"I prayed for my babies, I prayed for myself, I prayed for my family."
I prayed with such intensity! There I was, once again in my doctor's office, trying to make some sense of the waves on the sonogram screen. Why was I threatening a miscarriage after all we had been through? “Please” I prayed, “Let me have this baby!”
We heard the doctor say, “There are three embryos!” Triplets? I looked at my husband in disbelief. My first words were “I want them all! What are their chances?”
Could this really be happening to us? The Doctor and nurse were really excited. The sonogram showed cardiac activity from each of the three engross. While my doctor explained some of the risks of mufti-fetal gestation and pre-term labor, we both knew that we were committed to do anything we could to ensure the lives of these three.
As victims of secondary infertility and its emotional trauma, “Why us?” was a question we regularly asked ourselves. After successfully conceiving one child we were amazed to learn that we might never be able to have more children. I was torn between decisions I never thought I'd have to make. How far are we willing to go to have a baby?
After two years of charts, tests and treatments, we decided to use a fertility drug (Pergonal) to achieve conception. This was probably our last hope to have another baby. Were we wrong to want more children when so many childless couples would be happy to have just one?
We wondered if we were “playing God' as we carefully weighed the risks of using Pergonal (Increased risk of multiple conception, increased possibility of miscarriage, etc.) I was sure our son was not meant to be an only child. We asked ourselves, and we ask God, “Why us?
We considered adoption. To have the opportunity to love and provide for another child would be the answer to our prayers. As we explored our options the subject of adoption opened up a whole new set of questions and disagreements for my husband and me. Could we take the risk of adopting and loving the child only to have the birth mother reclaim parental rights/ Could we deal with an “open adoption” and possible involvement with the birth parents? What kind of problems would we encounter if we adopted as older child? We felt a little guilty when we thought about adopting a baby when so many childless couples were waiting so long to adopt. We also felt out chances of being chosen as adopting parents would not be good because we already had a “natural” child.
Another year of waiting, hoping and praying went by. This was to be my last month of drug therapy. The expense of treatment, and the physical and emotional stress involved, was taking a toll on our family. To complicate things further, we had to deal with a nation-wide Pergonal shortage, never knowing for sure if enough of the drug would be available to finish the month of treatment we had started.
Finally, we achieved pregnancy! I was going to have a baby! We were thrilled, but terrified at the mere thought that the pregnancy might not be a successful one. My doctor was confident that this was a single fetus pregnancy, as I was carefully monitored before and after conception, and every precaution was taken to avoid mufti-fetal pregnancy.
When complications began at seven weeks gestation, I was terrified! Once again the question, “Why us?” was my constant tormentor. Was a miscarriage going to be the end result of all we had been through? Did I have the stamina to continue fertility therapy now that we knew conception was possible? I desperately wanted another child!
And Now the reality of triplets! There was a whirlwind of conflicting emotions. How much risk was involved? Would they survive? Could my family and I manage three babies? While I was experiencing fear for what was to come, there was also an overwhelming feeling of joy and honor that I was chosen to be the mother of triplets. I knew at that moment that my family had something very special – that we were being given this rare opportunity.
The next day I began to research triplet pregnancies. I wanted to know everything I could about my condition and what was to come. It seemed that little was known about multiple gestation and how to insure a healthy outcome. I found very limited information available through our library. In one book about twins there was an address for the “Center for Multiple Gestation.” I wrote to them and received information about the “Triplet Connection,” a national non-profit support and informational service for parents of higher multiples. This organization provided us with answers to our questions, and help with every phase of our situation. We carefully monitored and took life saving precautions, determined to have the bests possible outcome.
At twenty weeks gestation (only half way through a term pregnancy) I began to show signs of pre-term labor. I was recommended bed rest and an oral medication (Terbutaline) to reduce contraction activity. It was much too soon for our babies to be born. Every day became a milestone towards the possibility of healthy babies.
I read all I could about premature babies. Prior to bed rest we had taken tours of two hospital neon-natal intensive care wards. I talked with many doctors and nurses on the phone, as we tried to prepare ourselves for all the possibilities we might face. I contacted other parents of triplets and found our conversations to be inspirational. Everyone I spoke to agreed about one thing – we would need a tremendous amount of help.
The search began for a support network in our community. This was most challenging because we weren't sure of exactally what kind of help we would need. By making our situation known to neighbors and friends, we were fortunate to receive an overwhelming amount of support and including: prepared meals for my family, child-care for my four-year-old son, rides to my doctor, and later, volunteers who helped me feed my babies while my husband was at work.
At twenty-three weeks gestation I had my third sonogram to monitor fetal development. My doctor found baby “C” to be considerably smaller than babies, “A” and “B.” This was a major concern , because it is common to have a weaker baby in the case of super twins, and often the smaller fetus must fight harder for nourishment as the stronger, larger fetuses use most of the supply provided. It was very soon to detect such a difference in size. Baby “C” would also be at risk during the birth process due to her position as the last of the three to be born. People we didn't even know were praying for our babies, and especially for baby “C.”
