Bringing this over from the old blog, from 2005…
Okay, dude. I know you’re there. You just googled some variant of “fathers of twins” and this journal entry was one of the only worthwhile results you got, so you clicked over. (It’s kind of amazing, how little there is on the web for fathers of multiples. Lots of stuff for mothers–depression advice and so on–but dads get footnotes, at best.)
[Edit: I got tired of hearing myself complain about that, so I started the Multi-Dad message boards.]
If your twins are older than 5 months and 1 week, you don’t need advice from me. I need advice from you.
If you’ve got newborns or you’re still expecting, you may be the guy I’m talking to. If you intend to do half the child-rearing work and hold down a job, and it’s just you and your wife, you’re definitely the guy I’m talking to. Here’s what I’ve learned so far:
- There aren’t that many of us around.
- When men venture outside with our offspring, without Mommy, we’re conspicuous. Women will ask odd questions in warm tones. They’re not sure what kind of animal you are, but they think they might like you.
- When men travel with a baby, without Mommy, we’re way conspicuous. Women will ask odd questions in puzzled tones. They’re not sure you’re not a kidnapper.
- Put Velcro tape under the baby wipe box.
- The sleep deprivation will be worse than anything you can imagine. I once went 96 hours straight on a film project. Thought it was pretty macho. That was nothing. This kind of sleep deprivation tilts all the way over into mental illness. You will say things you don’t usually say, see things in ways you don’t usually see them, and probably piss some people off. It’s okay. When you start sleeping again, it’ll gradually get better. It will. It really will.
- It gets easier. It does. I promise. For us, it started to ease around 4-1/2 months. As of today, we can count on both babies sleeping from 9 until midnight, eating, and then sleeping from 12:30 AM until 3:30 AM. That’s 6 hours.
If you’re still expecting, 6 hours in 3-hour blocks sounds like torture. If you’ve got 1-month-olds, just hang on to this thought: In a few months, you’ll get 6 hours of sleep.
- That doesn’t mean we’re chipper and perky. We’re exhausted. We’re just not that kind of exhausted.
- Little suits that snap up the back are evil. Hide or destroy them. You will not be able to figure them out in your 15th week of sleep deprivation. Buy front-snaps only. It doesn’t matter how cute they are. Except for the Pooh outfit. You can keep that one, but only for special occasions.
- Shop for powdered formula in bulk on eBay. (Powder is cheaper than liquid. eBay is cheaper than the store.) Mix it up in Mason jars and leave them in the fridge for when you need them. By the time we hit 4 months, we were washing, mixing, and filling 20 bottles/night. Ideally our night shift begins with 20 filled bottles (fresher ones in back, since the stuff only lasts 48 hours), 3 filled Mason jars, and a newly refilled Brita filter.
Added 7/27/05: I found half-gallon Mason jars on the Internet. They make twice as much formula as the quart bottles and they work fine for me, but if you have small hands, it’ll be hard to pour the first few bottles.
- You can pop the nipple out of an Avent O-ring one-handed, into a bowl of sudsy hot water. It’ll save time when you’re washing.
- Those useless caps that come with the bottles are actually useful. If you lose them, you reduce the number of bottles you can take with you when you go out with the stroller. This is because:
- Avent bottles leak in two ways. First, screwing the nipple on increases the pressure inside the bottle, so when you tip it toward baby, it will sometimes squirt him in the face like a little water gun. This can be funny, but you probably ought to prevent it. The workaround is to depress the nipple and force air out before tipping the bottle.
Second, those damn O-rings either don’t go on straight or aren’t manufactured straight, or something, and formula will gush out when you return the bottle to upright, soaking the baby (and your hand). The workaround: After you’ve depressed the nipple, tip the bottle twice over the sink, in two different orientations. If it leaks when you return it to upright, unscrew it, pull the nipple out and rotate it, tighen it down again, and retest. When nothing squirts and nothing gushes, you’re ready to feed the little vampires.
