Episode 118 of the Dad’s Guide to Twins Podcast Show Notes
In this episode we continue our Father of Twins Interview Series with twin dad John Pruden. Listen as we discuss his twin journey, including:
- Preparing for twins when you already have a child
- Worries about another high risk pregnancy
- Overcoming morning sickness and fatigue
- Vaginal birth of twins
- Working at home with infant twins
- Deciding to have mom pause working and stay home with twins
- Most useful baby gear they had
- Getting twins to listen to you
- Thinking through hiring care givers and trusting them with the children
Mentioned in this episode
Joe: Hi there and welcome to the 118th episode of the “Dad’s Guide to Twins” podcast. This is Joe Rawlinson. As always, you can find me on the web at twindadpodcast.com where you’ll find much more information about having and raising twins, along with the show notes for this and all previous podcast episodes. I hope you enjoyed the last episode where we talked about eleven things I learned in eleven years of being a father. You can check out that episode at twindadpodcast.com.
Today’s show is brought to you by my second book for fathers of twins called, Dad’s Guide to Raising Twins: How to Thrive as a Father of Twins. This book is perfect to guide you through the newborn phase, first year, toddlers, and beyond. You can see that book over at raisingtwinsbook.com. On today’s show, we’re continuing our father of twins interview series with fellow father of twins, John Pruden, who’s got identical twin boys. Let’s jump right in to that interview. Today I’d like to welcome to the show John Pruden, fellow father of twins–identical twin boys. Welcome to the show John.
John: Hey. How’s it going?
Joe: It’s great. Thank you for spending some time with us today. We’re happy to have you jump into your twin story to share with fellow fathers of twins. Can you rewind the clock for us a little bit and tell us how your family situation was when you found out you were having twins?
John: Yeah absolutely. Let’s just go back to 2012, 2013. Had a daughter, who at the time we found out my wife was pregnant with twins, she was about two and a half, and the boys were born in May of 2013 and they’re about to turn three right now.
Joe: Excellent. So what were some of your thoughts and emotions you had when you found out that you were having twins?
John: Oh God. It was crazy. It was probably the most surreal experience of my life honestly. I remember it really clearly. Kim was going in for her ultrasound. She was out and about around town and so she was going to go and then I was going to meet her up at the doctor’s, and it’s a good half hour drive. I was running a bit late as usual and so she got there before me. Normally like any doctor’s visit, you arrive and you wait and you wait some more and then they finally call you back into the room and you wait again, you wait some more. But I had pulled into the parking lot anywhere between zero and five minutes late past the appointment time, and my wife calls me up on the phone, and she’s like, “Hey, I’m back here with the ultrasound tech already. Are you almost here?” I said, “You’ve got to be kidding me.” I couldn’t believe it. “I’m running just barely late and you guys actually get in there and get started on time. That’s unheard of.” I run in there and get back to the exam room, and I sit down. The ultrasound tech–who we had actually used with our daughter three years prior so it was kind of cool to have a bit of a relationship with that person–she pulls up the picture on the screen, and she says, “Okay, here are your babies.” And Kim and I just kind of pause for a minute. “You said babies, with an s.” And she’s like, “Yep. You’re having twins.” And our jaws just hit the floor. It was totally unexpected. We were not using any kind of fertility drugs or anything like that. Just a complete shock. Like many families of twins, especially ones who aren’t expecting them, you get a lot of emotions going on at that time. It’s surreal. You just don’t know how to react in a way. We were just delighted, but at the same time we were also thinking, “Geez. How are we going to do that?”
(RELATED: Still expecting twins? Will you be having two boys, two girls, or boy/girl twins? Answer these quick questions to see what several old wives’ tales claim you’ll be having….)
Joe: That’s right. The feeling of, you don’t know what to do. You don’t know what to expect. It is surreal, especially when you’re not expecting it which was our case as well. What were some of the biggest concerns that you had during the twin pregnancy?
