Sunday, October 29, 2006

I interrupt this interruption ...

This has been one heck of a week. We have had a child vomiting - usually two, sometimes all three - every single day since last Friday.

That would be...

Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday.

For 10 days ... we have been cleaning up children, doing massive amounts of laundry, rinsing out emesis pans, washing our furniture, scrubbing the floors, holding our breath every time a child wakes up crying - and making sure that the dog doesn't come in to the house when the children are awake because she has an affinity for vomit.

Please don't ask how I know this.

My roommate from college was planning to visit us from Georgia and was scheduled to arrive Friday night. When I spoke with her on Wednesday, I gave her a full disclosure on the bug that had hit our house. It had been 15 years since I last saw my roomie, I didn't want to go another 15 years - or more - because we transmitted this monster virus to she and her husband ... which they might bring back to their three children, at home. Amy told me that she was coming to visit - regardless. If nothing else, she said that she would sit up at night with a vomiting child and let me sleep.

What a beautiful woman.

Because Amy and her husband, Rob, would be staying with us over the weekend ... Charlie and I exerted our best effort to clean up the house on Friday. While the children napped, Charlie did load after load of laundry and I cleaned the bathrooms - vacuumed - mopped - dusted and washed windows. I also baked a white cake ... and decorated it with white frosting, because that was Amy's favorite treat all through college. If my dear friend was going to stay up all night with our sick children, making her a cake was the least I could do.

During this burst of "get ready for company" cleansing and baking ... I started to feel a bit off-color. I was nauseous and couldn't stop burping. Thinking that maybe we needed some fresh air, when the children woke up from their nap - I loaded all three of them up in their stroller and Charlie and I set off around the neighborhood for a walk. As soon as we left the house, we noticed that someone had tried to break in to Charlie's truck. The lock was completely smashed out and there were scratches all over the driver door.

FABULOUS.

We need to call the police. We need to call the insurance company. We'll need to get this fixed. Should we call now? Or should we wait until after Amy and Rob leave, and file the report next week? I started to have a panic attack - while burping - thinking how we were going to manage the simple task of getting Charlie's truck back in order.

The problem is ... I we have very little free time. For a multitude of reasons, our schedules are more packed now, than they have ever been. I'm not complaining - just stating the facts.

Over the past two months, my job has transformed in to a full-time position. Not because I necessarily wanted it to, but because I have been nominated for a number of special projects that all came due at the same time. As an example, between now and the end of the year, I am scheduled to fly back to the east coast twice and there is some kind of meeting or teleconference (sometimes two or three) penciled in to my calendar every single day from now until December 22nd. Considering Charlie works, too ... and we have no outside assistance raising our 2-year old triplets ... a day around here resembles a blender without a lid.

I started to cry about the broken lock. I cried some more about how overwhelmed I am with work, and the fact that I hadn't been to work all week - meant that I was falling further and further behind. My nausea continued. My burping continued. I sobbed to Charlie that I was feeling cruddy and maybe the horrific bug was finally catching up to me. I also mentioned that I hadn't burped this much since I was pregnant with the ...

Before I could finish my sentence, I stopped in my tracks.

I haven't felt this weepy, this nauseous nor had this kind of burping since I'd been pregnant with our triplets. When we arrived home, while Charlie ran to the store to buy ingredients for dinner, I grabbed a calendar off the wall and looked at the date.

Friday, October 29th.

I did a quick math calculation and ran to the bathroom. On my way, I picked up a left over home pregnancy test that we had remaining from our IVF cycle in March of 2004. According to the package, the test expired in October of 2005 - one year ago. Hoping that it might at least give me a preliminary indication, I ripped it open and put it to use.

Almost instantly, two lines appeared.

This couldn't be right.

We have been married for 12 years. We have always wanted children and have never done anything to *prevent* children. We have spent tens of thousands of dollars on fertility treatments. We have both had surgery. We've had more IUI's than we can count. I have had more needles stuck in me than a pin cushion. More than any of that - several years ago, one of our doctors, after reviewing our case history, told us that Charlie would have better luck hitting the moon with a slingshot, than he would getting me pregnant.

We have triplets that just turned two.


The test had to be wrong.

I called Charlie on his cell phone and told him that I, uh ... I, uh ... I had a suspicion. While he was at the store, could he perhaps pick up a new test? There was a big gasp and lots of questions. Twenty minutes later, Charlie arrived home.

Guzzling down 16-ounces of water ... I wandered back to the bathroom with an LL Bean catalogue in hand. While the test worked it's magic - and gave me a surely negative result - I would peruse the winter line up for flannel pants and snow boots.

.... fast forward ....

Yesterday afternoon, while Charlie and Rob stayed home with our sick children, I took Amy to our new church. Following the sermon, I sought out our Pastor. Even though I had met Pastor Mike a few months ago, I doubt he remembered me. I reintroduced myself and told him that we had triplets who had just turned two. He chuckled and said "Wow! What a handful!!"

I also told him that Charlie and I really are enjoying the church. We've been coming every weekend for the past several months and have even started our own "Small Group." Pastor Mike was very pleased.

I then told him that we were at his service earlier in the month where he made the suggestion that in order to keep the love alive in a marriage ... couples should sleep with as little clothing on as possible. He laughed. I laughed, Amy laughed.

I then told him that it was because of that service and the fact that my husband I were practicing what he had preached ... my husband threw his back out so badly that he couldn't walk for four days and my mother had to fly in from South Carolina to assist with our triplets. He chuckled and said "We don't teach technique!!"















I then told him that it was because of that service and the sermon we heard, that we experienced a miracle. After all that we have been through - Charlie either had a damn good shot, or this was a case of Divine Intervention. Pastor Mike's eyes flew open, his jaw dropped open and he reached out for my arm. He asked if once we pass our first trimester, if Charlie and I could be the subject of a sermon?

I smiled and said ABSOLUTELY. He just needs to help with the college fund for our fourth child.

Our fourth child, who is due in July of 2007.

Once again I am reminded we never have complete control of our lives. This month in particular, has been especially out of control. I am also reminded that life is an amazing trip ... best enjoyed when you relax and enjoy the ride. But, you better watch what you ask for!

I just wish that we could have some Divine Intervention for the healing of our three toddlers. I will surely melt if there is one more day of vomiting.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Holy Interruption

So, Charlie and I have been going to church. We really love this church ... not only is the music wonderful but the people are warm and welcoming. With the exception of the sermon that resulted in Charlie being unable to walk for 4 days ... the message that we hear always fuels us for the week ahead.

There is no doubt, church has been a very good addition to our lives.

Because we've been going with regular frequency to the Saturday service, we recently became aware of a 6-week small groups program that was starting the third week of October. The focus of this "small group" would be to study the Book of James ... in a small group. We heard that there were over 300 separate small groups being established at various people's homes and were encouraged to join one of the groups that best fit our schedule.

In case I haven't mentioned it before ... Charlie and I truly know little to nothing about the Bible. I do know that there is the "Old Testament" and the "New Testament" but beyond that - I'm at a loss. We decided that maybe, just perhaps, if we had the time and nothing else going on, we would participate in one of the small groups. What we quickly realized is that all of the small groups were meeting in the evening. The fact that we have three small children that sleep in their cribs in the evening, posed a problem.

(I'll interject here to add that we've never left our children ~ outside of the church nursery or gym nursery ~ with someone other than our immediate family. We do not have a babysitter to call and have no idea where to even look if we wanted to get one. I'm still not entirely comfortable leaving our children with someone other than my mother - but
Charlie is starting to get impatient I'm working on it.)

When my mother was in town two weeks ago, she attended church with us. Following the service, we wandered over to the small group table and mom picked up a small group host bag. Mom says that Charlie picked up a host bag, too - but I don't remember that happening. (Not to say it didn't happen - I just didn't see it.) On the drive home, mom is reviewing the contents of the host bag and off-handedly suggests that just perhaps we should start our own small group.

We = Charlie + Jen.

I wasn't even sure if the Book of James was from the New Testament or the Old Testament. Aside from that critical point - who in the world would we invite?? Wouldn't it be important that the host and hostess of this small group on the Book of James know who James is, and where you could find his "works"?!

These are just some of the important details I mentioned to my mother, but she thought they were minor and saw no problem with how we would host a small group - or where our participants would come from.

While this dilemma was brewing, I hosted a triplet playdate early last week. (I intend to post pictures soon of this playdate because my girlfriends that came over with their triplets gave us the most wonderful surprise party with balloons, party favors, hats and presents. They gave us this awesome party because I had totally flaked about planning anything for our children's second birthday.) It was at this playdate, that my mom started to solicit our friends to come and join the small group *we* were pulling together.

Within 2-hours, we had ourselves a small group.

