From shock to synchronised sleeps: lessons from my first year with twins
2-for-1 deals usually make life simpler, but when it’s a case of trying for one baby and coming out with twins, it’s best to be prepared. Dawn McGuigan shares what she’s learned from twin life, now her girls are one…
By Dawn McGuigan
“So, there’s the second heartbeat.”
“The second heartbeat. And you can see the second yolk sac.”
“Yes. There are two babies.”
It’s at this point of discovering you’re having twins that everything stops. Your mind freezes. Your breathing slows. You stop blinking. Shock consumes every part of you.
For me, it was May 2021. I was a patient at the Gateshead Fertility Clinic and I was having a four-week scan following a successful frozen embryo transfer. We had been lucky enough to have a healthy baby girl a year earlier and were hoping our fortune would continue to provide her with a sibling. Our first attempt hadn’t worked, with our embryo failing to implant, so I embarked on this second transfer with some trepidation.
As I lay on the bed staring at the ceiling while the consultant carried out an internal scan to assess our burgeoning baby, I had convinced myself that his long pauses and repetitive checks meant the pregnancy had failed. Twins were never on my radar.
He told me that there is only a 4% chance of having twins from one embryo transfer. The embryo is already five days old by the time it’s transferred and my biology GCSE had not warned me that it could still split at this point. But it did. That single embryo was now two yolk sacs with two tiny foetuses and two beautiful little heartbeats. Our identical twin girls.
Once the initial shock subsides, (I say “initial” because it continues for a long time – my girls are now 13 months and I still can’t believe they’re here!), your brain starts to overload with all the practical considerations that come with multiples.
Where will they sleep? What buggy is best? We’re going to need a bigger car, aren’t we? Get the house on the market, we need more space. We also had to figure out how to do all of this with an 18-month-old in tow. We would have three children under two when the twins arrived.
For many things, you simply need to buy double what you would for a single baby. Babygrows, blankets, bottles and so on. It’s expensive.
Then, there are other things that need more thought. The buggy is the biggy. There are tonnes of double buggies on the market and it’s tricky to pick the right one until you know what features you’ll value most. I invested in a lightweight, off-roader so I could push it with one hand while wrangling my toddler with the other. In the early days, I went for walks with a toddler in one seat, one twin in the other and the second twin in a carrier on my chest. Travelling light is a thing of the past.
I’m over a year into twin life now and if I can pass on any words of wisdom they are to:
- Synchronise sleeping and feeding schedules or you’ll be in a constant bottle (or breast) nap haze, especially in the early days when they feed every few hours.
- Buy a twin feeding pillow. You’ll be able to feed them both at the same time and it’s a great place to settle the babies. I still lay my girls on the pillow now for comfort despite their legs trailing over the edge.
- Embrace second-hand equipment. I bought loads of gadgets and aids before the girls were born that sat idly in the corner or didn’t suit our routine in the end. Facebook Marketplace is a revolving door of baby kit for me – I sell the things we no longer need and find the new tools for our growing family for a steal. I recently bought a triple buggy to allow me to get out and about without having to carry a now 2.5-year-old when she tires while pushing a double buggy with 1-year-old twins (a gym membership is not required when you’re a parent of multiples, every day is a workout!).
- Join twin groups as no one really understands what it’s like until they’ve lived the twin life. I’ve got so much support from other multiple mams and felt huge relief in sharing the ups and downs of raising twins with people going through the same challenges.
The old adage of preparing for the unexpected is a good mindset to have when twins are on the way.
I’ve learned to take control of the things I can, but be open to changing routines and equipment as the needs of our family develop. If you already have children, their lives will quickly merge with the routines of the new babies. Some days that will be easier than others and some nights you won’t sleep at all.
If twins are your first babies, simultaneous feeding and cuddling will be second nature to you in no time.
While twin life can be a crazy whirlwind of demands, you really do get double the love. And watching the bond grow between two babies who have shared every moment of life together is a privilege that will fascinate you for years to come.
Just make sure you always have coffee in the house.