Episode 128 of the Dad’s Guide to Twins Podcast Show Notes
We continue our father of twins interview series with Tim Brien, father of fraternal twin girls.
Listen as we explore his twin journey, including:
- When both twins are sick
- Interactions between twins and a much older sibling
- Why getting pregnant in the first place was such a surprise
- How their tour of the hospital NICU made a big difference after birth
- One big takeaway from their baby class at the hospital
- Dealing with babies as a first-time dad
- The simple act from his newborn daughter that helped him in the NICU
- How they had a vaginal birth even when one twin was breech
- Why Mom never got the epidural before birth
- Initial sleeping arrangements for babies and parents
- Moving when the twins were infants
- Why their twins did better without high chairs
- The one book that helped get their twins on a good sleep routine
- Key milestones that made life easier with twins
- What soothes his twins down
- A common theme he’s heard when meeting other twins or parents of twins
- Why asking for help is the best thing you can do
Joe: Hello and welcome to the 128th 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 and transcript for this and all previous podcast episodes. Once again, that’s twindadpodcast.com.
Today’s show is brought to you by twintshirtcompany.com where you’ll find dozens of t-shirts designed specifically for parents of twins. Moms of twins, dads of twins, and even grandparents of twins. Check out the dozens of designs that we have there at twintshirtcompany.com. Today we are continuing our father of twins interview series with fellow father of twins Tim Brien. Welcome, Tim.
Tim: Hey, how are you today, Joe?
Joe: I’m doing great. Thank you for coming on the podcast. Tell us a little bit about your twins right now. How old are they and what’s the most exciting part of this age?
Tim: My twins are about two and a half years old, or two years, five months, but two and a half is good enough. Genevieve and Cornelia. The most exciting thing that we’re dealing with right now: sickness. Cornelia, you got sick about two or three days ago. Now tonight Genevieve is picking it up. If anything could be awesome about being sick is they both know that you tell their sick and they’re trying to take care of each other and be big girls. That’s what I find amazing about both of them.
Joe: Yeah, it’s never fun to have sick kids. That unique aspect of twins that you just described where they have that connection to each other and they want to care for each other, it’s just an amazing thing to watch, particularly when one of them or both of them are feeling down and out, how they can try to pick up and care for the other one. It’s one of the great pleasures of being a father of twins is you can actually see those interactions. Are your twins your only children?
Tim: They’re my only children. My wife has a fifteen-year-old son from a previous relationship. I just came into his like about three years ago. I got hit with fatherhood pretty hard. I was dealing with a preteen and then I got hit with twin girls pretty much within about two months of moving out here to Virginia.
(RELATED: Check out the Dad's Guide to Twins Youtube channel for additional helpful twin tips and tricks videos.)
Joe: Newborn infants and a transition into teenagehood, yeah, that’s kind of crazy.
Joe: How’s the relationship been between the teenager and the girls in the home? How’s that worked out?
Tim: Well, he’s always asked for a little brother or sister for as long as my wife can remember. It’s funny because about six months before our twins were born, his dad found out that they were pregnant with a baby boy. Then six months later he finds about that we’re pregnant with twins girls. He got hit really hard with it and he’s holding up pretty well for a teenager. The relationship is really good. He has no problem watching the girls. The only thing he won’t do is change diapers. I’m not going to blame a teenage boy that doesn’t want to change diapers. I’m fine with that, but apart from that, he watches them, interacts with them very well, very caring. He finally got his little brother and sisters, but he got three of them in one shot. For the next year for Christmas we said, “You’re not getting anything.”
Joe: Take us back to the time when you found out that you were having twins. What was that experience like for you?
Tim: I had just moved out here to Fredericksburg. We had just gotten married in September of 2013. We were getting ready to go on our honeymoon to Paris and a couple of days before we were set to go on our honeymoon to Paris, and this was in December, my wife pulls me aside during my stepson’s concert. He plays a baritone sax. She said, “Oh, by the way, dear, I’m pregnant.” A little bit farther back story, I was in the Air Force as soon as I got out of high school and thought I had a pregnancy scare. The doctor said, “Hey, Tim, you can’t get anyone pregnant. You don’t have any swimmers. Blah, blah, blah.” I went from age of twenty to age forty, no pregnancy scares. Never got anyone pregnant thinking I’m never going to have kids. When she hit me with that right before we’re going to Paris, it pretty well knocked me out.
