Finding out you have one baby is a big shock, finding out you have two is something else! And as for triplets, quadruplets and the rest, it's all a lot to take in. Thankfully, twin dad Rob Gilroy is here to allay any worries you may have about a multiple pregnancy and offer up some personal advice.
You like breakfast, right? Who doesn't?
The sizzling bacon, the juicy sausages, and the beans - those lovely, lovely beans (if you're vegetarian then I suppose it works the same with soy-based replicas). Either way, there's one staple food everyone can enjoy - eggs*.
But how do you have yours? Are you the dippy-runny fried ones or the soft splodgy poached ones? Maybe you're partial to an omelette...
You're probably wondering why I keep going on about breakfast. Well, I do have a point. Have you ever been going about your daily breakfast preparations and then, suddenly, you're blindsided by a complete surprise? You crack your egg ready to fry/poach/scramble (delete as appropriate) and there they are...
Two yolks in one shell!
It's a tremendous moment. You grab your phone, take as many photos as you can before they spilt and, for the rest of the day, you walk with a slight spring in your step. It's as though you've uncovered one of life's greatest secrets.
Well, a multiple pregnancy is a bit like that. Only, with less toast.
Multiple Pregnancy | The hits keep coming
There's something magical about finding out you're expecting twins, triplets or more. You feel part of an exclusive club - the Double Yolkers, we call ourselves. Obviously, it's not as instantaneous as that. The surprise comes in waves. Firstly, you discover you're pregnant, then weeks later you find out you're carrying more than one. And the surprise and delight hits you all over again. But then, a little time later - it could be minutes, it could be hours, it could be weeks - you have another realisation: WE ARE HAVING MORE THAN ONE BABY!
While this third surprise is technically the same as the second, it feels different. Mainly because you're now aware of the tremendous task ahead. While adapting to the news you're becoming parents always takes a bit of time when you realise there's more than one, the job seems even more daunting. And that's understandable. At this point, you probably feel less like an expectant parent and more like public transport.
Multiple Pregnancy | Getting ready for two...
So how do you prepare for twins, triplets, or half a football team's worth of baby? It's simple, the same way you would for one. If these are to be your first, then you're at a distinct advantage to anyone who discovers a multiple pregnancy with their second or third child. Namely, you don't know any different. I guarantee you'll hear this a lot in the coming months - friends and family love to remind you that you're blissfully ignorant - but it's true. You don't know anything else, so you don't have to change tact at all.
That's not to say that there isn't a lot to plan with a multiple pregnancy. It goes without saying that you need (at least!) two of everything. But even then, it isn't more complicated than buying for one, more expensive - sure, more disruptive to your home - definitely! But as long as you factor in things like space around the home, the size of your car and the budget you have to work with, there's nothing to say you can't do this.
Something that may start to become a concern earlier than it might for non-multiple parents, is the birth.
No matter how many episodes of One Born Every Minute you stream, birth still seems like a make-believe thing that doesn't actually happen. My wife kept telling herself you just turn up at the hospital. From there they take you into a back room and hand over a prepackaged baby (a bit like at the Post Office sorting room). Now know that is categorically not the case.
However, like a lot of things in pregnancy, you have no control over what happens to your body. What you do have control over is the information you have to hand. Read up on multiple births, speak to your midwife, make sure you're aware of the process and the various pain relief methods. Then set yourself a list of things you're comfortable with. Just as you would with one baby. As long as you're confident you know how to respond to issues if they rear their head, the rest is up to your body to figure out. Along with the support of a full team of doctors, midwives and health workers who know what they're doing, of course.
Multiple Pregnancy | Raising the stakes
When it comes to raising multiples, that's when you start to feel a little more alone. But just remember that you're not. If you're lucky, you will have the support of friends and family. Plus there are a lot of lifelines for parents of twins, triplets and everything north of three.
Here are just a few places to consider:
The Twins and Multiple Births Association has lots of support, advice, courses and offers to help new parents out.
Another great source of advice and help for people not sure where to start is Twins UK.
Sure Start Children's Centres
Sure Start's weekly sessions are a great place to meet other parents, get a little extra support and tonnes of advice. With centres all around the country, there's sure to be a least one near you.
Local Twin Groups on Social Media
If you search for Twins, you'll find them. Facebook has a number of twin and multiple-focused groups made up of parents in your area. They're a great way to share advice and meet like-minded people. There's more of us around than you think.
Without wanting to sound like a broken record, when it comes to the difference between bringing up one or more babies, it's all new to you. As with any approach to parenting, it takes time to settle into routines. Find an approach that works for both you and your baby, the main thing is to try not to worry. You'll all settle into things soon enough. Even if it does take a little while to get used to a full house.
Parenting is all about cooperation and that is definitely true when you're talking about multiples. You and your partner will be like a well-oiled machine. You'll glide past each other with the grace of synchronised swimmers. But with muslin squares in one hand and teething rings in the other. Again, this all takes time but if you're working together, you can do it. In fact, the beauty of having more than one baby is, it allows your partner to become much closer in those early weeks. Feeding, changing, bath time: they all take twice as many hands to get the job done. That means your partner can enjoy bonding with their new arrivals more often, giving you both some much needed one-on-one time with each baby.
Being a parent to multiples is one of the most rewarding experiences. Suddenly you have a fully rounded family thrust upon you and you're all figuring it out together. It may take time, but there's no need to be scared. While it may seem daunting, throughout all the ups and downs, it's important to remember that this is your journey. You just need to trust you'll work out the right way to go.
After all, you can't make an omelette or two without cracking some eggs.
*If you're vegan then I apologise, my analogy falls down there.
If you're just starting your multiple pregnancy journey then have no fear. We have lots of great advice and guidance, taking you from pregnancy through to the first year or so of parenting. Read more Pregnancy and Giving Birth blogs.