9 Things Twin Dads Need To Know Before The Birth
Knowing you are having twins can be extremely daunting. Sounds like it might be a total nightmare, doesn't it? It will be. People will say not-particularly-reassuring things to you like "Uh oh!" when you tell them the joyous news. They will look at you with a combination of admiration and 'thank-christ-it-isn't-me' eyes. Here's what you need to know first. Those of a nervous disposition - start with No.9.
GET MONEY: There really is no way around this. You earn it, your partner earns it, you both earn it - it doesn't matter. Just get some. Because you are going to need it. Twice. Twins are not the same as having two children of different ages. You cannot stagger your spending, where, for example, the eldest child needs a new bike and the baby just needs nappies. See that lovely little jumper in the window of JoJo Mamam Bebe? You'll need two of them. Everything that is reasonably priced will immediately be expensive because you need two of them. And buy shares in nappy manufacturers. You are going to need a LOT of nappies. We got through nearly 100 every week in the first few months or so. This will put your plans for saving the planet aside for a while - imagine using only washable reusable nappies 100 times in one week. Landfill sites will thank you for your custom.
WOMEN WILL THINK YOU'RE ONLY BABYSITTING: Be prepared for this one, especially in the early months, if you are going to be the primary carer. Casual sexism is everywhere in parenting and it will be assumed that if you're a Dad out and about with your twins (or indeed any number of children) then you are merely standing in for the real carer, the mum, who is obviously at home with a glass of wine having a well-earned rest. "Gosh," said one women to me in the street once when I was standing there with The Lads in the pram, "It must be SO hard for the mother." "Why?" was my evidently unexpected response, since I had been up most of the night dealing with them vomiting and crying before spending the day attending to their every need (while mummy worked). "Giving mum some time off?" asked another, unaware that it wasn't 1950. "How does the mummy cope?" was another one, not remotely concerned about how I might be coping. It didn't occur to any of these people (always women, by the way) that we could be sharing the responsibilities or that I was the primary carer during the day. You will be cross about all this at first and then simply accept it, since it will happen often.
UNDERSTAND THE DIFFERENT POOS: No really. There are lots of difference types of poo that come out of those little bottoms at first and it's actually quite interesting. When we attended a one-day course on Having Twins, run by the brilliant Twins Trust, at one point we were handed laminated cards that had photographs of at least 6 different kinds of shit you should know about. I can't say I'd seen my life reaching this point, standing in a room with 6 pregnant women and their partners looking at photos of baby shit on shiny cards. But it was actually very useful because, no matter how prepared you are, there will always be a moment, when your babies have made a face and pushed something out, that you will say "What the hell is THAT?". Personally, I wasn't ready for the black sticky stuff. No-one is. It's like tar and for a few brief days your baby will probably produce it in industrial amounts (relative to its size). There will also be the green stuff. And then the..well you get the picture. Luckily, our twins went through almost the entire weird-looking-poo cycle in hospital (they were there for a month after they were born) so that by the time they got home they were only producing the usual shit.
COVER YOUR ENTIRE HOUSE IN FOAM: This is advice that came to me from an old friend who also has (now grown up) twins. In fact, I think it was the very first thing he said to me when I told him about our impending event. He was not wrong. At first, fine. They'll probably spend far too much time vomiting and pooing to bother with tearing your house apart. But once they get moving, sell everything that can break or means something special to you. At the very least move it high enough that it's out of reach. This is, of course, advice for parents of all children, but twins have their own way of causing chaos. They might go in opposite directions, one spotting you've forgotten to close the stair gate (again) while the other hits their head on the edge of the coffee table you didn't previously think was dangerous. When The Lads started crawling everywhere, we went to visit The Grandparents having warned them to move anything valuable or dangerous out of the way in advance. When we arrived, it looked like they were moving house - it was empty. Since they hadn't needed to worry about a toddler in a house for about 47 years, literally everything within reach had been unsuitable (this was also the case in our house, of course, and if we clear everything deemed unsuitable from a room, The Lads will immediately locate the ONE thing we missed). Buy those large colourful foam tiles and put them everywhere, is my advice. Get stair gates. Create space in the roof, or rent a storage unit, to keep all those things you can do without and fetch again in 18 years time.
