Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Parents of twins, triplets and quadruplets provide support through their shared experience

After a while, Stacia Schwarz got used to the stares, the comments from curious strangers and the occasional yell of "double trouble."

Ever since her identical twin daughters were born, her double stroller has become a magnet for attention. The twins are 3 years old now, and Schwarz has heard it all.

"I had one lady tell me the other day, 'I'm glad it's you and not me,' and I told her, 'Well, I'm glad it's me, too,' " said Schwarz, who lives in Overland Park.

Even though many mothers would not understand what it's like to have more than one baby at a time, Schwarz has a network of friends whose experiences are similar to hers. She's a member of Johnson County Mothers of Multiples -- parents of twins, triplets and even quadruplets who lend each other support, advice and secondhand baby supplies.

"It's just a great way to meet other people and families that you can bounce things off of and kind of figure out what you're doing when you're not sure what you're doing," said Marsha Golladay of Lenexa, a founder of the group.

The group got its start in 1998 after eight women branched off from the mother of multiples support group at Shawnee Mission Medical Center. The hospital group was primarily focused on infants, but the children of those moms were getting older.

Johnson County Mothers of Multiples grew by word of mouth and at the group's garage sales, where they recruited new members.

"We have just steadily gained momentum until the group now has close to 300 members, the sum of which includes twin and triplet moms and even a couple who have quads," said Golladay, whose fraternal twin girls are 11.

As the group grew, so did the garage sales. Every fall and spring, the group hosts a sale at a local church featuring items from 32 families.

"There's a tremendous amount of things because you figure everyone has two, three, four of everything," said Debbie Harris, who has 4-year-old fraternal twin boys. "When it's time to move on, you really just want to move on and clear everything out of your house."

Much of the parental interaction happens online at the group's message board at It allows bedridden moms-to-be and parents juggling babies on different schedules to chat anytime.

"The truth of the matter is, it's great to be surrounded by people who know exactly what you're going through and have figured out shortcuts or tricks of the trade," said Harris, of Overland Park.

The group meets offline, as well as at play sessions at Gymboree and parks. Members also coordinate a moms' night out, where the moms can enjoy a break and dinner with adults.

"None of us have known each other that long, but when you all have twins or triplets, we seem to bond really quickly," said Mo Edwards of Overland Park, the mother of 3-year-old identical twin boys.

They share advice, such as keeping charts to track feeding and changing, whether to put the babies in the same crib and how to manage 2-year-olds who haven't learned to share.

It's often more challenging to care for two babies than one, but Jessica Peters of Lenexa sees benefits now that her 3-year-old daughters are getting older.

"They're each other's companion, and now they can just play together," Peters said.

By: Uhlmansiek, Laura, Kansas City Star, The (MO), Aug 21, 2006


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