Listen to Jeff Jackson, father of fraternal boy twins, share the story of his twin journey including:
- Dealing with opposite personalities in twins
- Why getting laid off helped him get ready for the twins
- Coping with Mom’s Gestational Hypertension during the pregnancy
- Premature twin babies
- Why Mom had to stay longer in the hospital after the twins were born
- How Mom and Dad took turns feeding babies during the night
- Getting twins on the same schedule
- Why the first 3 months are a total blur
- What types of help they needed once the twins arrived
- Initial sleeping arrangements
- Financial impact of having twins
- Organization tips for parents with twins
- Must-have Gear for Twin Babies
- The milestone that was a turning point in ease of care for the twins
- Best and worst parts of raising 7 year old twins
- Reinforcing proper behavior in your children
- Tips on how to keep a marriage strong despite the challenge of twins
Reach out to Jeff:
Joe: Hi there! Welcome to the 99th 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 on having and raising twins, along with the show notes for this episode. In fact, you can go back and listen to all previous podcast episodes or read the transcripts at twindadpodcast.com.
We are knocking on the door of 100 episodes of the podcast and as a thank you to you, the listener of the podcast, I am giving away free t-shirts from twintshirtcompany.com. For a chance to win, all you need to do is head over to iTunes and leave a rating and review of the podcast. Just search for “Dad’s Guide to Twins” in the iTunes interface on your phone or computer. Over the next four episodes of the podcast, I will draw a reviewer at random and you can then pick out a t-shirt of your choice from Twin T-Shirt Company. I look forward to reading your reviews and good luck!
Joe: Today on the podcast we are continuing our “Father of Twins” interview series. On the show today, we are bringing on Jeff Jackson from daddyisbest.com to share his story of his twins and his journey. So let’s jump right into the interview. Jeff, welcome to the show!
Jeff: Thank you very much! Hi everybody.
Joe: It’s great to have you. Jeff as we get started can you just give us a quick snapshot of yourself and your family right now, and then we’ll go back into more detail of your twin journey.
Jeff: Well, I live in Nanuet, New York which is about 30 miles north of New York City. I am married to Esther, who is upstairs reading to the boys right now. I’ve got two wonderful little boys that just turned seven about three weeks ago, John and Aidan. I work as a salesman and mommy works as a librarian. So we are a two-earner couple, it’s very busy around our house.
Joe: Excellent. Yes, my girls are the same age. They just turned seven this summer. So tell us about your family situation when you found out that you all were having twins.
(NOTE: Still expecting? Get weekly updates on your twin pregnancy here.)
Jeff: Well that was interesting because we had found out we were pregnant a few weeks before. Then we went back to the doctor to learn more about the baby, which turned out to be babies, and the doctor was doing his thing and the first words out of his mouth were “How do you feel about twins?” What does one say to that except, “Thank you, God.” It’s been a pleasant journey. It’s certainly been an eventful one. There’s a lot of ups-and-downs in having twins and in taking care of them. When we started out, we knew nothing about it. They are fraternal twins. They are not identical and their personalities have turned out to be diametrically opposed to each other. When we started preparing we thought we had nine months or thereabouts, 36 weeks, and it was actually just a few weeks less than that, which is pretty good for twins. So we went through the whole time trying to prepare, and we were working, and trying to fix up the house and as it turns out I got laid-off from my job two weeks before the boys were born. I ended up using that extra time to help repair the house for the boys. We got our wood floors refinished. We got our bathroom redone. We had put in a new countertop and done some things in the kitchen. We had to move furniture around and get their room straightened up most of all, and put their beds together and prepare their room. It’s a lot of work. It’s exciting, but it’s still a lot of work.
Joe: That’s true, it is a lot of work to get ready for twins. So I guess it’s a mixed blessing, your job situation, where you were able to have dedicated time to prepare for them.
Jeff: Yes, it was. It was sort of a strange situation for the job. I knew the company was in trouble and I was actually the first to be let go because the company ended up folding. So as it turns out, I was collecting unemployment when the boys were born. I was on there for like three months before I was able to get back into the workforce and start my new job, which I am still at seven years later.
Joe: Thinking back to the pregnancy, what were some of your concerns that you had during the pregnancy with your boys?
Jeff: Well, there were a couple concerns, but the biggest concern was the wife had high blood pressure, which ultimately ended up being the reason why they were delivered as soon as they were because of her blood pressure. We were hoping we’d have another week or two for me to help to get the house together before they came home. But as it turns out, we go into the doctor on August 6th, seven years ago and the doctor said, “Today is the day.” I said, “What? It can’t be today. We’re not ready.” The doctor is the doctor. That was in the morning and in the afternoon we had the babies.