In attendance at our first Bible Study last Wednesday, were three of our neighbors, my mom, Charlie and I, me myself. We had a good time and I credit our success 100% to my faithful mother who spearheaded the entire event. Since our first small group meeting, my mom has gone home to South Carolina - but our small group has expanded to include another set of neighbors.

Low and behold ... Charlie and I are bona fide small group hosters. And in case you didn't know... the Book of James is in the New Testament. James is Jesus's brother. I never knew that there was a Book of James, but then again ... I never knew that Jesus had a brother. That's apparently a nugget of information they don't teach in Catholic school.

Yesterday, we truly thought was going to be a day of improving health for our children. For the fourth day in a row, they layed around on furniture draped with sheets and towels, and watched television while nibbling on Cheerios. William was sick to his stomach following his nap, but the girls seemed to be holding steady.

We had contemplated canceling our Wednesday evening small group - or - lining up an alternative venue. However, as the day progressed, we thought the kids were doing better and we should stay the course.

Charlie and I gave the children a warm bath and tucked them in to bed at 7 PM. Our small group attendees began to arrive at 7:30. We were having a divine time ... eating pineapple, sipping tea, snacking on pumpkin mini muffins and discussing the Book of James. At around 9:15 PM, I heard Elizabeth cough. Normally - this wouldn't be cause for investigation ... but with everything that has been going on around here, I popped my head in to the nursery to check on her.

As soon as Elizabeth saw me, she stood up and held her arms out. I scooped her up and just as I did, she vomited. Under normal circumstances, I would have freaked ... but this exact situation has been our life for the past week. The children go to sleep and without fail, they are awake within 2 hours vomiting.

I wash Elizabeth's face, change her pajamas and am about to pull off my soaked shirt, when she gets sick again. While I'm holding Elizabeth, William stands up in his crib crying. I dread what's coming next.

I put Elizabeth in her crib, and scoop up William just as he begins vomiting. And then ... Carolyn stands up in her crib, crying. By this point - Charlie had come in to the nursery to check on us ... leaving our small group attendees unattended in the dining room. He sees that I'm covered, but before he could run through the house and get me a new shirt - he picks up Carolyn, who vomits all over him.

We change our shirts, put the children in their cribs and together, we walk out to the dining room. All of our guests know what has happened. Thankfully, our house isn't very large and you can hear everything - or they might be wondering why their Bible Study host and hostess vanished for a few minutes and came back wearing all new clothes. Giving us their best wishes for a speedy recovery and letting us know that they'll be praying for our babies, our small group participants leave.

Charlie and I return to the nursery where the vomiting continues.

We change sheets, we change pajamas and the vomiting still continues. And continues. AND CONTINUES. We finally get to bed. We are awakened in the middle of the night by three children who are parched and famished. Sitting on the couch in a pitch black room, Charlie and I feed the kids Cheerios and give them small sips of water and pray with all of our might that they don't start throwing up again.

The sun rises.

We are still on the couch.

Today is another day neither of us could go to work. We stayed home with three children that are still sick.

I'm optimistic William might finally be on the mend because today, he had an insatiable craving for grape jelly. It could be because he has eaten nothing more than Goldfish, Cheerios, Jell-O and applesauce for the past week and wanted to shake things up a bit ... but I prefer to believe his desire to polish off 1/2 the squeeze tube of Welch's Concord Grape, by licking his toast and screaming for more, is because his stomach can tolerate it.

It's been five days since we've left the house. This afternoon, we thought maybe it would be a good idea to get out and get some fresh air. The plan was that we would drive to the grocery store. Charlie would run in and I would stay in the car with the children. Just as we are loading them up and preparing to walk out the door, Carolyn vomited for the umpteenth time this week. Seconds later, Elizabeth vomited for the umpteenth time this week. William held on to his breakfast of grape jelly, so that was a good sign.

If we can stay in the house for five straight days ... what's one more?

*** I interrupt this very posting to add that Carolyn was just sick AGAIN, two hours after she was put in bed. ***

If you can answer that question above ... please answer this one, too: After 6 days, when will this hell storm be over?!

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

the interruption that won't end...

Yesterday we set up a sick bay in our family room. The covers from the couch cushions were stripped off and washed, and we covered the barren cushions with blankets and towels. The children were then propped up in front of the television all day.

We have watched more television during the past two days, than we have the first two years of our children's lives.

When I posted on Monday, Carolyn had just been sick. Reminiscent of the newborn days, Charlie and I set up the baby monitor in our bedroom Monday night so that if the kids so much as coughed, we'd hear them. We were woken up at 12:10 AM by Elizabeth who began vomiting ... and two hours later by Carolyn who was also vomiting.

Everyone seemed to be doing a bit better yesterday, although terribly lethargic. At around 5 PM, Elizabeth vomited again. We tucked all three of them in to their cribs at 7:30 PM, and within an hour, Carolyn was up followed by William. It broke my heart to see them so sick. They would faintly cry "no! no!" whenever I held up the plastic emesis pan. I don't blame them - they knew exactly what was coming next.

We've been giving our pediatrician updates at least twice a day. He thinks that this is a severe case of gastroenteritis and is ruling out rotavirus because they do not have the green-guacamole diarrhea that is a key indicator of rotavirus. He also thinks that this is something that needs to run it's course. Thus far, he is not concerned that they are dehydrated - but we are watching for the signs of dehydration very closely.

From the limited research I've done, I wish what the babies had was rotavirus, considering the majority of children contract it before their third birthday. If this isn't rotavirus ... it is upsetting to think that our children could ever be this sick again. At the risk of sounding drastic, we might have to stay inside and NEVER go out.

We're doing the best we can to keep them hydrated - popsicles, ice chips, sips of Gatorade and water, Jell-O and applesauce. As they can tolerate it, we're also offering them Goldfish crackers, saltines and toast. Because the girls are so weak today, I've been giving them tiny amounts of water using a medicine dropper.

We decided to stop giving them the suppositories because we suspect that is what is causing the lethargy with the girls. It is difficult to see them so exhausted that they do not move from the same location for hours. We spend much of the day sitting with a sleeping baby in our arms ... sometimes with two sleeping babies in our arms. I had a moment of brilliance yesterday when I rediscovered our Baby Bjorn and found that our children still fit in it.

Neither Charlie nor I have been able to work all week ... it is a two person job taking care of three sick toddlers. Actually, it's a five person job. We are a bit overwhelmed at the moment.

Surely tomorrow will be a better day.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Interruption Continued: It only got worse...

I spent the better part of yesterday afternoon with a child laying on me that would sleep and wake up only to vomit.

Charlie spent the better part of yesterday afternoon with a child laying on him that would sleep and wake up only to vomit.

They woke up a lot. They vomitted alot.

My problem was the third child that we couldn't really attend to, but because he was feeling a little better than his sisters, had complete run of the kitchen and took full advantage of climbing on the table and pulling as much as he could off the counters. There was nothing we could do. If we got up, we'd wake the baby up that was in our arms - and the vomitting would begin all over again.

Before this hell storm hit, Charlie was in the process of preparing his world-famous chili for the 8th annual neighborhood chili-cookoff. For the past week, we had planned to spend yesterday afternoon having fun with our neighbors. Yesterday, we knew that we wouldn't be able to spend the day having fun with our neighbors ... but we still needed to get our chili in to the competition.

The chili was finished, all we needed to do was load it in the wagon and transport it six houses down the street. This was much easier said than done. When we were 20 minutes late, the chili cook-off coordinator called and over our answering machine, asked where we were ... the chili tasting had begun and people were looking for us. Charlie was mad and said "Forget the chili cook-off!! We'll just keep the five pounds of chili and eat it ourselves. There is no way we can leave the kids!"

Eat five pounds of chili, by ourselves?? Are you kidding??!!

The look and smell of chili after everything we were going through was turning my stomach faster than a top.

While Charlie insisted we not leave - I obsessed that people were waiting for us. This went round and round until we were forty minutes late for the chili cook-off, and I finally stood up, passed my vomitting child to Charlie, changed my shirt and ran the chili down to the cook-off. I apologized for being late and explained that everyone in the house had fallen ill a few hours before. I seriously doubted that anyone would eat a bite of the chili ... because, if I was in their place, I most likely wouldn't eat anything that I knew came from a home where 3/5ths of the population had been puking their guts out.

Once I dropped the chili off, I turned my wagon around and ran back home. Total time lapsed, four minutes.

When I arrived home, Carolyn and Elizabeth were both vomitting greenish yellow bile. We called the doctors office and spoke with the after-hours nurse. She suggested we take the girls to the Emergency Room at Children's Hospital. I always want to do the right thing when it comes to our children's health, but I've learned that dashing off to the hospital is not always the best idea. The few times I have done this as a parent - with the exception of when William was still a preemie (to be discussed in my forthcoming NICU post), I am always sent home with instructions to continue doing what I'd been doing. I certainly didn't want to go sit for in the Emergency Room four hours waiting to see a doctor and then two hours more before discharged only be told that I was doing the right thing at home.

So, we didn't go.

My next door neighbor, Karen, had been at the chili cook-off and dropped by to see how everyone was doing. She is a nurse at the local hospital and although we've been neighbors for nine years, we never really knew each other until our kids were born. It never ceases to amaze me how having children expands your social circle in ways never imaginable.

Karen sat with us and after observing the children for 20 minutes, she thought that they probably had gastroenteritis and our best bet was to stay home and give them small amounts (10 cc's) of liquid every 5 minutes. Giving her my thanks - she left.

Carolyn seemed to be feeling a little better but Elizabeth's vomit soon turned reddish brown. She was wretching so hard but nothing was coming up - except what looked like coffee and blood. And then Charlie got it.

While I sat with Elizabeth and Carolyn, and watched William empty out of new pantry that does not yet have child locks installed, Charlie was in the bathroom. The doorbell rang and I got up, with two sick babies, and went to the front door. The chili cook-off coordinator was standing on our step, with our crockpot and a prize bag. Charlie's Triple Trouble Chili took home Third Place in the cook-off.

Fast forward to bedtime. After giving Carolyn her 10 cc's of Gatorade, she threw everything up that she had consumed since her last vomitting episode. Elizabeth was still vomitting reddish brown. William, who I had wrongly assumed was feeling better, threw up all the apple sauce and saltine crackers from the day - across the kitchen floor.

Nausea hit me, full force.

I called Karen and asked if she wouldn't mind taking a look at Elizabeth. She told me that once she got her four kids to bed, she'd drop over. While I waited for Karen, I realized that our kids were absolutely exhausted and needed to be put to bed. While Charlie remained in the bathroom, I got everyone cleaned up and put in their cribs, atop their plastic sheets, said a prayer they'd sleep soundly, and then I set about trying to clean the pots and bowls that were full of remnant chili.

Nausea hit me even harder. I don't think I'll ever be able to eat chili again.

Karen arrived and while I protested, she set about cleaning the kitchen. Washing dishes, scrubbing counters, taking down the booster chairs that were covered in vomit. She was adamant that she was staying with me - and thought it would be a good idea to wake Elizabeth up in a few hours to see if she could tolerate some fluids. It had been over 8 hours since she had been able to tolerate anything. She also suggested I call the nurse line again to ask about Elizabeth's reddish brown vomit, which was a concern to her, too.

While I was on the phone with the nurse, Elizabeth woke up vomitting. Just as I was picking up Elizabeth, William woke up vomitting. I passed the phone over to Karen and while she spoke to the nurse, I tried to clean the kids off. A few moments later, it was decided that I really needed to take all three of them to the Emergency Room. There was no way Charlie could accompany me since he was so sick. Karen insisted that she would accompany me to the Emergency Room ... at 11 PM on a Sunday night ... with three vomitting toddlers ... a friend she's known less than two years, who was on the verge of vomitting, herself.

Karen is my newest bestest friend.

We loaded the kids in their carseats, covered them with towels, and while Karen sat in the back with a bowl she was sticking under each of their chins as they were wretching, I drove to the hospital. The waiting room was packed. I watched while people turned to look at our adorable triplets in their in-line stroller and then cringed when all three of them started throwing up again, as if on cue.

As expected, we saw the doctor four hours after we arrived. We saw several doctors. We saw several nurses. Even though the kids had been unable to stop vomitting in the waiting room, once we were in the observation room, they seemed to have a miraculous recovery. Because the kids ate a popsicle and were able to tolerate 3 oz of Gatorade over a two hour span, we were discharged with the instructions to keep up what we were doing at home. I paid the $75.00 co-pay per child, for a total of $225.00, and wheeled my extremely over-tired children back to the car. It was now 4:30 AM.

This morning, when I woke up at 8 AM, Charlie was sitting on the couch with William who had started vomitting again. Our pediatrician checked in at 9 AM, and after all that we'd been through, decided it was warranted to prescribe anti-nausea suppositories.

The rest of the day today, while a Baby Einstein marathon has played on television, I've thought about our horrific experience and this is what I've come up with:

1) Going to the Emergency Room was probably the right thing to do. Even though they sent us home without any intervention, they put my mind to ease when they diagnosed Elizabeth with a "likely" ruptured blood vessel in her espohogus which was the culprit for the coffee colored vomit.

2) The doctors confirmed that we were doing the right thing at home and stressed that no more than 10 cc's every 5-10 minutes should be given when vomitting. I had been directed to withhold fluid for one hour following a vomit episode. But, because our kids had never stopped throwing up, they went for more than 8 hours with no fluid. Ten cc's is a very small amount, but it is critical that they not consume more than that when they are ill, or else it will shock their stomach.

3) Steering clear of red Gatorade is a good idea when kids are sick because the red can disguise blood in the vomit. Pedialyte is gross tasting for many kids. Popsicles are worth their weight in gold and because they take a while to consume, are a great alternative to sipping fluids.

4) Sleep is the best remedy when you are sick.

5) If vomitting is severe and lasts for several hours, a call for promethazine (or phenergan) suppositories is warranted to prevent dehydration. I should have requested a prescription for these last night while I was at the Emergency Room.

6) When you have small children and family that lives out of town ... a buddy is essential. I know that my experience last night, as difficult as it was, would have been 300 times harder, if I had not accepted the help from my next door neighbor. Do not live in a bubble ... know your neighbors. You never know where there may be a situation where you could be well poised to help each other in times of need. If the tables had been turned, I know I would have helped Karen. One day - I hope I can repay the favor.

7) I never understood before how my mother said "I couldn't get sick when my children were young." This never made sense to me ... but now it does. More than the world I wanted to lay down and cry yesterday - but I couldn't. Yesterday, for the first time ever, I fully believe that sheer will alone - is what kept me from tossing up my cookies.

8) Last week, while my mom was still in town, I had gone to the grocery store and stocked up on all kinds of produce items that were on sale. When I returned home, Charlie and my mother were positively shocked that I had purchased several bags of spinach that were marked down. They asked increduously, "Don't you watch the news?! Don't you know that there is an e-coli scare linked to spinach?! Do you live under a rock?!" So, maybe it's a good idea I start watching the news. Still, I wonder. None of us had eaten the spinach ... so I have no idea where we picked up this bug.

9) There are few things worse in the world than having three toddlers throwing up at the same time, while your
spouse is locked in the bathroom throwing up, and you are surrounded by the remanants of a chili cook-off.

10) There are few things that make you so thankful for the healing power of the human body when the very next day ... everyone is feeling better.

Just as I wrote that last sentence, Carolyn for the first time all day, was sick again.

How do I get off this train?!

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Another interruption ... a few hours later

Elizabeth's got it.

Charlie thinks he's got it, too.

Charlie is sitting on the couch with Carolyn on one side - Elizabeth on the other. William is laying on the floor in the middle of the living room with a sheet beneath him. There are plastic bowls and towels everywhere.

I've changed my shirt at least four times today, Charlie's changed his twice. The babies have each been changed three times. I'm stepping away from the sick ward for a moment because I don't know if the nausea I feel is because I am getting this virus also - or if I am thinking about how I will handle this situation.

One of me + 3 terribly sick babies + 1 high potential terribly sick husband

This is a nightmare.

Mom, come back!!!

*** Interruption ***

I interrupt my pregnancy journey, the delivery of our triplets and the NICU experience due deal with a stomach flu that hit our house Friday night. William was the first victim, followed by Carolyn, today. I was a bit relieved to see that it wasn't limited to just William, because I was starting to get really concerned he might have a more serious issue the way he was clutching his tummy and crying "boo-boo!"

Thankfully, this appears to just be a virus.

We've got plastic pads on their cribs and everyone (even Elizabeth) has been restricted to a saltine and apple sauce diet. I've taken to wearing an extra shirt over whatever I happen to have on so I am not taking 5 showers a day, and after spot cleaning several places on our carpet - I've taken to carrying a plastic bowl wherever we go.

Fortunately, neither Charlie nor I have any symptoms of this bug so we've been able to take care of the kids. My mother left yesterday morning at 3:30 AM and when I spoke to her today, I said I don't know if she left too early - or in the nick of time. Boy, I wish she were still here.

I will resume my previous scheduled posting once this virus is past...

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Part III: A Waddle In Time

Once dad was in town, I started to go down hill very quickly. Even though I was consuming 1.5 gallons of water a day, I was "voiding" no more than a cup a day. It was becoming increasingly difficult to move around, to stand up and sit down, and getting in to and out of the bathroom was a two person job.

