What the Parenting Books Don’t Tell You

There are some very good books around for parenting multiples, but what about the bits they leave out ? When we ran a writing competition asking you to tell us what you wish you’d known but didn’t, we were inundated with responses. Here are a few of the fantastic entries :



What The Parenting Books Don’t Tell You
by Amarinta Greaves

Once I had got over my conviction that my long-awaited pregnancy would come to nothing (at about 30 weeks!), I began to read in earnest.

I read all sorts of information from a variety of sources including my midwife, Tamba and the local library. Much of what I read was interesting but almost all of the information was terrifying. The books were full of horror stories about how difficult life with two or more tiny babies is and how it gets so much worse when they become mobile. I picked up an array of startling facts and statistics – for instance, did you know that multiples are about 70 million times more likely to visit casualty than singletons (I may have exaggerated slightly there, forgive me) and mothers of multiples have to survive on 30 seconds of sleep per fortnight?

Armed with all this information, I approached my impending motherhood with somewhat mixed emotions. Luckily I had enough dippy pregnancy hormones whizzing around to prevent me from worrying unduly about the delivery of my babies – but I was seriously concerned about what would happen once they arrived.

Having been convinced that they were going to be terribly premature, Freya and Lawrie finally arrived by emergency c-section after 3 days of induction just half an hour short of 39 weeks. To be fair to the authors of the myriad publications I had spent long hours dozing off over, they did get one or two things right – meconium is very sticky and disposable knickers are very useful.

For the first couple of days I was just bumbling around not really sure about which end of the babies was which, relying on the midwives for everything and trying to get to know Freya and Lawrie. Then on the third day we entered territory that had not been fully explored in the books. It was late in the evening, Lawrie was crying and I decided that it was time I tried changing a nappy on my own. Taking the old one off was no problem, cleaning him was tricky but achievable, then disaster struck – you guessed it – he weed all over himself and his clothes. By this time he was hysterical and my stress levels were rising but I felt that I could cope. I began peeling off the soggy layers and that is when it happened. No one had warned me. The books hadn’t mentioned anything about it and I was lost.

The sight of his tiny, downy arms triggered an overwhelming rush of love. I hadn’t seen him naked before and he was so beautiful and fragile that it almost hurt to look at him. As if by magic the shoulder of a wonderful midwife appeared beneath my tear stained face. She had come to see why all three of us were hysterical (by this time Freya had joined in) and all I could say was “But he’s got hairy arms!”

So began the miraculous process of falling in love with my children. Everytime I think that my heart is full and that I couldn’t possibly fit any more love in, Freya will smile and stretch out her arms to me or Lawrie will rest his head on my chest whilst sucking his fingers and look up at me and I find myself falling deeper and deeper under their spell.

So read your parenting books all you like but remember that the real stuff of life isn’t in any of them, it is in your heart and in the hearts of your children.


What The Parenting Books Don’t Tell You..
by Anita Bhurruth

I wanted to write something funny and clever but, unfortunately, my pregnancy and the books I read at that time were anything but amusing. So, this is a bit serious, and is for all the authors of those less-than-positive books about having twins (and for anyone worried about how they’ll cope when their twins arrive)

To be honest, when I found out I was expecting twins I was absolutely devastated. Desperate for some moral support, it wasn’t long before I turned to books for a source of information and reassurance that things really wouldn’t be as bad as I feared.

I ordered two ‘twins’ books from an on-line book site and eagerly awaited their arrival. When they turned up a few days later, I settled down excitedly to start reading what I hoped would give me the news I so desperately needed to hear that life with twins really would be alright.

But how wrong I was…

The books said just about everything possible to warn me that my pregnancy, their birth, and life with the twins was going to be the most dreadful thing ever. My babies would possibly be premature and end up in special care; the possibilities about what might happen during the birth were horrific (especially for someone as squeamish as me); there was no way I’d cope without a very large army of helpers; I wouldn’t get more than a few hour’s sleep a night during their first year; and I’d better buy some straight jackets for when they got older.

The list of miserable predictions went on and on until I was left feeling even more desperate and depressed than before.

I had three children already and had split up from my partner so was facing this terrible ‘ordeal’ alone. Not surprisingly, huge worries about my situation plus the books’ dire predictions ensured that I didn’t get one moments’ happiness during my whole pregnancy. Instead, I was filled with worry and desperation about the terrible future we were all facing. And I was dreading the day that I went into labour because once the ‘terrible twins’ arrived our lives would finally be plunged into the nightmare that I’d been reading about for the last five months.

