Conquering the Twins’ First Year with Ben Johnsen – Podcast 157

Joe Rawlinson by Joe Rawlinson - October 22, 2020

Conquering the Twins' First Year

Episode 157 of the Dad’s Guide to Twins Podcast Show Notes

In this episode, we continue our Father of Twins Interview Series with Ben Johnsen, father of twin girls.

On the show, we dive into Ben’s twin journey, including:

  • When one twin is developmentally ahead of the other
  • Moving when the twins are infants
  • Creating a baby-proofed room that is safe for twins
  • Clever tricks twins use to subvert your childproofing
  • Key milestones during the first year that make life easier as a parent
  • Struggles with babies sleeping in your room with you
  • Bringing the twins home from the NICU
  • Having an emergency c-section for delivery
  • Balancing time off work with newborns, NICU time, and in-laws helping
  • Finding a babysitter for the twins
  • Getting twin daycare
  • Roadtripping with infant twins
  • Day in the life of 1-year-old twins
  • Keeping your sense of humor when parenting twins

Check out Ben on:

Transcript

Joe: Hi there, and welcome to the 157th 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 the complete show notes and transcript for this episode and all previous podcast episodes.

Today we are continuing our father of twins interview series with fellow father of twins, Ben Johnsen, as he shares his experience raising twin girls, how they found daycare for their twins, the surprise arrival of their baby girls, getting through the NICU, plus how they twin-proofed the perfect spot in their house.

Today’s show is brought to you by my two books for fathers. They’re called Dad’s Guide to Twins and Dad’s Guide to Raising Twins. You can learn more about those books at dadsguidetotwins.com/books or go check them out on Amazon.com.

4 Critical Mistakes Expectant Twin Parents Make

Let’s jump right into the interview with Ben, who is not only a father of twins but also a fellow podcaster. He and his wife host The Twinning Podcast over at thetwinningpodcast.com. Ben, how old are your twins right now, and what’s the best part of this age?

Ben: Right now, our girls are just over a year old. I guess to be exact, they’re one year, two weeks old. Right now, the best part is they’re at that stage where they are responding much more to us, like we can smile at them, they’ll smile back at you. They’ll come over to you to give you a hug or crawl over. They’re at that stage also where they’re starting to walk, so it’s keeping us on our toes.

Joe: Are one of them showing more skill at walking?

Ben: Harper. She is the twin two, I guess, or twin B. She is about a week or two weeks ahead of Charlotte. It’s been like that for several things, from crawling, she was a little bit ahead. She was a little bit ahead when it came to feeding themselves with finger foods. She is about a week, two weeks ahead of Charlotte when it comes to walking, but when I say walking, it’s more like she’ll take like three or four steps, realize what she’s doing, freaks out, and then falls to her butt.

Joe: Yeah, it’s usually how it goes. Then once they figure it out, it’s like off to the races. Have you already done your childproofing around the house?

Ben: We moved probably three months ago, two months ago. We ended up getting a newer house. We’re located in Madison, Wisconsin. We had an older house that was about 60, 70 years old. It was tiny. It was going to be hard to baby-proof because it was one of those where you kind of walk through the kitchen to get anywhere, so we ended up getting a house just outside of town that has a front living room that we’ve converted into a playroom.

We have that completely baby-proofed. There’s gates on both sides. They love it because everything in the room is theirs. We love it because there’s nothing really that, quote, unquote, they can’t get too hurt on. Like I said, everything has been baby-proofed, so it’s kind of nice having that so we’re ready for it, but we’re also seeing if you let one out on accident, the next thing you know, they’re trying to climb up the stairs. I know we’ve got that to look forward to.

4 Critical Mistakes Expectant Twin Parents Make

Joe: That’s right. Well, that’s great you have a safe designated area for them that they can be in. That will make life a little bit easier until they figure out how to climb over each other to escape over the gates.

Ben: Yeah. I’m not sure which one it was, but she learned that she can take … we have these storage bins that keep all their toys, and they learned that they can take that storage bin, flip it upside down, and then stand on that, kind of like a little stool to see a little bit higher. I’m like, “Ugh, they’re smart.”

Joe: That they are, and once one of them figures something out, they’re both on it very quickly.

Ben: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

(RELATED: Love podcasts? Check out the entire Dad's Guide to Twins Podcast archive for additional twin tips and interviews with twin dads.)

Joe: As you look back over this past year, what have been some of the milestones that have made your life a little bit easier?

