Episode 130 of the Dad’s Guide to Twins Podcast Show Notes
We continue our father of twins interview series with Steve Smith, father of fraternal twin boys.
Listen as we explore his twin journey, including:
- Similarities and differences in fraternal twins
- Pros and cons of being in medical field when expecting twins
- Concerns of a higher risk twin pregnancy
- How a controlled diet for Mom ended up changing during the pregnancy
- Dealing with preeclampsia and bed rest
- When both parents work and have a long commute
- Why he almost missed the birth of his twins
- When Mom’s high blood pressure jeopardizes the delivery
- The realities of bringing home twins and what that means to you as a parent
- Challenges of breastfeeding twins after a few months
- How dad can take care of twin babies by himself
- When the boys started sleeping longer and going longer between feedings
- Why they freaked out the first night the twins slept through the night
- How Mom and Dad tag team to care for the twins
Mentioned on the show:
Steve Smith’s Twin Baby Bargains:
Twin Baby Bargains online twin clothing consignment store
Twin Baby Bargains Facebook
(RELATED: Expecting twins? Avoid these 4 critical mistakes expectant twin parents make.)
Joe: Hi everybody and welcome to the 130th 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 podcast episode. Today’s show is brought to you by my second book for fathers of twins. It’s called Dad’s Guide to Raising Twins: How to Thrive as a Father of Twins. You can learn more about that book at raisingtwinsbook.com.
Today we’re continuing our father of twins interview series. Today I like to welcome show Steve Smith, fellow father of twins. Welcome to the show Steve.
Steve: Hey how’s it going? Thanks for having me Joe.
Joe: You’re welcome. Thanks for coming on the show. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about your twins right now; how old they are and what’s something really exciting about this age.
Steve: Sure. I have 20 month old, twin fraternal boys, Eli and Archer. I think to describe the twin journey from finding out when we were pregnant to now, I feel like it hasn’t been 20 months. I feel like it’s been five seconds. The fun part about having twin boys is seeing their personalities and how different they are and how similar they can be at the same time. It’s funny, my wife is a red head, I’m a brunette. We have a little red head, he’s almost a little dirty blonde kind of, but kind of strawberry blonde … And our brunette, and their personalities are exactly opposite of their parents hair color. It’s just fun to see how that plays out.
Joe: What are some ways that they are similar?
(RELATED: Love podcasts? Check out the entire Dad's Guide to Twins Podcast archive for additional twin tips and interviews with twin dads.)
Steve: Their verbal skills. They say very similar things. They seem to physically have motor development kind of the same way. They like similar things. They both like Elmo right now. They both like Little Einsteins. They’re kind of similar in that. Of course, we dress them exactly the same, like most twin parents. I think we got into the matching and coordinating thing pretty early on.
Joe: Right, but with the fraternal boys, with different hair colors in particular, it’s easy for other people to tell them apart even if they are dressed the same.
Steve: It’s funny in that some people yes, because they’re … To us, and to most people, I feel like they’re clearly different, but I think other people just get the idea of twins in their head and they automatically say without thinking, “How do tell them apart?” I’m just like, “Well, this one is a red head and this ones brunette.” I think they just the twin thing right away. Now they favor each other a little bit in their faces, but really they’re kind of distinct looking different kids.
Joe: We’ve got identical girls and so when people say they look the same it’s accurate. To us, as parents, they look very unique. I’ll admit it took me a few weeks to not make as many mistakes mixing them up as when they were first born. Let’s rewind the clock back to when you found out that you were having twins. What was your family situation like? What were your initial thoughts when you got that news?
(RELATED: Love podcasts? Check out the entire Dad's Guide to Twins Podcast archive for additional twin tips and interviews with twin dads.)
Steve: We were trying to get pregnant for a little bit. We decided we’re not going to stress out about it and it’s going to happen, it’ll happen when it’s our time. We found out in 2014 that we were pregnant. We went up to our first appointment, and I’m there holding her. I’m actually a nurse so I can recognize most ultrasound things. I’m looking at the ultrasound, holding my wife’s hands, and right away it became … At that moment, terrifyingly obvious that there was two. I stood up. I said, “Oh my God. Is there two?” The ultrasonographer laughed and my wife laughed. She thought I was joking. The sonographer was like, “Actually, yes. You have twins.”
My wife’s face kind of dropped a little bit. I think we were speechless for a few minutes and then happy, of course, but terrified of going from just us with a dog and a cat to not one kids but two kids as our first parental experience. Then thinking about financial implications and things like that and rooms and painting, of course, my wife and clothes and all the things that come with having kids times two.