It has been one of the most magical rides that I’ve ever been on, for sure. We went to Paris. It was less than a week after we found out we were pregnant. Then it took about, oh what was it, about a month or two months to find out we had twins. Then about a month or two after that we found out we had girl twins. That whole year, it’s a blur. We send out Christmas letters every year and last year we just sent pictures of me sleeping because of everything that had happened.
Joe: How was the pregnancy? Any complications?
(RELATED: Love podcasts? Check out the entire Dad's Guide to Twins Podcast archive for additional twin tips and interviews with twin dads.)
Tim: Actually, it was a pretty easy pregnancy, if a pregnancy can be considered easy. It was easier than her first pregnancy. She ate a lot of peanut butter, a lot of Ben & Jerry’s, and Starbucks, so I think I should’ve bought stock in both of those companies. The pregnancy went along pretty easy. One of the things that made it easy for me was actually taking couple classes with a hospital. Our local hospital here has a program for twin and multiples for the parents to actually go and take the … “Hey, this is your first time baby class.” Then we actually got to visit the NICU before anything happened. I think for me that was the most important thing because they said, “More than likely your kids are going to go in the NICU.” I got to see what it was like beforehand. For my wife, the pregnancy, she said it was pretty easy.
Joe: What’s something that you learned from that class with the hospital that you were glad that you were able to learn before the twins arrived?
Tim: Never having kids myself, I’m the youngest of six so I never grew up around babies. I think one of the most important things that I learned was babies aren’t indestructible, but if you’re careful with them they’re going to be fine. They are fragile, but if you blow on them the wrong way they’re not going to explode on you. I do [inaudible 00:07:09] and I’ve never dealt with babies before my entire life, so I was worried, “Am I holding it the right way? Am I doing this or that the wrong way?” Having the little baby dolls in there and learning how to hold, how to wash, how to feed, how to change a diaper was the best thing.
Joe: That’s a good point. Babies, they’re pretty forgiving and they’re pretty flexible and that’s good. I think they’re made that way just for dads because we have those concerns of, “I’m not sure what to do. I don’t want to break the baby,” but it does work out to our advantage. You mentioned getting a tour of the NICU. Did your babies have to spend time there after they were born?
Tim: Genevieve, our oldest, did. She spent about a day and a half in the NICU. Cornelia was fine. I’ve been on a bunch of different websites where people talk about spending months in the NICU. I feel blessed that we only spent a day and a half in there. After three days, all of us went home same day, so it was fine. She was having some breathing issues. Nothing too serious, but because she was a twin, my wife’s a little bit older, high-risk pregnancy, they just wanted to be extra careful. I think the actual tour [alleived 00:08:29] a lot of the anxiety that I would’ve had. I got to meet the nursing staff beforehand, so when it happened it was one of those things, “Okay, we’re going to expect this and we’re going to deal with it as it comes. It’s not going to be a big, scary thing.”
While Genevieve was in the NICU, my wife and I were back and forth in and out of the NICU. Somebody would be with Cornelia, the other one would be with Genevieve. The staff there was fantastic, Genevieve, she was a rock. I got to say, she is one of the toughest people on the face of the planet because basically she just held my finger while I was in there. She had one of those looks that, you know, “Hey, Papa. I’m going to be a-okay. I’m going to be out of here. We’re all going to go home. Everything’s going to be fine.” That’s what got me through it, because otherwise I would’ve been a blubbering mess.
Joe: Did the birth of your daughters go as expected or where there some surprises?
Tim: We got hit at about thirty-six weeks, just shy of thirty-six weeks when we hit it. The actual birth, Genevieve, first one, she popped out as expected. Cornelia was breech, so they didn’t have to do a C-section, but they had to go in there and adjust her. We were pretty lucky in terms of the actual birth happening. I guess the big surprise for me was how quick it was because my wife with her oldest son took a little longer, but with the girls, literally we hit the emergency room and we were giving birth maybe an hour later. Labor was that quick. My wife didn’t even get the chance to get an epidural. They had brought the stuff up there, they had done her blood test. They were about to give her the epidural and then bam, all of a sudden they’re like, “Nope, we’re having babies right this second,” and got her to the birthing room.
(RELATED: Love podcasts? Check out the entire Dad's Guide to Twins Podcast archive for additional twin tips and interviews with twin dads.)
