By Lea Saguisag Jusi
How do parents deal with the joy and laughter, the tears and challenges, of parenting multiplied? How much more fun, or difficult, is it to raise multiples?
Pauline Tan, a 36-year-old property agent and mother to 6-year-old Elizabet and 2-year old twins Gabriel and Isaac found that breastfeeding was the hardest task during the early months of raising her twins. “It was difficult nursing them at the same time because I always needed help. Someone had to prop us up with pillows or help with getting the boys to latch properly. I also tried to feed them one at a time, which turned out to be harder. One baby would nurse for 45 minutes, and then the other would for another 45 minutes. I ended up spending most of my day just nursing them.”
During the second week of the twins’ lives, Pauline started mix-feeding to cope with her situation. She alternated breast and bottle for each twin. However, the one who was last breastfed would get hungry sooner than the baby who was bottle-fed. Again, the twins didn’t feed at the same time, which still meant more time spent just on feeding.
With no domestic helper, Pauline suffered from serious lack of sleep with bouts of fatigue and frustration during the first six months of her twin boys’ lives.32-year-old housewife Irfana Begum finds feeding time to be the most difficult part of raising her 3 ½- year-old triplet daughters Ayesha, Mubeenah and Humaira. “It takes them two to three hours just to drink their milk. Most of the time, they don’t even want to open their mouths. They are very fussy about food. I give them a combination of blended food and solid food. When we go out, I have to cook, blend and pack their food.”
From outbound to homebound
Going on holiday or even a simple trip to the grocery used to be a breeze for these mothers when they had only only one child in tow. But with the addition of multiples, leaving the house suddenly became a major task.
Pauline could do almost anything impromptu when she only had Elizabeth. “With the twins, everything needs to be planned. Oftentimes, I would need to arrange for a babysitter just so I can make a dash for the groceries.” Pauline finds herself spending more time at home rather than having to plan for leaving the house with or without her kids.
Irfana waited until her triplets were two years old and more manageable before taking them out of the house. “I wanted them to be a bit more independent.”
It may be hard enough giving one or two children all the attention and affection they need and crave. It is surely more difficult when you have multiples.
Irfana shares, “It’s hard when you aren’t able to give each child special attention. My daughters fight a lot. They fight about clothes, shoes, toys, and bags. Sometimes they fight just to get my attention.”
Despite advice to the contrary, Pauline never gave her twin sons the same things because she wanted them to learn to share. “Sometimes they share, sometimes they fight. But they’re learning.”
Having multiples in the family also meant some character changes in the other children. Irfana experienced this with her firstborn, “Before the triplets were born, my eldest child Adnan acted very mature. After their birth, he became more childish. Unlike before, when he didn’t want to be so affectionate, suddenly he wanted me to kiss and hug him more. He also wanted more attention.”
Pauline’s eldest daughter Elizabeth also competed for Mummy’s attention with her twin brothers. “She was adjusting to the fact that, unlike the past several years when she was an only child, suddenly there were two babies taking away her time with Mum. She would complain: Why does Mummy always have to be with the babies? I also want time with Mummy!”
Even if all the work is multiplied when one has multiples, the love, the joy and the blessings in the family are also multiplied.
Irfana enjoys seeing how her triplets are so close to one another. “They like eating, sleeping, playing, bathing together. They cannot be without each other. If one is missing, they will look for her. When they were very young, they would talk to each other in baby language. It was so cute seeing one talk to the other and the other would respond, as if they really did understand each other.”