The More the Merrier
One mother of three says going from one child to two children doubles the amount of work; adding a third child increases the work exponentially. But having twins or triplets? Surprisingly, the advice experienced moms give for new parents of multiples can easily be applied to parents of “singletons,” as they call them.
“Take it one day at a time, one life lesson at a time,” says Lisa Cartini, whose twin daughters are 14 now. “Enjoy what you have right now and don’t worry what tomorrow will bring.” Try not to think: “What if they are crying again tomorrow all day?”
The difference with bringing home two or three babies at a time, Cartini explains, is that “It’s everything at the same time. You have two screaming babies at once and who do you go to first? They both want your attention.”
When adding a second or third child to a family, at least it seems easier to appease the older child when a new one arrives, Cartini says. But two new infants don’t understand that one might have to wait a minute.
Like any new parent, parents of multiples need to “accept that things are not always going to be neat and tidy and perfect,” says Kelly Carter, who founded Multiple Moms Mingle five years ago. “Be willing to accept help and pay for it if you need to. Hire a college student or a night nurse or a nanny.” When her twins, Ashley and Brooke, were born six years ago, she found a local college student to watch them while she wrote thank-you notes, showered or straightened up the house and baby gear.
The stuff multiplies quickly, adds Ann Canastra, who gave birth to boy and girl twins Quentin and Madeline 9 months ago. “My garage looks like a garage sale,” she jokes. “It’s just my stuff.”
With the news of twins, the size of one’s vehicle needs to be considered along with day care openings for two infants and the budget for diapers and maybe baby formula.
Put simply, “Multiples are expensive,” Canastra notes. “I have learned to be better at couponing” and not worrying about new clothes vs. hand-me-downs.
For some families, hiring a nanny may make more economic sense than paying for two or three kids in day care. Carter went the nanny route and Canastra uses a licensed, private home day care provider.
And once the twins are home, preparing to leave the house is not as simple as grabbing the car keys. “There were no twin carts when I had my babies,” Carter says of today’s stores.
Plus it’s instant movie-star status when venturing even to the supermarket with twins or triplets. “Everybody wants to ask you questions,” Canastra says.
Parents of multiples have been asked plenty of questions: “Were you surprised?” “Are they sleeping through the night?” “Are they real?”
Parents should decide—before they hear it for the first time—how they will handle the question of whether they received fertility treatments, the mothers advise. About half the members of Multiple Moms Mingle used fertility treatments to assist in getting pregnant and half were “spontaneous.” About 132,000 sets of twins are born each year in the United States and approximately 6,000 sets of triplets.
Parents-to-be of multiples should be upfront about their need for support. When a friend promises to bring over dinner, get a date, Canastra says.
Carter’s cousin passed around a “help list” at her shower so friends and family could sign up for a specific day to help provide a meal, stop at the store or baby-sit. “People would come in pairs or threes,” Carter recalls, because they were afraid to take care of twins on their own.
Another type of support is a club or organization for moms, especially one devoted to parents of multiples. “Joining my club was one of the best decisions I ever made,” says Cartini of Parents of Multiples Club of Central New York. “I have gotten so much information and help from the ladies.”
“With women working outside the home more these days and families spread out, the need is even greater for a support group,” says Multiple Moms Mingle founder Carter, who also teaches in the West Genesee School District.
Multiple Moms Mingle sponsors an Internet board for questions. “You can post a question any time of the day or night and someone will respond,” Carter says. Discussions cover dentists, pediatricians, day care and more. The board is only open to members of the group. The monthly meetings are for parents only, but play dates get arranged as well as twice-a-year family gatherings. Multiple Moms Mingle has more members with younger children, according to Carter.
“The need for support never ends,” says Cartini of Parents of Multiples, whose questions now involve high school situations. “As children grow, clubs grow. You just have different needs.” Check out www.nys.motc.org to see the listing for Parents of Multiples.
As with any new addition to the family, parents need to make sure to find some “me time,” as Canastra says. With three children, the parent who’s going out has to take one, she says, and the parent who stays home gets to choose which child will go.
Parents should be prepared for changes in friendships, too. It can be difficult for friends without children to understand or relate to new parents, especially those with twins or triplets, according to these moms.
But the twins may be starting on the greatest friendship of their lives. “When the chips are down, they are each other’s best friends,” Cartini says. “I firmly believe that they do” have twin intuition. “They have their own way of communicating.”
“I never had a sister and I feel they are lucky to have each other,” Carter says. “They will laugh and giggle.” They do get on each other’s nerves because they spend so much time together, but the flip side is “They can’t get enough of each other.” After age 3, they moved to separate bedrooms and this fall they will start first grade in separate classrooms.
Similar to “singletons,” as they grow, twins “have more of their own identity,” Cartini notes. “They don’t want to dress alike and they have their own friends.” And they certainly “don’t like to be referred to as ‘the twins.’”
Cartini’s twins Halie and Hollie “are just a joy to me…I wouldn’t want it any other way.” ■
Eileen Gilligan, an award-winning writer and mother of two, lives in Baldwinsville.
Pictured Above: The Canastra family: Dan and Ann, who's holding twins Madeline and Quentin, 9 months old, with son Carter, 3, at their feet. The Carter family: Jim and Kell, with daughters Ashley (in pink) and Brooke (in blue), age 6.