Raising twins — multiplied, not divided

    (Courtesy of Layney Wells)

    (Courtesy of Layney Wells)

    It never occurred to me that I would have twins. And so when the obstetrician announced at my first ultrasound that there were two heartbeats, I was floored. Since then, I’ve become accustomed to the endless barrage of questions about conceiving twins, carrying twins and raising twins.

    No, twins don’t run in my family. Yes, they are natural. (What’s an unnatural twin?) Yes, I’m sure they are fraternal. Yes, they do look alike. Yes, double trouble, double everything. Yes, my hands are full — and so is my heart.

    Being my first children, I didn’t have any base of comparison, and so tandem nursing, two times the diapers, all things twin, just seemed normal. I couldn’t imagine what it would be like to have just one baby, to not watch this incredible bond forming between your children, a bond you could never fully know. Sometimes I worried that I wouldn’t be able to spread my love and attention fully and equally enough, that I would miss out on the one-on-one bonding.

    As the boys have grown, and the twin questions continue, some of my answers are decidedly less certain and more complex, straying from the scripted answers I’ve been relying on for the past five years.

    • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

    Yes, they are best friends, but they fight like you wouldn’t believe. Yes, they have a secret language, but they each have their own and they teach each other. Yes, they will be in separate classes, and yes, I do worry about it. Oh, I’m glad they’re mine and not yours too.

    There are things about raising twins that all the books, and blogs, and forums help you to anticipate, but as with so many things, there is so much more to mothering multiples that you just can’t prepare for.

    I never guessed that they would fight like this, or leave bruises and bite marks all over each other when left on their own for even five minutes. I could never have prepared for the frustration and sadness of one child feeling as though I care less about him each time I console the other. I never imagined the heartache of one of my children sobbing because his brother has mastered pumping on the swings before he has. I never imagined that each of them would feel the weight of comparison — entirely without my imposition — or that they would carry that weight to extreme depths of self-doubt and resentment.

    My boys are not best friends. They are more. They are twins. The bond they share is unfathomable. Even in the midst of an all-out war, they will rush to each other’s defense if they feel I’m being unfair.

    My boys are not best friends. They are twins. They have shared everything, since before I even met them, and the effect that has runs deep. It means that they depend on each other’s presence and company, and that often, they are tired of sharing. It means that the developmental need for individuation is more powerful, and daunting, than I can sufficiently express.

    I still worry that I’m not up to the task sometimes. That I’m not doing enough to nurture each one individually, and to fortify their relationship with each other, and my relationship with each of them, as hard as I try.

    Being outnumbered is no easy thing, but if there is one thing I have learned when it comes to twins, it’s that along with the challenges, the love, joy and rewards are not divided by two, but multiplied.

    WHYY is your source for fact-based, in-depth journalism and information. As a nonprofit organization, we rely on financial support from readers like you. Please give today.

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal