Written by Albert Garland* for Babble.com
I've been doing some spying lately, casually asking friends and acquaintances about their experiences with having twins.
A buddy from college said of the first year: "Think of the worst thing you can imagine. That's what it was like."
An industry contact back from maternity leave said: "I literally couldn't wait to get back to work. Every weekend is way too long."
A former colleague was more blunt: "Twins were always my worst nightmare."
And now it's my and my wife's nightmare; we're expecting twins this August.
Related: 10 things I learned about life when my twins died
To say we're excited would be an exaggeration. More truthfully, we're pissed. And terrified, and angry, and guilty, and regretful. Why regretful? Because we brought this on ourselves. This is what we wanted, so to speak.
We already have a son, and he's wonderful. But my wife and I each have a sibling, and we wanted him to share that experience. We desperately tried to get pregnant for nearly two years, first the natural way, then via several IUIs (intrauterine inseminations). But getting pregnant when you're both pushing 40 is sort of like trying to blow up the Death Star; it's possible, but you need the perfect shot. Each month we checked my wife's fertility; had forced, dispassionate, purely functional sex; and struck out. It hurt worse every time and caused us both to become more jaded than ever. It affected our relationship, and not in a "this-will-bring-us-closer-than-ever" kind of way.
Each IUI (and we tried three or four) was even worse. Oh, how I miss the cup sex and rushing to the fertility clinic, knowing that I probably wasn't the only one on the subway carrying a jar of semen in my bag. (I never did figure out what exactly was appropriate to masturbate to: A bigger house? Moving to the suburbs?)
And then came the decision to try IVF (in vitro fertilization). Given our ages, we knew the odds were only one in four. And with each shot costing like $10,000, we knew this was money that wasn't going to go toward our house, the kids' college fund, or any other future plans. We also knew each failed attempt would add more cracks in the foundation of our relationship.
Thankfully, we nailed it on the first try. But while we were hoping for one girl, instead we got two boys. My initial reaction was full of disappointment, anger, fear, and guilt. My wife, who had been dreading the possibility of twins for weeks, took it worse. In her mind, this was her fault, since she'd encouraged the fertility doctors to put in two embryos to stack the deck.
As horrible as this might sound, we found ourselves wishing these twins away.
We considered a reduction for about 30 seconds. (That's essentially an abortion of one twin, not both.) If you thought that IVF involved playing God, a reduction felt beyond brazen -- Machiavellian, even. Give us a reason, we thought, as we had the twins tested for genetic anomalies. None came.
Two blessings, two bundles of joy. How could you not be happy, you ask? Of course I'm sympathetic to people who can't get pregnant, or who spend a couple of years trying IVF after IVF. But having kids is a selfish endeavor, and in these cases it's all very relative and highly personal. In our case, my wife and I know better than to think that life with three children is going to be perfect.
When our first son was born, I was naïve. I remember thinking it was going to be nice to be home for a while and have some time off. I couldn't have been more wrong. Those first six weeks were brutal. Then the colic arrived. Two months later, we were shattered, frazzled, damaged. Two years later, our son was still waking up for hours on end in the middle of the night. Three years later, we still struggle mightily with a boy who's fiercely strong-willed and seems to inherently know that crying pushes our buttons.
Our fear is not the new parent fear of the unknown. It's the smart, informed fear of the known. Our biggest nightmare is that we'll have colic again, or double colic. This time around, we're counting down -- not like expecting parents but like cancer patients with only months to live. Enjoy life while you can, for soon it's double the diapers, double the feedings. Half of zero sleep is ... less than zero?
So tell me how this isn't going to suck. (Did I mention we live in a one-bedroom apartment?) Sure, in 10 years I could have close to a starting five of super-athletic, NBA-hopeful alpha males living under my roof smelling up the joint. But right now it's hard for us to see twins as good news.
I'm trying not to be so bitter and to embrace what's ahead of us. It's possible these kids will sleep at some point, I suppose. In the meantime, I've promised to stop referring to one of the boys as "extra" and have told my wife I will try to refrain from calling my first-born son "the free one."
With four months left to go, I'm not sure what stage we're in at the moment -- but it's not acceptance. My wife and I even both privately admitted that we don't like the new children, which is of course insane. Excited? We're not there yet. Terrified? Yes, when we're not practicing denial.
They say the most important thing is the kids' health -- but what about ours?
*Editor's note: This dad wishes to remain anonymous, so we've published this piece under a pen name.