On our walk to our car while we were leaving last night, Rob and I discussed how much more difficult it is to have three babies having rough NICU moments (or hours, as yesterday was) than to just have one.

Up until yesterday, each baby has had his or her cycles in which he or she keeps the nurse (and Mommy and Daddy) on her toes. Oxygen levels drop, breathing stops, heartrates drop – it’s all normal premature-baby behavior. Preemies aren’t supposed to be breathing on their own yet, so they often don’t realize they can’t just stop for a break if they’re tired or too comfy or whatnot. It’s normal, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy.

When it’s just one baby, though, as it has been pretty regularly as they switch turns between who’s called the trouble maker for the shift, it’s easy to hang out at their isolette, keep a hand on their head, let them know you’re there, soothe them, tell them to breathe deeply and occasionally pat their little butts if they need a reminder that it’s time to breathe.

Last night, all three babies had a few rough hours. One would drop, then the next, then the next. One would have a bad apnea episode, then the next. This all happens to the sights and sounds of dinging alarms and flashing lights. Rob and I hopped between isolettes, the nurses played musical babies (along with their other duties like keeping up with assessments, feeds, etc.), and when a break finally hit in the chaos, I quietly fell to pieces in the corner as I prepared my latest pumped milk for the freezer.

Minutes later, they were at it again.

Add to our own personal chaos the noises in the rest of the NICU – other babies’ monitors going off, other babies crying, other families snapping happy photos using their flash – and it’s the perfect recipe for Mama Tears.

It’s no lie when NICU veterans call the experience a rollercoaster no one will let you off of.

It isn’t my idea of a fun rollercoaster, though. Many readers may remember the rollercoaster we experienced at the beginning of my pregnancy with our sweet trio. I called that time the rollercoaster of my life. Not so much anymore. Cedar Point, I still think we should talk.

I know many of you are getting ready to comment that parenthood itself is one big rollercoaster and the range of emotions I’m feeling is akin to that of all parents, whether their babies are in the NICU or not. You can halt those comments, though, because I KNOW THAT. Those comments will only make me feel worse for having bad days and reacting in any way other than calm and cool.

Like I said, normal doesn’t mean it’s easy.


Earlier this week, I tried to write about the babies’ birthday. Before I could even touch pen to paper, I realized I wasn’t sitting down to write about the happiest day of my life, and that made me feel awful. I should be happy about that day, right?

After talking with Rob and other preemie parents, I feel better knowing that it’s entirely normal to call the day of a premature birth the scariest day of one’s life. For me, it’s the second scariest, as the first was the day I was admitted for preterm labor when I was only 25 weeks pregnant.

So instead of writing a sweet story of love and hearts and happy feelings, I’m going to get down the (sometimes graphic) details and hope that one day I can return and fill it with happy thoughts.

I had taken three 6-hour doses of terbutaline over the last 17 hours and was due for another dose in 90 minutes when I woke up at 5 a.m. on Nov. 22. I had to pee, so I decided to heave myself up and return to bed for a little more sleep before dosing again. I had an appointment at 10:30 with our perinatologist group and hadn’t felt any more contractions, so I was just dosing and waiting.

As soon as I stood up, I felt a huge gush of warmth. Thinking I had finally peed myself, I hurried for the bathroom with my hands cupped over my crotch, hoping to not leave a huge trail of pee that I’d have to wake Rob to help clean. The gushing happened again, and I knew – before I could hit the light – that this wasn’t urine.

I turned my bathroom into a crime scene as I yelled for Rob to wake up, told him I was bleeding and that we needed to go to the hospital NOW. He was in the bathroom in a flash, and as I sat on the toilet and tried my hardest to hold back the tears and shaking, Rob rushed around to find me something clean (for a minute, at least) to wear while getting dressed and cleaning the floor so I wouldn’t slip.

Finally, after several attempts to stand without losing more fluid, I gave up, and we made our way out the door.

We’re fortunate to live close to the hospital, and we were even more fortunate that this happened at 5 a.m. Rob was able to race us to the hospital at speeds well over the limit, and we got there without anyone getting in our way – including ticket-writing police officers.

I spent the ride reclined in the backseat of our new tripletmoblie, and tried calling the hospital to let them know we were coming. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any phone numbers with me, so I tried Verizon’s 411 service.

Well, guess who needs to update their phone numbers? VERIZON. Two attempts later, I realized they never updated the new exchanges the hospital system changed to in the last year.

(Someone remind me to call and complain about that. I’ve been meaning to, but you know.)

