Seeking Supplemental Prenatal Care

Prematurity Awareness Week 2013: How Do You Do It?

World Prematurity Day November 17In the United States, 1 in 9 babies is born prematurely, 1 in 10 in Canada. Worldwide, over 15 million babies are born too soon each year. While not all multiples are born prematurely, a multiple birth increases the probability of an early delivery. Babies born prematurely, before 37 weeks gestation, are at a higher risk for health complications in infancy, some of which can have long-term effects.

In honor of November’s Prematurity Awareness Month, led by the March of Dimes, How Do You Do It? is focusing this week’s posts on The Moms’ experiences with premature deliveries, NICU stays, health complications, and how we’ve dealt with these complex issues.


When we found out that I was carrying twins, my husband and I were both thrilled and terrified. I imagine this is a common response among expectant parents of multiples. On one hand, I was excited to be able to complete our family in one fell swoop, but on the other hand, I was keenly aware of the potential complications of a multiple pregnancy. In my own circle of friends, I know one mom who lost her twins prior to viability and I’m good friends with Sadia, whose girls arrived at 33 weeks and had to spend some time in the NICU. Meanwhile, I wasn’t aware of many moms of twins who had managed to carry their babies to term.

Between having suffered a prior pregnancy loss and the stress I felt over the possibility of serious pregnancy complications, I dealt with a lot of anxiety throughout my pregnancy, but especially in the early months. My worry led me to do a lot of research on twin pregnancy and to seek out supplemental care in addition to my normal prenatal care.

It is important to note that while my outcome was a healthy pregnancy and two full-term babies, the supplemental care I received did not directly lead to those great results. I happen to have been one of the fortunate ones whose bodies handle a twin pregnancy relatively well. There was nothing I could do to guarantee a healthy pregnancy for myself and for my babies. My goal in seeking out more care was to try to detect and adjust for any major complications as soon as possible. As it turned out, my complications were all pretty minor, but some of the supplemental care I pursued could come in handy to other moms of multiples.

I faced a conundrum when I was choosing an OB practice to visit during my pregnancy. On one hand, I wanted the best care for multiples that I could get. On the other hand, I was committed to giving birth to my twins in a well-equipped medical setting but with as few interventions as possible. To that end, I chose a practice that prides itself on a low rate of caesarian sections, but that has plenty of experience with twin births, as well.  The standard of care is for each patient to visit with all the health care providers in the practice over the course of her pregnancy, and while my twins would ultimately be delivered by a doctor, much of my care early in the pregnancy was handled by certified nurse midwives.

I was generally confident in the care I was receiving from my midwives, but it was important for my elevated anxiety levels to have medical twin experts keeping a closer eye on my pregnancy, as well. To that end, I did a great deal of research on twin pregnancies and discovered that the Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston, TX, has a dedicated Program for Multiples. For the cost of an insurance copay and a tank of gas, I was able to receive a personalized assessment including a comprehensive ultrasound, genetic counseling, and, most important to me, individualized nutritional advice.

As it turns out, my assessment indicated a clean bill of health for my fraternal twins and me at around 13 weeks of pregnancy. Had I been carrying identical twins showing signs of Twin-to-Twin Transfusion Syndrome, the ultrasound could have detected it early, and I would have been referred for further treatment and, hopefully, a successful outcome.

My pregnancy was otherwise fairly unremarkable until my blood pressure began to creep higher around 26 or 28 weeks. At that time, I was referred to a MFM doctor in town, who provided more supplemental sonogram to monitor the growth and development of my babies. Each ultrasound indicated that growth was steady and my babies were stable, but by 32 weeks, it became increasingly clear that they were locked in a breech position and didn’t have much room to rotate head-down.  Knowing that my chances of getting them to turn were small, and that my doctor could not deliver them vaginally if they were breech, I had time to mentally prepare myself for the possibility that I would need a c-section after all.

At 36 weeks 6 days, an ultrasound indicated that growth had stalled, and my MFM and OB conferred and decided that my twins would be delivered the next day. My c-section was scheduled, and I was left with about 18 hours to wrap up my preparations and finish up the work I had planned to do before going on leave.  The next day, my twins arrived, weighing 6 lbs 15 oz and 7 lbs 1 oz. They required no time in the NICU.

twins2-sm

James and Rebekah, 6 days old.

