June 5, 2006

Q: What Do You Call Grups With Twins? A: Busy Adults.

Waitaminnit, I'm confused. New York Magazine has a surprisingly snark- and hipster-free cover story on twins and multiple births, actually written by new parents of twins. [In case you're wondering how in the world parents of multiples have the time to write 5,000 word-articles, they finished it while their weeks-early twins were in the NICU. It's the new grup gonzo journalism.]

Anyway, they cover the increased incidence of multiple births due to IVF and IUI; they talk to a top "multiples reduction" doctor, without delving into the punditry-tinged pro/anti debate; they talk to multiple multiples parents in the city, who appear to have a busy, stressful, tired time of it, with no pretense of resuming their pre-baby lives; and they weave in a bit of their own experience, even if that seems like the least developed sections.

Two things stand out to me, though: the least well-off parents--a Brooklyn couple with quads (though one died)--seemed the most well-adjusted mentally to the sudden change. [Maybe they didn't have quite as much "life/style" to be disrupted in the first place.]

And what about the dads? Though two main families in the story bonded because the dads were friends who had twins at the same time, the sense that I got from the rest of the story is that if the moms of multiples are twice as harried, the dads are twice as isolated ["Moms of Multiples now has 280 members and gets together for playgroups and massive mothers-only dinner parties (dads were originally invited but they didnt last)."]

I have to confess, even though I have multiple friends with twins, absorption in my own single-kid experience has pretty much blinded me to the unique situations that dads of multiples face. If any twin dads out there want to give your take on the piece and your firsthand accounts, it'd be much appreciated. Of course, that'd require finding time to read the 5,000-word article in the first place.

Gangs of New York [nymag]


Oh, sure, it's Ironic Usage *now*, but it's baby steps towards legitizing the word "grup". Please, please stop. Think of the children.

[d'oh! and I would've gotten away with it, too, if it weren't for you meddling grups! -ed.]

I'm not a daddy but love your blog! We had twin girls at 30 weeks in February and I just had to read this article. I honestly can't believe how horrible they make having twins sound! (And my husband agrees!)

I was scared to death about twins when we saw those 2 little ones on the ultrasound at 11 weeks, but once they were born we both quickly forgot what it was like to have only 1 baby at a time!

At 4 months we have a great routine going and the girls are sleeping well at night, which really helps. All in all I think we function much the same as we did with our son (who is only 16 months older than the girls). We just multi-task more and do everything twice.

Having twins is certainly not the end of life (as some of this article seems to convey) but the beginning of a really wonderful time. Yes, we do have a giant stroller (thankfully we got a double stroller with a toddler seat so we didn't need a triple) and we had to get a much bigger SUV, but all those things are quickly forgotten when you see the girls together.

And as for the cost of twins? We've actually been saving more money now than we did before we had them! We laugh about that all the time. I guess those dinners out and date nights added up more than we thought!!

This isn't to comment on having twins. (Which I do.) Or to talk about how awesome it is to watch them growing up together, starting to interact, and eating each other's heads. (Which it is.) Or to talk about how we look down on singleton parents. (Which we kinda do.) Or even to comment on the article. (Which I've only skimmed.)

Rather, I wanted to comment on the ironic fact that when you click on the PhotoWorks add to the left the pop-up window has the title "PhotoWorks: New Mothers"

The struggle continues . . .

[hey, to their credit, the site is up; it was undergoing maintenance for the first day or two. -ed.]

I live in LA and I haven't read the New York magazine article, but I do have two sons, 10 and 14. In understanding fatherhood (I'm a dad) it is important to remember that the heavy lifting comes when your kids get to adolescence. It's desirable for children to have a highly involved father when they're young, but when they become teenagers, it becomes essential. That's when the skills of a father, moral guidance and discipline, can really make a difference in the lives of boys and girls.

Hey Kim - I have a 17 month old daughter and am expecting twins in October, so thanks for the heartening comments. I havent read the article, and now I think Im better off if I dont. The stroller hunt has been depressing enough. I have a bugaboo for the first kid, but what are you driving with all of yours?

That article hit home in an awful lot of ways. I think I entered it with a lot of 'check boxes' of experiences to cover, and they did a fairly nice job of hitting most of them. The Author's fun is just beginning, though. I'm not going to discount the horrible stress that's entailed by a stay in the NICU, but god help me- my wife and I both expressed some consternation that our boys were so healthy we never got an opportunity to have insurance-funded day/night care, if just so we could have a break that would allow us more than 2 hours of sleep. (we found out very quickly that the standard advice in parenting books such as the perkily delivered "Sleep when the baby sleeps!" and "Take turns for nighttime feedings! This way you both get to share the joy of bonding, as well as get a nice solid block of sleep!" were obviously written by singleton parents.)

Parents of multiples tend to associate with each other because it's a lot easier to commiserate with somebody that actually understands your circumstances. Mothers of Multiples chapters are across the nation, and my wife is a member of our local chapter. (One of the perks of MoM is the twice-yearly garage sale, in which it's possible to find any manner of matched clothes/toys/gear that comes in handy.) I'm not aware of any particular "Fathers of Multiples" support group- I don't know if I've felt terribly isolated as a result. I think I'm too busy to notice, really.

My typical day starts with me going to work before anybody else in the house is up. This allows me to put in a solid day at work and still get home to have a few hours to spend with the boys before they go to bed. This creates the great unspoken question: Which is more difficult- spending 45 hours a week in an office as the sole breadwinner in the family, or staying at home with two infants for those 45 hours a week? Once I get home I do my best to jump right into taking care of the boys and giving my wife a breather. I get to spend a few hours with the family before we put the kids to bed, and now we shift into chore mode. We're usually both too tired to cook dinner at this point, so we eat whatever packaged stuff we have around. Then we start cleaning up the debris of the day and work on other baisc maintainence- yard, cleaning the bathroom, fixing whatever's broken, etc. At which point it's now 10PM and you haven't had a chance to relax yet.