Joe: Wow. How far along were they at that point?
Jeff: They were 32 or 33 weeks, so they were pretty far along for twins. The boys were always in good shape, as far as we knew from all the sonograms. We were never really concerned about their health. They always seemed to be moving. We know they were very active because they were moving a lot inside of mommy. You never know what to expect or what you’re going to get. They are very active! I have heard some girls are as active as the boys, but these boys are pretty active.
Joe: Yes, I’ve got two older boys too, I mean they’re not much older than the girls, they are 10 and almost 9, and the girls give them a good run for their money as far as activity levels go. I think it might be a case of the monkey-see-monkey-do oftentimes. So your boys were born about 32/33 weeks. Did they have to spend time in the NICU, or did they come home right away with mom?
(RELATED: Expecting twins? Avoid these 4 critical mistakes expectant twin parents make.)
Jeff: Well, that’s a good question. Mommy had to stay there. Mommy had to stay in the hospital for a week afterward because of her blood pressure, and they wanted to monitor her. It was easiest just to leave the boys there. The boys were fine. There was never any problem with them so they were staying in the nursery ward for a week while mommy was in there recuperating and making sure that everything is okay with her. That actually gave me some time to help finish up their bedroom at home. Then of course when they get home, the first three months is a blur. I don’t know if you experienced that too. What we did is that we ended up alternating getting up at night to feed them. I have talked to people who have had twins and it is very difficult for mommy to breastfeed both of them. She was not able to do that, so I would end up getting up in the middle of the night to bottle feed one of them and then a couple hours later the other one would wake up. It was very difficult to get the twins on the same schedule.
For those of you out there that don’t know, there is a common theory that you want to get them on the same schedule as soon as possible and keep them on the same schedule. But of course that is almost impossible to do because they’re two little individuals who wake up and fall asleep at different times, and get hungry at different times. We did the best we could. The first three months is a blur, because I didn’t always know when I was awake and when I was sleeping. They were fine physically, it’s just very tiring.
Joe: Yes, absolutely. The sleep deprivation is intense, particularly in those newborn months. So you mentioned you were taking a rotation with your wife. Would you alternate every other night taking care of the babies?
Jeff: We alternated all the time. It wasn’t just one particular night. She probably ended up spending more time with them, because as it turned out I worked nights sometimes and so she probably ended up spending a couple nights more than I did during the week just because she was more available than I was.
Joe: Were you guys able to have any help from family or friends, or were you both all alone with the twins?
Jeff: Fortunately, we had bought a two-family house with her parents. Her father ended up passing away shortly after we moved into the house, but her mother is here. So her mother has provided invaluable support for us, because we wouldn’t be able to do it without her since we both work and there are just those times when neither of us is here. She helps to get the kids off the bus or watches them for a few hours here and there. It’s just invaluable! As it turns out, we don’t live in an area close to our families. This is a relatively new area for us; we don’t have a lot of friends around here, and we don’t have any family. That makes it really tough too.
Joe: Yes, it does. Well, what a great blessing to have at least one extra set of hands to help with the twins because that does make a huge difference! What do you think surprised you the most once you brought the twins home?
Jeff: They were so different! Even when they were born, and they were born by C-section, which I understand most twins are. John came out first and he was crying and doing his thing, and Aidan didn’t want to come out. When he finally did, he didn’t cry right away and then they smacked him on the butt and he started crying. It has been that way ever since. John is very active, Aidan tends to be more passive than John. Aidan is more of a follower and John is the leader. Watching their personalities develop has been fascinating, and just watching them as babies develop too, because every day you could see their awareness grow. You could see it in their eyes and in their movements. It’s a fascinating process to watch when they are very young.
(RELATED: Don't reinvent the twin parenting wheel. Get my 7 Things Every Dad of Twins Needs to Know.)
Joe: Absolutely. I love to study the differences in my girls. They’re identical, but they have completely different personalities too. So when people ask me how do I even tell them apart, it’s because you just know. The way they express themselves, the way they talk – everything they do is different and distinct. When your boys were little did they look similar or did they even look different?
Jeff: There was a similarity there, but their hair was different. Aidan has straighter hair and John has curlier hair. It was always easier to use that to tell them apart as well as, as you said, their actions, their behaviors and when they start speaking. They talk differently and move differently. We never had any problems about telling them apart per se.
