Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Having a Singleton After Twins

So far, there have been so many differences between having twins and having a singleton.  Many, many people have asked me if this is easier.  To be honest, I have to say that most of these differences make having a singleton much easier.  Of course, all children are different and all parenting experiences are unique.  Having one baby is challenging and having two babies at the same time (especially when you have never had a child before) is extremely challenging.  I do recognize that some of these differences are also just the contrast between having the first child and "second child." (I often think of Evelyn as a "second baby," even though she is technically a third.)  The purpose of this post is not to minimize the difficulty that some people have with their singletons - all newborns give us a run for our money, but I do want to record the differences that I have observed between my own twin and singleton experiences.

Side note:  I rarely refer to Miles and Vivienne as "the twins," because I recognize them as distinct individuals.  But for the sake of this post, calling them "the twins" will just make it simpler.

Here are just a few of the differences:

  • Much less pregnancy weight and swelling with a singleton and a much easier recovery.  I weighed 209 lbs when I gave birth to the twins.  I weighed 187 when I gave birth to Evelyn.  Both of my births were vaginal, so I was lucky not to have a c-section recovery either time.
  • With the twins, we kept a log of every single pee, poop, feeding and pumping session for about the first 6 months of their lives.  I have a black speckled notebook that has notes cover-to-cover full of every biological function.  With Evie, we kept a record for about 24 hours.  Of course, the twins were only 6 and 6.5 lbs and Evie was over 8 lbs, so that allowed us to relax a little more about her feeding and growth.
  • With the twins, I had to pump after every single feeding (which with twins is about 15 times a day) for 15 minutes for the first 2 weeks.  That means even at night, including all the pump cleaning, etc... and the twins basically never took a single bottle (so this milk was never used to actually nourish them).  The reason for this was to build a mega-supply that could sustain two babies.  It was totally worth it, but I sure could have used that extra hour of sleep at night instead of pumping.
  • With the twins, we had to feed them using a supplemental nursing system (SNS) for the first few weeks.  It had to be washed every time, and we had to feed each baby separately.  It took forever to get to work properly (because it would clog or not fit in their mouths quite correctly).  Jason and I spent so much time staring at the the tubes of the the SNS and asking,"Do you see bubbles?"  "Oh, I think I see bubbles!"  "I think it's working!"  "Oh, wait.  Nope.  Darn it.  Let's reset it."  "Do you see bubbles now?"  (I was seeing bubbles in my nightmares after about a week of this.)
  • Once Jason went back to work, I had two babies crying during the day.  I could only pick up and soothe one baby at a time, and I basically had to just listen to the other baby scream while I tried to calm the first baby.  With Evelyn, I only have to soothe and feed her.  At night, when she was fussy, at least Jason and I could trade off.  With the twins, we were both walking around like zombies, bouncing a baby, singing incoherent lullabies and trying to keep ourselves from passing out.
  • With Evelyn, the breastfeeding has been so easy.  I only had soreness for about a week.  With the twins, I was sore for about 2 months.  I was so sore that I would actually cry when they wanted to eat, because it hurt so bad and I didn't think I could do it again.  My toes would curl up from the pain.  TWO MONTHS.  I'm so glad I pushed past that time, but the pain (on top of the sleep deprivation) was no joke.  I am so thankful that I was able to breastfeed them for 14 months.
  • Now I only have to listen to one baby scream in her car seat.  It is still extremely unpleasant, but at least it's not two babies in surround sound, filling my car with their pitiful cries.  This also applies to taking them for walks.  When I took the twins for walks, I would be over a mile from home and they would both start screaming.  Now, imagine you're by yourself, on foot, a mile from home with two screaming newborns.  It's not pretty, people.  Not pretty.
  • Evelyn is only one baby to wake us up at night.  Oh my gosh, I can't even tell you what an incredible difference this is.  It was months before the twins got down to one feeding.  Evelyn was basically only waking up twice from the second night of her life on, and now she's down to just one feeding (and has been for over a week now).  This is a lifesaver.
  • It is so much easier to tote around a singleton.  I can throw her in the sling and I can shop or do dishes or make the bed.  With the twins, even if I had one in the sling, the other one had to either be happily sitting alone (not likely!) or asleep in order for me to accomplish anything.  It's also so nice to only be toting around one infant carrier.  Though the twins did provide me one heck of an upper arm workout...
  • I love being able to breastfeed Evelyn wherever I go.  With the twins, I had to nurse them at home (because I always nursed them together), and then "the clock" started (the 3-hour-you-have-to-get-home-before-these-babies-implode clock).  Even if I had been willing to nurse them separately, if I nursed them "on the go", it would take me years to do one and then the other.  I quite literally never left the house for much more than 2 hours.  In contrast, I fed Evelyn at Chick-fil-a the day after we brought her home from the hospital.  I have fed her at my parents' house, church, museums, parks, friends' houses, restaurants, on the side of the road... anywhere really.  There is so much freedom in this.  It is an absolutely enormous difference.
  • I must say that having twin toddlers is probably advantageous at this point, because they love to play together (when they're not fighting over something).  I think it was easier for them to make the adjustment of adding Evie to the picture.  
Both of my mothering experiences have been incredible.  Being a twin mom is such a unique experience, and I feel so blessed to have had two babies at once.  For all the challenges they presented, I also got twice the smiles, twice the giggles, twice the hugs, twice the snuggles and twice the pudgy little toes.  But it has also been so wonderful to now focus on my single, beautiful baby girl.