On January 22nd 2002 ‘the big day’ finally arrived and I went into labour at 35 weeks pregnant. Fortunately, the labour (another thing I was dreading) went fairly quickly and smoothly, and my twin girls, Sophie and Jade, were born eleven minutes apart weighing 4lb 14oz and 3lb 15½oz. Although they were small, they didn’t need to go into special care, so we were admitted to the post-natal ward.

As with the birth of most babies, the next few days passed in a haze of tiredness, recovery and feeding. But on the fifth day in hospital I suddenly realised, According to the books, this is supposed to be absolutely awful by now.

But it wasn’t!

I had two little girls I loved. I was tired, but I wasn’t feeling too bad physically. I was having some problems breastfeeding them but was managing.

In fact, I felt HAPPY and was coping quite well.

We left the hospital after a week (always a daunting prospect), and started to settle in at home. Everything continued to go well until a week later when Jade, the little twin, caught a cold from my son. She didn’t seem particularly ill with it, just sleepy. After a few days she was admitted to hospital for observation. Later that night, her health deteriorated very suddenly and rapidly, and she nearly died. Thank God she survived and we spent 11 days in hospital while she recovered. Obviously, this unexpected event that seemed to come out of nowhere was devastating, but back home things continued to go well, once again.

The first six months were hard, but in a way also seemed perfect. Perhaps I was just lucky, or perhaps it was because I already had three children so was fairly experienced with babies, but I honestly didn’t find looking after two babies much harder than looking after one. The feeding took longer because I couldn’t breastfeed them together, but I knew it wouldn’t last forever. And I was also really lucky that the lack of sleep didn’t bother me too much either again I’d had sleepless nights with three babies before the twins so perhaps my body was able to adapt to it more easily (plus I’d had a pregnancy full of worry and sleepless nights). I did eventually get fed up with getting up between 2 and 6 nights to the babies, but that all stopped at 10 months.

As to needing a huge army of helpers: well, I knew beforehand that I wouldn’t get much help. But the small bits of help I did get were enough to make a big difference, and despite the books’ and everyone else’s questions and predictions about how I’d manage well, surprisingly, I have managed fine.

I enjoyed the first year with Sophie and Jade immensely. When I was pregnant with them, I was so depressed and worried about everything that it didn’t even occur to me that I would love them at all. They are now 14 months old and I love them so very much, and have from the very first day after their birth. They are wonderful!

So, to all those depressing, negative books, you never told me that my immense love for my babies would get me through all the hard times, and that I would actually love having twins.

Life with twins isn’t just about the practicalities of feeding and changing them, pushchairs, clothes, cots and car seats there’s just as much love, fun, fascination and learning involved.

It’s not possible to predict how well anyone will cope even people in less than favourable circumstances can cope really well.

Having twins isn’t just one long series of problems if you are positive then all will turn out well.

Babies are wonderful, and two babies are twice as wonderful as one.


What The Parenting Books Don’t Tell You..
by Mila Coombs

The main thing that the parenting books don’t tell you about twins is that there are two of them ! I mean I knew in my head that there were two babies from the moment of sheer shock at the first scan, (when the nice lady induced even more panic by announcing “I’ll just look and see if there’s a third” !) ; but I hadn’t truly realised that once they were born there were, quite literally, two babies. One baby for each arm, so no free arms to do anything else !

Initially simple things like how to switch on Corrie whilst breastfeeding, but later much more complicated things like how to simultaneously cuddle two babies and answer the telephone and take the toddler for a wee. Now they’re bigger its harder choices because they’re too big to carry two at once, so when they’re both whingeing which one do you pick up? Especially with two sets of pleading eyes that say “Pick me. Please”. Will it scar the other for life as they are left to cry whilst smug sibling gets a cuddle ?

The second thing the books don’t tell you is that twins don’t follow the rules in the books ! Or if they do they certainly don’t at the same time. One baby happily coos, feeds, poos and sleeps at the correct times whilst the second flatly refuses to cooperate. Then just as you are congratulating yourself that the second baby appears to be settling down, the first discovers his own monster tendencies and you are back to square one. And, yes Gina Ford, we know all babies have growth spurts, but you fail to mention that twin babies never seem to have them at the same time !

Another thing the books don’ t tell you is how much you will be forced to discuss your most intimate conception and birth tales to total strangers in Waitrose. Just because you have more than one baby makes you privvy to all sorts of enquiries “You must be very grateful for IVF” is a common one – “no, my husband and I conceived naturally thank you” – “oh how can they be twins if they’re not identical ??” – “well you see, its about two eggs….” Too much information !

