“In this life we will never truly be apart – because we grew to the same beat of our mother’s heart.” – Daphne Fandrich

“Twice the joy.  Twice the love.  Twice the blessings from above.” – Anonymous

As I approached this last installment for Child’s Month, I was struck several times in the last few days about the phenomenon of multiple births. According to researchers, a multiple birth is the culmination of one multiple pregnancy, wherein the mother delivers two or more offspring.  The offspring are often named by the type of fertilization (monozygotic, dizygotic, or polyzygotic) or by the number of offspring (twins, triplets, octuplets, and so on).  Research by Kulkarni, Jamieson, Jones, Kissin, Gallo, Macaluso, and Adashi (2013), revealed that “In the United States, it has been estimated that by 2011, 36% of twin births and 78% of triplet and higher-order births resulted from conception by  assisted reproductive technology.”  So what is the mystery of multiple births?  Have you ever wondered about your friends and neighbours who have twins or who are siblings to twins?

I observed two in one day.  In one instance I was travelling with some neighbours when I stopped the car and allowed a lady to cross the road.  I said out loud, “I know that lady.”  My neighbor said, “She is one of a triplet, it may not be the one that you know.”  She had gone to school with them, so she knew them well.  She also told me that they are very nice girls.  For example, if you mistakenly call out to her by her sister’s name, she will still wave back without correcting you.  Amazing!  You will never be embarrassed waving to those sisters; and, they are not hung up about being mistaken for the other sibling.  Later that day, I was driving along a stretch of road and saw a man sitting on the corner with a baby stroller parked beside him.  It was a double stroller with a set of twins.  I exclaimed to my Mom, “Did you see that man with the babies?”  We both said, “It looks like he is selling them.”  Now why would we both utter the same thought at the same time?  Well, for several reasons.  Perhaps the cost of raising one, nevertheless, two children in the conditions that enabled him to sit on the street corner at that hour of the day caused us to be alarmed.  Perhaps it was because he was sitting at a corner that usually has vendors selling vegetables and fruits to passersby.  Or, perhaps it was his posture as he sat observing the passing traffic while the babies just sat quietly in their stroller.  Whatever our reasons for concern, understand that our alarm could not possibly compare to the mother’s reactions when she is first informed that she is having a multiple birth.

Motherhood is undoubtedly a miracle under any condition, but in the face of multiple births, mothers can feel even more overwhelmed when they recognize the responsibility of simultaneously caring for multiple babies.  Which one do you respond to first if they are all crying?  How do you differentiate the babies when they are born so that you match their names with the appropriate child?  How do you help others to understand the uniqueness of your children when they all look alike?  But just as motherhood is a miracle, the strength and wisdom that a multiple birth mom needs is given to her as she tends to her brood, she learns how to take care of her babies in she same way that she carried them under her breasts – she watches, she listens, she feels, and then she responds with loving care.

As I researched the physiological and environmental contributors to multiple births I discovered an interesting fact – multiple births naturally occur more often among mature women due to the presence of higher levels of follicle-stimulating hormones (FSH).  However, with the advancements in technology, infertility treatments result in higher numbers of multiple births among younger women and multiple births in older women.  So, octomom, Nadya Suleman created history at the age of 33 when she delivered the world’s first set of 8 babies to survive past the first week.  This, after already having given birth to six children, all via in-vitro fertilization.

Why endure it?  Why accept the health risks for mother and child with the increasing number of babies?  It is simple – the joy of motherhood.  Joy at knowing that you have given life to new personalities, new dreams, new possibilities, and that one of your babies may be the answer to curing cancer or some other disease, to creating a new musical masterpiece, or to alleviating world hunger.  For the babies, they have a guaranteed team of playmates, lifelong supporters, and executive directors of their private board.  There is an assurance that they will never be alone to decide anything, face any challenge, or celebrate any victory.  What others have to put out extra effort to do, children of multiple births receive as a gift from life.

So many couples want to have children.  So many children need loving parents.  So, maybe there is a hidden lesson here for society.  The natural order suggests that mothers of multiple births age to maturity like a fine wine, rum or other prized antique.  The natural order suggests also that no child outgrows the love of a mother.  So, how about challenging society’s views on motherhood, and the perfect age to be a mother?  Nature is confirming that physical, emotional and social maturity, facilitate better mothers and the quality of care provided to children.  Children born to mature parents tend to be more mature and competent at comparable ages to children born to younger couples.  Can we move the expiration date on childhood and motherhood?  Research revealed that “The oldest woman to give birth was an Indian woman named Omkari Panwar, who gave birth to twins at age 72, in June 2008. She conceived the twins — a boy and a girl — by in-vitro fertilization, and gave birth via C-section,” (Lewis, 2015).  The report went on to say that the mother was already a grandmother to several grand-children when she decided to become a mother again.  Why? Joy!

So, next time you see multiple birth offspring or an expectant mother of multiple births, consider that these families have been doubly, triply, or even twelve times blessed!  Nations who have lost children for a variety of reasons – through the growth of women in professional services, migration, war, or due to horrific experiences like terrorism, can consider seriously investing in mother and child health programmes, and special fertility programmes, to support couples who have multiple births.  Never forget that children are a gift to families, but they are even more important to nations as they create wealth and advance in development.

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