“I was 31 years old and entirely single four years ago. I was beginning to fear that I would never find the type of man I desired. I refused to compromise, and I made no apologies for it. I’d always wanted to be a mother, so I began to consider what I would do if I never met a partner with whom to establish a family. I was experimenting with internet dating and was eventually paired with THE man. I felt like I’d known Adam for a long time the first time I met him.
We married two years later, and less than three years later, we found ourselves overrun by our children. To help with ovulation, we took one dose of Clomid. You have a 10% chance of conceiving twins if you take the drug. I thought having twins would be fantastic! I was getting older and wanted to add to our family as soon as possible.
When I was nine weeks pregnant, I went to my first doctor’s appointment. I was ecstatic when the OB started the scan since I immediately saw two babies! The doctor said, ‘Wait, wait, wait.’ ‘Here’s a baby, here’s a baby, here’s a baby, here’s a baby, here’s a baby, here’s a baby, here’s a baby, here’s a You’ve got three.’ That day, everything in my life changed.
At first, my pregnancy was relatively painless. I felt weary at first and had nausea, which was relieved by several over-the-counter medications. Overall, I felt relatively normal as the pregnancy progressed; my tummy was getting bigger by the day. Fun fact: Triplet bellies measure 12 weeks ahead of time, so if you’re 20 weeks pregnant, you’ll appear to be 32 weeks pregnant. I went to my OB’s office for my weekly checkup at 24 12 weeks. He discovered that I was 1 centimeter dilated and advised that I return home, gather a few belongings, and travel to the hospital. I was hooked up to a slew of monitors when I arrived at the hospital. One around my abdomen to keep track of each baby’s heart rate, and another to keep track of contractions. I got some painless, stomach-tightening Braxton Hicks contractions and was dilated to 2 centimeters by that night.
Based on what I’ve heard, I’ve always assumed there was a way to stop labor after it had begun. There are a few things they can do, but they aren’t all that effective, especially with multiples, as it turns out. At 24 weeks, babies are considered ‘viable,’ although having them so early is not recommended. It is far preferable for the babies to be in the womb because every day saves three days in the NICU. A few things they wanted to do to assist the infants if they were to arrive. I was given a 12-hour magnesium drip to aid in the development of the kids’ brains and steroid doses to aid in the development of their lungs. The first 30 minutes of a magnesium drip are very unpleasant. You become pretty hot and sweaty, and you begin to feel a little tipsy, but not in a good way.
Fortunately, within the first 30 minutes, I began to feel somewhat better. Magnesium relaxes your muscles to the point that you can’t get up. That day, I got my first catheter, wasn’t permitted to eat anything, and had to limit my fluid intake if things progressed and I required a c-section. Even before their babies come, mothers go through a lot for them!
A neonatologist visited us and spoke with us for an hour about what would happen if the babies were born that weekend. I’d heard about the various problems that preemies can face, but I was afraid since it happened. It was far too early for that. The survival percentage of kids born that early at the time was only 50%. I begged the babies and my body to hold on for a little longer. I spent the entire weekend in the hospital, and I had to attend my drive-through baby shower via video conference. They allowed me to go home on Monday afternoon because I appeared to be in good health. It was beautiful to be back at home for a few days. I could sleep in my bed and shower without having IVs in my arms.
I awoke with cramps on that Friday morning. When I called my doctor, they advised me to return to the hospital. They checked me when I arrived, and I was 4 centimeters dilated. I knew I wouldn’t be returning home at that point. Either I’d have the babies, or I’d be on hospital bed rest for the rest of my life. I got another round of steroids and another round of magnesium. I began to feel some little pressure in my pelvic area by Saturday evening. The doctor examined me and determined that I was fully dilated. It was time for me to leave. I was 25 weeks and six days pregnant at the time.
To keep the operating area sterile, my husband was given a hair cap and a bunny suit, a one-piece, white disposable jumpsuit. I believe I overheard someone say they were going to give me anti-anxiety medication during surgery prep, which, now that I think about it is probably the only reason I wasn’t a nervous wreck. It was bizarre to be wheeled into the OR on my back, staring up at the ceiling, knowing what was about to happen. The area was light and airy, with white tile adorning every surface. At the time, all I could think was that this OR didn’t look anything like the ones on Grey’s Anatomy. I couldn’t tell how many people were in the operating room because I couldn’t see them. Still, I was informed there were a lot: obstetricians, anesthesiologists, neonatologists, nurses, and other medical professionals. Later, my spouse informed me that approximately 25 people were in the room.
My babies were born 45 minutes after being told it was time to leave. Grace was the first to go, followed by Nolan and Audrey. They all sobbed when they came out, which surprised me and made me cry. Their lungs are usually too weak to cry at this gestational age, but the fact that they cried gave me optimism that they were stronger than we expected. The doctor held them up for a bit of a moment so we could see them being removed from my body, then rushed them away to be treated and examined. They walked each baby up to the NICU in an isolette as my doctor was working on sealing me up. All of my children were still alive.
