What to expect when you're expecting multiples!
Twins? Triplets, quads and even more...! The discovery of this being a reality in a family is usually a huge shock, as you can imagine! Even if you were aware that you had a better than average chance of conceiving multiples by either having had fraternal multiples run through your mothers' side of the family, having assisted conception or having conceived fraternal multiples previously, the reality is something completely different.
Often accompanying the shock is the anxiety and a multitude of questions...
- Will I make it to full term?
- Can I have a natural birth?
- How am I going to look after two (or more) babies at once?
- How are we going to afford this?
- Will I be able to go back to work?
- Do I need to buy two or more of everything?
- Are my babies at risk of Twin-to-Twin Transfusion Syndrome?
- How is this going to affect my existing children?
- Do we have to buy another car and move house?
Immediately when expecting multiples so many things change, your due date changes - if you are having twins usually 38 weeks is considered full term, 36 weeks for triplets and 34 weeks for quads. Mothers have extra check-ups, extra scans and particularly, if having identical twins/triplets/more, even more scans and monitoring for twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome.
So what do you do?
After the panic settles down, the reality hits and parents frantically research, asking all these questions and many more, and immediately the father or partner becomes much more involved in the process. Parents will usually be recommended by a friend, midwife, doctor or find by internet search the Australian Multiple Birth Association (AMBA).
What can family and friends do to help?
- DO NOT mention the phrase 'double trouble' or 'you've got your hands full' or similar unhelpful phrases. Focus on the positives 'Aren't you lucky!'
- Be supportive and listen to your friend/relative and try to resist saying 'I know someone who had twins ...'
- Phone before you visit and accept it might not be a suitable time when you want to visit.
- Instead of cuddling a baby, wash some dishes, take over a freeze and reheat friendly meal or babysit or take the other children in the house out for a few hours.
- If you have a friend or family expecting multiples, ask if the family has an online gift registry. These gifts are much more practical and helpful when the quantities that are involved are concerned.
- Be sure to address multiples by their names instead of using the phrase 'the twins', 'the triplets' etc. Multiples are individuals.
- Separate gifts and cards for birthdays.
- Try very hard not to compare multiples against each other.
AMBA has been in operation for almost 40 years, and is a voluntary not-for-profit organisation which provides support and services for multiple birth parents. These services include but are not limited to:
- Antenatal evenings
- Morning teas and social events for mums, dads, partners and children
- Breast pump and equipment hire
- Local and national discounts
- Publications service
- Online forum
- Annual subscription to the AMBA Magazine with latest research and articles of interest to Multiple Birth Families
- Specialist support areas such as: higher order multiples (triplets and more), twin to twin transfusion syndrome, bereavement, multiples starting school, and school aged multiples
- Regular newsletter from your local club which provides personal stories and information on local services available to multiples, local discounts and social events
- Ability to enter national competitions and attend the Annual National Convention
AMBA operates in 64 affiliated clubs around Australia and offers low cost annual membership.
AMBA also act as a national advocate and campaigns for rights of multiple birth families. In 2007, after 3 years of campaigning, AMBA succeeded with its submission to federal government to extend the income tested multiple birth allowance available to families with triplets and more, beyond the age of six years old - until they finish secondary schooling.
Parents and carers can choose to be as involved as they want to be. All members are parents who have 'been there and done that'. New members are sure to receive 'support from those who know'.