BE PREPARED: This is a crucial one for any parents-to-be but twins nearly always arrive early (indeed, they hardly ever go full term for obvious oo-that'll-hurt reasons). Get that hospital bag ready, the one you've read about in those books. But don't leave it too long because it might be too late. It was for us. I hadn't got around to doing the hospital bag by the time The Lads arrived, at 32 weeks. I hadn't got around to a lot of things, actually. They arrived on the day of our 32 week scan, in fact, merely hours after the caesarean had been booked in for 6 weeks later (since both twins were breach). We had left that scan relaxed in the knowledge that we still had plenty of time to do things: get the nursery ready; install the garden office; work on a massive, high-profile project that was imminent. We treated ourselves to a lovely lunch to celebrate. Everything was sorted in our minds, we knew what we needed to do and when. Hooray. They were born that night. Be prepared. Because your life will be turned upside down immediately.
BUY MUSLINS: I can't overstate this enough. Muslins, the squares of cloth you will never have come across before, will suddenly be the most important accessory you own. And with twins you'll need a lorry load of them. Ours spent the first 6 months vomiting all the time, everywhere. We weren't prepared for it at all because, weirdly, everyone had forgotten to mention this bit when telling us about parenthood. It was frustrating and ultimately exhausting; eventually, I considered simply pouring formula milk on to a blanket each day which would have saved time. One pack of muslins will never do; we must have at least 30, all pressed into action constantly. Eventually, you'll suddenly realise they've stopped and it will be wonderful. But you'll have been glad of that huge of cloths in the corner of the room, saving your house from milky vomit oblivion.
CHECK THE WASHING MACHINE: Because you're going to need it. Every day. More than once. It will get the workout of its life so make sure it goes wrong before the twins arrive because the alternative is hand-washing shit-covered t-shirts in the sink. And no-one wants that.* *Mind you, it's worth mentioning that my own mother, along with most other people in the early 1970s, did exactly that and washed my nappies by hand because (a) they only had reusable nappies and (b) we didn't have a washing machine. CAN YOU IMAGINE?!!
BE AS FIT AS POSSIBLE: because that will almost certainly go out of the window once they arrive. I was the fittest I'd ever been when The Lads were born; I'd taken up cycling in a big way, adjusted my diet and went to the gym 3 times a week. I lost a lot of weight and felt really good. I'd been on a bike ride the night The Lads arrived, although I didn't know they were going to arrive at that point, of course; indeed, I thought I had another 2 blissful months of cycling ahead of me first. When they did arrive and had to stay in hospital for a month, I was confident I could continue with my fitness regime regardless. No. I soon realised that, not only did I not have the time for long bike rides, I was usually too knackered to go on them anyway. Merely staying awake became a focus of my attention. And chocolate. When The Lads came home after month, they didn't sleep in the night. They still don't, over a year later. So the choice of either going to the gym or sleeping for an hour was not a hard one to make. I'm back on the bike again now and did some long rides in the summer (more of which later) but I've lost much of my fitness and put some weight back on and it's entirely the fault of those little time-consuming lads. You will also be picking them up, holding them, putting them down again constantly, especially before they can crawl. If you don't want to cause yourself an injury, get fit. They are surprisingly physically hard work for such little things. So off you go, get that gym membership working before it's too late.
DON'T WORRY: Having twins is wonderful and you're going to love it. But it can be a horrifyingly scary prospect. So, as one mother of twins who whizzed passed me in the street said once, "Don't worry, it'll be OK".She's right. Everyone finds a way. Because, once you've binned the hundredth nappy of the week, wiped the vomit off your glasses, located the remote control under the sofa, put 47 muslins in the dryer and removed a sharp plastic toy from the sole of your foot, you'll realise that what you have here are two incredible little bundles of fun, joy and innocence. It won't last, of course, but my god it's magical while it does.
What have I missed out?