For those of us who cared for only one newborn at a time, the sleepless nights, the constant feedings and the indecipherable crying were draining enough to make us feel at the end of our ropes at times. While for most of us, the thought of multiplying that workload by two (or more!) is downright frightening, the parents profiled here each have built their own path to surviving and even thriving during the challenging early years of their children’s lives.
As much as you can prepare for multiples, both mentally and physically, Melissa Salyer of Naples, said she relied mostly on her natural motherly instincts to help her to get through the most difficult times with her twin boys, Kaleb and Conor. Even though she turned ‘white as a ghost’ when she found out she was carrying twins, “a lot of things just seemed to come very easily once they were home,” she explained. “I quickly learned how to do everything ‘no handed’.” She said her boys did everything together: feedings, diaper changes, playtime. Often this left her with both of her hands full, but she found a flow that happened naturally.
Melissa’s biggest challenge was taking care of her 19-month-old daughter, Abigayle, while also caring for the newborn twins. “The first year of their life was a blur,” she said. The boys were born at 33 weeks with a number of health issues, which required endless doctor visits. “In the midst of it all, I needed help mostly with Abigayle,” she said, “who was very much still a baby herself.”
Keri McGinnis, who lives in Estero, expected that she might have multiples when she went through in vitro fertilization, but she still was a bit nervous and surprised when she discovered that she was carrying her twins, Katie and Owen. Thankfully, she had found an incredible support system from a Mother of Multiples group in Kansas City, Missouri, where her babies were born. “The first two years, there is so much going on,” she explained, “the sleepless nights, the feedings, teething and potty training.” She found it very helpful to have people to talk to who understood the many challenges of raising multiples.
For Keri and her husband, Gerald, sticking to a strict schedule helped them to accomplish all that needed to be done in a busy day and night. “My husband and I didn’t do well with broken sleep every night,” she said. So they came up with a schedule that worked for them. Keri would go to sleep at 6:00 p.m. when Gerald came home from work, and after six hours of good sleep, she would take over from him at midnight so he could sleep. “The most important thing for any family is to find what works best for their own specific needs, and that is what we did,” she explained.
According to Jaime Reifschneider, who also lives in Naples, unity and teamwork with your partner is essential when caring for multiple infants. Jaime and her husband, Todd, adopted their twins, Rush and Reagen, as newborns through a private adoption seven months ago. “My husband and I both had very defined roles and responsibilities when caring for our twins,” she said, “and it was a comfort, in the midst of all that was going on, to know that those details would be taken care of so that we could make our main focus spending time with the kids.” Having the same priorities helps them feel united. “We always to try to remember that each moment with them is precious. They change so much from day to day that we do not want to take it for granted,” she explained.
Teaching first grade for six years was excellent preparation for handing the demands of her twins, according to Jaime. “With 20 kids coming at you all at the same time needing this or that, you learn a lot about multitasking. After handling 20, two seems pretty easy,” she said.
Even when Sarah Burd was a little girl, she played with a Barbie doll that had twin babies, and she always had the desire to one day have twins of her own. So when she heard an extra heartbeat at her first prenatal doctor’s appointment, it was a dream come true. “I felt so confident about twins,” she said. “My husband would take one and I would take the other. It seemed like it would be a perfect fit for us.” However, that joyful bliss quickly turned to shock and fear when a third baby was discovered at her second ultrasound. On November 30, 2009, Sarah became the mother of triplet boys: Jack, Owen, and Everett.
To allay her fears, Sarah contacted a friend of a friend, a mother of triplet girls living in Virginia Beach. Jeannie Hilton became a mentor to Sarah, helping her through struggles and situations that she had already been through herself. “Jeannie helped me tremendously,” Sarah said, and eventually Jeannie and her family relocated to Naples. The close friends and have even started a local mother’s of multiples group called Triple Talk.
“I cannot stress enough how important it has been for me to connect with women who are going through what I am experiencing myself,” Sarah explained. She found women across the nation, through blogs and internet sites, who have had successful triplet births. Hearing their stories has given Sarah encouragement, as well as helpful advice and tips.
Although each family’s style or struggle is unique, their top priority is always the same: to have happy and healthy children. At the end of the day, that is a goal any mother can relate to. As Keri McGinnis said, “Seeing them interact with each other and watching their personalities blossoming as individuals has been so rewarding.” That is something that makes all the hard work and the demand of raising multiples well worth it.
Sara Failor is a freelance writer and homeschooling mother of two.