When a multiple pregnancy enters a family's life, there are support networks ready and willing to share the load and the love.
The unknowns and challenges of pregnancy and parenting can increase exponentially when your obstetrician announces there is more than one heartbeat galloping rhythmically from within you. For mother-of-triplets, Lorraine Fitzgerald, the news was met with mixed emotions. “We had an assisted pregnancy as we went for three years of not being pregnant before it happened, so we had one go with three eggs but didn’t expect it to work,” Lorraine explained. “We were quite shocked and very happy obviously, but daunted there was going to be three of them!”
For Lorraine, with some added risks carrying multiple babies her biggest concern was that they would all be healthy. Fortunately, Callan, Kate and Leah are now happy and healthy grown-ups and Lorraine likens parenting them at this age to any other family with three children. But that certainly wasn’t the case in the early days where the myriad of support networks she was able to tap into made all the difference. “When the babies were 18-month-olds, I joined the Multiple Births Association,” Lorraine said. “There, I found a lot of support from people going through the same things I was. The biggest support was the weekly coffee group where we could talk about all the things parents of single babies didn’t understand, I guess.”
The weekly coffee groups typically discuss feeding, coping mechanisms and different ways to get things done while juggling multiple babies, all of which proved invaluable to Lorraine. “The moral support was so important and sometimes it wasn’t me that needed it, but other women would come in and it made me feel better to offer support to others, it was a lovely reciprocal arrangement,” Lorraine remembered. “People with younger multiples would come in and see that your kids were three and then four and you were still sane… so there was light at the end of the tunnel for them!”
On the days Lorraine struggled with the load of three babies, when they didn’t sleep or were unwell, she adopted a mantra that helped her through and she still uses to this day for various challenges. “My mantra to myself was ‘this will pass’ because ultimately I knew my children were basically healthy, I just had to get through it and the next day would be better,” she said. “I focused on what was important, maybe the house wasn’t perfect or we didn’t eat when we should have, but you just need to let go and accept help.”
Family, friends and neighbours were also instrumental in supporting Lorraine through the early days. A visit from a neighbour for a cup of tea, or a family member taking one of the babies for a walk all lightened the load. “The biggest barrier new mums have is asking for help,” Lorraine said. “Mums want to prove they can do it themselves and say they’re okay when sometimes they’re not okay. My biggest challenge was that I looked okay from the outside and people thought I was amazing. Mostly I was doing an amazing job, but sometimes it didn’t feel that way.” Lorraine encourages those close to new mums of multiples to make sure everything is okay and to spend time checking on them. “Go a little bit deeper with them and be on the lookout for someone who isn’t coping so well and just ask the mum what you can do for them,” Lorraine suggested.
Support for parents of multiples has only increased since 1989 from an organisational point of view, including the upcoming Multiple Birth Awareness Week that will run March 11th to 18th. The theme for the week is ‘strength in numbers’, perfectly highlighting the importance of the ‘power of &’ for new parents of multiples. The Australian Multiple Births Association hopes to connect many of its community of 5,000 families so they know they’re not alone in their journey while providing information and support. Keep in touch with the AMBA Facebook page for more information on local events during this week.
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