When I was pregnant with triplets, people often said, “They’ll be three times the work, but three times the cuteness, too.”
This advice left me with more questions than answers. Namely, what else triples with triplets?
I was supposed to triple the weight I gained, for example, which isn’t as easy or enjoyable as one might think. At 15 weeks, I was still vomiting mid-day, on walks with the dogs, in the bushes of my neighbors. Vomiting between sobs and incontinence. Vomiting when I couldn’t sleep at night. Vomiting through the pain of quickly stretching ligaments, all while holding my already-showing belly.
“Eat whatever you can,” my doctor said. So one morning at school, when I dropped my Cliff Bar on the never-been-washed floor of my classroom, I weighed the risk of e-coli against not eating breakfast and decided to eat around the surface area that touched the ground.
Later, when one of my students discovered dog poop on the back of his chair and then a trail of it all over the floor leading out the door, I ran to the bathroom and vomited in the sink, unable to face the toilet.
Then there was the triple worry. At 17 weeks, the doctor told us that two of the babies – the identical twins – had a rare complication called Twin-to-twin Transfusion Syndrome, that all the fluid from Baby A was going to identical twin Baby B, and that this could be fatal for them if we did nothing about it.
We’d need to drive to Philadelphia to see a specialist there, the doctor said, perhaps resulting in surgery or the loss of one or both of the twins. Maybe even the fraternal triplet.
I googled the syndrome: a 60 percent chance of only one twin making it; a 30 percent chance of both of them making it; high risks of preterm birth and defects, even with corrective surgery.
Thank God I had my husband in those few days of panic to drive me to Philadelphia, to rub my back during the six hours of exams, to hug me when they told us the babies were stable, that we could drive home, tired, hungry, overwhelmed, but in no imminent danger. I had my husband to agree with the insanity of it all when “stable” was all I wanted to hear.
How could any woman do this alone?
Still, sometimes, I felt terribly alone in my crowded body.
I had 33 weeks instead of 40 to anticipate the arrival of our first child(ren) and accept that I’d be different forever – with scars on my belly and pubis, soreness in my hips, tearing in my knees, and a roller-coaster of hormones that would hang from me like chrysalis remains.
In the final weeks of my pregnancy, I couldn’t wait to have my babies, and yet I felt rushed, my older self whispering, “You have no idea what’s coming, you poor soul.”
Did I know what would come, even then? Did I somehow know, though the worst had seemingly passed?
Perhaps I did, crying each morning after a night of restless half-sleep, and in the car on the way to work, and while walking the dogs, cursing at them to hurry up because my bladder wouldn’t hold, because my so-called “agitated uterus” hadn’t had her morning coffee.
Perhaps I did know and was simply burying it somewhere under my babies’ three pairs of feet, because all three were healthy, all had measured over the fiftieth percentile, big even for single babies. They were amazing little things.
On one cold, rainy Saturday morning – when the dogs had spent a good 40 minutes huffing and shaking, trying to wake me, after my covers had been stolen in the night and I’d felt my stomach growling, the babies wiggling, my hips aching – I finally rolled from the bed, thumping my feet against the floor.
I looked at my husband, who glanced up once with half-open eyes and rolled over again.
So I suited up for the 40-degree pitch-black pouring rain, the dogs following me from room to room, clicking their toenails on the wood floors, jangling their collars. And I thought for sure husband would wake and join me, taking the bigger dog who pulled at the leash. Still, I heard his snore from the other room.
I managed to pull on my boots and my husband’s jacket and hat and slip out the front door, all the while wanting to sob.
The rain came down hard and, in the dark, I bent down as best I could, searching the ground for poop, my belly hanging below me, my body hating me, the dogs pulling me, the babies punching me, the rain coming down in sheets.
A car roared passed. Inside, the driver glanced at me pathetically, at my gigantic belly popping through the jacket, at the full poop-bags and tangled leashes in my hand, at the two dogs straining to run into the street.
Back at home, my husband still lay in bed fast asleep. The wet dogs joined him, snuggling into my pillow-nest, while I brewed coffee, turned on the news, and silently cried for a while, hoping I wouldn’t throw up. Though later I would, pulling a muscle and sending Baby A into hysterics.
I realized, maybe only then, the reality of motherhood – the constant vigilance, the inability to sleep when loved ones are distressed, the willingness to get out of a warm bed and bear the storm for everyone else’s comfort. I realized that so much of motherhood would be done and felt alone, like it had that morning. Even with a supportive husband and three times the cuteness.
The endlessness of it all.
There was no use crying over it. Billions of mothers do it every day, without thanks, without help. There was no use crying over it, for we were blessed with not one baby, but three.
We were blessed. We were blessed. We were blessed.
And still I cried, because I couldn’t reach over my billowing breasts to rub my own shoulders. I cried silently behind a shut door where I wouldn’t wake my husband. Like any mother, I felt alone. Though I had three times the babies pushing on my bladder, sitting on my diaphragm, kicking my colon.
Three times the blessing. Smothering me with love.