Interview with Twin Mum, Sarah Ottewell


Do you have any time-saving tips that could help parents manage in those manic first months with newborn twins?

To be honest a lot of the first few months is a blur! I think the best tip is to get a routine down pretty quick. It helps the babies to be more settled and helps you stay slightly sane! Sleep is such a huge thing for both you and the babes. I know so many parents with singletons who have had huge issues with sleep such as the baby not wanting to be put down to go to sleep. I think because we had to get a routine in place quickly Joe and Ry have always been really good sleepers and never had any problems going to bed. They still took a little while to sleep through but once they cracked it that was it and we’ve never had any issues since. One tip that I can think of is for when you start using bottles for feeding rather than breast feeding. We used to make sure we had enough clean, sterile bottles for all the feeds in the day. First thing in the morning we would put the right amount of boiled water in each bottle and measure out the correct amount of formula powder for each bottle in a specially designed storage tub. Then at every feed we weren’t waiting for boiled water to cool or having a last minute panic about it not being ready. People used to say “what about warming it up for them” but to be honest because they never had it warm it was never an issue


Which one piece of equipment did you feel you couldn’t have lived without?

The main piece of equipment is of course the buggy. We had a mountain buggy which was great! Other than that there were three things that were brilliant. The first was chairs that stick in the bath. We could use them from when they were really small and it meant it was possible for me to bath them both at the same time without having to panic about drowning! The other was our Baby Bjorn bouncy chairs. We live in a basement flat and getting in and out was a nightmare. I used to keep one chair by the front door so when I was coming in and out I could put one baby in the bouncy chair while I was getting the other one in/out of the buggy. It meant I wasn’t having to leave the baby in the buggy for more than a few seconds while I walked down the stairs. The last are extra large muslin squares (Aden and Anais). We swaddled Joe and Ry in them when they were newborn, used them as sun shades on the buggy, for cleaning up, covering up while feeding and Joe and Ry still have them in bed now as their comforters. In fact while we’re at home Joe has his with him most of the time like Linus from snoopy!


Do/ did you belong to any twin organisations/ clubs and did they help?

While I was pregnant we attended some anti natal classes specifically for couples expecting twins which were run by a lady who used to be a midwife and had twin girls herself. Her name was Tracy Law. The classes were fantastic and Tracy was a real support both before and after the birth. The biggest support came from the other families who also attended the classes. We all became very close friends and would get together regularly with all the little ones. This started off in each other’s homes and as the children have got bigger we now hire a church hall and bring toys and tea and just let them all run about together while we put the world to rights and laugh/cry/moan/rejoice over our lives bringing up twins (or life in general). We still get together whenever we can. Now they are all at school this mainly happens in the holidays though we do sometimes meet up on a Friday after school. All the children know each other so well and are so comfortable with each other it’s wonderful. The same is true for all the parents. Together we all know we can say anything about what we are experiencing and we all understand. There is non of this ‘competitive parenting’ that you can come across. We are all very honest with each other. No one is judgemental, it is just a very safe and supportive group of friends who have all been where we’ve been. We all feel very lucky to have each other and I believe they are friendships we’ll have forever.
We also joined TAMBA (mainly for the discounts!)


How are you finding life now with the boys at aged 5?

Now Joe and Ry are 5 some things are easier and other things are more tricky! It’s great because they are so much more independent and not so reliant on us physically. They dress themselves (which helps a lot when we’re getting ready for school in the morning!), play independently both together and separately, they are starting to express a real desire to explore things which interest them irrespective of what the other one is doing, developing individual friendships and just generally becoming very much their own individual people.
At the same time we have times at home when we feel like we are constantly refereeing or being a negotiator. Both of them know how to push each other’s buttons and so they often do! But having said that they are fantastic friends. They know exactly how to make each other laugh, when they need help, what each other’s strengths are… Though there are times when we want to scream for the most part having 5 year old twins is great fun. Joe and Ry are great company and we enjoy spending time together as a family.


I know you’ve separated Joe and Ry into different classes for their second year of primary school. Do you feel the boys have benefitted from this change?