John: During the pregnancy? Well my wife was a high risk pregnancy with our daughter so we were immediately concerned with, “Gosh, if we had a little bit of trouble with one kid, what’s going to happen with two?” I don’t know how many people are familiar with the term cerclage where they actually have to stitch closed the– I’m drawing a blank.
Joe: The cervix
John: Cervix. Thank you. Yeah, they actually have to stitch it closed. That’s what a cerclage is. Ultimately the OB said, “We’re not going to do that for twins. It’s not the way we like to do it.” And so that was pretty scary because that provided some comfort with our daughter. But lo and behold, everything went great throughout the pregnancy. My wife got a beat down from the boys as far as morning sickness and all that stuff and fatigue but otherwise– They were delivered four weeks early–which is considered full term for twins–about five and half pounds and just a little bit over five and half pounds for the other. It was a real blessing that everything went smoothly.
Joe: Is there anything that you all did to help Mom with the morning sickness or the fatigue that you found worked really well?
John: Honestly, not that I can remember. Anybody who’s kind of gotten through their first year or two with twins will pretty much agree that that first year is a blur as well as some of the pregnancy before the birth. No. I honestly can’t think of anything. But my wife, she’s a trooper. She’s a tough girl, and she’ll take a beating and she’ll just get back up and keep going. She doesn’t really get down on things. She’s always hammering away at something, getting things done.
Joe: That’s great. Were your boys born via C-section or a vaginal birth?
John: Vaginal birth.
(RELATED: Expecting twins? Avoid these 4 critical mistakes expectant twin parents make.)
Joe: That’s great. Did they spend any time in the NICU or did they come home with mom?
John: No. Like I said, everything went so smoothly. I think we spent two nights at the hospital afterward. It was just the ideal situation. We feel really blessed. We got them home and it was time to get down to business and get them fed and cleaned up.
Joe: Since you had a vaginal birth with your twins, what was your role in the delivery of those babies? Because I know it’s different from a C-section which many dads experience.
John: Most twin births are done in the operating room so there’s nothing subdued or romantic about it like it was with our daughter’s birth. Fifteen people in there. Very busy place. Bright lights. I was just there standing next to my wife for support. The labor and the hours beforehand, that was pretty tough. My wife wanted to do everything as naturally as possible, but we caved eventually and gave in to the epidural. I believe the labor, if I recall correctly, was fewer hours than it was with our daughter. Then when the time comes they move you in to the operating room and get down to the business with getting the kids out. Doesn’t matter how many kids you’ve had, that’s just a miracle, that whole process of seeing your children emerge into the world.
Joe: It is a miracle, no matter how they’re arriving, especially twins. You had a daughter at home as well. Where was she during the delivery and with the newborns?
John: She had gone in for an appointment. I believe my daughter was with her at the time. The doctor said, “It’s time to have your babies. You need to go to the hospital and get started.” They saw the oncoming of the twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome–is that what it’s called? So they wanted to get things moving right away to see that go any further. A friend came and got our daughter and took care of her for a little bit until my mom was able to step in and take her. She hung out with my mom and step dad for most of the time and that worked out well.
Joe: Once you brought the twins home, did you have other family or friends stay with you to help with the babies or with your girl?
John: Yeah. My mom lives about a half an hour away so she was able to help out some and Kim’s mom flew in from New York and she was out for a week or two. It’s so much of a blur now that I try to recall some of these details. It’s really pretty difficult. We had some good help there for a few weeks, and then we were on our own. During that first year we did the vast majority of it just by ourselves. We didn’t have a ton of help.
(RELATED: Don't reinvent the twin parenting wheel. Get my 7 Things Every Dad of Twins Needs to Know.)
Joe: What kind of routines or systems did you have that made life a little bit easier during that first year of when it was just you and your wife?
