Mothers of multiples share strategies
At first glance, the group of women gathered around a table at the Gore Range Brewery in Edwards are just another group of friends getting together for dinner. Listen to their conversation, though – even just a snippet of it – and the topics are a little different.
They are the Eagle County Mothers of Multiples, meeting for their monthly support group. The four who are at this particular meeting explain that the turnout is abnormally low, a fact they attribute to the off-season. Normally, they say, anywhere from 10 to 12 mothers attend a meeting out of around 25 total members.
And the atypical conversation? It mirrors topics any mothers of preschool-aged children or infants might talk about, but with a twist. Time to choose a preschool? Is it best to go with a Montessori school or is a more traditional school more appropriate?
But here’s where the twist comes in – once the school is decided, is it better to leave the twins in the same class or separate them? And what if one twin wants to stay with the other, while the other wants to seperate?
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These mothers have found that some decisions are best made with the assistance of mothers who have already been through the same thing.
“A recurrent theme is that we all at some point have tried to go to support groups with moms of ‘singletons’ and it just hasn’t worked,” says Sheri Wharton, project chairman for the group and mother of Porter and Harper, 3. The rest of the mothers laugh with understanding. There are some things, they say, that mothers of “singletons” just don’t understand.
Enormous size during pregnancy is just the first thing. Then after the babies are born, there are issues of health – for example, 55 percent of twins are born early, compared to the 10 percent of single babies born pre-term, according to National Center for Health statistics.
There are also struggles to maintain a normal sleeping and feeding schedule for the infants, and – perhaps the most valuable thing – sleep for the new mother.
“We sometimes say if you can get through the first four months, after that, it’s clear sailing,” says Carrie Kirkutis, vice president of the Eagle County chapter and mother of twin boys Colton and Brandon, 4, and a daghter, Christina, 7.
Then she looks at Wharton and adds, “Or 11. In Sheri’s case, it was 11 months.” Looking tired at the memory, Wharton explains that her son and daughter did not sleep through the night until they were almost a year old.
As for separating twins at school, which seems to be a popular topic at this meeting, the four mothers at the table have all made different decisions. Wharton will let her son and daughter make the decision themselves when it is time for them to enter kindergarten.
Kirkutis’ sons are in the same class, but they have started to branch out a bit with their playmates outside of school. And Kristin Cecil, mother of twin boys Zachary and Ian Cecil Hoerl, 18 months, says that though her sons started out in the same preschool class, when the teachers at the school separated them for a day, the results were surprising.
“It made a huge difference, in a good way,” she says. “They tried new things, the whining stopped, Zach opened up.”
Cecil’s situation is even more unique than the rest of the mothers’ at the meeting. She is a single mother to Zachary and Ian, so in addition to the normal hassles and extra efforts that come with twins, triplets and beyond, Cecil faces the task on her own. What has been her greatest challenge so far?
“For me, it’s been sleep deprivation,” she says, but she adds that the best part has been the joy her sons have brought her.
Advice from the pros
All of the mothers at the meeting agreed that one of the most beneficial things to them was hearing from mothers whose mulitiples are now adults, or even hearing from the grown-up twins or triplets themselves.
Erin Osbourne, mother of Abigail and Kayla, 16 months, says that when she asks parents of older sets of twins for advice, they usually just laugh.
“They say, ‘Don’t worry, you’ll get through it,'” says Osbourne, laughing herself, “But they never say more than that.”
Paula Martin is a mother who has been there. Like Cecil, the Edwards resident and owner of Just Cuts in Avon is a single mother to twin boys, Cody and Clayton Stackpole, seniors at Battle Mountain High School.
What advice does Martin have for mothers of twins? She gives the knowing laugh that Osbourne described, and says, “Have a good stock of wine.” Then, more seriously, she says, “Make up your mind to do everything twice.”
There was no support group for Martin when her sons were younger – the family moved to Edwards when the boys were in second grade – but, Martin says, that even if there had been, she likely would have been too busy to attend meetings. She says her family and friends provided tremendous support for her.
The support and succes have paid off, as Cody and Clayton are set to graduate from Battle Mountain High School this month.
“We have always tried to work as a team, it just works out somehow,” says Martin. “My kids have been good boys. I’ve been blessed with good boys.”
Mothers’ Day plans
Even though these mothers of multiples are busy, or maybe because of it, none of them are shying away from special Mothers’ Day plans.
Martin and Cecil are both hitting the road with their sons: Martin and Cody and Clayton left for their road trip when the boys got home from school Thursday, and Cecil is embarking on her first road trip with Zachary and Ian.
“We’re packing up the car and heading to Lincoln,” she says. “My boys and I are taking our first road trip. We’re driving to my parents’ house in Nebraska.”
And for the mom who’s idea of relaxing goes beyond driving with two 1-year-olds in a car for 10 hours, there are other options.
“Last year I did a spa day,” says Kirkutis, “That’s one of the best things, just to be pampered – though that’s probably a lot to ask.”