The moment you find out you are going to be a parent for the first time, a natural instinct to seek out information that tells you how exactly one goes about doing that kicks in.
When you find out you are having multiples, the search looks a little more… frantic. How do they all fit (both internally and externally)? What kind of stroller should I get? Will I be able to breastfeed? Do I need two (or three) of everything? Will they be best friends or bitter rivals?
And the underlying question: Can I even do this?
While there are books out there that address some of the logistical issues of multiples (and I read them all when pregnant with my twins two years ago), the answers to the real questions — the ones fraught with worry, anxiety and uncertainty — are best told by those who have lived it, other parents of multiples.
That is why the new book from Megan Woolsey and Alison Lee, Multiples Illuminated, is a treasured resource for parents who are expecting, raising or looking back on their journey with multiples.
A compilation of essays from mostly mothers and a couple of fathers of twins and triplets, Multiples Illuminated brings to light the emotions, challenges, humor and joy of parenting multiples. With stories ranging from hilarious to heartwarming, the anthology captures the spectrum of experiences of all parents, but with the unique insights of those with multiples.
After an enlightening forward from Susan Pinsky, wife of Dr. Drew Pinsky and mother of triplets, the book is divided into five categories: Infertility and Trying to Conceive, Pregnancy, Labor and Delivery, NICU, and The First Years. Each section opens with practical tips from Woolsey and Lee, such as what to bring to the hospital, tips for breastfeeding multiples and a list of must-have baby items. This combination of the tactical and the emotional sides of parenting multiples is what makes Multiples Illuminated such a rare and important resource.
But the stars of this book are the writers who allow us readers a peak into the moments — some seemingly small and others significant — that define the twins/triplets journey.
Moments such as finding out you are having twins from the woman carrying your babies, as told in Becki Melcione’s beautiful essay “Two For One” about infertility, cancer and surrogacy.
Or the moment when the ultrasound tech tells you she sees three heartbeats and you respond with, “So the baby has three hearts?” This was contributor Kirsten Gant’s reaction that she documents in her essay “I’ll Take Three.” As someone who also was told there were three heartbeats (though I later miscarried one of our precious babies), I can wholeheartedly relate to this. In the moment, it seems more logical to think one baby has three hearts rather than you are actually having three babies!
From stories of conception and pregnancy, come those of the most important moment of all — when the babies arrive. Jackie Pick hilariously tells the story in “Outplan”of her labor and delivery and how sometimes the perfect plan means nothing going according to plan. I could easily place myself in her delivery room with descriptions like this:
“You may be asking yourself, as I was in very colorful language, where my husband was. He was the only person within a four-mile radius not in this reverse clown-car of a room.”
With a pair of recently-turned two-year-old boys on my hands, as I read through the book, I found myself hanging on pretty much every word of “The First Years” entries. In Melanie Sweeney’s poignant essay “All Things, All At Once,” she chronicles the emotional and physical stress of the early days with twins and an older sibling. I think every parent of multiples will relate to her feelings of not being enough and the loneliness, even with a partner, that characterize these first years. But she also expressed how this journey changes and strengthens you. As she says:
My body feels broken by the labor of mothering multiples and an older child, but my arms are stronger than they’ve ever been.
This section goes on to highlight situations that all parents of multiples have — or soon will — experience: reactions from strangers (yes, people really say all those things), the famed twin speak, abruptly cutting short outings with your brood and the bond between multiples. The book closes with an essay from Allie Smith sweetly titled “Side by Side” about a moment I am dreading, moving my boys into separate bedrooms.
I could fill this review with quotes because I was nodding my head and shouting “Amen!” to so many essays in Multiples Illuminated. But you should read about these moments yourselves. You will be glad you did.
Multiples Illuminated can be ordered at the following places (and it makes a great gift for an expecting or new parent of multiples!):
*I was provided a free copy of Multiples Illuminated in exchange for an honest review of the book.