There is no pattern or predictability to these leaks, as far as I can tell. Sometimes repositioning the nipple stops the leak. Sometimes you can reposition it all day and it still gushes until you use a different nipple. Good luck.
- Airplanes are pressurized. Be careful depressing the nipple on an airplane, as it can pop all the way down into the bottle, which will then throw formula up into the air and down onto your jeans, your seat, the baby, and the in-flight magazine in the pouch on the seat in front of you. Not that this ever happened to me, on a flight from San Francisco to Cleveland.
- Double ziplock bags around bottles during air travel.
- Yes, you really may be able to travel with them. Ours have now been on 10 airplanes between them. At 2 months old, they conked out and slept most of the time. At 5 months, there was still a lot of napping, with one annoying flight during which our little extrovert expressed himself freely. It was mostly whining and discomfort, I think. There has been no endless screaming on any flight.
Added 7/27/05: Two 7-month-olds on a cross-country flight is possibly not the world’s greatest idea.
- Some babies do not suffer during takeoff and landing. Ours couldn’t care less.
- While traveling, the number of women who try to determine whether you’re a kidnapper or ask whether you now respect women will be approximately equal to the number who tell you you’re a good father. Listen to the second group. Ignore or insult the first group.
- We split ours up for a week, at 5 months. (I had to take a trip, and I couldn’t leave my wife alone with two 5-month-olds.) It went fine. I took the one we thought could do without Mommy, as he’s no longer breast-feeding. Here’s my post on the subject. They both did perfectly fine–better than usual, in some ways, because each had a parent’s undivided attention. When my little charge wanted something, I could get it for him! This was kind of amazing.
- Babies are indeed chick magnets, but the chicks are mostly under 16 or over 60.
- Other men will make all kinds of dire predictions about your marriage and your sex life. Judging from the sameness of the comments, these predictions are apparently true for many–but they’re not holy writ. They are not true for us.
- Women will tell your wife she’s on her own. You’re not going to help. You’re going to abandon her. Everything’s going to be “on her.” The sole way to combat this is to prove the idiotic clucking wrong. You’re a man. You take care of yours.
- Mothers of singletons will also give your wife thoughtless advice like “Sleep when the baby sleeps.” Really? Which one?
- The breastfeeding Nazis will target your wife. Women who don’t know anything about twins will give her breastfeeding advice. Here’s my previous rant on the subject.
- Strangers will ask if you “had help.” This means they want to know whether you took fertility drugs. If you mind this, know it’s coming and have a comeback ready.
- People with three children will tell you you’ve got it easy. As far as I’m concerned, this kind of moronic comment deserves any semisharp retort your sleep-deprived mind comes up with. Or, as above, have a comeback ready to go. Get it ready now; you’re not going to become mentally sharper any time soon.
- People with two children of different ages will tell you you’ve got it easy, because you don’t have to keep one from hurting the other. See “moronic comment,” above.
- People without children will say (to other people without children), “See? Two can be as easy as one!” See “moronic comment,” above.
- People who mean well will tell you to enjoy your children and have fun with them. This is not a moronic comment, but it’s useless with twins until they start sleeping regularly–not necessarily through the night, but at least predictably. Until then, it’s an assembly line, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
- There’s nothing wrong with duct tape.
- Get help. Have people visit. One approach is to make it clear to them that they are there to take care of you, not the babies. Another is to give them baby duties. Whichever you do, make it as clear as if you were talking to employees.
- Until Kathleen went back to work (which happened yesterday), we were trading shifts. I watched them 8PM-3AM, then went into the bedroom where she was sleeping and told her to take her earplugs out. I put my earplugs in and went to sleep. At the first yawp, she got up and took care of them. At 10AM, she came in and woke me up. I took care of them from 10AM until noon so she could get to the gym, and when she took over at noon, I went to work. I got home in time to go on shift at 8PM.
You’ll find what works for you. Don’t expect a solution that gets you sufficient sleep.