John: It was just keeping afloat. Our daughter was in preschool at the time. Actually, let me think here for a second. We had had her at a sitter’s house about twenty minutes away. I’m trying to think if that situation ended before the boys were born. I think it may have. I think she was in preschool. That obviously helped, having her out of the house a lot of that time because having an older sibling to take care of while you’re taking care of the twins is tough. That adds a whole other dynamic. She wants attention and sometimes it’s impossible to give it. It was just managing. You try to set up a decent routine as far as getting out of bed in the morning and brush teeth and then you go down for breakfast and out the door and just try to repeat. Kids need that routine and repetition. They need to know what’s coming. It helps them feel a lot more comfortable.
Joe: That’s true. A routine is everything. It gives them predictability and helps keep things moving in the right direction. When you look back to that first year, what are some of the biggest challenges that you overcame or something that you found that was very helpful in getting through those challenges?
John: Probably one of the biggest challenges is just maintaining some kind of a balance to keep your sanity. It’s a real struggle. Feeding two kids and getting them to sleep and getting sleep for yourself–it’s hard. You just got to grit your teeth and power through.
Joe: Were you working out of your home or working in an office, and what was your wife’s work situation like at this time too?
John: At the time I had moved my business back home, so that was really helpful so that I could be around if Kim needed to step away for any reason at all. I was just in the next room. I could pop in there for ten or fifteen minutes and handle things if need be. Or while they were napping or something like that, if Kim needed to leave the house, I was here. She had some freedom to do that. She was actually working at the time and she went back to work after eight or ten weeks, so we found a nanny to come to the house. I honestly don’t recall if that was three days a week. My wife’s a speech pathologist and she was working at the hospital. I’m trying to think if she was doing any private therapy in people’s homes at the time or not. I think it was mostly just at the hospital. We had a sitter who coincidentally was a twin herself. She’s a little bit older and had a good amount of childcare experience so that was a blessing too, knowing that she had the experience and all that to take care of not just one kid, but two. She was great. She was great.
Joe: How did you go about finding this nanny?
John: We actually got a hold of her through another mom at our daughter’s school, and this mom had twins herself, and so this lady Krista had watched her boys for quite some time and then no longer needed our sitter’s services anymore so we jumped on that. That was really a stroke of luck. Finding somebody to care for your kids is pretty challenging. You’ve got to trust the person and they’ve got to adapt to your schedule and everything. We were very fortunate, both with her and the sitter that we had for our daughter in the years prior.
Joe: How long did you have the nanny for?
John: I think we really only used her for about a year and a half maybe. Let me think here for a second. After a while, we decided that she should pause her work with the speech therapy and stay home with the boys for a couple reasons. One, childcare is just super expensive to have somebody take care of your kids for eight or nine hours a day. Unless you’re making a ton of money, it starts to not make sense after a while. Not only that, but being a speech therapist, we both knew that she could really benefit the boys’ development in their early years just by helping them recognize objects. Speech therapists–if people aren’t familiar with them they do so much more than just speech –articulation and pronouncing sounds and stuff like that. It’s so much more about child development. That was a great move and that’s still where we’re at today. The boys have been going to preschool two mornings a week and now we’re in the middle of May and that’s just ended for the summer and then in the fall we’ll go I think for three days a week, just in the mornings.
Joe: Looking back on the last almost three years of twins, what are some baby gear or baby products that you’ve found that really made your life a lot easier?
John: Good question. You’ve got car seats, high chairs. What we used were the little bouncer chairs that you can just set on the floor. I used them for when I needed to feed the boys and give them bottles. I could just set those down on the floor and sit in between them and just sit there with my arms out holding the bottles. That made it really easy to feed them. I could just set it up in the front of the TV and I’d watch TV or something while they ate. Because when they were eating they weren’t super engaged with me all the time. Sometimes they would just zone out. Certainly if they were kind of aware of what was going on, it’s so neat to just sit there and engage with them a little bit. That was something, from a dad’s perspective. What else. We have a pair of high chairs that are made by a company, Svan or Swan–it’s a Swedish company–and these chairs, they’re sort of customizeable. They’re made of hard wood. They’re not plastic stuff you might get from Graco. The chairs, you can kind of loosen everything up and adjust it as they get bigger. Those have worked out pretty nice. Then they’ve also got a nice plastic tray that the kids can beat up on.