Ultimately, beyond listening to our doctors’ advice and taking care of our bodies during a twin pregnancy, we can do very little to control the outcome. According to the March of Dimes, 60% of twins are born prematurely. I was one of the fortunate 40% who managed to carry my pregnancy to term. But I feel it’s important to share my story during Prematurity Awareness Week to let those expecting twins know that a successful pregnancy is possible, and that seeking out supplemental care early on could help you identify warning signs for complications and improve your chances of a healthy pregnancy.

In the MOMs Club – Just Barely

In the MOMs Club - Just Barely

Not to bring anyone down, especially since this is my first post for HDYDI, but I’m barely part of this club. You know, the Moms of Multiples club.

You see, I have triplets. But I don’t. I have twins. But I don’t. I’m neither here nor there. And it’s hard.

Bickford Babies

I have what are called ‘surviving’ or ‘incomplete’ triplets. I carried three babies, and I birthed three babies, but only two of them survived. Today, Braden and Tenley are doing well at 19 months old (16 adjusted), even though they were born at only 27 1/2 weeks old.

You can read more about how we lost baby A, Carter, by going to his special website we created to help raise funds for organizations that work to help parents who have experienced the NICU or loss.

Celebrate Carter Logo

It’s a tough spot to be in. I’m now part of a new club – the club no one wants to be a part of – the loss mom club. But you know what? I’m okay with it. I’m okay with it because it means I get to write and share my story. I get to talk about Carter all the time. He gets to make a difference. I’m okay with it because I’m writing several books to help others relate to loss moms, deal with bed rest, or get through a tragedy like the loss of a child. I’m speaking at conferences. I’m raising funds through Carter’s fundraiser each year. I’m choosing to see the good in the midst of the bad.

So, when you read posts by me, know that there will be times when I’m a triplet mom, times when I’m a twin mom. And times when I don’t know what kind of mom I am.

Braden & Tenley

And that’s okay.

And it’s also okay for you to be uncomfortable. Or to relate. Or to empathize. It’s okay for you to ask questions. Or seek out support.

I look forward to representing the unique position that some moms of multiples find themselves in – celebrating and grieving at the same time.

When you stand and share your story in an empowering way, your story will heal you, and your story will heal someone else. ~Iyanla Vanzant

I hope you’ll join me as I share my take on things – and be sure to let me know in the comments below if there’s anything specific you’d like me to cover!

AngelaAngela is a stay-at-home mom raising surviving triplets. She lost her first-born triplet, Carter, after 49 days, and her survivors, B & T, keep her pretty busy with their ongoing needs as a result of their prematurity. She manages to find time for her business and personal blog. Her goal in blogging is to share with others that it’s possible to survive after loss. She and her husband live in the Houston, TX suburb of Cypress. She also blogs at Thirty-One:10.

The Online Mother of Multiples Club

I didn’t seek out mother of multiples clubs when I was pregnant. It never even occurred to me that such a thing existed. However, I had a fortuitous run-in at my daughters’ very first pediatric visit, the day after J was released from the NICU, 22 days old. I was stopped on the way to the examination room by a mother, Laura, who told me that she had twin boys, and would I be interested in joining her mothers of multiples club? It was a small one, limited to the suburb in which we lived. There were fewer than 20 moms in the group. I gave her my contact information, and found myself attending the next meeting.

These women were incredibly nice. One of them, Kara, was tandem nursing her one-year-olds. Formula had never touched their lips. She was an inspiration to me throughout my efforts to breastfeed my girls.

The problem, though, was that I was the only woman in the group with a full-time job. The group’s activities that included kids were all held during the day, on weekdays. They didn’t have any weekend activities; they wanted to spend that time together as a family with their husbands. The monthly weekday evening meetings were child-free. They were intended to be a chance for a bunch of girlfriends to leave their kids with their husbands and get a night off. That worked for me for a couple of months, but then my husband deployed to Iraq when our babies were 5 months old.

I couldn’t quite see my way to hiring a babysitter when I was already away from my daughters 11 hours every day. I maintained friendships with individual members of the group by email. I volunteered to manage the membership records. I couldn’t really attend any events, though.