More than one kid creates challenges out of even the most basic tasks- going to the grocery store is almost an impossibility for a single person. Two toddlers don't yet fit in the double-kid carts that are coming into fashion at most stores. This means you turn the stroller into an improptu grocery cart, or you push the kids and pull a cart lamely behind you. It's things like this that I'd never considered before dealing with the reality of it.

People love to know if twins are the result of IVF or not. The code phrase for "Were your twins natural?" is "Do twins run in your family?" Some people just ask flat out if you were on drugs. And as a parent of identical boys, I am probably a bit more sensitive towards that question than I have any right to be. Twins via IVF aren't any less work than naturally occuring twins, but it still turns into an incredibly grating question.

Every time I run into parents of triplets or more, I am humbled.. At least my wife and I aren't out numbered. Even when you're by yourself you can spare one hand per kid. Triplets would take some sort of superhuman effort that I can't begin to imagine. Or a nanny, which isn't an option for everybody.

That said, it's fantastic to have two kids that interact the way they do- with us and each other. I love my boys to death, and am trilled that I get a chance to be a part of their lives and watch them develop that special bond that only multiples seem to have. Trite and cheesy, but twice the work/twice the joy does seem to come into play.

[thanks for the POV, Nate -ed.]

I'm in awe of all of you parents of twins. I have a couple of friends who have or are having twins, so it is good to get some perspective on their experience. I do have one suggestion for Nate, based on having two kids 19 months apart. Have you considered putting one kid in a Bjorn and the other in the shopping cart? Or if the kids are too heavy for the Bjorn, one in a backpack and the other in the cart? That's how I get through going to the grocery store.

Twins - absolute hell from an emotional standpoint for the first two years, and then wonderfully easier from there on out.

James - Congrats!! We were really worried about the stroller situation too (we loved our bugaboo for our son and I was really looking forward to getting a new cute pink one if we had *1* girl!) :)

We ended up buying a Valco Twin Runabout because not only did it drive and steer incredibly, but it also had an available toddler seat so that we wouldn't need to buy a triple stroller. We got the limited edition ice pink but they have many more masculine colors too - my husband's not thrilled with driving a pink stroller. Our son loves sitting up so high and the girls love the smooth ride. It fits through all the doors in the mall (I was really worried the first time we took it out - it looks so big!) And it also handles the outdoors very easily, which was something I loved the bugaboo for.

We also got a snap-n-go (as horrible as they are styling-wise) and it has come in handy for quick trips because the girls can stay in their infant carriers. The drawback to this is that you'll need to put the toddler in a separate stroller, so it's only good if you have 2 people there. Otherwise I use the Valco and it's the only way to get all 3 out of the house!

Someone mentioned grocery shopping trips, and our solution was pretty simple - we just don't go by ourselves! If my husband and I go together, I take the girls in the stroller and he takes our son in the grocery cart. It may take longer but it's very do-able.

I second the ideas of baby wearing. It's the only way I get anything done in the house when I'm alone with 3 under 2! I have a moby wrap, which is great for newborns and very comfortable. I just bought a BabyHawk Mei Tai for my husband because it's getting tougher to hold onto one infant and chase a toddler. A Baby Bjorn works well too (as long as it's not the original - we thought those were very uncomfortable after about 10 minutes).

Our final grocery shopping solution was actually even a bit easier than that- internet grocery stores. It's delivered, easy to set up, no muss no fuss.

It was just the sudden shock that sets in the first time you try to do a relatively mundane task and realize that the way you used to do things doesn't really work. The way you remember your mom doing things doesn't work. The little tricks your friends use don't work. Even relying on things like bjorns is tricky- having one kid in the bjorn on your chest is fine, but what do you do with the second? (tote it in the car seat early on, etc.)

Becoming a parent seems to have connotations of becoming the provider of stability and kind of proving your independence by your ability to sucessfully care for another person. But with multiples, you suddenly become so dependent upon your spouse, family, and friends because you simply can't do some of the more trivial things you've become accustomed to- it almost feels like a 'step back' in your progression towards grown-up hood, if that makes sense.

We too have gone to bed without dinner taking care of our twins. It is a busy life, and exhausting. But my wife and I have bonded as a team. We joke about how easy it must be to have "only" one child, but we know we're no more capable as parents just because we have more chores to do. Not to mention that every little detail in your life needs to be planned out. We kind of miss the spontinaety of the childfree days, but we have a new more dangerous kind of spontinaety with the twins which really keeps you on your toes. and helps build endurance (mental and physical).

Grocery shopping for us means one spouse at a time, with the kids at home. Saturday and Sunday early mornings seem best for us, or on the way home from work if we only need a couple of things.

Nate said, "I'm not going to discount the horrible stress that's entailed by a stay in the NICU, but god help me- my wife and I both expressed some consternation that our boys were so healthy we never got an opportunity to have insurance-funded day/night care, if just so we could have a break that would allow us more than 2 hours of sleep."

I am sure you know this and you said you didn't want to discount the stress of NICU. But I just had to point out that a NICU stay is not a vacation and does not give more sleep to a lot of parents. My close friends had their twins in NICU for weeks. Not even getting into the emotional hell of it and the inability to sleep for worrying, there was this basic fact: she (and really, often he was up with her, I think) had to wake up to pump every three hours all night long while their babies were in the hospital.

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