So I recently got a Facebook message from a high school friend telling me that her sister, another high school friend, has just had twins, and she asked if I could pass along any pointers.
The answer is no.
It’s not because I’m withholding information; it’s that there’s nothing I can say or do to make the experience any easier. Dealing with a newborn baby is hard work. Dealing with two newborns is like getting hit in the head repeatedly with a large metal object.
In the first place, you never sleep. Ever. I should note that since my wife has nursed all of our children, I’ve had it pretty easy with most of them. The deal was that I would get up when the baby cried, change the diaper, and then hand the baby over to the parent with breasts. It’s times like that where being male really comes in handy.
With two babies, all bets are off. They took turns nursing, which means I always had to feed one of them a bottle. That’s why, over the course of the first six months of their lives, I slept for a total of seventeen minutes.
I had a friend who also had twins, and the way they handled this was that he and his wife took care of both babies on alternate nights. That way, one night of hell was the price for a subsequent good night’s sleep. It just so happened that on one my friend’s nights, nothing he did was able to keep the baby from crying. The bottle, the gentle jiggling, the shushing, the swaying back and forth – none of it was having any effect whatsoever.
It got so bad that his wife finally roused herself to come in and see what was going on. What she discovered was a bleary-eyed husband who was too tired to realize that he had left the baby in the crib. He was trying to stick a bottle into a pillow.
I have twin sisters as well as twin sons, so I once asked my father how he and Mom coped with two newborns at the same time. “Our only goal was to keep them alive,” he answered. Believe me, that’s a higher threshold than it seems, and miraculously, he succeeded. So did we. Corbin and Cornelius are both seven years old now, and they’re a whole lot of fun. Once they started sleeping, pooping in toilets, and feeding and dressing themselves, life gets a whole lot easier.
About a year ago, I started digitizing old VHS movies to transfer them to DVD, and we stumbled on some footage of the boys as toddlers, pawing their way around the furniture of our St. George house. At that moment, both Mrs. Cornell and I felt a sudden wave of exhaustion as all the memories that we’d blocked out of our minds came rushing back to the fore. In many ways, it’s nice to have had one more baby after the twins, because we’re able to appreciate all the joys of infancy without falling asleep face first in the soup.
If I ever find out I’m having triplets, I’m going to head for the hills.