Episode 110 of the Dad’s Guide to Twins Podcast Show Notes
Join us as we continue the Father of Twins Interview Series with Bryan Clemons. Listen as we learn about Bryan’s twin journey, what has worked in their home and some of the challenges they have overcome, including:
- Why a natural twin birth didn’t work out
- What dad’s experience was like in the delivery room
- When your family should come to the hospital to see the babies
- A key to helping mom recover from her c-section delivery
- Why the first few weeks were really challenging
- What they did when their twins struggled to breastfeed
- How they staggered their time off work to better meet family needs
- Sleeping arrangements for newborns and how that changed
- How dad can play a support role during the twin pregnancy and with newborns
- Why getting out of the house will help you keep your sanity
Mentioned in this episode
Hi there, and welcome to the 110th episode of The Dad’s Guide to Twins Podcast. This is Joe Rawlinson. You can find me on the web at twindadpodcast.com, where you’ll find much more information on having and raising twins, along with the show notes and transcript for this and all previous podcast episodes.
If you stick around until the end of the show, I’ll let you know how you can get a free copy of my first book, the Dad’s Guide to Twins. In case you missed the last episode of the podcast, I invite you to go back to twindadpodcast.com to listen to episode 109, where we talked about preparing your home for your twins arrival. How you should organize things, what you need to put in your home, to make their arrival go as smoothly as possible.
Today on the show, we’re continuing our Father of Twins interview series, with twin Dad Bryan Clemons, so let’s jump right into that interview with Bryan.
(RELATED: Love podcasts? Check out the entire Dad's Guide to Twins Podcast archive for additional twin tips and interviews with twin dads.)
Today on the podcast, I’d like to welcome Bryan Clemons, fellow father of twins, hailing from Southern California. Welcome to the show, Bryan.
Bryan: Thanks Joe, nice to be on.
Joe: Well, welcome. We’re excited to share your experience and your story of your twin journey today. Could you give us just a brief snapshot right now, of your family and life, and then we’ll jump back in time to the beginning of your twin journey?
Bryan: Sure. Nine months ago, we had our twin girls, Ava and Madeline. That’s it, that’s the 4 of us right now. Yeah, so my wife and I have been married about 5 years, so we did a bit of traveling, and just got things in order, and then decided to try to have kids, and low and behold, we got twins. That’s the state of things right now.
Joe: Tell us about when you found out you were having twins. What was that experience like?
Bryan: We do have some twins that run in my wife’s family, so I can’t say it came as a complete surprise, but of course, the moment they tell you is still a shock. In terms of the family history, my wife’s uncles are fraternal twins, her grandfather is a twin, and then even before that, somewhere in the great grandparent lineage, there’s another set of fraternal twins. I know it doesn’t matter, but my uncles are identical twins, so we got twins everywhere.
(RELATED: Expecting twins? Avoid these 4 critical mistakes expectant twin parents make.)
Joe: That’s great. Your girls are fraternal twins?
Bryan: They are, yes. Yeah, we found out at the 8 week ultrasound. I was kind of joking around with the ultrasound technician, saying hey, the band on the pregnancy test was really thick, does that mean we have twins? Of course, that doesn’t mean that, but I was joking with her, and she’s like, “No, blah, blah, blah.” She starts doing the ultrasound, and then she’s like, “Well, are you ready for the news,” and we’re like, “What news,” you know? She’s like, you’ve got twins. It’s just like, wow. In that moment, you’re just like, wow. Even though we were just joking about it, I didn’t of course, expect it to happen. Then, she was continuing moving around the monitor, and you’re seeing shapes everywhere, and I don’t know what’s what. I’m not used to looking at ultrasounds, and she’s like, let me just check and make sure there’s not a third one here.
You’re just like wow, that’s when your heart really goes crazy, when they talk about three, but that wasn’t the case and it was just the two.
Joe: Yes, two not three, which is a sigh of relief, relatively speaking, right? What were some of your biggest concerns that you had during the twin pregnancy?
(RELATED: Love podcasts? Check out the entire Dad's Guide to Twins Podcast archive for additional twin tips and interviews with twin dads.)
