldest. One twin sleeps like the proverbial baby, solidly through the night from about 8 months old. And his sister? She wakes up all the bloody time, exactly like her elder brother did. Same routine, same meals, same activities during the day - but one of them loves to sleep, and one would rather party on.
My twin boy will actually doze off in the high chair, or on the floor, or go to fetch his comforter from the cot to announce he’s ready to sleep. All the things I used to see other babies do and wondered why mine didn’t. My girl NEVER does these things. They’re just wired differently.
And I can’t tell you the relief of no longer chasing the mythical, magical perfect sleep solution. I just accept them as they are, co-sleep with my daughter when she wakes up at 4am, and don’t waste precious time worrying about it.
2. It’s ok if they cry and you can’t comfort them immediately
One of the hardest things for me about having the twins was that I simply couldn’t respond to their every need. I’m sure it’s true of all second-born and later children, but especially so when you have two tiny babies who don’t understand waiting or sharing, and whose cries go right through you.
I tried very hard to do it all. (I’ll always remember those days sitting on the sofa feeding one baby, rocking the other in a bouncer with my foot, and trying to read my eldest a story one-handed.) But, inevitably, sometimes one twin had to wait while I changed the other’s nappy, or cooked a meal, or helped my eldest use the toilet. How they howled! But you know what, it’s ok. They’re fine. Our relationship is undamaged. No matter how hard it is, sometimes if they cry and you can’t do anything about it, you just have to whistle (or shush) a happy tune and let them protest. No harm will come of it.
But mummy, I need it now!
3. Gender stereotypes are a pain in my ass
My twins are a boy and a girl. I did not want to maintain two separate wardrobes for them. Surely I could find some lovely cute, practical baby clothes that they could share? Oh my god. It was a nightmare. With my eldest, I’d got a bit annoyed at the limited range of colours and styles for boys. With the twins, I was introduced to the festival of pink and frills that are apparently de rigueur if you are born with a vagina. Why does EVERY item of clothing need a tiny bow? Even onesies?
Unless it was plain white, I had trouble finding anything that was truly unisex. And if I did, it was usually expensive. (This is of course how I came to set up this website you’re now visiting, with clothes like the ones in this article ;) )
Not only that, my ears are sore from hearing so much nonsense about what girls or boys are like. “Oh you’re lucky you’ve got a girl, she’ll be so much calmer than the boys.” Yeah, tell that to her when she’s climbing slides meant for kids twice her age with a giant grin on her face, while her twin brother stays safely on the ground. “Boys love their mummies.” Well, that’s one out of two then because my boy twin is definitely a daddy’s boy. And my girl is super attached to me.
You name it and I’ve heard it, and - newsflash! - it’s all rubbish.
4. Babies learn faster when they have a reason to
It took my eldest a long time to master a spoon. The twins were experts by 18 months. I think the difference is, they had an incentive. Mummy is slow feeding two at once. I found that when I popped a spoon on their trays, they’d have a go while they were waiting for me to get back to them. And once they realised they could shovel yoghurt faster than I could feed it to them, they never looked back.
The twins are constantly surprising me with what they’ve learnt by themselves. Drinking from cups, opening doors, drawers, toy boxes. Turning on the washing machine (thanks guys - mummy had to learn how to put the child lock on). It’s not that my eldest didn’t do all these things; I just think I was hovering a lot more and able to watch what he got up to, and help if he needed the door opening etc. The twins have taught me that it’s ok to stand back a little (in a childproofed home obviously) and let them explore and discover things for themselves.
My toddler twins love to explore (she usually goes first)
5. Our capacity to love is infinite
I definitely worried that I wouldn’t be able to love three children the way I loved one. I couldn’t see how I could replicate that closeness, those months and months of 1-on-1 bonding, that I had with my eldest. But our capacity to love is infinite ... even if our patience isn’t. I may have shouted, begged, despaired, laughed and cried more in the last two years than ever before in my life, but I adore the little individuals my kids are becoming.
I love our family unit, which somehow feels like it was meant to be even though I would never have dreamed of having three until nature decided it for me.
So if you're expecting a second baby, twins, triplets, and you wonder how it will be, know that most important of all, you will love them just the same. Your sanity may be another matter...
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