Tuesday, November 07, 2006

*** Intermission ***

It is only appropriate that I was getting to the "preemie shuffle" of my triplet pregnancy story, when I have to take a big step back in life.

I cannot even begin to put in to words just how hectic our schedules have been ... but if you know us, or especially if you are one of our co-workers ... you might have a pretty good idea. I've eluded to it before ... life is getting increasingly crazy at the homestead.

Currently, we're both working full-time. When we're not working - our minds are consumed with what else we have to do. Because our work hours aren't 9 to 5 ... they usually are squeezed in when the kids are napping, late at night, or on the weekends. This leaves very little time for "other things" - but we're trying to squeeze those "other things" in to our schedule whenever we can. "Other things" that might include hosting a small group, brushing our teeth, attending play dates, going to the bathroom, having dinner with friends, taking a shower, exercise, doing 10 loads of laundry, getting dressed, and cleaning our house once a quarter.

We tried calling for reinforcements, but the woman we had hired to come assist two days a week (for four hours a day) wound up accepting a full-time job and wouldn't be available. This would have been good reason to start drinking heavily, but this happened about the same time we learned I was expecting our fourth child.

Right now it's just me, Charlie and our two-year old triplets that are hell bent on turning their parents prematurely gray. These are a few of the reasons Charlie and I look like we could be card carrying members of the AARP:
  • Toddler knock down drag out fights, daily. Culprit? The pink sippy cup. I am prepared to replace every single non-pink sippy cup in our sippy cup arsenal. Apparently, milk is rancid if it comes out of the blue, green, orange or purple cup. But tomorrow, the magic color might be green. Or blue. Most likely not purple - that was the magic color, yesterday.
  • Poopy diapers. At least three, per child, per day. This is undoubtedly due to their huge appetites since coming out of their vomiting epidemic for the past two weeks. Poopy diapers aren't the main problem. My issue revolves around our adorable children sticking their hands in their poopy diapers and then running their fingers through their HAIR.
  • Going out. Our children have taken to laying down flat on the floor when they don't want to do something. If I'm lucky, only one or two fall down at once, but sometimes, it'll be all three. This usually happens as I am preparing to load them in to the car. But then - once I finally get everyone safely secured in their carseat - and we are already late on our way to something important - that they inform me, "Mommy!! Poopy!!" In the time it takes me to change someone's diaper and get them back in the carseat, another child will have pooped ... or ... they will have started to remove their clothing and shoes. Whereas it use to take me 15 minutes to get the kids out of the house ... it now takes six hours.
  • Election Day. Within the past week, we have received perfectly timed phone calls, moments after our children have fallen asleep, from every single political candidate and overzealous Hollywood actor in California. Maybe they knew that I needed a reminder, because I actually loaded all the kids and took them with me to vote today. My current political awareness is a far cry from what it was 15 years ago when I graduated from college, one class shy of an unintentional minor in Political Science. Today, I barely had an idea what or who I was voting for, but at least I was there and I've got the sticker to prove it.
  • Lack of sleep. Last night, I went to bed at 1:15 AM. Elizabeth was awake at 2 AM. Elizabeth was awake again at 3 AM. Elizabeth screamed in her crib from 3 AM until 3:30 AM because she wanted to come sleep in our bed with her little toes up my nose. Oddly enough, I have a difficult time sleeping this way. Charlie finally caved at 3:35 and slept with her on the couch until 6:15 this morning, when William woke up. By 6:30 AM, all three children were running through the house while their bleary eyed parents tried to prevent each other from jumping off the roof.
  • This weekend. I am suppose to be in Virginia on Monday morning (6 days from now) for a business meeting. Charlie's 40th birthday is on Sunday (5 days from now). As of this writing, I have yet to book my plane tickets nor, make any plans for my husband's birthday. Instead - I'm thinking that it would be a wise idea to fly the entire family back to South Carolina. Here's the logic: I can spend Charlie's birthday with him and take a puddle jumper to Virginia Monday morning. Otherwise, I have to leave Sunday afternoon from California to get to my meeting on time. Charlie will have the support of my mother and family for the week I am in meetings. We will have the opportunity to see family and friends we haven't seen for over a year and celebrate Thanksgiving together. Our flight to SC leaves from Los Angeles on Saturday morning at 6:30 AM. The reason we're flying out of LA and not San Diego, is because I'm so behind the 8-ball booking our tickets that there was no way we could use of frequent flier miles unless we wanted to take a red-eye with a 3 hour layover in Chicago from 4 to 7 AM. (I don't know who would enjoy that experience more ... us, or the other passengers that would be waiting at the gate for three hours with us.) We have to leave our house at 2:30 AM Saturday morning in order to get to the Los Angeles airport on time. Now we just have to figure out what to do with Molly while we're gone for 2.5 weeks and we're golden. Considering my overwhelming fear of flying and the challenges of a cross-country plane trip with three toddlers, this should be quite an adventure.
The reality is - Charlie and I are in dire need of a vacation. I am so overwhelmed at the moment that I am incapable of doing anything. Which is why I'm updating my blog instead of making travel arrangements for my business meeting ... or writing 3 overdue thank you notes for birthday presents, or .... finalizing our Wills.