Ben: Our girls, they spent some time in the NICU, so the first milestone was when they were just over three weeks old, when we were allowed to bring them home, so that was a huge milestone, not having to A, have babies in the hospital, B, have to drive to and from the hospital all the time. That was nice. I don’t remember when it happened, but we ended up eliminating the middle of the night feeding, and that really saved us our sanity.

When we learned that our girls could actually sleep through the night, and when I say sleep through, I mean they could go from 11:00 p.m. until 6:00 a.m. Having that just kind of saved us mentally because we were in like a three or four hour feeding schedule, and so doing that, we really started … I think our doctor suggested that. He saw that they’re starting to grow. They’re starting to eat more during the day. Start creating habits.

4 Critical Mistakes Expectant Twin Parents Make

That was a big milestone. Then the sitting up on their own. That was nice because then we could sit them in front of us and play with them. They weren’t just sitting in a boppy or laying on a blanket. Getting their first teeth, having their finger foods. A lot of stuff is kind of … it’s one of those things where everything kind of goes in the same direction.

So you know they’re sitting up, that means they can start sitting in like a highchair, and then they can start eating finger foods or that pureed food, but then that goes to finger foods. They get teeth, and they can have a little bit more challenging foods, per se. That was a big milestone for us when they started being able to pretty much eat the food that we’re eating.

Joe: Oh, yes. That’s a great milestone. A little less preparation, food preparation, that you have to make.

Ben: And clean up. My gosh, the bottles, the parts. We were using Dr. Brown’s bottles. I think there’s like four or five parts to each bottle, and so when you have twins, and you’re not cleaning the bottles after each feeding, I mean it was just a sink full of bottles and bottle parts. So glad to get rid of all those.

Joe: Were your girls sleeping in your room with you when they were younger or did they start off in their own room?

(RELATED: Check out the Dad's Guide to Twins Youtube channel for additional helpful twin tips and tricks videos.)

Ben: We had always planned on them having their own nursery, just starting off in a nursery from day one. We stuck to that plan. We did parenting classes. They talked about having baby sleep in the room and stuff, but we just kept sticking to the plan, like, “Nope, we’re going to put them in a nursery.” We get to the NICU. Right when we’re leaving the NICU, they informed us that, “No, you really should have them sleep in your room.”

Something about it helps prevent the SIDS. That was when we ended up having them sleep in our room. We used Rock ‘n Plays, actually, for that. That lasted only a month or two. It was awful for us because when we were able to sleep, our girls were not quiet sleepers. They would grunt here or cough there. Being a new parent, I’m always extremely cautious. I would wake up at every single sound.

I was just not getting any quality sleep, and our doctor basically said something to the effect of, “I think it’s your choice,” and then she explained how the reasoning behind sleeping in a room is more of a worldwide suggestion, and so that was when we decided to make that change to have them sleep in the nursery. That was probably about, I think, mid February, so they would have been about two months oldish.

Joe: Yeah, that’s a common challenge I hear from other twin parents because there’s two of them. They kind of alternate who is making the noise. Even if they don’t need assistance at that moment, they’re still, like you say, making noise. You’re hearing that, and you’re thinking, “Oh, something is going to happen. They need help.”

4 Critical Mistakes Expectant Twin Parents Make

Ben: You’re preparing for the worst, and so that’s what’s running through your head when you hear every single sound. Ugh, it was a long couple months there.

Joe: You mentioned some time in the NICU, about three weeks.

Ben: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Joe: Did they both come home at the same time, or did one come home before the other?

Ben: Both girls came home the Wednesday before Christmas last year. My wife, she was the real champion with this. She made it very clear to the doctors her goal was to have them home by Christmas. They made it very clear what the girls needed to do. Our hospital is great. They had their own twin room in the NICU.

They just kind of … one might have been doing a little bit better in one area than the other and then vice versa. They both kind of equaled out at the same time, and we were lucky and fortunate enough to bring them home at the same time.

Joe: Well, that’s a great Christmas present, last year.

Ben: Yeah, absolutely.

Joe: Now tell us about the delivery of your girls. Was it what you were expecting, or were there some surprises there?

Ben: Going into the delivery, we had done this parenting class, and I’m somebody that’s a little bit … I’m very squeamish, and so I was freaking out that I was going to pass out. Yeah, pretty much I was worried that I was going to pass out. My wife, it happened very quick. We were in the hospital. They think we have twin to twin transfusion going on, which we didn’t.

