“You know you’re having multiples, right?” This is what the ultrasound tech blurted out shortly after loading my belly up with gel.
Those were the words that changed my life forever. They were first uttered at my 18-week sonogram, over half-way through my pregnancy. I was excited to find out the sex of “the baby” and had the bakery on standby to mix either pink or blue icing for our surprise reveal later that night. I had no clue what a surprise that day would actually be.
The one baby that we were dreaming of and monitoring this entire time wasn’t one baby… but three. Triplets! There were so many things that instantly occupied my brain while the blood rushed out of it.
If you’ve stumbled across this post, I’m guessing you have just received the news of your life as well. You are expecting multiples. First of all, CONGRATULATIONS! Now, take a deep breath, peel your jaw off of the floor, and wipe away your tears (and anywhere else that may need wiping). It gets better. Read on…
You will find, if you haven’t already, that there’s not a lot of information out there about what to expect when you’re expecting multiples. For singletons, you can find anything and everything written a thousand different ways about every different life-stage you can think of. Then you can pick and choose what route you’ll go. There are so many different methods, techniques, and products to solve all parenting struggles. Ahhhh, the luxury.
When there’s more than one baby, however, most of these methods, techniques, and products are just as pointless as boobs on a man (think about it). That’s when you start to panic. “What about me!?” There’s some information for twins, a lot less for triplets, and practically none for higher-than-that-order multiples.
Let me guess, you have tons of questions? I did too. What will my pregnancy be like? Do I need a special doctor? What can I expect during delivery? Will my babies need time in the NICU? I have three mouths to feed and only two boobs! All of these things immediately fill your brain and then the fear that comes with these questions soon follows.
So, what now? You’ve confirmed over and over again that the ultrasound you were looking at was, in fact, your uterus and not a litter of puppies they’ve projected by mistake. You had them blow on the equipment as if it were an old Nintendo game cartridge from the ’90s. You’ve examined every line of the ultrasound tech’s certification to make sure he or she is qualified to count to three.
You’re starting to let it sink in. “I’m going to have triplets. This is happening.” You are now filled with questions and have done what we all know we shouldn’t do, but do anyway: put our shaking, sweaty fingers to the keyboard and unleash them like Trump on a 3 a.m. Twitter rant. That never ends well.
To help get you answers, I’ve asked hundreds of fellow triplet moms what questions and concerns came to their minds when they saw that first ultrasound. I wasn’t surprised to find that they were exactly what my questions were… and most likely what yours are as well. So, let’s get to it. These 5 topics were overwhelmingly the most common: let’s talk it out.
1. Can my body handle this?
It can! The human body is amazing, as I’m sure you know. You will adapt and grow, but when there is more than one baby fighting for space, things can come up. The natural first reaction is worry. Worry that one or all of them won’t make it. The best you can do is just try to be positive and know that, chances are, everything will be okay. Don’t stress about things that are out of your control. That’s also why it’s important to discuss your specific questions and concerns with your doctor right from the beginning. He or she may be able to put many of these fears to rest.
On the flip side, it seems that more often than not the doctors always made me more scared. Doctors have a job to inform you about what’s going on and they don’t always have the best delivery (pun intended). They will spew studies and percentages at you and you will be reading into his/her every word and facial expression because all you want them to say is: “Don’t worry, everything will be fine!” Unfortunately, you probably won’t hear that magical and comforting sentence.
So, go into every doctors’ appointment with an open mind knowing they will not be sugar-coating anything. They can’t tell you the future. All they can do is tell you pros and cons to each situation so you can make an informed decision moving forward.
Ask questions. Write down your questions and bring them with you because you will forget something and then dwell on it for hours after you walk out of that door. Don’t be shy! They will provide the best possible treatment for you and your babies’ needs but you have to be open and honest with them from the start. Don’t expect doctors to read your mind and they won’t have to read yours either.