Joe: My mind raced to those same things too. finances, there’s not enough space. I think those are very common concerns that fathers have in particular. Then there’s a couple, just general, freaking out at the news. How far along in the pregnancy when you got the news that they were twins?
Steve: Maybe 11 or 12 weeks? I feel like I was so shocked I have like a little PTSD. I think it was around 12 weeks, maybe a little earlier. We waited a little bit just to make sure it wasn’t a false pregnancy and we were just going in ahead of time. I think we wife did, I don’t know how many pregnancy tests, leading up to that.
Joe: What were some of your biggest concerns during the twin pregnancy? Considering you have a medical background, I believe your wife does as well, that might give you some extra insight into potential complications. What were some of things that you were worried about?
Steve: It’s a really neat perspective. We actually both in emergency medicine. I’m a nurse, currently in pediatric emergency medicine. My wife is a PA, physicians assistant, in the emergency department. She also teaches. We kind of knew … She did really well, like really fast got a lot of resources, about the increased risk of gestational diabetes. You have the hypertensive issues, preeclampsia, clapmsia, seizures, HELP syndrome. Being in the medical profession is good in away because you feel prepared, but then you always go to worst case scenarios. It kind of shocks you a little bit. We started thinking about all the negative stuff, and thinking of how we can work around it. Started to kind of destress before it happened.
Joe: What are some things that you did to work around some of those concerns?
Steve: Well we tried and … As best we could with a pregnant woman with twins is looking at diet early on. Mid-way through that plan went off road and took a left turn into burrito, pizza, and unhealthy land. I think early on we started getting onto a healthier diet, including me actually. Drinking more water. Cutting down some of our caffeine. I think the first trimester, maybe into early second trimester, we were both a little healthier and definitely more well hydrated. Then I think the stress of things on top of cravings, into the later trimesters, got a little tough.
Joe: What were some of the challenges that you ended up having with the pregnancy?
Steve: My wife actually had preeclampsia. Her last month of the pregnancy she was on bed rest. What kind of made that even more difficult, the whole situation, is we live in New Bern, North Carolina and we both work in Greenville, North Carolina, which is about an hour away. At the time I had a strict Monday through Friday job as a nurse educator and having her an hour away with the slightest little sign or symptom popping up was kind of difficult, emotionally and mentally for me.
I’m looking at my phone constantly waiting for a call from her, if she needs anything or if she’s feeling bad. We worked around that. Luckily my father-in-law, he recently retired, he was able to stay with us for the last few weeks of bed rest. He was like our on-call chauffeur, chef, life coach. He was the man. He helped us out through the rest of the pregnancy.
Joe: Well that’s a good arrangement. Especially when you’re so far apart during the day. Then the challenges of bed rest, just by itself, having someone there to help you is probably a big blessing for you. How far through the pregnancy did y’all make it before the babies were born?
Steve: She made it up to 36 weeks actually.
Joe: That’s great.
Steve: It was funny. I went in early, it was on a Friday, and I have to be at work around 6:30 in the morning for an education session. I had my phone … I thought the ringer was on and vibrator on. Maybe I was tired. I actually had it on vibrate. I did a whole education session until about 12 noon. I started having lunch and was joking with people like, “Yeah, I’m not sure when we’ll have the kids.” Then I looked down at my phone and I had a bunch of missed texts and a bunch of missed calls from my wife and father-in-law.
Immediately my heart sinks. I call my wife right away and she’s in the hospital because she was hypertensive and they were going to see what they wanted to do. I drove right away from work. Probably way faster than was legally allowed. I get there and I see that she was a little off. She was definitely a little more edematous. She had some really impressive periorbital edema, so swelling around the eyes. Peripheral edema, her legs and feet were more swollen than they were the day before. She wasn’t acting right to me. She seemed not as coherent.
They decide that they were going to keep her. The babies weren’t ready yet, but they were going to see how she does. Then by Sunday, which was the 25th of January, they were ready to come. Her pressure didn’t come down. Her swelling got worse, and so we had a c-section that day.
Joe: Okay, so her complications sent her to the hospital not going into labor.
Joe: The c-section, you guys probably knew that that could be a possibility. Was that part of your plan or was that a surprise?
Steve: It sort of was part of our plan. We actually talked throughout the whole pregnancy and through all the ultrasounds. I tell people it’s a really unique and lucky experience to have twins because you have so many ultrasounds. I think we have a whole book of just ultrasounds of the boys through every possible week and developmental stage in utero.
Every time we got an ultrasound one or the other was flipped. One was breech and one was opposite every time. With our OB we talked about what do we do in this situation, if one is breech and one is not. He said, “Oh, well we’ll deliver one vaginally. Then we’ll see if we can flip him around. If not then we’ll do a c-section. You’ll just hurt from both areas.” Of course, my wife said, “I don’t know about that.” I think we were leaning towards a c-section the whole way if it was up to us. We were more comfortable with the situation, and her being hypertensive, to go ahead and do the c-section and not take the risk of doing vaginal delivery and a c-section and having twice the recovery really.
Joe: Oh yeah, the double whammies is quite brutal on poor mom. With our twins we planned for the c-section as well. We’d had two previous births and those were both c-section. The first one, with our oldest son, we tried just a normal vaginal birth. He got stuck and then she had to have a c-section. She had been in labor for like a whole day. The result was good because we had a healthy baby boy. So the boys were born at 36 weeks. Did they have to spend any additional time in the NICU or were they able to come home with mom?
Steve: We actually stayed an additional four days, not because of any complications with them. We were pretty lucky. Mom’s blood pressure stayed pretty high for some days. They wanted her blood pressure to be a little more well controlled. Some of her edema to go down and things like that. Once she got a little corrected we all went home together.
Joe: That’s great. When you brought the boys home, what surprised you the most about having twins in those initial infant moments, in the house?
Steve: I think the second we get in the house, and our parents stayed with us for a little bit. They kind of took turns, my in-laws and my parents. I think lying down for the first night and knowing that now two other human beings are completely reliant on us. We had this enormous responsibility to have this positive effect on them and if we do something wrong things can go bad. It felt like, at that moment even just for a few minutes, man, the weight of the world is on our shoulders and we haven’t slept yet.
That surreal moment of wow this is real. This isn’t just ultrasounds or talking about it. They are here. They’re right there. They’re going to wake up in an hour and they’re going to need to be fed and changed. We’re going to need to do this. I feel like a real adult now. It’s funny, we were 30 when we had them, but up until that point we were kind of selfish, in my opinion. It’s just us worrying about our needs and things like that. Having that moment, realizing that they rely on you completely. It’s like an awe inspiring and terrifying moment at the same time.
Joe: Yeah, that’s a good description. It is overwhelming. It’s a huge responsibility and it kind of hits you when you get home because you don’t have an on-staff, nursing staff, from the hospital. They can’t take the babies away to the nursery for you if needs be. It’s all you and you got to just figure it out. When you jumped into caring for them, were y’all able to breastfeed the babies or did you have to bottle feeding? How did that work for you?
Steve: Initially my wife was full steam ahead into breastfeeding. It worked out well for a couple of months. I think that was actually up to three months. I can’t remember the exact time frame. She was able to stay home on maternity leave. With two hungry boys it felt like we could never get ahead of the game. She had enough supply just to get through each feed each time and after she would try to pump. She would only get a few ounces each time. When we got close to her going back to work we made the decision that we would have to go to formula, just because we didn’t have the supply and she didn’t have the time at work to keep pumping or physically be with them all the time.
It was really tough on us to make that decision. Being medical professionals we know the research shows breastfeeding is the best, but there’s still good outcomes either way. I think we got over that hump of … Especially her, not having those moments of breastfeeding after three months, but they tolerated well. They moved on and developmentally they hit all their landmarks. As time went on it came out okay.
Joe: How did you and your wife handle the trade off of caring for the kids around work schedules and sleep schedules for you and babies?
Steve: I never knew it was humanly possible not to sleep at all and still function. That’s what I tell people. I felt exactly like a zombie probably feels. At the time, when they were born I had a full-time job. About a month into caring for the boys I switched to a weekend option position, which luckily with nurses we have really flexible and kind of weird, unique schedules. I went exclusively to work weekend nights. I worked every Friday, Saturday, and part-time Sunday nights. I watched the kids throughout the week up until they were about six months. Then my wife had help on the weekends. It was like being a single parent in the week for me and then she was kind of a single parent on the weekends. It worked out financially that way for us for about six months.
Joe: Caring for the twins by yourself is a challenge in itself. What are some things that you found helpful when you were by yourself in caring for both babies at the same time?
Steve: The hardest thing I’ve ever done is take care of my own twin babies. I’ve been busy at work before and 12 hour shifts, but nothing can prepare you for two babies being hungry at the exact same time, both having soiled diapers, and only having me and two bottles. You have to work around what you have. We got unique with how we fed the boys. We did lots of research, looked up blogs. I’m pretty sure I came across some of your blogs. Looked at best practices and pillows and things like that.
