When triplets Brendan, Patrick and Nora were born in August of 1987, eight weeks premature, life became even more complex. Color-coded charts hung in the kitchen to record feedings, medicine doses and diaper changes. Members of their Brentwood, Long Island parish helped out during the day.
Overwhelmed, Maureen began a support group with five other mothers of multiples. Meeting at night in their kitchens, the mothers exchanged information, stories and comfort in knowing they were not alone.
The group grew and by 1990, it had become Maureen's vocation. She set up a desk and telephone in her children's playroom and formed the nonprofit organization Mothers of Supertwins (MOST), Inc. As of this year, the network has expanded to 250 volunteers working in nearly every state and 50 countries worldwide, with a $250,000 budget funded by private and corporate donations. Its purpose is to support and educate the parents of triplets, quadruplets and more-before and after the births.
"I came to a turning point, where I didn't need the support anymore, but I made a decision to stay on and help other people coming up the road," says Maureen, who studied psychology and early childhood education at Marist. "I wanted to do it for others, so they didn't have to learn the way I did."
MOST headquarters is now a small office in East Islip, NY. Maureen and six other employees maintain a Web site (www.MOSTonline.org) and online support groups, compile a quarterly magazine, train volunteers, arrange for donors to subsidize financially strapped families and write, assemble and mail informational packages on everything from feeding multiple infants to selecting medical specialists.
Maureen each day answers 150 e-mails and takes up to 20 lengthy calls from families who have questions and fears about issues such as babies' and mothers' safety, life at neonatal intensive care units and struggling marriages.
"A huge part of what we do is helping people network," she says. "They feel as if they are the first person to face these challenges or feel these emotions. But there are other people out there who know exactly what they are going through."
Today, her oldest is 18, the triplets are 15, and her fifth child, Colin, is 10. What had been a daunting challenge in giving birth and caring for young triplets has become knowledge that she can share.
"I learned at Marist that 'to whom much is given, much will be expected,"' she says. "You are given an enormous responsibility with so many tiny babies to care for, but at the same time, you are given these huge gifts. You have to give back."