Joe: Excellent. Which they will. They will beat up on everything, especially boys.
John: Boys, exactly. My daughter, she was very kind to our furniture and these two guys are not so much.
Joe: Now that they’re almost three, what are some of the big challenges you’re having right now at this age?
John: Getting them to listen to you. How do you discipline them? That’s probably the thing that we struggle with the most, because they don’t listen. They ignore you and everything takes ten times longer than it should, which is very, very frustrating. It’s tough because I feel like I understand the critical key to getting the results that you want with having your children listen to you and do what you tell them to do, when you want it done, is consistency. A hundred percent consistency. If they don’t obey, they need to get some kind of a swift consequence. That could be a short time out. Just something that they don’t like. But, it’s nearly impossible to do that because you’re in different situations all the time, you’re in different places, and you can’t possibly be consistent all the time. And when you’re not consistent, they will exploit that every chance they get. It’s pretty amazing, the innate knowledge they have of how to work their parents and get away with things. That’s probably the most challenging thing we’re facing with them right now. They’re three, basically, and they’re getting more and more powerful every day.
Joe: More powerful, like they’re growing in their super powers to fight against the will of the parents.
John: They’re getting stronger and faster. Sometimes they’ll finish a meal and they’ll potentially have messy hands and faces and you’ll be like, “Okay, come over here and let me wipe up your hands and face,” and they’ll go run away to the family room and jump on the couch or something, and it’s like the one thing you don’t want them to do with dirty hands.
Joe: That’s true.
John: If it’s breakfast time and you’re in a hurry to get out the door and get to school with the older kid, you don’t have time to follow up with a time out or something. It’s just like you run over, you grab them and clean their hands and face and throw them in the car. They get away with it. What do you do?
Joe: We’ve had some success with positive reinforcement when things are going well. Even between our twins where they both may be causing some mischief, but one maybe less so than the other, and so we start to find the good in that one, call it out, praise it, draw attention to it, and then get some positive peer pressure working towards both of them doing the behavior that you want to have happen. Because we’ve found when we give attention when they do something wrong, they’re getting what they want, which is attention. So we have to constantly praise and give attention when they are doing what we want them to do, which is kind of contrary to our nature because we want to just say, “Oh they’re doing fine. I’m just going to leave well enough alone and not say anything.” But that’s when we’ve found if we are reinforcing when they’re doing something right, it helps them yearn for that attention. Most of the time. They’re still going to kids and do age-appropriate craziness, but it does help curtail some of the behavior.
John: That’s a good point. We have actually noticed that one of the boys, he’s a little bit more of a pleaser than his brother. He is a little bit more obedient. When he does screw up, he shows more remorse.
Joe: As far as your relationship with your wife has gone, how have you been able to maintain that and strengthen it through the challenges of pregnancy and now with toddler twins?
John: That’s been a big challenge too and especially with an older sibling, trusting somebody to come into your house if you wanted to go out on a date and take care of not just twins but then an older sibling, that’s a scary prospect. Not only do you doubt that people are going to want to take that on, you’re afraid to have people take that on because you don’t know if they can handle it. Even my mom or my wife’s mom, we know it’s a heavy load and so we tend to probably stay inside the house a lot more than we should. But that said, it is hugely important for husband and wife to spend some time together and get out of the house and get away from the kids. We do try to do that every so often. It will never be enough, whatever it is. The thought of getting out every week or even every other week seems a bit of a distant dream, but it’s a goal and something we know we need to work towards. Over time, you sort of establish a network of sitters and some people that you can call on. Especially as the twins get a little bit older, it does get a little bit easier for the sitter and for us to know that now the kids are older, they’ll be safe, that kind of thing.
Joe: That’s right. Over time you get into a habit. The kids get used to a babysitter. You get used to a babysitter as parents. You can start having more time alone, more time away from the house as time goes on.
