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PEMS support group

Twins? Triplets? Seattle group offers special support to parents of multiples

Seattle Families of Multiples helps new parents face the exponential challenges of life with twins.

When it comes to babies, doubling your fun can also mean doubling the workload. And the poopy diapers. And the feedings. And the wakings. And the crying. And, yeah, it can double the parental crying, too. 

To address the unique needs of families facing the challenge of two or more babies arriving at once, Seattle Families of Multiples has developed the eight-week program PEMS (Providing Early Multiples Support), closely modeled on Seattle’s extremely popular PEPS (Program for Early Parent Support) groups.

A weekly connection

At weekly meetings, PEMS parents, who by necessity are often drawn from all over the metro area, can unload about all the challenges they’ve met in the past week: the highs and lows, as well as the funny observations.

“One of the women in my PEMS group put it the best way: With a singleton pregnancy you have two parents per new baby. In a twin pregnancy and at birth you’ve got one parent per one baby, so basically you’re outnumbered,” said Emily Oliver of West Seattle, laughing.

“I think that probably scheduling is one of the biggest differences with a twin pregnancy and birth, especially as a first-time momma,” said Oliver, who participated in a PEMS group with her infant boy and girl twins this year.

“Like, how do you breastfeed two babies? How do you leave the house with two babies? You know you can’t just strap one on and walk out the door. There’s a lot of logistics involved,” noted Elizabeth Knaster, a PEMS facilitator who lives in Maple Leaf.


Shifting expectations

PEMS facilitator Lisa Dermer sees the program as an invaluable resource. Many twins and other multiples are born premature, which gives this set of new parents additional challenges. Multiple pregnancies are also automatically considered high-risk, noted Dermer, a Ballard resident. “I think what’s really hard is that our expectations as parents of multiples often really have to shift,” she said, explaining that twin moms can often have issues with breast-milk supply, too.

Twin mom Emily Hawkins of Madison Valley found PEMS very helpful this year, and raves about the Seattle Parents of Multiples resources as well, including the “preemie closet,” where members can borrow from the group’s collection of teensy clothes, which can be hard to find as well as expensive.

“It’s a really nice, supportive way of being able to dress your little babies, and do it in a way that’s economical,” explained Hawkins.

It definitely takes a village

“I think it’s very important to build a village,” said coordinator and twin parent Marloes Koning, who oversees PEMS. “To connect with people, to have people that can support you, whether it be through PEPS or PEMS, as long as you reach out to people.”

“That’s very difficult for most moms — and maybe even dads as well: to reach out and ask for help.”

Learn more about Seattle Families of Multiples on its website.

About the Author

Jillian O'Connor

Jillian O’Connor lives in Seattle with her husband, two sons and a dog named after the Loch Ness Monster.