Multiple choice

HAVE a baby and your world will never be the same again. There s no instruction manual that comes with this tiny pink bundle of joy and no course of lessons before you go solo. And when your new arrival is screaming in the middle of the night there s no e

HAVE a baby and your world will never be the same again. There's no instruction manual that comes with this tiny pink bundle of joy and no course of lessons before you go solo.

And when your new arrival is screaming in the middle of the night there's no expert help. All the well-meaning advice you have gathered seems to pale into insignificance.

Imagine the sheer terror if you discover you're about to be the mum of twins or triplets.

It's a whole different ball game. But at Noah's Ark they come in two-by-two or even three-by-three.

This special club, set up for parents and carers of twins, triplets and more, provides a support network to help parents stay sane, as LESLEY INNES discovered.

COPING with a young baby is rewarding but also hard work and, at times, frustrating. So imagine suddenly becoming the proud parents of twins or even triplets.

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Even when you've got over the initial shock that you're facing a multiple birth, and worked out the logistics of a day-to-day routine, nothing can prepare you for the sheer emotional roller-coaster.

Polly Cook and Jane Mcleod know only too well how the arrival of twins has turned their worlds upside down.

For Jane, 38, of Brooke Grove in Ely, it meant a ready-made family all in one go. But for Polly, 36, of Wellington Street, Littleport, her twins arrived as a new brother and sister for her young son, Joe.

He was just over two when Dan and Emma, now 15 months, started competing for his attention with Polly.

"His life was in complete turmoil," said Polly. "He was traumatised by the whole thing. He started biting and kicking and had behavioural problems. I would get cross with him and scream and react in totally the wrong way. I just didn't know what to do.

"We kept reassuring him and cuddling him but only now is he starting to come out the other side. Only now is he starting to come back for cuddles.

"But there always seems to be someone crying and you only have one pair of hands and can only pick up one baby at a time."

Noah's Ark proved a lifeline for Polly - "my haven of sanity".

"I go there because everyone understands what it's like to look after more than one child the same age," she said. "I am amazed how calm everyone is.

"I went there when I was pregnant as I had so many questions in my head - can you sleep your babies in the same cot? How many weeks early did the twins arrive? How long did you breast feed?

"It was very useful and reassuring. After the babies were born I kept in touch with Noah's Ark by email and I had offers of help from members, from doing my washing to cooking a meal. Everyone is so friendly and helpful. If you've had a bad day there will always be someone at the group who can top it!"

As a new mum with twins Claire and David, now just over two, Jane was hundreds of miles away from home.

She and her husband had moved from Orkney in Scotland to Ely and she had no family locally to offer much-needed support.

But the members of Noah's Ark were on hand to provide advice and reassurance.

"The group is very helpful for parents expecting twins, because there are so many questions," she said. "It's also happy to accept older children.

"We have a night out once a month and it's great to get together and socialise without being distracted by the children.

"When we discovered I was going to have twins it was like swings and roundabouts. One minute were saying 'wow, it's going to be great' and the next we were worried about how we were going to do everything.

"It's completely different to just having one child. I missed out on the clingy stage. If you leave the children they always have each other so they're much more settled. But it's difficult when they both want to be cuddled at the same time. I put one on each knee.

"Claire is very sociable and likes kisses and cuddles but David can't be bothered. He is very introverted but when he wants something he can be very stubborn.

"With my family being so far away it's great to have the support from Noah's Ark."

Thriving group on the move

NOAH'S Ark was launched in November 2003 by two mums of twins to offer "coffee and sanity" to other parents.

Now it has grown into a thriving group and on June 5 it moves from its current meeting place at the Witchford Baptist Church to Ely Methodist Church Hall at 32 Chapel Street. The group meets on Mondays between 9.30am and noon.

The sessions offer free play with a range of stimulating and creative toys, themed activities, healthy snacks and story time. There are monthly social events around the Ely area and a quarterly newsletter keeps members in touch.

The group also organises a monthly drop-in clinic with health visitors to allow children to be weighed and questions to be answered.

Members have received significant funding to help with developing the group and transport costs from the Local Network Fund for Children and Young People administered by Littleport-based Cambridgeshire ACRE.

They have also received support from Ely's City Cycle Centre where staff advise on suitable toys for the children and offer a 10 per cent discount.

One mum, Sarah Middleton, who has five children including triplets, said: "It's fantastic not to feel different."

Member, Nick Blencowe, a dad of twins, said: "A fantastic, friendly and welcoming group who offer support, advice and sanity... even to a man!"

Its chairman, Jo Forrest, added: "This is a very exciting time for Noah's Ark and moving into Ely is something the group had wanted to do for a long time, and at long last it's a reality. We are very excited about the club's future and are looking forward to welcoming new families into Noah's Ark."

Anyone interested in finding out more about coping with twins or triplets can go along to the group's meeting or contact the Multiple Births Foundation on 0208 383 3519 or visit its website at