Bryan: I think the biggest concern of course, is how my wife was doing, and are the babies going to be healthy. We had a great pregnancy, or I should say, my wife had a wonderful pregnancy. The girls were born at 38 weeks, she worked all the way up until 35 weeks, and she didn’t have morning sickness. We’ve met a lot of other twin parents who are just starting their twin journey. They always seem so surprised when we tell them how well my wife’s pregnancy went.
Joe: Yeah, that sounds pretty good. 38 weeks is a great milestone to reach with your twins before they’re born, and sounds like things went pretty smoothly.
Bryan: Absolutely. I think we’re really lucky, and feel blessed that we had such a great pregnancy, but certainly along the way, there’s a lot of concerns. These were our first kids, so you have a lot of people giving you advice and saying, “Oh, your life’s going to be over,” or you know, “You’ll never sleep again.” I’ve just found a lot of that advice we got, the unsolicited advice we got during the pregnancy, just hasn’t turned out to be true. It’s been pretty amazing.
Joe: Well that’s great. Yeah, you kind of prepare for the best, and expect the worst, and then you just take whatever comes, and every set of twins is unique in what they offer, or what they do or don’t do, so that’s great that it’s been a good journey so far. Tell us about the birth of your twins.
Bryan: We had a scheduled C-section at 38 weeks. We didn’t make it to that date. She wanted to have a natural birth, but under the circumstances, and in talking to the doctor, we did decide to do the C-section. That’s just a crazy day. I feel like, no matter how many classes you can take, or what your expectations are, you got to be able to sort of roll with the punches, and I think we did that to some extent, so it’s kind of like a fog, thinking back to that day, but once you get in the operating room you’re kind of behind this curtain, and you can’t see anything. Then all of the sudden, the doctor is like, “Bryan, stand up,” and he hands me this baby A, it was Ava. You’re just like, wow. Then quickly, the nurses whisked her away, and then they sit you back down in the curtain again, because they don’t really want you watching all the procedure. A lot of fathers will pass out looking at that kind of stuff, and it was pretty intense.
One minute later, Madeline came out, and by that time Ava had been all wrapped up. Again, since we went to 38 weeks, they came out really healthy, and so we got to just hold the babies. From there we went to the recovery room, where we spent several hours before going up to the main hospital room. Thinking back actually, I just came up with a good tip is that, make sure you don’t have your family at the hospital too early. We have a lot of support and family here in San Diego, and everyone got there really early, and then we spent all this time in the recovery room, and everyone’s like, texting me trying to figure out if everything’s okay. It was okay, but my wife had a little bit of bleeding, and just had to stay under watch just for a couple of hours, which is really common.
I must have had like 30-40 people sending me text messages, and people thinking something was wrong, and we’re just trying to spend time with the babies, as they just came out. I would say, try to temper your family’s expectations about the timing, and just make sure they’re not visiting before the time is right.
Joe: Yeah, that’s a great tip, because you’re not quite sure how long things will take after delivery. Especially with a C-section, they do have to monitor mom pretty closely, and then the babies, to make sure they’re stable after delivery. It’s hard to predict how long that will be, so that’s a good tip. How was your wife’s recovery from the C-section, how did that go in the hospital and when she got home?
Bryan: It was pretty good. The advice they gave us to get her up walking sooner than later, I think she was great doing that. I think that really helped the recovery, but I would say it was probably about 10 days until she was really up and moving around pretty good. I mean, she could still get up and move around, but you know, like really getting up without limbering around too much, about a week and a half or so. That’s just a tough time, having twins and then having a C-section, not being able to move well is a real challenge.
Joe: Yes it is. My wife had a C-section with each of our children. It is major abdominal surgery that mom’s going through, which does require some recovery. On top of having carried the twins all those months, her body needs to recover. Even though your girls are fraternal, do they look very distinct, or were there some things you had to do to tell them apart in those early weeks?
