From the moment she finds out that she’s expecting more than one, a mom of twins is bombarded with a long list of what to do and what not to do during her pregnancy. And with good reason since women expecting twins experience more complications than women giving birth to singletons. But when women carrying twins can’t meet these demanding guidelines or come up short through no fault of their own, many feel an enormous sense of guilt. They feel like failures as mothers even before they get a chance to be mothers!
These feelings of inadequacy can begin early especially if a mom used any kind of ART (assisted reproduction technology) to get pregnant in the first place. When friends or family refer to her growing baby bump as “Clomid Twins,” it’s not endearing but demeaning, a subtle dig that her babies were not conceived “naturally.” Even her pregnancy diet can become a pass-or-fail test. Although she needs to pack on some serious pounds by upping her calorie and protein intake substantially, some simply can’t eat that much food. But if her twins are born prematurely, underweight or both, she blames herself rather than simply marveling at the miracles that she’s just created.
Then there’s the whole C-section debate. Yes, it’s true, women pregnant with twins have more cesarean deliveries than the rest of the pregnant population. (It’s about 50 percent for twin moms compared with 33 percent for the national average.) And yes, there are folks out there who frown upon C-sections and either inadvertently, subtly or deliberately make a mom who has had a C-section feel as though she missed out on something special and meaningful by not pushing out her babies through an opening the size of her car’s tailpipe. (She’s not missing a thing—the end result is the same!)
This judgement continues once her babies are born especially if she chooses not to breastfeed. Once again, women with twins fall short. Although only about 50 percent of women with singletons exclusively nurse their babies for the first six months of life, mom with twins manage far less. The reasons are obvious ranging from short maternity leave and little support to the sheer logistics of feeding two versus one and keeping up an adequate milk supply.
Although I’m an advocate of breastfeeding, I’m not a fan of breastfeeding zealots, those women who believe unless you breastfeed your baby, he or she will be destined to a life of constant ear infections and obesity. In the past, I’ve just shrugged off these militant moms as a minor nuisance (I get their point but dislike their tactics) but this week it got personal when I received an unsolicited e-mail from a doula in Vancouver. “I was surprised that you have two bottles signifying life with twins,” she wrote, referring to the Talk About Twins banner on this website. “We know a lot of families that never have any need for, or choose not to use, bottles (ours included). It seems odd to have bottles normalized. No wonder many mothers of twins question their ability to nurse exclusively if all the twin sites present the expectation that exclusive nursing is unattainable.”
“Exclusive nursing is unattainable?” All that from a picture of two bottles? Really?
That colorful logo does not represent an anti-breastfeeding message to moms of multiples. I don’t have a hidden agenda. I’m not sending subliminal messages. And I don’t work for a baby formula manufacturers. As a mom of twins myself, I not only breastfed my boys for twelve months but formula never touched their lips. I liked breastfeeding and would encourage every mom to give it a try as it’s a wonderful way to bond with your newborns. Still, I found bottles to be very useful when my boys were infants especially when I returned to work and needed to express my milk so my husband, a freelance artist working from home, could feed them. Bottles, whether filled with expressed milk or formula, are an important part of every new mom’s arsenal. She needs them!
The irony of this doula’s e-mails (yes, she sent several before I wrote her back asking that she stop harassing me) had the reverse effect on me that she was trying to invoke. She just reminded me of how I hate close-minded intolerance. To me, there’s more than one way to be a successful parent, a good and loving mother. And just as I would never walk in your home and tell you how to worship God, I would never tell you how to birth or raise your kids. That’s your decision. You’re smart and you’ll figure it out.
Why we women continue to judge each other is beyond me. But it’s time for moms of twins to stop apologizing. To stop feeling guilty. We have a lot on our plates each and every day and we shouldn’t have to defend our choices to anyone.
So this summer, don those low-cut denim shorts and flash those C-section scars! It’s your badge of honor, and you earned it! Raise those bottles up in the air with pride, and let your babies suck with careless abandon. They deserve it, too. Remember, you are a mother to twins—strong, resourceful and you don’t take anyone’s crap. Least of all from someone who’s never walked in your shoes.