So instead of giving a few minutes’ heads up, we did a movie-scene reenactment with Rob pulling up to the front door, running in to announce his bleeding, contracting (I started to notice those on the ride to the hospital) 28-weeks-pregnant-with-triplets wife.

And, like something in the movies, I swear the front-desk lady moseyed her way to a wheelchair and out to get me, taking her sweet time.

Finally, we got back into triage, and more moseying took place. One hour, one speculum exam and a few swab swipes later, the laborist on duty in triage announced that my membranes most likely ruptured and that he’d send the swab to the lab. We’d get definitely results in 45 minutes. The triage nurse assured me I wasn’t having “real” contractions – just an irritable uterus – but instead of waiting those 45 minutes, Rob insisted that someone tell our doctor, who just so happened to be down the hall that night.

Five minutes later, a second nurse came in while on the phone with our doctor, confirmed to her that I was having regular contractions (to which the triage nurse agreed – thanks for lying) and told me I was being admitted and prepped for a c-section in the next hour or two.

Rob called our parents and told them to come up, that the babies would be here soon.

From then, I think all that happened was fairly typical c-section preparation. The anesthesiologist came in to talk with me and explain a spinal block. Nurses weaved in and out of my room (which I had spent two nights in three weeks prior – it’s the only L&D room with a triplet monitor), and we heard about the huge team that was being assembled.

Originally set for 8:30 a.m., my surgery was pushed back to 9 to allow a second neonatologist to arrive. Finally, they came to take me into surgery, and Rob told me he’d see me soon.

People lined the hall outside my OR, and I was pretty shocked to see how stark and bright it was. I climbed up on my bed, which I remember thinking looked a lot different from the movies, and got into position for my spinal. Soon, my legs were warm and heavy, and they got me into position.

I’ve never felt more exposed and vulnerable in my life. A tiny portion of my brain told me I should be embarrassed, and another portion noted that I must look like a beached whale of a crucifix impersonator (my arms were spread eagle, but I got to skip being strapped down).

The curtain went up, more voices filled the room, and they sent someone to get Rob. He had already been in the next room (we technically had two ORs – three isolettes wouldn’t fit in just one), so he was to me just seconds after the request.

Moments later, they said they were starting, and moments after that, someone announced that the first out was our only boy.

I laughed. Rob cheered. The doctors laughed. He had hoped all along that Toby would be born first so he would always know his role as big brother was to protect his sisters.

Then I heard him cry, and the tears of relief started. Our Baby A came out easy-breeze next, then Baby C – Ninja Baby – decided she wanted to hang on for dear life. I felt pressure from the outside just below my breast and a lot of pulling from the inside. Rob and my doctor tell me she had to go elbow deep to pull Callista out, but finally, they announced her birth.

I didn’t hear her cry for a few moments, then, from her corner of the room, I heard it.

Three crying babies. Three living babies. Thank God.

Sewing me back together seemed to take forever, but I got reassurance after reassurance that everything looked absolutely perfect on my end. I wasn’t hemorrhaging (another of my biggest delivery fears), and my uterus was in perfect condition.

Rob was able to get a few photos of the babies to show me before they were whisked off to the NICU for stabilization and assessment, and when I was put back together, I was sent back to L&D for my one-hour recovery.

The doctors had to make a vertical incision in my uterus, and let me tell you how much that incision hurts to have the belly-mashing they need to do post-c-section to check for bleeding. Rob swears it looked like the nurse’s arm went straight to my spine during that first critical hour of recovery. I can assure you it did.

She’s lucky I was preoccupied with thoughts of my babies. Otherwise, she would have gotten punched.

Finally, around noon, we were able to leave L&D for my room in mother-baby. On the way, we finally got to visit the NICU, and I finally laid eyes and a hand on my babies.

Each baby gripped my finger, and each looked beautiful. One nurse told Rob and I to pose and smile next to Toby’s isolette, and I remember thinking it was so very difficult to smile when all I could do was pray that they would live.

Amazingly, the picture came out well. I wish we had one with all three babies.

The rest of the day was spent from update to update, just waiting to hear more good news on each baby. Once I started pumping that afternoon, Rob took down each small bottle and returned with news. Finally, around 11 that night, when I was free of catheter and IV, I made it back down to the NICU to again see my babies.

A long, exhausting day – for body, mind and soul.

I’m not sure I had any real moments of true happiness that day, but the memory of several moments of sweet relief are going to have to be enough for now. I’m hopeful that those and each day that pass will tilt the scales on the day, from terrifying to happy.

