Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Bringing Home Twins With An Older Sibling

Hi Twin Talk Readers! 

I’m Jillian, and I blog over at Earning Our Stripes. I’m a wife, momma to 3-year-old Anthony, and 3-month-old twin boys, Luca & James. I’m so honored to be sharing our story today!

Last year after Anthony turned two, my husband and I decided we were ready to grow our family. We’ve always had a running joke about how many children we’d have - I always wanted three and my husband wanted two. His favorite line was “You’ll have to find another husband to have the third!” We agreed we were ready for a second; a sibling for Anthony. We would “wait and see” on a third, and talk about it when we were ready.

Fast forward to June and two positive pregnancy tests later, I calculated we’d be expecting our baby in mid-February. Not long after those tests, I started having intense pain & cramping, which sent me to the doctor on a rainy Friday afternoon. I told my husband not to leave work early, and that I probably wouldn’t even have an ultrasound. My doctor was concerned with my symptoms and in order to rule out an ectopic pregnancy she decided to give me an ultrasound at  four weeks. She assured me as we walked towards the ultrasound room, "Don't get too excited, there's no way we can see the baby... it's still too small." As I was laying on the table, I heard her say “Well, it’s definitely an intrauterine pregnancy… and… it looks like there are two in there! You're having twins! DON’T FREAK OUT.” Ha! Famous last words. 

Because I was still so early in my pregnancy, we decided to only tell our families that I was pregnant, but withhold information about the twins until my 8-week ultrasound. There was no hiding my pregnancy - locking myself in the bathroom after every meal was starting to be a dead giveaway. It also gave Craig and I some time to soak it all in… we were still in shock ourselves!

One decision we talked a lot about was how we would tell Anthony. He was just two at the time and I didn’t think he could fully comprehend that he’d be having not one, but two siblings after the new year. I didn’t read any articles, or books - we decided to wing it. Anthony was immediately excited about the prospect of a baby in my belly, so we decided to tread slowly. We talked a lot about the baby and when he/she would be coming, and then slowly introduced the idea of two babies. To a toddler, it was simple - more is better. Do you want one cookie or two? Do you want one scoop of ice cream or two? Anthony quickly embraced the idea of two babies in my belly, so we decided to just roll with it.

Over the next few months we remained open and honest about almost everything with Anthony. I never hid from him when I was going to the doctor (he loved seeing pictures of his “brudders” when I came home), or why momma needed to rest for a bit. We made sure he was a big part of preparing their nursery: setting up two cribs, two swings and two rock n'plays seemed to make it more real for him. To a toddler, it was all relative. Anthony had nothing to compare to - so my big belly, all the doctor appointments, and the idea of two babies… he embraced it all. In his eyes, everyone has two babies.

As January approached we started to prepare him that the babies could come any day. Every morning, Anthony would ask if today was “the day." There were several false-alarms and subsequent trips to L&D, but each of those times I would just tell him we were going to the doctor to check on the babies. But these boys were definitely on their own schedule. At 38 weeks and 1 day, the day before I was about to be induced, I ended up going into labor on my own. My contractions started in the middle of the night, and all I could think about was holding out until Anthony woke up at 7. I was terrified that if we had to leave in the middle of the night he’d be upset and confused, and that our goodbyes would scar him forever (yes, my pregnancy hormones were out.of.control). After four hours of contractions, and the impending snowstorm on its way to the area, we made the decision to call my parents over and head to the hospital. Listening from our bedroom, I could hear my husband wake up Anthony to tell him what was happening. “Momma go to hod-it-tal to have bee-bees? Gigi and Pa stay here with me-me? Otay. Bye dadda.” It was as simple as that. 

Labor was quicker than I expected, and after only four pushes, Luca came out screaming at 3:52 pm, weighing 7lbs 4oz, and 21 inches long. James needed a little more help, but entered the world 11 minutes later at 6 lbs 7oz and 20.25 inches long. After we were settled in our recovery room, we sent pictures to our friends and family, and I called my parents to see how Anthony was doing. My mom told me that she got him to stop sledding just long enough to look at the picture, to which he said “Luca and James tame out of momma’s belly?” and then right back to playing with the neighbors. 

