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A Family History of Multiple Births Leads to Finding Community

Birthing Services
“Every time we hear someone is pregnant in our family, we ask, have you had your ultrasound yet?”

Multiple births run in Amanda Pawelk’s family. Her late father, Bruce Kranz, was among the first set of triplets to be born at CentraCare – St. Cloud Hospital on May 25, 1953, to Everett and Ardith Kranz.

Triplets
Kranz triplets

Multiple births is a topic they discuss quite frequently because “you don’t hear about it too often.” The three boys — Bruce, Brian, and Brad — were not identical, they were fraternal.

“We were told at the time [my grandparents] didn’t actually think they were having triplets even though the X-ray showed it — they didn’t believe it,” said Pawelk.

The triplets were all born within five minutes and weighed roughly five pounds each. They were temporarily placed inside an incubator before being transported to a cradle in the nursery.

The first triplet birth at St. Cloud Hospital made news headlines and the new parents were interviewed by the local newspaper and radio. “The radio station had come in and did an interview … [My grandparents] did have it on a vinyl album … because they didn’t have tapes back then.”

When the boys went home for the first time, Pawelk says her grandma had some helping hands, “She had different family members helping her out for a while … for a crib, and this is not safe at all, they just used dresser drawers. It was a little bit different back then.”

The multiple births didn’t stop there. Ardith had a second set of multiples just years later. Twin boys Gregg and Glenn were born in 1962.

St. Cloud Hospital has come a long way since then. It’s home to the largest birthing center in Central Minnesota and is equipped to handle both high and low-risk pregnancies.

One woman giving birth to multiple sets of multiples back in the 1950s and 1960s was likely due to underlying genetics.

In 2013, Pawelk and her ex-husband Paul were shocked when they found out they too were expecting twin girls, carrying on her grandma’s tradition.

“I thought [Paul] was going to pass out…we really weren’t expecting to have twins.” Pawelk delivered Hannah and Abigail on January 24, 2014.

“I think it kind of gets confusing sometimes. I still call the wrong kid the wrong name. Or you start calling them the wrong name and correct yourself,” laughed Pawelk.

She’s not the only one in her family raising multiples. “My grandpa’s sister had identical twin daughters. Both of those daughters had twins. One of them had two sets.”

According to CentraCare Genetic Counselor Joy Gustin, “There are clearly families where you see fraternal twins running in the family. If you followed it through a family history, you’d see it on the maternal side of the family. That is simply because we do think in some families there is an underlying genetic basis that makes women in those families ovulate more than one egg per cycle.”

Gustin explains having multiples is becoming more common, “That frequency has increased dramatically over the years. Most of the increase that you see is from reproductive technologies.”

Twins also run on Paul’s side of the family. His father is a twin, and his cousin has a set of twins too. “We place bets on who will have multiples … it’s always a running joke. None of the multiples have had multiples themselves.”

Pawelk’s unique family circumstances led her to find community and help other moms with multiples. She is part of a group called St. Cloud Area Mothers of Multiples (MOM). They meet once a month at the St. Cloud VFW Granite Post #428.

It is a group of women who help support each other and answer questions moms of multiples have while also connecting them with resources to help along their journey.

It’s a resource that Pawelk’s grandmother didn’t have years ago. “They grew up in Sauk Rapids … you’d hear about the different shenanigans they would get into and pull … She didn’t really talk a lot about the struggles of raising them,” said Pawelk.

The St. Cloud chapter is part of a larger group called, Minnesota Mothers of Multiples. “Once a year they do a convention workshop … Normally they’ll give us information and statistics of people who have multiples.”

At the 2022 conference which wrapped up at the beginning of May, there were 151 moms in attendance who have one set of multiples and 8 moms with two sets of multiples.

Pawelk says her goal is to help other moms of multiples along their journey by sharing her story and spreading the word that a community is out there for them.