Joe: When you brought them home when they were infants, did they sleep in your room with you and your wife or were they in their own nursery?
Jeff: They slept in our room, but it was a very short time. It may have only been a week or two, or maybe it was a little longer than that, but they ended up going into their own room pretty quickly as they became more settled, I think. They went into their room within a month or two. We used to have baby speakers in their room that you could turn on and hear from our bedroom when they were crying. So we knew when they were crying, and then you just go in and take care of them.
Joe: Yes, our situation was similar. Our girls were in their own room from the moment we brought them home actually, but their room is right next to ours so it was pretty easy to hear when they were ready for food in the middle of the night. So you mentioned that you were kind of between jobs when your boys were born. Your wife, was she working as a librarian back then as well?
Jeff: Yes, she was a librarian then.
Joe: How much time did she get off for that, for the birth of the boys?
Jeff: She got a considerable amount of time off from her job. She had been off about a month before she delivered because of her health. The doctor told her she had to be off of work. She was off for about six months, which turned out to be really good. That worked out pretty well and then she was able to go back to the same job.
Joe: So you also had a little bit of time with your babies before you got that new job. Is that correct?
Jeff: That’s correct and thank God I did. It gives you, men particularly, a whole new perspective on babies and children, dealing with things I had never been exposed to. I mean, I have nieces and nephews, but I had never cared for them as much until I had my own. And changing the diapers, which I have changed a hundred million of them, and feeding them, and burping them, and walking them, and everything, and tucking them in at night. I’ve done it all! And bathing them too.
Joe: Yes, it’s all part of the excitement of the journey! And I think that number you gave is accurate; a hundred million diapers is probably true for twins.
Jeff: It’s a lot of diapers! I was so happy when they got off the formula because it was like getting a raise. Formula is so expensive! Then getting off diapers is like another raise. That is another thing you don’t prepare for or think about is what the financial cost is going to be in real terms, in terms of formula and diapers, as well as clothes and everything else.
Joe: Yes, it’s just hard to fathom the sheer quantity of all those supplies that you need going into it.
Jeff: That is usually my advice to people, especially when they’re having twins, is to be organized, because when the rubber hits the road so-to-speak and you’re standing there changing a diaper, you don’t want to be looking around for another diaper or a onesie or whatever. You want to have everything you need as close-by as possible so that you can just reach out and it’s there rather than you having to think about, oh, where was it…
Joe: So, thinking back to when they were little, was there any particular baby gear or baby product that you were really grateful that you had?
Jeff: Everything! The speaker was great. We had the speakers in their room so then we’d know when they were crying. Their room is a few steps away, not right next door, so that was invaluable! The car seat we had, which we still have, was one that was convertible to up to toddler and young child right now. We just had to take off the back of it and we’re still using it.
Joe: Yes, the twin baby monitor is wonderful, because you can be anywhere in the house and still keep an ear on the babies. And as you described the car seat, when we can get products that grow with the child, it makes it a little easier on the wallet, because then you don’t have to buy three of something that they just grow out of very quickly. So you mentioned several milestones earlier like running out of diapers or formula. Was there a particular milestone or age of your twins where things got easier?
Jeff: Yes, that’s another learning experience as you go through raising babies and children is that they go through stages. The first 3 months, then the first 6 months and then the first 9 months and 12 months, and by the first year they’re sleeping through the night. So, besides going through formula and diapers, that was probably the biggest milestone in the first year – being able to sleep through the night. That started at about 9 or 10 months, but it didn’t happen every night. It wasn’t until almost 11 or 12 months that it started to happen on a regular basis where they were sleeping through the night. That’s a major milestone, especially since we were really co-parenting and sharing responsibilities as much as we could. I was pretty active in taking care of them, so getting them to sleep through the night was a major milestone. It wasn’t long after that where they were starting to walk. John, the more active one, he was always the first one to walk, the first one to crawl out of the crib and first to stand up on his own. Aidan followed him, not too far behind.
Then, when they start speaking, at first you don’t understand anything, but then they start putting words together. That’s another major milestone that happens. It’s a whole game changer when they walk and then when they start talking. It’s entirely different. I tell people, one way to look at it is that it’s easiest to take care of the kids when they’re babies because they can’t walk and they can’t talk. You know that they are right there. Once they start walking and talking it’s a completely different game, because then they start saying “No, no, no, no” or “No, I don’t want to” and then they start running from you. The boys are always very playful, they’re still playful, and they still continue to run and play games with us. But back in the early days, just being able to sleep through the night is a big thing.
