Smiling family wearing hats outside in the sun with gravel track and grass

Multiples Awareness Week 2022: The heroes of their own stories

Smiling family wearing hats outside in the sun with gravel track and grassIn the early days of Tara’s pregnancy, when we’d only told close family and were dodging questions from everyone else, I joked that it might be twins. You got pregnant so quickly, I said. She told me to shut up. I didn’t really believe it – approximately one in eighty pregnancies is multiples, or 1.25% if you prefer it that way, or 1000 per year in New Zealand – and we carried on with our lives as best we could, all the while getting to grips with the idea of being parents.

At the 12-week scan, the sonographer took my joke and made it very real. Two babies were indeed growing in Tara’s belly. We laughed, we cried, we freaked out. All of the literature about pregnancy, with its constant references to ‘baby’, singular, became irrelevant in a heartbeat. Or two heartbeats.

They grew to a combined 5.5 kilograms – or 12.1 pounds if you prefer it that way. It wasn’t easy for Tara. The pregnancy changed her body forever, stole her keratin, messed with her heart’s rhythm, and hard-rewired her brain. She reduced her tea consumption to one cup a day to manage her atrial fibrillation. She is the hero of this story, like most mothers of multiples.

Our children were born. Two girls. They cried, they ate, they slept (but not always when we wanted them to). We lost our minds in love and exhaustion. People who have struggled with one infant have asked us how we did it. The pat answer is always, we just did it; we didn’t know any different. Beneath that, though, is the help Tara and I had along the way – from nearby relatives and friends, from KapiMana Multiples and Multiples NZ, and most of all from each other. We did it together.

The kids are now four years old. They are the most interesting people I have ever met, endlessly fascinating, and a constant enigma. How well do I know them, really? I can identify some of their traits and interests, but as articulate as they are now, there’s no language for expressing who exactly they are. Or who anyone is.

What I do know is they are different. They were dichorionic-diamniotic in utero – that’s two placenta, two sacs – so they are best seen as siblings born at the same time (although with their bright blonde hair and blue eyes, people often struggle to tell them apart). One is more environment focused, the other more people focused. One loves to immerse herself in drawing, the other loves acting out elaborate imagined scenarios. I could go on – but again, these are just my observations from a fixed point in time, likely to be proven wrong at any moment.

As they grow, and we as parents learn how to listen to them, to connect with them, to foster what is unique (and explain why you should at least wear underpants outside the house), they are increasingly full participants in the project of their own raising. We ask them what they think, and they tell us. They’re in it together with us, too.

In time, they will be the heroes of their own stories, and we will have launched them in concentric circles – Tara and I in the closest layer, then our ever-present close family, their educators, our friends, our community, and so on. The outermost circle will be Multiples NZ, wrapping around multiples and their parents, advocating for us, doling out free nappies and onesies if required, always there when we need them.

The theme for Multiples Awareness Week 2022 is Stronger Together – Celebrating Diversity. I can confirm, from the narrow perspective of my own very Pākehā parenting journey, that we are so much stronger together. And just as my children are fundamentally different, every multiples story is unique and fascinating in its own way.

My hope is that all parents of multiples are able to tell their own story, at least for themselves, to give shape to the intensity of their experience. And if they are willing to share that story, I hope we can all listen, and learn, together.

Barnaby Haszard Morris is the editor of Multiples Aotearoa magazine. For inquiries or to share your story, email magazine@multiples.org.nz.

The great things the KMMBC does for parents

By Beate Noldan

When I joined the Kapi Mana Multiple Birth Club, I was pregnant with twins, and had no other children. My main reason for joining the club was to meet other families with multiples (I was working full time and therefore wanted to establish a social network), and to get information about what life would be like with twins. I didn’t even know that I might also get meals, groceries, clothing, access to hire equipment, a playgroup and a pool of knowledge from people who had ‘been there and done it before’. I strongly recommend that people join their local MBC as soon as they find out they are pregnant with multiples, that way they can get the best practical help possible, as early as possible.

First contact

I can clearly remember the first contact I had with the club’s New Members person. She visited me in my home and was warm, energetic and confident, and chatted away with me about life with twins, answering many of my questions. She made me feel like I was in ‘good hands’ and ‘sold’ the club to me. She brought me a very informative new member’s pack and a ‘mobile library’ from which I borrowed several books straight away. The club’s mini mobile library still gets taken to potential new members and is also available at Playgroups. The resources have been updated and now also include fantastic DVDs and current NZ parenting books.

Antenatal classes

Shortly after we joined the club, we were offered the opportunity to attend twin specific antenatal sessions run byWellington MBC, which we gratefully accepted, as we had not managed to attend any other antenatal classes. The KMMBC is very fortunate to have an arrangement with WMBC that enables all of our new members to be offered this opportunity.

The great benefit of these antenatal sessions is that they are specific to multiple pregnancies and birth, and cover what you can expect and also some of the problems that may occur. There was lots of opportunity to ask questions in a supportive environment, and it was also reassuring to know that the people giving the answers were experienced in all things ‘multiple’. We were also able to get the ‘low-down’ on many practical things, such as which buggy to buy, would we need to buy a new car and, if so, what type, cots or bassinettes, same room or separate, hire or buy car seats, etc, etc. It also included a Breast Feeding Workshop, which gave me hands-on advice on how to actually ‘do it’! An extra benefit was meeting other expectant parents of twins/triplets, sharing our ‘stories’ and getting ideas off each other of how to get prepared for our new adventure.

Care after the birth

When our twins were born, we received congratulations from our club, contact to see if we were okay, and a large basket of groceries and some meals. We were totally blown away, as it was unexpected and such a great help in those early weeks, when life is very hectic.

After some weeks, our family, along with several other club members (from KMMBC and WMBC) who had given birth around the same time, were invited to attend a coffee morning hosted by aWellington club member. I attended with the twins, which was one of the best things I ever did, because out of it I made some great friends and we continued to meet and have ‘coffee mornings’ and many family gatherings, for several years afterwards. The support and companionship of this group was invaluable, and it was fantastic for my twins to have other twins to play with.

Our club has ‘Clothing Grabs’ each term. Members are able to get quality, used clothing for their children, without having to bring any clothing along or spend any money. New members are encouraged to stock up on clothing and accessories in preparation for the birth of their multiples. I started attending when my twins were a few months old (they are now 7 years old!), and I still go now to get clothing for my youngest child.

I have bought very little new clothing for my children, and I cannot underestimate how much money I have saved my family, especially in that first year when children barely wear their clothes before they grow out of them! I also accept any offers of hand-me-down clothing from friends, and whatever I don’t need, I put into the club’s clothing supply.

I have found it cost effective to ‘hire’ equipment (often for free)from the club, rather than wasting money buying equipment that you might only need for a short time, such as breast pumps, stair gates, jolly jumper, portacots, double stroller, front/back packs etc.

I attend our club’s fortnightly Playgroup/support group. It is free for members, and morning tea is provided for both the parents/caregivers and children. It’s beneficial as it provides a regular opportunity to get out of the house and meet other families with multiples. We chat about life (with multiples), share information, offer support where required, and our children get to play together.

The club’s bimonthly newsletter, website and Facebook, help to keep members connected and provide a great source of information about club activities and parenting multiples.

My top tip is: join a Multiple Birth Club for real practical help!