It's important to know, that as a man, you will lose the battle against too much information. Your wife will be busy cramming her brain with every wives' tale, urban myth, and Internet half-truth regarding twin pregnancies. You can tell her that people, for centuries, have given birth to twins, long before the invention of the Internet and Barnes & Noble, but that doesn't matter. Just keep reminding yourself that a multiple pregnancy is inherently risky and therefore brings with it twice the paranoia of a single pregnancy. And most importantly, that her irrational worrying comes from love. Then, after you remind yourself of this, unplug her computer.
Not being a woman and not being pregnant with twins, the man must realize that he has absolutely zero credibility on any medical matters with the mother-to-be. So as a man, remember that your best friend is the Doctors On-Call phone number. She'll never believe even the most commonsense, level-headed explanation of any pregnancy-related discomfort until she hears it from a doctor or a nurse. Just cut to the chase, dial the number, and hand her the phone. Because after all, can you really blame her?
These tests may be awkward, uncomfortable, and often, but you will need to have both Mom and Dad there because you need two sets of ears and two brains. My basic function was to counterbalance Cheryl's twin-induced paranoid state when talking with her doctor. In her overly cautious condition, she would filter out important words like maybe, might, could, possibly, and I doubt it. And besides, there is nothing more exciting at these appointments than hearing the heartbeats and seeing the first glimpse of the amazing duo growing in your wife's belly.
Many times, I felt that my most important contribution was reminding my wife that she was pregnant with twins. I would tell her this hoping she would go to bed and get the rest she needed. I would tell her this so she would remember why her shoes would no longer fit. I would tell her this so she would stop feeling guilty about all the things she wasn't doing around the house and hopefully ... go to bed and get the rest she needed.
All birthing stories are amazing, unique, and indescribable, yet they all share one thing in common: You have absolutely no control. No matter what happens during the course of your twins' arrival, rest assured that you will be taking the most thrilling roller-coaster ride of your life!
Not to scare the husbands and annoy the women but fellas, you are screwed! The Twin Mommy you now share your home with feels as if the weight of the world is on her shoulders and nothing she can do is good enough. Her hormones are raging and she's exhausted. The best you can do is to be a gentle coach and remind her of the big picture, get some food down her throat, and just be there to help, or to listen or to agree or just to hug.
In the early days when you are living your life in three-hour feeding cycles, always prepare for the next cycle! In other words, if you've just used the last diaper on the changing table, restock it. If you've just jammed the last diaper into the Genie, empty the Genie. If you've just used the last clean bottle, clean up a new pair so they are ready for the next round, because you never know if the next round may involve a cranky Mom and two colicky babies with absolutely no patience for an overflowing Genie and no clean bottles!
Sure, you'll bang their heads carrying them through doorways, you'll feed them food that will give them a rash, you'll knock them over and step on their toes, you may even drop them, but you will be the only one who remembers. The biggest mistake you can make is to project adult reactions onto your kids and treat mistakes like traumas. A hug, a kiss, and an "I'm sorry" should cover most situations. It should work for Mommy and Daddy too.
Creating a routine is probably the most important thing you can do as a parent. It provides comfort and security for both the children and the parents. Of course your biggest challenge will be sticking to it. There will be times that you will have to prod your spouse to stay on track because sometimes a short-term gain of skipping naps because the babies are such a playful mood will end in a sleepless night for both of you!
My only bit of insight on breastfeeding came from a rock star that I was interviewing for a local paper. We were walking along, engaged in some small talk and I told him that my wife and I were expecting twins. He stopped, looked me square in the eyes and said with conviction, "Get a lactation consultant. You'd think breastfeeding would be the most natural thing in the world but it's not. Find one now. I mean it."
I remember being shocked when other fathers I would talk to could not recall their children's early feeding habits and health issues -- until I had my own. I realize now that no one remembers because we were all exhausted! So I must say that for as much as I teased Cheryl about her obsessive excremental journaling, the Poo Log has become a valuable resource for us as well as our new-parent friends. It will help you answer your pediatrician's questions and it will make you look like the most attentive parent on the playground.
It's a cliche but it's true: Less is more. Fight the urge to go on a comprehensive shopping spree. Take advantage of those early months when your world revolves around eating, sleeping, and pooping, and ease into your purchases. Spare yourself the clutter. See what kind of kids you have before you buy every swing, chair, and sleep aid in the store. You'll be surprised at how fast your shelves fill up with gifts of books, CDs, and DVDs from your friends and family. Besides, in those early stages, children thrive on repetition. You will be bored by their toys and stories months before your kids will.
Yes, people will do a double take when they realize that the stroller you are pushing through the mall contains twins. You will also be shocked at the number of women who will grant instant sainthood upon a man when he rolls solo with his kids -- as if we are somehow incapable or unwilling to go out with our babies! But it's amazing to note the number of encouraging smiles you'll receive from fellow fathers. Or, as one man put it as I wheeled the twins into our maiden journey to Lowe's, "Man ... that ... is ... cool!"
Someone once told me that if you wait for the right time to have kids, you never will because you'll never have enough time or enough money or a big enough house or a big enough car. And that person was right! Because on paper it never adds up and yet in most instances it does work out, because the moment your children are born, your entire universe shifts and puts your babies in the center.
Suddenly, recreational shopping is no longer more captivating, fine dining doesn't taste as good, two hours are better spent on the floor with your babies than at the movies, and all those things that you thought you had to have and had to do seem a little less important. And I think it's because of this that the lights in your home stay on, and the tank in your car has gas, and the table in your kitchen has food placed upon it.
On a recent a business trip I sat around a hotel bar with two other fathers of two and one single guy. By the time we were done comparing notes and laughing hysterically about the romantic habits of parents, we found ourselves apologizing to the bachelor and attempting to explain the unexplainable: That everything is same but completely different and that you can't imagine a life without your kids.
I'm a big believer in the "Two and Through!" philosophy. Sure it's double diapers and double the laundry, but unlike parents who do it one at a time, chances are we'll only be taking one trip through the land of 3 a.m. feedings, reflux, teething, and potty training. So I say laugh and enjoy the spit-ups and the blowouts because while the singleton parents may be more "relaxed" the second time around, you'll be done.
Scott Lage lives in Richmond, Virginia, with his wife Cheryl and their twins, Darren and Sarah.
Originally published on AmericanBaby.com, May 2006.
All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.