For a while actually, we found these unique bottles spelled P-O-D-E-E, like pacifier feeding systems with long tubes into bottles. I was able to hold each child and have these tubes out of these bottles into pacifiers and feed it both the same time, kind of cuddled with both of them to give them that nurture time. They were both fed at the same time, both happy. That was a big hurdle.
Joe: Oh yeah, those are ingenious little devices, those bottles.
Steve: Yeah, they’re fantastic.
Joe: For listeners, I’ll link up those bottles in the show notes for this podcast over at twindadpodcast.com. That’s interesting to see the unique types of baby gear that come out to help with twins, because we have such unique needs in caring for them. Bottles, you mentioned, are a great resource. Are there any other things that you used, baby gear wise, to help with managing, containing the chaos of twins?
Steve: I think I went on a ton of walks. I was actually in pretty good shape through the first six months because they really enjoy going on walks. I used … We have Britax baby seats. Can’t remember the exact brand, but it was a stroller that adapted to the baby seats. I could actually take the car seats and place them in the double stroller and quickly take them in and out by, literally, hitting one little clip. That helped me out getting them outside really fast, going for a walk, coming in, unclipping, bringing them in their car seats without a lot of hustle bustle. That made life easier.
Then you have the things like, I think it was a Fisher Price. It was a rocker and a music maker and it also vibrated. It was these …
Joe: It’s kind of like a little sling. You thinking like a rock n play?
Steve: Yes. Exactly. Those things. The boys loved those more than anything else. If I was having a tough time getting them to sleep after walks or in between feeds, I’d pop them in these things, put the vibrating setter on, put it on a rocking, and they would be out in five minutes. They would sleep for a few hours. I mean they loved those things. Those were a lifesaver.
Then we had some really great bassinets. It was a Halo bassinet I believe. It actually had this … They were really good sized. They vibrated as well with music and lights, but the coolest function was if I’m at home taking a nap, I have both boys next to me, and I can lower the bar real quick with just a light pressure. I can change the boys real quick or rock them a little bit and then it pops back up by itself. The ease of access of having the bassinet right next to the bed was really nice.
Joe: Were they in your room at night as well or were they in their own nursery?
Steve: Early on they were in our room and then progressed to our living room, which is right outside of our room. Then by six months they were … Maybe six to nine months, exclusively in their nursery. We kind of did it in phases. Our room, living room, and then upstairs to their nursery.
Joe: What milestones have you hit with the boys, where things kind of had an inflection point where they start to get a little bit easier on yourself and on your wife in daily routine with your twins? What were some of those milestones that you say were good weigh points for you?
Steve: I think when we started switching to baby food, especially Archer. Archer is still our better eater, but he … I felt like he was like a huge cavern of a stomach and he would require so much milk that he would actually get volume overloaded. Actually, kind of going back a little bit for, at a month Archer had pyloric stenosis and had to have surgery to correct that. He had the projectile vomiting. Moving on past that he was so hungry all the time with milk, he would require so much, and even after his surgery he had a limited kind of stomach for a little bit, kind of upset. He would vomit a lot.
I think it was probably close to five months we started transitioning with a little bit of experimentation to food. They started sleeping longer when we started doing that. They started napping better. I think they were going 10 hours at night at that point. Then around six months is was almost 11 hours of sleep. As we got closer to moving almost exclusively to food, from six months to a year, they slept longer, they were happier, they were less fussy. That was really cool and a big relief to us.
Joe: Oh yeah, when they start sleeping longer and going longer between feeds that makes life a lot easier for you as a parent. You have more of your life back, even if that’s the sleep that you were missing out on. You get some of that back.
Steve: Absolutely. I think the first time they slept through the night we woke up terrified. Looked at the monitor, making sure it was on the whole night, and then we went up and they were still sound asleep. I was like, oh man, this is great. We can rest again.
Joe: Oh yeah. Have you been able to travel as a family with the boys? If so, how’s that gone?
Steve: Yeah, so we’ve actually become expert travelers, especially when it comes to within three or four hour distances. Every day we wake up pretty early. We get ready. We make breakfast and the boys are up around 6:00 to 6:30 a.m. Then we have an hour commute. Just to get to work and to their daycare … We had their daycare in town where our jobs are. We drive an hour and then an hour home. We kind of experimented with different cars at first and then different car seats and things like that.