Bryan: Yeah, early on, they did look similar early on, but luckily, one had a lot of hair, and the other one had a little bit less hair, so it was really easy just to look at their head. If they had a little hat on, it was maybe a bit more challenging. Now, they couldn’t be more different, both in looks and in personality.
Joe: Yeah, we noticed, even though our girls are identical, we noticed very early, that there were still physical differences between them, and then once their personalities start to kick in, it’s like night and day, even from a very early age. You get the girls home from the hospital, what surprised you the most when you got them home and faced the reality of having twins in your family?
Bryan: Yeah, so I got to tell you, those first 2 weeks were really, really hard. My wife wasn’t producing a lot of milk, which is common for C-section pregnancies, then having to split it between 2 babies, we just didn’t have the production to satisfy both babies. We were supplementing with human breast milk, but we also had some issues with latching and breastfeeding. In fact, when they did get a little bit better at breastfeeding, then they would just sort of, fall asleep quickly and not get very much, but before we had that problem, in just those first 2 weeks, we were using a syringe, and a pump with the breast milk, and my mother in law was over, and it’s like, sort of all hands on deck, around my wife’s breast. Which, I just never envisioned that scenario. We’re all just sort of helping, and everyone has a role, but that’s parenting, and you got to do what you got to do, right?
What we ended up doing was just moving to bottles. My wife had this idea that we would at least make it to, I can’t remember the exact number, maybe week 6, or some week, before you introduced them to a bottle, but as we were struggling in that first 2 weeks, I can’t remember if it was our, either our Pediatrician, or our OB Doc said, “Look, you guys got to do what’s best for you, because the scenario with the tubes, and all that stuff,” you know, you have this 3 hour window, where they’re feeding every 3 hours. To do that for one twin, and then the next twin, and then you’re cleaning up, and then my wife is pumping, that was 2-2 1/2 hours, and then you have a half hour, and you do it all over again. I don’t think anyone can keep that up for 24 hours for weeks at a time. It was like night and day when we switched to bottles.
We switched to a combination of breastfeeding and then using pumped milk in the bottles, and then I could take a much more active role. Then feeding turned into like a 45 minute activity, instead of 2 hours. That was sort of, the life changing event for us, that happened about 2 weeks in. In terms of breastfeeding, we made it about 3 months, but my wife’s production just seemed to be going down and down. As I mentioned before, the babies just, they would fall asleep. It just became this sleeping time for them I guess, so we did switch to formula at that point, which of course, makes things even easier. I think we were really happy that we did get the breastfeeding time that we were able to do for those first three months. I think that was good, but yep, it’s been formula ever since.
Joe: That’s great. You had a really good stretch there in the beginning of breastfeeding. In our case, we tried to go that route, and ended up having to switch to formula pretty early on, just because of the logistics of feeding and caring for our very active toddlers at the time. What you found was, experimenting, changing things around to see what was going to work, and you fell into a better routine, which is great. You mentioned, your mother in law was there to help. Did you have other people helping too, and how long did you have folks around to help with the babies?
Bryan: We did. We didn’t have anyone staying with us, but my wife’s parents live about 5 minutes away from us, and my parents live about 20 minutes away from us, so we had lots of help. I know that’s something you mentioned in your book was, support is key. I have to agree with that. I’ve seen parents with singletons who don’t have any support. They struggle more than parents with twins who have the support, so I think it’s really critical. We’re really lucky. My mother in law, she actually retired from her teaching job, to help us take care of the girls. That’s where they go during the day now, and my wife and I both work. We’re extremely lucky to have that family support.
Joe: You mentioned working, tell me a little bit about the time that you and your wife are able to take off of work, and how you arrange those schedules.
Bryan: Yeah, so here in California, for Dads, we get 6 weeks of paid Paternity time, which is great I think, compared to a lot areas in the country. I took off 5 weeks, just right in the beginning, in one stretch. I ended up saving a week for, when we had to take the girls to a wedding when they were 3 months old, up in San Francisco. Then my wife, she works for a Health Care Organization, and they’re very sensitive to Maternity time. She got six months time, which is great. She split that up into about, 4 months and 2 months. She took the first 4 months off, then she went back to work during a very busy time. The babies were born in May, she took 4 months off, then she got another 2 months off around the holidays and just went back recently here, in February. I think that worked out really well. As I mentioned before, we’re fortunate enough to have the in-laws here.
