Marloes Koning is a mom of almost-7-year-old boy/girl twins. She talked to us about her experience of pregnancy and her postpartum period with twins, including dealing with postpartum anxiety.
What is your own journey of having and parenting twins?
Marloes shared that she and her husband had trouble getting pregnant, and used IVF to help. The pregnancy was stressful because of that. "Friends enjoyed their pregnancy, but I worried about losing them," she explained. They were born at 35 weeks 2 days, and stayed in the hospital until their 40 week date. "All this was very stressful, including the hospital, hormones, and me recovering."
What is your story of postpartum anxiety and recovery?
Marloes had a history of panic attacks, and was told to be vigilant about that after the birth. She describes having typical baby blues at first--just feeling generally overwhelmed. But soon she was crying a lot and stressed when her husband went to work. She remembers thinking that this couldn't be postpartum depression, since her symptoms didn't include sadness. "I felt like I had to be happy because we struggled so hard to get these twins," she said.
Soon serious sleep deprivation set in. She started keeping track of sleep, diapering, and feeding. "I would do anything to get more sleep. I was about to put the whole schedule in Excel to find some magical code to get five minutes more sleep." Early on, Marloes felt really torn between her two children, because one baby was needier. She says she felt so guilty giving more attention to the needier one, and this was an issue she hadn't expected.
At an appointment when her babies were 4 months old, her obstetrician asked how she was doing, and she started crying. But she still didn't feel classically depressed. She went to talk to a therapist that night, where she discovered she had postpartum anxiety. "I just sobbed and sobbed, relieved that it had a name." She also started medication.
Marloes says she regrets that she wasn't told more about postpartum anxiety and its symptoms--that not all postpartum mental health issues look like sadness.
As for her recovery, Marloes credits lots of friends and a multiples support group (she loved her PEPS for Multiples group). "I needed an excuse to get out of the house, just to be with other moms." She also credits her husband for really getting what was going on and when she just needed a break. "My husband would say, go to Starbucks and read a book," which was exactly what she needed She'd also schedule her visits from friends when she most needed help, like when she needed to feed her infants. And she walked in the afternoons, rain or shine, both so that the babies would have fresh air and for her to clear her mind and not be confined in her house.
What do you wish providers (obstetricians, midwives, etc.) would realize about having and parenting multiples? How can they better serve parents of multiples?
Marloes emphasized the important fact that just by having multiples, especially when IVF is involved, you have a bigger chance of having a perinatal mood disorder. She wishes providers would have told her about that. She also stressed how important it is for providers to talk to expecting parents about multiples support groups. "It's very important to connect with parents in the same boat, so you have some sort of support system before you have your twins."
What do you wish friends/parents/spouses would realize about parenting multiples? How can/could they best help a new parent?
She emphasizes that new parents need hands-on help, and not the type of help that requires the new parents to entertain the guests. "Do whatever needs to be done." Since the "sleeping when the baby sleeps" advice is really challenging with twins, she suggests that visitors hold the awake baby while mom sleeps while the other baby sleeps, too.
She says to be really clear about your own needs. If you need laundry done, say that. "You have to be very clear about what you need. People don't know how to help, but they want to help."
As for baby shower gifts, she says friends and family might want to do meal vouchers, vouchers for a doula, or offer specific household help, and not just give those cute little baby outfits!
What's life like for you now?
Marloes is now fully recovered from her perinatal anxiety disorder. She shared that perhaps the first two years were really hard, but then the kids realized they have a built-in playmate, which made parenting easier. "Now it's so special to see the strong bond they have." Reflecting on their births, she says "It was special to carry twins, too. I was immediately part of the "twin crowd," with other twin parents. Now I'm very happy I had twins (I had two with just one round!)"
Marloes regularly speaks at prenatal classes at Swedish, where she tells her whole story, including noticing the difference between depression and anxiety symptoms, and emphasizes to the groups to look for help if they are suffering. She has also led several monthly groups of Seattle Families of Multiples. SFOM has a PEPS-based program, called
, for new parents of multiples.