It’s no secret that carrying more than one baby at a time puts enormous pressure on your couple relationship. And with multiples, there’s the increased risk of complications that are mixed in with being concerned about how your family unit is going to operate when you take home more than one baby
Many well-intentioned friends and even caregivers will tell you to take time out and focus on your relationship, they’ll even suggest a weekly ‘date night’ to keep the lines of communication open. This all sounds fabulous and is important, however, oftentimes it’s simply not possible.
So, is there a way to keep your relationship on track while navigating this crazy world of multiples you’re in? And, how will you know when it’s time to reach out and get some professional help?
Twin mum and Psychologist Gretta Little says it’s important to share your feelings about what’s happening and use your pregnancy to reflect on how you’d like things to be when you take your babies home.
“If you can talk about how you want to be parents of multiples, how you were parented yourself, what you want to do the same, what you want to do differently, and how the two of you might have common ground in that, and how you might support each other in going about that,”
“That reflective capacity is really important, and that’s a way as a couple you can bond over the pregnancy as well,” says Gretta.
“It’s important to share your feelings about what’s happening and use your pregnancy to reflect on how you’d like things to be when you take your babies home.”
~Dr Gretta Little~
Dealing with complications
When complications arise in your pregnancy, it’s important to be realistic about what’s achievable for your relationship and not having high expectations of your partner and what they’re going to be able to bring to the relationship.
“It’s good to think about how you’re going to handle conflict together and how you’re going to be able to talk things through about that,”
“But, realistically there may be times where that’s not always possible and that might just have to wait until the babies are a little bit older or more-well,”
“I don’t think anyone ever really expects to have more than one baby, so it can be a bit of a shock,” says Dr Little.
“I don’t think anyone ever really expects to have more than one baby, so it can be a bit of a shock.”
~Dr Gretta Little~
Dr Little suggests joining the Multiple Births Association where you get to meet other people who are parents with multiples, which can help normalise the experience and help you realise that people have done this before and that it is achievable.
Warning signs your relationship is in trouble
When you’ve been through months of coming to terms with being the parent of multiples you might have fallen into the trap of neglecting not only yourself but your partner. If issues aren’t addressed your relationship could be headed for crisis point. Dr Little says there are some clear signs to look out for before you get to this point.
“Warning signs would be increased conflict in the relationship or not talking to each other,”
“And, if you’re having frequent feelings of anger or disappointment about your partner, that would be an indication that it would be good to get some help,” says Dr Little.
“If you’re having frequent feelings of anger or disappointment about your partner, that would be an indication that it would be good to get some help.”
~Dr Gretta Little~
Rebecca Perrie is a fraternal twin, however, she admits it took her a while to come to terms with being told she was having twins. It didn’t affect her relationship with her husband, in the beginning, it was more the fact that she struggled to come to terms with it because she had a plan in place of what her life was going to be like.
“My first one was heading towards two, and in my mind, she could play or be sitting at a table and I could be happily holding the other baby,”
“And when they told me I was having two, my whole plans for the future were not going the way I had envisaged,”
“When they told me I was having two, my whole plans for the future were not going the way I had envisaged.”
“That’s where the toll on our relationship maybe came along as it went through the pregnancy, just me coming to terms with the fact I was having twins,”
Rebecca says her husband Troy was very supportive of the idea of having twins from the beginning, which was a shock.
“While I was reeling he was like oh yeah, that sounds like fun,”
“He’s always wanted three and I always wanted two, so he got what he wanted and I was still in shock,”
“I think that was good because that allowed me to get swept up in his excitement of it,” admits Rebecca.
During the pregnancy, Rebecca says her relationship with Troy was pretty good, and it wasn’t until they got home with the babies that they felt the pressures of being parents of twins.
“When we got home is when the reality set in and the shock of it continued,”
“It put a lot of pressure on our relationship in the first six-month, it was exhausting,”
“It put a lot of pressure on our relationship in the first six-month, it was exhausting.”