We take the girls there Monday through Thursday, and now my wife works permanently from home on Fridays, so she’s able to stay home with my mother in law and the babies, on Fridays.
Joe: Very nice. Yeah, I only had 2 weeks off. I had to stretch those out, so having 6, pretty sweet arrangement for Dads there. I ended up taking a week, and then the other week I kind of worked half days, to stretch it out beyond that. When you brought your girls home, where were they sleeping in the house? Were they in their own room, or did you have them in your room with you?
Bryan: We kept them in our room. We had little bassinets that we just kept near the side of the bed. We did that for, I think about 3 months, before we moved them into the nursery. I think that worked out really well. We of course, were nervous parents, but they definitely make a lot of noise, and I think we make noise, everyone makes noise when they sleep, and so I think at about the 3 month time frame, I think it was better for everyone when they moved over. We got really lucky, one of our girls, can’t remember the exact date, but somewhere between 8 weeks and 12 weeks, she just started sleeping 11 hours through the night. Now the other one, Ava, she didn’t start sleeping through the night until about 2 weeks ago, so very different, but it was so nice that at least one of them was sleeping through the night, so at night time, it was almost like we just had one baby. Of course, down the line you never know what can happen.
Maybe because we had a great beginning with the sleep, maybe we’ll have more unexpected sleeping issues later.
Joe: Maybe. Yeah, I hope not too. Maybe they just wanted to prove just how different they were from each other, kind of emphasize that point.
Bryan: Well, I think so, because the stubborn one is the one that likes to wake up a lot of times at night, so I think she likes hanging out with mom and dad at 3 in the morning.
Joe: What’s something that you wish you had known before you had twins?
Bryan: How intense the first couple weeks were going to be, but on the other hand, maybe it’s better that I didn’t know that.
Joe: Yeah, ignorance is bliss.
Joe: Yeah, those first few weeks are very intense. It’s hard to even fathom what it’s going to be like, until you’re actually in the moment.
Joe: Living those day to day, because if you haven’t experienced anything like it before, it’s hard to even relate if someone describes it to you.
Bryan: At the 8 week ultrasound, when we found out, a couple of nurses were outside the room, and when you have twins, at least at this office, the word spreads, and everyone’s excited. There was a young nurse, maybe in her 20’s, and she was like, hugging us and jumping up and down, like, “Oh my gosh, twins. How exciting.” Then there was this older nurse, maybe in her 60’s, and she just came up and put her hand on our shoulders, and gave us this look like, I’m so sorry. You don’t know what you’re in for. That was my first moment where I felt fear creep in. It was all happiness when I first found out, and then when I got that look from the experienced nurse, I was like wow, maybe this is going to be really difficult.
Joe: Yeah, what does she know that I don’t know?
Joe: I guess we’ll find out soon enough, right?
Bryan: Exactly. A lot of parents have commented, and other twins we’ve met who have had them first, you don’t know any better. Your friends have kids, and you kind of know, you know what to expect, but you don’t really, until you have them. The fact that, when you have two at once, and it’s your first ones, you just don’t know any better, I think there is some truth to that. It’s the twin parents that have the singleton first, and then the twins second, I think have it the hardest. You had both perspectives.
Joe: Yeah, that was the case with us. I thought I knew how hard it was to take care of a baby, but then we had two, and that changed everything.
Bryan: If you had had them in the reverse order, would you have thought, maybe having a singleton was easier?
Joe: I would think so. Like you mentioned, it’s kind of all hands on deck with infant twins, trying to get them to feed and get them in a good routine. I saw when we had our boys, one at a time, since my wife was breastfeeding, I could just sleep through the night, and she would wake up and take care of the boys. I didn’t really know how good I had it, until the twins were born and I realized, okay, I have to help as well. Each has it’s set of challenges, but twins by far, is much more involved from both parents more often. Singletons offer, I guess, a little bit more of a break for one parent or the other. If you could give our listeners one piece of advice about strengthening your marriage, and keeping that strong through the challenges of pregnancy and raising twins in those early months, what kind of tips could you share for other dads?
