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Jillian Leach already had two active little boys when she discovered she was pregnant with twins. Overwhelmed and through a steady flow of tears, she turned to technology for help.

“I went online and thought, ‘There’s got to be a way to survive this,’ ” the Santa Rosa resident said.

Leach, 35, found Sonoma County Mothers of Multiples, a club for women with twins and triplets. She credits the group with giving her the support and understanding she needed, even before delivering her twins.

“I haven’t looked back since,” she said. “It’s incredible. It’s someone to say, ‘You’ve got this, it’s OK.’ It’s a lot of support, especially in the first few years.”

Twins don’t run in Leach’s family and she had no reference point, “no one to ask, no one to rely on.” Finding the unique mothers’ club offered her a sense of relief — and the unexpected benefit of close friendships.

Leach worked through her “sheer panic” over having twins and today juggles nursing school at Santa Rosa Junior College with being mom to 4½-year-old twins Kerensa and Merrick and their brothers, Rhonin, 7, and Jaren, 11. She’s also on the mothers club’s board of directors.

Ann Rice, 44, also has a set of sister-and-brother twins, Quinn and Ryan, 4. She joined Sonoma County Mothers of Multiples late in her pregnancy, when she still was new to Santa Rosa after relocating from San Francisco.

“For me, it was everything because I didn’t know anyone here,” Rice said. “When I got (to Santa Rosa), I had to make a whole new community.”

As with Leach, she found a welcoming group of women with firsthand knowledge of the special joys and challenges of parenting multiples.

“I wish I’d joined earlier,” said Rice, a stay-at-home mom who commuted to her job in health care administration in San Francisco before having her children.

She and Leach say the support and understanding they’ve found in the club has been invaluable.

“For me it was the friendship, the community, the play groups,” Rice said, “and the advice from people who’ve been through it before.”

Members range from 21 to 47, most from Sonoma County, though some of the 75 members come from Napa County. They get together informally to share experiences, meet for kids’ play dates or brainstorm on the unique situations and challenges that come up with parenting multiples.

Discussions might address the pros and cons of placing twins or triplets in the same classroom, ways to negotiate breastfeeding with multiples, or whether it’s OK to occasionally dress kids in matching clothing.

Having multiples brings “a different challenge that someone without multiples doesn’t understand,” Rice said. “The moms of multiples can understand, and relate.”

She emphasizes that every parent faces challenges raising children, but that it’s simply a different set with multiples.

Rice is president of the club, often reaching out with phone calls to new or prospective members to offer reassurance or welcome them to club outings or activities.

The club is a nonprofit affiliated with a national multiples’ organization and another in Northern California; annual membership dues are $40.

Sonoma County Mothers of Multiples provides social, educational and specialized events, particularly around holidays, and maintains a list of helpful resources. Mothers will gather next weekend for a belated Mother’s Day tea, and recently enjoyed a night out together at a comedy show in Rohnert Park.

Family activities like picnics, field trips and special events welcome fathers and siblings, giving everyone an opportunity to socialize. Online forums and Facebook posts keep members up to date on club happenings and provide an outlet for more spontaneous gatherings.

The club also offers swap meets for maternity clothing, snow wear, Halloween costumes and kids’ clothing and equipment, and maintains a preemie clothing closet, a welcome resource for moms with tiny newborns.

New mothers also can benefit from a meal delivery program for up to a year after giving birth. Members sign up to make meals, covering one chore for parents adjusting to caring for multiples.

Along the way, friendships develop among moms, dads, kids and families.

“I didn’t expect friendships to be as strong as they are,” Leach said. “You make best friends in the group whether you want to or not.”

Adds Rice, “I totally agree.”

Leach and Rice said the group is nonjudgmental, applauding personal decisions and recognizing what’s right for one mom isn’t always right for another. One thing the women have learned by parenting multiples is the importance of treating each child as an individual.

“They’re totally separate people,” Rice said. “I’m very careful not to say ‘the twins’ and not to compare them. People especially do that with twins. They are so different, and they should be.”

If there is a truth to a stereotype, the women say, it’s that twins often share a deep bond.

“There’s a definite twin thing,” Leach said.

Forget that Kerensa is assertive, while her twin, Merrick, is more reserved; that Quinn is feisty while her twin, Ryan. is more outgoing. Both sets of twins look out for one another, consider each other their best friend, and even sometimes cry when the other is crying in a separate room.

While it can be double the work for moms of twins, don’t suggest it’s any additional trouble.

“When I hear people say, ‘double trouble,’ it kind of bothers me,” Leach said. “Twins are a blessing.”

Triplets, too, bring expanded joys to families. While twins are more common in the club, there also are a few mothers with triplets.

Raising multiples, the mothers say, is something to celebrate.

“It’s joy, for sure, and wonder,” Rice said.

Sharing the experience with other mothers of multiples enhances the fun and offers an opportunity to test ideas, share resources and keep one another grounded.

“It’s support, it’s friendship, it’s everything,” Leach said.

For more information about Sonoma County Mothers of Multiples, go to scmom.org or visit the group's Facebook page here.

Contact Towns Correspondent Dianne Reber Hart at sonomatowns@gmail.com.

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