Christmas is almost upon us and, whilst most people are preoccupied with buying the perfect gift and finding the right party dress, you might be about to welcome two or more additions to your family. So, what should you consider if you’re expecting at this time of the year?
Here are ten things you need to know about having twins, triplets or more over the festive season:
You might deliver early
Are you due to deliver your bundles of joy in January? Yeah, so was I, but there I was 23 December with two beautiful boys in my arms! Multiples are more likely to be born early, so if you’re due in January, I’d encourage you at least prepare for them to come over Christmas or New Year. Plan ahead: pack your hospital bag, consider bad weather and alternative routes to the hospital, and whether your support system – be it your partner, mum or best friend - is around over the holiday season and make alternative arrangements if necessary.
Make plans for your other children
When I was admitted to hospital five days before Christmas, it threw our festive plans into chaos. So instead of leisurely wrapping presents and building toys in the lead up to Christmas, I was in hospital, strapped up to a baby heart monitor. If you already have children at home, it’ll no doubt be important to you that they still get to experience Christmas, even if you are in an operating theatre or puffing on gas and air elsewhere.
I made the decision to send my husband home from hospital on Christmas Eve to spend it with our little girl, and her grandparents kindly provided Christmas dinner for her the next day to allow my husband to come back and help me with the boys which, in hindsight, was something we should have discussed and prepared for in advance.
Also, consider building any Christmas presents you’ve bought your existing children early, to avoid the situation my husband found himself in on Christmas Eve trying to build an intricate doll’s house for my daughter and wrap all her presents. Think ahead – can you build and wrap those toys early and store them somewhere – perhaps in the garage or the attic? It’ll be one less thing to worry about should you deliver earlier than expected.
The ward may be busy and you’ll need a helping hand
The ward over Christmas, particularly the early hours of Christmas Day, was incredibly busy. The maternity ward was full and the midwives were frantically rushing from one new mum to the next. This went on all day and all night, with crying babies (in my case two) next to each bed, meaning no one got any sleep. When my husband left to be with my daughter on Christmas Eve, the midwives assured me they’d help me care for the boys, since I’d just had a caesarean and was struggling to move and pick them up by myself. But in reality, they were simply too busy to give me the help I needed.
Instead, I’d have to struggle to pick them up and, after round-the-clock breastfeeds, I was incredibly sore and would have welcomed some respite, even if that was someone giving the boys a little milk to allow me to rest and recover for a moment. That night was incredibly long and hard by myself and in hindsight, I should have had someone at hospital with me. Caring for two new-borns alone is a big task for an able-bodied mum, let alone an exhausted mum who’s just had major surgery. If you have the option of having someone by your side during those first few days, take it.
A hospital Christmas dinner is actually pretty yummy
I was pretty devastated at the prospect of missing out on a turkey dinner with all the trimmings on Christmas Day due to being in hospital. Though it is true that, when the time comes, your mind is on your babies and not on your belly, it was still a lovely surprise to receive a piping-hot Christmas dinner on the ward on Christmas Day. And if the staff at your hospital are as generous as ours were, your partner might be offered a plate too. It’s not easy eating a plate of food when you’re pregnant with twins or more as there isn’t really much space left inside your body for your food! So this was probably the first full meal I’d managed to eat in a very long time, and I devoured every glorious mouthful.
You won’t be bothered about a drink (honestly!)
If you’re anything like me, you’ll be sulking right now that it’s incredibly unfair that you don’t get to enjoy a tipple over the Christmas period, a time when your family and friends are enjoying raucous nights out drinking prosecco and cosy evenings by the fire sipping Baileys. Yes, it felt like a huge injustice at the time and I was counting down the minutes to tasting those sweet bubbles. But, when the time came and I was able to have a drink, I managed a small glass and no more. I was simply exhausted and a lie down in a dark room was much more appealing to me than any festive beverage. Ultimately, being at home, safe with your beautiful babies is more satisfying than any glass of wine.
The shops will be shut, so stock up on supplies
Shops around the country will be operating reduced opening hours over the festive period, with many shops closed completely on Boxing Day and New Year’s Day. You’re thinking: two days without access to a shop is nothing, right? Not with two new-born babies who burn through supplies like wildfire! You can guarantee the moment you run out of nappies, wipes or formula will be the same time they shut up shop at your local supermarket. Or you use the last of your breastfeeding barrier cream and there’s no chemist open for miles. Or maybe you run out of the custard-filled doughnuts that get you through the night feeds (…just me?).
