In ninety seconds we went from a family of three to a family of six. We knew we were going to have triplets six days before they were born. The due date was April 10. They were born ten weeks early by cesarean section. We had no idea what to expect. We were supposed to have our cesarean class the afternoon of their birth.
The morning began like any other day. Any other day with the knowledge we were going to be the parents of triplets. During the last weeks of the pregnancy the doctor was becoming concerned because my wife was gaining more weight and size than was considered normal.
“The same thing happened when I was carrying our daughter”, my wife said.
“This is not the same thing. You are beyond where you would have been normally. We need to make sure everything is okay”, the doctor said.
He scheduled my wife for an ultrasound. The day of the procedure as the technician was doing the scan, the screen appeared to be covered with arms and legs.
“My God! It’s triplets!” the tech yelled.
My wife began hyperventilating, I tried not to pass out. The tech left for room to get help. Another tech came in, looked at the screen and said, “No, it’s just twins”. We were supposed to be relieved. It didn’t work. The doctor scheduled us with a specialist at a large medical center about thirty miles away.
A few days later we made our way to the medical center that very soon would become our home. We met with the specialist, a wonderful obstetrician. He gently began another detailed ultrasound that included measuring bones for comparison. He measured the two babies. As he was about to finish, all of a sudden he said, “Young lady, you have three in there.” Two were head-down, the third was across the feet of the other two.
The doctor did his best to assure us everything was going to be okay. He told my wife to go home, go to bed and stay there. Our weekly visits with our local obstetrician would continue until the babies were born.
The day began uneventfully with our normal visit to the clinic to meet with my wife’s doctor. We were quickly ushered into an exam room so she could lie down while waiting for the doctor. Our local doctor was a gentle, elderly man who was a trusted figure in our community. He often carried a corn-cob pipe, which was with him today. He did the normal exam, then leaned back on the table.
“We are really looking forward to the birth of these babies. We have a team of doctors who will be meeting this afternoon so that we can plan our strategy for the birth, for caring for the babies, and for you. This is the thirtieth anniversary of our hospital, and it has been thirty years since triplets were born in our community.”
We listened intently, and felt more calm the longer he talked. Then everything changed.
“Of course, all of our plans are shot down because you are in labor and you need to go to the medical center right now. Are you not feeling anything? he asked my wife.
“No”, she answered while tears began to roll down her cheeks.
“You are beginning to dilate. You are having contractions and we need to get you to the medical center as soon as possible”, the doctor said.
An ambulance was considered, but the doctor assured us I could drive my wife to the hospital. He told me to go home to retrieve anything my wife would need and come back to pick her up. We were soon on our way. I drove eighty-five miles an hour, hoping to see a State Trooper or Sheriff Deputy, but none were to be found.
When we arrived at the medical center, our doctor came in and really tried to comfort us, but he wasn’t successful. He then tried to explain what was going to happen.
“We could give your wife a drug that would stop the labor. However, if the drug doesn’t work and the babies are born anyway, your wife now has a drug in her system she doesn’t need, and the babies do as well. If we go in and get them now, we have all the people here that we will need. If we wait and they are born in the middle of the night, we might not have the team here that we need.”
I didn’t know what to think or say, but then had a thought. “Doctor, if she was your wife, what would you do?” I asked.
The doctor then examined my wife again and said, “This decision has already been made for us. She has dilated more and we need to go in and get them now.”
A nurse standing close by said, “Doctor, they were supposed to have their cesarean class this afternoon.”
“They told me they already had their class”, and he looked at me and winked.
“That’s right”, I said. I was taken from the room and dressed for the procedure.
When I next saw my wife, she was lying on an operating table, surrounded by equipment, doctors, and nurses. She had a sheet just below her chin that blocked her view. Her arms were stretched out to the sides with IVs in each. I was seated on a stool close her to head and encouraged to talk to Mary and try to keep her calm. They forgot to appoint someone to keep me calm.
“Is everyone ready?” the doctor asked. “I’m going in.” He then proceeded to make an incision and immediately a great deal of liquid poured from my wife’s abdomen. Within just a few seconds, the doctor lifted a very small baby and said, “Baby number one is a boy”, and handed the infant to a nurse who quickly left the room. “Baby number two is a boy”, and again the baby was literally run from the room. “Baby number three is a boy”, and the same thing happened again.
I noticed a tear rolling down my wife’s cheek and I asked, “What’s the matter? Everything is fine. They’re okay.”
“I don’t hear them crying”, she said.
I told her the babies had all been taken from the room immediately and they were doing fine, even though I hadn’t yet seen them.
The head of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) came and asked me to follow him. We went into another room, and there were our three sons, each lying on a table surrounded by a team of specialists working to stabilize them. The doctor told me the condition of each of the three boys. “Baby A” was sixteen inches, 4 pounds, “Baby B” was fifteen and a half inches, 3.3 pounds, “Baby C” was fifteen inches, 2.9 pounds. Each of the babies was on a ventilator.
I stayed with my wife four days. It wasn’t until the fourth day that she was able to see the boys for the first time. I had become somewhat accustomed to all of the machines, IVs, and constant care the boys were receiving. My wife cried when she saw them. Their little chests were rising and falling with the pressure of the ventilator. Their tiny bodies looked like bones with skin stretched over them.
My wife was finally able to return home from the hospital on day four. We hated leaving our little boys. From that day on, we went back to spend time with our babies every day, sometimes twice a day, until they were all able to come home. We didn’t get to hold them until the ventilators were removed and they were able to breathe on their own.
Over the next ten weeks there were ups and downs, gains and losses, and surgeries. There were moments of incredible fear, but there was also constant encouragement from the amazing doctors and nurses of the NICU.
When all of the boys were finally home after ten weeks, it was time to learn how to care for them constantly. They were released on apnea monitors, so we were trained in infant CPR. We had apnea alarms, but thankfully, we never had to use CPR.
Where have the years gone? Trace Adkins has a popular song called, “You’re Gonna Miss This”. If you haven’t heard it, you should. The early days seemed like years. Now the years seem like moments. I wrote a book many years ago (unpublished) called “One Plus One Equals Three”.
These are the boys with their older sister. Two of the boys are identical, one is fraternal. The doctors called them “a pair and a spare”.
This was our Christmas photo two years ago. Another grandson has joined our family since then. Life has been good. Very, very good. It’s been thirty-six years since we proved one plus one equals three.
And now, time for coffee.