Andy, married to Twin Mom Carrie, became a father to boy/girl twins in October 2009.
Describe the first moments when you found out you were going to be a father of twins.
I was still in a daze from finding out I’d be a dad, but I can still remember it like it was yesterday. As my wife, Carrie, and I watched the ultrasound and marveled at the single little “bean” on the monitor, we observed something interesting, something that didn’t require an M.D. to interpret: A second bean rotated into view.
The doctor’s words confirmed what we both were already starting to realize. “Hmmm. Are you doing fertility treatments? No? Well, I have a surprise for you. You’re having twins.”
Carrie and I began laughing instantly. Just unfiltered, semi-crazy, wide-eyed giggling. I think we were each feeding off the other, trying to read whether we should laugh or cry. I remember the doctor saying that a lot of twin parents have a similar reaction.
After that, it was just pure elation. Sure, I was a little unsure of what the news really meant, but I knew it would be a uniquely rewarding experience.
What are the best pieces of advice you received as a twin dad?
A good friend and fellow twin dad made it very clear for me: “You just have to roll up your sleeves and get in there.” From being around friends with kids, I’ve noticed that a lot of dads defer to the moms in some situations, particularly when the kids are upset or need a diaper change. When you are a parent of twins, however, you and your partner have to play man-to-man defense, which means you need to be hands-on at all times.
What do you like most about being a father of twins?
Having twins is such a unique experience. Without having a child prior to our twins, it’s hard to compare it to anything. I can’t imagine our life being any different, or what it would be like if we had only our son or only our daughter.
As individual and different as they are, it’s impossible to picture one without the other. There’s nothing more rewarding than seeing the two of them laughing and playing together, or carrying on their sweet little 2-year-old “conversations” when they think we can’t hear them.
And when you see a buddy struggling through the early days with a single child, you get to say things like “Oh, you’re having trouble with such-and-such? You just have one, right?” Okay, maybe you don’t really say that out loud, but I think raising twins does give you a little daddy “street cred.”
What did you find the most difficult during the pregnancy and after the birth of the twins?
A twin pregnancy is not for the faint of heart. There are often complications—many of which are manageable but nonetheless scary. There were times when I was absolutely convinced that one of our twins was going to suffer a serious complication, but we just had to take things as they came and rely on the doctors and staff to help us navigate the pregnancy.
Bed rest for the mom-to-be is common with twin pregnancies. While we mentally prepared for how difficult it would be on Carrie, I don’t think we appreciated the total effect it can have on the rest of the family (and by “rest of the family,” I mean you—the dad). Not only will you be tending to your uncomfortable wife and continuing to go to work, but you’ll also be doing the grocery shopping, the cooking, the cleaning. Walking the dog. Running the errands. All on top of trying to wrap up any house projects to prepare for the baby invasion. In some ways, I guess a twin pregnancy is good conditioning for being a twin dad, as you ultimately have to check your free time at the door and learn to live life driven by responsibility to others.
Once the twins are born, all the obvious things you can imagine come into play—and all the challenges are multiplied. Simply because there are two of them, there’s a greater chance you will experience a baby who is colicky or generally fussy, has a cold or other bug, needs a diaper change, gets hungry in the middle of the night, or is simply up to no good (more applicable with toddlers, of course).
What products or resources would you recommend for twin dads?
I am a big proponent of having a guy’s diaper bag. I know, it seems kind of like giving up on being cool, but there’s only so much cool you can exude when you’re stumbling along behind a dual stroller, pulling everything from pacifiers to snacks to sunscreen out of your pocket. You might as well just embrace the role of engaged and adventurous dad and get organized.
I am also a big fan of having a jogging stroller, since this enables you (once your twins are old enough) to fight the pounds that every new dad puts on. And believe me, jogging with a fully loaded twin stroller, particularly if you live in a hilly area, will burn some calories! For a more leisurely pace, one of our favorite gifts was a good old-fashioned red wagon. We’ve shared countless walks around the neighborhood with our twins ever since the time they could sit up on their own. It’s a great way to let them observe and teach them about the little, everyday things in life.
Lastly, one of my big regrets is not getting an HD video camera for capturing all the little things twins do as they grow and learn. In fact, if I had to do it all over again, I might be tempted to wear one of those weird little wearable cameras. I feel like there are a thousand little moments with my twins that I wish I could go back and relive.
Does life ever get back to “normal”?
After a few months (or was it a year?), I felt like things calmed down and we got into a pretty comfortable routine. But make no mistake: Even with this new routine, our new “normal” would’ve scared the old me silly. There are times when you consider a trip to the kitchen to get the milk a welcome break from the chaos, a 45-second moment of peace. And because your twins grow and their needs change so quickly, new routines are constantly being established. Long story short: At 2 1/2 years and running, things don’t appear to be heading toward any kind of “normal.”
What advice do you have for twin dads?
Where to begin? I don’t claim to be an expert, but this is a roundup of some things I’ve learned in my first few years as a twin dad:
- You and the twins’ mother need to be a team. Things will inevitably get tough, maybe even really tough, but you need to try to be strong, steady, and reliable. There will be lots of emotions from everyone involved, particularly in the early days, so you need to try to be someone your family can count on to work through the exhaustion and pull your weight. When things get tough, you have to trust that things are going to turn out the way they are meant to turn out.
- A sense of humor can go a long way. Even in the early days, before your twins can appreciate your razor-sharp wit, you and your wife will benefit from some good old-fashioned silliness. You will probably find yourself in situations so ridiculous that you’ll have to try to lighten things up to avoid a trip to the loony bin. And chances are, as your twins grow and learn, they will laugh at your jokes and stunts when no one else will—at least until they’re old enough to know better!
- If you’re on daddy duty, don’t be afraid to get out of the house to “see the world.” If you think things through (e.g., can the groceries fit in the little cargo basket underneath the double stroller?) and prepare, you can do more than you think. I think some of my best daddy-twin bonding came when I had the kids solo for an afternoon or a weekend. I think it was fun for all three of us to get out of the house and “live a little,” even if that consisted of otherwise routine activities like running to the grocery store or taking the dog for a walk. It also gave me the confidence that I, and more importantly my twins, could not only survive daddy duty but also have a little fun and even get things done. I also think when people see a parent with twins, they’re more willing to go out of their way to help out. Keep in mind, though, that it’s not worth putting yourself or your twins in a precarious situation and that you can always abort your mission if you don’t feel comfortable. Obviously, your twins’ safety and well-being are the top priorities.
- Get some one-on-one time with each of your twins individually from time to time. It surprised me how different the dynamic felt when I first took only my daughter to the grocery store or only my son to walk the dog, leaving the other at home with Carrie. It gives you a good opportunity to solidify that direct daddy-child bond that sometimes gets watered down when there’s another little person in the mix.
- Above all, though, spend as much time with your twins (and your partner!) as you can. Raising twins can be exhausting even in the best of times, but you really can’t get that time back. Your twins will only grow up once, and you only get one shot at being the best dad you can be for them. I remember my mom sharing this age-old parenting wisdom with me around the time my twins reached 6 months: “When you have kids, the days drag on and the years fly by.” I think that is the simplest and truest explanation for the time-warp phenomenon you experience as your twins grow up. Just try to keep the big picture in mind and appreciate how special it is to be a twin dad, and everything will come naturally!