Becoming The Mother Of Twins

October 27, 2011

The possibility of twins or more passes through the minds of every pregnant mother, but nevertheless having the presence of more than one fetus confirmed on ultrasound is a shock. Thankfully the length of the pregnancy allows plenty of time to adapt. Indeed, 'it' rapidly becomes 'they' and one feels a sense of incompleteness for those friends who are expecting just one.

The possibility of twins or more passes through the minds of every pregnant mother, but nevertheless having the presence of more than one fetus confirmed on ultrasound is a shock. Thankfully the length of the pregnancy allows plenty of time to adapt. Indeed, 'it' rapidly becomes 'they' and one feels a sense of incompleteness for those friends who are expecting just one.

It is easy to get caught up in the reassuring wheel of antenatal care, with frequent ultrasound scans and encouraging remarks from midwifes and obstetricians. One becomes so focused on the safe arrival of the babies and worrying about potential problems, that there is little time to consider life after birth.

During my own medical training I had seen enough of the problems associated with twin deliveries to be anxious throughout the pregnancy. However, in medical terms everything went very well, and on reaching 39 weeks it was with relief and trepidation that I finally presented myself after the spontaneous rupture of the membranes. Utter confidence in our obstetrician and obstetric anaesthetist was undoubtedly the key to a good birth experience, and after 24 hours of labour two good sized baby girls were delivered by forceps. We were so delighted and emotionally lifted by the birth of the first that we almost forgot about the second. The anxieties which we had had over the previous days and weeks about her safe delivery did not enter our consciousness at all. We were entranced by the safe arrival of the first and happily passive about the safe delivery of the second.

A few days after the birth, as the support from the medical staff melted away, the excitement began to wear off. It is at this point that the reality of life with twins begins to sink in. It is undoubtedly hard work. The round the clock demands of two small babies seems relentless. The repeated feeding and chronic lack of sleep take over, as does the need to consume huge quantities of food at strange hours in order to maintain the milk supply. Of course we have been lucky. We didnt experience the added nightmare of hopeless prematurity, feeding problems or of having one twin at home, bonding, and the other on SCBU, not bonding.

Mine was a long-time awaited and much wanted pregnancy, and this certainly helped me to remain cheerful throughout the early months. I felt ready to devote myself completely to motherhood for a while. For those embarking more casually on life with a baby, the arrival of twins must come as a somewhat less appealing bombshell!

Finally at eighteen months, and emerging from exhaustion, the benefits of twins are really evident. The girls have a touching affection for each other, and despite their rivalry for parental affection and favourite toys, frequently fall into fits of giggles at each others antics and can make quite a comic double-act. The much quoted clich?: 'an instant family' is undoubtedly true. Whereas friends with their first singleton babies seemed to recover from the initial disruption, and with baby on hip could more or less get back to normal, this is never the reality with twins. In a sense, the mountain comes to Mohammed and they are now firmly at the centre of our much adjusted lifestyle. I feel I have truly become a mother.

Our girls are a source of great delight to us, and I would be very encouraging to any woman expecting twins. But, for those who cannot see beyond choosing the double-buggy and matching outfits, beware!

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Dr Karen Walker is a general practitioner in Cambridge. Ed.