I mean, you’d be cagey about telling your closest friends. Plus of course the more banal “are they twins?” – “no, I’ve just borrowed a baby for the day !” – “they must be hard work” – “no, no, piece of cake !”. And that’s another thing – you need a degree in muscle building plus strategic manoeuvering to get the double trolley plus two babies and a toddler around the supermarket in the first place.

In fact, the list of things the books don’t tell you is endless. How you’re forced to rearrange your house entirely to make room for two cots plus all the other paraphernalia; how you’re forced to beg, steal or borrow from friends because you now need a second of everything you had saved so nicely from toddler’ s baby days thinking it would save you money; how 2 baby seats plus a toddler seat don’t fit into the back of an average family car so you’re forced to buy something bigger (mind you, the Scenic is wonderful…..)

But at the end of the day, what the parenting books don’t tell you is that you’ve got two perfect little people for the price of one. Twice as much trouble, maybe, but twice as much joy too. Two sets of arms held out for a cuddle, two sets of beaming smiles that greet you as you walk in the room. And you couldn’t imagine life without either of them.

Mum to Samantha, 3, and Ben and Miranda, 5.5 months


What The Parenting Books Don’t Tell You..
by Nikki Robinson

What Parenting books don’t tell you. Well they don’t tell you that you should have a degree in psychology before you even think about bringing up twins. Unfortunately, by the time you discover that they are on the way you don’t get a chance to read the university prospectus, let alone finish the degree. So let me guide you through a course in the ‘Science of Parenting Twins’

You should have completed the access courses in ‘Mind-reading’ and ‘Seeing into the Future’ before embarking on this programme of study. These skills will be invaluable from the moment of conception, helping you to plan financially and to tie up any loose ends at work before you have your emergency caesarean. However, please note that once the babies are born, you may find that sleep deprivation affects your ability in both these areas

The rest of this study programme is made up of modules, of which you must choose four. To help you make the right decision I have written a brief summary of each one. These modules should ideally be completed before your children’s second birthday. There are further courses available for those of you with older twins – please contact the admin. office for details.

Module 1: How to respond to inane comments

By the end of this module, you should be fully qualified to smile sweetly at even the most annoying of strangers who persist in standing in front of the buggy, poking your babies, and ignoring you. You will also be competent in replying politely to the following comments:

1. They’re like two peas in a pod

2. Ooooh, double trouble

3. You’ve got a ready made family

4. You’ve got your hands full

Module 2: Developing your sixth sense

As indicated by the title, this module is designed to help you develop those parts of your brain that are not already being used to keep you awake. You will find this extra perception invaluable when your twins become mobile. Imagine how useful it would be to know that one of them is about to climb out of the window, while you are changing the other one’s nappy. (For courses on growing extra arms and legs, please see our current prospectus).

Module 3: Negotiating skills

At around the time your twins become mobile, they discover the fine art of fighting. This may be verbal or physical (or both), and is usually exacerbated by the presence of a parent. The skills you learn in this module will enable you to take a job with the Metropolitan Police as their chief hostage negotiator. They will also help you to cope with important issues such as; who should have which colour of plate, which of the identical vacuum cleaners is whose, and who sits on Mummy’s right knee.

Module 4: The art of following three conversations simultaneously

This is a practical module, and you should be prepared to join in with some role play scenarios. Whilst every care will be taken to maintain safety, please ensure that you bring a change of clothes in case of accidents. Once you have mastered the art of following your twins’ speech and one other person, you may feel able to add two or more additional speakers to your conversations. Caution! You should speak with your tutor before attempting this.

Module 5: Subtle manipulation through play

This module is aimed at those of you that do not enjoy screaming at your toddlers for 80% of the day. You will find that your mind-reading skills from the access course will be very useful. Participants will learn how to avoid confrontation by gently guiding their twins through the emotional minefield that is toddler hood. You should be aware that the serene smiles on your faces might be intensely annoying to other parents who have not attended this course.

Module 6: How to read two books at the same time

We recommend that Module 4 be completed before beginning this module. You will find that the information given is also applicable to doing puzzles, building towers, supervising on a climbing frame and tucking into bed. Singing two different songs at the same time is covered in our advanced programme.

I hope that this guide will be of use to you as you embark on the wonderful journey that is parenting twins. Once you have mastered the above skills, it will be a blissfully fulfilling and pleasurable experience.