My last day of work was Friday, October 8. By Friday evening, I was covered from my hands to my feet in the PUPPP rash, which had started to break out a few days earlier. My toes were especially itchy and since there was no way I could reach down to them - my wonderful dad sat on the end of my bed the couch with a hairbrush and scrubbed my feet until they were pink.

The itching never did stop.

My father is a retired pharmacist, so when Charlie arrived home from work that night, Dad took off for the drugstore to pick up a variety of hydrocortisone creams, Aveeno Oatmeal Bath, Gold Bond Powder, Benadryl, a foot bath, a toilet seat riser - and a prescription for Terbutaline that I had to take every 3 hours, round-the-clock. When dad walked in with bags full of remedies that would help to make me more comfortable, I was so overcome with happiness, I burst in to tears.

Unfortunately, none of the remedies helped.

The itching from my PUPPPs became more and more unbearable and spread over my body. I finally agreed that an Aveeno Oatmeal Bath might help to soothe my skin and then quickly realized that hoisting my 230-pound self in to the bathtub was a terrible, TERRIBLE idea. It took Charlie 30-minutes to get me out of the tub and he came within seconds of calling the Fire Department for assistance. I was adamant that I could get out of the tub without the help of our extremely good looking neighborhood firefighters. With every ounce of stregth in my body - I hulked myself up on my arms, while Charlie stood in the tub and hoisted me out.

I remember laying on the couch Sunday evening and crying. Within a matter of days, I went from feeling wonderful - to feeling like 10 cents worth of God Help Me. The fluid retention was so bad that I was gaining approximately 2 pounds a day. My lungs felt tight, my hands were numb, my legs and feet had swollen up so they were barely recognizable, my back and hips ached with the most intense pain I've ever felt, I couldn't breathe through my nose, my heartburn was unbearable, I couldn't stand up unassisted, I couldn't sit down unassisted, the only way I could go to the restroom was with the tap running and my hand submerged in warm water ... and the itching was driving me insane.

For the first time in the past 30 weeks ... I didn't want to be pregnant anymore.

The plan was that my father would drive me back and forth to doctor appointments while Charlie went to work. The first and last appointment dad drove me to was Monday, October 11. When we pulled out of the driveway that morning, my hospital bags were already in the car.

When I walked in for my NST appointment, the nurses took one look at me and immediately summoned the perinatologist on-call. Within an hour, I was sitting in my own private room with an IV of magnesium sulfate and my first shot of betamethisone (a steroid which speeds lung development for preemies and has the added side effect of relieving skin irritations - i.e., PUPPPS rash). While dad made himself comfortable and channel surfed, I scanned the menu and picked out my meals for the next four weeks while I would be on hospital bedrest.

Even in my dire state ... I never imagined that I wouldn't make it to 35 weeks and deliver our babies on November 12th. Even though I had said I didn't want to be pregnant anymore, I firmly believed that once I was in the hospital, everything would be better.

The next morning, I was given another shot of betamethisone and when I went to order my breakfast (that I had carefully picked out the day before), I was informed that my doctor was withholding all food and water. Instead of my French Toast and Canadian Bacon, I was hooked up with an IV of saline and given a cup of ice chips.

THIS. IS. NOT. WHAT. I. HAD. IN. MIND.

Dad came and sat with me while Charlie went to work - and together the two of us watched back to back episodes of Walker, Texas Ranger. That night, we watched Ken Jennings win again on Jeopardy and then we flipped over to watch the Red Sox get crushed by the Yankees. By the time dad left that night, I hadn't had anything to eat all day and my baseball team was down 0-1 in the first game of the American League Championship.

This was shaping up to be a really bad day for me.

Wednesday rolled around and when my requests for pancakes and turkey sausage was shot down, I frantically started paging my doctor to let him know that I was withering from the hunger. Eight hours and at least 15 pages later, he strolled in to my room - moments after Charlie and my father had arrived. I was livid and just as I started to chastise him for starving a woman pregnant with triplets, he cut me off. Apparently, while I was hallucinating and sweating bullets on my magnesium sulfate drip, he was bringing 12 babies in to the world, four of which were more than three months premature.

Nothing like a perinatologist to put things in perspective for you.


My doctor pulled up a chair alongside my bed and told us that my blood work did not look good and he needed to deliver our babies that night. He may as well told me that I had two heads and a pet zebra. I tried arguing that I wasn't planning to deliver the babies until November 12th. I wasn't READY to be a mother yet. Even though it took us over 8 years to get to this point and I had been pregnant for 30 weeks and 5 days, I wasn't prepared.

I needed more time.

The date was October 13. I thought for a few minutes and then told my doctor "No. You can't deliver them tonight. First - I am not a superstitious person, but I'd prefer that they not be born on the 13th. Second - It's the second game of the ALCS and Pedro Martinez is pitching."

At that moment, a neonatologist from the NICU came in to my room. He watched while my perinatologist performed an ultrasound and using the measurements collected, he talked to Charlie and I about the survival rate and prognosis for a 31-week old fetus. Over and over he told us that our babies would be fine and that there would be no long term effects for being born 9 weeks premature. Still, I was in denial and didn't want to believe that our babies would be born so soon.

I don't remember the doctor ever telling me that I was really sick. It wasn't until after the babies were born that it sunk in just how seriously ill I had become. If they had told me, it didn't register that my liver enzymes were through the roof, my platelet count had dropped, and my lungs were filling with fluid. The really bad news is that I had developed HELLP Syndrome, a form of toxemia, that has a mortality rate as high as 25%. The really good news is that I was at one of the best hospitals in the world, under exceptional care, and my babies were at a gestational age where they could survive if born.

After the neonatologist left, my doctor looked sternly at Charlie and said "I'll do another round of bloodwork and if her numbers have not stabilized, the babies will be born tonight." Fortunately, my numbers did stabilize and I was able to incubate our children a little bit longer.

Unfortunately for Pedro Martinez, Boston lost Game 2 to the Yankees.

When Charlie and my father were leaving the hospital to drive home, dad leaned down to give me a kiss goodbye. He looked me right in the eye and told me that he'd recently received a great deal to purchase 12 plots at a cemetery in my hometown of Massachusetts. He also told me that if I didn't listen to the doctors, I might need one of them.

I don't know what made me feel better, the fact that if I didn't survive this ordeal, I had a place to go for eternal rest - or the fact that my doctor finally let me get something to eat. The kitchen was closed so instead of the turkey and gravy I had been dreaming about all day, I got a roast beef sandwich.

Shockingly, the cold roastbeef sandwich on wheat bread was the most delicious thing I had ever tasted.

.... to be continued ....

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Part II: A Waddle In Time

A large number of women in my family have been struck with horrible morning sickness. Because of this history, I was positively certain that the nausea, fatigue and food aversions would hit me three-fold. Surprisingly enough - I dodged that ugly bullet almost completely.

From the time I learned I was expecting until I had my first ultrasound, I did experience moments of queasiness and my dietary staple for two weeks consisted of nothing more than Goldfish crackers and strawberry Jell-O. But once my first ultrasound was performed and we saw three little heartbeats flickering away, the nausea disappeared and in it's place was an appetite so large - I could put a team of 15-year old boys in the midst of growth spurts to shame.

In fact, I felt so good that I often got downright panicky and questioned if perhaps they'd made a mistake and mixed up my paperwork. Except for the fact that I'd devour anything that was edible, I didn't feel pregnant. I certainly didn't look pregnant. A little voice inside my head would say, "This isn’t real. Someone made an error. You aren’t really pregnant. This is a horrible mix-up and very soon, they are going to call and tell you that it's all been a mistake and you need to put down the cheeseburger."

As the days, weeks and months ticked by ... the call never came. So, while I waited for the phone call that would tell me this was all a dream, I, alone, consumed more than 75 gallons of ice cream.

Slowly and then quickly, my stomach started to grow. Every so often I still questioned if my increasing girth was a result of the pregnancy or from my ability to pack away 8 tacos at one sitting. By the time I was 10 weeks, none of my bras fit. By the time I was 12 weeks, none of my pants fit. By the time I was 15 weeks, none of my socks fit. Fortunately, I was pregnant during the warmer months and we live in a mild climate because by the time I was 18 weeks, the only shoes that I could wear were flip flops - which I couldn't see beneath my huge tummy - unless I was looking in a mirror.

When I was 14 weeks pregnant, all of my care was transferred from my regular OB/GYN to a High Risk Maternal/Fetal Specialist (aka: perinatologist).

Every two weeks, I would have thorough appointments, including ultrasounds and internal exams. Whereas most women receive only one or two ultrasounds during their entire pregnancy, I had more ultrasounds than I could count by the time I was 22 weeks, and have enough ultrasound images to wallpaper a 15 x 15 foot room.