My “real” participation was limited to the annual family-inclusive potluck picnic. I was the only one at the picnic without a husband. (Since then, three of us have gotten divorced and one has remarried.) It was a great time, though. When I got up from my hotdog to give my girls their bottles, their having rejected the breast months earlier, Kara asked me to hand her a baby. We each fed a child with one hand, feeding ourselves with the other, while she watched her three kids run in the grass. I was dumbfounded. With the exception of my dear friends Sara, whose son was 14 days younger than mine and whose husband had deployed with with mine, and Kaylan, who was living with us, my friends were generally terrified by my children. I hardly knew what to do with this cool, collected and well-coiffed mother who was clearly comfortable handling an undersize baby or two.

I tried reaching out to the much larger mothers of multiples group that served the greater Austin area, but never received a response to my queries. I looked at their meeting schedule, and sure enough, kid-friendly activities were during work hours. Kids weren’t welcome at after-hours events. I was a little miffed, but figured that I had a pretty great support network through work, plus the gifts of Sara and Kaylan.

This whole time, I’d been blogging, trying to provide a place for our relatives around the world, including Daddy in Iraq, to keep up with what M and J were up to. There were lots of photos and here’s-what-we-did-today posts. One day, I clicked a link in a moms’ forum to The Busy Dad Blog. I don’t even remember what post it was, but it had me in stitches and I left a comment. On a whim, I linked my name to my little family-and-friends mommy blog.

Community surrounds usFrom that teeny little comment, people–complete strangers–started visiting my dinky little blog. People starting commenting. I clicked to their sites. I discovered this entire culture of mommy blogging. (Sorry, Jim, but I consider you a mommy blogger; if there were more daddy bloggers like you around, I’d probably graduate to “parent blogger,” but there you have it.) Before long, I was finding my parenting deeply impacted and greatly improved by the observations and recommendations of the likes of LauraC, Goddess in Progress, and Momo Fali. LauraC’s extraordinary boys, Nate and Alex, are only 6 days younger than my daughters, she works full-time, and her husband travels for work. There’s no one else I’d come across who seemed to understand my day-to-day reality better.

Tracey is reading to our two sets of twins.I discovered LauraC and Goddess in Progress right here at How Do You Do It? I’ve since met HDYDI’s LauraC and Reanbean in real life. Goddess and I can somehow never quite make it to the same place at the same time, although we’ve tried. I’ve become close friends with Tracey, also a former blogger at HDYDI. Our families have even spent Christmas together, although her boys can no more tell my girls apart than my girls can distinguish them. It doesn’t seem to negatively impact their play.

My virtual mothers of multiples club online has helped me get through potty training, the Terrible (Horrible Awful Monstrous) Threes, deployment after deployment, school decisions and, most recently, divorce. It’s hard to explain to people who don’t experience online relationships like these how much these people, most of whom I will never meet face-to-face, mean to me. I’ll never be able to repay what I owe them.

Traditional mother of multiples clubs haven’t quite worked out for me, but the blogosphere? That’s my club. Online parenting support has been priceless. My daughters are better off for the community of thoughtful parents who’ve shaped how they’re raised.

Thanks to MarisaB and RebeccaD for kicking off this conversation.

The Top 10 Worst Reactions To My “It’s Twins” Announcement

I am 11 weeks pregnant with twins. This isn’t my first pregnancy. In fact, these will be my fourth and fifth babies. Since I’d announced three other pregnancies I foolishly thought this time wouldn’t be any different.

I had no idea that upon hearing “It’s twins” any filter or manners a person may have immediately go out the window. Here are the 10 worst reactions I’ve experienced:

  1. “Better you than me.”

    Why? Do you know something I don’t know?

  2. “I’m sure you’re stoked but I’d die!”

    This was said to me by a nurse practitioner at my pediatrician’s office. Shouldn’t she be easing my nerves? Shouldn’t she have wonderful advice and maybe other twins moms I could talk to? Shouldn’t she stop using the word stoked?

  3. “You’re going to need a new house”

    “You’re going to need a new car”

    Thank you for your concern but do you think that you’re sharing new information? I can assure you that the financial needs of 5 kids were some of my very first thoughts and fears.

  4. “Was this planned?”

    ummmmm… yes? I have always been an overachiever.

  5. “You’re going to HAVE to pump… give formula… get them on the same schedule… hire help.”

    I assume you’re basing this on your vast experience with twins.

  6. “My friend was pregnant with twins but she lost one at ___ weeks”

    Thanks. Like I wasn’t already worried about miscarriage or vanishing twin syndrome.