Whatever your necessities are, make sure you’ve got a good supply to get you through Christmas and New Year. It’s also freezing outside this time of year, so allow yourself to remain in your warm little bubble at home with your babies by ensuring your cupboards runneth over.
Resist splashing on Xmas presents
You might feel pressure to buy a mountain of gifts for your babies’ first Christmas, but I’d encourage you to resist. Your babies will spend most of their first Christmas in a new-born slumber (enjoy it while it lasts because they WILL wake up soon!) The only time they’ll open their eyes is to tell you they’re hungry or need a clean nappy. They won’t care about the latest gadgets and gizmos. They won’t be able to hold toys and can barely see anything, so splashing your cash at this point is a waste of money. And there’ll no doubt be a queue of family and friends who’ll want to shower your babies with cute outfits and presents, so let them. Save your money until they’re really aware of the world around them because, trust me, your little ones will be draining your bank account soon enough!
The babies will be happiest together
OK, so this one isn’t really Christmas-specific, but is a simple truth that I wish I’d known sooner. Every time I tried to lay the boys down for a nap in individual Moses baskets, they simply wouldn’t settle and would scream uncontrollably. Then one day we tried putting the boys together, in a single cot, and all was calm again. The boys cuddled up and settled, finally bringing a period of rest for them (and us!). When you think about it, it makes complete sense; they’ve spent the best part of a year side by side in your womb, then they’re pulled out into the world and their little companion has gone, along with their reassuring cuddles. Placing them together to sleep was a game-changer for us during the first few weeks and they seemed to take comfort in having each other while they dozed. So, if your little ones won’t settle and you’re not sure why, consider laying them together as they might simply be missing their sibling. Twins Trust have information on safe sleeping your twins, triplets or more here.
Social media is your friend
After giving birth, you’ll probably rely on your local NHS workers for support and advice, whether that’s your health visitor or breastfeeding support worker. But, with NHS teams being under more pressure than ever before, what happens if you can’t access support right away? This might particularly be an issue over Christmas where staffing levels may be reduced. I found social media groups to be an invaluable lifeline during those early weeks and months. There are groups for everything on Facebook – for breastfeeding multiples, for parenting multiples, and they are full of mums and dads who have encountered and tackled every issue and problem imaginable.
More times than I care to remember, other multiples parents have responded to a desperate SOS, whether that’s related to breastfeeding, sleeping or colic, at any time night or day These are people who have lived it, made mistakes and can offer sound advice and strategies about how to overcome any obstacles you’ll face. The Breastfeeding Twins and Triplets Facebook group is fantastic and is private, so you can ask any question without feeling embarrassed. Britain’s Parents of Twins Facebook Group is also worth joining, and remember, there will probably be local or regional twin and multiples groups on social media too, so search for your area to connect with people nearby who are going through exactly the same thing.
It’ll be a blur – accept help and enjoy those moments of calm
When I found out I would give birth via caesarean section on 23 December, part of me was pleased because, I thought at least now we’d be able to enjoy Christmas as a family. But, as anyone who has had a baby before knows, those early days with one new born – let alone two – are a complete blur. You live minute by minute, feed by feed, nappy by nappy. Your usual Christmas pastime sipping a Baileys in front of the tele is replaced with simply trying to get your head down if you’re lucky enough to get both babies to sleep at the same time.
My advice? Put your plans for a ‘perfect’ Christmas to one side. This one will be amazing, but perhaps not in the way you might be expecting. There’ll be hard times; you’ll be sleep-deprived, recovering from the birth, and trying to meet the needs to two (or more) tiny babies who will often need you at exactly the same time. Take each day as it comes and enjoy those moments of calm and rest when you can. Accept all the support and help that’s offered – whether that’s visiting relatives who can hold the babies while you shower, or friends who offer to make the coffee.
Christmas will never be the same in your household again, and year after year it will continue to become even more magical; like in years to come when your little ones excitedly help you decorate the tree or when you see them searching the Christmas Eve night sky for Santa. This year though, simply enjoy getting to know your babies and adjusting to life as a parent of multiples. And remember - you’ve got this.
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