WORTHING Area Twins and Triplets Club members had a wonderful surprise at their 25th anniversary party when Chris Butler walked in.
Chris is now 25 and a publican at the Golden Lion pub in Durrington, but back in 1990, he and his twin sister Cherish, at just a few months old, were the club’s ‘baby pioneers’.
The tiny twins were the inaugural members of the support organisation founded by their mum, Tracy Thompson, from Goring, who felt driven to set up WATT that year in response to West Sussex having the highest numbers of multiple births in the UK.
Over the last quarter century, it has helped hundreds of families and has continually expanded its membership due to the upward trend in multiple births. It now draws its roughly 40 member families from Worthing, Littlehampton, Lancing and Shoreham.
The 25th anniversary picnic, held in the grounds of Maybridge Keystone Centre, Goring, saw more than 30 sets of twins enjoy a giant bouncy castle, bubbles and organised games, and everyone cheered as Tracy Thompson cut the cake.
Mrs Thompson said: “I feel so proud. I started this club when my twins were a few months old and they are now nearly 26.”
At the time, she added, she was in real need of support and her health visitor had encouraged her to start the group.
“Twenty-five years on and WATT is absolutely thriving – that is a real achievement,” she said.
“This is a unique club whose real value is one that only the parents of twins and multiples will really understand.”
Members presented a bouquet of flowers to twin mum Sally Liddle, of Eastcourt Road, Worthing, who has been heavily involved with the club over the last ten years.
Mrs Liddle said: “For me, the club was a real lifeline when my two boys, Ben and Josh, now aged nine, arrived. Life as a multiples mum is challenging in every way and seeing other mums coping and showing how resilient we can be is a real confidence boost. This club is an absolute asset for the community.”
In the UK, the twinning rate has risen from 9.6 per 1,000 births (1980) to 15.6 (2012). This is due to women having babies later, as older mothers are more likely to have twins, and the increased use of IVF.
The Multiple Births Foundation states: “Most people have little idea just how demanding multiple birth babies can be.
“The reality is that often parents’ ability to cope is dramatically reduced by the problems that accompany having twins, triplets or more. The need for the correct care and support has never been greater.”
The club, run entirely by volunteer parents, is helping to meet this need through its fortnightly playgroup for babies and pre-schoolers, held on Friday mornings at Goring United Reformed Church and co-organised by a childcare specialist, Tarring twin mum, Teresa French.
Mrs French, who organises the themed creative activities and equipment, said: “I have been coming to the club since my twins Daisy and Edward were six weeks old and attended when I was pregnant. It has meant so much to get the support.
“Motherhood is a completely different challenge having twins and it can be very lonely time when they are tiny. Knowing there is somewhere you can go that is especially set up for twins or more is vital.”
In 1990, when the club opened, leaflets in doctors’ surgeries and on the walls of local maternity hospitals spread the news of its benefits.
Today, the club also has an interactive website at www.twinsandtriplets.co.uk and a lively Facebook page that shares multiples-related news and parenting advice and offers a swap-sell facility.
Shoreham twin dad David Johanson runs the digital side and his wife, Heidi, is co-chairman. They are parents to twins Bonny and Toby, aged almost five.
Co-chairman Penny Last from Goring is mum to 17-month-old twin boys. She said: “I felt very alone when I had my boys but now I am part of a great team and hope that more and more multiples mums will join us.”
All the members speak warmly of the friendship and assistance the club has brought them.
Membership secretary Debbie Tricker, from Sompting, mum to three-year-old twins Sam and Ava, said: “Our playgroup is different to other similar set-ups for singleton children. We all help out by keeping an eye on everyone’s children as you need eyes at the back of your head, especially when your twins are on the move.”
Becky Novis, from Worthing, mum to two-year-old twins Harry and Georgia, said: “I had been to other playgroups but WATT feels more like a community. Twin mums understand your difficulties and think nothing of picking up a crying child when you have your hands full with the other twin.”
The club also organises subsidised day trips, social nights for parents, picnics and park visits. Annual events include an Easter party, summer picnic, summer outing, Hallowe’en party and Christmas party.
Visit www.twinsandtriplets.co.uk for more information or make a trial visit to the Friday playgroup, held at Goring United Reformed Church hall, Shaftesbury Avenue, Worthing, from 10am to 11.30am.
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