Twin Gender Predictor Calculator

Her water broke. They told me, “You’ll be fine. You can go home, grab her belongings and come back.” I get to our house. She’s calling me in a panic, and she’s already like eight centimeters dilated. When I got back to the hospital, it was just fast, fast, fast. They rushed me into the operating room, and then they delivered the babies. I mean it was very quick, easy. I didn’t pass out. It was scary because there were so many people in the room, too.

Joe: Was it a vaginal birth, or was it a C-section?

Ben: C-section, emergency C-section. I think it was. Yeah, it was absolutely emergency. My wife, going into it, it was something we’ve talked about before, but she had some prior heart condition. She had some extra health risks going on that they were watching, and so I had a lot of stuff just on my mind, but everything worked out perfect.

The NICU sent two teams, one for each baby. There was other people in the room, like ambulance drivers just in case they needed to take them to the children’s hospital, a surgeon. Yeah, it was a very filled room, but everything worked out.

Joe: How far along in the pregnancy was your wife when the babies came?

Ben: 33 weeks and like three days, four days, somewhere in there.

Joe: That’s a little bit early, but not uncommon for twins.

Ben: She had actually been in the hospital two weeks prior with some preterm labor, which she spent three, four, five days in the hospital, then sent her home, what I call bedrest, but I know they don’t do bedrest anymore, at least not here. It was more, “Don’t leave the house. Don’t do anything strenuous. Be easy on yourself for those two weeks.”

Joe: Was she working at the time, or was she already home?

Ben: Yeah, she was working, and she was able to continue working from home during those two weeks. Truthfully, that’s why I left the hospital when we were there, after her water broke, because she wanted me to go back to the house to get her computer back so she could do some work from the hospital.

Joe: You’re like, “You need to have some babies right now.”

Ben: Yeah, exactly. Let’s focus on the girls.

Joe: What was your work situation like when the babies came? Did you have some flexibility with time?

Ben: I work for a smaller assisted living company here in the Madison area. Everybody knew we were having twins. I’m not shy about anything. We pretty much knew once the girls were born, if they came early, they would be in the NICU. If they were in the NICU, I was going to end up going back to work because I didn’t want to use up any of my leave while they were in the NICU when there’s nothing really I can do.

I stayed out of work for those first … so they were delivered on a Wednesday. I went back to work on that Monday. I would drop Megan off at the hospital and then come back to the hospital in the evening. Then when they were discharged, it was right before Christmas. Then her mom actually came and spent a couple weeks with us, and then I took all of January off. Then I went back to work in February, and then she went back like in March.

Joe: Okay, so kind of spread out the time you were able to spend with the newborns.

Ben: Yeah.

Joe: Excellent. Having a grandmother to help as well is an extra bonus.

Ben: Yeah, absolutely, and it’s something that I’ve been saying even over these last couple of weeks when everybody in our house has been sick. It really does take a village to raise twins.

Joe: That’s right. I mean it’s possible, just you and a single parent. It’s possible with two, but man, those extra pair of hands makes your quality of life so much better.

Ben: Oh, I mean, yeah, even if it’s not family, it’s awesome to have friends watch, step in and give you just a couple hours off. Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, having that flexibility was nice. Megan’s work was very generous with her time off as well. Yeah, I was happy about all that leave and stuff.

Joe: You mentioned having friends come over to watch the girls. How have you been able to carve out time to get out of the house or to find a babysitter, stuff like that?

Ben: We’ll talk to people either on our show or talk to people on the internet worrying about getting a babysitter after the first year, and I think our first babysitter was when they were four months old or so. We were very open to babysitters. I mean we wouldn’t go far away. We would go maybe three miles away out to eat or something. We would just contact babysitters.

My wife, like I said, went back to work, so we were comfortable with other people watching our kids. I think that helped out. Yeah, we were able to do that. We try to get out probably at least once a month now to just get an evening away, although it’s changed so much since we were younger. We’ll leave and tell the babysitter, “We’ll be home by 11:00,” and we’ll roll in at like 9:15 exhausted.

Joe: Yeah, you don’t know how tired you are until you just kind of sit down without having to take care of your babies, like, “Okay, I’m exhausted.” Yeah, but you guys were wise there to get out earlier on when your kids were younger. We try to do that, too, where once the kids get into a predictable routine of sleep, you know even if you just put them down to bed, you know you’re going to have a couple of hours before they’re up to feed again.