2. Will I have premature babies?
The short answer: yes. I don’t want to say never, but doctors never allow women pregnant with multiples to go a full 40 weeks. The more babies you have, typically, the earlier you will deliver. Many make it to their scheduled C-sections, many go into labor and are able to deliver either vaginally or via C-section, and many have other complications that require bed rest and monitoring. I fell into the later category.
Because you are now “high-risk,” it is important to have frequent checkups with your doctor. They will tell you what they think is a realistic gestational timeframe to shoot for and change that as needed. For example, my doctor expected me to carry my triplets to 35 weeks. I am healthy with no medications, but things can change quickly. Remember that. I was admitted to the hospital immediately after my 26-week ultrasound showing that Baby C’s cord was slowing and they were starting to run out of room. I was on hospital bed rest with 24/7 monitoring and, luckily, was able to make it another 4 weeks before his cord eventually stopped. Have a game-plan, but be flexible.
3. Do I need a special doctor?
Usually, your OBGYN will refer you to a specialist like a MFM (maternal-fetal medicine) specialist or a perinatologist. They are specialized in handling medical concerns that come along with high-risk pregnancies. In my case, my OBGYN worked along with a MFM specialist for the duration of my pregnancy. In fact, my OBGYN delivered my trio and was very qualified to do so.
4. Will my babies spend time in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU)?
That’s a tough question. Most likely. Because they will be premature, you will probably be discharged to go home before they will. There is nothing harder than leaving your newborn babies in the hospital.
This is when serious mom guilt sets in. Know that, no matter what, you will feel like you are a terrible mother and not spending enough time in the NICU. No matter how many nights you toss and turn on a recliner next to them. The fact of the matter is, you need to rest and nest.
Also, parents who have spent time in the NICU often suffer from PTSD. It’s an absolute, real thing. The NICU takes its toll. Make sure you are taking care of yourself because its way too easy to lose focus on your own well-being.
NICU staff are there to take care of your babies and often don’t see the warning sign of struggling parents….or they are really good at hiding it like I was. Ask for help if you need it. Most hospitals have social workers JUST for this sort of thing.
As far as how long your babies may be there, some babies are “feeders and growers” meaning that they have no real issues other than needing to learn to eat better and gain some weight. If this is the case, they could spend just a few days there. Others, like mine, need a lot of assistance and time.
I was told, the general rule of thumb is to expect them to come home somewhere around their due date. My trio was born at 30 weeks, so I was told to expect them to stay at least 10 weeks in the NICU.
That was exact for my little girl who came home exactly a day after my due date, but my boys were there much longer (12 weeks and 18 weeks). However long they stay, just know they are where they need to be. Use that time to heal, rest, and prepare for having them home. On the plus side, it was really nice for me as a first-time parent to take one baby home at a time. Really nice!
5. How am I going to afford this? Do I need a different car/house/job?
The news of bringing multiples into your life is certainly enough to shake your world and everything in it. Instead of starting your family one little peanut at a time, you will have an instant family. Maybe some of you already have other children and you are struggling with the idea bringing multiples home. Don’t get back on that computer and try to find out how much your kidney is worth on the black market. Sure, everybody’s financial situation is different, but you will make it work. You always have.
Many moms, like me, decide to stay home because her entire paycheck will go directly to childcare. Others are the main source of household income and have to go back to work. Some families move into smaller houses and make them home. Whatever the issue, you will work it out. Besides, once you have these babies home, you will be so full of love for them (and so busy!) that you won’t care if you are living in your parent’s basement again. You will gladly move over that old keg you tapped in college and put a mini-crib in its place. Heck, you might even come up with a formula-dispensing keg and become richer than Oprah!
Bottom line: you can do this. Sure, the idea that you pictured in your head of what your life would look like when you started peeing on sticks has dramatically changed. But, thank heaven, there is a hidden community of parents who have been and are going through what you are now. There is no need to reinvent the wheel because moms of multiples have it down to a science. You are about to witness an amazing bond and experience the coolest things life can offer. So, buckle up! You’re on a wild and amazing ride!