We are so far behind that if something were to happen today, we wouldn't have time to think about if for four weeks, and then - it would take us a minimum of six hours to do anything about it ... provided we needed to pack the kids up and leave the house. Since we are so far behind "reality" ... I suspect that within the next couple weeks, it will finally register that we have another baby on the way.

Wait a minute. Was that a dream??

We'll be back in about 3 weeks. Maybe sooner, but probably not.

Until then - please take a nap for me. And ... please say a prayer that our plane behaves itself.

Part V: A Waddle In Time

When I woke up Friday morning, I didn't have an overwhelming desire to meet our babies right away. Rather, I was extremely apprehensive to visit the NICU and a bit afraid of what I was going to see and how I would react to our preemies. Even my father was traumatized by what he had seen in the NICU the day before.

My feelings were not at all in-line with what I thought they would have been, after all that we had been through to have children.

After a quiet breakfast, Charlie helped me in to a wheelchair and we rolled to the elevator and down several flights to the NICU. When we entered the waiting room, I instantly became aware of all the visitors who were gaping at us. At first, I thought that they were surprised to see a woman who looked like death warmed over out of her hospital bed ... but then I realized that they were looking at our wristbands.

When our babies were born, each child was given a leg band to identify them and Charlie and I were given a wristband which corresponded to one of our babies. Because we had three babies in the NICU, we had three wristbands identifying us as their parents. The three wristbands I wore for our babies, were in addition to the patient wristband and blood type wristband I also had to wear - for a grand total of five wristbands.

Five wristbands created quite a ruckus anywhere we went.

Charlie picked up the phone and called in to the NICU and told the head nurse that we were here to visit our triplets. There was a gasp around the room followed by hushed silence as everyone stepped back from the door and let us roll through. I made eye contact with one or two people and I remember they cautiously smiled and whispered "God Bless You."

Having a baby in the NICU can be a very difficult experience. Having three babies in the NICU was even more difficult than I imagined it would be, and I thought that I was well prepared, having taken a tour earlier in my pregnancy. In reality, nothing could have prepared me for what was in store.

Between the waiting room and NICU, was a washroom with huge steel sinks and soap dispensers. Everyone was required to wash their hands, thoroughly, before stepping foot in the NICU. If you were sick, or had been sick one week prior to the day you were visiting, you were not welcome.

Better stated ... you were forbidden from entering.

It's nothing personal ... but what people do not realize is that premature infants are EXTREMELY susceptible to infection. Whereas a healthy full-term baby could be exposed to something as harmless as a cold and survive ... the common cold could actually kill a preemie. There were no more than two people, per infant, allowed to visit at any given time - and one of the people must be a parent. Therefore, the most visitors that Charlie and I could have in the NICU were two. During the six weeks that we would spend visiting our children at the hospital, I could often be found stopping renegade family members that tried to sneak more than two people in for a visit. My blood pressure and temper would go through the roof if they dare got snippy with me and I wouldn't hesitate to call the head nurse and reveal anyone that tried to break the rules.

I had THREE babies in there.

There were two levels to our NICU ... the "High Risk" side and the "Step-Down" side. One of the primary differences between the two sides, is the ratio of nurses to infants. On the high-risk side ... the ratio is no more than two infants per nurse. On the step-down side, the ratio is approximately four infants per nurse. Additionally, to be moved to the step-down side, an infant must be capable of maintaining their own body temperature (i.e. not be in an incubator), and they must be breathing on their own (i.e. no intubation).

For the first few days following their birth, all three of our babies were on the high-risk side.

After scrubbing up, Charlie rolled me in to the high-risk side of the NICU. Our girls were in incubators across the row from each other, and our little boy was the next aisle over. Immediately next to our girls were two babies that were covered in what looked like Saran Wrap. According to the nurse, these preemies had been born at 25 weeks gestation ... 6 weeks earlier than our children.They didn't look real, they were so small.

When I had toured the NICU while pregnant, I saw micro-preemies. But they did not have nearly the same impact on me then, that they did on the day after my own children were born. It felt like the air was crushed out of my lungs and tears instantly sprung to my eyes for these tiny babies and their mothers. To this day, I still pray every single night for micro-preemies (and the doctors and nurses who care for them), the world over.