Someone could just sit at the house and keep their ear on the babies so you can go have dinner or something simple like that.

Ben: Yeah, and we actually went … because we had some friends that would stop over, but we ended up for babysitters, we initially found people through, what was it, care.com or some website like that. So we had that added stress that we’re bringing these random strangers in, but we would then try to eye them up when they’d come to our house. This is after thorough vetting over the internet.

Yeah, they had the easiest job because we’d pay them, what, like 15 bucks an hour, and the girls would be asleep the entire time. I’d be like … we’d feed them right before we left, and then we’d get home, and they’d wake up half an hour later. It’s like, “All right. Here’s 90 bucks. Thanks.”

Joe: Right. Easy money for them. How did you go about finding daycare for your girls after you guys both went back to work?

Ben: In Madison … I don’t know how it is done by you, but here in Madison, it’s a pretty big shortage on daycare. It’s tough to find any openings. A lot of places will tell you once you find out you’re pregnant, get yourself on the waiting list at the daycare, which we didn’t do. We also knew financially it was going to be extremely expensive for twins full time, for daycare.

Out of awesomeness, my mom actually volunteered to watch the girls three days a week, so then that left us having to find daycare for two days a week. So I basically went through Google, “daycare Madison,” and then called them and asked if they did part-time daycare and if they would have an opening for twins.

We ended up finding a daycare that was about five miles away from our old house, and they were absolutely able to take them, were excited. They were a church-based daycare, which I guess we’re not big church people, but we felt comfortable with it. We ended up going there, and then our new house is actually only like a mile away from it now, so it really worked out in the long run.

Joe: Did you get any discount because you had multiple children?

Ben: No, man. Yeah, not enough discount, I’ll tell you that. They give us, I think, 10% off the second child.

Joe: Yeah, so it’s like a token gesture, pretty much.

Ben: Mm-hmm (affirmative). I’m the one that’s always writing the director asking like, “Oh, do we get that off? Do we get this off?” The whole daycare bill just drives me nuts, but they do a good job.

Joe: Have you been able to travel with your twins?

Ben: Kind of, sort of. We’ve traveled to Louisville and Cincinnati from Madison, so about an eight to nine hour car ride, and we’ve done that several times, but that’s been the extent of our long-distance traveling. We’re planning a big trip a year from now, so their second birthday. We plan on going somewhere big for them. We had some opportunities. We were going to take them flying.

I just was the one with cold feet, that I just didn’t want to deal with a crying baby in a small airplane, and we didn’t have to go, so we just decided not to.

Joe: Yeah, traveling is kind of unpredictable because each time you travel, they’re a little bit older. They’re better at some things but maybe worse at other things or more mobile. Every time you travel, it’s a new learning experience.

Ben: We’ve been learning that even with just driving, sometimes they do well. Sometimes they don’t. Learn from what works.

Joe: That’s right. What is something that you have found works well?

Ben: We had a great tip from somebody we spoke to that we’ve done. If we’re going to Louisville, and that’s where my wife is originally from, we will pick up the girls at daycare at like 4:00 or 5:00 p.m. and then just leave from there so that they’re ready. We’ll ask the daycare to feed them right before we leave. Basically, they’ll sleep for the majority of the ride down. We’ve ran into the issues where we left at like 1:00 in the afternoon.

I think we left Cincinnati once at 1:00 in the afternoon. We only got to Chicago. We ended up just getting a hotel there because we just couldn’t do it anymore. We were stopping every hour, hour and a half, with screaming babies. They were just sick of their car seats. I can’t blame them. I just couldn’t deal with it for another two hours.

Joe: That’s one advantage of driving, is you have the flexibility as opposed to being stuck on a long haul airfare. What’s a typical day in the life like schedule-wise for your now one-year-old girls?

Ben: Monday through Wednesday, my wife will usually wake them up around 5:30 or 6:00 if they’re not already up. She’ll feed them at 6:00, and then I usually will come on down. My wife will leave for work. I’ll play with them. My mom usually gets here by 8:00, or they go to daycare at 8:00. They’ll just play all morning.

Right now, at one-year-old, they’ll get a four or six ounce bottle, sometime between 8:00 and 10:00 a.m. Then they’ll have a morning snack. If we’re lucky, they’ll take a morning nap, and then have lunch. Then if they didn’t take much of a morning nap, they’ll take a really good afternoon nap. A small snack in the afternoon. Dinner is usually at 5:00.

