Every mom knows what it's like to feed the baby several times a night, to comfort a child through a thunderstorm, and to pay the high prices for nursery furniture.
At the Columbia Mothers of Twins Club, all the fun, work, worry and expense is multiplied by two -- in a haven where it's OK for moms to admit that their offspring tire them outand challenge them.
"If I had to name a complaint, I'd have to say it's those mall moments," says Pam Bianco, 31, club president. "Comments like 'Better you than me,' and 'double trouble' are examples of what we hear every time we go out. We feel twice blessed to be the mothers of twins." The Bianco twins, Danny and Kathy, will soon be 5.
"They're used to the attention. It's a rare trip to the store when we aren't stopped by people wanting to talk to the boys," agrees Lita Kearney, 31, mother of 19-month-olds Ryan and Sean.
Judy Griffith, 35, club librarian and mom of 3-year-olds daughters Katie and Rachel, feels belonging to the club helps moms cope with the many aspects of parenting twins."Twins can wear you out, mentally and physically," she admits. "You begin to lose touch with reality."
Well-intentioned friends and relatives aren't enough.
"We need to interact with moms with the same problems we have," Kearney says. "And the club gives us what nothing or no one else can -- empathy." The club is a place where old wives' tales and horror stories about having twins give way to sharing solutions to everyday hassles.
The 105-member club has other advantages. Members swap not only ideas, but equipment and clothes.
"Thankgoodness for that," Griffith says, "because when I see a pretty dress in a store, I don't just look at the price tag. I have to multiplythe cost by two."
But pretty dresses aren't necessities. Stroller, high chairs, cribs, car seats and playpens are.
"We recycle these things," Bianco says. "Equipment, clothes and ideas that make our lives easier, we make use of it all."
A $15 annual fee gives moms of twins membership in the Columbia Mothers of Twins Club, an offshootof the Albuquerque, N.M.- based national group. They exchange publications, such as Twins magazine.
Speakers regularly attend the monthly meetings to give advice and insights into raising twins. Pediatricians, exercise instructors and speech therapists have been among theguests over the six-year history of the club.
"We have holiday parties and picnics regularly, too, where our
children can get together; where they're one of a whole bunch of others just like themselves," Kearney says. "In a room full of twins, twins can feel very normal."
Routine matters, members say, are doubly important when you'rethe parents of twins.
"They're so accustomed to being talked to by strangers," Bianco says, "that they become friendly at a very earlyage. And with two of them to watch at the same time, you have to be twice as careful."
So police officers have talked about child safety to the club.
Some club concerns focus more on the mothers than on the children.
"Just like moms of one baby or toddler, we get tired, too -- twice as tired," says Griffith. "Sometimes, exhaustion makes us get a little sloppy about our appearance."
"Sometimes I'd find myself dreaming of getting all dressed up and having three meals a day, seven days a week, in a restaurant," Griffith says. Mothers oftwins need to understand, she advises, that "thoughts like that are perfectly normal."
Members share stories with new and soon-to-be mothers of twins.
"It's twice the work, sure," says Bianco. "But it's also twice the joy."
Mothers are staying in the club longer: "When we first joined, Kearney says, "we thought 'if this club can justget me through the first six months. . . .' "
"But then the babies become toddlers," Bianco said. "They need to be potty trained, and they go to preschool. We find ourselves constantly needing the input of other members who've been down a road we haven't been down yet."
The club's role for the mothers is "almost as important as the kids' fathers," kids Bianco. "These guys are great dads. They have to be."
The club's tips for mothers of twins:
* Learn not to be so fussy.
* Take time out for yourself.
* Let other people help you.
* Strike a balance between a planned schedule and flexibility.
* Take care of the children first; other chores will wait.