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43 Responses to 3x the worry & an attempted birth story

  1. I think this confirmed to be that you are one of the bravest wonderful people that I have ever known. (((((())))))

  2. Diana says:

    NO ONE should ever say on here that your experiences right now, or anytime in the future, will be one of many hard times as a parents. Or give you advice or “chin up” or lectures on things to come. Unless they have had triplets in the NICU.

    You are an amazing woman, a wonderful mother. Everyone who reads this knows the strength you have to go through this – whether you think you really have an option to or not. The way you handle it says a lot.

    We love and are praying for all 5 of you.

  3. Tessa says:

    we’ve thought of you guys every day through your whole journey with these beautiful babies! thank you so much for sharing this. a big hug (or 5) coming your family’s way from us 3.

  4. Nanna says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this, and for being honest as you did so. My labor with Kermie began with a terrifying late-night gush of blood, complete with bloody handprint smears on the wall where I had been reaching for the light switch, thinking I too had peed myself, a mad dash to the hospital and the creepy conversation to make sure my husband knew my advanced directive wishes. To this day I remember so clearly those first few moments and the fear I felt. I know a number of preemie moms who to this day with struggle with the same feelings you have – guilt that your babies’ birthday isn’t a happy memory. You aren’t alone, and you ARE normal, and that makes you perfect. Continued love and light for all 5 of you!

  5. Alli J says:

    I’m choking back tears from your emotional post. We’re expecting twin girls after a long bout with infertility (second time around – we’re blessed with a beautiful three year old daughter from our first attempt). I’m 18 weeks and counting, and just praying for a nice long, uneventful pregnancy from here on out. Congratulations on your three miracles, and may your journey be happy and joyous from here on out!

  6. TripleZmom says:

    I am in awe of you right now. Thank you for sharing your journey. Thinking of you and your babies.

  7. Miranda says:

    Beautifully written birth story, Jenny. I’m praying for your babies.

  8. Lisa says:

    We had a week in the NICU with a full term baby. Baby blues hit me hard. The thought of three times that with premature babies I just can’t fathom. Thinking of you and hoping for fewer and fewer of those worrisome moments.

  9. Kristin says:

    Wow. It sounds like you have your hands full. And your heart full. As a NICU vet, I won’t tell you that your time in the NICU will be easy. You will have memories. Some of them good, some of them so terrifying that the mere thought of them immediately causes tears to well up in your eyes. The NICU time is all-consuming. Speaking from 11 years post-NICU, I look back at the hospital memories with a grateful heart. A) because I’m not currently living them. And B) because if it weren’t for the nurses, neonatologist, respiratory therapists and everyone else in the NICU, my son’s outcome would have been different. Love, prayers, and more love to you and yours.

  10. Law Momma says:

    Well this made me cry.

    You, Rob and your darling babies are in my thoughts and prayers at every minute.

    Lots of love!

    And yeah, motherhood is a rollercoaster… but that is NOTHING compared to what you’re going through. Hang in there, mama; you’re entitled to several breakdowns now and again. You wouldn’t be human if you didn’t have them.

  11. Rebekah C says:

    *gentle hugs* You don’t need to defend your feelings here. I can see why it would be the scariest day of your life. The only thing offsetting the nightmare is three breathing, crying, precious little babies. You must’ve been (and probably still are) terrified! I can’t even imagine.

    I can’t agree that these particular ups and downs are a normal part of motherhood, unless you were to take all of the heart-stopping fear moments in years and compress them down to a few hours of experiences.

    Bless you and your family.

  12. Suz says:

    Much love & hugs to you! Thanks for sharing your story & baby updates. Y’all continue to be in my thoughts & prayers.

  13. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Laura Hager, Rebecca and Paths Diverged, Jenny. Jenny said: 3x the worry & an attempted birth story: http://bit.ly/dNfxX9 #preemie #nicu […]

  14. Beth says:

    Your story just about brought tears to my eyes as I remembered those details about my own c-section-laying out like I was being crucified, remembering that I probably should be horribly embarassed at such an exposed position but really not feeling it at all, the incision pain when they check you afterwards…ugh! And then hearing that cry. Best sound in the world.
    It is such a roller coaster of emotions to have a “normal” birth and I cannot imagine how you must feel with the added concerns. I wish you and your family the best.

  15. Molly says:

    Oh girl, I’m sure there are so many crazy awful memories surrounding your babies’ birthday. My heart is pounding just reading about it.

