Running the gamut of emotions that is discovering you’re having two or more…
In one of the ‘You’re having Twins!! Wow!! OMG!!!‘ books I’ve got, there is an entire section on dealing with the emotions around discovering that yours is a multiple pregnancy. It’s quite an intense and emotive section in the book, especially the part where it compares the emotional rollercoaster that is twins to the five stages of grief. “I’ve seen many women confront the myriad and mixed feelings that often accompany this unique kind of pregnancy,” writes author Dr Barbara Luke, who runs a Twin Clinic in South Carolina. “I’ve concluded that this psychological journey typically consists of five fairly predictable stages: shock, denial, anxiety/anger/depression, bargaining and acceptance.”
This seems a pretty intense parallel to draw between something as life-affirming as being pregnant with more than one baby, and something as life-changing as death. And yet. Finding out you’re having more than one baby isn’t always as cut and dried and simply delightful as you might think. Needless to say, I hadn’t given much thought to how people felt when they found out it was twins – I just assumed it was a massive helping of joy, with a small side of “Gulp, this will be pretty interesting, we better buy a bigger car.” Which is, to be fair, pretty much how it started out for us. Shocked, smiling faces in a waiting room, shaking hands and giddy giggles. “We need a bigger car. And a bigger house,” said R. Ever the pragmatist. And then a lot of. “Wow….” “This is insane.” “I can’t believe it.” Staring at each other in open-mouthed wonder.
The giddy joy continued for a bit, but was tempered almost instantly by casual phrases from midwives or consultants we spoke to just after our scan. In the first hour after finding out we were having twins I was told the following:
- “You won’t get to your due date. They usually need to whip them out early.”
- “Because you’re having twins you’re considered high risk. You’ll have to be monitored much more closely.”
- “You’ll be in and out of here (the hospital) all the time.”
It was like an instant anaesthetic to joy. Still, we headed back to our car, the spring sun shining on our happy heads and I put my arms around my stomach and took a deep, happy breath. I hadn’t even been sure there’d be one heartbeat in there, let alone two. This was a Good Thing. I was Thrilled, I said to myself. Back at home we Googled information about twins, I looked up twin bloggers and Instagram accounts, and searched online for the best ‘twin books’. But already something was nagging at me – I found it sad that most of the books had titles like ‘Double Trouble’ or ‘Don’t Panic, You’re Having Twins!’ – and nearly every book’s strapline had the word ‘survival’ or ‘surviving’ in. I didn’t want to ‘survive’ my twins, I wanted to revel in them.
It got worse. Skimming through the chapters in books or sections on websites dedicated to twins, nearly every single one had a dedicated section on premature babies and what to expect from the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. There are scary statistics about low birth weights and the increased risks of numerous pregnancy complications. It’s tempting to skip these, but then I remember that I skipped all the C-Section reading in birth books the first time around because ‘that wasn’t going to happen to me’, and then it did. So I read it. And – it was pretty alarming. But probably worth knowing too.
And, then you start telling people. (By the way, mostly I have loved this part – nearly everyone has been as giddy with joy as we have – and their warmth and excitement has been something I have soaked up with gratitude and replayed in darker moments). But there have been some negative reactions too. I heard a lot of: “How are you going to cope?” “It’s going to be so hard.” “Oh shit. You won’t be able to do anything for two years.” “You aren’t going to bother breastfeeding are you?” “Well you’ll have to get a nanny. Have you factored that into your outgoings? You should?” “Are you happy?” “Is it good news?” “Rather you than me.” One person actually stood across from me and just laughed at me for five minutes.
I learnt very quickly to close this negativity down. “We’re thrilled. The more the merrier. Of course it will be challenging at times, but we’re excited about the adventure.” End of conversation. It seemed bizarre that people wanted to weigh up the pros and cons of twins right in front of us – as if this was an either/or situation. Which of course, it’s not. This is the shape of our family now. It’s not something we can opt out of. It will be a rollercoaster of craziness and probably, at times, very very hard. But it’s happening, so we can either get on board with it or keep worrying about it. And that’s the thing. Finding out you’re having twins is amazing, amazing news, but it comes with caveats, considerations, questions and uncertainties. You have to acknowledge those, give them the time of day they deserve, and then move on.
A day or so after we found out about the twins, I suddenly had a moment. I was putting on Munchkin’s wellies for a late afternoon walk round the village to the pub – and it suddenly hit me how everything was going to be different. Breastfeeding, bedtimes, leaving the house, weaning, buying clothes, holidays, going to the supermarket, going to the pub…everything. I sat down, there and then on the stairs, put my head in my hands and started to cry. “What’s the matter?” said R. “It’s just going to be so hard,” I sobbed. “Everything is going to be so hard.” R bent down, wrapped his arms around me and said: “It’s going to be amazing. We’ll do it together. You won’t be alone. It’s going to be wonderful.” And I sank into these words like they were the answer to everything….because, really they were. One thing I’ve read over and over again is about how much having twins has brought couples together, has strengthened the bonds of marriage. Because you’re really and truly in it together, you have to be.
And so, I take strength from these words every day – when I think about how hard it might be, I also think about the fact that I’m not alone, that we’ll do this together – me, R and even little Munchkin in all her excitement and giddy love. And I have been eternally grateful, especially, for R’s positivity and optimism – as a totally risk-averse, pragmatic, sensible man who doesn’t really do anything to excess, he has embraced this crazy curve ball with humour, excitement and warmth. “It’s going to be brilliant. I’m so excited,” he said one evening just before we went to sleep. And, if we’re together, it will be.