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Some Thoughts About Multiple Births

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. was in private practice for more than thirty years. He is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in the states ...Read More

How many of you have twin children or even triplets and more? How many of you are having fun raising twins, or quads or more? The answer to both questions is that some of you have multiple birth families and, among those, some of you are having fun but some are not.

I read an article recently, published by the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology, stating that many fathers and mothers of multiple birth deliveries experience more mental problems than parents of singletons. Interestingly, the findings included the fact that those who had Assisted Reproductive Therapy were slightly less likely to experience depression.

What interested me about the findings was the fact that I am the father of twins and was not surprised when I read the findings in this piece of research.

When my wife and I had the twins, many friends applauded us and told us we were lucky because we now had our family and could "get the child rearing done all at once." Very quickly, after we got the babies home, we started to feel a lot less than lucky.

The fact is that caring for twin, triplet and more babies, is extremely stressful, physically, emotionally, financially and in every other way.

Not Everyone Finds it Difficult:

What I want to stress here is that not every person experiences great stress and depression when rearing multiple birth infants. In fact, I have met a number of people who reported that they had a lot of fun with it. Of course, consistent with the findings of the study, one mother of triplet infants told me that she was thrilled to have the babies after years of attempting and failing to get pregnant. The births were a result of assisted technology and father and mother knew they were having triplets from the outset.

What are some of the factors that help multiple birth parents:

The answer to this question is complicated but I will attempt to give some explanations based on my life experience as wells as what I have read and learned from others. First, let me honestly admit that my wife and I experienced a lot of stress with our infant twin daughters:

1. Family Support: With people so widely travelled today and with so many family members living in distant places from one another, it is difficult for many couples with infants to have available the type of help and support they would have in the past.

2. By temperament, some people are just more suited to coping with babies. Part of this temperamental disposition has a lot to do with the early childhood experiences of the new parents and whether or not they have a back log of experiences to fall back on for help.

3. The temperamental disposition of the babies can have an impact on mothering and fathering infants. For instance, out twins were alert, active and noisy from the moment of their birth. They were characterized by the pediatrician as "chollicy babies." It took a long time before they slept peacefully through the night and this is something that just seems to happen to some infants whether they are twins or singletons.

4. Mutual support between parents: Even with one infant it is incumbent on fathers to be there to assist and help with infants in every way possible. I remember clearly doing my share of changing diapers, bottle feeding and entertaining the babies.

5. Probably one of the most stressful factors in raising infants is paying for the many things that are needed such as: diapers, bottles, milk, insurance and money for the pediatrician, clothing, cribs, etc, because the list goes on. Many young couples are financially stressed in dealing with multiple births, particularly if the multiple births were not expected.

Mothers: I have spoken to multiple numbers of mothers over the years about their experiences in raising infants, particularly during the stage of infancy. Many of these women reported experiencing over whelming stress, depression and anxiety in coping with the baby, particularly if there they had multiple births.

A few of these mothers were able to admit, albeit with a lot of guilt, that they loved their infants but wished they were never born. The guilt was due to the social expectation that mothers are supposed to be all loving. It should be pointed out that they did love their babies but were so tired and over whelmed that they had to confess to occasional less that maternally loving feelings.

For the fathers, a lot of the stress they reported was related to the fact that they felt impelled to work more in order to supplement their income due to the financial drain created by multiple births. Many of these men worked many extra hours and were not home to assist their wives as much as they would have liked to. This created marital tension despite the fact that the reasons for husband not being home was fully understood and mutually agreed to.

Conclusion:

I believe it was Hillary Clinton who once said, during her tenure of Firs Lady of the United States that it "takes a village to raise a child." The problem is that we no longer live in a "village" type of social structure with the result that many people feel isolated. This isolation shows through when young couples begin their families. If their new families have multiple births, the sense of stress and isolation becomes more acute.

The one good thing about infancy is that it does not last long. It is a miraculous and awesome thing to see how quickly infants grow, develop and mature. Of course, during each stage of development there are new challenges for parents but I believe none are more trying than those days when infants are totally helpless and dependent on our care.

Things to do:

If you are parents with either one infant or many of them, there are various support groups whereby parents help one another. For example, there are "Mom and Me" groups for mothers and infants to get together, talk and maybe even take turns baby sitting for one or two hours. In addition, there are many types of resources available in each community. It is a matter of talking to other parents in the neighborhood or doing an internet search.

Your comments are encouraged.

Keep Reading By Author Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D.
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