Multiple Birth Awareness Week is a national campaign designed to raise awareness of “the unique realities of multiple birth families”. As many of us can only imagine, raising twins, triplets or more, comes with very particular challenges that require unique solutions.
The aim of this campaign, running from 15th to 22nd March 2020, is to help facilitate positive health outcomes for multiple birth families. Being armed with resources and knowledge can make this undertaking much easier.
Here at Bio Concepts’ head office we’re lucky enough to have some first-hand experience in this field. Katey in Technical Support has a set of twinning three-year-old tots, while Bianca in Marketing is one half of a dynamic duo. In light of Multiple Birth Awareness Week, we explore what it’s like to raise twins and what it’s like to be one.
Katey in Technical Support has a set of twinning three-year-old tots.
Finding out that you’re having not just one, but two babies at once could be a slightly overwhelming prospect for a new mum. How did you and your husband react when you found out you were pregnant with twins?
The initial reaction my husband and I had wouldn't be appropriate to share! All in a split second we were shocked, worried for the health of our little bubs-to-be and had BIG feelings about "how are we going to do this?!" After a few deep breaths, that initial reaction subsided, and we were just overwhelmed with joy and couldn't wait to share the news with our friends and families.
Do you have a history of twins in the family?
We don't have a history of twins in either of our families. Our girls are identical twins which are spontaneous and not usually genetic like fraternal twins can be. There are different types of identical twins too. Ours twins are MCDA twins which stands for Monochorionic Diamniotic meaning they shared a placenta but occupied two individual sacs. There’s only a 0.3% chance of any pregnancy resulting in identical twins, so they were amazing us right from the beginning.
What was your pregnancy with twins like?
I had a dreamy pregnancy with no morning sickness (except for the three days after I found out we were having twins!) or any issues until around 34 weeks when I started to feel a little 'off'. My doctors couldn't find anything wrong specifically, but the decision was made that the babies would need to arrive early.
I guess that is the trickiest part of having a multiple pregnancy. Not feeling like you have much say on who needs to poke, prod, examine, scan, monitor or test you and how often those things occurred. So, my husband and I always took the time to recognise the parts we could have a say in. We decked out our birthing suite with battery operated candles, music and blankets smelling of home. Our amazing doctors and midwives may have thought we were 'crazy hippies', but they never once showed it. They supported all the aspects that we brought to the table, such as seeding the twins after their C-section and performing delayed cord clamping. My mum even stayed to collect my placenta!
How did you juggle nursing newborn twins?
Breastfeeding my twins was a massive job, but one that I always I wanted to undertake. Harper and Evie were born at 35+4 weeks gestation and weighed in at 1.8kg and 2.4kg respectively. Arriving early meant that their sucking reflex, which is needed for breast feeding, was underdeveloped.
My breastfeeding journey actually began in the days leading up to their birth as I lay bored and anxious in my hospital bed. I hand expressed colostrum into tiny 3mL syringes drop by drop. This was then lovingly labelled and frozen to be at-the-ready once the girls were born.
After the girls were born, I readily made friends with the industrial strength hospital breast pump who we coined "LacTina". I hired one for home and pumped up to 2.5litres of milk every day – the girls guzzled every drop!
Over the next 3.5 months the girls practiced latching and I kept on pumping and one day after LOTS of learning, they latched and never looked like letting go! We were off and racing, and I tandem fed them until they self-weaned after a year or so. I celebrated our epic journey with a beautiful piece of breastmilk jewellery that I wear with much pride – like a badge of honour!
Three years on, what’s daily life like with the twins? What are some of the unique joys of raising two tots at once?
Daily life is driven by a strong routine so we all know what is happening and when; and so Mumma and Daddy can get a little time to ourselves occasionally.
What never ceases to amaze us is how two little humans that split from 1 egg can be so unique. Each has their own personality and preferences, but they are the very best of friends and love having each other much more than they probably realise.
Our house is always noisy and most of that is giggles – mixed in with something breaking. We wouldn't have it any other way.
We often hear interesting comments on a simple trip to the supermarket. We may hear “double trouble!” or “you have your hands full”. Or we are asked inappropriate questions such as “are they IVF or natural?” about a dozen times – no exaggeration.
My husband will often receive a “well done mate” – like his sperm has superpowers! I mean, come on – MY egg split into two humans – doesn’t that count for a high-five? I just GREW two humans!
What are some of the challenges that you’ve had to figure out unique solutions to?
- Living in the Blue Mountains before moving to Brisbane, I would bush walk with my mum pals whilst tandem carrying the twins – one front, one back. They make awesome baby carriers for such occasions.
