Becoming a First Time Father, Twice

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Marathoner. Home brewer. Dog lover. Runner. Foodie. Beer snob. Travel addict. These are the terms I would use to describe myself until about 8 months ago. After being told by a plus sign, doctor, blood test, ultrasound, and a tape measure around my wife’s stomach, I think I have to finally admit that father will be added to the list. After finally getting mentally ready for that, we found out it would be twins, and 6 months later I’m still coming to grips with that. Putting in two car seats today certainly helped make it feel a bit more real.

Last summer we took a trip to Croatia for my 30th birthday. We had discussed that once we were both 30, we’d start discussing family building, but not a day sooner. After one of the best trips of my life, we arrived home and decided we would at least start considering.

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Me on my 30th birthday. 31 may be a little different

In November, I traveled to Ireland for Web Summit, a technology conference, for work. After the conference, I visited our friends in Belfast who have two children; a toddler and an infant. I was a bit overwhelmed but thought, hey maybe I could handle one.

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The Murphy lads. Our biggest supporters

After landing, my wife informed me that we should probably go take a test. I thought I was done with that since college, although I still continuously have nightmares about forgetting to study for finals, but apparently this one you can’t actually fail. A plus sign later and it was time to start coming to terms with being parents.

In December, one of my wife’s co-workers had a party at their house. At it were several children, including a little girl who was super funny and followed me around all night, I ended up spending more of the party playing games with the kids than socializing with the adults. I figured, alright I can do this, and maybe a girl would be just fine.

At this point, I still didn’t believe that we were so lucky so fast. A lifetime of 90s sitcoms taught me that pregnancy tests are only about 50% accurate and things never happen the first few tries. Well apparently since the 80s, those tests have been over 99% accurate. Anyway, I figured until I heard it from a doctor, I wouldn’t be sure. When the doctor told us, I decided I could only be sure when we got the results of the blood test. When we got that, I was sure.

It still took a few weeks to come to grips with how our lives would change. I am of a firm belief that lives don’t have to completely change because of children. According to the books I’ve read so far on European schools of thought on parenting, children should adapt to their parents’ lives, not vice-versa. We’ll see how realistic that is, but I plan on going into it with an open mind. I know we won’t be jet setting for a while, but I don’t see a reason for our trips, travels, and food ventures to stop. Knowing us, we’ll make it work. We’ve already started noting down places that look stroller friendly.

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My exact pose when I realized this meant buying twice as many diapers

After starting to accept this, the doctor had another surprise in store for us. At the first ultrasound reading, I thought at first the screen was either mirrored or defective as there were not one but two little comma-shaped creatures looking back at me. The technician seemed just as surprised and the look of shock we shared before my wife even realized what was happening was something I’ll never forget. Time to adjust to something totally different.

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Wait. One. Two. One… Two…?

At this appointment, which would turn out to be the longest in a long long chain of appointments, we were informed not only that they would be identical, but also that they would be considered high risk because they shared a placenta. This began the freak-us-out portion of the pregnancy. We were told risk after risk including twin-to-twin transfusion, vanishing twin syndrome, stillbirth risks, and several others, essentially leaving us shaking with fear. At one point the doctor went as far as to bring out a textbook to show us what Monochorionic-Diamniotic twins were. Due to sharing a placenta (mono), but having separate amniotic sacs (diamniotic) our twins would be considered high risk and we’d be in the doctor’s office every four weeks, then two, then weekly, plus visits to a perinatal specialist on the same schedule – meaning we’d be at two or more offices in the last four weeks of the pregnancy. It also meant we would deliver no later than 36 weeks, and very likely see a neonatal care unit. We were freaked out.

This may be the first case ever of the internet calming people down from a medical issue. After arriving home we did as much research as possible and found that this actually fairly common – identical twins account for about .3% of all births worldwide or about 12,000 in 2014 in the US – and the vast majority of identical twins are totally fine. Sure, the risk with identicals is higher than a normal pregnancy, but it is by no means a sure thing that some problem will happen. We found plenty of stories with similar experiences where parents felt doomed after the first appointment and everything turned out great with healthy children. I understand the liability doctors face if they don’t explain the risks, but this seemed overboard. Luckily at the subsequent appointments – all two dozen or so so far, the focus has been on how great things are.

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Get out of my face bro!

We’re now at week 33 with 3 left. Thanks to the genetic tests we did, we found out that we’d be having identical boys very early on which made planning so much easier. We’ve been at the primary doctor about 20 times and the perinatal specialist about the same. We’ve had several blood tests, multiple lengthy ultrasounds, and three visits to a fetal cardiologist and have only been told how great the boys look. They’re up to about 5 pounds each now and with some luck, hopefully, won’t spend any time in neonatal care and we can take them home right away. They’re currently both non-breeched, but it’s very very unlikely they’ll be delivered naturally due to the risk that the second would turn around after the first is delivered coupled with the potential for shock or loss of nutrients when the first comes out. In fact, the cesarean is already scheduled. Now we’re starting to freak out about that, but know it’s almost the more common delivery type now, up to 32% in 2014.

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Doing some yoga to get ready

The most problematic part so far, beside the frequent doctor visits, has been buying two of everything. Finding a good double stroller was hard enough, but getting two of everything from car seats to cribs to shirts has been interesting. Imagining how many diapers we’ll go through in the first few years is also worrying. I tried looking for a double jogging stroller but realized I’ll never make it up the hills here without a heart attack, or down them without losing control. I like the idea of one though as it seems a good way to blend getting time with the lads and continuing to do something important to me. My running is something I really hope I don’t lose with the lads. I think just like all time management, it’s about prioritizing. Running seems like a decent time to get either some bonding time with the boys or get some needed alone time periodically. We’ll see how it goes.

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Hershey is getting used to some small changes as well

One recent change has really helped with this situation, though. My employer has recently added paternity leave with full coverage up to six weeks. Like Mark Zuckerberg, I think using it and setting a good example that it’s ok to use it is important, so I plan on using it all. My wife also wants to get back to work when her leave is over, so this extra flexibility means she can realize that while I take over and get the boys to the end of the year before they need care. We both had the luxury of our mothers staying home and starting daycare while I was a child but realize that can’t work for everyone. Until the US gets leave options like other civilized countries, I’m super appreciative that my company even gives anything, let alone a near industry leading six weeks. This is a benefit most folks can’t afford and I know I’m quite lucky. I hope the lads appreciate it.

A little under three weeks to go. No, don’t ask for the names.