One of the best things I did while still early in my pregnancy, was to schedule a tour of the NICU. From all the reading I had done on HOM pregnancies, I knew that our babies would be born prematurely - most likely between 28 and 32 weeks gestation. If I was lucky - I would carry them to 35 or 36 weeks, but the odds were great they would be born sooner. Because there was a good chance that our babies would be spending at least a certain amount of time in the NICU, I thought it would be a good idea to investigate.

We were very lucky that the women's hospital where I would be delivering was rated with one of the top three NICU's in the entire country. The care offered to premature newborns at Mary Birch is exceptional and since the hospital is attached to the Children's Hospital of San Diego - they have the resources immediately available to manage all phases of care. What I learned during my pregnancy is that if there is a chance you will be delivering your baby prematurely, especially less than 35 weeks, a Level III NICU (where there is the ability to care for seriously ill newborns, including those who require immediate surgery, and those who weigh less than 1,000 grams (2.19lb.)) is imperative.

IMPERATIVE.

The day Charlie and I toured the NICU, there was a baby that had recently been delivered at 32 weeks. He was tiny, weighing in at only 4 pounds. When I looked in the incubator at this perfectly proportioned little infant, I cried. He was hooked up to wires, monitors, and wore a tiny patch across his eyes because he was under glowing blue bili lights for jaundice treatment.

The neonatologist took my arm and led me up and down the several rows of incubators where I saw tiny babies, each one smaller than the next. I saw lots of name cards - lovingly crafted - above the cribs. There was a Joseph, Eleanor, Thomas and Katie. There was also a Joyous Miracle, a baby girl who along with her twin brother, had been born at 23.5 weeks and weighed in at only 15 ounces. Not even a pound.

I saw a lot of rocking chairs and mother's sitting with their premature infants doing kangaroo care. Considering there were so many newborns in this room, at least 50, it was surprising that I didn't hear a single one cry. Instead, my heart would skip when I would hear multiple alarms sound and see nurses run over to inspect their tiny patients.

Following our tour, the neonatologist sat down with us for the next hour and answered all of the questions we had ... and addressed a number of topics we'd never considered. He told us that my goal was to get past the 24-week mark. Beyond that point, there was an excellent chance our children would survive.

This caught me totally off guard.

SURVIVE?

I never even considered our children not surviving. My only thought, all along, is that they would be born and thrive. It was then that I fully understood just how "high-risk" my pregnancy actually was.

The doctor told us that babies born before 28 weeks could have problems resulting from brain bleeds and retinopathy of prematurity (ROP). Babies born so prematurely were also more suspectible to viruses and bacterial infections. If I could get past 28 weeks, he indicated that the risk of long-term developmental delays decreased dramatically.

This was good to hear, but my plan all along, was to reach 35 weeks gestation. I had every intention of delivering our children on Friday - November 12th, Charlie's birthday. I had even written, in ink, on our calendar: “Charlie turns 38 … babies are born.”

Around here, if it's in ink ... it must be so.

Returning from the NICU tour, I was more determined than ever that I would carry our babies as long as possible. My goal was to stay off my feet and drink at least 1.5 gallons of water a day. In my spare time, I read and re-read Barbara Luke's book "When You're Expecting Twins, Triplets or Quads" and did my best to follow her strict guidelines on caloritic intake. For me, that equated to approximately 4,000 calories a day and loads of protein. At least three nights a week, Charlie would grill up delicious steaks and every single night, I would have a huge bowl of Rocky Road ice cream. Because we ate out a lot during this time, I especially enjoyed telling our foodserver, after I would order the entire right side of the menu, "I'm eating for four!"

Never before in my life - and I doubt never again - will I have the freedom to eat with such reckless abandon. It was awesome. Fortunately, I was never afflicted by the inability to eat because I would get "full" too soon. Apparently, my stomach resides in my lower leg and was never crushed by my growing belly.

Because I really love my job and thought that the distraction of work helped keep my mind off my general discomforts (which were mounting each and every day), I worked full-time with no restrictions until I was 20 weeks. Once I hit 20 weeks, my perinatologist suggested that I start slowing down and requested that I use a handicap placard so I wouldn't have to walk long distances in the parking lot whenever I went to his office for my frequent check-ups. We also invested in a waterproof chair that I used whenever I took a shower. Charlie was a good chap and when my waistline prohibited reaching my legs to shave them - he would pitch in to help.

It was about this time that Charlie and I celebrated our 10-year wedding anniversary. Because I've always stressed that I subscribe to the "Modern Anniversary Gift", Charlie has known for years that the 10-year anniversary is a diamond.

On our wedding anniversary, which happened to fall the night before my baby shower, Charlie shocked me (and his sister, Susan, who was in town for the shower), when following dinner he said "10-years ago I gave you a gift that was unfortunately not meant to be. Today, I am replacing that gift." And with that, he pulled out a black jewelers box and removed an exact replica of the engagement ring that I had lost 9-years earlier. And to think, I hadn't even bought him a card.

Here's some quick background ...

Two years after we were married, one of my sisters married a Kebadjian and we have obviously had close ties with the Kebadjian family ever since. The Kebadjian's had sized our wedding bands and adjusted the fit of my engagement ring a few days before our nuptials. What I didn't remember is that they had also taken the complete specifications on my engagement ring. As our 10-year anniversary drew closer, Charlie reached out to my brother-in-law and told him that he wanted to have a replica of the ring that had been lost, recreated for our anniversary. Most importantly - this had to be a complete surprise, so my brother-in-law could not whisper a word to my sister, who in turn, would most certainly tell me.

Our curse is that no one can keep a secret in my family ... especially the women. Word travels especially fast which is why the phrase "Telegraph, telephone ... Tell-a-sister" has been coined. If you've ever heard that phrase before, just know it was started because of the female line I have descended from.

Now, the reason I mention this story is to illustrate, once again, what an awesome guy I have married. But I also mention it because I was 20 weeks pregnant when we celebrated our anniversary and I was starting to swell up like a balloon. The size of my fingers, which had grown to the proportions of my big toe, were not enough to prohibit me from trying on my new ring. I was so enamored with my anniversary present that I wedged it on my finger and was immediately unable to take it off.

If you are reading this - and if you are pregnant ... do not be a fool and put on jewelry that is designed to fit you in your pre-pregnant state.

Also, do not be a fool and leave your rings on too long while waiting for the phone call that says the lab made a mistake and you really aren't pregnant at all.

Once you reach your second trimester - remove all of your rings. Otherwise, you will spend a lot of time bawling hysterically like Gollum from Lord of the Rings with soap and water, dental floss and vaseline, ice cubes and peanut butter ... and any other 'tips' you can download from the internet for removing stubborn jewelry.

Minus the ring faux pas and a fainting episode I'd had when I brought our new neighbors a tray of O'Henry bars and nearly collapsed on their front porch ... I had yet to go to the hospital for any pregnancy related issues. I was having the best time of my life and wished that I could stay pregnant forever. Although, I was starting to get these pesky spontaneous and explosive nosebleeds, heartburn that felt like my esophogus was on fire, and my hands were completely numb when I woke up in the morning. Despite those minor ailments, my hair never looked better.

At about 22 weeks, Charlie and I went in for a Level II ultrasound. It was during this visit that we received our first bit of scary news. We were informed that choroid plexus cysts (CPC's) were identified on all three babies' brains. In addition, Baby A (William) had a echogenic cardiac foci on his heart.

While Charlie and I were reeling from what this could mean, our perinatologist introduced us to a genetic counselor who informed us that CPC's are considered "soft-markers" for Trisomy 18, and ECF is considered a "soft marker" for Down's Syndrome. The genetic counselor mentioned that we could rule out both of these birth defects if we performed an amniocentesis ... but she also informed us that the risks of miscarriage with amnio is much greater when you are expecting multiples.

For the same reason we decided to forego selective reduction, Charlie and I decided to forego the amnio. We wanted these babies - no matter what. Together, we made the decision that we would never terminate our pregnancy (or one of our children) if the results came back indicating there was a problem.

Still, we were shaken. Here we had waited so long to become parents, and we received the first hint that not one, but all three of our babies, could be born with birth defects so severe, they may not survive their first year. We tried the best we could to tuck that scary news in the far back of our minds forget about it ... and continued looking forward to the impending arrival of our children.

By the time I was 24 weeks, I was ordered to go on "self-restricted bedrest." I hadn't had any complications - but - I was at a critical time in my pregnancy and we didn't want to take any unnecessary risks. At exactly 24 weeks, I moved out of my office and on to the couch in our living room, where I continued to work full-time with my laptop computer until I was 30 weeks pregnant. I will always have wonderful memories of enduring long conference calls on our couch, while watching in awe - the mosh pit that had become my stomach.

