Managing Multiples and Finding Support
Parents of multiples face unique challenges when compared to parents of singletons, says Elizabeth Damato, PhD, RN, assistant professor of nursing at Case Western Reserve University in Ohio. For one thing, it's expensive—supplies and diapers have to be purchased in double, triple, or more. Many families must purchase a larger car or home. Not to mention, it's physically draining. Sleep is in short supply, and arms are always full. Dishes and laundry multiply exponentially. And parents of multiples must balance the needs the family as a whole against the needs of each individual child.
"Getting used to taking care of two sets of children at different activity levels was hard," says Herrold, whose older sons were four when her younger boys were born. The Herrolds did have one big advantage over families bringing home their first set of twins—four years experience in multiple parenting.
One of the toughest things for Herrold was simply trying to get out of the house. "In the early days it was very tiring and cumbersome," says Herrold. "And when I was in a hurry all of the attention the boys would get was really hard. People cannot help their curiosity."
Mullins agrees. Her youngest twins are now four months old, her older set merely 19 months. She doesn't take them all out together except for doctors' appointments—both sets were born prematurely and at this point it is too risky to expose them to illness.
According to Dr. Damato, social support is crucial during the early months with multiples. Parents need help with food, rest, and time alone. In addition, emotional support and encouragement is needed—especially from other multiple-birth parents.
Herrold is president of her local Parents of Multiples club and serves in the membership department of the National Organization of Mothers of Twins Clubs, Inc. She's also become active with Mothers of Supertwins (MOST). Once an organization dedicated to parents of triplets and higher order multiples, MOST is now reaching out to families with more than one set of twins. She notes that there are tremendous benefits to joining a multiples club—parents of twins or more find friendship, advice, and services.
"I know it is overwhelming," says Mullins. "But really, it's such a blessing. You have to keep in mind that with two sets of [multiples] things aren't going to be perfect, your life isn't going to be like your friends' lives that have only one baby. But you're getting to experience something that is so rare and wonderful. It's just such a blessing."
Be sure to check out BabyZone's Multiple Parenting community board for additional support and information.