At that point, we hadn't yet named our children ... so our first visit was with Baby C. She was positively tiny. I remember the nurse opened the incubator and removed her from her warm little nest. She rearranged all of her wires, and gently rested her in my arms. It felt like my heart was going to burst. I looked at her perfectly tiny little features - her nose, her eyes, her lips and her ears. I touched her fuzzy brown hair and chuckled when I noticed that she had "male-pattern baldness". I counted her ten tiny fingers and gazed in awe at her teeny tiny fingernails.

How would I ever manage to clip them?

She was smaller than dolls I had as a child and her head was smaller than the grapefruit I had had for breakfast one day last week. I noticed that the cartilage in her ears had not yet formed and they were as thin and as flexible as paper. She had no trace of eyelashes or eyebrows since those features hadn't yet filled in at 31 weeks gestation.

While I held her, alarms were buzzing around me. At one point, I was startled because the monitor that was hooked to my newborn daughter started to sound. I glanced around frantically for the nurse, who I hadn't noticed was standing beside me. She looked over at the monitor and pushing a few buttons, smiled and said everything was fine.

I wasn't so sure.

Suddenly, I felt afraid to hold my baby ... afraid that her tiny body would be hurt. I wanted to return her to the incubator where I knew she'd be safe. Actually, I wanted to return her to my uterus, but that wasn't an option. As I sat worried that my daughter would stop breathing, the nurse told me it was time to put her back. Apparently, preemies are very easily over stimulated, and something as simple as holding them for too long can cause problems. The nurse carefully lifted my baby away from me, wrapped her in a special blanket, adjusted her multiple monitor leads, and carefully placed her back in the incubator.

Letting her go was the hardest thing I'd ever had to do.

With my eyes full of tears, Charlie rolled me over to meet our Baby B. The nurse had lifted our newborn daughter out of the incubator and her head full of dark brown hair instantly shocked me. Once she was in my arms, I touched her soft hair and was surprised to see that she had little blonde tips all over her head ... as if someone had given her highlights. She too, was perfect in every way. After smiling at her through my tears for a few minutes, the nurse gently picked her up and returned her to the incubator. As soon as Baby B was removed from my arms and placed back inside her little "house" ... she started to cry. It took every ounce of restraint to not stand up from my wheelchair and scoop her back out of the incubator and run from the hospital. Hearing the tiny cry and not being able to comfort her, was absolute torture.

Letting her go was the hardest thing I'd ever had to do.

Charlie rolled me over to visit Baby A, our little boy. He wasn't yet in an incubator and was on an open bed with warmers overhead. He had on a little cap, but I could make out tufts of blonde hair. Unlike his sisters, he was still intubated and not yet stable enough to be held. Instead, I caressed his tiny feet, touched his tiny hands and told him over and over again how sorry I was that he had been born too early. I was so angry with myself and disappointed in my body, that I could spit.

When it finally came time to return to my room, Charlie turned my wheelchair around and rolled me out of the NICU. Leaving my three precious babies behind, once I had finally seen and touched them, was the hardest thing I've ever had to do.

**************

Saturday was a difficult day. Perhaps it was because the morphine had finally worn off, or perhaps it was because hormones were trying to stablize after the delivery. Or perhaps it was because they had removed my catheter and told me that I needed to take a BM. Whatever the case, I was absolutely miserable two days after our triplets were born.

The thought of a BM scared the ... well, not sh*t out of me ... but I wish it had. I ordered everything with fiber in it on the menu. I had raisin bran, bran muffins, oatmeal with raisins, prune juice, stewed prunes AND I ordered a laxative. I wanted this to be as seamless of an evacuation as possible. While dad sat with me over breakfast, I told him how nervous I was that every single one of my organs would fall out when I sat on the toilet and gave the slightest push. This is the kind of conversation I never thought I would have with my father.

What I didn't expect was how every single one of the nurses that were taking care of me, and every single one of my visitors, would be so aware of my most private of bodily functions. Whenever I felt the urge to use the restroom ... I would have a minimum of five people excitedly asking if I thought I'd be making a BM.

There was so much enthusiasm and anticipation surrounding this singular event that I started suffering from performance anxiety.

As the day progressed, and a BM was nowhere to be seen, I started to worry. At one point, I thought for sure I needed to go, and when Charlie and my father helped me out of bed (which was an extremely difficult and painful experience), I wobbled in to the bathroom just in time to pass the largest blood clot imaginable. This clot was literally the size of a kidney and for a few minutes ... I thought that's what it was. When the entourage of nurses came in to look at my creation ... everyone convinced me that it was perfectly normal and I could stop screaming.