Bryan: I think, especially as a Dad, you’re playing kind of a support role, so I think you have to let the normal stresses of life roll off your back a little bit better than you would normally, just because everything is intensified during the pregnancy, then when the twins come. I think just keeping your cool, and understanding that this is going to be a difficult and a stressful time. Of course, also a rewarding time, but you can’t deny that there’s going to be those times when people are really stressed out. I think, just keeping the big picture in mind, and knowing that those stresses are going to come, I think, really helps to set your expectations, so when those challenging times do happen, you can handle them.
Joe: Yeah, I think that’s great advice. Open communication and setting expectations definitely helps smooth out some of the trials that you’ll have as you’re raising twins.
Bryan: I would also add to, get out and do things after the twins are born. I think it’s really helpful. Rather than staying cooped up in your house, try going out to dinner, or take the babies to a friend’s house, or go on walks. We actually took the babies camping at 6 weeks, which was a little crazy, but hey, it worked out and it was fun. I don’t know if we could take them camping now, but at 6 weeks actually, it worked out pretty good. I would definitely say, get out and do things.
Joe: You know when they’re infants, they’re remarkably mobile. I mean, you can take them anywhere mobile, they’re not moving yet, but that makes it easier to get out of the house, because they kind of stay where you put them. They’re in the car seat, or they’re in the stroller, whereas now, you said your girls are 9 months, and I’m sure they’re much more active than when they were 6 weeks.
Bryan: Oh yeah. They’re moving everywhere.
Joe: Bryan, you’ve got an interesting project going on with a very innovative piece of baby gear, do you want to tell us a little bit about that project?
Bryan: When my wife was pregnant we were looking around at diaper bags, and we kind of noticed that a lot of the bags were either designed for mom, and there were a few that were geared just for dad, so we just thought, when we’re out with the twins, we’re going to be together. We’re going to be switching the bag back and forth. It would be nice if there was a bag that was sort of, geared to either parent, for parents. We thought, well let’s make it ourselves, so that’s what we did. We ended up creating a diaper backpack for moms or dads. It has all your typical organization and things that you like, for all of your baby gear, but it definitely isn’t a girly sort of diaper bag. I certainly don’t mind wearing it. It looks basically like a backpack, and my wife likes it for all the organizational features. Yeah, so that’s what we did. It’s called, Hashtag Baby, is the name of our company.
My wife kind of, came up with the name, and our tag line is, for your next greatest adventure. As you know, with twins, an adventure could be going to the grocery store. Our goal is to make gear for your next adventure.
Joe: My wife made a diaper bag for us, but it was colorful, it had some nice patterns on it. It wasn’t very masculine in nature. Functional, but not masculine. If listeners want to learn more about your Hashtag Baby back pack, or get a hold of you, what’s the best way to connect?
Bryan: Sure, we have a website. Address is hashtagbaby, spelled out, .net. If anyone wants to go there, we’re offering a coupon code right on the front page. It’s currently for sale on Amazon, so you can get the coupon code on our web page, and purchase it on Amazon.
Joe: All right, well we’ll include links to that as well, in the show notes. Well thank you Bryan, for sharing your story with us. We really appreciate it.
Bryan: Sure, thanks Joe.
Joe: Well, I hope you enjoyed that interview with Bryan. Again, I’ll link up to his Hashtag Baby back pack, in the show notes, over at twindadpodcast.com. Thanks so much for hanging out until the end of the show today.
As promised, you can get a free audio book version of my first book, A Dad’s Guide to Twins, by visiting freetwinbook.com. Once again, that’s freetwinbook.com.
Hope you’ll join us next time on the podcast, where we’ll talk about some key mindsets you need to have as a parent of twins, to make sure you have that light at the end of the tunnel, and keep some perspective as you’re parenting through the challenges of raising twins. Thank you so much for listening, and I’ll see you next time.
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