    My first son was full-term but he was not breathing. Apgar score of 1. They resuscitated him right in front of me. He was whisked away to the NICU for what felt like an eternity. But it was only an hour. One hour in which I don’t remember breathing.at.all. I think my heart stopped during that time.

    So I cannot imagine what you’re going through. It doesn’t even come close and I’m not about to tell you how to feel. I only got a tiny moment of the worst fear you could ever have. You’re living it every day and I’m so sorry that what should have been the happiest day just cannot be.

    Even though I’ve never met you I want you to know that I’m thinking about what you’re going through. We’re all here for you and I don’t think any of us expect you to have the same thoughts and feelings that your average new mom would have. So please just be honest. And we’ll be here to lift you up when you need it most.

    Huge hugs and prayers for the fear and panic to lessen with each day.

  16. carrie says:

    Thank you so much for writing this! I remember when you first posted that you were blessed with babies that were hanging on. Now I am sitting here half in tears. I am just so happy for all FIVE of you!! Keep these stories coming!!

  17. sarah says:

    hugs to you and rob today, and always!

  18. Grace says:

    Those babies are fighters! Your mommy love and sacrifice shine through in this post. What a miracle those sweeties are! Enjoy your holidays and watching them get stronger with each day of precious life!

  19. Beth says:

    My goodness I cant wait to hug you again.

  20. Heather says:

    I cannot tell you how much this sounds exactly like our birth story of the girls (- the third baby!) It was the 2nd scariest day of my life as well, at the time it had been my first though, only changed to my second after an emergency ambulance ride with Lilah a few days after coming home from the NICU. The only other thing different was that there was no moseying by nurses or docs on our end because when we rushed in at 3 am and they checked me  was already 10 cm dialated and trying not to push two breach babies out…thus the fact outs were born at 3:59 and 4:02 am. 

    Let me just tell you, a few months from now or even a year or 16 months (like my girls are now) you will look back at this time and be utterly amazed at all you went through and even more amazed at all your tiny babies have accomplished in such a short time in this world. Some grown adults have never had to be the fighters that these miracle babies have had to be.

    I look at my girls every day and think back to how it all began and I thank my lucky stars that that horrible day led to the place we are in now. 

    I continue to watch your story unfold and pray for you daily! 

  21. Jennie says:

    In tears once again! You are an inspiration and one hellova Momma already!

  22. Lynn/PA says:

    First of all, I am sorry you are on the roller coaster – one that we hope no one ever has to be on. Secondly, I hope there are nurses that read this who see from a patient’s standpoint that we do hang on their every move and word from their mouths. I am so thankful that the NICU nurse got a photo of you. Those precious, albeit scary, moments are ones that some day you will look back and cherish with a happy heart. Right now you are beyond knee deep in all of this. That coupled with sleep deprivation – I give you one million bonus points for typing something coherent.
    Stay strong!

  23. Courtney L. says:

    Hey mama! Your story is amazing and don’t for one second think that you are not allowed to feel the feelings that you are! I have been a NICU parent twice now and it doesn’t get any easier. Those days, weeks, and/or months are THE biggest roller coaster of emotions you will probably every feel! I just remember finally bringing my little bundles home from the NICU and just being utterly exhausted!! With the feedings every 3 hours, the pumping, the emotions, the time spent trying to bond with your baby all while a thick piece of plastic separates you; it can be all too much sometimes. Your feelings are justified and I can honestly say, I have yet to be on an emotional roller coaster like I was in the NICU.

    So, let those tears flow and hug those babies tight! You’re their mama and you’re allowed to have those moments! :)

  24. I love you and your triplets. You are so brave and amazing for sharing this story.

  25. Jennifer says:

    Darling Jenny,

    You are one strong mama. You inspire with your story. Thank you so much for sharing and keep up the fabulous work!! It is a marathon- we are all cheering for you!

  26. harmskills says:

    thank you for sharing. i cant wait to read more about their progress take care!

  27. Jill says:

    That is a beautiful story, no matter what emotions might be attached to it. You, Rob and those babies are one beautiful love story!

  28. Curbsideprophet says:

    Thanks for sharing your story. You are amazing.

  29. {{Hugs}} I can only try to imagine how insane and scary that day was for you. You are incredible and thank you for sharing.

    Continued thoughts to you and your gorgeous family!

  30. How terrifying. I can only imagine the strength it took for you to get through that day. You’ve come so far, and so have the babies! I hope they get really strong really fast and give you a little bit of a break soon. Hang in there :)

  31. kate says:

    Thank you so much for posting your miraculous and wonderful birth story. Although my daughter was not a preemie, as a NICU vet, I am praying that your three babies have the same outcome that my daughter had. She’s turning three this month. I don’t know how preemie parents do it. You all are the bravest and strongest people I know. I just found your blog on your babies’ birthday but please know you have been thought of often since.