However, please do not despair if you cannot spare the time to complete the programme. You will probably find that you have more of these abilities than you ever realised, and have been using them every day since your twins were born.


What The Parenting Books Don’t Tell You..
by Sam Jessop

It is very unfortunate, but a multiple pregnancy seems to give off hormones that attract thoughtless comment. I am sure that people mean well and want to share in your excitement, but in their rush to dispense essential advice they blurt out things without thinking. How do you cope with other people?

Reactions from strangers started at about 16 weeks with the “I hope you’re not going to have that in here- chortle chortle” by shopkeepers, to “when are you due” and people touching me. Before I was pregnant I had no problem talking to anyone, or with people entering my personal space, but found I had to walked looking down and avoid eye contact to evade the guaranteed attention! At first I didn’t mind too much, but it got worse as I heard more stupid comments regarding Twins Double Trouble, Special Needs, Premature babies, and how they had had two close together so knew what it would be like aaggghhhhhhhh!

We had to tell my Mother a white lie -“she was not allowed at the birth as only one birth partner was allowed as there would not be enough space”. After overcoming her disappointment she started to dispense unnecessary information. For example, the account of her Post Natal Depression after having me because I was supposed to be a twin and wasn’t”, a story told so often I knew it of by heart anyway, her twin miscarriage, and the obligatory “I had two very close together, so I know what it is like”

Mothers mean well, and in hindsight mine was just trying to get involved, share her experiences, and let me know that it is not all sweetness and roses. I have also learnt that her experiences have been added to for effect and therefore, although I love her dearly, if she changes her tone of voice and starts talking clearly and slowly, I know a frequently told, well rehearsed anecdote is on the way.

My mother has now moved to live near us. However, she still doesn’t appreciate that I might know best. This weekend we visited her house after she insisted that we didn’t need to meet in the park or our home, as her house was perfectly safe. Famous last words. To be fair, the children didn’t break anything, but mum’s partner, in his haste to move his glass chess set from the living room, tripped on a megablok and smashed almost every single piece on the tiled kitchen floor.

My Mother in Law wanted to buy us things, and had to be very gently led into buying “useful” things, so we shopped together. We showed her a second hand pram/tandem pushchair we wanted, and she bought it for us. I was annoyed however, when we were given the same budget for two, as my brother in law had been given for one and his income is twice ours. Other relatives have done the same thing, and I am still annoyed that if I’d had two children separately, our families would have been twice as generous, and probably offered to babysit, take them out for the day etc. I just have to appreciate that they perhaps cannot afford, or are not capable of treating twins as individuals.

Now that I have Pippa and Ben other twin mums are great, but my first visit to our local twinsclub whilst pregnant was filled with birth horror stories and a frightening video recording of one of the Mum’s Triplet Birth which scared the hell out of me. They also either had Nanny’s or were full time Mothers. Because I did not fully appreciate the cost of childcare, I thought they were all well off and “posh”, which is not the case. It was only when I found this website that I realised that Twin/Triplet parents were normal people, and that normal births are not that uncommon. Having Twins would not be the catastrophe that everyone told me it would be – Hurrah

Another infuriation was Doctors/Obsts changing the ETA of the babies so often? My dates changed by six weeks from my first visit to my last and although I had been trying to conceive, thermometers and all that, and knew exactly when I fell pregnant, they ignored my dates. It was only when they were finally born, at what the Doctors said was 34 ½ week, which I knew was 37 weeks, at 6lb and 6lb 6oz that the Doctors finally agreed that perhaps I was right! And why do Midwife and Health Visitors tell you to “Sleep when they do” Can they me a Sedative to give them so they will sleep at the same time?”

Then, when the pregnancy is over and you go out with your babes in their pram,  you get the following comments 1000 fold

“Double the Trouble”,

“Are they Identical” and the indispensable

“I had two together so I know what it is like”

Here are my typical replies

“Twice as Nice”

“No one’s a Girl and the other’s a Boy”

“Ah but did you have to breast feed both every hour, or have both screaming with colic at the same time?”

In conclusion the irritation does not last too long. You just have to remember that hormones are playing with your emotions, then you tolerate those you love and ignore the others. Pippa and Ben are now 18 months old, and I do not have time to worry about other people since most of my day is filled with the normal day to day traumas of working, trying to find a twin trolley, or rescuing teddy from the fish tank etc.

Whatever the stress, Pippa and Ben are worth it. When they beam “that” smile at me, as I run towards them screaming “Nooooo”, or they are fast asleep I can’t help thinking, bring on the next set of twins I am ready.

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