Preparing for Twins – Animal Style

*I’m not pregnant with twins anymore. They are now 20 months old. Here’s another look back at the emotions I was experiencing during my twin pregnancy.

Once I’d had some time to get used to the idea of having twins, I decided I needed to do some research on the challenge I was faced with. I spent several months scanning twin birth forums and trying to figure out how I was going to deal with not only the pregnancy and birth – the least of my concerns – but the aftermath of crying, vomit, sleepless nights and nappies. I wondered if I could find some hidden intelligence that comes from our animal counterparts. After all, many species cope just fine with more than one offspring at a time, right?

Drawing on the knowledge I had acquired through my study and work, I started to think more about the topic of raising multiple babies. My mind first wandered to Blue-tongued lizards. Not only do I use them to remind myself and other mums that we have it easy in the pregnancy stakes – blue-tongued lizards give birth to live young and can have to up to 10 babies – but  also the birth stakes because each baby is a quarter of the size of their mother! Obviously my birth would be exceptionally easier than theirs, however, the species wouldn’t leave me much insight into my future challenges; her babies are independent as soon as they are born.

So I turned to marsupials next. Pain is hard to measure, but birth appears to be just as painful for them. I was lucky enough to see a kangaroo give birth to her little under-developed jelly bean sized joey and watch it crawl through the fur up into the pouch. The mother kangaroo was definitely feeling it – although there were no strings of obscenities coming from that little mouth! A marsupial’s pouch reminds me of the baby slings that are so popular at the moment, and although I am sure a sling will come in handy, my babies will weigh a whole lot more than a jelly bean (a reality I don’t think my back could handle 24/7). The human pouch arrangement would also be quite dangerous at night – I don’t see the SIDS foundation endorsing that any day soon.

Finding no pearls of wisdom in the world of marsupials, I turned next to the eutherians (placental mammals), the group of which humans are a member. Many eutherians have only one or two young per pregnancy, but some species may produce as many as 20 offspring at once.

I was fairly devastated when I read that, “Although twins have been born already twice before in wild mountain gorillas, there has been no previous case of both babies surviving.” Luckily I quickly had a look at chimpanzees and although twins are rare and again don’t usually survive, I found a lovely story about Gremlin, a mother of twins.

“Although twins result in a loss of mobility for their mother, as it is more difficult for her to travel while supporting her infants, Gremlin managed well, not only because she is highly skilled in her role, but because she has had the help of her older daughter Gaia.” Jane Goodall Institute


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