For a little over a year, I’ve had the privilege of being a speaker at Swedish Hospital’s Childbirth Preparation for Multiples. This is the same class we attended four years ago. It remains near and dear to our hearts, because it was the second most helpful thing* we had to cope with the OH MY GOD, WE’RE HAVING TRIPLETS, WHAT DO WE DO phase of our lives.
People always ask me how early we found out, as a way of judging how long we had to adjust to the shock, or if we ever did. And, honestly? No, I don’t think my brain has ever recovered from the realization that three human beings were growing in, and going to come out of me. That shock went through a rainbow of stages: fear, awe, horror, love, stress, humility, anguish, relief…the list goes on and on, but the enormity of it has yet to wear off.
True, they’re three now. Things are better. Multiple life has given way to a tricky sense of normalcy: I often forget that most no-one else’s life is like this.
But in the beginning, before and after their birth, it is all so mind-bogglingly overwhelming. You don’t know where to start. You don’t know what you need. You don’t know how to prepare. And the range of books on the subject are woefully lacking.
There are books on twin pregnancy out there, and multiples are mentioned-in-passing in most of the mainstream pregnancy books. But triplets? Higher-order multiples? Not a lot of luck. And here’s another wrench: there’s a lot that works for twins that doesn’t work for triplets. The risks are greater, the delivery is different, care strategies, breastfeeding, logistics – it’s as if the people who know what to expect don’t want to tell you. Because they know EXACTLY how insanely difficult it is. And they REALLY don’t want to scare you. Which is fair, because the Golden Rule of Multiple Pregnancy is: DON’T SCARE THE PREGNANT LADY.
What’s not fair is finding yourself getting shelled in the trenches after they’re born, discovering challenges as they hit you and realizing you have no time for battle plans, let alone sleep.
This class saved our sanity. (Which, by extension, could probably be credited with saving the relationships of everyone in our class.) Although it couldn’t possibly cover everything, it gave us hard, actual information about what we would face and how to cope with it. It took some of the fear of the NICU away, acclimated us to the reality of caring for more than one infant, and removed the mystique of c-sections. Although. That last one was kind of brutal. I’m sitting here remembering it, still cringing.
And it gave us a panel of new parents. Telling us their real-life stories and things we would never have known to ask. Parts of their stories were scary, other parts were inspiring. But all were daunting. When I first joined the panel last year, I felt almost guilty for participating when our girls are now so much older. Does my information apply? Is our story helpful?
And especially with this blog, now that I have some time to write about it, it’s been years. Is it even relevant?
I think now that it is, because I never thought I’d ever be able to say this experience got easier. But I look back and I can see we’ve gone beyond the light at the end of the tunnel. And it’s important to let those in the trenches know that the light’s even there.
*The first most helpful thing was finding a kick-ass perinatal group (high-risk pregnancy doctors). Ours was Swedish Perinatal Medicine Clinic. If you don’t have a perinatal doctor, GET ONE. If you have a perinatal doctor and you don’t like them, SWITCH. It makes a difference. The one between life & death. Not kidding.
**The third most helpful thing was joining a Mothers of Multiples Club. This one kept me sane.