- We’ve had to ensure we have long road trip routines down pat!
- When toilet training twins you must have more than one toilet in the household.
- They ask SO many questions that sometimes even my husband and I need to consult Google for the answer to some.
What advice would you give to those expecting multiples?
- Trust your instincts and always have your say during your pregnancy and birth process.
- Find out what’s most important to you for when your babies come home. Do you want to surround yourself with your friends and family who can lend a helping hand, or do you want your own space for a while to figure out your routine?
- When people come to help, let them fold the washing, make you a tea and hold the babies while you shower or nap. Never turn that offer down!
- Breastfeeding twins is absolutely possible and if you choose to do it, enjoy it for as little or as long as it lasts. You're AMAZING!
- Don't buy two (or three or four) of everything – unless you need to.
- Yes, it is busy, and you will be more tired than you can ever imagine – BUT it's all worth it and you do come out the other side. And then for split seconds in time you may think it’s a good idea to have more!
Bianca in Marketing is one half of a dynamic duo.
What was it like growing up with a twin sister?
My sister and I are fraternal twins. Growing up as a twin was the best! But it wasn’t until I got older that I realised how good it really was…
When we were younger, we wore matching outfits and hairstyles. This made things quite funny because people would be confused and mix up our names – even though we weren’t identical.
Reflecting on my childhood, I always had a friend to play with at home and school. I always had someone to catch the bus with; someone to sit with at lunchtime; and someone to do my homework with. All those things that might make other kids nervous or anxious, I didn’t even think about, as I was never doing anything alone. We were always in the same class at school which meant even if I was struggling or having a bad day, my sister would be there to support me.
We also went through the same stages of life and milestones together – first day of school, graduation, learning to drive at the same time. Learning to drive was a challenge as we both had to have 100 hours’ experience each! It was a battle over who would drive each time we hopped into the car.
You learn early in life that you will share every important milestone together and that you will never have a day that is just about you! We share the same birthday, so that means sharing a cake. One birthday my twin blew out our candles before I even had the chance and I remember crying.
I was almost born the following day to my twin – I was only 12 minutes off. At one stage early in my life, I wished I had been born the next day so that I had my own birthday! But now I love sharing my birthday and couldn’t imagine it any other way.
For our birthday when we were younger, everyone bought us the same present, just in a different colour! People who really know us well, know that we are like chalk and cheese. So, receiving the same present, not personalised for us, could be a bit frustrating.
Once we left school and went to university where we studied completely different things, it gave us the opportunity to separate our lives and take that safety blanket off. There were times growing up when I wanted to separate myself from my twin so that people would get to know us individually. But for the most part, I loved having my other half with me 24/7.
What are the benefits of having a partner in crime?
- They know everything about you, as you have literally been together since the womb, every step of the way!
- You share a very special bond that other people couldn’t imagine. You know each other so well that you can finish each other’s sentences, feel their pain and know what each other is thinking without even speaking.
- They are the best travel companion! When you travel with someone 24/7 you can get on each other’s nerves. But being so close means you can tell them straight up that they are annoying you or that you need some space. I have been lucky enough to travel the world with my twin – over 40 countries together. It is so special to share these experiences with someone who you love and will always reminisce with.
- You have someone that will always have your back and support you.
- They always have your best interest at heart and know how to make you smile.
What are the challenges of being one part of a two-some?
- When I was younger, growing up as a twin meant that sometimes I wanted to split apart from her and become my own person. Even if that was only wearing my hair differently or sitting next to other people.
- Everyone thought if my twin or I were good at something, the other twin should be too.
- We got a bit sick of people confusing us when we looked nothing alike – it would have been different if we were identical.
- When we were younger, a big challenge was not always having the same friends. Now that we are older, we have the same social circle; our friends get along with both of us.
How do you think it’s shaped your identity to be twin?
From an early age you know that being a twin is quite unique. I feel so lucky to be one!
My twin has pushed me to be a better person and ultimately to have a positive impact in the world and connection with others. She has opened my eyes to experiences and people that I may not have interacted with if I wasn’t her twin. She brings out different qualities in me than others do and makes me want to be the best version of myself.
Now that you and your sister are older and your lives have evolved and taken you both to different physical locations, how do you feel being separated from your twin?
We travelled for six months together and after that my twin moved away. Initially, it was a shock to the system, but overtime it has allowed us to grow into our own people.
Even though we live in different states we still call each other every single day. So, it doesn’t feel like we are worlds apart and we still know what each other is doing every day.
Now it’s a treat when we spend time together – we never take it for granted. What we have is very special, so we want to treasure it always!
-- Katey, Technical Support & Bianca, Marketing at Bio Concepts