Joe: Yes, never underestimate a full night’s rest! It’s just a very powerful thing. You don’t realize it until it’s not there. Your boys are seven now. What’s your favorite thing about this age with twins?
Jeff: The fact that it’s fascinating to watch them learn. Aidan is a better book learner than John is. John has been diagnosed with a learning disability, but John is trying, and he is making progress. That’s very fascinating to watch and it’s encouraging because as long as he’s making progress then we know we’re doing okay. Aidan is able to pick up things, and just pick up a book and say, “I want to go read now.” In general it’s their independence, being able to do things on their own and not having to watch them as carefully and hover over them as much as we did when they were younger. Especially when they’re younger, watching two little boys, you’ve got to be there the whole time, you’ve got to watch them the whole time. You just can’t step away and say, “I’ll be back in five minutes” and go get something to drink or whatever, you have to watch them the whole time! So it’s nice for them to be a little bit more independent and it makes it in a certain way easier on us.
Joe: It also brings up some challenges as they grow more independent. What are some of the challenging aspects of this age with your boys?
Jeff: Ye, that’s true, too. While they develop their independence, they have to have discipline and structure and routine so that they can stay within certain boundaries for their actions so they don’t hurt themselves, hurt anybody else, don’t go running around hurting people or whatever, or abusing people in school. Being able to set boundaries for them is probably the biggest challenge. Yes, you can do this, no, you can’t do that, and if you do this it doesn’t mean you’re a bad person, it just means that type of behavior is not tolerated, it’s not appreciated. This is the correct way to do it. You are constantly reinforcing that because they are only seven years old after all. You can’t expect them to remember everything all the time. And they’re so active! We have to say, “Let’s focus here. Let’s concentrate on what we’re doing, ok? That was that and this is this. We have to focus on this right now.” That’s probably the biggest challenge, making sure they are focused and have boundaries so they know what appropriate behaviors are.
Joe: Yes, that sounds very familiar. That sounds like our house right now. Setting boundaries, expectations, proper behavior. Like you mentioned, in a sense it is easier when they are so little, when they’re infants, because you have the basics down of feeding them, bathing them, sleeping. There’s really not much that they can do autonomously to create mischief. It’s when they start to grow into little people that we have a greater responsibility as parents to mold them and help them make right choices. That is when the real challenges of parenting set in. So if you could give our listeners a piece of advice for keeping your marriage strong through expecting twins and through these several years that you’ve had with twins, what advice would you give to your fellow twin dads?
Jeff: Communicate! You cannot over-communicate with your significant other. You have to establish the relationship that this is what we’re doing. You have this, I do this. And when I can’t do this, you can do this. Try to establish boundaries and responsibilities too with your significant other so there are no misunderstandings. The personal intimate side, you have to continue to nurture that relationship. You can’t neglect your marriage or each other just because you’ve got two little kids now, or I’ve got a job and I’m working 50/60 hours a week. I still have to be able to talk to her and communicate and show affection to her and be intimate so that we can still have each other. Because when the children are all grown and gone, then we’ll still be with each other. We have to continue that relationship. As I said, you cannot over-communicate. It’s better to tell everything than nothing.
Joe: Yes, I think that’s very sound advice. Communicating with your wife, particularly in the crazy, early months when you’re not acting rational and neither is your partner, and being able to talk openly about that so that you’re not offending each other. And that’s just the reality and you’re going be a team to plow through that.
Jeff: The team aspect of it, we’re together and we’re doing this. No one has all the right answers and you make mistakes, and you go through that and you work through it. Everybody’s doing the best they can and we know that and we just support each other.
Joe: So, Jeff, as we wrap up today, if listeners want to connect with you, what’s the best way to get in touch?
Jeff: Well, they can go to my Facebook page, Jeff Jackson or daddyisbest, all one word. I’m on Twitter @daddyisbest. I also have my own website, www.daddyisbest.com.
Joe: Well, I hope you enjoyed that interview with Jeff and are able to take away some nuggets of wisdom that you can use in teaching, raising and preparing for your twins.
Now, remember, the contest that we’re having over the next several episodes of the podcast. If you head over to iTunes and leave a review for the podcast, you’ll be entered to win a free t-shirt from twintshirtcompany.com. Plus, your rating and review will help other parents of twins find the podcast and help them along their twin journey. Thank you so much for listening and I’ll see you next time for a special edition of the Dad’s Guide to Twins podcast as we have the 100th episode!
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