Multiple Birth Awareness Week: Twin joy not without its challenges

When Nicola Cotterill was told she was having twin boys she automatically thought they would be two peas in a pod.

But as the Raymond Terrace mother came to learn, her boys, Ethan and Bailey, 6, while having their twin quirks, would develop their own personalities. 

“They’re totally not the same,” Ms Cotterill said. “There’s some things they they do that are similar, when they’re in sync with each other.

“Like, they know their birthday is coming up and it’s on the same day but they want their own cakes. But they’re really quite different.”

While every birth has its risks, carrying, delivering and raising two or more children at once is demanding and has many associated risks and challenges.

According to the Australian Multiple Birth Association (AMBA), up to 65 per cent of all multiples – how it refers to children born at the same time – are born premature. Additionally, low birth weights occur in 50 per cent of all twin births.

Nicola Cotterill with her sons Ethan, 6, Heath, 5, and Bailey, 6.

Nicola Cotterill with her sons Ethan, 6, Heath, 5, and Bailey, 6.

These risks and challenges are being highlighted during Multiple Birth Awareness Week, which runs March 11 to 18. The week is also to highlight the delights and difficulties for parents and families with multiples.

Ms Cotterill has experienced the delights but also the difficulties in carrying, delivering and raising her twin boys.

Ethan and Bailey, who were conceived through IVF, were born premature at 26 weeks. When Ethan was born he weighed just 934 grams. Bailey weighed 1100 grams.

Ms Cotterill’s water broke during a midnight dash to the toilet. As her pregnancy was high risk, she took herself to hospital straight away.

After some monitoring, the expectant mother was about to be sent home. But when doctors noticed her contractions were elevating Ethan’s heart rate, she was quickly wheeled into theatre for an emergency caesarean section.

After being born Ethan and Bailey spent 12 weeks in John Hunter Hospital’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). 

“The NICU experience is very scary,” Ms Cotterill said. “It felt like you went one step forward and a couple of steps back. 

“Twins generally do come early, but not that early. I was so scared I would lose them. But we’ve been lucky. There are families out there much worse off than us.”

Ethan and Bailey Cotterill

Ethan and Bailey Cotterill

Due to being born premature, Ethan and Bailey have autism and development delays.

But that has not stopped them from attending school – both are in year 1 at Irrawang Public School – and teaming up to pick on their little brother Heath, 5.

“I’ve never really thought about what it is like raising twins. It’s my life. I’ve always just done it,” Ms Cotterill said. “They do have their quirks, they are in sync with each other, but you can’t compare them to other twins really. 

“Ethan and Bailey are good mates. They get a long really well, they don’t usually argue. But with the third boy [Heath] in the mix, it’s a different story.”

AMBA has chosen Strength in Numbers as its Multiple Birth Awareness Week theme this year.

“To AMBA, strength in numbers represents what the group is all about,” AMBA chairperson Ashlee Tenberge said. “It’s about giving families with twins, triplets or more, strength by providing information and support.

“It's about connecting these families with a community of over 5000 other families of multiples so that they know they are not alone.”

Guiding two or more children through life stages at the same time can be very demanding on parents.

For more information about support for multiple birth families or for Multiple Birth Awareness Week activities, find AMBA on Facebook.

Do you have twins, triplets, or more, in your family? We want to see your photos. Send your photos to portstephens@fairfaxmedia.com.au to be included in our 2018 gallery.

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