We were so thankful that the flu ban at our hospital excluded siblings, so Anthony was able to come visit us and meet his brothers the day after they were born. We didn’t make a huge deal of their meeting (of course there were pictures and video, but we wanted him to adjust on his own terms). His first reaction was to come hug me, and tell me about all the big trucks he saw outside the hospital. Once he saw his brothers though, he was completely smitten. We let him touch them, hold them, love on them. His love was so innocent and instantaneous. And in that moment I prayed that the three of them would have an unbreakable bond for the rest of their lives.

Once we brought the boys home with us, we knew we had two goals: to make Anthony always feel included, and to try and spend some special, one-on-one time with just him. The next few weeks were crazy - the twins' demanding feeding schedule made it hard for me to leave the house, and Craig and I were exhausted from being up every two hours. But we did make time for Anthony - I took him out to lunch once a week, and Craig and Anthony ran errands together on the weekends. While we were home, we made an extra effort to focus on the things he could do to help: get us diapers or pacifiers, or help sing songs to calm Luca & James down. Honestly, the evolution happened all on its own. He loved these little boys SO much. I couldn’t have asked for it to turn out any better than it did!

Over the last two months, Craig and I have witnessed just how much their bond is growing. Anthony is their ultimate protector, and asks where they are as soon as he wakes up in the morning. He entertains whichever baby is waiting to nurse, trying to get a smile or get them to "talk" to him. I love seeing the three of them interact, and watching Anthony become a big brother has been one of the most amazing things I've ever witnessed. 

While everyone’s situation is different, here are some tips I can offer on making this transition as smooth as possible.
  1. Talk it up. Obviously a lot depends on your child’s age, but I genuinely believe the smooth transition started with our openness from the beginning. Tell your child(ren) how many babies are coming, when they’re coming, and slowly introduce the concept of you leaving to have the babies at the hospital. For us, the “time” concept was general - “the babies will be here this winter” or “after Santa comes.”
  2. Ask your older child questions / make them feel part of the process. We asked Anthony a lot of silly questions, and a lot of serious ones too. Did he think he’d have brothers or sisters, or one of each? Did he think his brothers would like oatmeal as much as he did? What should we name the babies? I think this helped him realize that his voice could be heard, too. Having your child pick out a gift for the new babies could also get them excited about meeting his/her siblings.
  3. Have them come to the hospital. If given the opportunity, I would suggest having your older child(ren) come to see you in the hospital once you’ve been moved to the Mommy/Child floor. It was important to me that Anthony not see me with an IV, etc., so that he wouldn’t associate his brothers being born with mommy getting hurt, so we made sure he came the day after they were born.
  4. Give them “tasks” to feel included. Again, it all depends on the age of your older child, but having Anthony “help” us makes him important. He helps with bath time, diaper changes and play time. We also make sure that when he says he doesn’t want to help, to not push him. It’s ok that he wants some separation from his brothers, too.
  5. Make sure to give them one-on-one time. It’s so hard, and I struggled with this every day of my maternity leave, but even 10 minutes of quality one-on-one time would help with Anthony’s attitude. I could tell on the days he’d be struggling - those were the days the twins were super fussy and needy, and Anthony felt sidelined. If you have help at home in the beginning, have that person stay with the twins while you go play outside, or have some quiet time reading a book or playing a game. 

Thanks so much, Jillian!  

If you have questions for Jillian, CLICK HERE to email her.  Also, check out her personal blog: Earning Our Stripes and her Etsy/Business Instagram account: @bellacartaboutique (she makes adorable birth & baptism announcements)!

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  1. I'm expecting a singleton in July - just 18m after the twins - and this was really helpful! Thanks for sharing!

  2. In a similar situation. This was awesome. Thanks for writing it.