We initially had a Prius V, which we thought was a great option for fuel efficiency and decent space. Then once you get the car seats in and realize all the stuff you have to have, it becomes a much smaller space. I’m about six two, and so when I was driving I had the steering wheel basically in my lap, to fit everything in there. We upgraded to, what I call the man van or I guess the typical soccer mom van people call it, Honda Odyssey. That has been a revelation of amazingness in travel. The space, the video capabilities, different audios in front and back. We have the headsets. Then the space for their stroller, for their bags, for extra diapers, clothes, wipes. It is an amazing swiss army of a motor vehicle.
Joe: Excellent. I’m glad you were able to settle on something that worked well for your family. I know we gave into the minivan a long time ago too. Before the minivan I thought I would never get one and turns out it was a great decision because it’s served us very well, just like you were describing. Now your boys are active toddlers. What’s working right now with parenting your twins?
Steve: Right now parenting is always a two-person operation I think for maximum safety. They are both pretty good climbers and very fast on their feet. We got our yard fenced in and we have a three-step deck. I’m working on getting a gate for. For us, what worked best was having one parent assigned to one child and we kind of roam around with one. We try to get them grouped together with play activities, but as we know they’re unpredictable and they like to go opposite directions and do opposite things most of the time. We have one on one time and then halfway through the day we try to switch it up or do something different where we have equal time with each twin. I’ll have Eli in the morning [inaudible 00:25:03] in the afternoon and do different things. We’ll eat on opposite sides of table with their chairs and then lunch we’ll switch and then dinner we’ll switch back. That way they have the experience of us being around both of them as much as possible.
Joe: That’s a good plan. Man on man defense. Very good. Steve, you and your family have an exciting adventure going on right now with twin baby bargains. Why don’t you share a little bit about that?
Steve: Like most twin parents we wanted to do the matching coordination thing. I think it’s the unique, fun thing that we can actually do as twin parents that’s unique to us. Everyone has their one kid, but hey we have two and we can make them look doubly cool all the time. What we found is it’s very expensive to buy two of everything. Unlike parents of singletons, who can pop into a consignment store and find one cute or adorable outfit, we have to find a cute outfit that matches another one. That becomes near impossible, at best, a very time-consuming adventure in a consignment store, and very frustrating.
We did some research and we found there’s very little options for twin parents and affordable consignment based outfit shopping. We started twinbabybargains.com in hopes of bringing all of our twin parents communities together and having a source to, hey I like your style and your kids. I’m going to buy those. You can buy mine. We can have this never-ending repeat cycle of having affordable great clothes. Because, you probably know, kids go through clothes so fast. They might wear an outfit once or twice. The quality’s still great and styles are great, but you’re paying half or 75% off. You’re saving a ton of money doing it.
Joe: As parents of twins you’re always trying to conserve as much money as possible. This sounds like a great solution for that. Where can people learn more about twin baby bargains?
Steve: All right, so we’re actually on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. Facebook, we have a pretty good following. You could reach us there. There’s information for contacting us directly through email or you can go to our site, twinbabybargains.com. Our model is a marketplace model. We can actually do the listing for your. If you want to sell your twins clothes, we do it for an affordable price. Or you can actually list them yourself, and using our unique platform. It’s not just a strict consignment store. It’s a marketplace in the same realm as Etsy or Ebay, where their own users can list their owns things or we list it for you.
We have great prices. The person will actually earn 70% of the cost. We take only a 30% cut of the thing, which is way below most physical consignment stores. Even if we do all the listing for you, so if you send the clothes to us and we list it for you, we only take a 40% cut. What we’re doing is really, we’re not trying to make a ton of money and profit, what we’re trying to do is build a great community of people to help each other out and help us out. We’ve met some local families and have a great quality clothing swap.
Joe: That’s a great service for parents of twins. It definitely fills a unique need that we have. I’ll link up to your site and those social profiles that you mentioned in the show notes for the podcast. Well Steve, thank you so much for sharing your story with us today. We really appreciate it.
Steve: Yeah, thank you Joe.
Joe: I hope you enjoyed that interview with Steve as he shared his twin story with you. Again, you can find links to all the information referenced there, some of the baby gear we talked about, as well as his site twin baby bargains over at twindadpodcast.com.
Today’s show was brought to you by my book, Dad’s Guide to Raising Twins: How to Thrive as a Father of Twins, which is perfect for getting you from those newborn, infant stages through the first year, into toddlers, and beyond with your twins. You can learn more about that book at raisingtwinsbook.com. Thank you so much for listening and I’ll see you next time.
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