Joe: That’s impressive, of speed and that she did that without epidural. When you brought the girls home, where did they sleep in the house? Were they in your room or did they have their own nursery or some other place?
Tim: When we brought them home, we were originally living in a three-bedroom townhouse. We got one of those playpens that has a napper and a baby changer on it. I think it’s a Graco. Forget the band name on it. All four of us slept in the living room on the main floor. We moved them up to their own room in their own cribs, at least a [inaudible 00:11:10] that we moved them up to their own room, had the baby monitor and we were pretty much right next door the whole time. It was Thanksgiving of 2014, we moved into the house we’re in right now.
One of the reasons we bought the house was because of the nursery that was already in the house and had flowers painted on the walls. It was half neon green and half purple. We were like, “Yes, this is the house for us because we’re going to get this house for this room for the girls.” Right now they have their own room, but eventually we’re going to move them into their own bedrooms. They’ll be right next door to each other, but right now they’re still sleeping same room, separate cribs.
Joe: Excellent. You mentioned the Graco Pack ‘n Play. What are some other pieces of baby gear that have been advantageous for you to have over the last two and a half years?
Tim: The little seats for the feeding chairs, the feeding seats that you can put on your regular dining room chairs and it has the tray there. We had them in highchairs, their own highchairs for a while, but we found that they ate better when they’re sitting at the table with us and sitting in a regular chair. They were climbing into those maybe at a year, year and a half they’re climbing into those on their own. Those are fantastic. They’re easy to clean, easier than a highchair. They’re all plastic, so you get out your sanitary wipes and knock that out really quick. We went ahead and splurged and got the side-by-side stroller and the in-line stroller for twins. There’s pros and cons for both of them, but we decided to go ahead and get both of them anyways. The in-line is great for being in the grocery store, for really narrow aisles. The side-by-side is great for just walking down the sidewalk. I think in both types of strollers is a good idea if you can splurge on that.
Joe: Yeah. We love those booster seats you’re describing, too, for all the same reasons. Ease of cleaning, they can sit up with their family at the table. Those are great. We had the two types of strollers as well. We started with in-line and then moved to side-by-side. Each have their unique advantages based on where you’re going to be with them. Based on your experience, those two and a half years, when do things get easier with twins?
Tim: It comes in phases. I think our first big hump was getting them to sleep through the night. That’s the first big hump.
Joe: Do you remember when they would start sleeping through the night?
Tim: Between six and eight months. We did the sleep training thing. Twelve hours in twelve weeks, or something like that. That worked out for us pretty well. I mean, on occasion we’ll run into an issue where they’ll wake up in the middle of the night. 9.9 out of 10 they’re sleeping through the night. It’s a tough way to go. It’s not a pathway for everyone to go because I understand for some babies it doesn’t work, but for us it worked just fine.
Joe: After they were sleeping through the night, what was another milestone after that where things got a little bit easier?
Tim: Where they were able to feed themselves. That was a huge milestone because I enjoyed feeding my girls. I feed them on occasion now. This week they’re sick, so Papa’s making sure that they feed them and giving them special treats and all that good stuff. Pretty much when they started feeding themselves, that was a good milestone for them. When they actually started talking and being able to verbally communicate better with us, if there’s an issue, if they’re hot, they’re cold, they’re hungry, they’re thirsty, verbally and being able to … Well, I guess first being able to point out something that they wanted and then verbally being able to communicate that to us. That’s a great milestone. I think our next one is going to be potty training. As soon as we get through potty training, hopefully it gets a little bit easier.
Joe: Have you entered the terrible twos or terrible threes phase yet with your girls?
Tim: Genevieve does have some meltdowns from time to time, but it’s easy to coax her out of it. We just usually sing one of her favorite songs. I know you’re mentioning earlier great items that have helped us out, I’ve got the Amazon Prime membership. I got their music app. I just throw music on from that, French lullabies for them to get the extra language going on, a little jazz, some John Coltrane, Suzanne [Down 00:15:58]. Usually I’ll throw on a little music or sing them a song or something like that and Genevieve can calm down pretty quickly. Cornelia, she doesn’t have as many meltdowns as Genevieve has and usually with her it’s just more of holding on to her and just whispering in her. Just try to make her laugh by giving her a raspberry or making a funny sound. They’re both their own unique individuals, and you got to remember which one you’re dealing with when they’re having their meltdown and what they like. That’s a little bit of a struggle, but we’re making it through.
