We are a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization based in Anchorage, Alaska, serving families and others throughout the United States, Canada, and beyond. Our mission is, and always has been, to provide parent-to-parent support for all of us who have experienced the death of one or more of our twins or higher multiple birth children at any time from conception through birth, infancy, and early childhood. It is also to assist extended families, caregivers, twins and multiples organizations, and others who are seeking to understand and support the needs of parents with loss in multiple birth. While it is not officially in our mission, we have come to believe in the importance of more education of the public on the risks and realities of multiple births, and how often they include tragedy and grief – and the importance of prevention of multiple birth loss.
Our founder is Jean Kollantai, whose fraternal twin son Andrew died just before their due date, after a good pregnancy, in April 1986. (His surviving brother is Berney, our original webmaster, and their brother Alex was born 22 months later.) In early 1987, Jean began to search for others who had lost a twin and soon was hearing from parents of multiple birth loss from around the country, Canada, and beyond. She put together the first issue of Our Newsletter for them in December 1987, and then heard from many more. Though we didn’t know it then, our group began at the time of the boom in fertility technology, as well as twins and higher multiples being diagnosed more routinely and earlier through ultrasound. Jean met Patti Dubler, a local twins club activist and childbirth educator who was deeply concerned with loss and truly able to relate, and they began to develop multiple birth loss support for the Anchorage Parents of Twins & Multiples Club. Jean and Patti soon met Lisa Fleischer, whose twin son Teddy – born on their due date weighing over 8 lbs. – died of the effects of a prolapsed cord when he was 10 days old. (His surviving twin Sophie is now grown, and has an older sister and younger brother.) Lisa has been a totally and truly indispensable support to Jean and to CLIMB all these years, and also was the coordinator and facilitator of Parents Reaching Out, the Anchorage-based infant loss support group. Lisa, Patti, and Jean sadly soon met Becky Crandall, whose twin daughters Julia and Emily were stillborn at 37 weeks along from no known cause. (Like Jean’s, her twins were her first children at age 37.) Becky is an artist who provided the hand-drawn graphics for our newsletter, and our logo, along with thoughtful input on issues about complete loss. (Her subsequent sons are now grown.) We were fortunate to locate some professionals around the country and in Canada and England who were concerned with multiple birth loss and also encouraged us to form an ongoing organization. These included the late Elizabeth Bryan MD in the UK, the late Sr. Jane Marie Lamb at National SHARE, and the late Sheryl McInnes at the Canadian national twins and multiples organization, as well as twin childbirth authors and activists Patricia Malmstrom and the late Elizabeth Noble.
Over the years CLIMB has served, we estimate, somewhere well over 15,000 families in some way. “Membership” in CLIMB consists of actively choosing to join the ongoing mailing list of Our Newsletter. At any given time there are 500 on our mailing list (including those in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Europe), though it would be more if we didn’t update our mailing list periodically.
Our group includes first-time parents (often, after many years of trying) and some who have many older children…teenagers and new moms who are over 50…married and single parents, including some LGBQTI families…company presidents, attorneys, and doctors, and people who are on state assistance, and stay-at-home moms…some who have no living children and others who have many…many who also have living multiples from another pregnancy…some who have deep religious beliefs, including non-Christian ones, and others who are completely secular…parents whose loss is more than 40 years ago, and others for whom it is “now.” We are all here because of our common bond, for the opportunity to share with others in what became a community for multiple birth loss. Each of us contributes what we can and takes what we need to and that makes sense to us, while coping and trying to heal and face the ongoing challenges – each of us in our own way, in our own situation, but while knowing we are not alone and that our babies and children matter.
We have made a number of presentations about multiple birth loss support to conferences and organizations in the U.S. and beyond, such as twins and multiples organizations and organizations related to premature birth, including the conference of the National Association of Perinatal Social Workers in April 2006 (Jean Kollantai and CLIMB member Elizabeth Pector, MD) and the National Perinatal Bereavement Conference in October 2004 (Jean and Lisa). Jean made a presentation on support for multiple birth loss parents at the 9th International Workshop on Multiple Pregnancy in Herzliya, Israel, in 1994, and to the first-ever Bereavement Symposium at the 10th Congress of the International Society for Twin Studies in London in 2001. Jean and CLIMB member Alice Check presented at the SIDS International Conference in Edmonton, Alberta, in 2004. Jean and Dr. Pector presented at the 12th International Congress on Twin Studies in Gent, Belgium, in June 2007. We appreciate networking with many professionals and parents who are involved in multiple births, infant and child loss support, and related areas. Articles by Jean and Lisa have appeared in a number of publications, as well as quotes and other input from CLIMB in many articles about loss in multiple birth. Jean was featured in Twins magazine as a trailblazer in the world of multiples. She is a member of the Advisory Boards of National SHARE Pregnancy and Infant Loss Support and Multiples Births Canada/NmC, and was a founding board member of the Pregnancy Loss and Infant Death Alliance. Jean more recently completed her Master of Social Work degree. Lisa recently completed ten years as a hospice bereavement coordinator.