As the thirty-fourth week approached, we couldn't help but feel fairly confident that the babies would be in reasonably good condition. Baby “C” had caught up in her growth, and the sonograms showed good fetal development. The in-home monitor that I used daily showed continually decreasing contraction activity. I was in extreme discomfort, and it was apparent that my body would not be able to handle much more of the babies rapid growth.
Acting on the theory that my uterus had become so distended that it had lost its ability to contract, we agreed that I would have to be scheduled for a cesarean section delivery. The big question was when? Waiting too long could be even more disastrous for my babies and myself.
We scheduled surgery for January 15, 1988. My due date was February19. The babies would be at 35 weeks gestational age. We knew we would not be taking the home for some time because they would need special care in the neo-natal intensive care unit (NICU). My doctor, husband, and I hoped that this would have the least possible risks considering all factors.
That night we prayed that we were making the best possible decision. I prayed for my babies, I prayed for myself, I prayed for my family. If our outcome was not good, would I always blame my self for using Pergonal to conceive? I wanted my babies to be healthy, I wanted to keep them together, and I wanted to take them home.
The big day finally arrived. The operating room was packed with people. Each baby had to have its own pediatrician/neo-natoligist, resperatory therapist and nurse. Counting the surgical staff, the anesthesiologist, my husband, the babies and me, there were twenty one people present. I elected to have an epidural, so I was awake for the event.
It was 6:30 a.m. On a r ainy morning and I remember asking the doctors if they had made time to have theircoffee. My husband was at my side all the way, We were ready!
Desiree Leanne was born at 6:50 a.m., weighing 4 pounds 8 ounces. She was whisked away immediately and though the anesthesiologist turned my head, all I saw was a blur. Joseph J, arrived at 6:51 weighing 5five pounds. I got to reach our and touch his foot as he was taken to his isolette. The placenta was tearing away prematurely, and baby “C” had to come out fast. The doctor reached in and pulled her out by her feet. Cassandra Michelle was born 6:53 a.m. and weighed 4 pouinds , 5 ounces, a very pink, healthy baby.
Desiree and Joseph had to go on ventilators for a couple of days, but when I left the recovery room the nurse wheeled me right into the NICU and put Cassandra in my arms. She was one hour old, and she was beautiful! I longed to hold my other babies.
The excitement in the hospital that day was incredible. The staff was wonderful. Most of the nurses and doctors who were in the OR came to visit me later. By the time my doctor came back, my room was filled with flowers and balloons. He was happy that the babies were doing so well, and told me I couldn't have carried them much longer because the right side of my uterus was stretched so thin that it could have ruptured at any moment at any moment. What a relief to know that the timing was just right.
It was three days before we got to hold Desiree or Joseph, but we touched them and talked to them whenever we came into the room. When we finally held them it was indescribable to have such an intense bond with each of our three babies. We knew that this experience was a very unique gift from God.
The two weeks we spent with our babies in the NICU ward gave us a whole new perspective of life. The babies we saw fighting for their lives, the families we met, and the commitment of the NICU staff was such an inspiration. We laughed and we cried and and felt a very closeness to people we hardly knew and probably would never see again. We knew that this time in our lives would always be more than just a memory.
Cassandra came home 10 days after her birth. She weighed four pounds and wore doll cloches. Somehow, with the help of my mother, we managed to care for her and make the 80 mile round trip to the hospital to feed and hold Desiree and Joseph every day. Having had very little sleep, and still recovering from surgery, I found this to be more exhausting than having them all home to care for. Fortunately Desiree and Joseph were discharged together four days later.
My dream had come true. They were healthy, we were all together, and we were
Watching our babies grow has been an incredible privilege. At first I feared for their well being as individuals. But now it is apparent to me that they are indeed separate individuals with a special relationship to one another. When I watch them play I am convinced that being a super-twin is a rare and wonderful gift. I am constantly reminded of what could have been, and just how blessed we are.
As their first birthday approached, I found myself reflecting on the past five years, and how I had come full circle. There was a part of my infertile self that would never be forgotten. I now had a special understanding of the infertility crisis and how devastating it can feel. This experience has given me more endurance and patience than I ever had before.
Being a mother of four healthy children is not something I take for granted. It gives me great joy to have my family tackle the enormous responsibility of life with triplets. We are tired at the end of each day, but feel a sense of accomplishment and purpose that is hard to describe.
I am currently a member of the Board of Directors for “The Triplet Connection,” and am deeply committed towards helping to improve the quality of life for multiples and their families.
I hope each of my children will love each other as exceptional individuals, and that our family will always appreciate how extraordinary it is to be blessed with three children at one time.