Okay, you've got all the big ticket items. You've made all the arrangements, the babies have been born (I'll cover that in another entry), and now you're coming home. What the heck have you gotten yourself into? Here are some of the lessons I learned.
Your time is no longer your own. Face it, accept it, get over it. Even if you've had a kid before, twins are not the same. Not that I'd know what having a single is like, but we can imagine that it must be pretty sweet. As my brother in law, Eric, said, before our twins arrived, 'Don't worry, having twins is actually only two thirds harder than having one baby.' And he should know, since he and his wife had three singles before their twins.
Forget everything you know about being tired. Forget everything you used to do on the weekends, like golf, play video games, watch movies. For the next 6 months, every spare moment you have (and there won't be many), will be spent sleeping. And that's only after your wife has gotten her nap. Because no matter how hard you think you've been working, your wife has done more. It may not seem that way, because she's always sitting on the couch, looking at the babies, maybe watching a little TV, but if you look behind those glassed over eyes, you'll see a woman who has been up for four straight weeks. Not hours or days, but weeks. If she has gotten more than 2 hours of sleep in a row, it's only because you had help from someone else keeping the babies from waking her up. You may be the father, and in months and years to come, there will be that special bond between dad and babies, but for now, you are just the person holding them until momma feeds them. And they want to eat, ALL THE TIME.
I can't emphasize enough how important having help is. You need someone else living with you, doing everything you do. Changing babies, doing laundry, doing dishes, holding baby, taking out the garbage. You will wear them out. They too will be walking zombies, tired, cranky, and needing their space as well. Rotate people through if you can, a week at a time. The longer the better. We had constant help for the first 6 or 8 weeks, then frequent visits for a couple of nights here and there, and some for as long as a week ever since. At some point, you'll be ready to handle it on your own, but as long as people are offering, take them up on it.
One thing I read frequently in books on multiples, was to make a list of things that needed doing around the house, and if someone asks if you need any help, show them the list and let them choose. Well, I have a little caveat to that. What most people mean, is, 'Do you need help holding/feeding a baby?' What they don't mean is 'Would you like me to re-stain your fence?' I got lots of offers on the former, but not a single one on the latter, despite it being on our list of things that has needed to be done for the past year or so. It can't hurt to try, but don't bet the house on it.
Okay, now that I've scared the bejesus out of you, you're wondering, how am I ever going to survive?
First, get the babies on a schedule as soon as you can. This is usually around the 3-4 month mark. Start with a bed time, and work from there to make sleep time a little longer. We noticed that the babies were usually getting really tired around 10:30 PM, so we started developing a routine leading up to 10:30 that included bath time (every other night), feeding, walking / bouncing on the ball of shame and rocking. Once we had them down 3 nights in a row by 10:30, we started the ritual 15 minutes earlier until they were down at 10:15PM. This usually takes 3-4 nights. Don't adjust it by more than 15 minutes per night, and use those 3-4 nights even though it seems like it worked on the first night. Within a few weeks, we had their bedtime back to 8:00pm, then finally 7:45, and months later, they are rarely up past 8:15 PM unless something has broken our routine. We stick to the routine religiously. We leave parties early, and make sure our walks happen about the same time each night.
Night time wake ups: Once you have the bed time set, you'll want to start reducing the night time wake ups. Reece would wake up at 11:30, 1:30, 3:30, 4:30 and 5:30. After a little bit of work, we've eliminated all but the 4:30 wakeup for him, and Lorelai sleeps up to 12 hours at a time. The trick is to make a pre-emptive attack. We waited to go to bed till 10:30 PM,and Lisa picked up Reece, woke him up a bit, and fed him, and put him back down. He basically ate in his sleep, never fully woke up, and went back down really quickly. Within a few days, the 11:30 wake up was gone.
Dealing with the 1:30 wake up involved a little more effort on my part. The babies had to learn that they wouldn't get fed every time they woke up, and mom's presence just woke them up too much. So, for a couple of weeks, I got up and walked them back to sleep. I handled any wake ups before 2:00 AM, and Lisa got everything after that. Eventually, they just stopped waking up at 1:30, and stayed down until 4-4:30.
The other key is to figure out what is their best sleep position. You'll hear a lot about "Back to Sleep" and SIDS, and the idea of letting your kid go to sleep on their tummies is truly frightening at first, but once they are able to lift their head up with ease (around the 4th month), it's doable, especially if that is their position. Reece is a side sleeper. Lorelai is a tummy sleeper. We all sleep better when we put them down in those positions to begin the night.
Another key to keeping your sanity in those first few months is to go for frequent walks. Our babies just loved being outside, and loved the Baby Bjorns. Once we were past the first month or so, we walked a couple of times a day. The folks down at the local Starbucks know us by our first names, and have watched the babies grow up. Even when the weather was a little chilly (just not pouring rain), we walked.
You will also come to realize that if you are not organized with twins, you will regret it. Getting out of the door in the morning with two babies takes a couple of hours, by the time they are fed, changed, you're showered, they're fed again and changed again, the diaper bag is put together, the car loaded up and ready to go. Keep the diaper bag stocked, and remember when they grow out of a diaper size, to upgrade the diapers in the bag.
Do laundry whenever you can. Don't let it stack up until you find yourself without clean onesies. The washing machine is the chokepoint for the family routine. If the babies clothes get behind, then they will take priority over yours, and the next thing you know, you're asking yourself, is it easier to just go and buy another pack of underwear, or is it really okay to wear them two days in a row if you just turn them inside out? That decision is greatly impacted by how much sleep you have been getting up to that point. If you decide the latter, that's a sign that you need more help (and maybe not just around the house).
Take lots of pictures and lots of videos, and post them on your blog. It helps everyone stay in touch and keeps the phone from ringing in the middle of the babies' naps.
Most of all, enjoy the time with the twins, and with your wife. In all likelihood, you will never have another experience like it, and you will be able to share that experience with only those who have aso had twins. You'll smile and nod when another new parent of a single starts complaining about having no time, and you'll tell your wife about their complaints, and she'll smile too. You'll answer the question 'Do twins run in your family?' a bajillion times, and regardless you it happened, you're best response is almost always 'Well, I guess it does now'. You'll hear people say 'I always wanted to have twins.', and you'll think, they're are completely insane.
But then, there will be that moment, when you wife has one baby asleep in her arms, and the other is curled up in yours. And you'll think to yourself, it really doesn't get any better than this. And it doesn't.
Unless you didn't get the housekeeper.