While the day wore on, we visited the babies, I ate more fiber, and the nurses dragged me out of bed gently persuaded me to get up and walk around. Leaning on my wheelchair, I cruised up and down the halls of the hospital hoping I wouldn't pass another blood clot outside the privacy of my bathroom.

The highlight of my day was naming our children.

After much deliberation, we decided that Baby A would be named after his father. I liked the idea of naming our son after his dad, but it was an easy decision because from the day I first met Charlie, I always thought he had a wonderfully regal name. Thus, William Charles Junior came to be.

Baby B would be named after my beautiful sister, Beth ... and Charlie's lovely Aunt Betty. Her middle name - which we had first thought should be Ann, was changed to Jeanne, as a tribute to Charlie's mother who passed away in 1992.

Baby C would be named after my beloved godmother, Aunt Carolyn, who had passed away in 1986 from breast cancer. Her middle name was after my favorite Aunt Grace who has always been like a second mother to me (except for the time she tried to run me over with her Cadillac when I was misbehaving in 1981).

Signing the birth certificates and feeling a sense of contentment with the names we had chosen, Charlie and I went back to visit our William Charles, Elizabeth Jeanne and Carolyn Grace in the NICU. These were our beautiful babies and we hoped that they would grow up appreciating the strong names we had given to them.

By the early evening it felt like a train had hit me I was so sore.

It had been several days since I'd showered and I was feeling absolutely gross. The nurses located a waterproof chair for my bathtub and with Charlie's assistance, I climbed in to the tub. Charlie helped to wash my hair, soap my legs and back and rinsed me off with the handheld shower. When it came time to get out of the tub, I realized that I couldn't move my legs. The pain was positively excruciating. While stuck in another bathtub for the second time in less than a week, and crying that I'd never get out, my loyal nurses came running in to check on me. When they asked when the last time was I had taken my pain medication, I hesitated.

Except for my laxatives ... I didn't remember taking any other medication.

Turns out, I hadn't.

While I shoveled in saltines to coat my stomach, the nurse stepped out to pick me up some percocet and motrin. For the next 45 minutes, I sat in the shower waiting for my pain to subside. When it finally tapered off, I was able to gingerly lift my legs over the side of the tub and Charlie picked me up and helped me back to bed.

I felt completely defeated.

I could barely move ... our babies were still struggling in the NICU ... I couldn't get a brush through my rat's nest hair ... I still hadn't had a BM after several days ... I was swollen ... I was passing blood clots and my father had left to return home to Massachusetts. The salt in my wound was when the Red Sox lost the third game of the ALCS to the Yankees.

At that moment in time, I didn't think I could ever leave the hospital.

While I sat in bed with my wet knotted hair, and fretted that I'd never have a BM, never be able to walk again unassisted, and never see my babies grow in to healthy children ... I cried and sobbed and bawled hysterically. Saturday night, October 16, 2004 was one of my lowest moments in life. But once I reached the pit of despair ... something came over me.

As Charlie settled down to make name tags for all of the babies, I searched my soul for what I could do to improve my situation. Despite the pain that shot through my body from moving my arms, I dragged the brush through my hair and toweled my head off. With Charlie's assistance, I climbed out of bed and brushed my teeth. Then, without Charlie's assistance, I forced myself to hobble back to bed and climb back in. It took me 30 minutes and lots of tears ... but I did it.

That night, as Charlie slept on the lumpy fold-out chair, I got out of bed at least three more times, on my own, to use the restroom. By Sunday morning, I weighed 30 pounds less than I had three days earlier. I also had the biggest BM in recorded history. The weight loss could have been because of that - - but more likely - - was due to the diuretic they had started me on Saturday morning.

For the first time in a long time ... I was beginning to feel like I might survive.

While savoring waffles and reveling in the glory of my successful bathroom experience, whilst maintaining all of my internal organs, I was visited by a team of lactation consultants. They had stopped by to visit me on Saturday, but I was in such a bad state - the most they could do was introduce me to the hospital grade breast pump I would come to call Baby D.

When my lactation team returned on Sunday, I quickly learned that when it comes to nursing ... there is no place for modesty. While I sat in my hospital bed with my shirt wide open ... I was showed how to massage the breast, rub the nipple and express milk. Provided I had milk to express ... which at that time, I did not.

The lactation consultants were my own personal cheerleaders who convinced me that I could nurse our triplets. Infact, they stressed how important it was that I start pumping NOW, and continue pumping at least every three hours ... round-the-clock in order to get my supply established. Even though my milk hadn't yet come in, it would soon and the early collostrum was extremely important for our preemies - who were currently receiving tiny amounts of donated breast milk.

