The magic ultrasound wand in the fertility clinic revealed three babies with strong beating hearts, and we knew our lives were changed forever.
It took some time for the reality of triplets to sink into my brain. During the pregnancy, I spent sleepless nights awake and sweated with anxiety about how my husband and I would take care of four small children. How would we find time for three babies and still be able to give our preschooler enough of our time? How would we afford all of the clothes, diapers and formula required to keep three babies alive and healthy? My husband and I are avid travelers, so I wondered how would we ever go anywhere in the world again? How would we even go to the grocery store?
We immediately went into “Operation Triplet” mode, collecting as many used baby swings, Exersaucers, play mats, and clothes that our friends were willing to part with. For the duration of my pregnancy, my house looked more like a baby consignment store than our abode.
One of the first things we did after finding out we were having triplets was to buy a new car. When I was only a couple of months pregnant, we took our manageable family of three and drove our small practical Volkswagen Jetta straight to the car dealership to trade it in for a minivan. This is how my life would be from now on: SUPERSIZE IT. Our new minivan would need to fit a preschooler, four car seats, three infant triplets, and an entire solar system of equipment to keep them all alive.
The next thing that my husband and I had to let go of was our Billiard Room: our very adult playroom consisting of a pool table, dart board, a small bar area, and walls full of one-of-a-kind billiard room art, was quickly transformed into a playroom for multiples plus one. The playroom was gated off to keep the triplets inside. Our beautiful wool rug was replaced with a rubber interlocking mat that covered the wood floor so we could easily clean spit-up and potty accidents.
When the triplets were born at 33 1/2 weeks, all of my anxiety melted away when I looked at their tiny 3-pound bodies in the incubators. Our car was ready, our house was transformed, now the big question was, how would my husband and I be able to manage the daily logistics of caring for all three babies?
The first six months, the triplets slept in the same crib in our bedroom, three little burritos swaddled right next to each other, bodies touching. They liked the security of being so close. I had them on an extremely strict around-the-clock eating and sleeping schedule that I charted with pen and paper. It was impossible to keep track of which baby had accomplished which task using only my unreliable sleep-deprived brain.
Each night, it took us an hour and a half to feed, burp, and put them back to sleep, which happened at 1 am and 4 am for six months. Our exhaustion weighed down on us, and we were left feeling like we were running a marathon in a blizzard. My husband watched Columbo every night while he fed a baby and I would lay in my bed nursing or bottle feeding two babies at once, one balanced on my knee, and the other on a pillow, while I tried to stay awake.
When my husband was out of town for work, family and friends would generously offer to help with the night feedings. They would sleep in my bed beside me so we could be ready for service when the first baby started hollering. My new bedmate and I would bump into each other like strangers in the night, silent and speechless, both of us just trying to make it back to bed before we collapsed from exhaustion.
When I wasn’t nursing one baby, I was pumping breast milk for the other two infants and supplementing with formula. My husband and I had an assembly line of formula making, feeding, burping, changing, and putting them to bed. We were able to get them all on the same schedule early on, so when they napped, I took that time to do copious amounts of laundry and make meals.
The first two years I was in survival mode, adrenaline pumping through my veins forced me to get through each day. I was fortunate because the triplets were easygoing as far as babies go, but having three of them made simple things seem impossible. It was challenging to get out of the house with all three babies and their infant seats, so we rarely did. It was nearly impossible to feed and change them in public. We had two different triplet strollers, but they were big, heavy, and impractical; one of the strollers had to be hitched to the back of the minivan! We resigned ourselves to getting through our days with a divide and conquer system – if we needed to get out of the house, my husband would take two kids, and I would take the other two.
When diapers and formula were no longer necessary, alleviating some of that financial stress, a new financial burden presented itself. We had to say no to sending our triplets to the Montessori preschool we were so excited to enroll them in because it would have cost us $1500 per month. Summer camps are expensive for one child, but for three children, the costs become exorbitant, in the thousands for one week. While our friends go out to dinner regularly, we cook most meals for the family at home because it costs an average of $100 for all six of us dine out. While other families may not think twice about signing their kids up for recreational soccer, for us it costs over a thousand dollars for the triplets and their big sister to play each year.
While this all seems doom and gloom, it is the reality of having multiples. As difficult it can be to raise multiples, I don’t think any of us would want it any other way. Yes “we have our hands full” and many days I don’t know how I do it either. There was the significant physical pain being pregnant with three babies at once. Certainly, the extra financial costs required for raising multiples is stressful. But it’s all worth it being able to watch those three beautiful stars that shine so brightly in my life. Watching the special bond the triplets’ have with each other, and their big sister is priceless.
The triplets are eight now, and every year presents a new challenge we must get through, but it is my honor watching them move through life together.
Megan Woolsey is the co-editor of Multiples Illuminated, writer, and publisher living in Northern California with a very supportive husband and a wild bunch of red-headed children – a set of triplets and their big sister. Megan has been published in The Huffington Post, Scary Mommy, BLUNTmoms, Bonbon Break, Mamalode, In The Powder Room and is an essayist in two anthologies. When Megan needs a break from the kids, you can find her perusing her social media pages,Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.