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It’s a unique feeling to be the father of multiples. I feel like after almost 10 months I am full of advice to calm the nerves of any expecting father. Some fear the costs coming around the corner, some fear the lack of time to themselves, and some probably just fear the unknown. I still remember the last time I walked next to the empty crib and looked at the roll guards and all the new blankets, waiting for some action. I said to myself that eventually I won’t remember what this thing looked like empty. I was wrong, but not because I miss the peace. I was wrong because I am embedding every step of the process. The first year has a couple phases. The first is scary-especially waiting for the actual birth. You hear all kinds of news along the way that gives you and the mother so many things to look out for that it could drive anyone crazy. The birth weight, the Apgar Score, the NICU details (if the baby is premature), that damn hospital parking (especially in a city), and then you have to watch your wife pass that hospital food onto the babies.
The day of is actually a great relief-for the Dad. The wait is over, but I winced at all the prep work happening to my wife. There are epidurals, poking, prodding, inducing; oh my goodness. Too much for any man, that is for sure. However, the actual birth is surreal when you’re watching it. Whether it’s the first, second, or even third time, it is just like a dream sequence. I had one in Florida where there were two other people in the room, and twins born at Johns Hopkins with about 19 people in the room (I counted). When they come out, and you know everything is ok, you ride on adrenaline for the next day or two with very little sleep. Mom usually stays overnight with the baby, so you have to go home and try to close your eyes. Hopefully you get a day or two off of work to enjoy the rush, because I imagine it is hard to work in the middle of all this.
The first 2-3 months follow the same pattern. All about the baby sleeping, bathing, and eating. If you are a trooper, you help your wife with the early morning feedings. Even if she has no job to get to, she still has to stay awake on guard all day. My advice (in case no one tells either of you) is to sleep during the day when the baby does. Regardless of all the bottles to be made/cleaned, regardless of all the laundry that has to be done-just take naps so you don’t kill each other. It will make it a little less painless although the whole thing seems like a cruel experiment in sleep deprivation. Imagine having twins and they wake each other up at night because a pacifier fell out. That was me for a while-I am trained to get out of bed while still sleeping. You have to stick that thing back in their mouth before they wake the other one up. Luckily with a single baby this only draws out about 6-8 weeks if you are lucky.
So next is the 3-6 month period. I recommend giving them every advantage they can have in this world, so my wife and I bought “Your baby can read.” Supposedly the babies learn words by seeing them with the picture they represent, so they start identifying these words even before they speak. I admit I didn’t sit them in front of the videos every day, but one of my 10 month old twins will clap and say no when asked, so I think it’s pretty neat. Suffice it to say that this period can be best described as the period when you shuffle the babies from seat to seat to swing to keep them comfortable (when they are not crying from being put down). Some swings freak them out-so don’t make them move too fast-and some swing back and forth and side to side-I recommend it-it’s like having an extra seat…and it may rock them to sleep if they are a fan. If you have twins or triplets, the sleepless nights could very well continue into this period. However, if you take stock in the fact that the baby is only crying because something is wrong, that something can usually be taken care of with some easy deductions:
– The diaper could be dirty
– The baby could be hot or cold
– The swing could be too fast
– The baby could be hungry, thirsty or tired
– Or maybe he/she just wants a pacifier (if your wife believes in those).
Once you have that checklist in your head (and a pacifier handy), most normal issues become a breeze to take care of. You are on your way to the 6-9 month “sitting up themselves/crawling” stage.
Some don’t start crawling this early-take it from me and every doctor that says-don’t worry-it doesn’t mean anything. Besides-you’ll have them reading by now anyway, right? Anyway, the first time I came home and saw them sitting up without my wife sitting right behind them (7 months?), I got a little sentimental b/c the other stages were at an end. This is when the wife starts to get them to crawl by placing toys out of reach. Within a matter of weeks, they are getting speedy and then pulling themselves up to stand in front of everything. Lower the bottom of the crib, install the gates, block the holes in the open staircase, and find a room to spread out on the floor surrounded by toys. At this age they love anything that makes noise when a button is pressed or a surface is hit, but I feel like the old, boring toys are important to inspire imagination as well-maybe even more so later on.
So that is it-I am up to where I am currently enjoying the twins. My 4 year old daughter makes it even more enjoyable these days, and since my son is not yet driving I have a short period to enjoy it all. Lastly, a few helpful hints to get the woman in your life to see that you are doing your share-b/c you don’t want to spend a year getting yelled at and 40 more being reminded of that first one.
1. Have diapering supplies on EVERY floor of your house, and get the baby wipes in BULK. I cannot stress how much this helps.
2. Stock everything and make bottles/breakfasts the night before. It is so much easier on the spouse at home if the diapers/wipes, and rice cereal containers are full the next day. Many brownie points for this.
3. Keep to the feeding schedule. The wife should have one in place, but you can avoid a LOT of crying fits if you try to get the bottles ready in anticipation of feeding time. They will eat better if they don’t flip out first, and you can save some stress and having to do the bottle prep really fast.
4. Cleaning-if your wife has OCD and has a Dustbuster on her hip, she will not be using it nearly as often, and will be very angry about how dirty the house is. If you have any energy for ANYTHING, if you can put it into cleaning something, anything, your wife will be happier.
5. If anyone wants to visit and help-say YES. Any time a parent can get you an extra hour or two of sleep by attending the babies will be well worth making them dinner. Embrace the help visits.
One last thing-if you have twins do not buy into the idea that you need two of everything. As I said previously, they are constantly getting uncomfortable as anyone would in the same seat after a while, so they are going to be moved around anyway. One swing, one seat, maybe a jumper or other seat with the buttons and music will be fine.
So that is pretty much it-I hope some other Dads can benefit from my experience and reduce the stress they are feeling. So if you are a new Dad, congratulations, and rest assured it will get easier and more fun. If you are expecting shortly, GET YOUR SLEEP NOW, and just know that the hard part is nothing compared to what follows.