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The profound loneliness of being a twin mum.

Don’t get me wrong, having twins is amazing, and I love (almost) every minute of it.  However, the one bit that caught me by surprise was the loneliness.  I couldn’t work out how I could feel so lonely when I was outnumbered by two (very much wanted and loved!) little people all day, every day.  Studies have shown that mothers of multiples may be up to twice as likely as mums of single babies to suffer from postnatal depression. And as many as 35% of multiple birth mums state that they have PND or suspect they do.

After a lot of soul searching, I realised that I wasn’t really “lonely”. I was isolated. I had come from an extremely busy management role in a corporate job, with no downtime, thanks to having our twins arriving six weeks early, to being on my own for most of the day with two babies.

I am “only” a twin mum, but I assume that all stay at home parents, particularly those with several children of varying ages, face a certain degree of isolation and loneliness, not just multiple birth families.  However, when trying to juggle several babies of the same age who have the same needs, it certainly brings about some unique challenges.

Watch Bec Judd talk about what it’s like being pregnant with twins. Post continues below. 

For me, the isolation started before the babies were even born, with me being put on bed rest in the hospital for several weeks before their premature arrival.  This time was really isolating, as I was at the hospital all day every day with the babies.  During my lonely 3am pumping sessions I would chat to other multiple birth parents online via Facebook Groups and forums, which was amazing.

Finally, after an additional five week hospital stay, we came home as a family. Due to their premature arrival, and being released from the hospital right in the middle of the winter flu season, we didn’t really venture too far from home.

Fast forward a few months and by necessity, we had the babies on a fairly strict routine.  Each family is different, but a routine is what worked for us as it was what got me through each day.  This then meant that I had to say no to a lot of invitations, as the fear of having two screaming, unsettled babies outweighed the benefits of catching up with friends.  Plus we were too sleep deprived at that stage to be able to hold a coherent conversation with friends! I spoke more to other multiple birth families I had met online in various multiple birth Facebook Groups than I did to my old friends.

I wasn’t sure if I was going to be allocated to a Mothers Group, as they usually get allocated based on birth date, and we were in hospital for so long.  However, thankfully I was.  I was really lucky to have an amazing Mothers Group, in which there was a second set of twins. I felt bad though, as they had to plan their catch-ups around us “twin mums” as we simply couldn’t get two double prams into some cafés (the other mums were all nursing their single baby on their lap).  The swimming pool was out, as were parents and bubs movie sessions as I simply couldn’t hold two squirming babies on my own. I also felt the added guilt that the other mums couldn’t freely ‘complain’ about things, as they felt bad complaining when they only had one baby and we had two.

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Listen to The Baby Bubble. Co-host Sean Szeps is a father to a set of twins. Post continues. 

Once my twins were both mobile, going to an unfenced park on my own was just too hard and dangerous. And honestly, it’s just not enjoyable going out and constantly running after multiple kids as you don’t actually get to have a full conversation with another person.  To counteract this, I found it much easier to invite people to come to my house, which was safe and secure. I refused to let my situation isolate me.

For some families however, the anxiety and pressure are just too much. Keeping multiple active children physically safe when out and always having to remain hyper-vigilant is not relaxing. Constantly trying to keep multiple children entertained at a café is too exhausting.  The hard part is when friends take personal offence to the lack of socialising. It’s not intentional, it’s just that, for some, it’s easier to stay at home than spend the whole time chasing children and struggling to hold a conversation.

Sadly a lot of the organised activities where you can get to meet other parents, like mainstream swimming lessons, baby gym classes, baby massage, music groups etc require one adult per baby.  So these are not an option unless you have someone else you can take with you, and most ‘other’ people are either working or have children of their own so can’t help you. Thus, furthering the isolation.

For me, my saving grace was attending my local multiple birth association playgroup and connecting with other multiple birth parents online.  The families that I met in person and online have become some of my closest friends. As one twin mum said, it’s like co-existing with others but on a parallel universe which you’ll never understand unless you’ve experienced it. I do think that I had a mild case of PND, but this connection with other multiple birth families saved me.

Triplet families tell me it is even more isolating when you have triplets.  Some have told me that when their babies arrived they simply weren’t invited to people’s houses anymore. And when you go out in public you get so many intrusive comments.

Sadly, if you have multiples with disabilities then it’s much, much harder..

In saying all of this, I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

A fellow twin mum once said to me: Without sounding like Pollyanna you can make your life as lonely and isolating as you want it to be. Or you can go with the flow and get out and meet people and expect some days that it will go to plan and other days you need a tall glass of wine when you get home because everything has gone pear-shaped.

Passionate about all things multiple, Naomi is the founder of Twinfo and a twin mum herself. Twinfo is a community for multiple birth parents and has services and products that truly meet the needs of multiple birth families. To find out more about Twinfo, visit us at www.twinfo.com.au and join us on Facebook @TwinfoAustralia  https://www.facebook.com/TwinfoAustralia

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