Going from 1 2 3

Since becoming a mother of 3 (whoa!), not only do I pinch myself often, but I also find myself pondering over the differences between having our first baby, to now having 3 children. There are so many things that change when you bring home a second bub (with a third, in our case), and we definitely found the experience to be very different to our first. We’ve had so many, ‘this is new’ moments over the last year, which have continued to prove that this parenting gig is ever-changing, ever-challenging, and ever-rewarding. Having a 3yo and 1yo twins certainly makes life interesting…

One of the most noticeable changes when deciding to grow to a family of 4, is of course, the idea of a sibling. You start using the words sibling, brother, sister, etc. as you prepare your firstborn for the big change that’s about to occur, whilst hopefully getting a mostly positive response (if they’re old enough to understand). When you first find out that you are expecting, you might question whether you’ll be able to love another as much as your first, but once they arrive you soon discover there is more than enough room in your heart. That moment when you introduce your firstborn to their new sibling is one of excitement and nervousness as you await their reaction. Thankfully for us, this first meeting was one to be treasured, as our 2yo son was so proud to meet his little sister and brother, grasping their names quickly, and excitedly introducing them to the family.

When you bring your newborn home, the phrase ‘be gentle with your sister or brother’ seems to run on repeat, as you try teaching your eldest about the fragility of their new sibling. Those yucky feelings of guilt do unfortunately seem to grow as your time becomes apportioned across children, and your firstborn no longer has your undivided attention. You might find that you need to remind yourself of the joys that a sibling brings, and that although the adjustment may take some time, it won’t be forever. To add to this, the luxuries of ‘sleeping when baby sleeps’, or leaving your newborn on a play mat or in a bouncer for a few minutes disappear, unless their older sibling is napping or is right by your side (perhaps knocking on the toilet door). Although there are new risks and challenges, there are certainly new advantages, such as having a little helper who can get nappies or wipes from the nursery, or who can help feed, calm or entertain their younger sibling(s).

As they all get that little bit older, the battle of sharing begins, with sibling upsets over toys becoming more common than the cold. In our case, our son quickly learnt his power of influence, encouraging his little sister and brother into mischief, often opening bedroom doors and security gates for them to get through (thanks hubby for teaching him how to open the gates!). Whilst playtime can often resemble a cat fight in the street, there are times when they surprise you and play so nicely together (even if only for 2 minutes), and you stop questioning why you thought it was a good idea to bless your firstborn with a sibling. All jokes aside, one of the biggest rewards of having multiple children are those heart-melting sibling moments, whether it’s a kiss or cuddle, a little chat or giggle, a game of peek-a-boo, or helping one another, when you can see just how much they love and care for each other.

With the addition of siblings, also comes enormous change around the house. Mess is created in half (or a third) of the time, with food or drink spills needing to be cleaned straight away, or you risk them being spread throughout the entire house. Child locks become more important as, not only do you have 2 or 3 (or more) little people to keep watchful eyes on, you also have lots of little fingers that could get caught in cupboards and drawers. In our case, safety gates have been erected in an attempt to block off ends of the house to, again, minimise that risk of harming little fingers, to keep all 3 kids where we can see them, and of course to confine them to a space where we know the floor is relatively clean… There are also new challenges when it comes to family illnesses with multiple children, and maintaining your own wellbeing with the added pressure of managing a larger household. Each new child also comes with a new truckload of washing, and you learn not to celebrate seeing the bottom of the laundry baskets (if you see them!), because there is always another dirty item hiding somewhere (or being covered in breakfast, lunch or dinner). Despite the house becoming messier and the endless washing piles, our house has never been so full of love and gratitude for our family of 5.

Time also certainly seems to go faster with the more children you have. There’s always an event or milestone sneaking up on you, which become even more exciting as there are more special little people to celebrate with. As we’re rushing around getting ready to leave the house (when we leave…), I often find myself questioning where the time has disappeared to. It can be a mammoth effort getting 3 kids dressed and into the car, whilst making sure we’ve got the suitcase full of food, drinks, nappies, wipes, changes of clothing, toys etc., and we all have shoes. We usually find ourselves exhausted before we’ve even left the driveway. The days seem to fly when you’re running a larger household, and there is always something to plan or organise (a shout out to those with school aged children and the extracurricular activities that brings)… and the nights seem to vanish just doing the dinner, bath, book, and bed routine for 3 (and we don’t bath the twins every night). Despite time flying by, we still find time to embrace the special moments of family life with our 3 gorgeous giggles and family of 5 cuddles.

Whilst each stage of growing your family brings new challenges, we’ve found that they are far outweighed by the added love and happiness that a buzzing family home brings. Although things do become busier with each new addition, we found that we became more relaxed, as we were able to draw on our previous experience, and we worried less about noise and routine, and more about enjoying the ride. We’ve learnt to laugh at the impossibility of getting a ‘perfect’ family photo and embrace the perfect in everyday family life. As the saying goes, ‘if you think our hands are full, you should see our hearts’.

