Double Time: My First Three Years of Mothering Twins
Some people hope and pray that they will have twins. Either they’re enchanted by the idea of two little ones, or they’ve had difficulty getting pregnant and see twins as their best hope for having two children.
Or, perhaps, they’re masochists. I’m not one of these people. Nearly six years ago, when I found out that I was experiencing, as the ultrasound technician who broke the big news put it, “two pregnancies,” I wasn’t exactly jubilant.
In fact, I was terrified. The exhaustion, expenses, chaos and craziness of a life with twins (as I imagined it) seemed certain to annihilate every other aspect of my identity.
Would I be able to keep working? Or finish the novel I was writing? Would I ever go out to dinner and a movie with my husband again? Would I ever get out of the house, period?
The emotional hazards of twin parenthood were even more daunting: How was I supposed to bond with two babies if I was constantly toggling my attention between them?
What if I even—gulp—loved one more than the other? I spent my first trimester and a good chunk of the second trying to process the reality of my doubly pregnant situation.
It wasn’t easy to let go of my long-held vision of my future as a mother. But right around the time I started to feel the babies kicking, it hit me, as I think it hits many moms to be, whether of singletons or multiples: Whoah. There are little people in there!
And suddenly, I couldn’t imagine not having twins. In fact, the thought of having just one baby in my belly seemed downright lonely. Which isn’t to say that my other fears and apprehensions disappeared completely.
Instead, they were joined by a sense of resolve: I’ll get through it. I’ll figure it out. Anyway, what choice do I have? This outlook would serve me well after my babies—two beautiful little girls—were born, too.
Because there were times when I did feel completely overwhelmed by the constant demands of feeding and changing and bathing and trying to decode the mysterious and very loud cries of two newborns.
There were times when I found myself wondering, on the brink of tears: how can I possibly do this double-parenting thing for another 24 hours, let alone 18 more years?
All I could do was soldier on through, taking it hour by hour, day by day. But most of the time—to my surprise and delight—things weren’t nearly as hard as my husband or I thought they would be.
There was a reassuring clarity of purpose to our days and nights: our job was to keep our girls healthy, fed, and (more or less) happy. Along the way, we celebrated every milestone and delighted at every glimpse of their emerging personalities—Elsa’s passion for everything from mama’s milk to Tupperware; Clio’s silly expressions and love of her bouncy swing.
There were, as I feared, times when I felt more closely bonded to one than the other, and I felt guilty about. But the pendulum always swung the other way, and I would feel closer to the other.
As for my fear that my sense of identity would be forever lost in a sea of dirty diapers, plastic toys and soggy Cheerios? It didn’t happen. I still felt completely like myself—not some humorless, high-waisted-jeans-wearing “Mom” version of myself.
I still managed to do all the things I had before—work, writing, staying connected with friends, and even managing the occasional night out with my husband. It was just harder, and in in some cases it happened much, much more rarely (see: nights out with my husband).
But I knew that this would be so even with one baby. Like a gas expands to fill its container, I’m convinced that my endurance and patience expanded to fit the requirements of having twins.
In fact, the biggest challenge in my first years as a parent came from within my own body: Since my twenties, I had suffered from clinical depression, which I had successfully managed with medication.
But when my girls were thirteen months old, out of nowhere I was clobbered with an episode of depression more severe than any I’d experienced before. A medication adjustment succeeded in chasing the fog away, but over the course of next two years, I would suffer from many more bouts of depression, each worse than the last.
It would take a change of diagnosis and treatment regimen some major life-changes to get to a place of health and contentment. It was hard. But I got there.
I’m not one to offer “expert” advice when it comes to boiling water, much less parenting multiples while holding on to your sense of self (or your mental health, as the case may be).
But when I speak to new or expectant mothers (or fathers!) of twins, as I’ve had the pleasure of doing since publishing my memoir, Double Time, I tell them, among other things, this: It’s not easy.
You will struggle, you will worry, you will sometimes feel completely overwhelmed.
But for every moment of exhaustion and exasperation, there are double the moments of sheer joy. I promise.
Jane Roper is the author of Eden Lake, a novel. Her writing has appeared in Poets & Writers, Salon, Slate, and The Rumpus, among other publications, and she holds an MFA from the Iowa Writer's Workshop. Jane lives in the Boston area with her husband, singer-songwriter Alastair Moock, and their twin daughters.