There are moments of isolation and guilt associated with being a triplet mom. So often when I am in public, if someone says I’m a “super mom,” I am massively uncomfortable, because I often feel like these triplets aren’t mine. Yes, they were conceived by my husband and I, and yes, they were spontaneous and I carried them in utero for 28 weeks and 4 days. But I somehow still cannot bridge the gap between believing they are mine like I can the other two singletons I have. Why?
One problem was my lack of bonding with them in utero. I was warned from early on the multitude of risks associated with triplet pregnancies, and so I was afraid each day that one was going to die. As a coping mechanism, I wouldn’t allow myself to bond with them in case they didn’t make it. I also couldn’t bond with them because I couldn’t tell who was moving most of the time. With my other pregnancies, my kids would have certain times they were very active, or hiccup, or react to noises or light. I could envision chubby babies growing inside of me. This time, it was hard to visualize three babies inside of me. How were they positioned? How big were they? Who was reacting to what and when? Even today, when people see triplets, they make comments like “I’ve never seen triplets before!” as if they will somehow look different from the average child. Our mind is primed to think they are somehow different, so they should look different too. My mind played the same trick, and so I couldn’t quite envision them as little babies in my tummy. Then of course, in a cruel turn of events, when I started feeling a bond with one baby, we found out she was the one with the highest likelihood of dying because of poor blood flow to her umbilical cord. Today, of course, they are all here, healthy and vibrant. I have wholly bonded with all three babies. But it was a different road getting to this point. I still feel the residual pang of guilt for not bonding with them sooner.
Another problem is that I simply feel inadequate to care for each babies needs. Yes, I can care for them on my own, but it’s not like I can pick them all up at the same time (at least, it’s not comfortable and not a sustainable or safe practice). They have spared me that stress generally and don’t cry at the same time, but in the back of my mind I’m constantly worried about not being able to “be there” for all three exactly when they need me. This to me is a huge part of being a mom- being there, comforting, loving, cuddling your kids at exactly the right time. In addition, part of the cuddling time happens when you are drinking a bottle or nursing, and there necessarily is going to be someone I can’t hold at when everyone eats at the same time. If I am holding them, there’s a stress involved with monitoring all three at the same time for choking, spit up, empty bottles, etc. In other words, it is hard to be in the moment with them. This is something I know I will have to just continue to work on daily. There will be pockets of time for each kid, and I will be there for each kid when I can. I have to just savor those one-on-one moments and recognize that it’s better than nothing.
I also feel guilty for my initial disdain about having triplets. Don’t get me wrong. Now that they are here, I love them so much and I really can’t imagine life without them. But there were moments during pregnancy when I was not excited. People often say how lucky we are, and that we hit the baby jackpot. This is entirely true. But I was wholly unprepared for that jackpot. We had no problems with fertility and no multiples on either side of our families. So when I found out I was pregnant, the possibility of more than one baby, let alone more than two babies, was utterly absent from my radar. I cannot imagine the pain associated with infertility. I am very aware that I may upset people by these words, and I really do not want to hurt anyone’s feelings. I know we are incredibly lucky and that so many people are envious of our luck. I simply wish my reaction would have been more positive. Knowing what I know now about how amazing these little beings are, I regret those initial feelings of disappointment. That’s where this website comes in. I really hope to help other moms with managing expectations for triplets. I want to shed light on the good parts of having triplets because there are so so many good parts. I hope that hearing about life with triplets will spare someone else from having the regret I feel about my initial reaction.
One final piece of guilt I have is that we do have help. We hired a nanny to help me get the big kids out the door in the mornings and to help with doctors appointments. I am also able to go on errands without the babies. I feel terrible because I know so many other moms don’t have help. I feel like moms without any help are true moms, and my nurturing with a helper is not the same. Don’t get me wrong. I am very often on my own with all 5 kids. I take them on outings alone. My husband works odd hours, so I often feed everyone dinner, get everyone ready for bed, read them stories, and get the house straightened up after dinner alone. During the summertime I was on my own with the 5 kids almost every day. My husband also works some weekends so I am alone on weekends as well. I do nurture and care for them alone. But somehow having help makes those hours without help seem insignificant. Before the triplets, I managed a busy law career, 2 young children, and the entire household on my own because my husband worked ridiculously long hours as a surgery resident. I prided myself on my independence and ability to juggle it all. The truth is that decades ago, we were never expected to do this all alone. Families rallied around each other to help when children were born. The term “it takes a village” is true. I don’t have to be a martyr anymore. It is OK to ask for help and to recognize that while I can do this alone, I don’t have to. I am a better mom because I recognize my shortcomings and ask for help.
The central theme here is guilt. I’ve experienced mom guilt before with my singletons, but the triplets took it to a whole new level. But I am working on forgiving myself, recognizing my feelings, accepting my limitations, and allowing myself to move past these initial feelings into new feelings of acceptance and satisfaction. This morning I was on my own. I spent time with my older kids snuggling in bed before we got up for the day. We had breakfast together, then went to the babies’ room. We sang and danced while I got the babies bottles, changed them, and dressed them. I got the babies in shoes and jackets and we got out the door to wait for the school bus. Everyone’s needs were met. All five kids were kissed, talked to, played with, fed, comfortable, clean, and warm. We had fun together. It feels pretty darn good to make that happen.