Interview: Alyson Steiner on Life with Twins

I applaud mothers of multiples. They have double the bottles, double the diapers, and double the laundry. I guess they get double the kisses too. My good friend, Alyson is a mom of identical twin boy. The boys light up the room with their smiles, and our boys are the best of friends. Alyson was kind enough to shed some light on her ups and downs of being a mom of twins. 

Tell us a little about yourself and your family.

I am a proud wife to Justin, and a happily-stay-at-home mom to my boys William and Jackson. My husband and I have been married for almost 12 years. We met and married while we were still in college, and have had such a fun journey experiencing life together! We have identical twin boys, who are just a few short months from turning 4! They are our miracle boys, and were born at only 28 weeks. You would never know how small they started out by looking at them now, though. We have a cocker spaniel named Betsy, who was our “furry baby” for almost 8 years before our boys joined the family We live north of Dallas, in a very family-oriented neighborhood. Life is just so much fun right now. I love doing my dream job of Mommy every single day!

Was it important to have your twins on a schedule from the day you brought them home?

My boys were born early, at just shy of 29 weeks. At 2 lbs 10 oz and 2 lbs 11 oz, they had a little bit of growing and learning how to eat to do. Since we were in the NICU for almost 8 weeks, the nurses (bless their amazing hearts!!) got my boys on the most incredible schedule, all while teaching me, a first time mom, how to care for them. This schedule was CRUCIAL when we got home. Honestly, if they had just gone full-term and come home like babies normally do a few days after birth, I might not have been so diligent about getting them onto a schedule. But our lives were MUCH easier taking care of two (preemie) babies on a schedule. They ate together, slept together, played together, and got their diapers changed together! I pumped and fed them by bottle, so it was easy to have anyone that was around feed them too. Having to feed one at a time would have made my life much more difficult, and I know we would have had even less sleep! So my recommendations to new twin moms…get the babies on a schedule as early as you can! Even if that means waking up #2 in the middle of the night since #1 woke up. There was nothing worse than the few days where they were off schedule…it isn't fun to be “on” around the clock.

Since your twins are identical, how did you tell them apart after birth?

This was something that I was really nervous about when I was pregnant. I even had a bad dream that I had mixed up the boys and couldn't figure out who was who! I mean, what do you do if you can’t tell your kids apart at the early age? Take them in for fingerprints? I had purchased two bottles of finger nail polish, one blue and one green (the colors I’d decided to assign to each boy), to paint a little toenail on each when they arrived.
But God took care of this fear for me in an interesting way While my boys were in the NICU, my oldest, William, at about 2 weeks old, somehow ended up with a little bruise on his fragile little forehead skin from his breathing tube. As it healed over the next few weeks, it developed some scar tissue right under the skin, forming a little bump. At first we were broken hearted that our precious little baby wasn't “perfect” anymore. But after we got home, we realized Will’s little bump was a gift from God, and he was still perfect! When we were holding babies in the middle of the night, we could just rub their little foreheads and immediately tell who was who! And, since my babies were super baldies for awhile, anyone who knew Will had the bump could tell them apart too.
As they have grown, his head has grown, and the bump is pretty much flat and hard to see anymore. They have developed quite different and unique personalities and mannerisms. Honestly, about 98.9% of the time I don’t have any trouble telling them apart anymore Not to say that they won’t try to pull the switch-a-roo on us (or others) someday, but I have confidence now that they won’t be able to fool their mommy!

What is the one piece of baby gear you could not live without?
 Oh, there are so many things that have made our life with twins easier, and I could probably create a long list. But I have to say, our video monitor is my favorite one. We have worn these things out and gone through quite a few different kinds. I can’t tell you how nice it was when I heard a cry, strange sound, or thump, to just look at the screen to ensure everyone was okay and then go back to sleep. As babies, if I came in to check on one boy, I usually ended up waking both of them up. So, the video monitor was a huge help. It still is today, at almost 4 years old. We can watch them as they crawl into each other’s bed, see what they are doing to each other, and just get a glimpse at them being quiet, peaceful, and still. That doesn't happen too often anymore!

When did you feel like you could go places with the twins?

Well, we didn't go too many places early on. Since the boys were preemies and born right before winter, we stayed pretty much at home without many people seeing them through the whole flu season. We didn't want to risk them getting sick or RSV, so we stayed home from late October, when they came home from the hospital, until April. I was very lucky to have my parents in town, and I pretty much had a second or third set of hands to every doctor’s appointment and still do if I ask.

I would say I got pretty good at the leaving the house routine fairly quickly after ending our “house arrest”.
 I felt confident to get out and actually enjoy taking the boys out. I’d waited a long time for children, and I am very proud to show them off! I quickly became a pro at grocery shopping with my long double stroller, infant seats clipped in, and groceries filling every available nook and cranny of that thing. We were a sight to behold.

I have to say, my multiple double strollers (I think I ended up with 5 different ones—all secondhand finds—throughout the baby years) were my saving grace. We got out and about quite often. I probably kept my kids in a stroller much longer than a singleton would have been, but it worked for us. I didn't want them running in opposite directions, so I convinced them that this is the way we got to do things.  But it is fun now, stroller free, and I actually have kids that stay with me. There is just a whole lot less to haul and life just feels easier.

How do you give each child undivided attention?

     Honestly, this is a tough one for me. Since my husband works somewhat long hours, most of the time I’m by myself with the boys. So that makes for hard, complete one-on-one time with each boy. It is something that I’m always thinking about since I know it is such a crucial thing for them. My boys have such different personalities, that even in having them both together, I still can do things to make each of them feel special.

They both love to cuddle, so we have many times throughout our days that they ask to sit on my lap and cuddle. Sometimes I cuddle just with one, or sometimes all together. As twins, they love being together, and many times, want the other brother to be around too.

I know they love when I stop all I’m doing and just play with them. They love mommy sitting and drawing, playing playdoh, playing chase, and so much more. There is nothing better than when I see their smiles when I know they feel my love.
photo by Rachel Bobbitt

    What's the hardest part about being a mommy of twins? What is the greatest reward?

     The hardest part of being a mommy of twins is making sure each boy feels like an individual and not compared to his brother. I want both to know how amazing their strengths are. With boys who look alike and are always together, it is a tricky thing to make sure that they understand that they are their own person, and not just a twin. I pray that they are a motivator for each other as they grow up, and never a competitor that causes their relationship to be hurt. It is a fine and difficult balance to find.

The greatest reward of being a mommy of twins is seeing the amazing relationship that they have. Even though I strive to make sure they feel like an individual, they are so close and the best of friends. It isn't unusual for them to sit cuddled up with each other, to ask about their brother, to tell each other they love the other, or to watch them sleeping in each other’s bed.  There are so many times my husband and I are just in awe of the fact that God gave us twins, and we feel so blessed to have the experience of raising these precious miracles!

Complete this sentence. I wish someone would have told me...
How hard getting two boys fully potty trained at the same time was! We struggled with this, and even with a ton of hard work it took us 9 LONG months! But even if someone had told me, I probably wouldn't have believed them. I had done all the prep and reading I could, and had utter confidence that my boys would be trained quickly. But it didn't go that way at all, and I can honestly say that  the potty training phase was my least favorite thing I've had to do as a mommy so far. But we did it, and I’m so proud to have big boys now. They are beyond proud of themselves too.

Alyson, thank you for allowing us to peek inside your life with twins. I still don't know how you do it everyday. If you would like to follow Alyson's adventures with twins, check out her blog.


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