Twins are a blessing, but for the Alkemas a second set is pure joy.
When we found out we were pregnant with twins for the first time, we were so overjoyed and excited. I am a twin and am very close to my brother, Adrian, so my husband, Peter and I felt blessed to be able to nurture the bond between twin siblings.
Our first set of twins, James and Juliet are now three and a half, and are a joy. So when we found out that we are pregnant with another set of twins, we were ecstatic.
A twin pregnancy
I am really lucky, I did not have one day of morning sickness for either pregnancy. James and Juliet are fraternal twins and they each had separate amniotic sacs and placentas, so there was a reduced risk of twin–to–twin transfusion.
Fortunately we were blessed with a very healthy pregnancy and excellent medical care throughout. Good nutrition is an important factor in healthy multiple pregnancies as making sure that the babies birth weight is sufficient, is crucial.
Peter makes us fruit smoothies and carrot juices most mornings, which are easy and quick to drink and a good start to the day. With James and Juliet, I stopped work at about 30 weeks, which I believe also helped. My mom has also been an inspiration to us – although she only found out she was carrying twins when she was seven months pregnant!
With James and Juliet I was very happy to try for a natural birth, but James was breech, which meant that we needed to have a c–section. It is the same with this set of twins, one of the babies is lying in breech position so we are planning another c–section.
We carried James and Juliet to almost 37 weeks, when we had an elective c–section at the Park Lane Clinic – the same hospital where my brother Adrian and I were born. James weighed 3.03kg and Juliet 2.7kg– he is still bigger than his sister. It was wonderful that Peter and I were able to share this experience together.
He was calm and a source of great encouragement – while still taking photos and a video of James and Juliet’s birth. Our gynae was fantastic – calmly talking us through each step. As soon as the babies were born we were able to have skin–to–skin snuggles, then James was taken to High Care for a couple of hours as he had fluid on his lungs, but other than that they were both strong and healthy.
Four at home
Obviously we were thrilled to have two thriving babies, but it felt like it came with great responsibilities. Initially we coped by writing everything down in a calendar called ‘Double time schedule’ – when they fed, for how long, sleep patterns – this gave us some sense of order and control amongst the sleepless nights, feeding, changing, burping, washing and rocking.
I don’t think I would have been so routine driven if we had a singleton, but we used Gina Ford’s book Contented Little Baby, which I can highly recommend. James and Juliet were sleeping through from three months, with them feeding adequately during the day.
The first few months were a bit of a blur, thankfully we took lots of photos and videos to remind us of this very special time. We only had a cleaner come in twice a week, and we decided not to hire a night nurse – I was breastfeeding and thought it was unnecessary to get extra help at night.
I am so thankful for my mom, mom–in–law and husband who were able to provide an extra pair of hands -– my mom visited every afternoon for the first six months. We were also blessed to have generous friends who made sure our freezer and fridge were well stocked with nutritious meals.
We did most of our grocery shopping online and we were fortunate to have the expertise of a nurse who offered to come to our home for the necessary check–ups. This meant we were able to stay at home and establish a routine. It also meant that Peter and I were able to squeeze in a date night which was important – even though we talked about the children the entire time.
I think we may get additional help this time round, but will see how the first few weeks go. I know that we can get through the first, more challenging year because we have done it before.
My main area of focus will be ensuring that James and Juliet are included in the process and continue to feel valued. Luckily they have a wide circle of friends and we have a good family support structure. We are also better prepared emotionally this time around.
I breastfed James and Juliet for about six months. I fed them at the same time – with a twin feeding pillow. Each had a breast they preferred and “James’s” breast had a much faster let down reflex. If
I fed Juliet on “his side” she really struggled and ended up gulping the milk down.
A friend told me that her twins each fed from the breast that co–incided with which side of the womb the baby had been on. Feeding them at the same time meant that feeding time was kept to a minimum– ten to 15 minutes.
James has always weighed more, so he would feed longer and so when Juliet finished her feed she
would just wait and “chat” to me while her brother finished. I also got a lot of encouragement to continue breastfeeding, which really boosted my confidence to carry on.
I must say that I have been so grateful that breastfeeding worked so well for me – all that cleaning, sterilising and mixing of bottles is so overrated! I aim to breastfeed the new twins for as long as
possible, hopefully longer than six months. We will take things one day at a time, you never know what can happen with twins.
At about eight weeks, a blood test confirmed I was pregnant again – we were thrilled. We were leaving on holiday and I really wanted to go for a scan before we left just to make sure all was ok. The scan showed we were expecting a singleton.
So we went away and had a blissful holiday thinking about what our family of five would be like. I went to my 12–week scan alone as Peter had to work. When I saw the scan, I had a eeting moment of disbelief as it was clear that there were two babies.
I called Peter from the car and started the conversation with “are you sitting down...?”. We always desired a big family, but really didn’t think there was a possibility of another set of twins. It was
a dream come true to nd out that they were another pigeon pair: a girl and a boy!
Everyone has said we are so blessed, and we truly believe that. Plus, it really helps that we still have everything from the first twins. There are varied reactions from other people but most are thrilled for us. Although my mother says that the family are still in shock!
Practice makes perfect
With any second pregnancy, I believe you are more relaxed. First time round there is just so much information to digest and decisions to make. Our second set of twins are fraternal with separate sacs, the same as James and Juliet, which minimises a lot of the possible complications that carrying
twins can bring.
My pregnancies have been quite similar, although this time I have carried mostly through the more
comfortable, colder months. I have worried less and de nitely feel more confident. The major difference is that I have two toddlers to look after, but fortunately I have been fit and healthy throughout the pregnancy, which has helped in terms of the energy levels needed to look after two toddlers.
Thankfully James and Juliet still have an hours rest in the afternoon, so I can also put my feet up.
Being older siblings
James and Juliet have made the experience so special. Both are fascinated by my growing tummy and love telling their friends that they are going to have a new brother and sister. Juliet will often come up to me with her toy stethoscope, listen to the babies and declare them: “ fine”.
James is excited to have a football partner and Juliet is looking forward to dressing her sister up: James keeps saying, “Andrew is mine and Amelia is Juliet’s”. When they discover something that doesn’t fi t them anymore, they put it by the new nursery, so sometimes we have a little pile of
donations for the new twins building up.
We have also bought a nine seater, family car – which the children call the bus. A lot has been written about twins, the challenges they bring but also the excitement and joy. Our double (double!) blessing has been the best thing that has ever happened to us.