Charlie, sat through my entire lactation session and jumped in to action. He created a To-Do list on my hospital dry erase board with the hands free pump bra I needed to obtain, the herbal supplements we needed to purchase which would help boost my supply (including Lecithin, Fenugreek and a prescription for Reglan), the times I was scheduled to pump and what, if anything, was obtained. We had a mini-celebration when collostrum crystals appeared on my nipples after 24 hours of pumping, and when small amounts of fluid were extracted after 36 hours, we rejoiced and ate Jell-O.

Even though the walking was difficult, the more I did it, the better I felt and the easier it became. Meanwhile, the tremendous amount of fluid that I had been retaining was literally being flushed out of my system ... at the staggering rate of 10 pounds per day. (Seven days following the birth of our children, I had shed 70 pounds. The remaining 30 pounds that I had put on during my pregnancy came off over the next few months).

When Charlie had to return to work on Monday, I felt courageous enough to push my wheelchair to the NICU, all by myself. For several hours, I sat holding and/or staring at our babies. Just as I was about to leave, William's nurse asked if I would like to hold our baby boy. Four days after his birth, was the first time I was able to hold my tiny little son.

On the way back to my room, as I shuffled behind my wheelchair, I realized that I was not going to heal as quickly at the hospital as I would at home, especially with nurses coming in to check on me every 30-minutes ... day and night. When Charlie came to see me that evening, my bags were partially packed and sitting by the door. Whereas a mere two days earlier I thought I would never leave ... by Monday night, I couldn't get out of the hospital fast enough. The hardest part would be leaving our babies behind.

Because I had been so sick and a blood transfusion was still a good possibility, my perinatologist had reservations with me leaving the hospital so soon. But by 11 PM Monday night, one week since I had been admitted, they removed my c-section staples, removed my IV's, helped me pack up my flowers and breastpump, put in a few more c-section staples because my incision re-opened, had my pain medication prescriptions filled, gave me strict discharge instructions ... and bid me farewell.

The next and most important thing on our To-Do list, was getting our babies strong enough so that they could come home, too. Unfortunately, we were just about to begin the dreaded "Preemie Shuffle" where our babies would take two small steps forward, and one BIG step back.

... to be continued ...

Friday, November 03, 2006

Part IV: A Waddle In Time

Thursday morning, October 14, 2004, was a beautiful and sunny day in San Diego.

I didn’t sleep very well the night before, because I could barely breathe, I was unable to get comfortable with my newly inserted catheter, and my back and hips felt like they were being crushed by a semi-truck. Whenever I was able to settle in to sleep, I would be abruptly woken by nurses coming in to draw blood, take my temperature and blood pressure, check or change my IV, and evaluate my contractions and the babies’ heart rates.

My perinatologist came in to my room at 8 AM. He smiled and just when I thought he was about to tell me that they’d made a terrible mistake, I wasn’t really pregnant and let’s get me some breakfast (!) … he said that the babies would be born within the next hour. Apparently, I was seriously ill and my organs were shutting down, with my liver leading the charge.

My doctor suggested I call Charlie and tell him that he needed to get to the hospital as soon as possible. He emphasized that if Charlie were to get stuck in traffic, there is a good chance they might not be able to wait for his arrival before they delivered our babies.

My condition was that bad.

I felt like a robot going through the motion of picking up the phone and calling my husband, telling him that he needed to get to the hospital right away.

No, he didn’t have time to stop and buy the camcorder we’d put off purchasing for the past seven months.

No, he didn’t have time to stop and buy a cup of coffee.

I hung up and called my mother, who was vacationing at the beach in South Carolina. Mom was planning to come out to California when the babies were born, but like me, she didn’t expect they would arrive until November 12th. I could tell mom was concerned that I had deteriorated so quickly. I tried to keep it light and joked with her, “These children are an undisciplined lot! Do they not know that their birthday is written in INK on our calendar?!”

Once I was off the phone, I sat trying to savor the last few moments of having my babies within me. I tried to imagine what they would look like. It had been so many years that I had dreamt of having children, would my dreams be close to reality?

... sneaking in to my mind was the image of a huge needle.

Would our children be born with a head full of black hair like their father – or would they be blonde like I was as a child?

... I wonder how long would it take before the epidural kicked in?

I imagined that they would have blue eyes because Charlie and I both have blue eyes, as do both of my parents and Charlie’s dad, but maybe their eyes would be hazel, like Charlie’s mother, Jeanne.

... how do they put such a large needle in your back without severing your spinal column?