After the surgery, I stayed in the recovery area for two hours. I was exhausted and still couldn’t believe we were parents. Our babies weighed 1 pound 13 ounces, 1 pound 14 ounces, and 2 pounds and 1 ounce, respectively. After an hour, my husband left to visit the babies in the NICU. They rolled me up to the NICU in my hospital bed once I was stable. Each infant had its room in the NICU’s most critical unit, in an isolette that was extremely hot and humid. I’d seen photographs of preemies previously that worried me because of all the tubes. My babies were little, but I thought they were lovely. I guess it’s because I’m their mother that I felt that way. Adam and I were deliriously exhausted when we returned to my room.
The next day, I attempted to get some rest, we went to the NICU, and I informed my boss that the babies had arrived and that I wouldn’t be returning to work for a time. We had just fallen asleep when we were startled awake by a knock on the door. In the dark, a doctor entered and walked over to my bedside. ‘I have some horrible news regarding your son,’ she added, pausing. I was still waking up, but my heart dropped to the floor, and I burst out crying. I was unable to communicate. My first assumption was that he had died, and that was what she was come to inform us of. That was the worst experience I’ve had as a parent.
She began to narrate how he’d had an intestinal perforation due to his acute prematurity after a few seconds. My spouse sprung into action and began interrogating me. We discovered that a surgeon was on his way to assist him with a bit of operation. Since then, we’ve received multiple calls in the middle of the night. It’s a horrible sensation. You’re perplexed because you’ve been jolted awake from a deep slumber, and you have to pick up the phone and then decipher what a nurse or doctor is trying to tell you, which is nearly always terrible news.
Due to umbilical IVs, I couldn’t hold my infants until they were six days, seven days, and nine days old. Consider how it would feel if you couldn’t hold your baby shortly after being born if you were a parent. If you’ve ever had a child in the NICU, you know what I’m talking about. Aside from the intestinal perforation, we had to deal with intubations, extubations, re-intubations, pulmonary bleeding, UV light treatments, repeated blood transfusions, spinal taps to check for infection, heart abnormalities, and a slew of other alarming heart rate and oxygen levels. Everything seems to be going wrong, and when you question a doctor about it, they always tell that’s a frequent problem associated with extreme prematurity. It sucks to see your children struggle, but knowing that the staff had dealt with similar situations before gave me some comfort.
For parents, the NICU is an overstimulating and overwhelming atmosphere. The numerous machines emit a variety of alarms and beeping sounds. Every noise is frightening until you learn to distinguish between regular alerts and sounds that indicate something wrong. I’m used to being disturbed by constant beeps or dings, but it no longer bothers me unless it’s a nasty kind of alert.
I couldn’t drive for the first two weeks after the babies were born because of my c-section. Every day, Adam drove us to the hospital, once or twice, to see the babies. After that, I was allowed to drive by myself, and we occasionally split shifts. I returned to work after only four weeks off to take advantage of the eight weeks of FMLA leave available when the babies arrived. I’ve always understood that this country’s maternity leave situation was terrible, but it’s not until you’re in it that it feels like a complete injustice. My husband goes to the hospital in the mornings to be present for rounds when the physicians visit each child and discuss their development and the day’s plans. I work throughout the day and then spend the evenings at the NICU with the babies. We spend at least one hour per day with each baby doing skin-to-skin or kangaroo care. Every day, my husband and I alternate between who holds two and one babies. I sometimes find myself in the NICU for 5 hours and wonder how time flew by rapidly.
My spouse and I are the only visitors allowed in the NICU. My parents and in-laws are upset because they haven’t had the opportunity to meet their grandchildren, and it’s difficult for them to watch us go through this alone. To make up for it, we’ve shared images and had video conversations, but I know it’s not the same. Our relatives and friends have all been incredibly supportive, checking in on us, bringing us food, and helping us with tasks around the house. The Facebook groups for Triplet Moms and Dads, which we’re a part of, are also a terrific source of support. That group has a good understanding of what we’re going through. It’s a terrific place to get answers, share information, or complain. When it comes to premature babies, they can make both forward and backward development, sometimes all in the same day. Everything has a cautiously optimistic ring to it for me. I start each day hoping for the best, and if things don’t go as planned, I make adjustments. I consider myself fortunate that things have gone so nicely thus far.
My babies have been in the NICU for 50 days. As a general rule, we should expect the kids to arrive around their 40-week due date, which falls on Mother’s Day and would be day 100. They still have a long way to go in developing and refining skills like breathing on their own and nursing. We’re just halfway through our NICU stay, but we’re all stronger than we’ve ever been, and I can’t wait for my babies to come home so we can start our next chapter.”
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