In addition to moving myself out of my office - I moved myself out of our bedroom and on to the couch. After a string of profanity at 3 AM due to hot flashes and the most intense leg cramps ever experienced by mankind ... I made the decision to sleep in the living room. Charlie tried to protest, saying something about how he needed his wife by his side ... but he never finished his train of thought. He was back to sleep and snoring loudly before I even left the room.

Once on the couch, I found that I could actually sleep if I was upright with 12 pillows strategically placed behind my back and legs. I also discovered that it was a full body workout placing 12 pillows in strategic locations behind my back and legs and whenever I would finally get comfortable - I had to get up and use the restroom.

Thus began the longest and most uncomfortable nights of my entire life.

Beginning at 27-weeks, I had to go in for Antenatal and Non-Stress Testing (NST) twice a week.

This was an event where I would sit in a chair for a minimum of one hour with four straps around my massive belly that would measure each of the babies' heart rates, monitor me for contractions (that I may or may not feel), and evaluate the fetuses movements.

Charlie being the incredible husband that he is attended each and every NST appointment with me. But because he was still working and was taking off an exorbitant amount of time to accompany me to every single doctor's visit, we finally accepted the offers for assistance.

At 30 weeks, my dad flew in from Massachusetts to help. He arrived on Thursday, October 7. I remember that I almost didn't make it to pick him up at the airport. Charlie and I happened to be at a NST appointment and I was having contractions every 5-minutes. This was a total surprise, because I couldn't feel a thing. They gave me one shot of Terbutaline and then another. I don't drink coffee, but I imagine that if I did ... pounding 20 shots of espresso in less than a minute is a good analogy for the effect of this medication.

The perinatologist on call came to see me. They wanted to admit me that afternoon for observation but I begged and pleaded. "Please. PLEASE. Let me go home. My father is flying in from Massachusetts and we are having meatloaf for supper." Even after all that I'd been through - my priority was not my health, nor the health of my unborn children. Everything in my world revolved around what I was eating for dinner.

When it didn't seem like the doctor was listening to me, I bribed the nurse. If she would help to convince my doctor to release me, I would let her borrow my black leather Dansko's until my feet shrunk back to their normal size. I would also knit her a cashmere scarf and give her my copy of The Red Tent.

After two additional hours, and my incessant whining, they let me go. It was only recently, when I was bragging to some friends about my superb negotiation skills, that Charlie clued me in that the ONLY reason the doctors had released me is because my contractions had finally leveled off.

When we arrived at the airport, we greeted my father who had been waiting for the past several hours at the curb. As I struggled to get out of the car to hug my dad, he looked at Charlie and said "Oh, Dear God. What have you done to my daughter?!"

At that point, I had gained over 90 pounds during my pregnancy, with 20 pounds packed on within the last two weeks. With my carpal tunnel braces, flip flops, nasal spray that I wielded like chapstick, sausage-sized fingers and toes, and a splotchy rash over the better part of my body ... I wasn't quite the epitome of a glowing pregnant woman anymore.

Little did any of us know, my body had started to shut down and our babies would be delivered by an emergency c-section in less than a week.

…. to be continued …

Part I: A Waddle In Time

I love pregnancy stories ... especially those with a twist. Pregnancy is always good fodder for discussion - and since I'm feeling sappy because my babies have recently turned two, I'm taking a long walk down memory lane. This is the first of many stories I feel compelled to write down before I forget the details. You know, my mind isn't what it once was.

One of the most common questions I hear from people is: "Wow, Did you know you were having triplets?!" I don't know what exactly they mean by this. They could mean "Were you surprised when you found out that you were pregnant with three?" Or, do they mean, "Were you surprised when the babies were born?"

Even though we transferred six embryos during our IVF cycle, I was shocked that I was pregnant at all. Nothing could have really prepared me - or Charlie - for the news that we were expecting triplets. When our doctor performed the first ultrasound I could clearly see two sacks with two strong heartbeats. When he pointed out the third, I thought for sure he'd counted one of them twice.

So whenever people ask me if I knew that we were having triplets, my honest reply is "No. I didn't know that we were having triplets until I was almost 8 weeks along. I knew that I was expecting, but I didn't know how many babies there were until I had my first ultrasound." It was mind boggling to imagine three babies, but with time, Charlie and I became more and more excited.

What the vast majority of people do not realize is just because you transfer a certain number of embryos, doesn't mean that you are going to wind up with a certain number of babies. The chance of achieving a pregnancy is increased with the number of embryos you transfer - just as your chance of having multiples is increased.

Theoretically, the more you put in ... the more you could potentially get out.

For the record, it is not advisable to transfer a large number of embryos because the risk of high order multiples (HOM's = triplets or more) is present. A HOM pregnancy is, generally speaking, very difficult on the mother and always results in preterm (less than 40 weeks) birth of the babies.

However, there are alot of other criteria to be considered ... including the woman's age, the quality of the eggs, the quality of the embryos, the infertility history, etc. In our case, we transferred four beautiful embryos during our first two IVF cycles and never achieved a pregnancy. On our third cycle, 50% of the embryos that I transferred "stuck" around. Since I have become a parent, I have met several mother's whose embryo count increased by 50% following their transfer. Meaning, they transferred two embryos, one split so they have a set of identical twins AND a fraternal twin. Three babies + one pregnancy = triplets.

This is more common than one might think.

Two years ago, I read about a woman who transferred two embryos and gave birth to a set of quadruplets - a pair of identical girls and a pair of identical boys. Two embryos = four babies. Can you imagine their shock?

Actually, I can...

I met a woman when I was 18 weeks pregnant that was the mother to quadruplet boys. Throughout her entire pregnancy, she didn't know she was having quads. Here's the scene as she described it: They are in the delivery room. The first baby - that they expected, was born. The second baby - that they expected, was born. The third baby - that they expected was born. They are starting to close the mother up from her c-section, and the doctor sees a little tiny foot. A little tiny foot that was attached to a fourth baby ... that they were NOT expecting.

It's incredible that with ultrasound technology - something like that could happen. It was shortly after I met this woman, that I went to the doctor for my 24-week ultrasound. The technician was taking measurements on all of the babies and she would call out "Baby A. Two arms, two legs, beautiful heart, two kidneys. Baby B. Two arms, two legs, beautiful heart, two kidneys. Baby C. Two arms, two legs, beautiful heart, two kidneys." And then she says ... "Baby D. Two arms, two legs, beautiful heart, two kidneys."

I almost fell off the table. Charlie almost fell off the stool where he was perched next to my head. We both said aloud "Baby D?! What do you MEAN Baby D?? There's no Baby D!!!" The technician glanced at our paperwork - looked at the monitor and said, "Uh, yes there is. There's a fourth baby. Right there. See it's head?"

For the next several moments we sat in stunned silence while our technician ran off to get our doctor. I could tell that he was a little surprised. Even though I was under extremely close watch - with ultrasounds every single week - I met a woman who just a year earlier, didn't know that she was having triplets until her 26th week ultrasound. The reality is - babies can be difficult to spot and technology isn't perfect. After a tense few minutes, the doctor let out a deep breath. "No, there are three fetuses. A, B and C. It looks like one of the babies flipped and duplicate measurements were taken."

I've often wondered how our lives would be different if we had been surprised by an additional baby. I know one thing for certain ... my life wouldn't be nearly as different as a woman I met who after having two children decided that she'd had enough. Her husband went in for a vasectomy and two years later ... the woman became *spontaneously* pregnant with identical triplets. One egg + one sperm = three babies.

In case you were wondering - yes, they are his.

Because technology isn't perfect and because my husband is a jokester, to those people who ask if we were surprised, Charlie will almost always respond "Yes, we were shocked. We had NO idea that we were having triplets. We were in the operating room and one baby came out. And then two babies came out. And then ... THREE babies came out. We totally freaked because we didn't even realize Jen was pregnant in the first place. We thought she had a kidney stone."

Even though a triplet gestation is considered high-risk, I absolutely loved being pregnant. Maybe it was because it took me so long to get there, but I savored the entire experience right up until the end when I topped the scale at 240 pounds, would have gladly traded my Tums for a crane to hoist me out of bed, and had to do my shopping in a wheelchair that beeped whenever I backed up.

One of my favorite pregnancy memories is when we went out for Chinese food following a doctor's visit. I was only 20 weeks pregnant, but I was measuring 38 weeks, or nearly full-term. We sat down at our table and the waitress came up and asked me "What you have? Boy or girl??" And I responded "Two girls, one boy." She shook her head and said "No, no. What you have right now?" And I again responded "Two girls, one boy." I could tell she was frustrated by a language barrier so she shook her head rigorously and said "NO, NO. What you have RIGHT now. In your dummy!!" And I smiled and very slowly said "Two girls, one boy." And then I pointed, top left quadrant girl ... top right quadrant girl ... bottom boy.

