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Twins, Triplets and Other Multiples Present Challenges for Parents

Erica Carmean vividly remembers the day she found out she was pregnant with twins.

"I was scared to death," the Quincy woman said. "It was a huge surprise."

She and her husband, Dan, already had a daughter, Samantha, and the thought of adding two more bundles of joy to the family at once was a bit overwhelming.

But on a recent sunny afternoon at Madison Park, the Carmeans seemed cool, calm and collected as they watched 3-year-old Samantha and their 17-month old girls, Tristen and Amber, romp around on the playground equipment.

"Now we wouldn't trade them for the world," Erica said.

But preparing for and raising twins, triplets or other multiples present challenges and issues that single-birth parents typically don't have to consider. That's why Erica recently launched a support group, Adams County Parents of Multiples, to give parents like her a way to share ideas.

"We had questions like, 'Do you keep them on the same (feeding) schedule?' and 'How do you handle both of them at the same time if they're both unhappy?' We just winged it," Erica said.

She started the group in November 2007 and says an average of five families attend each meeting.

"I know there are more out there," she said. "This past school year, there were 15 sets of multiples in the Early Childhood Center."

Amber and Tristen were born on Jan. 17, 2007, when Erica was 37 weeks along in her pregnancy, a week earlier than most twins are born. Although Amber was in the breach position, the delivery went well and both babies and mom were fine.

It got tougher when they brought the babies home.

"The first three months were really difficult," Erica said. "If I got four hours of sleep in a row, I was doing good. It's a whole lot easier now than when they were infants. They're at a fun age. They can play on their own and don't need as much supervision."

With twins, it's double feedings, double laundry, double diaper changes.

"With one, you could give Samantha her bottle and let her play. With the twins, you give one a bottle, put her down and she's back to sleep, and then the next one's ready," Erica said.

"Laundry's awful," she added. As for the diapers, the Carmeans encourage parents planning for a multiple birth to stock up ahead of time.

"At one time we were going through a box a week," Erica said.

Another piece of advice: Don't be afraid to ask for help.

"The first year I couldn't have survived without my parents," Erica said. "It was hard for me to ask for help. (Family and friends should just) come over and take over the situation. Don't give Mom or Dad an option. Even if it's just a couple of hours, it allows the parents to get away for a few hours and relax, or even take a nap."

"You have to take the time and say, 'We're getting a baby-sitter and we're going out,'" Dan added.

Jeanette Korschot, a mother of 14-month-old twins, said she should have accepted more help when the babies were younger.

When Jeanette discovered she and her husband, Greg, were expecting twins, she was thrilled.

"It was a pleasant surprise," she said. "I worked in day care before and worked in the infant room and toddler room, so I had four or five all myself to take care of. I thought twins will be no big deal. Boy was I wrong."

Their twins, Jenna and Zachary, have a 3-year-old brother, Joshua.

"When they're just babies, they want their needs met immediately," Jeanette said of the twins. "It's hard to get enough time with each one of them so you feel they're not being neglected. I'm really lucky that my husband helps out a lot. When he gets home (from work), he helps out a lot. We share duties as much as possible. When I'm too tired to do a load of laundry, he throws a load in. If I had to do it on my own, I don't think I would be able to."

Zachary is crawling now, and Jenna has started to walk.

"Zachary likes to climb all over everything. Jenna is walking and takes off and goes different places. When you're trying to get one out of the cabinet, suddenly the second one appears and gets in the cabinet," Jeanette said.

"The Parents of Multiples group has been a blessing," she said. "You get to meet people in your own area that really understand what it's like."

But while there's double the work, there's also double the pleasure with multiples.

"I love watching them play together. You can tell there's really a bond," Jeanette said. "These two play peek-a-boo in the curtain or play around the room."

The Carmeans feel the same.

"Yes, it can be overwhelming, but it can bring your family closer together," Dan said. "Usually when mom has the baby, that's mom's time. With twins, we could each hold a baby at the same time, and we could both have that comfort. It brings Mom and Dad closer together. You have to work together more."

One issue that parents of multiples must face is how to ensure each child has his or her own identity.

"I like that they have their individual personalities," Erica said.

"We try to encourage their individuality," Jeanette said.

"We go with what their different personalities are like. We also give them plenty of time together, too, for that bond. But we don't want people to say, 'The Korschot twins,'" she said. "We want them to say, 'This is Zachary and this is Jenna.' Yes, they're twins, but they're also two different people."


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