  7. “Welp, guess we won’t be seeing you next year!”

    Said a teacher at my son’s school. As she’s perusing the buffet I organized for a Valentines treat. No soup for you!

  8. “Maybe NOW you’ll get your girl”

    Because my 3 boys are so terrible?

  9. “Oh! Your poor poor boys”

    Siblings suck. So do big families. WTH?

  10. “You’re going to be HUGE!!!!”

    I know this is true, but I really don’t want to hear about it. Especially from someone wearing a size 0.

Not everyone’s reactions were awful. There are many sweet ones that stay with me when I’m feeling nervous about having 2 babies. The next time someone tells you they are expecting multiples please hug them, tell them they are the perfect mom for their babies, and remind them you’ll be there the whole time.

Elizabeth is expecting twins and is the mom to three amazing boys. She lives in central Texas.

Finding Balance

I have to start with a thank you to Sadia for taking the initiative to get a publication schedule set up and to recruit some new bloggers for HDYDI!

When you have three preschoolers, including twins, managing home, childcare, work, volunteer work and everything else that comes with motherhood is a continual balancing act. It doesn’t take much to upset the delicate balance that allows everything to flow smoothly, while still having the flexibility needed to deal with the inevitable, unexpected challenges.  Last winter that balance was literally disrupted when I was diagnosed with vertigo just a few weeks after getting anemia (probably a long term consequence of my twin pregnancy). I felt like I was continually about to fall over – or maybe the world was about to spin out from under me. The finely-tuned system that ensured our commitments were met melted down. Everything from the kids got to playschool on time to buying groceries, from marking assignments to paying bills, from watering plants to putting away laundry was suddenly a challenge that required energy, concentration and balance that I had taken for granted. Even comforting a crying child was a new challenge since I couldn’t sway from side-to-side or rock back-and-forth without feeling nauseous.

The medication that gradually helped with the vertigo left me tired.  I had to ration my energy to get through the day.  I had to learn to let go of my expectations of what I could accomplish in a day. Our children got to watch more TV that I would usually allow, they ate grilled cheese sandwiches for dinner at least once or twice a week, and my husband had to take over the bedtime routine so I could lie in bed waiting for the medication to stop the world from spinning.

Balancing at the playground

I had to find new ways to be present with my children. While I lay in bed, I would cuddle one of our girls on each side. I would talk to them, tell the stories and hold them close. The drive to playschool with my son was another challenge. I didn’t feel well and he was reluctant to go. Finally, I stopped fighting with him. I realized that the situation wasn’t working.  I don’t know if he was picking up on my anxiety and the uncertainty at home or if there were other reasons he protested so much about going, but we just stopped going. It was what I need for my health and wellbeing as much as what he needed.

Things that I didn’t need to look after were picked up by other people, or if they weren’t essential they just didn’t happen. Extras were pushed to the side, until they fell over the edge.  Unfortunately managing this blog was one of the things that didn’t get the attention it needed.

It is now almost a year later. The year has been filled a series of ongoing health challenges following the vertigo. I’ve finally realized I need to use my time and energy differently to be healthy. In my upcoming posts, I plan to share more of these insights and some of the strategies I used to be the best mother I could as struggled to stand, to leave the house and to look after myself.

doubling my pleasure at school, take two

When I last posted at HDYDI, it was April and I was speaking with the school principal about my concerns that my twins’ placement testing results had been mixed up, and also that their teachers couldn’t tell who was whom even though they had different haircuts and didn’t dress in matching clothes. And their teachers laughed this off and weren’t interested in my efforts to make telling the boys apart easier.

In kindergarten, P was assigned to an intervention reading group. G was in a higher-level group, but he didn’t read for me at home, and P did. After I asked the teacher several times whether their files may have been confused, she wrote me after winter break and said P had accelerated quickly and had been placed in a higher group than G, and he was moved up again several weeks later. Because I believed she had confused them, giving intervention services to a child who didn’t need them rather than the child who did, and because I felt I wasn’t getting straight answers from their teacher, I worried about their progress for the entire year.