She jumped back so fast she dropped her note pad.

Our waitress gaped at me - Charlie - and then me again and asked "TREE BABIES?!" When I nodded ... she grabbed my arm and said "Tree babies! Oh, dat vewy good wuck!" She quickly disappeared and somewhere distant, I could hear her shouting in Mandarin. Seconds later - the entire staff, dishwashers, cooks, and the book keeper came in to the dining room and smiled at me. She again repeated, this time to the full restaurant, "Tree babies. Dat vewy good wuck!!"

The waitress couldn't have been more correct. If there was one thing we maintained throughout my pregnancy, delivery and six long weeks spent visiting our premature infants in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) ... it was good luck. And lots of it.

.... to be continued ....

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Happy 2nd Birthday to our Amazing Trips!

October 14, 2006 ... our babies are now two.

Where has the time gone?

These past two years have been an amazing adventure. William, Elizabeth & Carolyn have brought us more joy than imaginable. We never knew that we could feel such love and exhaustion. Simultaneously.

To our beautiful children: Thank you for coming in to our world. We cannot, and would not want to, imagine our lives without you. Good things come to those who wait. Great things come to those who wait longer. We have seen firsthand, the blessings that come to those who wait the longest. My only complaint is that you are growing up much too fast.

I am so excited to see what new experiences this coming year holds. My birthday wish is that you remain healthy, happy and safe. And also, that you remain in your cribs for at least the next 12-months.

As of today, we have three 2-year olds in the house.

Now, for a moment of prayer...

(This slide show is a small sampling of the more than 5,000 photos we have taken over the past 730 days. Over the next couple of weeks, I will be creating separate slide shows to document the babies birth, NICU experience and an introduction to each of our incredible children. But for now, these are some of my favorite pictures of our amazing trio in their first two years of life. Make sure your volume is up & enjoy!)

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Lost and Found

Last night was one of the longest I can remember.

I was up with a distraught Elizabeth from midnight until 2AM. Visible every few seconds was a flashlight beam from the backyard. While I sat in the rocking chair with my sobbing daughter, Charlie with his bad back, was in his boxer shorts and slippers scouring the backyard. Again. And again. And again.

Elizabeth barely slept all night ... which means Charlie and I barely slept either, since she was nestled in bed with us. She would doze off for a few minutes and then jolt awake with big tears and cry "Bunny! Oh, Bunny!!!" I was completely exhausted but I stayed awake comforting her, because her grief was so intense.

I had flashbacks to 1995. On April 14, Charlie and I went out to an Irish Pub with some good friends to hear a local band. During the course of the evening, I was fiddling with my beautiful engagement ring, a family heirloom that was once Charlie's great-grandmother's. I remember it was raining outside and my hands were cold - which made my ring fit more loosely than normal. Suddenly, I felt my ring slip off and heard a "clink, clink, clink!" along the floor.

My heart dropped to my knees.

I whispered to Charlie "I dropped my ring! Oh no, I dropped my RING!!" I got down to look on the tile floor and Charlie got down next to me. Our friends dropped to the ground and all four of us were crawling around looking for my engagement ring. People that had been standing around us, asked what we were looking for and I ignorantly told them the truth. After the wedding band episode we'd experienced less than a year earlier, I incorrectly assumed that everyone was truthful and honest.

Suffice to say, I spent the next 3 hours crawling around a dirty bar room floor looking for my ring. I was completely heartbroken that something so precious was lost, undoubtedly picked up and pocketed by one of the bargoers. Over the next week, I called over 250 pawn shops and over 200 jewelers in San Diego. I posted signs in the bar and offered the better part of my financial aid a large reward, with no questions asked.

My ring was never seen again.

To this day, it still pains me to think of the loss, and whenever I see a pawn shop, I drop in to look for my ring. Last night while I was sitting up with Elizabeth and could feel her little body shuddering from the sadness ... I remembered how physically sick I felt when I had lost my ring. I was unable to function. I missed school and stayed in bed for four days, crying almost nonstop.

On April 19th I was jolted out of my slump and life was put in perspective when the horrific tragedy in Oklahoma City occurred. What those people experienced on that day ... THAT was loss. My ring? It was just a ring. A mere possession. My daughter is too young to understand the concept of material possessions right now. As far as she is concerned, bunny is her best friend. He is very real to her.

This morning, when I dragged myself out of bed after having slept no more than an hour woke up, I continued my search. Finally, I had to give up and go to work. All morning I've been distracted by the fate of bunny. The lovely woman at the local office supply store heard my story of woe and generously offered several "replacement" stuffed animals from her inventory. I graciously declined telling her that Elizabeth has an exact replica of "bunny" at home and unfortunately, nothing - but the original - will do.

A short while ago ... I received a call from Charlie. He told me that they were at the park and William, very deliberately, walked up to Elizabeth and handed her bunny. What Elizabeth's mother, father, grandmother and dog could not find ... her 2-year old brother did. Bunny had been inconspicuously tucked in the back of the stroller, a spot that we had all searched, several times last night.

I am beyond thrilled that Elizabeth has been reunited with her beloved bunny. I was seriously prepared to call Dionne Warwick and the Psychic Friends Network later today. But above all, my eyes have been opened to the affect that my children's emotions have on me. When something terrible happens to them ... it happens to me, too.

Even something as seemingly insignificant as a misplaced stuffed animal.

The eagle has landed...

My mom arrived yesterday. Her shuttle - which we insisted that she not take from the airport, but she insisted on taking because she cannot bear to think that she is in any way an inconvenience ... pulled in to our driveway at 2:30 PM.

While Elizabeth slumbered on, Carolyn and William were just waking up from their nap, so I took both of them out of their cribs and ran outside so they could greet their Noni. It's been 3 months since they've last seen their grandmother. Their reaction?

Ah, Noni, Spumoni.

Yet ... a mere five minutes later, when Noni sat on the floor and opened her Mary Poppin's like bag and pulled out a collection of new children's books, videos and airline pretzels, they were all over their grandmother like peanut butter on our table following lunch.

In case you were wondering, the secret to unleashing a toddler's heart is a few new books and some airline snacks.

After visiting for an hour, and since mom had been traveling since 3 AM Pacific Time ... I encouraged her to go lay down and take a rest. At first she was a bit resistant and told me "Oh no, I feel great. I don't want to miss a thing!!" But when I reminded her that Oprah was on at 4 PM in California, she barreled out of the room so fast I thought she might knock down her grandchildren she'd been doting over, just a moment before.

My mother LOVES Oprah. As long as Oprah Winfrey has been on the air, I don't think my mother has ever intentionally missed an episode of her show. Infact, I remember calling my mother after our children were born. Our conversation went something like this: "OH HI JEN! It's so great to hear from you. Can I call you back? Oprah's on and she's got Tom Cruise!"

It happens at least once every couple weeks, mom will call me and say "Oprah was wonderful today. JUST WONDERFUL. Did you happen to see her trip to Africa and the work she is doing with the orphanages?" To which I'll always reply "It's hard to watch television, unless it's The Wiggles, during the day." And in return, mom will say "Oh, I could never miss Oprah. She's wonderful!"

Yesterday, mom settled in her room to watch Oprah's cross-country trip across America. If I could just learn to relax and let our children rip apart an entire book case in less than a minute - perhaps I too, could watch Oprah every afternoon at 4. Unfortunately, at this point in my mothering career, I cringe when I hear paper being torn.

Mom ... not so much.

She just cranked up the volume and smiled. I honestly don't remember my mother ever being so relaxed when I was a kid. But then again, she didn't have Oprah.

Mom then tested my boundaries a little more, when she put on their coats and left suggested that we take all three children for a walk around the neighborhood with their push toys. I had never done that before - without the aid of a carriage or safety harnesses. The kids had a great time, running up to perfect strangers homes and knocking on doors, picking flowers, and grabbing stuff off their porches. I in turn, learned that unleashing our children in to people's yards is a fantastic way to make new friends. Provided you maintain a sense of humor when they come running out of their homes to see who is knocking over stuff on their patio.

We came home from our walk and enjoyed a wonderful dinner. Even though mom recently started the South Beach Diet, I told her that all she needs to do to lose weight is try eating dinner with multiple toddlers on her lap.

Even mom, the super maternal being that she is, drew the line on sharing her water with William when he gave her back some of the zucchini that he'd *tried* from her pasta sauce. He's such a generous little guy. If he doesn't like something, he'll give it right back to you.

In all seriousness - it is really wonderful to have mom here. I truly wish that I could see her every day. It makes me sad to the point of crying, when I remember she is flying home in 9 days. Speaking of crying, you'll never believe what happened today.

