Review by Issa M. Lewis
– A first-time expectant mother looks for a roadmap as she prepares for her pregnancy, her birth, and her parenting. She asks questions of her friends, her sisters, her own mother; she mines the internet’s trove of parenting websites and reads every book that crosses her path. She searches for the clichéd “what to expect.” However, for some women, the journey to motherhood—from trying to conceive, to birth, and early years of raising their children—does not fall into the bounds of “what to expect.” Multiples Illuminated serves as roadmap for those women—women who discover that their pregnancies are plural.
Mothers (and fathers) of twins, triplets, or other multiples undergo experiences that, while familiar to the parents of single births, encompass a much broader range, emotionally and physically. As the editors (both parents of multiples themselves) state in their introduction, “…a quick scan of the shelves in a bookstore is less impressive. Compared to generic reading material for new and expectant parents, parents of multiples have fewer choices…the number of quality and helpful books about what life is like expecting, birthing, and caring for multiples, is scarce” (11). Multiples Illuminated seeks to fill this gap in the literature by providing a collection of advice and personal narratives from parents of multiples. It makes space for the unique experiences of parents of multiples by providing sections on infertility and trying to conceive, high-risk pregnancies and deliveries, post-natal NICU stays, and life on the ground during the first years of parenting multiple babies.
Most poignantly, Multiples Illuminated beautifully captures the full spectrum of emotion inherent to childbirth, both in general and when multiple babies are involved. For example, Allie Capo-Burdick’s essay “News of the Century” describes the author’s fears upon learning that she was carrying twins:
The first thing I thought, for the first time in my life was I.Can.Not.Do.This.
This was not a phrase I am accustomed to. Remember I am a Type A woman and an athlete. I survived my mother dying when I was a teenager; I have run seven marathons as an adult and began running my own fitness business. I can do anything. I am woman, hear me roar and all that bullshit. But here I was looking at two little black dots on a monitor and thinking, “I can’t do this.” (61)
The sentiment shared by Capo-Burdick is echoed throughout the other essays in every section: a sense of learning to navigate what at first makes us feel small and incapable—and yet learning that indeed, we can and we will do the impossible.
The contributors of Multiples Illuminated are a diverse group of both men and women; with many backgrounds, professions, and storytelling styles represented, readers are sure to find essays that resonate with their own feelings before, during, and after pregnancy. Most helpfully, each section of the book includes information, resources, and advice about how to prepare for each stage of the journey—how to endure exhausting and invasive fertility treatments, what to prepare for during pregnancy and birth, and must-have items for the first years. Even parents who have already given birth to single babies will find this advice helpful, as multiples intensify the entire experience. Also included are emotionally-laden stories of having to choose to conceive by alternative methods, such as IVF and surrogacy. That the editors of Multiples Illuminated did not neglect to include these women’s experiences speaks to their commitment to provide parents the opportunity to connect and see that they are not alone in their journeys.
In a final personalizing touch, the book includes journaling prompts at the end of each section, encouraging parents to put their thoughts and experiences into words. These prompts do not neglect to put a positive spin on even the most frustrating or frightening experiences of multiple books; for example, “Pregnancy is a wondrous thing. A multiples pregnancy is even more so. How do you feel about your body?” (87) or “What beautiful moments did you have with your multiples while in the NICU?” (143). These prompts gently focus parents’ thoughts and conversations on the joy that is present with every birth, but can be easily lost in the upheaval.
In short, Multiples Illuminated is an essential road map for any mother expecting twins, triplets, or more. As they prepare for that unknown territory, they will find all the information and emotional support they need within its pages.
by Megan Woolsey and Alison Lee, eds.
Multiples Illuminated (2016), $15.95 [paper] ISBN: 9780996833509
Issa M. Lewis holds an MFA in Poetry from New England College and teaches composition and professional writing at Davenport University. Her poems have appeared in publications such as Blue Lyra Review, Jabberwock, Mom Egg, and Tule Review. She lives in southwest Michigan with her husband and two sons.