In the early days with twins, there can be a lot of tears… both from the babies and you!
Twin-mom Jodie opens up about feeling isolated when all your other mom-friends have ‘just one’. We ask how she and her husband Darren cope with juggling newborn twins and an older daughter. And she explains how having twins actually strengthened their marriage…
Please introduce yourself and your family!
I’m Jodie and my husband is Darren. We’re parents to 3.5 year old Brooke and 15-month-old fraternal twin girls, Peyton and Olivia.
We also have a 6-year-old chocolate lab and a 7 year old cat.
So, we have a busy household to say the very least!
We’d love to hear your story…
When Brooke was one and a half, Darren and I decided we wanted to have a second child.
We both knew we wanted to have at least one more. I was leaning towards three kids ultimately, where Darren was feeling more comfortable with just two.
Well, we got pregnant right away.
One night I had a dream about having twins. I woke Darren up and told him. We both chuckled,”could you imagine…” he said.
I had an early ultrasound, because of a miscarriage before Brooke. I went alone, while Darren was at work. I will never forget the tech turning the screen towards me and saying “do you see what I see?”
My heart stopped, I lost all color in my face, and I started to shake.
How did this happen? What did we do? What have we done to Brooke? She’s still just a baby herself! I need a new car! How do we put 3 car seats together? How are we going to afford this? I have to talk to Darren!
The tech asked several times “are you okay?” and I remember telling her “I’m happy, I really am…” as tears rolled down my cheeks.
When she was done I got up slowly. She said “congratulations” as she left the room.
I walked out of that hospital so quick I don’t even remember getting to my car.
I sat there… what was I going to say to Darren? I leaned over and reached for my phone. I called him holding back tears.
His first reaction was “Okay, so how does everything look?”, to which my response was “Do you remember that dream I had…”
His response of “seriously?” is forever in my memory. I started to cry uncontrollably while he was on the other end telling me everything was going to be fine, that it would work out, not to stress, all the while he is freaking inside I’m sure.
Needless to say, we were completely floored when we found out we were expecting twins. The flood of emotions was something I have never felt before.
But here we are, with almost a year and a half under our belt and, as far as we can tell, rockin’ this whole twin parenting thing.
It isn’t easy, but I wouldn’t change it for the world.
How was your pregnancy?
I had the usual aches and pains, and grew to be bigger than I thought was humanly possible.
While the pregnancy went relatively smooth, I did feel incredibly sick. I could barely eat, and when I could it was small amounts a million times a day.
But I was the same while pregnant with Brooke, so it wasn’t a complete shock to me.
I worked until around 31 weeks pregnant when I was ordered off by my doctor.
I am a kindergarten teacher, so I was on my feet constantly. So my doctor and I decided it would be a good idea for me to take some time to relax and get off my feet before we ran into any problems.
Did you spend any time in a NICU?
Both girls were kept in the NICU because they were unable to regulate their own blood sugars. They were continually being poked and pricked to monitor how their sugars were doing.
Olivia did not require a feeding tube, and Peyton only required it for less than 24 hours.
The girls were discharged from the NICU after three days and admitted to pediatrics to be monitored for an extra day.
This is also when I was discharged from the hospital. The nurses strongly encouraged me to go home, have a good night sleep in my own bed, and spend some time with Brooke.
I cried the whole way home, having left my babies at the hospital. But in hindsight, the nurses were right.
So, all in all, would you say it was a good NICU experience?
The bond we created with our NICU nurses was something I never expected. And in all honesty, I felt much more prepared having had the nurses’ support and encouragement while we were there.
I felt confident in going home even though nothing could have prepared us for what was next.
What’s the one word you would use to describe what came next… in those early months with twins?
It sure wasn’t pretty.
The emotions ran high. The love was deep. The sleep was very little. The chaos is indescribable.
My house was not tidy. Laundry was done on an “as needed” basis.
It all seems so fuzzy thinking back now, even though it was only a little over a year ago. Thankfully, we have videos to refresh my memory.
But we survived and we’re rock stars because of it!
How were the first few days, once the twins came home from the hospital?
While coming home from the NICU the girls were on a strict schedule that we tried to stick to as best we could, but I can’t say we succeeded at that very well.
We tried our best, but it just didn’t happen. The girls were up opposite of each other, they screamed all the time no matter what we did, it was rough.
We had amazing friends and family who would come and help us with the girls and we were incredibly fortunate that Brooke went to childcare 5 days a week early on, so she could actually have fun in a day without being around crying babies… and mommy… all day.
I had made a few multiple mommy friends before the twins were born and one had suggested that the twins may be suffering from acid reflux which may be causing them to be screaming all the time.
