When couples first find out they are expecting twins, or Higher Order Multiples (HOM), their initial feelings can be overwhelming. Concerns about how they will manage, money worries, and general anxiety over housing and space can flood their minds. It can really help them to know they are not alone and that many other couples have, and are, experiencing exactly the same rollercoaster of emotions.
Sharing an experience can really make a difference. Although it is tempting to think of ourselves and our feelings as terribly unique and individual, the truth is that we share more similarities than differences.
Becoming a member of any support group starts with identifying yourself as "one of them". Meeting the criteria to join the Multiple Birth Association is relatively simple; you need to either be expecting more than one baby or have had a multiple birth. Importantly, you also need to be willing to join and membership is, of course, entirely voluntary.
Most of the Multiple Birth groups provide support and membership up to pre-school age. But in view of the numbers of parents finding they want to continue their association with individual groups, some do extend the age categories to include primary school age or even older - allowing the twins (or multiples) themselves to become members when they are over 16.
What are the benefits of joining a multiple birth association?
We all benefit from knowing that we fit into a group. Having shared interests and experiences unites us. There is an enormous sense of belonging we gain from being part of a collective. Benefits include:
General friendship and shared communication about what it means to be a multiple birth parent
Coffee mornings, family outings, weekends away and babysitting clubs
Regular newsletters and blog updates
It helps to avoid loneliness – social networking opportunities can be built up and added to over the years
Building networks of physical, emotional and psychological support
Friendship and relationship building with the children, which helps them to know they are not “the only” twins/ triplets/ quadruplets in their area
Tips and suggestions from other multiple birth parents that have gone through the same experiences
Education on all aspects of managing multiple births and caring for more than one baby – this can include visits from healthcare professionals, lactation consultants and first aid instructors
Loaning and hiring of equipment such as nursery furniture, e.g. cots, prams and rocking chairs
An opportunity to share what worked for you; there is much to be gained from helping others through challenging times
Accessing information on multiple birth and caring for twins and HOM
Being part of a research group – universities and hospitals often recruit parents from Multiple Birth Associations as part of their sample population for research studies
Being part of a Multiple Birth Group can be very beneficial for men, who may feel a lack of male camaraderie and support (the focus of multiple births is often, understandably, on the mother and her babies, and some men may feel left out)
They can be beneficial also for same sex couples who require the same level of community support as any other new parents (Multiple Birth Groups make an effort to be welcoming and do not exclude)
Help with being kept up to date with new services, resources and products that are becoming available for families with multiples
Many parents, who initially met through shared membership of a Multiple Birth Association, find they develop lifelong friendships that are maintained long after their babies have grown up and are independent.
Resources commonly available on loan from other HOM (higher order multiples) parents:
General baby equipment for hire/ loan – many groups hold garage sales or swap meets where items that are no longer used can be traded for something else
Medical equipment, which may be specific to premature or special needs babies
Breast pump equipment – dual pumps are expensive to buy and it’s not always possible to source one on loan from a pharmacy
Books and reference libraries
DVDs and videos (these can relate to parenting and raising multiples, but can also be relevant to children)
Toy library (these are very useful as they are a great way to rotate toys and maintain children’s interest when the novelty of playing with the same toys has worn off)
Blogs and chat forums – with the explosion of digital technology, many parents find their first choice in seeking advice is from peer groups. Parents in focus groups report they value advice offered by other parents that are experiencing the same concerns as they are.
But I want to do it all myself!
In the early days of caring for multiples, many parents report they could not manage without the support of other, caring adults. Not everyone has friends and family living nearby and sometimes it's necessary to rely on new-found friends sourced through a Multiple Birth Association or club.
But like in any group of adults, there will be some people you will get along with and others you won't. Just because you share a common experience of having more than one baby does not guarantee a firm friendship. But don't be too dismissive - first impressions can be very wrong. Many close and abiding relationships have been forged from initial wariness and remember: a simple "Hi" is all that's needed to break the ice.
Living in a metropolitan city rather than a rural/ regional area is obviously a bonus when it comes to sourcing a Multiple Birth Association. But some geographical areas are known for their higher than average multiple birth rates, raising suspicion about what's been put in the water or air to cause such a spike in fertility amongst certain communities! And the groups in these areas are not wanting for memberships either.
For more information:
* South African Multiple Birth Association: SAMBA: www.samultiplebirth.co.za.