There is a certain expectation when you’re pregnant that the only emotion you’re feeling is elation. But when you find out you’re expecting twins, it’s hard for others to see the fear and uncertainty that comes along with the joy. You’re supposed to be happy and nothing else, and you’re often made to believe that any other emotions you may be feeling are inappropriate, or even wrong.
My husband lost his job in October 2012. Not only was this hard financially for our family, it was emotionally stressful as well. We’d planned to start trying for baby number two in November, so that my son would be about three when his younger sibling was born, but my husband’s job loss put a damper on things.
We talked about it a lot, and decided that since we were both in our 30s and statistically it would take a few months to conceive, we should go ahead and start trying as planned. Besides, we thought, by the time we needed to actually prepare for the arrival of another family member my husband would have found work.
I’m sure you can see where this is going.
In our first month of trying to conceive, I was pregnant. We were cautiously excited as I’d suffered a miscarriage with my first pregnancy. We were careful not to get too crazy, but- yay! We were expecting! In the back of my mind I worried a little about whether we would be financially secure enough as my husband still didn’t have full time work. We looked at the budget and so long as he found work in the next few months we’d be fine as nothing major would have to change. Our car would fit two car seats, our house had three bedrooms, so each child would have their own, we had everything left over from when my son was a baby, and because of our timing, we wouldn’t pay for two kids in full-time daycare as my son would be starting school when the baby started daycare.
The plan was foolproof.
After a few days of awful first trimester pregnancy symptoms, all the sudden I felt nothing. I was scared- I was sure I was miscarrying again. Beside myself, I called my midwife and explained my sudden loss of symptoms. She told me to schedule an ultrasound.
My husband and I were nervous- we’d been through this before. We’d let ourselves get a little excited, and maybe we shouldn’t have. The ultrasound technician didn’t read our nerves very well. We were so stressed, waiting to hear the words, “you’ve lost your baby,” waiting for her to tell us our options. She did her thing practically ignoring us, then turned to us and said with a grin “well, I have TWO things to tell you!”
Her joke went right over our heads.
We leaned in, expecting her to show us where the heartbeat should be, or an empty yolk sac and said “what?”
“One”, she said, pointing to a blotch on the screen, “and two”, she said, pointing to another blotch.
Our baby was ok.
Wait, our babies were ok.
For about 10 seconds my heart soared. Then my heart dropped into my feet.
I felt sick.
I felt panic and fear and joy and sorrow and happiness and hope and more fear. I have never felt so much at one time. I was in complete shock. I remember that a tear fell down my cheek, and I had no idea if it was a tear of joy that nothing was wrong, or a tear of sorrow that everything in my life had just changed in a way I was not ready for, and had never imagined.
I don’t remember leaving the ultrasound clinic. We had our son with us- he was too young to really grasp what was happening, just beginning to speak due to a minor speech delay. We had no words to explain this to him. Or ourselves. I wanted to feel nothing but joy. Instead of one healthy baby, we were getting two. I should feel nothing but joy, right?
But I was terrified.
My husband had just lost his job. I knew how hard one newborn was, and how hard one toddler was, now we were going to have two. Also, my husband had just lost his job. We had just bought a car a year before, which did not fit three car seats, our kids would have to share rooms (something I hadn’t wanted for them), and my husband had just lost his job. We would need another car seat, a double stroller, we would have two kids in daycare at the same time for three straight years, and my husband had just lost his job. How do I feed two babies on my own? How do I get two infants down for a nap at the same time? How will I leave the house with two babies and a toddler? My husband just lost his job.
I was numb, and I felt that way for six weeks.
For six weeks after the ultrasound I didn’t really register what people were saying to me. I would tell them I was expecting twins and then it was like hearing Charlie Brown’s mother talk. I hadn’t accepted what was going on, forget processing what other people were telling me. Then the deeper fears set-in, like how could I possibly carry two children to a healthy term, and how could I be home alone with two babies for a year (in Canada women can take up to a year off for maternity and parental leave), how would I have enough time to give to all three kids?
Then, slowly, my husband and I pulled out of our haze. We felt like we’d been under water and had come to the surface. He found work, I made it out of the first trimester and we started actually processing what we were feeling.
When we told people we were expecting twins, we received one of two reactions: 1. Twice the fun! Double the blessings! or 2. Good luck with that. Neither of the responses were helpful.
The people who reacted super positively seemed to have little sympathy for the cost and emotional strain twins would bring, and I was a little resentful of that. For the people who seemed smug and thought we had gotten ourselves into an impossible situation, I wanted to tell them YOU’RE NOT HELPING! I was already aware of all of the fear and negative things, but these babies would bring joy to our lives as well.
Most people seemed to either want to tell me how I should be feeling, or tell me how they would be feeling in my shoes, but few people seemed to actually want to hear how I was feeling. What I wanted was for someone to say, “wow, twins! Congratulations! How are you feeling?” and then not judge me when I told them that we were both happy and terrified.
I wish I had had someone to talk to about feeling guilty for the way I felt. I wish someone had told me that, of course you’re going to be stressed and nervous and scared, but you’re also going to be OK.
Because we were OK.
We are OK.
You will have neighbors that will bring over meals. You will have friends that will give you their kid’s old car seat. You will have days where nobody sleeps and all you want to do is wish yourself away, and then someone will call up and offer to watch the kids while you nap and when you wake up everything will seem better. The kindest things people said to us when we told them about the twins were genuine offers to help. If someone you know is expecting multiples, offer to bring over a meal, fold some laundry or hold a baby so the parents can shower and then follow through. If you are having twins, accept the help for the love of god! Now is not the time to be prideful!
My twins are in their terrible twos now and so many people have said to me “I don’t know how you do it.” Let’s be honest here, neither do I. But you do it. The laundry gets washed, but is never done. Most of the surfaces in my life are sticky. Two of my kids share rooms. Life goes on, no matter what unexpected events come your way. You just muddle through the rough times and soar through the good times. But you always get through it. A supportive husband, and a day off here and there have made it all possible.
I feel very blessed by everything in my life (OK, maybe not the minivan. I hate the minivan).
On our way home from that first ultrasound appointment, still completely unable to wrap my head around the life-changing news, we stopped for gas. My husband went to fill up, and I turned to my son in his car seat. “So kiddo, you’re going to have TWO new babies to love. We already have peanut (the nickname we’d been using for the baby bump), what’s the second one going to be called?” He looked at me and smiled and said “pakak”.
“Do you mean Pancake?” I asked him, “Yup!” he said smiling.
And though it took me about six weeks to accept what was coming, and to feel the pure joy of being lucky enough to carry two babies, that moment when my son embraced his new siblings for the first time was the first moment when I thought “this might be an incredible ride”.
And it is.