  1. I experienced a lot of these things with two singletons, so some of it must be 'second' child. And my first was under weight while my second is normal weight.

  2. Ok, but my (probably unanswerable) question is this: were the twins harder than the sum total of 2 singletons? I think you could debate this for hours. For example: with the twins, you had ~2x the night wakings of someone with a singleton, which made you even more of a zombie than that other mom...but to get 2 kids, she had to do the zombie thing twice. So...to get two kids (say to age 2? or 5?), would you say that it's easier to do it with twins or singletons?

    1. I think it's impossible (and unimportant) to compare different people's experiences. I'm only comparing my experiences to one another.

      I would consider this analogy. Would you rather run 2 half marathons a year apart or run a full marathon all at once? When I'm training, I'm pretty sure that I could run a half marathon about every other week forever. But I still question whether I would ever really survive a (well run) full marathon.

    2. Haha, engineers always want to optimize the problem even when it's not possible. There are way too many factors to consider, every situation is completely unique. (and like you have a choice of how many kids you have and when, you just get what you get)

      I find that age of the parents plays a huge role in the ease of parenting. Physically the younger you are the better (to a point), but emotionally and financially the older you are the better.

      The question I want answered is should Drew and I have a third? Kids are so wonderful, I wish I could have a dozen. But there is a cost to the rest of the family for each new child you have and at some point it becomes too high.

    3. In my professional, experienced opinion, you should definitely have a third. ;-)

  3. Just started reading your blog! I have a just turned 4 yr old and 9 month old twins. All breastfed, no bottles. I don't care what anyone says, twins are harder--in almost every way. As much as I adore my twins, I definitely feel i was able to enjoy my singleton more! The only thing I've noticed was the pain with breastfeeding wasn't as bad with the twins, and that may be due to my previous experience. But, the lack of freedom cancelled out that benefit :). I am sure looking forward to them having each other to play with someday! That will be a huge benefit!

  4. as I sit here in set #2's nursery, bouncing one with my foot (in a seat) and the other on my lap, I am nodding my head at all of your memories (and my current once-again journey). Esp the 3hr clock...and never being able to nurse effectively in public, given the havoc that nursing two back-to-back rather than simultaneously wreaks on your schedule and clipboard charts and life :) Yeah, there are definitely some limiting factors, but double the snuggles and love! (when I have time to just snuggle this set)

  5. As a mother of 3 year old twins and a newborn; I must say the first few months with twins is WAY harder than with a single baby! The level of sleep deprivation and paralyzing restriction of freedom due to the technical hurdles of 1 mom and 2 babies and the 3 hour breastfeeding clock (though for me it was more like every 2 hours) made the first 6 months after having the twins awful! It was totally the hardest time of my life. Now they play together all the time, so I don't think twin pre-schoolers are necessarily much harder than two singletons a few years apart. But the first 6 months to a year, twins are so, so, so much harder than a singleton. Newborn now feels like a cake walk compared to when the twins were infants! :)

  6. As a Mom of twin boys who are two years old, would you all recommend I go for that third baby (hopefully a girl)? Or is it totally crazy? My boys would be three by then and I'm hoping it would be easier than now, but who knows?

  7. Thanks so much for this post. I have almost 3-year old twin girls and have been up and down about the surprise singleton we're expecting. W're older and still scarred from the infant experience with twins. I am hanging on every word that you and the commenters have on how much easier and nice it is to have that 3rd. Oh please. I can't go through it again.

  8. As a mom of almost 3 year old twins who just found out I'm pregnant with our "second", this is a relief. I was seriously tied to the couch for 4 months with them. I've also thought one would be so much easier, like I could walk around while breastfeeding!

    1. It was so novel to be able to breastfeed my third baby anywhere - in the car, at the playground on a bench... heck, even holding her and nursing her while chasing after my twin 2-year-olds! But it was so hard to get used to the idea of using one breast at a time. Oh, the things we take for granted! :) You're going to do so well. Let me know how it goes!