We are a completely volunteer organization, and all of our staffing and funding comes from voluntary donations by bereaved parents and relatives, caring professionals, and twins and multiples organizations.
Our Newsletter is published one to three times per year, when there is content to make a balanced issue. It usually contains up to 30 pages of personal stories and updates, poetry, subsequent birth announcements, and any new topical articles and information. Currently it is being distributed electronically (PDF), but a printout is available to anyone without email access.
To request a sample copy, please email Jean Kollantai at firstname.lastname@example.org, with:
· your full name and your location
· your reason for interest
(This information is confidential.)
If you do not have access to email, please write to CLIMB, Inc., P.O. Box 190401, Anchorage, AK 99519, and allow about 3 weeks.
We can’t send the newsletter to anyone not expecting it – if it’s for a friend or relative, please indicate that you have their permission for us to send it to them, or else request that we mail it to you to pass on to them. If it seems better, you may request that we mail them (or you) our flyer, with a note that says they are welcome to be in touch. The CLIMB flyer describes our group and has a coupon they can clip and send to receive a sample copy of the newsletter if or when they wish.
If you are in Australia, please contact Jenny Stanley email@example.com with a subject line “Our Newsletter in Oz” to receive your sample copy.
What you will receive is a sample only, and will include a form that you will need to respond with to receive any further newsletters. Responding with the form will place you on our ongoing mailing list, and also if you wish, you can then request an invitation to our secret Facebook group for current and earlier members. (Fyi, when you respond the suggested donation is $20/year for individuals, more if you can afford it or are an organization or institution, and as little as two stamps if that is all that is possible right now. Parents of recent losses don’t need to donate at all.) New members who are bereaved parents and grandparents will receive some information sheets on CLIMB and may join the parent contact list and the members’ area of our website (when we’ve remodeled it), with more stories and special topics.
If you are a bereaved parent or grandparent who joins the mailing list, you’ll receive some sheets of information on CLIMB for new members that include the form you can use to join our parent contact list. There are really four contact lists – “Loss of a twin,” “Loss of both or all,” “Loss of an ‘older’ multiple” (those whose loss was after the babies were a year old), and “Loss of a supertwin/s” (those who have lost one or more but not all of their triplets or other high order multiples). If you join the list, you’ll be added to the appropriate one(s) and then receive a copy of it to be in touch with anyone else on it you wish by mail (if given), phone (if given), or e-mail. In some circumstances, we can provide one or two names from the parent contact list to others – new members who haven’t yet joined the list, or twins clubs, hospital social workers, and others – who are in need of a local contact. The contacts lists are print-only and sent by postal mail (never electronically).
We are sorry to say that CLIMB does not have local chapters. This is because to develop their activities and be legally responsible for them would take a full time staff position here that we just don’t have. (But we are happy to hear of and follow up on any leads for funding such a position!) It is very important to have multiple birth loss support at the local level, and we really encourage our members to try to start something and then support them in any way that we can. Our article “Forming a Local Multiple Birth Loss Support Group” is posted here with some information and ideas based on what has been done so far. There are already some local multiple birth loss support groups – anyone is welcome to check with us for current information.
Also, some summers we have had some local or regional gatherings organized by CLIMB members. Some of these have been in New Jersey, New York City, Sayre PA/Waverly NY, Maryland, Washington DC, Chicago, Atlanta/Marietta GA, Minneapolis, Seattle, St. Louis, Phoenix, Salt Lake City, and Seattle, and we welcome more opportunities for local get-togethers.
Instead of founding a separate support group locally, it’s also possible to create an offshoot of an already-existing group – such as a local infant loss support group or an NICU group or a twins and multiples club – by putting together some additional meetings that are for multiple birth loss parents. We really encourage this as a way to meet the needs without having to completely invent or reinvent the wheel. Just as with local get-togethers, we can use our e-bulletin and parent contact list to help let others in the area know about it, or help members try to meet others locally and plan something.