Let's Talk About Multiples: Interview with Winnie
Firstly, congratulations from us, and thank you for letting us get to know your wonderful family. How did you feel when you first found out you were expecting twins? Did you have any concerns? How do you feel now that the twins are a little older?
To be honest, I was more worried than overjoyed when I first learnt about my twin pregnancy. Firstly, because of my age – I was 39 when I was pregnant and that alone put me in the high-risk group. To add on to that, I was carrying twins and as we all know, there is a high chance of premature birth for twins. So yes, I had many worries – mostly revolving around the progress and health of my twins both before and after birth.
Fortunately, I didn’t have any major complications throughout my pregnancy. It was just extremely uncomfortable to be carrying twins for my first pregnancy. And my boys – Jayden and Jayson – did come out early, at 34 weeks. However, we were very blessed that they were perfectly healthy albeit being slightly underweight. They stayed in the neonatal ICU (NICU) for between one to two weeks, primarily to learn how to suck and to put on weight.
There were bigger, healthier-looking babies in the NICU who had problems like breathing difficulties or worse. So I am extremely thankful that things went well for my boys.
Most parents only have to deal with one newborn, but as parents of twins, the initial weeks and months must have been challenging. What do you think helped you get through the difficult newborn stage?
Yes, the first few months were tough. As mentioned, my boys were in NICU for the first one to two weeks. That presented some initial challenges. For example, they were not able to latch on as the paediatrician wanted to monitor their milk intake. As I wanted to breastfeed them, I had to diligently pump every three hours to get the milk flowing – and to get enough to feed two babies! Then my elder boy Jayden was discharged a week before his brother, which meant we had to travel back to the hospital at least once a day to deliver my milk and see my younger boy. So that was physically demanding, especially when I was already lacking sleep and recovering from my caesarean section.
But having both boys in NICU also meant that I didn’t have to care for them, so I could rest a little in the first week. That was helpful as my mobility was limited after the caesarean section. Also, we had booked a confinement lady who had previous experience with twins, and she was a great help to us. We were able to rest and learn from her in the first month, which was a really critical period for me especially, for post-surgery recovery. In fact, that was the ‘honeymoon’ period for us, as we didn’t have to worry about feeding, showering and changing the boys, or washing their clothes and milk bottles – even our meals were well-taken care of.
The real test began when the confinement lady left, and I would not have survived the following months without my husband. I am extremely grateful to have a very dedicated and hands-on husband who single-handedly took care of all the night feeds for both boys so that I could rest, as I was still pumping three-hourly. My mother-in-law came by to help me with the boys in the day, when my husband was working, while my mother who lives with us helped with the cooking and washing.
I was also very blessed to have a few girl friends who dropped by regularly to offer their help and advice, or simply to lend a listening ear. Very often, they brought along meals or treats for me as they knew I would be hungry often because I was breast feeding. I will never forget the time when my best pal surprised me with a whole cake from Awfully Chocolate! That totally made my day, and the cake became my supper treats after my night pumps.
In short, strong support from family and friends got me through the first four months when I was on maternity leave.
As parents of multiples, what questions do you get asked by strangers?
This question, in itself, is one of the often-asked questions of parents of multiples! For us, the most-frequently asked question must be “Are they twins???” – which was often followed by squeals of delight and exclamations of “Oh, so cute……!” The question that followed very often was “Is it a girl and a boy?” – either because Jayson has a ‘sweeter’ look or simply because his stroller was red! (*face palm*)
What aspects of raising twins do you wish more people understood?
At first read of the question, I think most would think about the challenges and difficulties in raising twins. But for me – and I think I speak for my husband as well – I wish more people could experience the magic of being parents to twins! I cannot describe the happiness, love and satisfaction that I get from being a mom to twin boys. Imagine receiving double doses of everything – the hugs, kisses, cuddles, and whisperings of “Good morning/night, mommy” and “I love you, mommy”.
Yes, of course it also means twice the tantrums, sleepless nights, diaper changes, milk feeds, washings, etc. – which are all physically and mentally demanding, and expensive too. Add the fact that they tend to take turns to fall sick (I read somewhere that once a twin falls sick, you might as well use the same towel to wipe the face of the other twin – ‘cos he will likely fall sick after that anyway!) – and you can appreciate how gruelling it is to raise twins.
