Bee Mighty Multiples
Let’s start from the beginning, can you tell us how you learned you were pregnant and finding out you were having triplets?
We had been going to the fertility clinic in Charlotte—Reach and were watching closely after our transfer of 2 embryos for a pregnancy. We were told by transferring 2 embryos that we had a 70% chance of a singleton, 40% chance of twins and less than 2% chance that one of the embryos would split into identicals. Needless to say, we were SHOCKED when the doctor told us there were 3 sacs and 3 placentas at our 7-week appointment. Ben about passed out and I believe I was in denial for a good 2 months.
I know for multiples they tell you that there is a high chance you would spend time in the NICU, did you know how serious the NICU stay would be? When were you aware that the pregnancy was not going 100% smoothly?
I clearly remember the conversation with our doctor that turned from congratulations your pregnant and it’s with 3 TO this is a high-risk pregnancy, you could lose one to three of these babies during the pregnancy. He explained that we would be closely monitored, and we would be looking at NICU time. I’m a financial analyst so my way of coping is to arm myself with data- I quickly started researching triplet pregnancy, pre-term labor, NICU experiences, etc. This led me to understanding the different levels of NICU’s in the area, knowing Charlotte would have one of the highest levels to care for my babies, but I also wanted to see what was offered in the area we lived in. I scheduled a visit with Catawba NICU after we passed the 15-week mark and gained an understanding of what capabilities they offered there. During our tour we also had the opportunity to meet with one of the Neonatologists- actually, the neonatologist that ended up delivering our babies! Touring the NICU and talking with others helped me understand some of what we would be in store for but there is only so much you can understand until you are there. One of the other helpful resources I found was joining a multiples and triplet group on Facebook. There are “triplets born in X year” and other various multiples groups that I joined so I could share experiences and feel like someone else knew what I was going through – it’s not every day that someone will understand what a high risk, multiple pregnancy is like!
My pregnancy was going 100% smoothly until the 24 hours before I delivered my babies. I clearly remember that Monday going to see my MFM, having an ultrasound and getting a perfect report. That same week, only 2 days later I was at a woman’s leadership conference for work at Moretz Mills. I was scheduled to have my 28-week checkup with my OB the next morning which would include the whole workup of blood, etc. When I got home that night I was in a lot of pain, specifically in my back. For someone with their first pregnancy and carrying 3 babies I wasn’t sure what was normal or not. I told my husband that evening that I needed to lay down – by the middle of the night I was crying in pain. Again, being tough and not wanting to inconvenience others, I called my OB at 2am and she said if things got worse to come to the hospital. I waited til 5am, took a shower, grabbed my purse thinking that I would be back in just a few hours, and my husband brought me to the hospital. As I was curled over at the maternity check-in I quickly was advised that I was in back labor. Steroid shots were given, magnesium was given to slow the contractions down and they monitored me and the babies as best they could (apparently no monitors had enough to monitor 3 babies, so we had to use 2 machines!). The babies were ok, and I will always remember the words my OB said “well, you won’t be leaving this hospital again until you have these babies. That could mean 1 week, 2 weeks, or 6 weeks, we are going to do our best to keep them in as long as possible.” I was in shock; my pregnancy was picture perfect until 28 weeks and within a 24-hour timeframe everything went wrong. 10 hours in the hospital and the decision was made that the babies needed to come out…
Share what you are comfortable with about the delivery of the babies.
I don’t remember much about the delivery, it was such a whirlwind. I had been in back labor for about 24 hours (unknowingly for about 12 of those hours) when the decision was made that we needed to take them out via c section at 6pm on a Thursday night – the magnesium wasn’t slowing my contractions and if we waited until the middle of the night and had an emergency then we may not have the teams there that was needed. I do remember my OB coming in and saying unfortunately, we will have to cut you vertically due to the babies’ positions and trying to get them out with the least trauma as possible, at that point my response was whatever you need to do! There were ~24 people in the delivery room, each baby had a team of people waiting for them. As each one came out, a minute apart from each other, they were taken straight to the team of doctors, nurses and respiratory teams – not to be seen by us until 4 hours later in the NICU.
When did you get to hold the babies for the first time?
We were able to hold our babies 3-4 days later; one was less stable than the other 2 so we had to wait an extra day to hold him. Most people get to take their babies home the next day…we didn’t even get the chance to hold them until 3-4 days later, that’s a difficult pill to swallow.
What were the first days in the NICU like? Did it seem to get easier as the days went on?
The first few days I had a mother’s guilt, questioning what I did wrong, what could I have done differently to keep them in longer. I felt like I was the reason they were fighting for their lives, the look of joy other mothers have for their children when they are born was replaced by tears and sadness when looking at my 2 lb. children- it was a difficult thing for me to deal with and it took time for me to realize that it wasn’t my fault. My OB’s reassured me that there was a reason my body went into labor, there was a reason they needed to come out at 28 weeks.
Being in the NICU was scary at first- the wires, the beeps, the bradys. We spent 60 days with our boys and 64 days with our girl in the NICU and yes, it got easier as it went on but that’s just because the rollercoaster we were on slowed down a bit. Those first few weeks the ups and downs that we experienced, the touch and go on whether our babies will survive, or if they may live but with lasting effects from being premature were constant. Another aspect that got better with time was the building of trust with the team of doctors and nurses that would be caring for our children since we couldn’t. The more trust we built with the doctors and nurses the easier it became for us.
Tell us about the nurses and doctors that you worked with.