The absolute UNTHINKABLE.

What is the absolute worse thing that could happen in the world of my children? More specifically, in the world of Elizabeth?

I'll give you a clue: It's pink with floppy ears.

Give up???

Bunny ... as of 1100 hours ... is MIA.

I came home from a 12 hour work day to be met at the door by my mother whispering "We've lost B-U-N-N-Y." The last sighting of b-u-n-n-y was at naptime. The children woke up at 3 PM and they played in the house, yard and garage. Sometime between 3 PM and 7 PM b-u-n-n-y vanished. Between Charlie and my mother, they spent 4 hours ripping apart the house, yard and garage ... to no avail.

It was so bad that mom and Charlie had to spell where they have last looked for b-u-n-n-y. Trashcan? Diaper pail? Inside? Outside? Couch? Cribs? Cupboards? Dishwasher? Just the mention of the word "bunny" would send Elizabeth in to a teary panic.

For as long as I can remember, I have dreaded this day.

On a much brighter note, Charlie's back is on the mend. That's a darn good thing, since I'll need for him to get up with Elizabeth every 10 minutes when she is mourning the loss of her lovey, tonight.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Daze days like these

Today was a long day. Not because Charlie felt miserable and was out of commission, and not because our house was torn apart due to new construction we have taking place in the kitchen.

Today was a long day because it seemed that everything that could go wrong ... did go wrong. It is now very late, but before I go to bed ... I decided that rather than focus on the challenges of my day - I need to focus on the positive.

The highlight of my day was not when instead of making dinner and getting our children ready for bed, I took all three of them with me to run errands at 5 PM. When I arrived at our first destination, I realized that I had forgotten all of their snacks and sippy cups at home.

The highlight of my day was not when I arrived at the post office and thinking how lucky I was to get a parking spot right by the door - unloaded the children in their huge stroller, pulled out the big boxes of hand-me-down clothes I'm sending to my brother for his 15-month old twins, got to the door and realized that because it was Columbus Day ... the post office was closed. Ah, yes. That would explain the empty parking lot.

The highlight of my day was not when I drove to the grocery store and was unable to snag one of the fancy buggy shopping carts that securely holds all three of my children. Unless I wanted to pull the big Peg behind me through the whole store, I was forced to put one in the seat and two in the basket and then walk around the store, partially leaning in to the cart to hold all three down.

The highlight of my day was not when I realized that Trick-or-Treat snack packs of Reese’s Pieces are not necessarily the ideal treat for (almost) 2-year olds. Unless you don't mind leaving behind a trail of Reese’s Pieces through the entire store. You wouldn't think 100 Reese’s Pieces is a lot ... but when they are littered along the shiny white floor at the grocery store it certainly looked like we were summoning E.T.

The highlight of my day was not when I was quickly picking out some apples, that my son who was perched in the seat of the shopping cart - casually leaned over and grabbed a lemon off the produce stand. A lemon that would be the foundation for the 5,000,000 lemons that were precariously perched on top of it.

The highlight of my day would not be when I navigated my shopping cart between the narrow checkout aisle and as I was unloading my groceries, helplessly watched as Elizabeth and Carolyn, just out of reach, attack the candy display and magazine display, simultaneously.

The highlight of my day would not be when I asked the bag boy to put all of the groceries beneath the cart or else the kids would throw them out. And then, as I was walking outside of the grocery store and down the ramp, all of my canned goods rolled out from the bottom of my cart and in to the middle of the road.

The highlight of my day would not be when I was leaning down to pick up my canned goods in the middle of the road, caught a glimpse of my feet and realized that I had gone out in public wearing my purple fuzzy slippers. Ah yes. That must explain all the looks I was getting in the store - as I was standing in the middle of 5,000,000 lemons.

The highlight of my day was not when I got home, unloaded all of the groceries, brought all the children in to the house, checked on Charlie, made a Rigatoni dinner and when I was draining the noodles - missed the strainer from all the steam - and dumped more than half of them in to our dirty sink.

The highlight of my day was not when after I tucked all three of the children in to bed after their baths, Charlie asked me where the Ginger Ale was that he had put on the grocery list. It was then that I remembered like the snacks and sippy cups, I had forgotten our grocery list, too. The most important item on that list - Ginger Ale for Charlie's upset stomach - was the one item I had missed.

The highlight of my day was not returning to the grocery store at 9 PM to pick up a bottle of Ginger Ale (after plucking all three children out of their cribs and changing dirty diapers), only to be greeted by at least 15 other shoppers in front of me, that had cut out and were using every single coupon from the Sunday paper, in the one line open, with enough food in their carts to last through Thanksgiving.

It might seem like any one of those scenarios above might constitute the highlight of my day. But no...

The highlight of my day did not come until I was driving home from the grocery store. I thought about the date ... October 9th, 2006. Three years ago tomorrow (now today), was our first attempt at IVF. It certainly doesn't seem like three years ago that we were going through our first cycle. It certainly doesn't feel like three years ago I was so full of optimism and hope that Charlie and I would soon be parents.

Three years ago - when our first IVF cycle failed, my heart was broken and my dreams were crushed when we learned that getting pregnant, if we were so lucky, was going to be a lot more difficult, and expensive, than we ever imagined.

Two years ago - I was pregnant and about to deliver our long awaited children.

One year ago - We were preparing to celebrate our babies first birthday.

I reflected on my day, today. I thought back to dinner time and how, for the most part, our children play so well together. I thought about the baby babble and the belly laughs. The words that are just starting to emerge from their vocabulary and their senses of humor that are beginning to sharpen. I thought about their little faces, their little eyes, noses, mouths, hands and feet. I thought about how with three little kids and the massive messes that they create, our house finally feels like a home. (Because I now know how to upload videos ... there will probably be a lot of them on our blog.)



Even on days like today, time goes too fast. In four days, our babies will be two. From what I've read, the behavior that they are exhibiting is perfectly normal for a two-year old. So, I suppose it makes good sense that the feeling I have of falling in to a black abyss, is perfectly normal for the mother of 3-2 year olds. (With that in mind: If you ever see a crazed looking woman with purple fuzzy slippers in a pile of lemons, that would be me. I'm just trying to make lemonade.)

The highlight of my day today - and everyday for that matter - are our three beautiful and healthy children ... that a mere three years ago, I feared would never exist. In truth, they are more magical than I ever imagined.

Monday, October 09, 2006

I must sound desperate

Charlie is completely incapacitated. The last time his back went out this badly, he didn't realize that just the smallest movement could trigger a muscle spasm that would fully disable him. Because neither of us want to risk him winding back up in the hospital on a morphine drip ... I have been adamant that he not move. Unfortunately, he had to move this morning, when he experienced horrible side effects from the Vicodin he'd been taking yesterday.

In 2001, Charlie was out of work for one full month to allow a complete recovery of his back. For thirty days, he was unable to lift anything weighing more than 5 pounds, he was also forbidden to bend, twist, run ... or clean the house. The minor difference between now and then, is that we didn't have three 2-year olds running free.

Yet again, I am extremely thankful that we have flexible careers that allow us to work from home. Today, I was fielding phone calls for an emergency situation at the office - while supervising the children running around the yard. While I was trying to carry on a conversation, I was also attempting to thwart our kids from flinging the better part of their toy collection over the backyard fence. It was about that time, I realized that they were standing on top of an ant hill and were being swarmed by little black ants.

Keeping my compusure in check for the important call I was on, I started swatting at the children's clothing. Just then, Carolyn came walking up to me with something green and slimy all over her finger. As I was wondering what it could be ... I noticed that William had picked up a snail from the ground.

A partially smeared out snail.

My beautiful daughter is standing next to me with part of the snail on her finger ... my beautiful son then proceeds to scoop out the remainder of the snail. My children are smiling at me with smeared out snail all over their hands ... and start to raise their little fingers up to their mouths.

The compusure I had maintained up until that point was lost.

Two of my children are covered in snail guts, all three of them are being swarmed with ants, my husband is laying on the floor completely unable to move, I am dealing with an emergency situation at work, we have contractors at our house finishing some work in our kitchen, a large number of our toys are in the neighbors yard ... and their sprinklers come on.

If there is a silver lining to any of this ... it's that my mother read my blog from yesterday. In 2001, because of work commitments I had in progress, mom flew out and helped Charlie through his rehabilitation. While I took off for work every morning, mom and Charlie took off for the pool, where they floated around for three weeks straight. Mom called this morning to see how Charlie was doing. When I gave her the lowdown on his condition, she hung up and called back a few minutes later.

Twenty two hours and 3,000 miles separate us, today. But tomorrow, mom will be here. She didn't even have to ask if I needed help. Like always, mom just knew.