Trying to stay focused on our children’s features, I wondered if they would have my nose or Charlie’s? Would they have my fair Irish skin, or Charlie’s beautiful tanned complexion?

... what if my anesthesiologist is a Starbucks junkie and their hands are shaking?

While I sat nervously waiting for a wheelchair to take me to the delivery room, I rubbed my belly and tried to rid the image of the epidural - and burn in to my memory the location and feeling of each of my babies, in utero. I remembered one of the first ultrasounds, before we knew the gender of our children. Charlie and I gazed in amazement while our three little babies kicked around wildly – and I strained, unsuccessfully, to feel their tiny movements. When we saw Baby A kick Baby B and then flip around and kick Baby C … we both laughed and guessed that A was a boy and B and C were both girls. When our doctor told us that we were expecting three boys at my 18 week ultrasound, I was surprised. But two weeks later when we were told that we were expecting two girls and a boy, it felt right.

In my heart, I had known our children forever.

Baby A, our boy, was reclined in my lower belly – and he was the first baby I ever felt moving. He was always the largest and was stretched out, his head on one of my hips – his feet on my other hip. He didn't move around too much, but would squirm under the weight of his two sisters.

Baby B, one of our girls, was the second largest, and was located on my right side. I didn’t feel Baby B much until later in my pregnancy – but when she did start to move, she would have sweeping movements with her elbows and knees that made it look like an alien had inhabited my body.

Baby C, our second girl, was always the smallest and located on my left side. Perhaps it was because she was situated in an area where I could feel her movements more easily … but this child made her presence known, constantly. She was always moving – rolling – flipping – kicking – stretching – punching – hiccupping. Baby C was our little houdini that had flipped and been counted twice, making Charlie and I believe for a few tense moments, that we needed to register for a fourth of everything.

My wheelchair arrived and I was given a surgical cap and helped out of bed. Before I was eased in to the wheelchair, they rolled a scale in to my room. On Monday, March 29, 2004 I weighed in at 140 pounds. On Thursday, October 14, 2004 … at 30 weeks, 6 days pregnant ... I weighed in at 240 pounds. (I knew exactly how long I had been pregnant, down to the hour. Towards the end of my pregnancy as my discomfort intensified daily - I would literally beg for the days to go past.) In the three days since I’d been admitted to the hospital, I gained 10 pounds. This was incomprehensible to me, considering I’d had nothing more than ice chips and a small roast beef sandwich to eat, the entire time.

Was it possible to gain weight from thinking about food??

Just as they were rolling me out, Charlie and dad ran in to the room. I remember that they came in to the elevator with me, but when we arrived at the delivery room, Charlie went left through the back to get in to scrubs and my father went right to the waiting room. I was wheeled in to the delivery room, helped up on to the table and when they asked me to lean forward and try to touch my toes so they could give me my epidural, I began laughing hysterically.

Lean forward? In my state?!

With the assistance of three people holding me down, I received my dreaded epidural, which surprisingly, wasn't so bad. I then laid down on the table and while the nurses quickly put up blue screens over my belly, Charlie was led in to the room. He was dressed in white paper scrubs with his bright orange Walker Key shirt and khaki shorts, visible beneath the garment, clear as day. When I pointed out that I could see his clothes through his scrubs he stood back and looked down. He then breathed a heavy sigh of relief and told me that he wasn’t sure if he should wear clothes beneath the scrubs – or not.

The anesthiologist (who much to my relief did not drink coffee), was seated next to my head and chimed in that many dad’s don't see the sign in the dressing room and do not realize they are suppose to keep their clothing on beneath the scrubs. Since they are so wrapped up in the excitement of becoming a new father – they are oblivious to the fact that their birthday suit is visible beneath the paper-thin material. Unless they are an exhibitionist, she said these guys are mortified when they realize their error - and try to quickly change before their child is born. I was so thankful that my husband wasn't a victim of this common clothing mishap.

There were at least 17 medical personnel present in the delivery room. There was my perinatologist and his partner who would be performing the c-section. There were four nurses assisting with the surgery. There was a neonatologist, an anesthiologist, and teams of three nurses for each of the babies. And then there was Charlie, my wonderful husband and camera man.

I wasn't fully aware that the c-section was even underway until I smelled something burning. Much like the time I had laser correction surgery on my eyes, I suspected the burning smell was coming from me.

The whole thing happened so fast.

Before it had even registered that they were delivering our babies, I heard a faint cough. The doctor held Baby A up over the drape and I gasped when I saw the big doctor’s hands wrapped around our baby’s tiny body. Less than a minute later, I heard the smallest, tiniest cry imaginable as the doctor held Baby B over the drape. Another minute later, I heard another tiny cry, like a kitten meowing, and Baby C was held up and then whisked off to the team of nurses waiting. Charlie sat with me for a moment longer and then gave me a kiss goodbye and went to join our three tiny babies in an adjacent room.