Simply put, they were amazing. They became family to us, advising us when we were on this rollercoaster as well as consoling us. We became so used to seeing them day in and day out that after 64 days it was an emotional time to leave them. We developed a bond with these people that will never be forgotten. A lot of the nurses we see on a regular basis and offer to babysit for us. Every year we look forward to the NICU reunion that gives us an opportunity to say thank you to our babies’ heroes and to show them how far we’ve come.
What was the biggest challenge that you had to face while in the NICU?
The rollercoaster those first few weeks was difficult, just when you felt like you overcame some of the hardest days something else came up. One night that I will always remember- we went home to get some rest and we received a call from the hospital at 2am. I shot up in bed and knew immediately something was wrong- Wade had blood in his stool and they were concerned it was Necrotizing Enterocolitis(NEC). They immediately stopped his feedings and started antibiotics. It came out of nowhere, and our 2 lb. baby, no longer receiving feedings, was losing weight. We watched for a few days and then suddenly, our girl, Lizzy had blood in her stool as well. The doctors consulted and proceeded over the next week to start introducing feeds back to Wade hoping that this was a virus or something else since his scans had come back OK.
We know that we are blessed- compared to others there in the NICU while we were there as well as knowing others that have recently experienced NICU stays, our NICU stay was ultimately to feed and grow. But in those moments, whether that’s in the NICU, first coming home, and even 2 years later, there’s always that concern of any NICU parent- what could go wrong next? What am I missing? Comparing your children to others wondering why they aren’t walking, talking, learning, etc. It’s a difficult path being in the NICU, it opens your eyes to the fact that pregnancy and giving birth can be traumatic to both the mom and the children, that medical concerns will always be there in the back of your mind (eye checks, physical therapy, etc.). My husband and I often said that when we brought the kids home that we had post-traumatic stress syndrome from the NICU, we would hear beeping in our sleep, we would get up in the middle of the night to check on the kids if they are breathing. We avoided germs like the plague, we didn’t go out in public until they were almost a year old, and even then, it was limited.
Since you had triplets I know they came home at different times. What was it like to leave a baby at the NICU? How did you separate your time?
Luckily, we only had 4 days between when the boys came home, and Lizzy came home. Lizzy was last to leave because she would have a brady and start her 7 days over and she failed the car seat test a few times as well. It was difficult to leave the hospital without her, but we had nurses that we felt were like family that kept her lots of company, carrying her around the NICU etc. When Ben and I got the boys home it was a rude awakening, making bottles, the paranoia of breathing, etc. we had our hands full and often said to ourselves that weekend – we have one more to come home Monday! Our parents made sure to spend lots of time with Lizzy and Ben and I would take turns going to visit – honestly, I think she enjoyed the royal treatment of being an only child for 4 days!
What were the first days like having everyone home under the same roof, were there any animals that had to get used to the adjustment?
Those first few days of having 3 babies at home plus our first baby, Zoey, a 60 lb. lab mix was interesting. It was a mix of exhaustion, paranoia of breathing, and simply overwhelmed. We went from 0 kids to 3 preemie babies – talk about an adjustment! We were lucky to have our moms rotate coming in to give us some relief as well as some of the night nurses at the NICU babysitting for us to get sleep periodically. It’s actually funny that for the first year after coming home from the NICU the only babysitters we would use were NICU nurses, they were all that we really could trust (back to that PTSD). One benefit of being in the NICU is that the kids were on a routine schedule, 3-hour feedings – we’d change, feed and repeat and feel like it was time to do it again once we got through each baby.
Did you have a lot of fears or anxieties regarding germs once you brought the triplets home?
Oh yes, we really didn’t have any visitors. Some people didn’t understand that because, with most babies, everyone just stops in and holds, but for us we made it clear that it was January, the middle of flu and RSV season and we couldn’t put these two- month-old, 5 lb. babies at risk. Our rule for those that did visit was no shoes in the house, if you were previously somewhere public like an office setting, Walmart, etc. then you had to change clothes upon entering in the house, we washed our hands ridiculous amounts of times. And if myself, Ben, my mom or his mom thought they had a cold or anything then they would wear hospital masks around the babies. We took germs extremely seriously. Unfortunately, we had to put the babies in daycare around the time they were 1 year old, that first winter was rough. We had a baby that was sick constantly and Eli ended up hospitalized in February 2017 (1 ½ years old) for RSV. With premature lungs they were always at more risk for serious complications related to RSV, flu, etc.
What does a typical day with the triplets look like now?
At 2 ½ years old a typical weekday they go to daycare, so it’s dressed, breakfast, daycare, home, dinner, baths and bed. During the weekends we have a similar schedule that will include waking up around 6:30am, doing something fun in the morning, lunch and naps 12-2pm, more play time with a bedtime of 7:30pm. They are a hand full, but they are fun at this age, the stuff they say, the things they do, like Eli riding a tricycle- it’s just amazing. They all walked a little later than normal, they all talked a little later than normal, etc. so when they do new things we as parents get so excited. Those small achievements that we celebrated in the NICU from the first outfit they wore to the first bottle they took continue today at 2 years old. The NICU experience and having preemie babies give you an appreciation that most others take for granted.
Any advice you would give another family going through the NICU? Anything that really helped you get through the experience?
Our advice would be, to take one day at a time – initially that could even be hours. There’s a lot of highs and lows that you’ll experience and trying to think past those hours or days can be so overwhelming. It will make you think you’ve conquered it all just to find out you slid back with one test or one mishap. Another thing, don’t be afraid to ask questions, the doctors and nurses that we experienced were glad to help you through the process. It also doesn’t hurt to form relationships with other families in the NICU – our NICU had support meetings weekly where you had the chance to talk to our families, vent, cry, etc. – utilize those resources.