Mindy Wilson was one hour from giving birth for the first time when the doctors presented her with a piece of news. Actually, two pieces.
She was going to have twins.
“I had had three ultrasounds. The doctors just kept saying, ‘No, you’re big. You’re just big,’” Mindy Wilson said, who can laugh about the experience now, more than eight years later.
Alex’s body was mostly behind Caleb’s body. The heartbeats were in synch.
The doctors were fooled. The parents were flabbergasted.
“You’re kidding, right?” were the first words from the mouth of the father, 1st Lt. Scott Wilson.
Such stories are swapped monthly at meetings of the Parents of Multiples Club at RAF Mildenhall, England.
Inside this room in the base chapel, parents of twins or triplets or, should it arise, quadruplets or more, share the joys and jubilations, the trials and tribulations of having a family suddenly grow by two, three or four.
The talk is of putting two babies down for the night or feeding two hungry babies or dressing two rambunctious babies or potty training two babies or where to find bargains for clothes, shoes, toys and accessories for two babies.
“You can really only benefit from people who have been through it,” said Rachel Gaetan, who organized the group after a previous on-base group closed.
She and Senior Airman Milton Gaetan are the parents of identical twins Alannah and Alyssah, who were 3 in February and look enough alike to fool their mother.
“I mix them up every day,” Gaetan said. “I will be talking to one and think I’m talking to the other one.”
Parents of multiples belong to a relatively small fraternity. In 2001, the number of twins born in the United States was 121,246, which represented 3.2 percent of all births. The numbers are for individual babies, not sets of twins. Multiple births of three or more averaged once per every 539 births.
This scarcity of multiple births makes a group like this one vital.
“Maybe you don’t know anybody else who has twins,” Rachel Gaetan said. “You think you are all alone.”
That’s why, she said, it is common for parents of multiples, even though they are complete strangers, to strike up conversations when they meet in the exchange or the food court or the commissary.
“You go right up to them and talk about twin stuff,” Gaetan said.
If it sounds like a support group, that’s exactly what it is, Gaetan said. It’s not a disease or life-threatening condition, but it is a stressful, nerve-wracking, overpowering and, of course, wonderful experience.
“Sometimes it’s overwhelming,” said Jennifer Marx, mother of Amanda and Shannon, now 16 months old. “It was a lot harder when they were younger. But now they can play with each other.”
Still, the demand on time can be, well, quite demanding.
“You have to spend a little less time with each one,” said Ann McLoone, mother of Mary Grace and Patrick, who are 7 months. “They tag-team you. You think you’ve got them down for the night and one will wake up.”
McLoone calls herself an “experienced parent.” She has older children, including 3-year-old Chrissie. But nothing prepared her for the two-for-one bargain.
“It’s definitely a different experience having twins compared to having a single,” said the wife of Maj. Grant McLoone. “We had wanted to give Chrissie a sibling. She gets two for the price of one.”
Other parents who had a single child before their twins say the difference is evident.
“Everything was much simpler back then,” said McCon, who also has Serena, 6, and Scott Jr., 2, “but I didn’t realize it.”
Parents love their twins, of course. But the initial news that twins are on the way — or triplets, quadruplets, etc. — can cause some mixed emotions. It is a Dickens moment — the best of news, the worst of news.
“It was good, but scary,” said Cynthia McCon, mother of Katlyn and Katrina, now 9 months old.
Her husband, Staff Sgt. Scott McCon, was on temporary duty when doctors dropped the bombshell. She decided not to tell him over the telephone.
Instead, she waited for him to return and then left the sonogram showing the two growing babies on his desk at work.
“He came home fast,” she said.
Gaetan remembers her reaction to the news.
“I told the doctor he was lying,” she said. “And then I cried for an hour. I was very upset. I was distraught. It was overwhelming to find that out.”
That’s why groups like this one are important. And they are prevalent. National organizations, such as Mothers of Multiples or Mothers of Twins, all have Web sites. Local chapters or independent clubs are common.
Samantha Worley, mother of 6-year-olds Ashley and Heather, was in charge of a club in Heidelberg, Germany, when she and her husband, Sgt. 1st Class Shawn Worley, were stationed there. They are now in Nashville, and the club in Heidelberg has become inactive.
Worley said in a telephone interview the club was valuable because, as Gaetan said, mothers of single children can only provide so much assistance.
“They don’t have a clue,” she said. “With twins and triplets and on up, it’s a completely different world. It’s very hard to nurse a baby and change a diaper.”
At the club meetings, she said, parents could swap ideas and solutions to problems.
“I won’t lie. It was a struggle for me because my husband was gone all the time,” she said. “I love my children to death. I wouldn’t trade them. But that first year was a blur.
“The motto of Mothers of Multiples is ‘This too shall pass.’”
She said the worst thing was the crying.
“It never failed that when one would cry, the other would cry,” she said.
She was able to distinguish their cries and give attention first to the one that seemed to need it the most.
One thing not heard at the meetings of Parents of Multiples is complaining. Even the stories of stress and frustration are told with smiles and greeted with knowing laughter.
“It’s hard for me to get out of the house on my own,” Jennifer Marx said.
“It usually takes both of us to get them out of the house,” her husband, Staff Sgt. Michael Marx, said.
Everyone talked of the advantages facing twins. They have a built-in playmate and begin learning social skills almost from the doctor’s first fanny slap.
“I take them to a play group,” said Jennifer Marx, “and I notice they’re not as affected by kids coming up and taking their toys. They’re used to it.”
Worley said her children get along famously.
“They are great friends,” she said. “They don’t argue hardly at all, which surprises me. They like to pretend that they are the Olsons (Hollywood twins Mary-Kate and Ashley).”
Despite the stress, expense, weariness and frustration, the parents at the meeting not only feel fortunate to have multiples, but actually feel blessed.
“We’re going to have kids again,” Jennifer Marx said. “We’d like to have twins again, actually.”