When we changed our minds about having another child, the last thing we expected was to see two little blobs on the screen during the ultrasound. But there it was. Twins. We were going to double the number of children in mere months. I freaked out. I know how to carry, birth, and nurse one child. But two at once?
Having had no experience with twins, I turned to some experienced mothers of multiples after singletons to ask how they prepared their children for their twin (or triplet!) siblings.
“For us, the biggest change we made was working to make our older kids a little more independent. They started packing their own lunches, sorting laundry, and making their own breakfast.
My 4-year-old wasn’t quite as excited. It did help that he came to most of my (many!) ultrasounds. By the end of my pregnancy, he was telling the ultrasound tech, “I saw their heartbeats!”
Probably the biggest thing we did to get the older kids involved was allowing them to assign names to the triplets. My husband and I picked the names Alice, Lucy, and Claire, but we didn’t know who was who, so we had them draw names. Whoever came out first was the name my oldest drew, and so on.
We’re only five weeks into our new family of eight, but after an extended NICU experience where I roomed with the babies the entire time, my singletons did great. Even when times are hard, we pray and work together.”
~ Sumer, mom of six (three plus triplets)
“My son was 4 1/2, and my daughter was 2 1/2 when my twin girls were born. We bought my daughter twin baby dolls so she could take care of “her babies” while I took care of my babies. My son was already reading at this point, so we bought a couple of books about bringing home a new baby and had him read them to the family, including my daughter. We also made it a point to tell both kids “just a minute” whenever they asked for something so that when the babies came, the older two would be used to waiting a minute or two if need be.”
~ Cristy, mom of four (two plus twins)
“When our twins were born, we had a 6-year-old and a 15-month-old. Our 6-year-old was properly prepared since she had just been through it a little more than a year ago. She was happy, excited, and a little bothered by the fact that there were no girls in there. We kept her busy with her own activities. She was starting first grade and was heavily involved with dance, so she was set. We, of course, let her know that we would still love her just as much, but she felt confident in her new role and was looking forward to it.
“I was most concerned with our 15-month-old. I felt terribly guilty that his life as a baby would be short-lived. I thought that I would have to deal with regression issues and acting out; however, we were pleasantly surprised. We prepared him by giving him lots of hugs and telling him there were two baby brothers on the way. Of course, he had no idea what we were talking about, but we continued to talk to him anyway. I’m not sure there is much you can do to prepare them at that age. He came to visit while I was in the hospital and looked at them quizzically. He wasn’t quite sure what it all meant. I made sure to give him a big hug, introduce him to his brothers, and talk with him. He was in great spirits and continued to be that way even when we got home. He often hugs them and jams bottles in their mouths when they cry.
I think preparation largely relies on the personalities of the kids. I was lucky in the fact that my two were happy to have more siblings. They merely needed to be told to be “all in”! Of course, this may change as they get older, but it is my reality at the moment!”
~ Riquesha, mom of four (two plus twins)
“To prepare our other children for the twins’ arrival, we did several things. One, we took on some patterns of rest during the pregnancy. We gladly accepted any and all offers of help, knowing that this help would likely continue after the twins were born. This allowed us to spend as much quality time with our two older children as possible.
We also joined the YMCA, which allowed me to float and swim in a heated pool in my twin pregnancy glory—quite a sight!—while my older daughters were having a blast in the two hours of quality daycare provided with our membership. This was my most important survival tool.”
~ Gretchen, mom of four (two plus twins)
A version of this article appeared on Everyday Family.
Alison Lee is the co-editor of Multiples Illuminated: A Collection of Stories and Advice from Parents of Twins, Triplets or More and Multiples Illuminated: Life with Twins and Triplets, the Toddler to Tween Years. In another life, Alison was a PR and marketing professional. Alison’s writing has been featured in Brain, Child Magazine, Mamalode, On Parenting at The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, Everyday Family, Scary Mommy, Mothers Always Write, Feminine Collective, The HerStories Project, and DrGreene.com, and has essays in two anthologies. Alison lives in Malaysia with her husband and four children (two boys and boy/ girl twins).