When I was pregnant with triplets, I bought a book; What to Expect When You’re Expecting. There was a tiny little section at the end of the book that discussed multiple births. I savored each page, reading it again and again; I wanted to make sure I didn’t miss anything.
When my water broke at 34 weeks, I felt ready. I was armed with knowledge, and ready to take on the operating room and make it my own! I was confident, strong, and brilliant.
At least I was until after the delivery.
Because there is one chapter that was missing from the book I had read. It was the one about how hard it will be for mom in the weeks that followed. I wish someone had told me about the “filler” stuff so I could have set my expectations. Now that I have experienced this first-hand, I can share with other moms about the things that may happen that no one really tells you about… Here’s what to expect after having triplets:
1. You may only get a five second look at your babies before they are taken away to another room. (It’s okay if you can’t hold them right now; you know they are where they need to be to get looked over really well and their needs met. You will see them soon.)
2. In recovery, you will spend two hours trying to recall the images of the little faces you saw for those five seconds, because that is all you have. The visual memories. One had darker hair… one had fuller lips… I think one may have curly hair… (Those thoughts about your little cherubs will help pass the time.)
3. You will be taken to your room, still wearing your IV and catheter. You still haven’t seen your babies even though everyone else in your family has, and they are standing there beaming with proud smiles telling you who they look like. You will hold the Polaroid photos that were just taken in the NICU, as if they are worth a million dollars. Because to you, they are. (It’s okay to be rude and tell Aunt Suzy, who has already seen the babies, and is trying to snatch the photos from your grip, to “Back off or I will hurt you.”)
4. It will be several more hours before you are strong enough to get up and sit in a wheelchair to go to NICU and see your babies in person. You will have the rolling IV stand and your catheter bag beside you. (At this point you’d be willing to drive your bed like a scooter if you had to. At least now you’re rollin’!)
5. You will not be able to pick up your babies without a lot of preparation. There will be monitor wires to maneuver, and possibly even breathing tubes to work around. It will be crowded and loud; you will hear the constant melody of beeps from every baby station monitor in the whole department. (But, oh my gosh! You’re holding your babies!!)
6. Full term birth mothers hear words such as Meconium, Colostrum, baby temps, and weights; and visitors will pass the baby around, each beaming with joy, and talking about who she/he looks like. You may hear words such as Bradycardia, intestine residuals, oxygen levels, Apnea; and you will have a daily meeting with the on-call NICU Doctor. It is certainly not the celebration you would like to be having. (You are a triplet mom and these are terms you need to know. Embrace it and know that YOU are amazing.)
7. It is a very surreal and a sad experience to be wheeled out to the discharge door and sit there, alone, with your flowers and three balloons that say congratulations. This will be one of the hardest parts on you mentally; sadly, it is the part no one thinks about or plans for. I spent about ten minutes sobbing, alone, while I waited for my husband to pull up to the pick-up lane to get me. The last place I wanted to go was home. (Crying is cleansing. Let it out and ignore all the people entering the front door who are staring at you. Go ahead and Ugly Cry; you will never see them again anyway.)
8. You will feel pulled thin. Not only are you trying to heal and get your strength back after the c-section, but you are also traveling everyday to the hospital, sitting in a plastic or wooden chair for hours, when your body really needs to be laying down on a soft bed or sofa. (Just take one day at a time and know that eventually, this will all be in the past.)
9. Rarely will all babies be discharged at the same time. This is when things get extra hard emotionally and physically for you. You are still healing from the surgery, up several times a night feeding a preemie at home, and then spending as many hours as possible at the hospital with the other babies. (This is when you call in reinforcements. Don’t be timid to ask family members and friends to be your Minions.)
10. You will be told by NICU how important it is to offer breast milk; yet they won’t let you breast feed because your babies are too weak, so you try to pump. You will feel like a failure because out of pure exhaustion and running back and forth between home and the hospital, you don’t have time to pump like you should, and your supply possibly hasn’t increased to anything substantial enough to feed three babies. You may feel judged by the staff. You may feel guilty and hopeless and like a horrible mother. With no milk! (Tell everyone to bite you, and ask for a bottle of formula!)
As worrisome as some of these things I have listed are, knowledge is power, and knowing what to really expect beforehand is your best defense.
The good news is, things will get better sooner than you think. After all of your babies are home, you can then get your routine established and start enlisting the help of family and friends.
And yes… about that: When your help gets there, hand them a pile of laundry to fold and not a baby! And when they ask, “Is there anything else I can do?” Say, “Why yes, please empty my dishwasher.” Then go take an uninterrupted nap. There is nothing more giggle-worthy than crawling between cool sheets knowing you will not be bothered for three whole hours. That, is the type of help you need.
Pretty soon your triplets will be seven. And you will be me; sitting here wondering how the time went by so fast. And then wishing you could go back to that time (maybe just one day though!) and experience the feel of their little small bodies in your arms again.