So if I have to pin down the negatives – I wish more people understand the incredible exhaustion that we feel every single day (and forgive us if we appear distant or seem to be nodding off during a conversation). I also wish that the government would understand how insufficient the six days of childcare leave is for parents of twins – in fact, it is barely enough to cover the days of childcare centre closure.”
How do you juggle work / managing a household and yet having to be present and give attention to two or three individuals at the same time?
I mentioned it earlier and I’ll say it again – I would not have been able to survive without my husband’s help. He is a hands-on dad who does everything!
We tried having a live-in helper in the first two years, but our helpers presented more problems than anything. After changing five helpers in the two years, we gave up on having one. Instead, we decided on two strategies which have worked pretty well for us so far – automate and outsource.
We bought a dryer so we didn’t have to spend time hanging clothes after washing (trust me, the washing alone with twins is no joke!). We got a part-time cleaner to come in once a week to clean the house so we don’t have to spend our precious weekends mopping and wiping. We signed up for dinner delivery which takes care of most meals at home for the week. Our boys have been in infant/child care since they were four months old when I returned to work, so the teachers take care of them in the day. The rest of our daily chores are split between my husband, mother and I.
My boys are three years old now. They are highly inquisitive, and are constantly experimenting and testing boundaries. At the same time, they are attention-seeking, and can get emotional and frustrated easily. In a nutshell – at this age, they need us to ‘be present’ for them all the time.
So as we go about with our daily chores, we try to engage with and talk to them at the same time, fielding their never-ending list of questions or simply acknowledging their comments. We also involve them where we can. For example, they have to keep their own toys, feed themselves, and are now learning to dress themselves. This not only relieves us of some work, it also inculcates a sense of responsibility and independence in them.
There are some things that we try not to compromise, no matter how tired or busy we are. For one, we make sure that we read to them every night as I am a firm believer that a strong foundation in the English language is critical, no matter what one chooses to do in future. We also stop whatever we are doing to give them hugs and kisses when they need it – like when they fall or knock themselves while playing, or simply when they ask for it.
Last but not least, what encouragement would you give to an expecting or new parent of multiples?
First and foremost, I strongly encourage an expecting parent of multiples to be well-prepared before the babies arrive. Read up as much as you can on caring for twins because it is different from taking care of one baby. This will prepare you mentally and equip you with practical tips, like how getting your twins on a schedule early can get you the much-needed rest. Also, get what you need for both the babies and yourself well-ahead of their expected arrival date. There is a very high chance of them arriving early, and you don’t want to have to worry about errands when you already have your hands full with two babies at home.
For the mommies, I hope to assure them that it is possible to produce enough milk for two. Both my boys were on full breast milk for the first eight months of their lives, and I would have continued if not for the fact that I lost too much weight in the process. I could be lucky, I concede, but don’t give up until you have tried. It takes a lot of determination and effort, and you really need to persevere with the three-hourly pumps. But once the milk starts flowing, it will get easier.
Do not feel embarrassed to tap on whatever support you can get, be it from your spouse, other family members, friends or even total strangers. As a parent of multiples, you will need all the help that you can get. Besides family and friends, I also benefited from online support groups like Double Joy, which is an online forum for mothers of multiples. Put simply, people in these forums have either ‘been there, done that’, or are facing similar experiences as you. So even if their tips and advice don’t fully work for you, it helps to know that you are not alone.
It also helps to bear in mind that every challenge you face is but a passing phase. Know that there will be light at the end of the tunnel, and just go with the flow each day.
Finally, embrace the special experience of being a parent to multiples!
Thank you for your time, Winnie!
ABOUT THE INTERVIEWEE
Winnie holds two full-time jobs - a communications specialist in the day, and a mother to her 3.5-year-old twin boys at night and on weekends. When she is not crafting messages or editing articles in the office, she finds herself fending off the incessant 'whys' and 'whats' from her two toddlers who at times can be more difficult to deal with than journalists. So while she loves her boys to bits, she chooses not to be a full-time SAHM to retain her sanity.
When she has some me-time, she loves ploughing through social media for parenting tips or simply to catch up on the news. These days, she often day-dreams about becoming a famous blogger and getting invited to travel the world, try the best food or check out the latest family-friendly places...