I owe this friend my life! We made an appointment with a pediatrician and the girls were diagnosed right away.
We were given medication and with Peyton, she was instantly relieved! Olivia took a day or two to see improvement but we saw dramatic results with both of them. This was both an enormous relief, and a huge emotional trigger for me. All this time (it had been about 12 weeks since they were born) they were screaming in pain, and I had no idea!
What kind of mother lets her babies scream and cry all day in pain without helping them? This is something I still feel guilty about today, but as time goes by I come to realize more and more that nobody would have known and I have to move past it.
You mentioned schedules. How important was it to, at least try to, maintain a schedule?
Schedules are everything.
Have them, swear by them and don’t veer!
At the beginning, it can take some time to establish something that works.
We had Brooke on a pretty regimented schedule from day one. So Peyton and Olivia more or less just fell into our already established daily routine.
I am a firm believer in the eat, sleep, play method and tried to follow it as best I could when establishing our schedule. There are some times that it wouldn’t work (during growth spurts, transitions to fewer naps etc…) but 99 percent of the time that was what we followed.
This was truly the only way we kept sane.
The babies and life were predictable. And I LOVE predictable.
Still to this day we are on a regimented schedule.
Most people do not understand this. People will ask you to just “put them to bed later just this once” or “can’t they just skip their naps? What’s the big deal…” but they truly do not understand the importance of a schedule.
The repercussions of missing naps and altering schedules is not worth it. Two screaming, miserable babies are horrible. Throw a toddler into the mix and it can mean you are in for a very long night.
It may mean missing out on a few things… but my sanity is worth more.
Schedules for the win!
What were your biggest challenges or concerns, with an older singleton at home?
Dividing my time and love.
I know that everyone says that no matter how many kids you have your heart somehow finds a way to love everyone equally… but come on, not many people have twins!
How do they know that?
How do you love and snuggle two babies at once, while paying attention and playing with a toddler?
Is it even possible?
Well, I’m here to say it is! I’m not going to say it was easy because it wasn’t and it took a lot of balance, but it works!
You can do it!
Brooke did amazing when her sisters came home. One of my favorite videos is the one we took when she met them for the first time.
I tear up just thinking about it. She was incredibly gentle and loving to her sisters. She would sing “ABCs” to them every time they would cry, and still to this day if she sings when they are upset they instantly stop to listen.
I’m not going to lie and say it was an easy transition for any of us, but we truly could not have asked for a better big sister for our girls.
Is there anything special you do for Brooke, so she doesn’t feel left out due to all the attention you’re giving the twins?
We make sure that every couple of months we take Brooke out with just the two of us for a special Mommy, Daddy and Brooke date. She really looks forward to spending time with just us. She gets to be the center of attention and we love being able to do that with her. We also take her out with us all the time when we run to the grocery store or to run an errand.
Before the twins were born we bought Brooke two dolls so she would have her own set of twins. One had a pink outfit and the other wore purple. They each had their own bottle and toys. She loved (and still loves) those dolls like they truly were her own babies. She could tell them apart when nobody else could. We would even try to trick her sometimes, but she ALWAYS knew who was who!
Everyone says you should involve your older children so they can feel a part of the experience, which worked for a little while, but Brooke got bored with it.
After a couple months she was over it and did not want to help. We respected that change, even though it was sad to lose my little helper.
We still have challenges today, Brooke is outnumbered by her sisters and it can sometimes be frustrating now that they are walking and want to play with all her stuff. But the trade-off of watching my three girls giggle and play together makes every challenge worth it.
What advice would you have for other parents who are expecting multiples, especially those who already have one or more children?
We are told early on that it won’t be easy. Having a singleton… haha… only parents of multiples use that word… isn’t easy. Let alone more than one at a time.
I do believe us parents with multiples are superheroes!
And I say “us” because it’s a team that makes this work. I can honestly say I would not be where I am today without Darren.
Lean on each other, and know it’s going to be hard.
Put your relationship at the top of the priority list.
If you aren’t happy, it won’t be a happy home.
Take it one day at a time and try your best to enjoy every minute of it, even the poop explosions!
Laugh when you can, because we seriously laugh a lot in our house, even when it may not be appropriate.
But if we didn’t laugh we would be crying! I like the sound of laughter better.
Surround yourself with people who love you and support you. Take help when it is offered. That was a very hard thing for me.
And snuggle those babies and that toddler every chance you get.
Tell them you love them a million times in a minute and soak it all in.
If you had to go back and do something differently… what would it be?
This is a tough one. I’m personally not someone who likes to look at things with regret. I truly believe things happen for a reason, even the acid reflux taught me about my babies and myself. Life is about learning, and this a learning curve.
