Since I seem to get a fair amount of traffic from people apparently trying to determine if they are pregnant with twins, I thought I'd let you in on what you should do next. (As for searching for a quiz to determine if you're pregnant with twins, I don't know how useful those things are. The same answers apply if it's only your second pregnancy: gaining weight fast, being hungry all the time and being nauseated - either more or less - are all normal since every pregnancy is different.)
- Panic. No, really. Feel free to completely and utterly panic. Give in to your instinct to freak out over discovering you're about to have twins. You may as well, since everyone else around you will be busy telling you things like "How fabulous!", "You're so blessed!", "Better you than me!", or laughing hysterically at you (I'm looking at you, Mom!). Feel free to set up an appointment with yourself to freak out, possibly on a weekly basis. After you've gotten it out of your system, it's time to get to work.
- Do your research. Get a good book. I highly recommend When You're Expecting Twins, Triplets, or Quads, by Dr. Barbara Luke. There's a boatload of information in there and it's very reassuring to read about the research she has done specifically on women pregnant with multiples and how much better your odds actually are than the "common wisdom" seems to indicate.
- Make a goal. Decide now what is important to you for this pregnancy and then pursue it. What do I mean? I mean that when I was pregnant, my whole goal was that at the end of the pregnancy I would have two healthy, full term babies with no NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) time. That was the mantra that I kept running through my head when I got frustrated by how things were going during the pregnancy. It also meant I had to come to terms with gaining a lot of weight, no longer being able to work at the market and being physically unable to do many things that I would normally do.
- Eat. One of the key things you will need to do to support a double (Or more!) pregnancy is to eat and eat well. Take your prenatal supplements. Eat nutritious food. Lots of it. You may not have all 40 weeks of a regular pregnancy to put on weight, so you have to front load your weight gain. Ignore the information in the What To Expect books that suggest you should only need 600 calories a day extra. You're going to need more than that. See Dr. Luke's book for details. Before I knew it was twins I was continually stunned by just how hungry I was. I would be tooling along, lah-dee-dah and then suddenly: Pow! Starving to death, shaky and somewhat nauseated. So eat! You only have one shot at doing pregnancy right. Weight gain is temporary, especially if you nurse.
- Drink water. Do you think 8 8 ounce glasses of water daily is a lot? Guess how much you have to drink? About twice that. A little more if it's summer time while you're pregnant. You are supporting the life support systems for three people. You need a lot of water to do so. My doctor had me drinking 5 liters a day. Do you know what happened if I didn't? Contractions. Whoops! Not wanting any NICU time, I sat the hell down and drank yet more water.
- Sit down. All of that weight gain means additional stresses on your system and lower back. Your feel will swell up. You'll probably contract a bunch if you're standing too long or working too hard. If you're lucky, you'll feel the contractions and have enough warning about when you're over-doing it so that you can sit down. During my first pregnancy, I never felt the Braxton-Hicks contractions, I'd just occasionally notice that my belly was really tight! During this pregnancy, they were very obvious when they occured. More than 4 contractions in a half-hour period is cause for concern. The solution is to suck down yet another liter of water and lay down, then you track your contractions over the course of an hour. Still more than 4? Call your doctor. Do not mess around when you're body is trying to tell you to Slow Down!
- Slack off. Sitting down all of the time means you won't be able to wash the dishes, do the laundry, go shopping or any one of the hundreds of little things you'd normally do that involve standing and walking. Get used to it! I really resented the enforced idleness. I couldn't even focus enough to read a book after awhile. Now, of course, I really wish I had more time to slack! I don't, however, so learn this from me: enjoy your time off your feet and slack off. There will be plenty of work later. Make a list of all of those books you've been wanting to read and plow through it!
- Plan ahead. Here's where most everyone I know seems to mess up. Eric and I kept talking about how we should make double batches of food and freeze it for when we'd need it after the twins were born. Great idea! Did we? Nooooo! Which was crazy because we really needed easy to prepare food after they were born. Be ye not so stupid! (As Dooce would say.) Plan ahead for mealtimes. You'll be glad you did.
- Get help. You are going to need help. I. Am. Not. Kidding. YOU are going to NEED help. Whether you have Superman/Wonder Woman for your spouse or not, you will need all the help you can get. Ask for it. Accept it if offered. Pin down friends and family members for specific help. Laundry? Shopping? Cooking? Cleaning? Any of it and all of it: accept it. Your life becomes a blender set to Frappe! after your multiple babies arrive and trying to get your act together while immensely sleep deprived is hard enough. Get help. It doesn't mean you're a failure or a bad mother or a horrible housekeeper. It means you are overwhelmed. Trust me: twins are overwhelming!
- Delegate. Are you normally Super Woman? Do you run the family errands, do the cooking, cleaning, maintain everyone's schedules and all that jazz? Guess what? A whole lot of that is about to come to a screeching halt. Your spouse doesn't cook/clean/do laundry? Now, while you're pregnant, is a great time for them to learn! Things are only going to get harder after the babies arrive. Work those issues out early. Especially if you're planning on breastfeeding. If you are going to breastfeed multiples, you will spend the majority of your time doing just that and only that. Newborns are awfully hungry!
- Hire out. When all else fails, pay the money for in-home services. I'm using my Christmas money for a cleaning service. Best Christmas present I've ever received! (Thanks Mom and Dad!) Don't have the money? Barter with friends. Do you have skills you can trade for services? Suggest a swap! Also, be prepared to lower your standards...a lot. Cleaning the house is the lowest of my priorities at the moment. I'd rather be working on the farm, getting dirty, hot and sweaty outside than dusting and mopping inside.
- Hang in there. Pregnacy may "only" be 36 to 40 weeks long, but it will be the longest 8 to 9 months of your life. Pain and exhaustion will become really familiar to you. Just try to keep in mind that it will eventually end. In yet more - but different! - pain and exhaustion. I am fully aware that twin pregnancies can be risky and that I was very lucky with how well mine went. There's never any guarantee that everything will be OK, no matter how good your attitude or how perfectly you follow the doctor's advice. Just do the best you can and remember that it really is "only" 36 or so weeks.
Eat well. Drink a lot. Sit down. Slack off. Take care of yourself and your babies. You're the only one that can do that and they are counting on you.