“It was a time of where you make or break, we worked as a team, we still had our moments, and we got through it,” says Rebecca.
When the twins had been home for about six-months, Rebecca and Troy enlisted the help of infant sleep specialists to help get the girls into a routine. Rebecca admits that helped not only the babies but steered her and her husband back in the right direction.
Jannelle Snaddon admits that after having difficulty conceiving her entire focus shifted to falling pregnant, and then when she discovered she was expecting quadruplets and they were born preterm she says she failed to give the needs of her husband a priority.
“I don’t know if other mums can understand, we’ve carried these little guys in our bellies and given birth to them, or had them taken out, they were my everything,”
“Matt, of course, is always going to be there and I love him to death, but these four people took the front seat and they jumped ahead of him,” says Jannelle.
Jannelle recalls a time when Matt arrived home from work, sat her down, and very seriously asked her if she’d found someone else.
“I just burst out laughing because I thought it was the most hilarious thing I’d heard,”
“I didn’t leave the house for the first year in my spare time,”
It was a long journey for Jannelle and Matt, which started with the decision to undergo IVF.
“It did start at the IVF journey because I was all over the place with hormones and things like that and there’s so many times I think I don’t know how he put up with me,”
“But he did and he stayed and dealt with all of those emotions at that time and then to the NICU,”
“I’m not going to sugar coat it and say we just love each other so much and that’s how we made it through, we just try and make it work the best we can.”
“I’m not going to sugar coat it and say we just love each other so much and that’s how we made it through,”
“Even now, it’s really hard but we respect each other and our family together is very important to each of us so we just try and make it work the best we can,” says Jannelle.
If I’m honest, I did exactly what Jannelle did. As you’ll remember from previous articles and from the Double Happiness Multiplied podcast, my pregnancy was fraught with anxiety, which laid the foundations for serious relationship problems.
Finding out early on in the pregnancy that there were serious complications and then with the girls being born extremely early, a lengthy NICU stay, and then the realities of caring for two extremely tiny babies who just didn’t sleep, it all weighed heavily on that coveted couple relationship.
Of course, there were times when we grew really close, and that was great to have that feeling of support. However, after the babies were born I guess I just couldn’t understand why he wasn’t as completely committed to the girls as I was. Don’t get me wrong, he clearly loved them immensely but not to the point where he pushed everything else away like I did.
“Little by little, as the years went by that connection you expect with your partner waned until there was absolutely no communication left.”
Little by little, as the years went by that connection you expect with your partner waned until there was absolutely no communication left. We never went out and did anything together as a couple, if we were invited anywhere I would stay at home with the girls and he would just go, alone.
You see, the advice that’s given is to ask for help or if help is offered accept it. But when you’ve got more than one baby, especially when they are premature, the help isn’t freely offered. I would have people say to me “If you get really, really, really stuck we might be able to help” I don’t blame them, they were probably terrified. You see, I had successfully positioned myself as the strong one who people would turn, so when I needed help I just don’t think they knew how.
In the end, we were unable to rebuild our couple relationship.
Until next time…
I wish you Double Happiness … Multiplied.
Separation and divorce rates are significantly higher in couples with multiples.
Increased conflict in the relationship or not talking to each other are warning signs that your relationship is headed for trouble.
If you’re having frequent feelings of anger or disappointment about your partner, that would be an indication that it would be good to get some help.
It’s important to be realistic about what’s achievable for your relationship and not having high expectations of your partner.
Disclaimer: The content contained within this article is purely informative and educational in nature and should not be construed as medical advice. Please use the content only in consultation with an appropriately certified medical or healthcare professional.
Double Happiness Multiplied
Dr Gretta Little – Psychologist
Helping Little Hands
Australian Multiple Birth Association
Perth & Districts Multiple Birth Association
Multiples of America
Twins & Multiple Births Association
The Multiple Births Foundation
Irish Multiple Births Association
Multiple Births Canada
International Council of Multiple Birth Organisations (ICOMBO)
South African Multiple Birth Association