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What I wish I knew sooner

Moms of multiples look back (and ahead) on raising kids born together

Moms of multiples look back on raising kids born together

Twins, Cloe Rissin  (second from the left) and Zoe Rissin (far right), share a strong bond and terrific sense of humor, says their mom, Jeanne Devine (far left). Dad, Howard Rissin, stands between the girls.

When Meaghan and Samuel Lane's two boys and two girls arrived prematurely four years ago, medical complications arose. All four needed oxygen. One son, Kevin, died at three days old. Their other son, Dillon, developed cerebral palsy and their daughter, Aubree, needed a tracheotomy when she was 2.   

Yet, Lane didn't ask for help. "I wish I would have taken more help in the beginning," said Lane, of Cuddebackville. "Don't be bashful. Let them bring you a meal. Accept whenever people want to feed a baby. I wish I let more people in."

Ask for and accept help.
Everyone needs a helping hand every now and then. Mothers of multiples? More 'now' than 'then.'

Jeanne Devine of Fishkill went with a friend's suggestion when her identical twin daughters, Chloe and Zoe Rissin, 12, were babies. Whenever visitors asked to hold a baby, Devine asked them to first do a small chore from a posted list.
"There's no shame in help; there's no embarrassment," she said. "We always could use extra hands."

Alexis Asp of Hopewell Junction turned to online mothers' groups of multiples when her and her husband, Peter's triplets arrived. One group met occasionally to relax and connect while their kids played.

"They told horror stories and I felt better knowing everyone else was in the same position," Asp said.

She also has gotten support from her community. At Our Savior Lutheran Church in Fishkill, a pew is reserved for the expansive family during mass. The Mid-Hudson Children's Museum in Poughkeepsie has enjoyed the family's twice-monthly visits and Julie's Jungle in Hopewell Junction allows the kids to play  within gated areas, an important consideration when tracking a handful kids simultaneously.

"You can no longer just go for a cup of coffee with one kid in tow," said Asp. "Julie's Jungle is a go-to because you have to go where kids can run around."

These days Lane looks to Facebook groups, Quadmoms, and Orange County Moms of Multiples for needed support but she's also found that accepting help can save money. At her baby shower, for instance, she got a year-and-a-half's worth of diapers and baby wipes. She also appreciates out-grown kids' clothes from friends, plus her family's scholarship from Kelly's Music Corner in Middletown.

"We struggle," Lane said. "We do couponing and have support from the family, as well."

Keep organized. With so many kids moving around, Asp wished she knew how chaotic life would be once she had triplets. Staying organized has been key, which she learned from attending to the varied needs of her eldest, Tyler Damo, 27, who has autism and lives with the family. 

"I have a binder for each one of my children," she said. "In the front are their medical papers. I have all their schoolwork of the year."

Asp also prints weekly to-do lists for herself and husband and posts a weekly calendar for the kids to show them what's coming up. Bins and cubbies hold the kids' gear and Asp stocks her car with essentials, like snacks, coloring books and crayons, portable chairs and soccer gear.

"You have to be prepared," she said. "Even at doctors' appointments, you have to go in with a bag."

Lane has relied on a schedule to keep her household in order since her kids were babies.

"We are very routine," she said, including times for naps, tooth-brushing, bed and medicine. "Everyday at noon they nap. We just stuck with it."

Devine manages her family's days by setting priorities, making lists and letting the rest go.

"My family joked that my tombstone would be made of lists," she said. "I had constant lists on scraps."

Still, she said, moms need to give themselves a break because everything isn't going to get done.

"If everyone's alive at the end of the day, you're good," she said.

She also focuses on her family's needs, like when her twins began kindergarten. They tired early, so she served them a 4 p.m. dinner, gave then a bath and if they were sleepy, put them to bed.

"We did it for about six months," she said. "It worked until they became acclimated."

Manage kid comparisons and key relationships. Lane sees her children separately, but also enjoys time with all of them.

"I will take them one at a time to the store for one-on-one time with them," she said, adding that Dillon plays with anyone, while the girls have a strong bond with each other.

Because Asp's girls have similar interests and are at the same level, she's tended to group them together.  

"It's incredibly tough, but you have to (treat them as individuals) because all your kids are different. Madelyn is artistic. Annabelle can run a mile. Timewise it's hard to fit in. Soon they're going to want to do their own things. But it's tough." 

Devine hasn't had an issue comparing her girls, who look alike, although their styles differ. Harder,  is when others don't take the time see differences between them.

"I have to tell the girls to let it go," she said.

When she was struggling with new motherhood, diapers and crying babies, Devine wished she know how much fun her girls would be.

"They get to be 2 or 3 and are telling you hilarious stories about Batman," she said. "They're super- funny. They're a united front and have amazing imaginations. They do the craziest things," like inventing a secret handshake with dance moves.

"It's hilarious," Devine said. "It's the best."

Karen Maserjian Shan is the editor of Hudson Valley Parent.