That second meeting, though, led to an immediate plan. Wives were called, twins were loaded into Urban Mountain Buggies, and all eight of them convened at Bar Pitti, rediscovering the thrill of daytime drinking. “It was the first time we’d done anything like that, socialize, eat at a restaurant,” says Elizabeth. “It was a total revelation. And our boys all fell asleep at the same time.”
As they endure the peculiar rites of extreme parenting on the same schedule, they’ve found many things to be true: There are Hallmark moments that you will never experience if you have two, like hovering over the side of the crib marveling as the baby arches an eyebrow. Breast-feeding is an endless loop until you finally quit. Friends come over once and then don’t come back. “You really need four parents to take care of two kids in the same manner two parents relate to a singleton,” says Jacob. “You always feel split,” says Alice, “like you’re shortchanging someone. You find yourself running back and forth with compliments or toys to create a level playing field as best you can.” Still, no matter how much you try to treat them the same, their own conflicting traits emerge—one sleeps through the night, one demands love every hour.
Then there are the episodes you never forget. One morning when Bart was trying to let Elizabeth sleep in, a twin made a big poop. While Bart was changing the dirty diaper, the other one grabbed the poop with the clear intention of sticking it in his mouth.“It happened so fast,” says Bart, “like in a John Woo movie where suddenly everyone’s pointing guns at each other.” With a semi-free hand, Bart grabbed the would-be poop-eater’s arm and the three of them just looked at each other frozen in place. “I had to think eight moves ahead,” says Bart. “I actually said out loud, ‘Okay, what am I willing to sacrifice?’ I can’t let him eat the turd. So, somehow I swung the kid with the turd onto my shirt, which was now going straight to the garbage. When Elizabeth came out ten minutes later, I looked like I’d been in a car accident.”
In the midst of telling another twins war story, Elizabeth nudges Alice. “Remember, we were going to try not to scare them,” she says, referring to us. Too late. We saw enough of ourselves in these two couples to be deeply concerned. Much as they’d wanted children, their lives had simply not been built for them. And neither, at that point, were ours.
When one of our friends found out she was pregnant with twins, she was anything but thrilled. “I would say I was stricken,” she says. “I walked around in a depressed daze. When you tell people you’re having twins, they laugh and say you’re in for a ride, and I actually got really angry a couple of times. It’s not funny. It’s a much-higher-risk pregnancy and it’s a really big deal and it’s not what I wanted.”
Carrying multiples is an endurance test, psychologically and physically. The risk of pre-term labor hangs over you all the time. You get big, really big. The maternity clothes Sarah bought at twelve weeks were painfully snug by twenty weeks. At 24 weeks, strangers in elevators would blithely ask, “Any day now, huh?” (She’s become incredibly careful about what she says to strangers in elevators.) Terri Edersheim, her high-risk obstetrician, had forbid exercise of any kind. Even light arm weights, Edersheim argued, would increase her uterine activity and possibly cause contractions, a very bad idea. A cute pregnancy full of prenatal yoga and high heels became another fantasy that Sarah had to let go of.
So we had what you could call a data-driven pregnancy. We went in for a million ultrasounds. We took every test. Edersheim even sent us to Boston to see a 3-D ultrasound specialist whom she considers the best in the business. In addition to creeping us out with images of our precious babies looking like space aliens, this ultrasound yielded two important pieces of information. First, it confirmed that we were having two girls; at a previous ultrasound, a technician said it looked that way to her but it was too early to be sure. For whatever reason, that was the one combination we hadn’t considered, and it was hard to absorb at first. It wasn’t that we didn’t want two girls—we just never thought that’s what we’d get.
The other news had much more serious implications: Baby B had a “soft marker” for a deadly chromosomal disorder called trisomi 18. That necessitated a trip to a genetic counselor back in New York who walked us through a bewildering array of scenarios that included a “reduction” of the pregnancy to a singleton.