As a Mum you are excited to continue trying for a new baby to join your happy single child in the future world of adventures together. It took only 3 years to conceive our first baby, so we didn’t imagine I would fall pregnant very quickly this time either. Shocked, I fell pregnant whilst exclusively breastfeeding my newborn 4 month old baby. I kid you not. It did end in miscarriage but still, was pretty amazing that my body was fully committed to trying for more children this time. The next pregnancy was a shock at the other extreme – twins.
The pressure started. Distant family and friends swooped in to tell me much of the following unappreciated comments. I’d need Nannies or cleaners. My husband would have to close his business. I’d not be able to cope, it would simply not be possible. It wouldn’t be fair on the toddler. I needed as much support from anybody as I could, bearing in mind I was new to this part of the UK so had no friends here. I kid you not, one healthcare professional told me I should join a local Mum and Baby club to ask one of those ladies to look after my toddler while I went to give birth to the twins. I hadn’t left my daughter with strangers before, and just because she was about to have a new brother and a sister did not mean I was about to start leaving her with strangers now. Would that not be considered borderline neglect?
Anyway, I got such extreme anxiety about what was going to happen. I couldn’t cope psychologically at the thought of not being able to provide love and support to all 3 of my children. I worried about having to rely on people who were essentially strangers. What if they did not treat me or my kids how they deserved. Here’s how my story went and what I would do now I have hindsight to help, which I hope will help some of you who haven’t yet started your journey to having 2 or 3 babies under the age of 2. You may also find my blog posts about postnatal depression helpful.
“Prepare Your Toddler”, people told me, “It’s Vital”
I did next to no preparation. My toddler was only 1 year old and non-verbal and non-walking when I fell pregnant with the twins. People also told me that she understands the majority of what we talk about. Maybe. But I honestly felt she did not understand what a baby meant, what that would mean for her, and why would she understand that? She had next to zero exposure to other babies, she was not yet interested in toy dolls. More importantly, I did not even know what to expect when twins would come along, having had very little exposure to other people’s babies either, let alone ever having seen baby twins no matter caring for them.
In hindsight, I am grateful I trusted my gut and did no preparation. Imaging if I’d said “you’re going to be a big sister, how wonderful!” and then she has to learn patience and respect when these two crying babies join the household. All of Mummies attention now on those babies, and my older baby would have felt so disappointed that it was not the fun I would have made her imagine.
Buy Presents from the Baby to the Toddler
This suggestion sounded like a lovely idea. I never had chance to do any shopping on behalf of 2 babies, as the pregnancy was so draining whilst looking after a toddler on my own. My toddler seemed to not notice she did not receive gifts from these little babies. She instead was thrilled to try and climb into their Moses baskets and bouncer. I also wonder whether buying gifts from these babies that take Mummy’s attention away for a few months may build a sense of excitement that the babies will equal fun. They really do not equal fun for an inquisitive toddler at the newborn stage.
Setup the Baby Spaces in Advance of the Birth
I did do this to help prepare my toddler and I’m glad I did. I set up the travel cot with 2 Moses baskets inside, so that my toddler had got used to that being there before the twins’ arrival. I setup the cot beds in my bedroom. My husband started cosleeping with us so my toddler was used to his presence at night. All of these preparations did make my toddler used to the majority of changes, and all that was to be changed now was the arrival of the two new babies.
Become Aware of Ways to Discipline Gently
I found my toddler so easy to care for before the twins were born, and even for a few weeks afterwards. She was so gentle and kind in nature, that I did not do any research about ways to stop her doing harm to a newborn baby for example. I also was not even aware of my own childhood traumas at this stage, which only really started becoming difficult to not react to when I had to try and split doing the best for my toddler as well as protecting my newborn twins.
In hindsight, if I could have familiarised myself with the themes of gentle parenting and in my blog post about childhood trauma and ways to gently discipline, it would have really helped me when my toddler started getting frustrated with the new life that new siblings brought her.
Think to the Future
The first few months of becoming a Mum to more than one child were the most challenging part of parenting so far for me. It involved guilt for not meeting the needs of my toddler fully anymore, for being unable to be as responsive with two newborns like I was with my firstborn, and the extreme sleep deprivation all made life very different. The health visitors diagnosed me with postnatal depression and this diagnosis was not particularly help me with improving our life circumstances either.
The best thing I could do was make plans in my mind to build hope for the future. I imagined life when they were 3 and 5 and we could maybe go out without having to juggle crying babies or breastfeed constantly. Realising that this current life with 3 so young is just a short phase does help know that it will pass. Even now 20 months after the birth of the twins, I am starting to see life as easier. I can leave all 3 for a short while with my husband to have a short nap for example. All 3 will chase each other around the garden by themselves for a while, and I can sit and write a blog post or have a cuppa tea.