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To the Mom Terrified of Having Irish Twins

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You’ve just given birth. You are so in love with this tiny person who consumes every second of your time and attention. The sleep deprivation you are facing makes the late-night college studying look like a week in Cancun. You are happy, but your days (and nights) are so FULL. You are trying to figure out how to balance being both a good wife and a good mother. Your body is just starting to recover from childbirth, and you are trying to make peace with your new shape. You may have had severe morning sickness or a traumatic delivery – something that makes you glad you are on the “other side” of the past 9 months. You hope to have more babies someday, but it’s not really on the radar right now – you just had one! And you are tapped. out.

The thought of being pregnant a month or two after having a baby sends most women into a panic. Nurses and midwives will warn you that “Your body needs a year to heal after giving birth and BREASTFEEDING DOES NOT PREVENT PREGNANCY!!!!” as they shove a birth control prescription in your hand. (And they’re not exactly wrong about breastfeeding – sometimes it doesn’t.) Plenty of faithful Catholics have been tempted into using contraception temporarily just to ensure a little bit of spacing. I recall a friend revealing to me that she believed that contraception was wrong, but used it anyway because she was so scared to get pregnant again “too soon.”

pregtestWhat are most of our concerns based on? Fear. Fear of physical damage; fear of being even more overwhelmed. Fear of losing what is left of our free time. Fear of scarring our children because they didn’t have enough time to “be the baby.” Fear of what people will think of us. (Ooh, this is a big one. “You know what causes that, right?” is people’s attempt to be humorous while implying that you are too dumb to control your reproduction. And pregnancies less than 3 months apart? That means you’re riding the crazy train. To most of the world, it screams pretty loudly “WE DON’T USE BIRTH CONTROL!” But even to non-contracepting, NFP-loving folks, the idea of Irish twins is pretty foreign. Some NFP advocates insist that a certain arbitrary spacing is ideal, or even necessary, in order to keep your marriage healthy, parent properly/attachment parent, keep your body healthy.)

And do you know what? Those fears are legitimate. If we had a glimpse of the Eternal Plan, we would see that “all things work together for good” (Romans 8:28), but in our very narrow view of our life, we don’t always know what the future holds. We know our own weaknesses. And so we are afraid we can’t handle it.

If you find yourself expecting again soon after giving birth, some of the random thoughts that might cross your mind are not limited to the following:

How can I handle 2 babies at once? Won’t my older child feel neglected? He’s still a baby himself! How can I carry two kids around? Can my body handle two pregnancies so close together? Will I have to wean my older baby now that I’m pregnant? Am I going to have a baby every year for the rest of my life? Some of your concerns may be even more serious – I was hoping for a VBAC; am I going to need another C-section? Am I going to experience the same pregnancy complications the second time around?

motherteresaBut first – take a deep breath. Know that God has destined you to be the mother of THIS child. He knows your weaknesses and your faults, your concerns and your fears. But still, He has chosen you. Rest for a moment knowing that in His plan of Divine Providence, He knows what is best for your soul and another baby is it. He knows who will be the best mother for this baby, and she is you.

(I often dislike when people say “But look at all your blessings!” when things are hard, because they still don’t mitigate the sting of our crosses, and sometimes our blessings come with crosses attached. But it has been helpful to me to remember to offer up any of my pregnancy-related woes for women struggling with infertility or recurring miscarriages, who so long for another baby to hold. Why have God given these children to me while allowing another woman to continuously feel the sting of empty arms? Just dwelling on that for a little bit has really helped me to appreciate my little crosses-in-the-midst-of-blessings. Sometimes, the best way to realize how fortunate we are is to will ourselves to be grateful, even during trials. And sometimes we need a gentle reminder of that.)

To the specific questions: You may have to switch to formula. You might have 2 babies who need to be carried everywhere for a while. Your chance of pre-term labor goes up slightly, and your body may be achier with your second pregnancy. You may have some crazy nights; you may have two babies not sleeping through the night at once (I had 3 blissful weeks of my older baby STTN before my younger one was born.) You may experience more pregnancy complications the second time around (I was very blessed that the pre-eclampsia I had with my first did not present itself with my second.) It may be a harder pregnancy. All legitimate concerns, absolutely.

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I found out I was pregnant when my oldest was 12 weeks old. My newborn didn’t sleep well at night. (do they ever?) I spent every afternoon on the couch with nausea and exhaustion while he napped in the baby swing next to me. I kept crackers by my bed to eat in the middle of the night when I got up 8 times feed him. Sometimes it was 10 times. Some of the earlier days with a baby and a young toddler were a blur.

Now, my Irish twins are 5 and 4. The older is studious and loves numbers and words, telling time, calendars, calculators, writing. He is not the biggest conversationalist; he likes to be on a schedule and doesn’t enjoy spontaneity or getting dirty. The younger loves to talk, to tell stories and ask questions, to draw pictures, to be read to, make up stories, to help cook. He wears costumes and hats, and his creativity knows no bounds. These boys are total opposites, but they are the best of friends. They push each other out of their comfort zones. They learn about the virtues of patience and kindness through each other. I can honestly say that they are the best thing that ever happened to each other.

If you are struggling through a pregnancy right now, planned or unexpected, long-awaited or a complete shock, God will give you the grace you need to persevere. In the words of St. Gianna Molla, “Our task is to live holy in the present moment.” And as our beloved Papa Benedict said, “You were not made for comfort; you were made for greatness.” Allow these two thoughts to inspire you and to give you hope. You’ve got this, mama. I’m cheering you on.

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{This post is not intended in any way to shame anyone or to make light of serious medical reasons for postponing pregnancy. All pregnancies and all situations are different. I’m not here to convince you that you need very-closely-spaced babies. I simply want to reassure you that if you do end up having babies in rapid succession, you are not dumb or irresponsible. You are not bad at NFP. You are not crazy. You should not feel ashamed of your openness to life. Do not obsess about the future – focus on the NOW, the baby in your arms and in your belly, not the future you who might possibly have 18 children spaced 11 months apart (but probably not.)}