Dorcas Nthenya Kibachio is a 33 year old Kenyan mother who delivered her first born twins in August last year. She talks to me about her motherhood experiences in this interview.
MT: When did you find out you were going to have twins? Who did you share this news with?
DNK: By week 8 of my pregnancy, I was experiencing severe migraines and bad nausea. At 8 weeks my clothes were already feeling tight, something I thought was unusual. When I reported this to my gynecologist, he sent me for a scan. That was when my husband and I were given the news that we were expecting twins. Listening to the two heartbeats was an indescribable experience. We were very surprised yet excited in equal measure, especially because neither of our families had a history of twins. My husband and I capped the good news by going out that evening to celebrate.
The first person I called was my mum with whom I shared the good news. Then came the second surprise of the day – my mum told me that our family had a history of twins, that her own sister has three sets of them! The next person we informed was my mother-in-law who was equally excited.
MT: Did you find out the sex of the babies? Did you tell other people?
DNK: I was curious to find out the sex of the twins and when I finally did so, I was by myself. I immediately shared the results of the scan with my husband. We chose to keep this information a secret until they were born.
MT: What was your pregnancy like? Any complications?
DNK: My pregnancy was okay, I didn’t experience complications as such. I walked to work every single day right up to the 7th month when walking became strenuous for me, mainly because my knees began aching. On some days I would use a taxi but when the knee pain wasn’t as bad, I would walk.
MT: Did you have any cravings?
DNK: During my first trimester, I loved eating githeri (mixed maize and beans) from one particular hotel. This was the only meal I would eat on my own without being coerced to feed by my husband. I remember I also couldn’t stand the smell of fried onions, so all our food was either boiled or fried with tomatoes only. For some reason, the smell of onions repulsed me.
I also loved lots of fruits, and ate lots of chicken and pork from the first day I discovered I was pregnant through to the day I delivered. Meanwhile, I stopped eating beef as I just didn’t feel like it.
MT: Did you work till last day?
DNK: I enjoyed going to work until my 37th week when I woke up one day and hard as I tried, I just could not get myself to go to work. Largely because my back was aching, and also because I used to get very hungry I felt I needed to be at home where the househelp would fix a quick meal of my choice anytime I needed it.
MT: Were they born early or on the due date?
DNK: The twins were delivered early because of some complications. Their umbilical cords were around their necks, so the doctor advised that it would be safer to have them delivered earlier than their due date. However, by some sort of coincidence, I started having contractions on the morning of the scheduled day of the caesarian section. I had mixed emotions – I was overly excited yet very nervous and scared. Thank God my husband was there with me and he gave me all the support and strength I needed as our twins were born.
MT: Are they identical or fraternal?
DNK: They are identical.
MT: Did you have to cope with colic?
DNK: Yes they were colic, and that meant I lots of sleepless nights. I lost memory of the last time I had a good night’s sleep. Their colicky was made worse by the fact they were on formula milk. Even though we gave them a certain drug to relieve their colic, it worked on some days and on others it didn’t, so we just learnt how to cope. But it certainly wasn’t easy.
MT: Describe what it is like feeding twins.
DNK: Feeding twins is no walk in the park for sure. It is hectic! I used to breastfeed them in between expressing breastmilk which they would take during the night. In addition, I had to supplement the milk with formula as I didn’t have enough breastmilk to satisfy them both. We would buy about a dozen tins of formula each month.
When I resumed work after my three maternity leave, my breastmilk reduced significantly. I weaned them at 5 months.
MT: They say that mothers of twins concentrate too much on the one with lower weight at birth, sometimes neglecting the heavier one. Is this true?
DNK: There is indeed some element of truth in this, going by my experience. I paid so much attention to the smaller one, especially in the first 2 weeks after we left hospital. They were born at 38 weeks, and while Faith weighed 2.25kg, Hope weighed just 1.8kg. Hope stayed in the neonatal High Dependency Unit for 6 days, and I gave her more attention than I did her sister. Now I give each one of them my equal attention, unless when one is sick and I have to concentrate on her. They are now 10 months old and weigh about 10kg.
MT: Did you have to cope with nipple cracks and painful breasts?
DNK: No I did not have sore or cracked nipples because the nurse at the hospital taught me how to position the baby on the breast so that they could latch well. But sometimes when my milk was alot and for some reason I was unable to express the pain would be unbearable…I felt like as though my breasts would burst!