From the moment we found out we were having twins, everything was scary. The statistics are terrifying. The books said I’d lost 20 valuable weeks that I could have spent packing on body fat to sustain the babies in late pregnancy, when I wouldn’t be able to eat as much. I’d been having Braxton-Hicks contractions since 16 or 17 weeks – my doctor didn’t feel that was a good sign. From week 20, when I found out, to week 37 when I delivered my twins, every day and every contraction and nearly every moment was tinged with worry.

I think it’s that way for most of us. I am very lucky, in that I got to stop worrying about my boys’ physical health quickly after they were born.

Now I worry about whether people are able to see them and treat them as individuals, and how the boys feel about being individuals. I worry about how painful it will be when they eventually separate. I worry that their speech problems prevent them from volunteering in class, and that they may eventually get picked on because of them. I worry about P being bored, and G being left behind, because a teacher made a mistake and wouldn’t own up to it.

In our district the kids are given standardized tests so teachers and parents can track a child’s growth throughout the school year and from year to year, to make sure a kid is progressing. Last week I went to the school and requested their scores. The principal came out and sat beside me and handed me a post-it note on which she’d jotted their scores. Tears welled up in my eyes.

They both made great strides last year. They’re both above average. They are normal and doing fine, and oh, it is wonderful to have plain old normal kids who are doing fine!

I cried because I am so grateful that I can stop worrying about their academic progress. I also cried because the scores confirmed that my boys were placed in the wrong reading groups last year. Their math scores were identical, but their reading scores were drastically different. My little boy who struggles with reading spent months in a group that was way over his head, and his self-confidence shows it.

 

Jen is a work-from-home mom of 7-year-old twin boys, and two girls ages 4.5 and 9. She also blogs at Minivan MacGyver, where she alternates between waxing nostalgic over her children’s toddler years, and despairing over the amount of work still required for their upkeep.

We attend the Twins Days Festival, and I fail to adequately twin it up

I’ve found that I mentally separate moms of twins into two categories. On one hand are the TWIN MOMS, who are really into having twins. They wear the t-shirts, have the bumper stickers, their kids always match, etc. On the other hand are the twin moms. Lower case. They are the ones who were always too strapped for time and/or money to order the t-shirts. Bumper stickers aren’t necessary, because any clever messages can be traced in the dirt on the back of the minivan. If their kids match, it’s because the last load out of the dryer was reds and everyone pulled clothes from the laundry basket.

The Twins Days Festival is really geared toward TWIN MOMS and their offspring. I’m more of a twin mom. Lower case.

We attended at our twins’ request. As we pulled into the parking lot, my boys were excited to see sets of twins in matching outfits. Attendees had decorated their cars as well. “What’s so special about being twins?” my 8-year-old singleton grumbled.

Oh, that’s a fun one to answer at Twins Days.

As we entered the high school where registrations were being taken, I was overcome by a wave of emotion at the throngs of identically dressed twosomes and threesomes. I was excited for my boys. In our quest to treat twins as individuals, I think we often go overboard and treat them as though being a twin is somehow a weakness that needs to be hammered out of them. We frown at sets of twins with rhyming or alliterative names. We tsk-tsk parents who dress their twins alike. We want them in separate classes, with separate friends. It felt good to be in a place where all the pressure to prove I’m fostering their individuality is removed, and their sameness is accepted for what it is.

The sameness is not just accepted, but celebrated. It seems a lot of effort is put into looking identical at the Twins’ Days Festival. These twins all matched completely – haircuts, clothing, shoes, glasses, hairstyles, purses, jewelry, etc.

I’d made a terrible mistake. Two terrible mistakes, actually. First, my boys were not dressed exactly alike. (This is because I am a twin mom [lower case] and just felt proud that I had the same shirt in two different colors clean at the same time.) Second, my boys have very different haircuts, due to a series of unfortunate attempts at saving money on haircuts. (Lesson learned.)

My hope that the boys would be recognized as twins was washed away by a river of candied apple slobber.

There weren’t many sets of twins or trips whose parents had made my mistake(s). Or if there were, they blended in with all the other non-twins. I was asked if my older three were triplets. I was asked if Miss A and P were twins, when G was standing right there next to them. The boys were not obviously twinnish enough, and I felt like I’d short-changed them.

This event highlighted how very lower case I am.