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“It looks like there’s 2 in there”

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Our journey to having twins began on Christmas Day in 2015. I snuck out of bed early to take a pregnancy test, hopeful for a positive result so that I could give hubby (Adam) an extra special Christmas present. My eyes lit up when I saw the 2 lines and I quickly wrapped it up and put it under the family’s Christmas tree (it is tradition for the 4 daughters, our partners and kids to all stay over at my parents on Christmas Eve). When it came to opening his gift, Adam was completely surprised and ecstatic! It made for an extra special Christmas Day, sharing our news with our immediate families.

I went off to the doctors in the first week of January and booked a dating scan for the 14th, when I would be approximately 7 weeks pregnant. After experiencing the heartbreak of a miscarriage only 4 months earlier, we decided that Adam and our son (who was 18mo at the time) would come along for support. I drank the required amount of water and was both nervous and uncomfortable (the pain of a full bladder!) on the journey to the radiologist. When my name was called, the 3 of us went into the room and my heart raced. I laid down on the table, hoping only to hear a strong heartbeat, as the radiographer started ultra-sounding. She was concentrating hard but wasn’t saying much. Eventually she asked me if I would be comfortable having an internal, and based on my past experience, I immediately questioned (in a shaky voice) if there was something wrong, while Adam squeezed my hand. To our complete shock, she replied “things look good, it just looks like there’s 2 in there”. Adam and I looked at each other in disbelief. All at once we were picking our jaws up off the floor, bursting out laughing, and saying “Oh sh*t!”, “Oh my god! Oh my god!” I raced off to empty my bladder for the additional ultrasound and then it was confirmed, we were having fraternal twins!!

We finished up and slowly walked out to the car. We were absolutely dumbfounded. Twins didn’t run in the family, and it didn’t even cross our minds that this could be a possibility. I remember saying, “we went into the scan hoping for a healthy baby (embryo) with a strong heartbeat, and here we are now with 2!!” We sat in the car and started making phone calls, with the first to my Mum of course! She had only just asked that morning about organising time off work around when we were due, so we jokingly said that she might need to take more time off than planned, and she guessed it, twins! She was very excited! I remember speaking with my Dad who was in just as much shock as we were and he just laughed. My in-laws were also very surprised and absolutely thrilled. We had some fun with our siblings by asking them strange questions and sending them cryptic photos (2 eggs, 2 baby hats, some scrabble letters..) until they decoded our messages (it didn’t take long!) and joined us in disbelief. We told a few close friends who were equally dumbfounded. Everyone had their own concerns and questions, ‘How are you going to sleep them? You’ll need 2 cots.’ ‘How are you going to fit 3 car seats in your car?’ ‘You’ll need a bigger pram!’ We were in shock, so we did what we did best (pre-kids) and we went out for dinner to celebrate. We needed time to process things ourselves, so we decided to wait until our follow up scan a week later before we told any other family.

Over the weeks that followed we were a bundle of mixed emotions. Every time we said the word “twins” we paused and laughed. I tried very hard to stay focused on all the positives and the excitement that we were feeling. I kept wanting to switch to task mode and to start getting things organised (because there was so much to do!!) but I also knew I didn’t want to get ahead of myself and I needed to stay relaxed. Well, as relaxed as someone can be when they’re expecting twins… and have an 18 month old.

There were so many thoughts going through my head, some positive and some not so positive. In moments of fear I would catch myself thinking, ‘why me?’, and then I’d feel guilty for feeling like that after our recent miscarriage and when others were struggling around us. At other times I’d be over the moon at how blessed we were. I’d be amazed that we were having twins and that our little family wouldn’t be so little anymore, and only in a matter of months! I would go crazy thinking about how we were going to cope and all the work that would be involved and the help we’d need, having to give myself a little pep talk about staying positive and putting out good vibes. My heart would ache at the thought of not having any time for my little boy when the twins arrived, but explode with thoughts of him being a big brother to 2 siblings and how excited he’d be. I’d go to sleep wishing only to have 2 happy and healthy babies and that I could keep growing them inside me for as long as possible. I was both so excited but so nervous at the thought of how much our lives were about to change, it was an emotional rollercoaster.

My advice to anyone expecting twins would be to enjoy your pregnancy as much as possible and to celebrate the miracle of growing 2 babies at once. Don’t let anyone make you feel guilty for being blessed twice and don’t let anyone dull your excitement. Try to stay calm and not let your thoughts and to-do lists overwhelm you. If you need to, then ask for help. You will eventually need to lean on others for support so you may as well get some practice in. When I was pregnant, I was told by someone with twins that it would be more than double the work, and whilst this is true, I wish they’d also told me it would be more than double the joy. Having twins has been our biggest challenge, but it has also been the best thing to happen to our family and we couldn’t be happier! Good luck on your journey! We wish you all the happiness and good health.