I felt hot.

Then I felt cold.

Then I felt freezing cold.

I turned my head to the anesthiologist and with my teeth chattering told her I was an ice cube. She summoned to one of the nurses and I was instantly covered in wonderful warm blankets. Moments later, I was burning up and nurses were peeling off the blankets, and fanning me down. And then I was freezing again.

In October of 2004, there was a shortage of the flu vaccination because 50% of the batch had been tainted by lab error. People were driving for hours, standing in huge lines and forking over a big sum in order to receive the vaccination. Minutes after my surgery was completed, and while I chattered and then sweated under my blankets, I remember looking over at my perinatologist sitting down to receive the coveted flu vaccination. He rolled his sleeve up and when the nurse gave him his shot, he grimaced and groaned “Ouch! That really hurt!” My last words spoken, before everything went white were “Are you kidding me?! I just gave birth to triplets and you’re complaining about a little needle? Females are definitely the stronger sex!”

When I woke up, I was in the recovery room. I was so hot, I thought I would melt on the spot. The nurse asked if I was in pain and since I could feel twangs of discomfort, she gave me morphine. And then, more morphine. I was rejoined with Charlie and my father, and I’ll never forget Charlie saying “Jen, the babies are here and they are absolutely beautiful! William has a head full of blonde curly hair and the girls are both brunettes!!”

Unbelievable. Not only was I really pregnant, but the babies were here.

And they were ours ... for keeps.

For the next hour - or four – I completely lost sense of time, my father stood over my head with a hand held fan and tried to cool me down. Meanwhile, my nurse kept checking on my pain level and would administer more morphine, as necessary. They had asked if I would like to go through the NICU on the way back to my room to see our newborns, but I was feeling so terrible and had lost so much blood (2 liters) – the last thing I wanted to do was be wheeled anywhere other than straight to bed.

Even in my drug induced state, I remember the orderly told Charlie and my father they had to wait outside while they transferred me back in to my bed. I also remember having a fit because I didn’t know how they were going to transfer me from the gurney … without me falling flat on the cold hospital floor. I insisted Charlie and my dad come in to assist, and when the orderly refused … I started sobbing. The orderly reconsidered and the next thing I know, Charlie was by my head, dad was by my feet … and a nurse was running to grab an emesis pan because my roast beef sandwich from the night before was making a re-appearance.

While I remained in bed in a semi-conscious state with an emesis pan by my side, Charlie and my dad visited the babies in the NICU. Later that evening, they brought me back pictures of our children. All three of them had been intubated, but despite their troubles breathing, they had all been born with APGAR scores of 9. Their birth stats were:

Baby A = 3 pounds, 14 ounces, 16 inches long.
Baby B = 3 pounds, 2 ounces, 14 inches long.
Baby C = 3 pounds, 6 ounces, 15 inches long.

The nurses that were assigned to me, were shown pictures of our newborns. As they gushed over how beautiful the babies were and how good of a job I had done incubating them – I started to cry. My babies were born nine weeks premature and couldn’t breathe on their own. I hadn’t really seen them or held them yet, but I thought for sure all three of them were going to die. Most certainly our little boy who was struggling even more than the girls.

Certainly my mind had some control over my body. Maybe if I hadn’t wished for the pregnancy to be over … I'd still be pregnant. More than anything in the world, I wanted my babies back inside where they'd be safe. Didn't my body know our children weren't suppose to be born yet?

My feelings of inadequacy and guilt would only be compounded when I first saw our newborns and during the six weeks that they would spend in the NICU. This damn body of mine, first it couldn’t get pregnant without medical intervention – and now – it couldn’t carry our babies long enough for them to be born without life support. Despite everyone telling me that 31 weeks for a triplet gestation was a great feat – the fact that our precious children were struggling to survive, was all my fault. No one could convince me otherwise.

... to be continued ...

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Pancakes with Dad

One of the greatest mysteries in the toddler world, is how the exact same food the children are eating ... tastes so much better off of someone else's plate.




The fact that our children's appetites have returned with a vengeance, is a wonderful sign that the horrific virus which has rocked our house for the past two weeks, is finally past.

And the Angels did SING!!!

Tomorrow, barring no fascinating developments or adorable new pictures ... I promise to resume my triplet pregnancy story.

The Interruption Finale (almost...)

I thought it was over.

