By Laura E. Young
Stefanie Gemmell, one of the founders of the Greater Sudbury Multiple Births Association (GSMBA), cried when she heard her group won the Making a Difference Chapter Award from Multiple Births Canada at its annual general meeting in Haliburton last fall.
The mother of fraternal triplets says, “A lot of chapters across Canada try to get off the ground and don’t necessarily make it. It’s hard to keep people engaged. The aging out issue happens a lot. Parents get too busy as kids get older and involved in different stuff.”
The Sudbury parents’ group has had many accomplishments since five moms got together to support one another in late 2013.
The GSMBA recently incorporated to better support their paid membership of 50 families. The majority of families have twins, there are four families with triplets, and a family from Parry Sound with quadruplets comes to Sudbury for special events.
The Sudbury chapter got started by chance. Gemmell experienced heartburn shortly after she got pregnant. An ultrasound showed three tiny babies. Abigail, Grace and Thomas are now five.
“My first words were, ‘We’re going to need to buy a van.’ My mom was crying, happy but scared, and I was scared and crying. But the good news was the babies were healthy.”
About the same time, four other Sudbury moms of multiples had individually contacted Multiple Births Canada (MBC) to see if there was a chapter in Sudbury. MBC put them together in a group on Facebook, asking them to talk among themselves.
“And the rest is history,” laughs Gemmell.
Emotional support and connection comes in all shapes and sizes. It can be a shoulder to lean on or help with the paperwork required for parental leave.
The chapter has a private Facebook group where members can post questions.
“It’s a safe space. People with singles don’t understand. They don’t get what it’s like. So it gives that safe space for us to chat,” Gemmell says.
“Sometimes you doubt yourself…when you’ve got that mom-fog going on and you just don’t know. You reach out and there’s no judgment,” says Melissa Benoit, a mom of twin girls, and a son.
To keep children in clothes and other essentials, GSMBA holds consignment sales in April and October. Members of the public are welcome to rent tables to sell their own items.
Clothes for older children and sporting goods are especially welcome, says Benoit.
Other activities have included meal exchanges. Last January 10 families went home with 10 different freezable meals. There was a pool party with pizza afterwards.
As well, the chapter has items to share that are unique to multiple births: a double carrier, a double breastfeeding pillow and double electric breastfeeding pump they lend out, as long as members have their own tubing and supplies. Different organizations give free items such as diapers and wipes, and there is a welcome package when a family joins.
According to Multiple Births Canada, there has been an average of 12,000 multiple births every year for the past decade.
Multiple births can be especially tough on a mom’s mental state; MBC reports the rate of postpartum depression and issues is five times higher than that of moms of
Benoit had fertility treatments for both her pregnancies. She was shocked but happy and scared at the news she was expecting twins. Then, she worried how she and her husband, John Cockburn, would manage. They already had a son Rowan, now six.
She wishes she had joined the group before her girls, Naomi and Olivia, were born. Often she wondered what was “normal” during her pregnancy.
“I didn’t have anybody to ask. Just little things that I had with the girls’ pregnancy that I didn’t have with my son.”
Gemmell and Benoit had a lot of help from their respective mothers and mothers-in-law, and other family members, but they say a lot of new parents don’t have that level of support. The group’s members are there for moms.
“Basically it’s drop everything. Whoever is available. There are no limits really. Whatever they need, if somebody is willing to give it, we’ll give it. We all remember what it was like,” Gemmell says.
For more information, visit the group’s website or send an email to [email protected]