When my girls were born six months ago at 34 weeks they were tiny little mites, around about 2 kilos each. Now they're chubby lumps of sweetness, weighing in at almost 7kg. They've got bright red cheeks (but no teeth yet) and infectious giggles (when they stop whinging about their teeth) who are about to taste their first solid food.
The time has just whizzed by and last week I took a moment to think about the things I've learned to far.
1. Having your babies in NICU can be a blessing
Many twins were born early and needed to stay in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). At first it was a shock to see our babies in an incubator, but it was also a chance to learn from the wonderful nurses who took care of them round the clock. When we finally took our girls home after almost four weeks we felt confident that we knew what we were doing. (I do know it's much harder if you have older children to look after or if your babies are sick though.)
2. Don't buy anything new
After the fshock of learning we're having twins, I started to worry about all the things two babies would need. But the truth is that babies don't really need all that much and most things can easily be bought second hand, especially clothes - they're only worn for such a short period of time. We got our clothes from friends, op shops, the Multiple Birth Club, and Trade Me.
Also, two babies don't need double amount the of everything. We washed clothes so often that we ended up using the same tiny 10 outfits most of the time anyway.
3. Get them onto one schedule
While they were in NICU, our girls were on a three, then four hourly schedule, and when we got home we tried to stick to it. Our routines have changed many times since, but I always, always, always feed them at the same time, and if one wakes up I wake up the other one too. I know tandem feeding (breast or bottle) can be tough to get the hang of when the babies are very small, but it's so worth it.
4. Routine, routine, routine
Finding a routine that worked and then sticking to it really helped us. Having a game plan gave me a bit of stability. Having scheduled naps takes the work out of guessing when the babies are tired. Of course they didn't always sleep as long as I wanted them to, but when the schedule turned to custard, I'd just try again the next day.
5. All hands on deck for the twins
Luckily for us, my girls' daddy was able to take three months off when they were born. I know it's not an option for most, but we did it as we don't have any family or friends close by who could have helped. With two people at home those first weeks were so much more enjoyable (yes, not just bearable, but most of the time actually enjoyable!). So, if possible, get dad to use his holidays, take some unpaid leave and see if he can stay home and help out. Or ask your mum, sister, or a friend to help whenever they can until you've found your feet.
6. There's no time for guilt
At first it broke my heart that I wasn't able to cuddle my babies as much as I wanted to. With twins you don't always get the magical bonding time where you can just gaze at your baby. The first thing our poor babies had to learn is to share Mama's time and attention. But there's a plus - they (hopefully) have their lifelong best friend along for the ride. As one grown up twin told us recently, her childhood was like sleepovers with your bestie every night. And if that isn't awesome, I don't know what is.
7. There's no time for guilt about breastfeeding, either
I always wanted to breastfeed my babies and had romanticised the whole experience in my head. My girls were born almost six weeks early and at the beginning were just too small to nurse, but eventually they latched on. Some mums seem to be gushing wells of breastmilk, while I'm more like a rivulet and we had to introduce formula top-ups. Six months in and they're breastfeeding in the morning but they refuse the breast the rest of the day. So I pump four times daily and they get almost half and half. In the end it's about finding a way that is manageable and the least stressful for mum and babies.
8. Everything takes longer than you think
Getting out of the house is always a race against time. For the first five months they were only awake about an hour and a half before they needed their next nap. Getting them ready to leave the house took 45 minutes, so there wasn't much time left. It's about finding a balance between doing everything as fast as possible to get out and accepting that you might only join your coffee group for 35 minutes. But for me those 35 minutes were so worth it. You just have to talk faster! Also, routines are there to be shuffled around when necessary, not a strict corset that won't let you do anything.
9. Pick your battles
In their first three months my girls did a lot of witching in the so called Witching Hour - the time in the evening where it's impossible to settle a baby. We accepted that it was just a phase and instead of fighting it I took my double feeding pillow into the lounge and my girls and I hung out there until we gave them their "dream feed" bottle. They've grown out of it and are now (most of the time) good at going to sleep in their beds. It's always a bit of a balance between going with the flow and not wanting to install bad habits you'll have to pay for later.
10. Confidence grows with the babies
When we got our girls home all those months ago I'd never looked after a baby by myself. Never! I had babysat once with a friend but had never changed a nappy, and was always reluctant to hold babies in case I broke them or did something wrong.
But the moment we got them home it just felt right. There were many situations where I had no idea what to do, but six months on we're all still alive and the more we get to know each other the easier the days become.
There hasn't been an awful lot of "me time", but seeing those tiny premmies grow into bonny, babbling babies has been amazing. Of course there have been times when I felt overwhelmed and tired, but all in all the last six months were not the horror show I kind of expected, but instead were the best of my life.
So if you're about to start the parenting journey, be kind to yourself, be kind to each other and most importantly don't lose your sense of humour.