For most of the evening my kids’ social anxiety kept them very calm and well behaved. I received compliments. But as the kids got more comfortable with their surroundings, things escalated until they were having a four-way chasing/wrestling/punching fight that resulted in multiple minor injuries. As the violence progressed, I thought, “If there’s any public place where this probably won’t be unusual, this is it.” Based on conversations with the moms of multiples I know in real life, face-punching is sort of twinspeak shorthand for “hi, how’s it going?” But the whole evening, I only saw one other set of twins punching each other in the face. I have no explanation for this.

So, Twins’ Days made me feel inadequate. It made my daughter feel jealous. But it made my boys feel fantastic. Don’t mock me, but I’ve shed tears over how much they liked being there, and how they clearly identified so closely with all of these other people who sprang to the earth paired with another. It was such a powerful experience that it made me want to convert to TWIN MOM. Whether we subject the whole family to the festival in the future, we’ll definitely take the boys back each year, for as long as they want to go.

My kids, before G shunned his older sister for having failed to split after fertilization.

Aside: I had the pleasure of meeting up with Kim Schmidt, a HDYDI reader and mother to an 8-year-old singleton and 3-year-old twins, all daughters. She’s writing about the Twinsburg festival for American Way magazine, and I hope she’ll let us link it here when the piece is published. She blogged a bit about the festival here.

Next year, HDYDI meet-up in Twinsburg, Ohio!

Jen is a work-from-home mom of 5-year-old twin boys, and two girls ages 3 and 8. She also blogs at Diagnosis: Urine, where she examines the finer points of potty training failure.

Thanks to You

When I found out that I was carrying twins, it was the biggest shock of my life. I was beyond scared about how long I would be able to carry them, and terrified about how I would manage caring for them once they arrived. I talked with my OB and read books by the experts, but it was MoM communities such as this one and my local twin organization that really helped me to become the mother I am today.

Thanks to you- those who write (or have written) and those who comment- I know how to help my children get the sleep they need, how to take them out into the community, as well as how to travel with them far and wide. You remind me that being a mother of twins brings different kinds of challenges, and that it’s normal to sometimes wish I’d had just one at a time. I know that I have benefited tremendously from being a part of the HDYDI community and it really makes be wonder how they did it- all those MoMs who had children back in the days before the Internet was born. I can’t even imagine it.

So this weekend, I will absorb every smile, every gift, every greeting card that celebrates my role as a mother. It is the most challenging, most exhausting, most rewarding, most fulfilling job I have ever had,  and I can no longer imagine my life any other way.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Sisterhood of the MoMs

This is the story (TRUE STORY!) of two MOTs who independently decide to take their twins to the same indoor playspace on the same day…

It was perhaps a month or so ago. I made a point of getting Buba and Tiny up and ready to go as quickly as I could so we could arrive at the toddler gym before it got too crowded. Not long after we arrived and got ourselves ready to play (hats off, coats off, boots off), another mom came over our way to say hello. I knew that I knew her, but I couldn’t quite place her. Had I met her here previously? Or maybe at the library? But as soon as she said her name, I knew exactly who she was. We had met briefly at a playdate at another MOT’s house about six months earlier. We chatted a bit (as much as our twins would allow-hers 15 months, and mine 22 months), and then parted ways as our kids ran off to try other things.

Now this toddler room is not enormous, but it’s certainly big enough. I do my best to keep my eyes on both kids, but sometimes if I’m helping one kid do an activity (such as walking across the world’s most slippery plastic balance beam) it’s not hard for the other kid to leave my sight for a moment or two. But at one particular moment on that day, I looked up from where Tiny was playing and realized that I couldn’t see Buba anywhere. This other MOT must have seen the somewhat panicked look on my face, because before I even called his name, she waved her arm and said, “Over here.” Instant relief.

Over the next 45 minutes or so, our kids crossed paths a few more times. At one point, she had her eyes on one of mine and one of hers, while I was watching one of hers and one of mine. We didn’t sit down and make a plan regarding who was doing what with which kids and when, but it just sort of happened that we continued to look out for each other’s twins.

And when Tiny started to throw a fit because she didn’t want to go, who do you think helped us gather our things so I could get my kids ready to leave? Certainly not one of the dozens of mothers who where their with their (ONE) toddlers.

So as we walked our kids out the door on that cold, winter day, I couldn’t help but feel so grateful that this other MOT happened to be at the toddler gym time that day. Because there’s nothing better than being with (or chatting with or emailing with) another MoM who truly gets what your world is like.