  32. Annalien says:

    I don’t think anybody will think less of you for not staying cool and calm the whole time! I have never had a baby in the NICU, so I can only imagine your fears and emotions. Please know that I am praying for you and your beautiful babies. Don’t try to be too strong, and certainly don’t feel guilty when you have a breakdown. Often one feels better after a bout of tears, hey? Your strength has amazed me throughout this journey of yours and I know it will keep you going until this rollercoaster ends.

  33. Becca says:

    I can assure you that I only had .2 seconds of real, true happiness on the day that my son was born, and that the NICU, the inability to hold him, and the birth injurt all greatly overshadow that, and it’s definitely not recalled as the happiest day of my life. I can only imagine how much more difficult it is with babies born so early and THREE of them, so I wish that I could give you a hug through the computer screen. The NICU is the hardest thing I have ever dealt with and just remember, even though it seems like it will last forever, it won’t. Your babies will be home with you before you know it and you’ll get to hold them and snuggle them anytime you want. Big hugs, Jenny.

  34. Rebecca says:

    Hi, I can tell you after having been the mother of 2 full term babies and the grandmother of 2 preemies, the first a micro at 1 lb 15 oz, 26.5 wker, first hand what you are goinng through is NOTHING what so ever like anything anyone with a full term pregnancy can imagine. I had no idea until I watched the whole journey first hand.

    The first time I caught sight of you was about 2 hours before you actually delivered your precious three some. Then next thing I saw was the babies had arrived and you were happily posting on twitter. I was worried, because I knew what was ahead of you. It is grueling, exhausting and emotions are raw. You will see and hear things no one else can imagine. If your little ones are doing well, your neighbor’s may be having a real bad day. There are sounds and smells that will send me spinning back to the NICU where I was by my daughter’s side the entire 24/7 with #1 to this day. It’s been 7 years. The toughest thing I have ever done, but by far the most rewarding.

    One at a time was hard enough to worry about, I can not even imagine the strain of 3. I know you will somehow find the strength to survive this. It is because of our experience, the mom’s like yourself the I started AvaBaby’s & Today’s Preemie. My goals for TP is to share some of what I learned, and have learned since, plus get to meet and bring together mom’s, dad’s, grandma’s, grandpa’s and everyone who has been touched by the presence of their little preemie.

    I’ll be following you, and wishing you and your little brood all the best. Rebecca

  35. uncjules says:

    It brings tears to my eyes to think about how scary/exciting/nerve-wracking/wonderful that day was for you. I can’t imagine how you managed. You are an incredibly strong woman!

  36. thenextmartha says:

    What an amazing story you have. Thanks for sharing. You’ve been in my thoughts the whole time.

  37. Mama Fisch says:

    I am impressed that you remembered so much. I do not unfortunately… Hugs to your family of five. You are all fighters and amazing! Hope you get some settling time and the scares become less and less. We are all fighting for your family!

  38. Angela says:

    Don’t you love how attentive middle of the night triage nurses are. I had one tell me last week numbness in the left arm and face was just a normal sign of pregnancy, ARRGG! I just wanted you to know I am praying for you three. I am pregnant with twins, 28w1d, and have had a very similar experience so far, with the hospitalization and such. So I know a little of what you are going through. Your three seem to be such fighters, I can’t wait to see your posts about them coming home and crawling around your house and giggling at each other. Praying for you and your hubby too.

  39. Schwandy says:

    That is a beautiful story. C-sections are hard as it is, I couldn’t imagine how scary a c-section with preemies could be.
    You are a strong women and there are so many prayers going out to you and those 3 babes.
    Those babies are so lucky to have you as a mom.

  40. pam says:

    hugs, mama! you did great.

    let me tell you, they’re going to pull the same one-two-three-let’s-all-gang-up-on-mom-and-dad-at-the-same-time crap when they’re older. they’re just practicing now.

  41. jen says:

    Beautiful birth story. Truly.

    Maybe your range of emotions is akin to that of all parents – we all worry, we all feel joy at milestones, we all break down and cry in the corner – but I’m willing to venture that yours is the big scary cousin of the family of emotions. The one that possibly did time and had to be sent away to boarding school and grew a full beard at 11. You have every right to bad days and I hope that you have even more wonderful days because of that. But please, girl. Cool and collected? psh.

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