BECOMING a parent can be a daunting and exciting time, but when there are two or more babies on the way, you know life will never ever be the same again.
Now, thanks to Tamba (Twins and Multiple Births Association) and some national funding, six new clubs for parents of twins, triplets and more have been set up in Northern Ireland. The timing couldn’t be better – latest figures show triplet births have doubled and twin maternities also increased in Northern Ireland.
The Big Lottery’s Awards For All initiative gave Tamba Northern Ireland £9,900 to spend on setting up the new clubs in Lisburn, Belfast, Antrim, Londonderry/Derry, Newtownards and Craigavon. The money paid for initial set up, as well as running costs for the first year of the clubs and administration costs such as insurance.
Lisburn Multiples group leader Karen Kee, a volunteer and mum of twins, said: “For me it was a chance to make new friends who really understood my situation. It can feel quite isolating when you’re on maternity leave if you don’t force yourself to get out there. There have been some life-long friendships formed in this group.”
Lisburn Multiples has now been running just over a year and parents and parents-to-be can meet on the first and third Tuesday of the month to swap anecdotes and tips, share a cuppa and let their children play together in a safe environment.
Karen, a GP, became sold on the idea of multiples clubs when she was living in Skipton, West Yorkshire. She found her Yorkshire club so reassuring and useful, when her family moved to Northern Ireland, she knew she wanted to help set up something similar in her new hometown. “As a GP, it was one thing advising parents on what to do in certain situations, but living with twins 24/7 was a completely different thing,” said Karen. “Just the whole day-to-day coping and the ‘how do I actually DO this?’ question came up. I’d had it in my head that I couldn’t breastfeed twins but a couple of ladies at the multiples group had done it and speaking to them gave me the confidence to try it – I wouldn’t have done it without them.”
Karen and her husband Mitch are now parents to three-year-old Arianna and 20-month-old twins Eliza and Arwen. Mitch works as an anaesthetist and Karen still works as a GP three days a week, volunteering at the Lisburn Multiples club in her spare time. The Lisburn Multiples club is a chance for parents to have a coffee while the children play in the middle of the circle to share toys and bond. Attendance varies between about 4 and 10 families per session and people travel from Bangor, Lisburn and further afield to join the fun.
“We’re a very informal group – we have a gossip and a catch up while the children play,” explained Karen. “Bumps are welcome too. The first thing the pregnant ladies want to do is try out our twin buggies and see which ones they like best.
“It can be overwhelming when you’re having twins or triplets and with the best will in the world people will never truly understand the sleep deprivation unless they’ve been through it themselves. Chatting to people who have all been there, who really understand, is really helpful. There is a lovely sense of comradery and it’s okay to admit you’re struggling – there is no competitive element. We’re all very happy to admit ‘yep, this is really hard’ in a nice environment. It’s refreshing. We all know that it’s tough, but it’s going to pass and you find a way to cope together.”
Tamba is the only UK-wide charity dedicated to supporting families of twins, triplets and more through all aspects of life – from pregnancy to school, teenage years and beyond.
Tamba’s Northern Ireland coordinator Kelly McDonald said: “Karen is doing a fantastic job in leading the Lisburn Multiples club and without volunteers like her, our clubs wouldn’t be the successes they are.
“If anyone has recently found they’re pregnant with multiples, Tamba is there to support you from pregnancy. We have lots of resources and no question is a silly question, we’re happy to help.”
Visit www.tamba.org.uk/NI to find out about resources available to Tamba families in Northern Ireland, including where to find your nearest multiples club or email firstname.lastname@example.org
If you’re a parent of twins, triplets or more seeking support and a listening ear you can call Tamba’s free Twinline service on 0800 138 0509. The phone is answered by volunteer parents of multiples and it is open 10am-1pm and 7pm-10pm every day of the year.
We recently surveyed club members across Northern Ireland and found...