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reanbean is a SAHM to boy/girl twins, Buba and Tiny, who will be 2 in just over a week. You can read more from reanbean at reanbean.com.

5 Ways to Help Moms of Multiples (Part I)

How do we do it?

Most of us do it without any help at all, but that’s not how most of us want it to be. Most of us thought people were going to come out of the woodwork to help us care for our darling multiple babies. Most of us thought people actually meant it when they said they would help out.

If you’ve read my blog, you know I struggled the last couple weeks with feeling alone, and much like a failing mother because I just couldn’t keep up the energy and stamina and passion for all the hard work mothering twins has been.

The thing is, though, that my husband and I have done it primarily without any outside help for the last 2.5 years. That’s nearly 1,000 days of constant, consistent parenting without extra hands to hold two babies, rock two babies, feed two babies or hug two babies. And yet the rest of life — household chores, running errands, household maintenance — still has to get done as well.

It’s always been a wonder to me why people drop off the planet after just the first month of a child’s birth because the hard work of raising kids, as we’ve all realized, doesn’t end as soon as the babies start sleeping four hours at a stretch — or even eight.

And that leads me to this list. It’s too late for me to get what I needed these last two years, but it might not be too late for those of you new to mothering or who are expecting.

Please be bold enough to pass this list along to a grandparent, cousin, aunt, neighbor, friend or spouse of a mother of twins, triplets, quadruplets, or other higher order multiples under the age of 4 and encourage them to use it frequently for as long as they can do so.

And, in the comments, share some of your own thoughts on what would help you as a mother of multiples.

5 Ways to help Moms of Multiples

  1. Listen AND Empathize: Use kind, caring words to show empathy. Please do not compare your situation to a mother of twins. No two mothers’ situations are ever alike. Our homes, both physically and emotionally, are different. Our children are born with unique personalities and challenges. Consider phrases like this: “I cannot imagine what you are going through, but I do know how hard it is with just one,” or “Parenting is so hard, I can’t imagine what it is like with two (or more).” Do not say things like, “Mine were 16 months apart so it was like having twins” or, the dreaded, “Double trouble.”
  2. Offer specific help: How about bringing her a cup of coffee on your way to work? Going to the store for your own groceries? How about calling or emailing the new MoM in your life and asking her if she needs anything. This goes not just for the first few weeks but for the first few years. Do you know how hard it is to get two or more non-walking or new walkers out of a car and into a store just for a gallon of milk or a loaf of bread? Picking up your dry cleaning in the local strip mall? How about asking the new MoM in your life if she has any laundry she needs laundered? You could pick it up on your way. No need to go too far out of your way, but your efforts will be greatly appreciated.
  3. Household chores: Can you do dishes? How about sweep floors? What about take out trash or clean bathrooms? If you are capable of doing any of this then that would be a great help to a new mother. You do not need to do it often and you do not need to do it perfectly. Just show up and clean during a regular, scheduled visit.
  4. Bring soul food: I remember very little during those first few weeks other than the crying. But, I remember the oatmeal raisin cookies my mother made and the huge meat and cheese tray my aunt brought one night. We feasted on those sandwiches and cookies for the next several days in those mini-meals we ate a couple times a day. That was the kind of food I wanted – that, and take out. Casseroles are great, but even planning to put them into the oven, eating and cleaning up was too much for us in those first couple months. And, I needed other soul food, too. Chocolate. Flowers. A relaxation CD. A card. I would have loved a card that told me how I was doing a great job and to hang in there.
  5. Put in some time: People are alwayswilling to hold a baby, but sometimes that’s not what is best for a new mom. Parents of multiples are more isolated than most new mothers because it is not easy to just pick up two babies (or more) and go out of the house. Some homes are better laid out for easy outings than others. Two arms are never enough for just one parent with two babies. So, please, offer to go along for doctor visits, offer to go out to lunch, offer to go to a local park, offer to stay in the car while she runs in the store, offer to help her shop for some postnatal clothes. Help her get out of the house and be a part of the world, again. And do this often and for as long as possible. Because there comes a time when her babies will be out of infant carries, but not yet walking. And then, after that, they are new walkers and still need to be carried. And then after that they are runners — going in two different directions.

And it’s all hard. Every last bit of it. So, she needs you. And by mothering the mother, you’re helping her be a better mother.