West Los Angeles Parents of Multiples is a real-life social network for families whose blessings arrive in twos or threes
By Debra Eckerling
It’s a beautiful spring day in Santa Monica and Clover Park is alive with laughter. Bouncing babies hold court with moms and dads on picnic blankets, while older siblings run and play on the freshly cut grass. Groups of two or three wear outfits that go together but don’t necessarily match — though their faces often do.
This is the annual spring picnic of the West Los Angeles Parents of Multiples, a social network that connects parents of twins, triplets and quadruplets on social media and in real life to form a unique and loving extended family community.
The grassroots nonprofit (an independent member club of Multiples of America) offers online forums, small group meetings, education, support and philanthropy to parents raising or expecting multiples, assisting with the challenges and sharing the joys of infancy and childhood. The West L.A. group holds large-scale gatherings each year: the spring picnic, a summer beach party, a Halloween party and a parent-only holiday party.
“This is my support system, knowing that others are going through exactly what I’m going through,” says Myrna Nejat, president of WLAPOM and mother of 7½-year-old twin girls Jasmine and Nicolette. “Now that my kids are older, I enjoy giving back and helping other people go through that journey.”
West Los Angeles Parents of Multiples organizes kids born within six months of each other into subgroups named after animals (Penguins, Flamingos, Pandas, etc.), allowing those families to form an even stronger bond. Groups organize parent nights out, attend informational events and keep regular playdates (hanging out, feeding, talking). On playdates everyone’s looking out for everyone’s children. “I know if one of my kids starts to wander away,” Nejat says of her group, the Tigers, “someone will bring her back.”
During the April 28 spring picnic, Anton and Susan Abaya — parents of identical twin boys Apollo and Xavier, almost 4, and 6-month-old daughter Iris — point out a couple from their subgroup on the next blanket; they have twin boys around the same age and a little girl born before theirs.
Bouncing his baby girl on his lap, Anton says he finds the social aspect, the support group and the social media community very helpful. Members can ask anyone any question, or simply commiserate with others going through similar struggles.
“I found [the group] maybe six months before the boys were born,” he recalls. “They were our first, and it was kind of a scary proposition, as you would expect … and I didn’t know where to begin on anything.”
Whereas his biggest joy is seeing his boys “discover the world together and watching them grow [and] explore,” the biggest challenge is managing it all while remembering he and his wife also need to take care of themselves. “You’ve got to love the experience of having these babies running around to be able to do it right, and I think that’s the best part.”
He offers this advice for parents expecting twins: “The one thing that always kept me going when it was really hard, especially eight weeks after the twins were born, was to remind myself that somewhere out there was a parent
For West Los Angeles Parents of Multiples board member Traci Wells, the group has been a vital support system — especially so at the beginning. She and husband Michael Cuculich, who live in Culver City, are now the parents of 8-year-old twin girls Eloise and Zola, 6-year-old daughter Noomi and 2½-year-old baby boy Jonsi.
Wells’ family visited and helped out after the twins were born, but they don’t live in the area. Later, when the twins were three months old, they started crying a lot during feeding. She turned to the online forum and explained what was going on; right away, members identified it as reflux.
“I’d never heard of reflux before,” she recalls, but by the time her family doctor was able to see her, “I told the doctor, ‘My girls have reflux, this is what I’m doing, it’s working, and they don’t really need meds because I found a way of feeding them that gives them a little bit of relief.’
“When you’re adjusting to a life that has just changed completely,” Wells says, “having people who are going through it at the same time as you are — being able to exchange stories — is completely invaluable.”
Among other benefits, the West Los Angeles Parents of Multiples offers parenting classes, a newborn intensive care unit and bedrest support group, and a preemie lending closet (since preemies grow out of their little clothes quickly). There’s also a charity arm called Multiple Helpings — “that’s where families who are not part of our group, but are in need, reach out to us to see if we can provide them with diapers, wipes, other items and support,” Wells explains.
Debra and Kip Stolberg have six kids in their family. Their eldest is Kaden is 13; Zoe, 11, and AJ, 9, are adopted. The 5-year-old triplets are their youngest: sons Finley and Paxton, and daughter Ellery. “When the triplets were little and they would run in all different directions, the big
ones would go run after them,” Debra recalls.
Although the Stolbergs arrived late for the picnic, they made it in time for the group photo. “I try to come to everything but we’re always a little late for some reason,” she says with a laugh. “It’s been so much fun to come to events and see people over and over again who understand what having more than one child of the same age really means.”
Stolberg remembers being overwhelmed at her first West Los Angeles Parents of Multiples meeting, until she met a woman who had triplets and went on to have a set of twins. “I thought, if she is willing to get pregnant again after having triplets, it must be doable,” she says. “It gave me hope.”
Since then she’s concluded that raising triplets is kind of like being a shark: “You just got to keep swimming forward, have a sense of humor, and … let a lot of things go. That’s really our parenting secret: Don’t sweat the small stuff.”
“Don’t panic,” she says, and get as much help as you possibly can. “When somebody offers help, don’t just say, ‘Oh, that’d be great.’ Sign them up! Give them a day and a time, give them something to do. Have a list of things. One of the most amazing things was to open my door on a Sunday morning, and my neighbors had dropped off bagels and cream cheese.”
As the spring picnic begins to wrap up, Wells shares that her favorite part of the event is meeting all the new families — people she’s interacted with online but had not yet met. “Especially in this world where everything’s moving online, she says, “for me that face-to-face means everything.”
Nejat says the best part about having twins is “seeing the love that they have for each other, and how they take care of each other.”
Something similar could be said of West Los Angeles Parents of Multiples, which combines the instantaneous reach of social media with meaningful person-to-person engagement for a support group — and friendship circle — like no other.
Contact West Los Angeles Parents of Multiples at (424) 235-4766 or wlapom.org.