If you’re anything like me, while growing up you didn’t have a real-life connection to a mother who experienced a multiple-births pregnancy. Instead you may have been accustomed to believe the romanticized and perfect versions of having multiples, which you might have watched on TV, like I did. Of twins, I thought: they get to be each other’s doubles in sitcoms, get to play fun roles in bubble gum commercials and get to switch identities and take turns writing each other’s tests at school.
Once I found out I had twins on the way, people started coming out of the woodwork, sharing their anecdotes and advice about carrying twins, delivering and bringing home twins. People told me their beliefs about how a multiples pregnancy works, whether they knew the information they shared was factual or not. People just loved to talk about twins!
What I missed out on was having someone who’d experienced a multiple-births pregnancy actually help me prepare for twins, especially if they were to arrive early. Although I had a previous premature baby, I was still not as prepared as I could have been to deliver and bring home preemie multiples. I did read a few books I could find at the library, but many of those books were dated. To find a good book on prematurity was another major feat, so I went with what I knew already and based on what my medical specialists could tell me. Keep in mind, social media sites have skyrocketed since the days I was expecting my multiples—only four years ago—but practically a light year away in social media and technology time, so I didn’t consider the internet the most reliable source of information. Many of the multiples organizations didn’t have a strong online presence, nor did all the wonderful preemie networks that exist today, like Hand to Hold.
I was still getting used to the idea that I was carrying twins, passed the threshold of viability and reached out to my local multiple-births organization, when just three weeks later, my boys arrived. Since then, I’ve had lots of time to process and come to terms with how my multiples pregnancy carried out and lots of time to think about how I can support other expectant multiple-births parents. These days I work with expectant parents of multiples locally and parents of preemie multiples nationally and I have gained lots of great insight from them.
Things to Consider if You’re Expecting Multiples
Contact Multiple-Births Organizations – Reach out to your local multiple-births group as soon as possible. If you don’t have a local group, you can find several national multiple-births organizations across the world. These organizations can give you advice, guidance and referrals from the very early days of your multiples pregnancy. Whether you find out at week 9 or week 18, as soon as you find out, look them up online and get in touch. The benefits of reaching out to other parents of multiple-birth babies include: camaraderie, the comfort of knowing other families who are going through or who have gone through a similar pregnancy experience, and connecting with parents who can understand where you’re coming from in a way that expectant parents of singletons may not understand. Many national organizations will have resources to assist you with learning as much as you can about your unique multiple-births experience.
Know the Facts – Many multiple-births pregnancies do result in premature birth. Many pregnancies do go on to 37 weeks or more. There is about a 56% chance your twins pregnancy will result in a premature birth, but there are many reasons for it. The greater number of babies you are carrying does usually equate to a greater potential for premature birth. It is important to be realistic about the fact preterm labour or birth may occur and to discuss the potential and how your doctor manages either situation. Ensure you establish trust in your OB’s knowledge of multiple-births and premature birth. It is okay to ask hundreds of questions. Don’t be afraid you will be a bother to your doctor; rather be confident in knowing that you are being an advocate for your growing babies from day one.
Recruit a Support Network – You have probably heard this one before, but it may be the most important part of your preparation. It’s important for you to think in advance about who you trust and feel can help you during your pregnancy and once the babies come home. Oftentimes a multiples pregnancy may require short or long term bed rest, which can be frustrating for a mother who feels she needs to carry out family priorities, such as taking an older child to school, doing the laundry or going off to work. While your support network can’t go to work for you, at least they can assist you with school drop offs and pick-ups, laundry, grocery shopping and anything else you need to do, but cannot. If your support network is in place early on, you will be able to rest more easily if you do have to go on bed rest or deliver your babies early.
An expectant parent of multiples should not fear the unknown, nor avoid it. Being well-educated of all the possibilities of a multiple-births pregnancy should lead you to feel sure of your choices, to know that you are in good hands and help to focus on what you can do to keep your babies “on the inside” for as long as possible. If you connect with other families of multiples sooner, rather than later, you will be able to hear many positive stories of term babies, hope in the NICU and success stories of many multiple-birth babies!