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Twins: Preparing for your babies' first months

QUESTION: My husband and I are expecting twins and I am very concerned about how I can possibly handle two babies alone those first few months. I have several months yet to prepare. What things can I do to assure I am emotionally ready to handle my new little bundles of joy?

ANSWER: Becoming a mother is a life changing experience. Preparing for the changes that parenthood brings includes looking ahead to the year after birth as one of transition to a different lifestyle than what you have been used to as a couple up to this point. Your relationship to time changes, among other things, and you are right to think ahead, (and prepare!), with not just one, but two bundles of joy coming your way!

Consider these suggestions as you ready yourself for life with two babies:

Request that your husband take paternal leave for one month, (or more!) Remember, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity to share this life transition. The more you can successfully share the stresses and changes that parenthood brings, the more you will feel connected when you are "flying solo". Take turns being alone with two babies for two hours at a stretch, eventually building the time up to 4 hours or more, as the other parent takes time to exercise, catch up on things, or shop for the groceries. You will find that doing things separately will be more efficient, but does leave you feeling a bit lonely, at times. Be willing to talk about these feelings with each other in a non-blaming way.

Talk with your spouse about how caretaking will be shared, and what other resources are available for help with not just one, but two babies in the first three months when your family doubles! How much time will your husband take off from work for paternal leave? What other resources (relatives, part time nannies, household help) exist for getting a break, both as a couple to spend some quality time focused on each other, and to help during the day with everyday household chores, such as cleaning, cooking or even bathing the babies?

Develop a team of "helpers", and possible scheduling scenarios with your husband. Interview baby-sitters, or "mother's helpers" before the birth. Make a list of the people you can call to help and write out a potential schedule for couple's time, even if it is only one evening out to dinner in the first month or two. (Your babies may do well for two hours with a competent caretaker or trusted relative, and a cell phone handy while you are nearby and ready for such an adventure together!).

Make a list of things that will need doing: diapers washed, groceries bought, dinners made...and a list of a few activities you might do together as a family event on a weekend in the first three months...a walk to the park, a picnic, a visit to relatives or friends. Make a shopping list of the things you will need to make these things happen, such as front packs to carry babies, a twin stroller, and any services that can be put in place ahead of time. Talk with other parents of twins, to trouble shoot things you may have overlooked, and ask them for their experienced advice. (Recipes for quick and easy food preparations may be one!)

Expect your life to become more scheduled, and organized in order to meet the new challenges that lie ahead. Life changes, especially for the couple when they become parents. For example, saving time for your spouse, (and your own personal activities!) becomes something that must be scheduled, rather than a spontaneous event. But do remember that your marriage is the foundation for your expanding family. Although your relationship may take a back seat for a while, securing couple's time, and family rituals that bring you together to share the struggles and triumphs are essential to the health of your marriage. This couldn't be truer than with twins!

Your own -being and state of mind are also important to your mothering. And scheduling time to exercise, engage in an activity you love or simply to relax on your own are things that matter. After all, mothers are people, too. And your emotional health is something your twins will need to depend upon!

Create practical, routine rituals for connecting and sharing feelings with your spouse, like an afternoon or evening walk and talk, with both babies in the stroller or front packs. Make one weekend afternoon a family affair. Get out of the house together with the twins. Find easy things to do that do not involve a lot of travel, in the beginning. Staying close to home can help you establish the routines that will help organize your life during this transition. Take a family walk to share a cup of coffee or tea together, with the twins in tow. The feeling of "being in it together" will likely be the key to mastering the challenges that face you during this family transition.

Seek out twin resources in your area including twin support groups and networks! Twin resources exist in many areas of the country. Not only can you find good deals from local merchants for supplying clothes and other supplies you will need in double, but you can arrange to meet and talk with other parents of twins in your area. Peer support is likely to be one of your most valuable resources. Sharing your experiences with others who are in your same boat strengthens families in a unique and powerful manner. And twin resources (message boards, chats) on this site are no exception!

Establish the parenting team relationship with your spouse that will be the foundation for your children's growth and develop connections to your community that will strengthen your family. And always keep in mind the saying, "It takes a village to raise a child". Do not hesitate to reach out for help in this very unique and exciting family adventure!

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Gayle Peterson, MSSW, LCSW, PhD is a family therapist specializing in prenatal and family development. She trains professionals in her prenatal counseling model and is the author of An Easier Childbirth, Birthing Normally and her latest book, Making Healthy Families. Her articles on family relationships appear in professional journals and she is an oft-quoted expert in popular magazines such as Woman's Day, Mothering and Parenting. . She also serves on the advisory board for Fit Pregnancy Magazine.

Dr. Gayle Peterson has written family columns for ParentsPlace.com, igrandparents.com, the Bay Area's Parents Press newspaper and the Sierra Foothill's Family Post. She has also hosted a live radio show, "Ask Dr. Gayle" on www.ivillage.com, answering questions on family relationships and parenting. Dr. Peterson has appeared on numerous radio and television interviews including Canadian broadcast as a family and communications expert in the twelve part documentary "Baby's Best Chance". She is former clinical director of the Holistic Health Program at John F. Kennedy University in Northern California and adjunct faculty at the California Institute for Integral Studies in San Francisco. A national public speaker on women's issues and family development, Gayle Peterson practices psychotherapy in Oakland, California and Nevada City, California. She also offers an online certification training program in Prenatal Counseling and Birth Hypnosis. Gayle and is a wife, mother of two adult children and a proud grandmother of three lively boys and one sparkling granddaughter.

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