We give them a bottle around 6:30 and put them to bed. They’ll sleep until 5:30 to 6:00 in the morning. I usually will check them at like 11:00 p.m. when I go to bed to make sure they haven’t pooped or anything like that.

Joe: What’s something that you’ve been able to do to keep your marriage strong through the challenges of the first year with twins?

Ben: We’re just so exhausted, so I think one big thing we do is we’re able to laugh at things. We find things humorous. If you listen to our podcast, it’s very unfiltered and very just honest, and I don’t know, we’re very just open about it. I don’t know, she’s like the cliché, best friend, just having that open communication and being able to laugh about everything.

It’s just fun to see the progress of our kids, and I think that we’re starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel, as I think several other people said to us right when our girls were born, like, “You’ll see the light at the end of the tunnel coming up.”

I think seeing that together has really helped, and then also having those opportunities to get out of the house and have a nice dinner together and do some other activity, which might be anything from a show or comedy or anything like that.

Joe: Yeah, as parents of twins, we live a very comical life when you take a step back and look at the things that we go through. It’s good to have a sense of humor to get you through those rough spots. So Ben, you and your wife Megan have a wonderful podcast, The Twinning Podcast. Tell our listeners where they can check that out and what your show is about.

Ben: We have a show. It’s called The Twinning Podcast. You can find it on Apple podcasts or Stitcher or any of those other podcast platforms. We started the podcast when Megan was 20 weeks pregnant, and that was when we announced … our first episode was when we found out on the show what gender our babies were going to be.

We first started the podcast because I like podcasting, but as a way to communicate with friends and family about what’s going on. Then it turned into more of us, like I said, like an unfiltered, very honest account or documentary type of style of what it’s like raising twins. We talk about everything from the stresses to the hardships to the awesome parts.

We’ve talked to people, like I said, from other online profiles or whatever you want to call them, people that have twins that have helped. We talked to Melissa d’Arabian from the Food Network. If you ever listen to that episode, I don’t know, she said something that somebody else said, they laughed at how she’s like, “I wish all of my kids were twins.”

I’m like, “Oh, I couldn’t do this two times in a row.” It’s just something that we just do. We like to do it every other week, but as everyone knows, with having twins, life is very challenging sometimes. It’s not too regular of a show, but we usually get a few episodes up each month.

Joe: Yeah, I think it’s great. There’s not enough information out there of kind of life in the trenches with twins, so I’m glad to see another podcast to help parents of twins because everyone has a unique experience, and to share that, we can all learn from each other’s mistakes and things that have worked for us.

Ben: Yeah. It gives us an opportunity to talk to other people, like yourself, that also have other tips. I think we spoke to a couple of guests, but one of them actually was the one that brought up the whole multiples program that a lot of these formula companies have. That’s something that, if we didn’t have the podcast, we most likely would not have known about.

We ended up getting boatloads of formula from a couple of formula companies that we were using just for having multiples without having to really fill out too much information. Our doctor just submitted that we have twins, which was awesome.

Joe: Ben, if listeners want to connect with you, what’s the best way to get in touch?

Ben: Yeah, I’m on Facebook, The Twinning Podcast. We reply back really quickly. Instagram on The Twinning Podcast, as well as Twitter. You can also just go to our website, thetwinningpodcast.com.

Joe: Excellent. Then I’ll link those in the show notes for this episode. Ben, thank you so much for sharing your story with us. We really appreciate it.

Ben: Hey, thank you very much for having me.

Joe: I hope you enjoyed that conversation with Ben about his twin journey thus far, from finding out they were having twins through that first very challenging year of twins that we all must go through. Again, if you want to check out his podcast and the links mentioned in the show, all of those are available at twindadpodcast.com.

Once again, today’s show is brought to you by my two books for fathers of twins. They’re called Dad’s Guide to Twins and Dad’s Guide to Raising Twins. They’ll take you all the way from pregnancy, preparations, newborns, infants, toddlers, and beyond. You can check out those books at dadsguidetotwins.com/books or search for them on Amazon.com. Thank you so much for listening, and I’ll see you next time.

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Further Reading

Dad's Guide to Raising Twins book
Don't forget to pick up a copy of the definitive guide to raising twins. "Dad's Guide to Raising Twins" was written for fathers of twins to help guide you through the first several years with twins. Click here to learn more about the book and get your copy.

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