- Buy earplugs.
- We are now transitioning to a nanny. (It’s cheaper than putting two children into daycare.) During the transition period, Kathleen has gone back to work, but the nanny has not actually started with us yet. For 3 weeks, we are trading nights: One of us takes care of the babies all night until 4 AM, at which time Kathleen gets up and goes to the gym and to work. (Yes, that means every other day, I have baby duty from 8PM until 12:30PM the next day.)
- Yes, you can get other things done with newborns, but it’s going to cost you. I finished CREDO during the first months of our boys’ lives, but I paid with my health. Your choice. In my experience, you can do it–and you’re gonna suffer.
If you can, put off those projects for a few months. I don’t know if we’re typical, but the 5-month mark where they’re sleeping regularly, if not through the night, and Mommy’s going back to work, seems to be a transition into a state of… well, not normality, but at least increased productivity and lack of sleep-deprivation-induced insanity.
- If your job lets you work off-site sometimes, or be flexible with your hours, that’s a big help. When we took our boys to Phoenix for 2 weeks of free baby care from Grandma, I worked at a local Starbucks and kept my paycheck coming.
- If you’re angry with a baby, leave the room. An angry, sleep-deprived man isn’t what little babies need. If the choice is between angry man in the room and screaming baby alone in a room, let the baby scream until you can get yourself together. These little creatures can beam high-frequency irritation waves straight into your cortex. Three hours of that, and anyone can get the slightest bit annoyed. Leave the room.
- Do not, under any circumstances, try to finish up with a baby so you can get back to something else. This causes angry man. See above. The baby is the only project, for as long as necessary. Put everything else out of your mind and take care of your child.
- You can put two babies to sleep by jiggling them in one bassinette, but it takes a while as they keep waking each other up.
- Bouncy chairs. Get two. Rock one with your foot while you hold the other baby. They’re also for feeding two babies at a time. Insert babies into bouncers, insert bottles into babies.
- It’s possible both babies will not take the same formula, and mixing up bottles is easy even if you’re not sleep-deprived. Keep rubber bands near the bottles. Baby X always gets a rubber band around his bottle.
- You’ll bond more with one, then the other. It’s okay. It all evens out. Babies are people, with personalities. (Ours have the same personalities we saw on the ultrasound!) You don’t get along with all grownups equally, all the time; sometimes somebody’s just more attuned to where your head’s at. Same with these little guys. Spend the time with them, figure out what each one likes, and everything evens out.
- Speaking of personalities, twins give you the gift of contrast. If we hadn’t had two at the same time, we’d have just thought Oh, that must be how babies are whenever our singleton did anything. With two, everything one does that the other doesn’t just shows you who they both are. Our twins are like night and day. One’s interested in the world; the other’s interested in his feelings. One laughs when you might be about to do something funny; the other waits for you to finish being funny and says HEHEH! One’s wide; one’s slender. We wouldn’t have this amazing ongoing character illustration with just one baby. (Or with two babies of different ages.)
- A happy baby who laughs because he’s sure you’re about to do some really funny thing is on God’s list of things he made sure we got, to make up for all the crap he makes us deal with. Don’t miss it because you’re looking at your children as a task. They turn human and funny a few months in. Hang in there. The rewards are way better than you think.
- Of all the accomplishments of fatherhood, this may be the one I’m proudest of:
Yes. It is possible to use a public urinal while wearing a Baby Bjorn. Lean way back so Junior can’t play with the shiny flush handle, and keep his feet to the sides along with your shirttails. You’re operating on sonar here–trust those years of well-honed aiming instincts.
Do it right, and you’ll get a grin out of every guy in the joint.
That’s off the top of my head. I just wanted to get it written down before it vanished. I’ll add stuff as I remember it.
Which I may never do. Remember; I’m sleep-deprived.
How could I forget this? Keep a feeding/changing chart! I’ll try to scan and upload a couple of ours soon.
Update: And here they are:
And five years later…
See? Things work out.