Marion County swimming in a high tide of twins

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN LAURA CAMPBELL
A lot of new moms in Marion County are seeing double these days, but it’s not because anything’s wrong with their vision.

Since last March, eight women in the county have given birth or are about to give birth to twins, said Healthy Start home visitor Sondra Mayfield of the Marion County Health Department.

“I’ve seen twins, but never this many at one time,” said Mayfield, who performs at least one prenatal and postnatal visit to pregnant women and new moms in the county. “We’ve just been amazed that there’s so many.”

Marion tops the list as the hometown to four new sets of twins, followed by Goessel with two sets and Hillsboro and Ramona with one set of twins apiece.

Mayfield said she visits new mothers as soon as she hears of their pregnancy, whether through hospital referrals or word of mouth, to provide them with important health information.

Except for one family, she said, fertility drugs had nothing to do with the twin pregnancies.

So why so many twins in one year?

“I have no idea,” Mayfield said. “I just thought it would be an amazing story, because it will never happen again.”

What Mayfield does know from her postnatal visits is that the new moms and dads seem to be dealing with their doubled fortune with an extra dose of parenting prowess.

“It’s such a neat group (of parents),” Mayfield said. “They’re all doing great, and just handling the situation perfectly.”

While most of these new moms wouldn’t say it’s going “perfectly,” they agreed that having twin newborns is both double the work and double the fun.

The group’s newest parents of twins, Shelia and Chester Mercer of Ramona, are already finding this out after just a little more than a week on the job.

Mercer gave birth April 17 to identical twin girls Abby Kathleen (5 pounds 15 ounces) and Annie Eve (5 pounds 15 ounces), nearly a month ahead of her due date.

“We’re doing good,” she said.

“It’s a little more than I expected,” she added with a laugh. “You’re changing one and the other one wants to be fed and changed, too. Then one cries, and the other one cries.”

The girls join siblings Molly, 8, James, 7, and Joshua, 6.

“They’re very excited about it,” Mercer said of their other children. “They’re all doing great.

“They’re all wanting to help out,” she added. “They don’t want to go to bed and get up and go to school in the morning.”

Another mom from Marion who recently gave birth to twin girls is Wendy Kabler.

Kabler moved to Iowa to live with her mother shortly before delivering Amy Jo and Anna May Sept. 10.

Two weeks later, Shelly and Mike Padgett of Hillsboro became first-time parents of fraternal twin boys Camden and Connor.

Weighing 3.6 and 2.14 pounds respectively, Camden and Connor were born 12 weeks early on Sept. 25.

“They just needed to get bigger,” Padgett said. “So we spent two months in Wesley (Medical Center in Wichita), and now we’re just going great guns.

“They’re getting more and more fun,” she added. “They are very, very active little boys.”

Twins run in the family, Padgett said, but her use of fertility drugs may have been a causal factor in their having twins, she said.

“They just happened,” she said. “I wouldn’t trade them for anything.”

The two boys are the Padgetts’ only children, and she said they are content to keep it that way.

“We’re older parents, so this is it for us,” she said.

This is also “it” for Tara Barnett of Marion, who gave birth Feb. 11 to girl Carly (6.1) and boy Caydan (6.15).

The twins join older siblings Trent, 5, and Shelby, 9.

Barnett said going from two kids to four hasn’t been a very difficult adjustment.

“I think it’s pretty easy,” she said. “They’re pretty good.”

Jennifer and Gary Stegman of Marion also had two kids in the house when she gave birth to twin girls Ta’Leah (6.0) and Shae’Lynn (5.5) on Dec. 17, but for them life has changed dramatically with the additions, she said.

“It much, much more chaotic,” Stegman said. “Of course, very rewarding, but also chaotic.”

Caring for twin newborns is quite different from taking care of just one at a time, Stegman said.

“Typically, there’s always one up, so it’s not like you have nap time where you can catch up on a nap or pick up around the house,” she said. “It’s just like having an awake baby all the time.”

The girls, whom the Stegmans believe to be fraternal, joined older brothers Justin Tate, 12, and Joshua Brown, 9.

“They were just little Christmas blessings,” she said. “They came home Christmas Eve day.”

Maggie and Jeremy Schroeder of Goessel also brought home fraternal twin girls for Christmas.

Emma (4.9) and Mallory (4.10), born Dec. 21, joined big brother Brody, 3, to make for a lot less sleep around the Schroeder household, she said.

“Starting out was really hard,” she said. “It’s just unreal–you pretty much are just a walking zombie.”

Although the girls were both healthy when born, they later developed colic and lately have been fighting respiratory infections.

Overall, Schroeder said, it’s getting better as the girls–and their parents–get older and wiser.

But that doesn’t mean they’re ready to discuss the possibility of more children in the future.

“We haven’t really talked about it yet,” she said. “This is kind of it for right now.”

Also in Goessel are Gretchen and Eric Schrag, parents of twin boys Jacob (7.5,) and Timothy (6.5), born March 8, 2004.

Schrag said their daughter, Julianna, who turns 4 in July, has enjoyed her new baby brothers over the last year.

“For the most part, she’s really glad that they’re there,” Schrag said. “She’s like any older child– she wishes that they could do more and is a little bit too overzealous with them sometimes about playing.”

The twins, believed to be fraternal, were unexpected for the Schrag family.

“I found out that I have a great-grandfather who was a twin,” Schrag said. “So apparently it was pretty far back, but they were in our family.

“Other than that, it was a surprise,” she said.

Schrag said she has had to learn to divide her attention between the boys in a way she didn’t have to when her daughter was a baby.

“You don’t have the time to give to the individual child like you did with one,” she said. “For instance, you feed one something and the other one had woken up a little earlier and had it, and yet they see you giving it to the one, and they want it again.”

Keeping both happy requires creativity and patience.

“You find other ways of trying to entertain them both at the same time,” she said.

Such advice is welcome information for Lucy and Mark Stansbury of Marion, due to have a boy and a girl June 13.

Stansbury said her pregnancy is going well, although she is uncertain about what the next few months will bring.

“It’s still pretty overwhelming,” she said. “I have no idea what to expect, until they’re born.”

Their twins, to be named Courtney Ann and Carter Dean, will join big sister Anna, almost 4.

Stansbury said she might not be done having kids after these two are born.

“We might try one more time, to even the number,” she said.

Editor’s note: Our reporter, Laura Campbell, is big sister to fraternal twin brothers Andrew and David, 19, both freshmen at Tabor College.

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