So you've found out that you're expecting twins or triplets? Here's how to prepare and what to expect during those first weeks.
Surviving the first six weeks with a baby is a mammoth task – but doing it with multiples is even more daunting. Mothers who have been there and survived it say that although caring for their babies is most difficult in the early months, things do get much easier with time.
There is so much fulfilment and satisfaction in raising multiples – but preparation is crucial for your survival in the early days.
Preparing for multiples
Try to find a “multiples group” in your area, or join an online forum to chat to other moms in the same boat. You’ll make new friends and have the opportunity to discuss details and concerns with other parents who have been through – or are about to experience – your situation. Here are some tips about important things to do before your babies are born.
Coping with multiples is a heavy burden, and knowing you have support makes the task a lot easier. Speak to family and friends about what they can do for you – not only in emergencies, but at times when you need a break.
PREPARE A WELL-EQUIPPED NURSERY
Allocating an area where your babies will sleep, bath and even feed is essential. Make sure it is adequately stocked with accessories and consumables and that they are easily accessible when you need them. Consider a twin crib if you are not co-sleeping.
NAME YOUR BABIES
Don’t forget to choose your babies’ names. There will be little time to think about it once they break onto the scene. Write your birth announcement now too.
PREPARE OLDER SIBLINGS
Discuss with your multiples’ older siblings how different things are going to be when the babies arrive, and involve them in decorating the nursery. Put together some “quiet time” toys, and relax about TV-watching.
If possible, attend a childbirth class specific to multiples. But don’t leave it too late because multiples are invariably born prematurely, and you’ll want to be trained and ready before they arrive.
UNDERSTAND THE SIGNS OF PRETERM LABOUR
Statistics show that around 70 percent of multiples are born prematurely. Understand the signs of preterm labour so you can act quickly and effectively when it happens. Your doctor, gynaecologist and books are good sources of information, but according to mother of twins Joseph and Tev, journalist Helen Mulley, any unexpected symptoms, no matter how odd or minor, should be reported to your doctor immediately.
“I was induced at 38 weeks because I’d experienced excessive itchiness, particularly on my wrists. A Google search revealed that this is one of the symptoms of obstetric cholestasis, which is to do with an overworked liver, is common in the last trimester of multiple pregnancies and has been associated with stillbirth. So I reported it, they checked my liver function and called me in for immediate induction.”
When the newborns arrive
Caring for twins can be made significantly easier by acquiring outside help in the form of family or friends. Even if you’re a super-efficient and patient mom and believe you can cope with anything for an unlimited time, at some point the constant handling of multiples will wear you down.
“Luckily I had a patient partner, and a very supportive mother and sister, but even so, it was very hard,” Helen says. “The inability to give all of my attention to both boys at once was very difficult to handle, especially when I spoke to mothers of singletons of the same age, apparently enjoying a relatively romantic early relationship with their newborns.
“The secret, I guess, is to learn to forgive yourself for just being one person. Also to accept all help that’s offered, with no false pride at all, and to express your feelings, no matter how much you fear they reveal you are somehow not a ‘natural mother’.
“Actually, as it turns out, most people will be experiencing something similar, including those ‘romantic’ parents of singletons. And babies have no trouble at all putting you at the centre of their universe, regardless of any other emotional and/or practical commitments you may have at the time.”