Interview with Andrea: mum of twin girls
Andrea lives in small town in the north of Perugia with her husband and their twin daughters born in 2000. They moved to Italy when the girls were 2 years old. Andrea and Tony run a property management business, helping owners with the day to day running of their holiday homes and have started doing social media promotions for holiday homes and affiliates called Rest Assured Rentals. Andrea is MumAbroad’s micro-manager for Perugia & Umbria.
At what point in your pregnancy did you find out you were expecting twins?
I found out at 5 weeks that I was pregnant, I did several tests at home and they all came back negative, but I had a strange metal taste in my mouth and remembered reading that it was an early sign of pregnancy. So I went to the doctors and did another test, they rang me back 2 days later confirming I was pregnant. We were over the moon. At 10 weeks we went to a wedding and when we returned the following day, I started bleeding, no pain, just blood clots. Tony, my husband called the doctor, who told me to rest up over the weekend and he booked me in for a scan on the Monday morning. The monographer wouldn’t let us look at the scan, when finished she didn’t talk to us, just lead us to a waiting room and said the doctor would be out soon. We waited for about 1/2 hour, finally she told us that I had a fibroid, a hepatoma, which was causing the bleeding and prepare yourself, it’s twins. We were in total shock, I was put on 2 weeks bedrest and sent home.
The average pregnancy of mums with twins is 5 weeks shorter than mums of one baby. How long was your pregnancy?
Due to the fibroid and it’s location, I knew that I would have a c-section and the specialist wanted me to go as late as possible. I went in to labour at 37 weeks, at about 7 pm my waters broke and by the time I had arrived at the hospital and was gowned up, I was fully dilated. At 9:59 and 10:01 pm, Cara and Mia we born and rushed of to S.C.B.U. We were very lucky because we had been told that there might not be enough baby units and that maybe the girls would be in separate hospitals, but fortunately they weren’t.
Did you breast feed and was it a challenge?
From quite late in my pregnancy I was producing blood in my milk, after check ups they discovered it was due to high hormone levels, for the first week after the girls birth I was still producing blood. Because the girls were tiny Cara 4lb 4oz and Mia 4lb 2oz, they were tube fed for a few days, and then we would bottle feed them and they would have a top up via the tube. They were in the special baby care unit for 3 weeks. When they were born I was tested and treated with group B streptococcus (GBS), and the girls had to have a course of penicillin to protect them. I was put in a room on my own, so I couldn’t pass the infection on, I was in hospital for 2 weeks. I did express milk for a few weeks, but I was so tired, I did try breastfeeding once, but they didn’t take to it.
Did you dress your babies in matching outfits?
We have tried to never dress them the same, especially when they were toddlers. I had read an article that stated for safety reasons, dress them differently, just in case one twin was going to run into the road and you called the wrong one. Occasionally, they were dressed the same, but we’ve always tried not too, so they are treated as an individual.
Did your babies sleep at the same time or did you feel that you constantly had one baby awake?
Once they were out of hospital, Tony took some time off work, and we would feed a baby each. Once Tony returned to work, he worked permanent nights. I would feed them on my own, unfortunately they hardly ever woke up at the same time. They were 2 hourly fed, it was hard work. If I had known about dream feeding back then, it would have helped a lot.
How important was establishing a routine when your babies were very little?
Having a routine is vital and pays off. We both have worked hard to achieve this, by 5 months the girls were sleeping through at night.
Did you ever manage to have one on one time with each twin?
It was difficult, because of the hours Tony worked, he would get home at 6:30 am and go to bed at 7am, I would wake him up around 2pm and then he would help, or we would go shopping or I would clean the house, while he took them out for a walk. When we had free time we would have a baby each but never for long.
Nowadays with the growth in social media, facebook groups and Meet Ups you can contact other mums for advice at the touch of a button. How did you build a support network when your babies were born? And did you feel the need to connect with other mothers of twins?
Support, what was that? When I took them to be weighed, or went to mother and baby – most mothers would make unhelpful comments about me and the babies, they never offered to help. One time I was in the doctors getting the girls weighed, their double buggy didn’t fit through the doorway, so I had to pick them both up, it looks strange because you pick the first one up nicely but the second one, I would grab at the baby grow – all that the the other mums could do was stare. I was very isolated. I joined TAMBA, but never went to any of the meetings because Mia and Cara were very temperamental, they wouldn’t let anyone else pick them up, just us 2.
My parents helped when they could, but they worked full-time. Every Sunday my mum would make dinner and look after the girls so we could go out. Once a month I worked a Saturday morning and I would drop the girls off to them for a few hours and they babysat occasionally. When we moved to Italy and still to this day, my parents send the girls a parcel every week , with a letter in and a treat. We try and keep in contact via Skype, but before that, we would phone regularly. In Italy there was no support.
People often talk about the “special bond” that twins have. Was this apparent with your girls from early on?
They did have a special bond, when they shared a cot they would suck on each others head, once they were in their own room, they would stand up and chat and laugh at each other, it was funny and cute.
How close are Mia and Cara now they are older?
Cara and Mia are extremely close, they are now 17, and are still very supportive, loving and affectionate to each other. They do argue, but it is very, very rare and a shock when it happens, they still share a bed and cuddle regularly.
We intereviewed Mia and Cara recently for our blog and they said how much they love spending time together as a family. It is obvious that you and your husband have a very strong bond with your girls. Do you think this relationship has developed partly because you were living outside of your home country?
Tony and I have worked hard to keep the family bond strong. Tony is a fantastic father, he adores his girls. When we lived in the UK we spent as much time together as possible, but due to him working regular nights and me working 2 afternoons a week, we were exhausted. So that is why we decided to move to Italy, a new start, a new way of being together as much as possible, we are fortunate that when the girls were little Tony could take them to work. We spend every mealtime together. There is no way our bond would be this close if we had continued to live in the UK, and we don’ think they would be as happy, or so grounded.
Do you have any advice for women expecting twins?
I have loads!
Establish a routine as early as possible, get them ready for bed, bottle, story and bed. (you don’t need to bath the babies everyday).
Baby comes first, not the housework.
Rest as much as possible.
Research dream feeding.
Watch Jo Frost – Super Nanny. I still watch it today and she has some fantastic ways of dealing with issues, that do work, it’s about being consistent.
Be honest, if you are having a bad day, say. All mums have them. Don’t believe the ones that brag on about how well little Johnny is doing, that he can talk, walk etc, behind closed doors it’s a different matter.
Enjoy every second, each stage passes so quickly. Embrace each stage.
Terrible 2’s – let them win the little arguments (which coat they want to wear, not eating an apple but a banana), no means no, I want means – I get nothing.
Have a big cushion each, if they have a melt down, put them on the cushion, tell them to find you when they have calmed down and walk a way.