John: Just as important as that is that as husband and wife, you need to work together and help each other out as much as possible. Having that element of support there goes a long way to keeping the two of you connected. You can have this understanding that, geez, even though things are tough are right now and we’re really not getting much fun time in together, this is temporary and if we can support each other through this, we’ll make it out to the other side and we’ll live to tell about it and we’ll be able to enjoy ourselves again.
Joe: That’s right. Well, John, you’re working on an interesting project over at groovytwins.com. Tell us a little bit about that.
John: Once the boys were born, even before they were born, I wanted to find a gift for Kim. She’s been somebody who most of her life has been really physically active and has enjoyed exercise and it’s kind of been one of her main hobbies, getting out into the outdoors. Once she became at least six months pregnant, that lifestyle came to a pretty serious halt. Whereas in the past I would buy her gifts to support those hobbies, that option wasn’t really practical anymore. I thought, “Well geez, I’ll get her some jewelry or something like that that symbolizes twins. I think she might really dig that.” I was shopping around and it was either the necklace with the little silver tag with names engraved in it or something or it was the two peas in a pod stuff. I was really looking for something that was a bit more unique and really couldn’t find anything. I was looking to find things that had no intentional symbolism of twins but maybe I could sort of attach that meaning to it. It didn’t work for me really and so I suddenly kind of had this thought that– For my regular day job career, I’m a 3-D designer. I do architectural renderings and so I’ve got twenty-some years of experience with 3-D CAD. Couple that along with the recent emergence of 3-D printing, I thought to myself, I was like, “Man, maybe I could design a piece of jewelry and 3-D print it.” Because they can take 3-D prints and output them into precious metals. So I did that last summer. I was really pretty impressed with what I got. It got me thinking, I could just come up with a bunch of different ideas and there’s probably a lot of people out there– There’s a hundred thousand sets of twins born in the United States every year. There’s got to be a market out there. People wanting to buy jewelry for their wife if she’s pregnant or twins or she already has twins or even for twins themselves. So that’s what I set out to do. I kind of wanted to develop some sort of a e-commerce business anyways just to sort of diversify income a little bit and get an additional stream of money coming in to the house, because as you know, twins, they’re not free.
Joe: That’s right.
John: So I did. I started sketching out some designs and creating the 3-D models of them. I found a really cool eco-friendly small jewelry shop up in Denver that would produce this stuff for me, and so I worked with them over the course of a couple months, prototyping and refining the designs and everything, and then late this spring, right before Mother’s day, I was finally able to get the stuff online and put it up for sale. That’s where we’re at. Groovy Twins is really kind of about celebrating twins. They truly are a miracle, and if you’re fortunate enough to have some in your family or even close friends, it’s really neat to experience. It’s something that should be celebrated because it’s so unique. And especially for the parents because it requires an immense effort and this could just be like a little sort of symbolic piece of all of the effort that you put out for these kids.
Joe: That is a great idea. Because you’re right, parents with twins are unique and we have unique challenges and it’s worth celebrating those. John, as we wrap up today, what is the best way that listeners can get in touch with you?
John: Groovytwins.com is the website and if anybody wanted to email me, my email’s just [email protected] I’m happy to chat with anybody. What’s been really cool about it so far is meeting new people and learning of their family situations and everything. Especially for the parents who were expecting twins, they’re excited and they’re nervous. Having been there already and being able to tell them, “Hey, things are going to be okay. You’re going to do whatever it takes to survive and provide a happy, healthy life for your kids. Don’t worry about it too much.”
Joe: That’s right. I will link to your website and your email there in the show notes over at twindadpodcast.com. John, thanks for being on the show today. We really appreciate it.
John: Yeah, it was my pleasure. Thanks for having me.
Joe: I hope you enjoyed that interview with John. You can see all the show notes and the transcript and link to the website and other information we discussed today over at twindadpodcast.com. Once again, today’s show is brought to you by my second book for father’s of twins: “Dad’s Guide to Raising Twins: How to Thrive as a Father of Twins.” You can find that book and learn more about it over at raisingtwinsbook.com. Thank you so much for joining us today and I’ll see you next time.
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