Joe: When you’re out and about with the twins, what is the most frequent question that people ask you about your twins?
Tim: They ask, “Are they identical?” Which they’re not. If you go on my Facebook page, I’ve got about eighteen hundred pictures of my girls on Facebook. They’re not identical. It kind of frustrates me because it’s like, “Take a look at them.” They look similar. You can tell they’re sisters, but they’re not identical. I try to laugh it off as much as possible. I’m not going to let that ruin my day. That’s the main question I get is, are they identical? Sometimes I even get people asking are they twins because Genevieve is bigger than Cornelia, but for me she doesn’t seem that much bigger. They’re about three or four pounds off of each other. Genevieve is maybe a couple inches taller, but if I were to not know them, I would think that they would be twins myself because they’re so similar in size. Eh, you know people are, and they say weird things all the time, so I don’t let it bother me.
Joe: As a parent of twins you have to have tough skin because people are always poking and prodding to asking weird questions. It just becomes second nature for us to answer them with a retort or just move on with our lives. That’s a good skill to have. What’s the best piece of advice that you have received about raising twins?
Tim: Well, it’s kind of funny because when I’m out and about, like I’ll go grocery shopping by myself or I’ll go run some errands by myself, and people will see me in the baby aisle and they’re like, “Oh, do you have a baby?” I’m like, “Oh, yeah. I have twin girls.” I’ve run into fifteen or twenty people in the last year that are either a twin, or brother or sister of a twin, or a parent of a twin, and my first things with them is, “Hey, what worked for you and what didn’t work for you?” The thing that I keep on getting from people that are twins, family members of twins, parents of twins and whatnot is they’re unique individuals and treat them as such. Love them to death. That’s an obvious, but treat your twins as individuals because they really are individuals.
Oh, gosh. I can tell my girls are very much individuals. Genevieve takes after me. Very outgoing, very gregarious. We’ll make friends with anybody and their brother. Cornelia, she’s more laid back. She’s more introspective. She’ll view the scene first before she’ll interact with anybody. She’s very standoffish, whereas Genevieve will just run into your arms and you’re her best friend immediately. The best advice: treat them as individuals because that’s what they really are.
Joe: Even if folks have twins that are identical, they’re still unique individuals. You said that you’re also asking for what wasn’t working with twins. What have you found that hasn’t really worked well with twins or some advice that you’ve gone to that effect?
Tim: I was just talking with this older gal at the grocery store. It must’ve been about two or three weeks ago. She was on a twin, a boy-girl twin, she was in her sixties. Her thing was treat them as individuals because her twin had a learning disability and they didn’t treat that set of twins, the parents didn’t treat them as individuals. As a matter of fact, they were blaming one twin for the other twin’s deficiencies. The flip side of it is a reinforcement of treating them as individuals. Also, not asking for help. Trying to think that you can do it on your own. That doesn’t work. It’s tough work. Just the logistics of going to the library can be such an ordeal that if one person’s doing it, they’ll go insane. If two people are doing it, you only go half insane. The big thing is don’t think you can do it on your own. Ask for help. There’s a lot of help out there. If you don’t ask for help, you’re not going to get it, so definitely don’t think you can do it on your own. Ask for help.
Joe: Yeah. That’s a wonderful tip. Always ask for help because you can always use it. Very well said. Tim, as we wrap up today, if listeners would like to reach out and get a hold of you, what’s the best way to get in touch?
Tim: Best way to get in touch with me is you can shoot me an email: [email protected]. I’m here to answer questions. I’m also on your Facebook site. You can connect up with me on Facebook there as well.
Joe: Wonderful. Well, Tim, thank you so much for sharing your story with us. We really appreciate it.
Tim: Well thank you, Joe. I appreciate what you do. I appreciate your book, appreciate the Facebook site. It’s been a godsend. Thank you so much for showing me that I’m not the only father of a twin out there. Appreciate it.
Joe: I hope you enjoyed that interview with Tim. Thanks again, Tim, for sharing your story with us. As I mentioned previously, you can find a transcript of this interview over at twindadpodcast.com or you can check out other interviews with fathers of twins there as well. Today’s show is brought to you by twintshirtcompany.com where you’ll find dozens of t-shirts or fathers of twins, mothers of twins, and grandparents of twins. Once again, that’s twintshirtcompany.com. Thank you so much for listening and I’ll see you next time.
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