The full title of this blog should be, What it’s really like to have twins … without a nanny. Twins are the new must-have celebrity accessory (JLo and Mariah started the craze, followed by Beyonce and Amal, not to mention Madonna’s latest additions to her brood) but what’s it really like to have double trouble? It’s true, it is double the work but, cliched as it sounds, it’s also double the fun (and double the cuddles).
With those fateful words, ‘Are there twins in the family?’, our lives changed forever. I couldn’t stop shaking for three days after the scan and spent the rest of my pregnancy not knowing what to expect and worrying about most things: how would we cope financially (you just do), what about the lack of sleep (you get through it), how would I manage two babies – plus a toddler (you just do) and what would the rest of the pregnancy be like (hard: my circumference at the end was only a few inches less than my height and I had to be rescued from in front of the washing machine the day before D-Day, when I couldn’t get back up!)?
Other people’s reactions to the news were interesting. All of my friends were delighted but some of their husbands made really insensitive comments such as ‘rather you than me’ and even ‘I’d rather die than have twins’ (please do go ahead). These comments are not helpful but at least once you’ve had the babies, there’s only one way the conversation goes when out and about: ‘Are they twins?’ Yes, a boy and a girl. ‘Are they identical?’ Ummm, no …
The logistics of having twins can be one the hardest things to manage but routine is really important. I’m not talking about the rigid routine of Gina Ford, the must-read baby bible of the time (I was waaaay too tired for that) but more to be organised with the things you need to keep stress to a minimum (milk, food, clean clothes, a ready-to-go baby bag and most of all, plenty of nappies in stock. Oh, and wine. By the bucket load). I also learnt early on that it’s really important to keep a note of which baby was fed last!
Once you get into a routine, most days go swimmingly, but if something goes wrong, for example, if someone is ill, then it seems catastrophic as everything falls over. I also became a bit selfish when the twins were little: if we didn’t want to schlep across the country for a family do because it was going to be really hard work, then we didn’t. I tried to put us first, which wasn’t always possible, but invariably when we did, we felt calmer and better for it.
And then there’s the equipment. With two steamers plus a microwave one almost constantly on the go (I still have memories of the really early days with 20 bottles lined up every night, ready to make the next day’s bottles), two cots, two moses baskets, two travel cots, two baby chairs, we looked like a branch of Mothercare, but transport is another level. Firstly we had to change my car to be able to get three car seats across the back, but over the years, we have had 11 different car seats and at least five buggies (that I can remember). There was the side-by-side double, the one-in-front-of-the-other double and the two singles for when my husband was with us (divide and conquer was our main strategy for life with twins and a toddler). Even then, this didn’t guarantee an easy ride. I got a buggy stuck in the door of the Doctor’s surgery one day when their double door was stuck closed and I had to try and bump the buggy in sideways: not my finest hour and definitely not my best of tempers!
But these incidents come and go and are far outweighed by having two little bundles of mischief, who grow into their own personalities but are intrinsically linked. We made a conscious decision never to refer to them as ‘the twins’ but always by their names, and everyone else followed suit. They have never been given joint presents, unless it’s something they’ve asked for, which I appreciate as I know family and friends are having to buy double the presents. This was helped by having one of each sex, who then inevitably have their own friends and interests. Although they’re currently in the same class at school, they haven’t always been, and definitely won’t be when they go to secondary school in September: they need space to be on their own without a sibling telling tales about every misdemeanour.
I’m sure there are times they wish they weren’t a twin, especially when they have to share their birthday or friends, but there is something special between them, with a ready-made play mate. They might fight occasionally but there’s also their older sister in the mix as well, so I think there’s a normal family dynamic (albeit that we don’t have a typical middle child/younger child stereotype). I do my fair share of refereeing and sometimes it still feels like we’re never going to leave the house on time (herding cats would be easier, I’m sure), but that’s the same for any family of five.
And I’ve given the final word to my husband (there’s a first). I asked him how he would sum up having twins and he said ‘disaster’. I said, no seriously. And he said ‘disaster strikes’. But I know he doesn’t mean it. We wouldn’t change it for the world.