Nine pounds of babies and their accompanying fluids swirling around my belly, rendering me sleepless. Breathless. Starving. Pain around my swollen ankles, my ribcage, pressing down on my pubic bone until it seized and cramped. Finally, this was my moment to sleep, unencumbered by the weight of so many babies. They had been ripped from my abdomen 12 hours earlier – each one sliding out through organs and presenting themselves over the thin blue sheet that divided me from the grotesque world of the C-section.
I had a 10-inch incision that was now being held together by a series of carefully placed staples, my perinatologist hell-bent on making sure I came out of this with the nicest scar possible. I was on a hefty dose of Norco to help with the pain. I should have been sleeping because the trauma to my body and mind was significant, but I couldn’t sleep. I was too excited to sleep. I did it. I carried all of them safely within me, some behind my rib cage and others pushing my organs out from their rightly positions, for seven and a half months.
Now they are here and all three of them are alive. I am alive.
Over the past seven months I cried at night out of fear that we would all die. Humans are not like dogs or hamsters; our bodies aren’t meant to carry litters. I held them inside of my overstretched uterus for more than seven months, laughing about the absurdity of it all – all those tiny human beings mashed up against each other, against me.
I carried them, worrying about how my husband and I would care for them, outnumbered in every way. I carried them, wondering how my three-year-old daughter’s life would change – would it be for better or worse? Perhaps sometimes better, other times worse, as the cycle of life goes.
The night after I delivered them, all my worries had left my body and were now sleeping peacefully in an incubator in the NICU. All I wanted was to see them and touch their skin and study their little blue veins that looked like a road map of crazy intersecting streets. That is what life would be now – a crazy collision of intersecting streets between the now six people who would inhabit our home.
A nurse wheeled me up to the NICU to see my three newborn baby triplets, two girls and one boy. I was nodding off and bleeding, but I didn’t feel anything. Norco ran through my veins. I peered over the crib and saw three tiny baby butts sticking up in the air, and an open diaper lying open flat below them. The nurses told me that the babies had developed diaper rash and so they were airing out.
I felt in awe of my body after bearing these three humans at the same time. They weren’t supposed to be here. They weren’t supposed to be mine. I was going to have two children – the amount I knew I could handle. Yet, here they were, three babies that collectively weighed 10 pounds, and from that day forward it would be my job to raise them successfully into adulthood. But first I needed to get them out of the hospital. This required each of the babies to be able to take three ounces of breast milk at each feeding.
Chris and I set up one crib in our bedroom next to our own bed and that is where we would all endure our months of sleepless nights. Elsie came home first because she was the best eater. We snatched her up from where she slept next to her brother and sister and I felt like an intruder in her life.
How dare I remove her from the warm comforts of her brother and sister? She knew them best since they were roommates all of these months. Would they miss her? Would they cry for her now that she wasn’t beside them in the hospital?
That night, Chris and I put Elsie to sleep in our bedroom all by herself for the first time. We went out to the living room and watched the movie "Into The Wild" from beginning to end while she slept. I remember thinking that this is too easy, Elsie in there sleeping and us out here watching a two-hour movie, uninterrupted.
It is not my reality, I reminded myself. Reality will hit when her brother and sister get home. When I think about "Into The Wild," I think of it in a surreal way as the moment when we had triplets, but we didn’t. The moment before everything in our house changed; one of the last times our house was simply silent.
Three days later we brought Violet and Preston home. I placed them like three doll babies in a row in their crib and I watched them in admiration. They were so comfortable with each other, three separate beings connected by their shared time in the womb. Connected by their birthday, forever. I was connected to the three of them in a special way - not just because I was their mom, but because I fought so hard to have them.
Our feeding day began at 7 a.m. each morning and continued in military fashion every three hours from there. 7, 10, 1, 4, 7, 10 around the clock. We were awakened twice in the night, but by the time we fed and diapered each baby, an entire hour and a half had passed. The exhaustion I felt by the 4 a.m. feeding was excruciating, like being asked to run a marathon after downing a couple of bottles of wine. A few times I dozed off while feeding a triplet from the wrong side of the bottle, only to be woken by angry cries.
My husband went back to work, leaving me alone with newborn triplets and a three-year-old toddler. I sat in the bathroom and cried. It wasn’t a sad cry; it was a panicked cry. How would I survive every day? Why couldn’t I have just one or two extra arms? What would I do if they were all crying at the same time and I couldn’t soothe them?
I was a human mom machine – a robot that would perform the most mundane of tasks each day, all day, while also providing ample love and compassion to each baby.
"Pregnancy doubled her, birth halved her, and motherhood turned her into Everywoman,” said Erica Jong in Parachutes and Kisses.
Bearing, birthing, nurturing multiples teaches us to accept, helps us persevere under adverse conditions, and shows us that the heart holds infinite love.
The triplets are now eight and their big sister is 11. Things will never be easier, only different.
We have a very large sectional couch in our family room, big enough for five sets of triplets. Yet my triplets sit right next to each other, their hips brushing up against one another. They always do. I picture them in their cribs in the NICU laying asleep on their bellies lined up next to each other. I wonder if they will always navigate space this way – so close to one another.
I know in my heart they will.
Guest post written by Megan Woolsey. She is the co-editor and publisher of Multiples Illuminated: A Collection of Stories and Advice From Parents of Twins, Triplets and More. She lives in Northern California with a very supportive husband, a set of triplets, and their big sister. When she’s not resisting the temptation to eat sour belts, you can find her at www.meganwoolsey.com, or follow her on Facebook.
p.s. A skincare giveaway!