The Secret to Parenting Pre-Term Twins? A Strict Schedule, Say These Dads
When Thomas Roberts and David McNatt's third surrogate changed her mind and decided she no longer wanted to carry twins, the husbands almost threw in the towel. It had been nearly 2 years and they had encountered many hurdles. Several potential surrogate arrangements had fallen through due to medical or emotional reasons, and they'd experienced issues with creating embryos which had resulted in two separate egg retrievals. So when their surrogate had a change of heart, needless to say, Thomas and David began doubts their future as fathers.
"But we went for a long walk, cried, talked, encouraged each other and decided to hang in there a little longer," said Thomas.
And they're glad they did. On July 23, 2017, their twins, Jackson and Grace, were born via surrogate, with whom the family has a terrific ongoing relationship.
We spoke with Thomas and David to find out what life has been like with their newborns.
The Day David and Thomas Became Dads
David and Thomas' surrogate was in labor long before she realized. Although it isn't totally uncommon, she'd gone an entire weekend unaware that the pains in her back were the start of labor.
When the dads-to-be got the call that their surrogate was in labor, they jumped in the car and began the 9-hour drive to where she lived. Their twins were born via emergency c-section while the dads were en route, preterm but healthy.
"We raced over the mountain passes in the middle of the night and arrived at 2 a.m." said David. "We greeted our surrogate and her family, shared hugs and tears and expressed our love and appreciation for everything they did for us."
Then Thomas and David went straight to the NICU to meet their children, spending the next 4 days there, learning all they could from the nurses.
The dads had prepared for twins by reading books and subscribing to Joe Rawlinson's podcast, "A Dads Guide to Raising Twins," which they highly recommend. They didn't feel they needed to buy two of most things, but they did buy two boppy pillows that helped with simultaneous feedings.
When Grace and Jackson were able to come home with their dads, the household stuck to a strict schedule.
"Schedule is key with preterm twins," explained Thomas. "Every hour of the day is scheduled for parent survival and baby's needs."
They took off 6 weeks of combined vacation and sick time, working half days when they could to stretch the time out. Like most businesses and companies in America, neither Thomas' or David's work offered much in the way of paternity leave.
Thankfully, David's mother ("Grandma Gigi") moved in with the family and has been helping them.
"She is an amazing help to us when we need an extra pair of hands to just get through the day," said Thomas. "She is able to offer them so much love and provide us peace of mind when we can't be there."
One of the things that came as a surprise to both Thomas and David were the amount of medical appointments, check ups and specialist visits the twins require. Being preterm, there were a lot of extra appointments and referrals to specialists to monitor vital organ development.
Some advice they have for other dads of twins is to make a schedule and stick to it. Also to get a good double stroller and two bottle warmers placed side by side for bottle prep. And finally, "Breathe when you get a million questions from strangers," said Thomas. "It will feel intrusive and you just want to put in your ear buds and avoid eye contact, but take it as an opportunity to educate and create love and acceptance."
For the new dads, life has changed drastically, and yes, some days are more about survival than others, but the love in their hearts has increased by tenfold.
"It was night two, when we were in the NICU and we got to have the kids take naps skin-to-skin with us," shared Thomas. "That was so meaningful and precious and full of love."
Congratulations to Thomas and David on the birth of their twins, Jackson and Grace.