Joe and Ry are very different people and they approach things very differently and have different needs. Figuring all this out is both exciting and a challenge, especially as it can change all the time too. We decided to put them in separate classes this year (year 1) for the first time which we feel, so far, has turned out to be the right decision for them. Because they approach things differently and have different strengths we felt it would be good for them to be able to do this at school independently of each other without constantly being aware of what the other one is up to. At school their learning is happening at different rates in different subjects (and behaviours!) and I think it’s good that they don’t compare themselves to each other in the classroom (and that the teachers don’t). It’s also given them the confidence to explore different friendships. One of the things that helped us to make the decision was when during reception when they were in the same class, one of them received a party invite and the other one didn’t. I felt terrible, especially as the one that didn’t get invited was Joe, and he’s much more sensitive about these kind of things. We went to great lengths to enable Ry to go to the party while sorting out a play date for Joe with a child that Ry wouldn’t feel too jealous about not seeing as well! It sounds crazy but I couldn’t bear the thought of one of them feeling like they weren’t wanted somewhere. Obviously I know that life isn’t like that and sometimes you just don’t get invited to parties! Being in separate classes has made dealing with that issue much easier and now they just accept that that’s the way it is and it doesn’t mean anything personal… phew!! We now do separate play dates, parties etc as well as some that they do together (though these have to be with two other children… three is a tricky number when it comes to playing!). They have time together and time apart. It takes more organising but it’s working well. We felt that they were together 24/7 at home so some time apart wasn’t a bad thing. Thankfully it’s all worked out well though it wasn’t an easy decision to come to. Ben and I went back and forth for weeks and to begin with I felt so guilty because doing things separately just wasn’t something we had been able to do before. But so far it’s all working out for the best!
Another positive is that during school holidays when some of the parents from school have been saying ‘they’re going crazy trying to keep their kids busy’ we don’t have that problem. Joe and Ry always have someone there to play with if they want to. They never get bored or lonely… for that I feel very lucky!


What do you love most about raising twins?

When they are little, it does feel lovely walking down the street and hearing all the ooo’s and aaar’s! You can’t help but feel special and incredibly lucky to get two beautiful children at once.
Watching their relationship grow and evolve. How they laugh, joke, imagine, fight, learn… they do it all independently but together at the same time with each other’s support and guidance. They are such a huge influence on each other and the strength they get from each other is incredible. They appreciate who each other are and respect that (most of the time).
It’s fantastic watching them grow and realise how different they are despite you doing everything the same.
I’ve grown in confidence and I think it brought Ben and I closer together. There aren’t many challenges I feel we couldn’t overcome now! It’s been a huge (& very steep at times) learning curve but I wouldn’t change any of it for the world!


And what have you found to be the biggest challenge?

I think the biggest challenge (other than the logistics of getting a double buggy into a basement flat!) has been recognising their differences but treating them equally if that makes sense. I guess this is always a challenge with all siblings but I suppose with twins it’s highlighted because they are at the same stage.


I know you also have one year old Alice too. How different is it raising a single baby compared with raising twins?

Having Alice has been amazing! When I was pregnant I couldn’t help but worry about what having another baby would do to our family. I didn’t know how Joe and Ry would react and it was hard to imagine having enough time, energy and love to give to another baby. But the arrival of Alice has been a dream. After having twins, having a single baby has been a walk in the park! I think it helped that she has been such a contented, happy baby. I’m by no means saying that having one baby is easy or that having one baby after twins is always a breeze, but our experience couldn’t have been better. Physically it’s easier. Only having to carry one baby, feed one baby, bathe one baby, change one baby… all those things that with the two of them were a challenge and quite often needed us to be super organised in order to be able to do any of them. With Alice I didn’t seem to need to think too hard about any of it. The first night after she was born I was in hospital on my own and I didn’t have a constant feeling of panic, or guilt. It was just me and her and we could just do what we needed to do. I was able to breast feed, which was great after all the struggles with Joe and Ry. Emotionally it was easier because we felt more confident in what we were doing but also there wasn’t all the guilt that I had with Joe and Ry. When the boys were little I remember feeling that if I kissed one I must kiss both. If I cuddled one, I must cuddle both, if I even looked at one I must look at the other! This constant feeling of wanting to be so fair and show them both that I loved them… it was all consuming for a while. Obviously as you relax you realise that this all happens naturally anyway and that one of them is not going to feel rejected because you changed the other one’s nappy first!
I think what has really been the best thing about the arrival of Alice is Joe and Ry’s reaction to her. They adore her and just love her being in our family. There have never been any feelings of jealousy. They genuinely want to be with her and play with her. Even now after 15 months, they still run into our bedroom in the morning to see her before anything else. We couldn’t have asked for more and again feel very lucky! That’s it now though… no more!


Finally, what would be your one piece of advice to couples expecting twins?

My one piece of advice would be enjoy it! If people say ‘Double trouble’ smile politely and say ‘Double the fun!’


Interview with Twin Mum, Sarah Ottewell — 1 Comment

  1. You make a third baby sound really quite tempting! It really is the logistics with twins when they’re babies that causes the biggest challenge isn’t it (two babies and at best only two pairs of hands to care for them. There’s normally a spare pair with a singleton!) I love what you’ve shared here about caring for Alice and not having to plan every task like we have to with twins. There’s a wealth of tips and helpful advice through your answers here – thank you from Kiki & Bree and our readers : )

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