Is there anything more exciting than finding out you’re expecting a tiny little bundle of joy?! What about if you multiplied that excitement by double, triple, or even quadruple due to the fact that you were expecting multiple babies!? This is the reality for over 4,000 expecting Australian Parents each year. On average, multiple births account for 1.7% of all births within Australia, with Twins representing 1.4% and triplets, plus higher multiple births, representing 0.3% of all births.
This week, 15th – 20th March 2020, is Multiple Birth Awareness Week (MBAW). It is a national Australia Campaign to raise awareness about the realities for multiple birth families and to highlight how educated and engaged communities can help contribute to a more positive outcome as well as provide much needed support. Here at Bubnest HQ we thought who better to talk to during MBAW than the beautifully strong and inspirational Rachelle from @toddler_plus_twins. This Mama has had hands on experience carrying, nurturing, birthing and raising her gorgeous set of Twins, Brayden and Brinley, whilst also raising her older son, Maverick. So grab a cup of coffee and settle in because Rachelle’s journey is an eye opening read.
Hi, my name is Rachelle. I’m a Mum to three little ones - Maverick our first born who just turned three, and the Twins Brayden, our middle child, and Brinley, our only daughter.
When we started planning our second pregnancy, after Maverick turned one, we knew twins was a possibility as I’m a twin myself. The most memorable thing about starting this journey was joking in the car with my Mum about seeing twins on my seven week scan. We were on our way to my first appointment and because my husband, Clinton, couldn’t be there I asked my Mum to attend. I had been having twin dreams for a couple of weeks before this appointment, so I had a weird feeling my mind and body was trying to tell me something. I lay down on the bed and watched the Dr’s face for any hints as he squeezed the cold jelly onto my tiny bloated belly and began the ultrasound. The room went silent as the Dr smiled and said “there’s two heartbeats”. This was so surreal. I had a feeling it was possible, however once I heard the news I couldn’t even speak, I just started uncontrollably crying happy tears. Leaving the room I called Clinton straight away and announced the news of our growing family. He didn’t believe me at first, but after coming around he was over the moon and so excited about our new family members.
In terms of the pregnancy, it was the slowest 37 weeks of my life. I wanted the twins here so badly, and the heavier and more uncomfortable I got the harder it was to sleep and breath. I also wanted to have a natural delivery, but with one of the twins, Brayden, turning breech I was instead booked for a C-section and incase of a natural labor had to stay at our local hospital from 36 weeks.
With the twins arrival came all the unknown...
How will we handle two babies crying? How will we feed them? Will I be able to breastfeed? Will we need help once we get home? So many thoughts running through our minds. Having already been through the newborn stage with Maverick I felt more relaxed going into the hospital and having some understanding about newborns, however having Twins and a C-section was different in so many ways. We stayed in hospital for a week after my C-section, the twins came out breathing perfectly and didn’t require oxygen which was great. They were very healthy babies - Brayden was 50cm long 6lb 15oz and Brinley was 47.5cm and 5lb 14oz.
My breastfeeding journey began in hospital with great help from nursing staff as they would assist me with latching both Brinley and Brayden at the same time to tandem feed. Oh wow though, I have never been so hungry in my life! So I knew my body was busy producing milk and this way of feeding was a real possibility. A lot of things came to light when coming home though. Getting in and out of bed after a C-section and tending to the twins on my own all through the night proved to be difficult. Furthermore, breastfeeding started to play a toll on my mental health and with each feed I would cry as my nipples were cracked and didn’t have time to heal with the Twins feeding hourly. My husband and I decided that it was best for my mental health to stop breastfeeding and put the twins on formula – which in turn created more questions and worries! I had exclusively breastfed my eldest, Maverick, so we had no idea about what type of bottles to use let alone formula. To add to the confusion, we shortly discovered that the twins had horrible reflux and colic so they were sick with each feed and we were constantly cleaning burp rags and cot sheets. It was a tiring start to home life but after getting a medical opinion we put the twins on reflux bottles and added a thickener to their milk which helped instantly.
Amongst all of this I was having so much Mum guilt about not giving Maverick enough attention and love. He, of course, was going through changes as well from being the only child to having two needy babies at home.
Reflecting back on it all the one thing that got us through the hard times was having a routine in place, as silly as that sounds with two newborns, it honestly worked. Having a set bath, bottle and bed time made the nights much better. Our play mat got great use daily as did our battery operated rockers, because holding a baby all hours of the day is impractical. Clinton was a huge support during this time especially with us both having sleep deprivation and the occasional snap at one another. We have definitely bonded even more after having twins. Looking back at how far we have come is incredible! The twins now sleep through the night and are entertaining themselves with giggles and baby talk. Maverick is especially loving the big brother roll now that the twins can communicate with him.
The advice I would give for a family expecting twins would be to take each day as it comes. They are never the same and please don’t expect to do too much in the beginning. Make sure you have those frozen dinners ready and get family and friends to visit you. If someone wants to help you - let them. This was my biggest fault. I had a mindset of ‘these are my kids, I need to be able to look after them myself’. Be kind to yourself and listen to your partner. You are a team and he’s there to help too. Also, as much as we would like them to be able to, don’t assume your partner can read your mind. I hope that has given you some insight into our journey as a family of five. So far it’s definitely had it’s challenges, but the love and joy I have now surpasses that and I wouldn’t change it for the world.