But if I had to choose one thing, I wish I would have pushed a paternity leave on my husband a little bit more. We had talked about it before the twins were born but we never followed through with it. We were exhausted!
He was incredible staying up all night with me and going to work all day. I wish he would have taken more than a week off with me when the twins came home.
I wish for myself that he would have been home to help me more, I wish for my three girls that daddy would have been home with us during the struggles of the transition and I wish for him that he would have given himself some time to breathe, and enjoy the ride without having to be on autopilot every day.
It sounds like you’re a good team…
We knew before we had the babies that we needed to make sure our marriage stayed at the top of the list of importance and that working as a team was more important than ever.
We have survived this first 15 months because we had each other. When you have someone like that to share this experience with it makes all the difference.
I know I could not have done it without him and will forever be grateful that I have him in my life.
Not only has having multiples made us better people, I think it’s made us a ‘power couple’.
Our relationship and love for each other are stronger than they were the day we were married. I think one of the most incredible things to me is how our family and household can work like clockwork without us even saying a word to each other.
It’s so hard to explain, but when we are together things are smooth, expectations are known and we just go with it.
When others are here it disrupts that flow and things are just a wee bit harder.
How do you manage to maintain your relationship?
We make it a priority to go on a date night once a month. This means we leave the house and go somewhere. We’ve gone out for dinner, to friends houses or even just for an ice cream down the street.
But we are committed to getting out, just the two of us and spending time together.
This didn’t always happen at the beginning, but we tried our best to make it happen as often as it could. Once the girls were 6-7 months old, this was when we started to enforce it.
Once a week, we also order-in dinner and eat just the two of us after the girls are in bed. Going out and having family watch the girls isn’t always easy, so weekly ‘date nights’ at home are a must for us!
We will binge-watch some tv and just hang out.
These things are extremely important to us and help keep us, us.
We aren’t just parents, we are people. We are individuals. We are husband and wife. We need time just for us!
How important was it for you to seek support from other parents of multiples?
Finding a network of multiple moms is huge! These ladies get it!
They get how hard it is to get two babies on the same routine. They get how hard it is to get out of the house. They get how hard it is to be a mom of multiples.
These are your people! They are important for your sanity!
There is a lot of talk these days about finding your tribe as a mother.
I had a tribe of new moms when Brooke was a baby. We met every Wednesday for a play date and we rotated whose house we went to.
We would enjoy tea and cookies while the babies laid there or played. It was the best.
We were all so excited that we were all pregnant at the same time with our second babies. Literally, six of us were all pregnant for the second time and expecting our babies within six weeks of one another.
But then I had twins.
They continued to meet weekly with their two children and had playdates and days out together.
I was invited for the first few months to be involved, but I guess after declining their invitations week after week they stopped inviting me.
Part of me was too exhausted to care, but part of me was heartbroken knowing that my friends were having fun with their two kids, enjoying themselves and able to take their toddlers out on adventures while baby-wearing their newest addition.
I am even getting teary just writing this. But the reality was, that wasn’t my reality.
They would text me every so often to see how I was doing. I would get invited to dinners out or to be a member of their book club… but I was usually too exhausted to go.
I think a part of me didn’t want to go either. They would talk about the struggles of having two children and how they aren’t sleeping. I knew that I couldn’t handle that. I wasn’t emotionally stable enough to trust myself to not burst out in tears thinking to myself “they have no idea!”
As the girls got older, and I started to get more sleep, I started talking to the other mothers more. I started taking them up on their invitations to get together in the evenings when we had all our children to sleep.
And I am proud to say that I now am able to attend book club monthly, even though I don’t really have time to read the books!
But the wine and socialization are lovely!
What’s the best thing about your life with multiples?
I am so happy that we have been given the gift of twins. We feel pretty darn special and couldn’t imagine our life any other way!
Right now we are really starting to experience the twin bond.
Most recently the girls have started to hold hands while they dance. When a song comes on they will often walk over to each other and grabs hands to dance. It melts my heart every time.
Becoming a parent of multiples has been the best thing to ever happen to me. This experience has really made me a calmer, more relaxed person. I know this sounds crazy because our life is anything but relaxed and calm, but it’s true.
I don’t have the energy to worry about other people outside of my family. I don’t have the time to get caught up in the drama outside my home. And I don’t have time to stress about every single thing my girls do.
Is my family safe? happy? loved? Then that is all I could ever ask or hope for.
My family is my life, and this experience has taught me how to make my family my priority. And it feels great.
I couldn’t be happier to be the busy, exhausted mom that I am with the most incredible husband in the entire world.
Family and twin photos courtesy of Kelly Moss Photography.