By Colleen Sparks, GSN Staff Writer

Raising children while juggling work and other responsibilities can be a tricky balancing act, especially when a mother gives birth to two or more babies at the same time.

That is where local nonprofit group Busy Bee Mothers of Multiples steps in to offer support to help moms stay happy and unwind as they deal with simultaneous cries and wet diapers and little ones’ pleas for attention.

The support group serves mothers or moms-to-be of twins, triplets or higher order multiples in the East Valley, and it’s the local chapter of the national Multiples of America​ organization.

Most of the 150 members live in Chandler, Gilbert, Queen Creek, Mesa and San Tan Valley.

The group meets on the third Wednesday of every month at San Tan Village Community Room on East Williams Field Road in Gilbert. Members also meet for their children’s play dates, have moms’ nights out and give back to the community doing baby food formula drives, water drives for homeless people and walks to support autism research.

They also adopt a family with multiples around the holidays and create scrapbook pages and name cards for families whose babies are in the neonatal intensive care unit of hospitals.

Several mothers say the local group helps them feel they are not alone in the unusual struggles that parents of multiples face.

The activities also give them an outlet and a chance to have fun and forget about their many responsibilities involving child-rearing for a night.

The moms also provide meal trains for new mothers or ones dealing with other challenges and provide advice on breastfeeding and health issues multiples often face. They have the opportunity to let loose and vent about everyday frustrations in a private Facebook page.

Emily Knoblock, of Mesa, co-president of Busy Bee Mothers of Multiples and a mother of  fraternal twins, said she suffered from post-partum depression after her babies were born. Her twins, Will and Maria, are now 15 months old.

“It was debilitating,” Knoblock said. “If I wouldn’t have found this group, I don’t know where I’d be right now. I think it saved my life. It really saved my sanity and made me feel like I had a purpose again.”

She said meeting the other women in the moms group helped her “funnel energy” into something else after leaving her full-time career to have her babies.

“I like the variety of moms’ nights out,” Knoblock, 37, said. “There’s something for everyone, and I think that is nice. We have this shared experience. We’re all from different backgrounds, different careers, different everything. We relate to each other as the moms first.”

Busy Bee Mothers of Multiples co-president Emily Pochardt, 32, of Gilbert, who has twins, said she enjoys being with women who can relate to the wacky world of raising multiples.

Her twins, Harper, a girl, and Reid, a boy, are 20 months old and were born about three months early. The babies stayed in Chandler Regional Medical Center’s neonatal intensive care unit for nearly 80 days.

“It’s a difficult thing,” Pochardt said. “You have this picture of what the birth is gonna look like. We didn’t even have the nursery done at 28 weeks. It was just kind of mayhem. You find this group of people that are in similar situations.

“You can totally say, ‘This crazy thing happened,” and there’s a handful of people that have been like, ‘Oh, yeah, I’ve been there.’ It’s a safe place to say, I’m experiencing X, Y, Z. We’re a very open group.”

Several members recently took an aerial yoga class together at Tough Lotus studio in Chandler. They also go to movies, happy hours, participate in craft nights, strategize in escape rooms and do other activities on moms’ nights out.

Jessica Shamash of Chandler, a full-time sales director for a technology company, said it was helpful to find the group when she and her husband found out they were going to have triplets.

Their relatives live on the East Coast, and she was seeking local support. Her triplet boys are 11 months old, and she and her husband, Dave, also have a 3 1/2-year-old daughter.

“I didn’t know anybody that had twins or triplets, so I was just looking for any contact and resource to get a sense of, I can handle this,” Shamash said.

She remembered going to a movie with women in the group that was her first night out by herself in a long time.

“I was like a walking zombie,” Shamash said, adding her husband encouraged her to go out.

“Going and sitting in a movie was just relaxing and fun,” she said.

Summer Richardson of Gilbert also has triplets and was happy to find the Busy Bee group. She and her husband have 15-month-old girls Skye and Hope and Jaxon, a boy.

Richardson, a nurse, said she was having problems breastfeeding one of her daughters, and the local organization offered lots of resources, including names of lactation consultants and tips.

“I thought, oh, my God, I need this group,” Richardson said. “The group is amazing. Singleton moms, they can try and empathize with you and help, but they don’t know what it’s like trying to get three kids on the same nap schedule.”

Other members understand common health problems for multiples, including acid reflux, which both her daughters had. Skye had a flat spot on her head and also has a lip tie, which makes it hard for her to latch for breastfeeding. Besides picking other mothers’ brains about how to help her babies, Richardson said the group allows the children to play together.

“We do play dates regularly,” she said. “Especially with triplets, it’s hard for me to go to a regular play date facility. Now I go to another mom’s house or Giggles (indoor playground). I have other moms there who help look out for my kids.”

Busy Bee Mothers member Alison Lejlic of south Phoenix understands the struggles of having multiples and the sorrow of losing children.

She had four babies, all girls, but two died hours and days respectively after birth.

“It’s sometimes a hard thing to judge a situation, when you meet someone, do I say two or do I say four?” she said. “To have a group of people that were clued in that already knew what was going on was a huge comfort to me.”

Lejlic said it is nice to be around women who understand the health issues multiples often face, adding her two surviving daughters are still “medically fragile.”

“There are challenges that are unique to having multiples,” Lejlic said. “To have a group of moms who have not only been in the trenches like all moms are but know the ins and outs of your specific problem because they also have more than one makes a huge difference.”

She said she also likes the chance to go out by herself with other women.

“It’s just a chance to take off the mom hat for a minute and get out of my head and out of my house and have a little self-care with a group of women that understand why I need self-care,” Lejlic said. “They’re my mom tribe. It’s a great organization, and I really appreciate their support and appreciate the opportunity through them to give back to the community.”

The mothers in the group say they share laughs about the task of raising multiples.

Shamash said lack of sleep while raising triplets and a young daughter is hard, so she sticks to a strict schedule for her children to sleep and eat.

She also has learned not to get frazzled if her babies are crying at the same time. “A nurse a long time ago told me, ‘A crying baby is a breathing baby,’” Shamash said.

She and the other mothers in the group also find much joy in raising multiples.

“I love the excitement,” Shamash said. “I’m fascinated by my children and just the milestones and how much they learn so quickly and their interactions with each other.”

Pochardt noted another benefit to having same-age children:

“The best part about having twins is I think that they always have each other,” she said. “They’re starting to really play with each other. They’ll always have a built-in best friend.”

It costs $30 to join Busy Bee Mothers of Multiples, and the only requirement is the women must be either pregnant with multiples or already have them and live in the area.

The local membership fee covers membership in the national organization. Information: bbmomaz.com/home.html.