Handling the Stress of Caring for Baby Twins

Gabbi and Michele are teenage twins, but you’d never guess they were related. They are completely different, ever since the day their father shook baby Gabbi, and didn’t stop before it was too late. While Michele hangs out with her friends, does her schoolwork, and listens to her iPod, Gabbi is fed through a tube in her stomach, is legally blind, and cannot walk or talk. She suffers from seizures, requiring medication that diminishes her abilities even more. Twins Gabbi and Michele will never do the things that twin sisters usually do—swap dates, decorate their room together, and fool their friends. It was all taken away when a little anger went too far.

According to psychologist Daphne Bugental, children at the greatest risk of abuse are raised in situations that increase stress for the parents. Raising multiples is one such stressor, and Bugental’s research has shown that children who are multiples have a greater likelihood of being abused. It only takes a few seconds to lose your temper, shake a baby, and do irreparable damage.

Gabbi’s story is a lesson for all parents of multiples to do everything they can to eliminate the extra stress and challenges involved in raising twins. Following are some suggestions if you find yourself “losing your cool” with your baby twins:

  • Isolate yourself from the situation. Place the children in their high chairs, bouncers or cribs where they’ll be safe, and then go into the next room and collect yourself. Take a few moments to count to ten, get a drink, and turn on some soothing music or a program that makes you laugh.
  • Go outdoors. If the weather is decent, strap the kids in the stroller and take a walk. The fresh air and sights will clear your head, and the change of scenery will snap everyone out of their bad moods.
  • Use distractions. Have a few things on hand that always bring a smile to everyone’s face. A bottle of bubbles often does the trick! Kids love to watch bubbles (and chase them, when they’re old enough), and their giggles and smiles will make you feel better.
  • Call a sympathetic friend or family member. This may be your mom or your best friend, but call someone who will reassure you that this phase will pass. If your friend has little ones, ask her to take yours off your hands for an hour or so and promise to do the same for her the following week. Even an hour of time to yourself can be a sanity-saver.
  • Remember how blessed you are. If you experienced a difficult road to parenthood, reflect on the days when you feared you might never have children. You’ll find a new gratitude for the little screamers now in your house!
  • Get help. If you still find that the bad days outweigh the good, and you’re having trouble coping, seek help from a doctor. You may be suffering from postpartum depression, which may require medical and/or psychological intervention.

Gabbi and Michele now live with their grandmother. Their father went to prison, and their mother couldn’t cope with Gabbi’s special needs. Most of us could never imagine that our lives would turn out like Gabbi and Michele’s. But it only takes a few seconds to alter a life forever. We all “lose it” from time to time when the challenges of raising twins get to be too much. Have strategies in place now to handle your next “parental meltdown.”

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About Susan Heim

Susan M. Heim is an author and editor, specializing in multiples, parenting, women’s and Christian issues. Her books include "Boosting Your Baby's Brain Power"; "Chicken Soup for the Soul: Twins and More"; "It’s Twins! Parent-to-Parent Advice from Infancy Through Adolescence"; "Twice the Love: Stories of Inspiration for Families with Twins, Multiples and Singletons"; and, "Oh, Baby! 7 Ways a Baby Will Change Your Life the First Year." Upcoming books include "Chicken Soup for the Soul: All in the Family," "Chicken Soup for the Soul: Devotional Stories for Women," and "Moms of Multiples' Devotions to Go." Susan's articles and essays have appeared in many books, magazines and Web sites. She is a member of the National Association of Women Writers and the Southeastern Writers Association, and has a degree in Business Administration from Michigan State University. Susan lives with her husband and four sons (two teenagers and twin grade-schoolers) in Florida.