● By Sandy Kauten
I thought I knew what she was about to say, I had seen something too. “Twins?” I asked
“No, not twins.” she answered with hesitation “Triplets!”
We were having two boys and one girl. It was the single most shocking moment of our lives and I found myself filled with great excitement and wonder of the miracles I was carrying. The amazement was also mixed with worry and fear as I tried to wrap my head around how I would manage so many infants.
Parents expecting twins, triplets, or more often find themselves feeling overwhelmed and unsure who to turn to for advice. The experience is not one everyone will walk through, but other parents of multiples are willing to share their wisdom with those who will share this rare, challenging, amazing, and exhausting life of raising multiples.
Having twins, triplets, or more is different
I assumed I was more prepared to handle triplets because I had three older children. I quickly realized that raising multiples is profoundly different and much more challenging.“Throw out most of what you know about parenting, because multiples are a whole new ballgame! Just when you think you’ve got everything figured out, they throw you a curveball.” says Cynthia Wilson, mom of triplets plus two from Olympia, WA. It’s not that experience won’t have benefits, but it is best to realize that things are more challenging with multiple babies. Megan Guertin, twin mom from Kansas City, MO says “It was hard for me to accept having two babies was not the same experience some of my friends had. It helped to find happiness in each moment and stay a few steps ahead to maximize one on one time.” Having multiples is different than having only one infant at a time and that is okay.
Stick to a schedule
“Get them on the same schedule as soon as you can, it was life changing for my entire family!” says Amanda Copenhaver, mother of twins plus two from Kansas City, MO. Many parents of multiples will recommend feeding the babies every three hours, even waking sleeping babies, to reduce the amount of feedings overnight. Sleepless nights are the norm for a parent of twins or more and a strict schedule can increase rest time for everyone.
One day at a time
From the moment you find out you are expecting multiple babies, the phrase “one day at a time” should become your mantra. I can safely say that nearly three years later, I still think it on a daily basis. “Take it a day at a time, an hour at a time, and some days you’ll have to take it minute by minute. It’s hard, but it’s so worth it.” says Emeline Britton, mother of triplets plus one, from Fort Madison, IA. It is so easy to get caught up in all the “How’s?” that go along with raising multiples. How will I feed them all? How will we leave the house? How will I potty train? How will I handle three teenagers? Take a deep breath and only worry about the moment you are in right now, the “one day at a time” mindset makes things so much easier to manage.
Do what works for you
Any first time parent will receive unsolicited advice from well meaning friends or relatives. You may be already feeling stressed because you’re expecting multiple babies and the comments and advice can be overwhelming. “I listened to what others said but I only did what worked for us.” says Katherine Schwaebler, mom of twins from Raymore, MO. When you are in the thick of things and living in survival mode, just do whatever feels comfortable for you. “When it comes to nursing or bottle feeding, co sleeping or not, cloth diapers vs. disposable diapers, it doesn’t matter what anyone else does, do what works for your family.” says Heidi Carlton, mother of two sets of twins, from Shippensburg, PA.
The idea can be daunting but one of the healthiest things a parent of multiples can do is to get out of the house on a regular basis. Packing up multiple babies and their gear can feel like packing for a two week trip but the sense of accomplishment that comes with conquering this obstacle makes you feel like a superstar. “It’s so easy to lose yourself in the mom role. Take some time for yourself and your spouse as well.” says Sarah Imbierowicz, mom of two sets of triplets plus one from Kokomo, IN. Making time for yourself and your relationships can be a challenge but when you return to your family refreshed and ready to take on the next day’s challenges, everyone benefits.
Expect the unexpected
As soon as you’ve made your sixth and final trip from the house to the minivan, buckled the last child safely in their seat, and double checked the stocked diaper bag you smell a familiar scent. Someone needs a diaper change. With multiples, each obstacle that goes along with having an infant or toddler is multiplied. When dealing with multiples plan to leave the house earlier, pack more diapers than you ever thought you would need, and try not to stress about the hurdles you face along the way. My triplets have been able to work as a team to break toys I thought were unbreakable, climb heights I thought were unreachable, and make us late to nearly every single event since their birth. Someone is always sick, has an accident, or forgot something and you learn to be flexible while simultaneously planning for every disaster possible. Just think of the time management and organizational skills you will perfect while raising your little ones.
Find your tribeOne of the most important tips for any new mom is to find a supportive group of friends to get you through the highs and lows of parenting. “I joined a multiples Facebook group to gain support from others who understand.” says Teryn Tomme, mother of twins plus two from Olathe, KS. There are many online support groups for parents of multiples, local groups for twins and more, or you may find a group of friends in your community that understand what you are going through. Having friends to laugh with, vent to, and share life with can be a lifesaver while raising little ones.
Accept help“If someone offers help of any kind, take it!” says Kelsey Raper, mother of twins plus two from Kansas City, MO. Many people offer help early on or during pregnancy but don’t know where to start. Do not be afraid to ask friends or family to clean your house, bring over meals, rock babies while you rest or shower, or do carpool for older children. It can be really hard for a new mom to accept help but with multiples you will find that it is a huge blessing. “I was overwhelmed by how generous people are from the time I announced we were expecting triplets to this day.” says Laura Fecak, mother of triplets plus two from Toms River, NJ.
Embrace it and enjoy it
Raising twins or more is an exhausting and sometimes overwhelming job but it is also a unique experience filled with immense joy. Watching the bond that my triplets have is amazing and heartwarming. When I think I can no longer handle the stress and cannot face another diaper change or tantrum, I watch them play together, cheer each other on, and comfort one another and then I remember I am part of something special that few will experience first hand. Finding joy in the small moments, makes it easier to embrace the challenges.
Sarah Lyons is a freelance writer and stay at home mom living in the Midwest with her husband, and their six children, including 4 year old triplets.