After 12 grueling days ... the vomiting stopped for 36 hours. We thought we were through the thick of it, and then Elizabeth woke up at 2:30 this morning, vomiting again. Carolyn and William haven't been sick for three days and that brings us more joy than I can express. This has got to be one of the worst viruses on the face of the earth and I pray we never encounter something like it again.

Yesterday morning, we woke up to one of the children crying at 5:30 AM. I kicked gently nudged Charlie and asked if he wouldn't mind checking in the nursery. Over the baby monitor I could hear him groan "Ohhh Man. Jen. This is as bad as it's ever been!" I pulled myself out of bed and walked in to two walls on my way to the nursery before finally getting my eyes fully open.

As soon as I walked in to the room - my nose hairs curled. Charlie had one of the kids on the changing table and they were soaking wet. The other two kids were laying in their cribs crying - also soaking wet. At first I thought it was just a mere diaper breakthrough ... but then I realized it was diarrhea.

This was the worst blow out EVER.

The contents that should have remained IN the diaper, had blasted out with such force that it was coming out by the neck opening AND through the feet of the sleeper. While Charlie stepped to the side and started gagging, I whipped off all of the soaked pajamas, wrapped one child at a time in a towel and ran out to the kitchen sink. Thank goodness I'm feeling better because I think that this experience one week ago would have completely done me in. For the first time that I can recall, all three of the kids received baths before sun rise. Unfortunately, the baths fully woke them up - so there was no way we could put them in their cribs and expect them to go back to sleep. Boy oh boy did we try.

One of the worst things about the kids being sick - other than the projectile vomiting, diarrhea, sleepless nights, 5 loads of laundry that we must do each and every day, 40 diapers per day, stains on the carpet that will never come out, finding foods that appeal to the kids that they can tolerate, and the scary amounts of weight that they have lost - is the huge amount of television that we've been watching. Because I don't feel comfortable taking the kids out in public for fear that they will throw up everywhere and/or pick up another virus ... Sesame Street is an excellent alternative to the park. After twelve days, even the whiny Caillou, who I once wanted to smack, is starting to grow on me.

I didn't want for this virus to keep us from experiencing Halloween, so we dressed the children up in their costumes and took them for a walk around the neighborhood with our good friend, Virginia. I had originally planned to dress them up as the three little pigs ... but when I saw that the chicken costumes were on sale at Old Navy for $12.00, I caved. Besides, I liked the idea of going as the "crazed pregnant mother chicken who ran around with her head cut off."

Unfortunately, I couldn't figure out how to conjure up a costume that portrayed the image I had in mind, without having people think I was a psycho.

The kids loved being dressed up and enjoyed pushing their toys around the neighborhood. We brought them to only one house for trick-or-treating and all three of the kids hung back clinging on to Charlie's legs when he rang the doorbell. However, once they realized that they were getting CANDY, they warmed right up. As I started to walk down the pathway towards home, the kids promptly laid flat on the ground and started crying "MORE!! MORE!!"

It's a good thing I don't embarrass easily. I contemplated laying down next to them and crying "MORE! MORE!" too. Of course, I wouldn't be referring to candy. I would be referring to the fact that I need MORE arms, MORE eyes, MORE hours in the day, and MORE room in the house ... for our unexpected miracle that is due next year.

Sadly, pregnant women shouldn't enjoy a glass of wine when they are expecting because I could REALLY use one.

When we arrived home, I sat the kids on our front stoop and let them hand out candy. Very quickly I noticed that our children were picking up candy from the bowl and trying to take bites out of every single piece. Because I didn't want to hand out candy that had saliva from children who had been vomiting for 12 days on it ... nor, did I want to hand out candy that was partially crushed because a toddler tried to chew it, I filtered through the more than 400 pieces and generated a fairly large "reject" pile.

This year we only received 71 trick-or-treaters, a big reduction from the 108 we received last year and the 104 we received the year prior. I always keep track of how many kids come by because I think it's important to have a sufficient supply of candy on hand. This year, in preparation for our 100+ trick-or-treaters, Charlie picked up 14 bags of candy. We've determined that there is nothing worse than a dwindling supply of candy, that forces you to run out to the grocery store at 7 PM on Halloween and then settle for the leftover bags of Raisinettes.

Really. I think you'd have better luck shopping for a decent looking tree on Christmas Eve, than you would finding a bag of Snickers from our grocery store on Halloween night.

Now that I can see the light at the end of this sickness tunnel, I can honestly say that these have been some of the most grueling weeks of my entire life. After making it through this period with our humor intact and without suffering a complete mental breakdown, I feel like we need a firework show or something grandiose.

Maybe I'll just settle for the 133 33 pieces of candy remaining in our reject pile.