Birth and Beyond

Lesson 6 of 8: “Helpful Help”

Ring of many hands teamOnce you get your newborns home from the hospital, the chaos really begins!  Let me say this now (in case no one else has been honest with you, or in case you have not come to the realization on your own yet), not to scare you or to be negative, but to give you a realistic picture of life with newborn multiples:  IT IS HARD!!!!  You WILL need help, you will NOT be able to manage effectively on your own!  Take it from me, a competent, self sufficient person who thought, “oh hey, we can handle this” and half-halfheartedly signed up for a volunteer from my local twins club because we were told we’d need help.  THE FIRST SIX WEEKS ALMOST KILLED US!!!

Again, I am saying this not to frighten you, but to encourage you to set up a strong support network as soon as possible.  A recent Multiple Births Canada survey found that marriages where the parents had adequate support tended to thrive after the first year with twins, whereas relationships where parents were on their own with their multiples were at greater risk for serious marital problems, including divorce.  PLEASE GET HELP!

Gov’t Support

Depending on where you live, you may be surprised to discover that there is not automatic post-partum support for families with multiples.  And although in Canada this is currently being challenged, even the parental leave provided by the gov’t does not double or triple once you have twins or triplets.  In some cases, especially if you are considered “high risk” (i.e. special needs babies, preemies, or single parent), you may be eligible for some support once the babies come home — check with your HCP as soon as possible, in case paperwork and applications need to be filled out.  You can also request a visit from your community’s public health nurse (PHN).  In some areas, a post-partem visit is automatic, in other parts of the world, you need to specifically ask for this.  Your PHN can be a valuable source of information and resources, and may be able to connect you to other forms of support in your area.

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Friends and Family

Schedule - Twins HelpMany people offer to “help” when they find out you are having twins, triplets or more.  Let me translate this for you:  “We want to come and cuddle your babies.  If you can make us a cup of tea while we’re there, great”.  🙂 

Of course, they don’t mean to do this, but unless they have had multiples themselves, most people really don’t “get” the extreme need of those early months.  I do think that people genuinely want to help, though, and in my experience, friends, family and neighbours serve best when they are given a specific date and time to come, and a specific job to do when they arrive.  Consider using a schedule like the one here to organize your help when the offers come in.



For example, “Great Susie, you want help?  Wonderful, YES, we can use you!  Thank you for offering.  Please come on Wed morning, and when you are here, I need you to help with a feeding.”, or, “Super, Dad, thanks for offering to help.  Saturday afternoon would be great, and when you are here, it would be very helpful if you could do a load of laundry.”  This way, people come knowing where their help is needed most.  And when they experience authentic help and see how much you need and appreciate their support, they are more likely to come back.

Another important aspect of folks coming to visit in those early weeks is that they understand your physical needs.  While the stuffed animals and cutesy toys are not needed, a bag of diapers or home-cooked meal is always welcome.  I suggest making it clear that there is an “admission charge to see the circus”, so to speak, so people are not just dropping by unannounced and waiting to be served, while you are hectically juggling babies!!!  The first few folks may be offended that no one gets through the door without a casserole or a case of formula, but once they see your cute little angels, all will be forgiven (and then they can play with the babies while you devour the casserole!)

At the end of the first year, we held a one-year-birthday party in appreciation of all the people who had helped us survive the first year.  No presents, just good food and company, and a special toast to all our twins’ surrogate “moms and dads”.

Hired Help

If you are lucky enough to be able to afford it, I strongly recommend that you hire some help.  For example, even though you’ll both be home for the first several weeks, it may be helpful to hire a night nanny or doula one night a week for the first few months.  This way, no matter how rough things are, you know that Thursdays (or whatever day you choose) you will get a break and sleep!  If friends and family are few and far between, you can also hire a doula to help you through the first several weeks or months.  These women can help to set you on the right track with the babies, and many will also assist with light housecleaning and/or some cooking.  This allows you to get back on your feet after birth. (NB, if you live in the GTA, click here for some names and contacts of local, twins-experienced help available for hire.)

Why You Should Start Looking For an 11-Year-Old in Your Neighbourhood:

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Whichever type (or combination of types) of support you use, know this: The more support you put in place up front, the less likely you both are to burn out.  You CAN do this, but you need help.  The saying, “It takes a village to raise a child” definitely applies to multiple birth situations! 🙂

It may be helpful to post a schedule and phone numbers to keep track of important dates and other information.  If this is all in one place, then you and your help will be easily able to “help themselves” and you can keep track of what you need to.



Once you’ve gotten yourselves organized,
click on Lesson 7 below to learn how to “Take Care of Yourself”!