Hey Beyoncé! You're reading this, right? Ed Power, father of twins, has got some words of wisdom for you. May also benefit other parents of multiples, so if you're Northamptonshire's answer to Beyoncé, read on...
Beyoncé has announced her pregnancy with twins in the traditional fashion of posing on Instagram with a veil over her face and a protective hand on her baby-bump.
The singer’s newsflash sent social media into meltdown, and is now the most liked Instagram post in HISTORY (so about five years then). Yet as fans rush to congratulate Bey and husband Jay Z, those of us who are already the parents of twins will have experienced a glimmering of sympathy for the multimillionaire couple.
The truth is twins are not easy – even when you’re wealthy enough to afford a diamond-encrusted baby-monitor and army of nannies.
As word broke of Beyonce’s bombshell I must admit to a queasy flashback. When I learned my wife’s second pregnancy was to be a two-for-the-price of-one, my response was somewhere between joy and white-knuckle terror (it was mostly white-knuckle terror).
Just like Bey and Jay, a family of three was about to expand to five. And, perhaps less like Bey and Jay, we wondered how we would pay for it all: the extra nappies, the double-sized buggy, the Ikea bulk order?
But things have a way of working out and in the three and a half years since our twins were born I feel I have gained a degree of expertise on the subject. So pull up a seat Mr and Mrs Knowles. Your crash course in twins and how not to muck them up begins here.
1. Everyone will ask if these two identically-sized babies with similar facial features are in fact twins
People love twins. So much so that they can’t quite bring themselves to believe their luck when stumbling upon a pair in the wild. “Are those twins?” is the question that will be directed at you again and again (and again) when you take your newborns out. Legally, punters are obliged to follow-through by observing that “you must have your hands full”. Yes, and thank you for pointing it out.
2. The pregnancy is going to be "interesting"
Twins rarely go to term and your bump will invariably go bump in the night long before the due date. My wife woke me at 5.30am with news that the new additions to the family were very much en-route. There followed a panicked dash to the hospital straight out of a mid-tier Hollywood rom-com (complete with running commentary on contractions from the missus and a "hilarious" screaming match with the driver of a BMW who tried to cut us off on the motorway ramp). Once you’re into that final month, keep a packed suitcase and never plan more than 10 minutes ahead.
3. There will always be a grumpy one
With a boring old solitary newborn, it’s a game of odds whether they or not they will be in a cheery mood. When it’s twins, one of them will always be difficult. If baby number one is taking their bottle, you can count on baby number two chucking up all over your lap. Come bedtime, the cooperative twin will inevitably be drowned out by their sibling’s wails. The only solution is to accept the madness as part of your routine. There’s going to be a lot more where that came from. Which leads us to…
4. Say goodbye to sleep…forever…
Even an unruly newborn succumbs to sleep now and then. Twins, in contrast, take turns keeping you awake. As one dozes the other will have a jolly time screaming their adorable, air-raid siren lungs out. At such a young age, it’s nice to see siblings co-operate and when older they will hopefully collaborate in a similar fashion on the washing-up, laundry, essential roof-repairs etc. Just to be clear, however: for the first six months you will not sleep a wink. Actually you will sleep less than a wink. If you don’t think that’s possible you haven’t had twins.
5. Sell all your luxury items – and any internal organs you aren’t using
Twins are expensive and there’s simply no getting around it. Scarily, as they grow the costs soar. Two people consume a LOT of food and if there’s already an older brother or sister, you will be essentially running a glorified guesthouse where the patrons never leave (and refuse to pay their bills – no matter how often you raise the topic). Oh course, you’ll feel rich in all sort of cuddly, esoteric ways but, in a more literal sense, prepare to be perennially skint
6. Double buggies are five times the size of the regular model
Choosing the correct double-buggy is like trying to solve a complex equation to which there is no correct answer. Do you opt for a Bugaboo Donkey-style monster, thereby condemning yourself to four years of getting jammed in supermarket doors? Or should you opt for a slimmer “stacked” buggy, where one twin is placed double-decker style beneath the other. This will save you from becoming trapped in the Marks and Spencer dairy aisle – but has the potential downside of dooming one of the twins to perpetual darkness for the duration of your foray outside the house.
7. They’ll communicate with each other long before they can talk to you
At less than 12 months, our twins had worked out their own lingua franca. Sharing a bedroom, they would stand at their cots exchanging earnest babbles. Heavens knows what they were talking about – the rubbish quality of the catering probably – but they certainly understood one another.
8. But don’t assume they’re going to be best friends
Grown-up twins often attest to an unusually strong connection with their sibling. As kids however they’ll squabble just like any other other brothers or sisters. So don’t take it for granted that they will see each other in a special light or be extra kind. As soon as your back is turned, they’ll be scrapping for the last unbroken crayon with the enthusiasm of WWE wrestlers with itchy underpants.
9. When you meet another parent of twins you will want to hug them and never let go
Even those of us who are not usually outgoing in social situations will gush and weep when encountering fellow members of the twins tribe. No words can describe the rollercoaster that those first few months with a double-bundle of joy brings and we feel a special bond with other initiates into our exclusive club.
On a random evening in the pub recently I was introduced to two fellow fathers of twins. Ten minutes later, we were all bestest mates ever. So if you want to come and shoot the breeze Jay Z, my door is always open (actually it will be closed and locked and you will probably also want to look out for the stair-guard – but please do persevere).
10. Everybody will share a twin story
Twins account for one per cent of pregnancies in the UK. So, they’re a novelty - but not exactly unique. Consequently everyone will have a "twin story" they’re dying to foist upon you. You will be obliged to pretend to care as they tell you about their twin cousins / the family up the road who have twins/ their love for the Danny DeVito - Arnold Schwarzenegger comedy Twins etc etc. Our advice is to smile, nod and retreat to your happy place inside.