MT: Is it true that when one gets sick the other one follows?
DNK: I couldn’t agree more with that statement. When one gets sick, hard as I try to ensure the other one does not fall ill too, I have never succeeded for shortly thereafter, the other twin always catches the infection. But thankfully, they rarely fall sick at the same time – one falls sick when the other one is almost attaining full recovery. If they both fell sick at the same time, I sure would go mad!
MT: Help around the house – how has that been?
DNK: I had to hire two houseirls. One is a day scholar and has been with me since the twins were 2 weeks old. I am very grateful because she has been of great assistance to me. As for the boarders, they usually stay for 3 months at most, then get tired and leave as they find it difficult to cope. I continue to pray that God will help me get one who will stay for long.
MT: What responsibilities does each househelp have? Do you pay them the same amount?
DNK: I do not assign tasks as such, they agree and divide chores among themselves. Initially, I used to pay the boarder more because when my husband was not around (I am based in Embu while he works in Nairobi), I would wake her up to help me feed the twins. Now I pay them the same amount because I feed the children myself at night and by the time the day scholar leaves in the evening, much of the work around the house has been completed.
MT: A mother’s gotta have “me” time! With your hands full with twins, how do you pamper yourself?
DNK: I have a friend who is a hair stylist, so I used to request her to come home and do my hair when the twins were newborns. Another friend who runs her own salon also used to send one of her girls to my house to work on my nails –manicures and pedicures. When the twins reached three months, we started going out for lunch and swimming on Saturday’s for about 3 hours. But today at least I can spend a whole day out of the house and attend to my pampering needs.
MT: What is the best part about having twins?
DNK: I am still so excited about them as they bring us so much joy into my life that I can’t put into words. I love it when they play together, when they hold on tight to me… and I know they also love me so much too. I can tell so because when I hold them they play with me and laugh loudly. They also follow me everywhere in the house with their baby walkers.
MT: The most challenging thing about having twins?
DNK: Admittedly, twins are an expensive affair. You can imagine the pampers, formula milk, househelps, vaccines….They also require a lot of attention and time so they must be with someone throughout. But I tell you God never provides where there is no need. That we can testify to.
MT: Has their father been of help?
DNK: He has been very helpful I don’t know what I would ever have done without him. When pregnant he prepared my favorite meals, ensured I religiously took my supplements, ironed both his clothes and mine, and made sure I had everything I needed and that I was comfortable throughout my pregnancy. When I delivered, he was the first one to arrive at the hospital each morning and the last to leave in the evening. While on paternity leave, he helped a lot with the twins, especially at night. He is a very hands-on person and used to accompany us for the twins’ vaccinations and hold the babies as they received their jabs. But above all, he is a very understanding man and did not move out of our bedroom to the couch like some men do when there are newborns in the home. I understand that many men make the living room their bedroom, with the housegirl moving into the master bedroom and sleeping on the floor as they assist the new mum during the night.
MT: Has being a mother changed you? If yes, how?
DNK: It definitely has. I am more responsible now, and I work twice as hard knowing that I have dependants. I have also learnt to spend my time more wisely so that I can maximize time with my family. While we previously led carefree lives with my husband – going out every weekend, taking frequent out-of-town trips and spending without much worry, nowadays we cannot do that as we have to watch our budget. We have decided to take it slow until the twins are about two years old, when we can take them to their grandparents’ for a weekend as we make time for ourselves. I must confess that I miss the getaway trips my husband and I used to take together, as well as the quiet moments we had at home. Today the house is abuzz with activity and we have had to adjust accordingly.
MT: How did you handle visitors who wanted to see the babies in the early days?
DNK: We asked our friends to wait until the girls were three months old. This is because the twins were born earlier than their due date and the doctor had advised so because they were vulnerable to infections. In the first month, only three people had access to the girls – me, their father and the boarder housegirl. When we explained the situation to relatives and friends, they understood. It paid off because they never got sick until they were 4 months old.
MT: Have you gone back to work? If yes how was the separation?
DNK: I went back to work after three months and it was very difficult being away from them. I used to dash home every 3 hours just because I missed them so much and because I had to express milk anyway. Thank God my work place is a 10 minute walk from the house.
Do you have interesting motherhood experiences? Do you have a unique story to tell? If you would like to share your tales in this blog, you can get in touch with me on firstname.lastname@example.org