I remember the day like it was yesterday. It was December 21, 2000, and we were at Women & Infants having our second ultrasound to reconfirm what they had seen at the first. Two weeks before at our first ultrasound, they had only seen two sacs and heartbeats. Bill and I were thrilled yet nervous to see them again. After the technician assured me that everything looked fine, she went out to the waiting area to get Bill and show him the results also. Again, only thinking that there were two babies growing inside of me, we saw the first and the second. The technician then told us that she had a Christmas surprise for us – a third beautiful heartbeat! We were absolutely delighted and overwhelmed with emotion. It was really true, we were having babies, and three of them at that. It would be a Christmas to remember and the beginning of the ride of our lives!
December turned into January and February, and by this time we had started telling our family, friends and acquaintances that we were expecting triplets on August 13, 2001. Most individuals were delighted for us, but others remarked with silly comments. It was difficult to understand how people could be so rude, but we just kept telling ourselves that we were truly blessed to be having three babies and that it takes special people to do so. This helped to not take the comments too personally.
I was fortunate that I never had any morning sickness during my pregnancy. I was extremely tired, though, and certain smells that I loved or could tolerate before my pregnancy made me nauseous. I needed to eat lots of small meals (I called it grazing) but did get full quickly. All in all, it was nothing out of the ordinary. My doctors and friends were amazed, especially for carrying triplets!
I couldn’t wait each week for my weekly visit to my doctor’s office, to see the heartbeats and moving babies on the sonogram screen and to hear those magic words that everything looked fine – see you next week. It was a nice form of reassurance and great to have that every week. Bill and I were really looking forward to our first level three ultrasound to get weights and measurements of our babies. It really would make things seem real. On March 29th, the ultrasound was performed. The babies were growing nicely. At that point, they were almost ¾ to one pound each. Their head, brain and body sizes were where they should be for their gestational age. I was 20 weeks.
On April 12th, we participated in our first multiples childbirth class. We were the only parents-to-be expecting triplets. Our instructor, Sue (who was wonderful during my entire stay at W&I) made a statement that never left our minds, especially for what was about to transpire in the days and weeks to come. She said, “By the time this course is complete, at least one of you will have delivered your babies.” Bill and I never thought it could be us, because everything was going so smoothly. Many of the other parents-to-be in the class were much further along and had complications. So how could that be us? If we only knew!
During our second class, on April 19th, we had a tour of the NICU at the hospital. Earlier that day, I had my weekly doctor’s appointment, which was perfect. I even had gotten my weekly manicure and first pedicure of the summer season! It was a really nice and relaxing day. The NICU was an eye-opener. I guess we really didn’t know what to expect. Every baby that I had ever seen was a normal, full term baby. To see all of those wires, hear the beeps and buzzers, and see the orderly chaos of that area was unreal. When class was finished, I cried on the way home. I was scared that our babies could potentially (and most likely would) be there at some point during their hospital stay. I just never thought that it would be in four days.
Friday, April 20th was a beautiful, sunny spring day. I had the day off from work (I was only working about 1-1/2 days per week, since I was not on any sort of bedrest, the doctors said it was OK to continue to work). I pretty much relaxed all day, showered and got dressed before Bill got home and was deciding where to go to dinner (our usual Friday evening routine). I was resting on the sofa before he arrived and wasn’t feeling all that great. I didn’t think too much of it. Once Bill finally came home, we were tossing around places to go and I don’t know what made me say it, but I decided it would be best just to get subs and rent a movie. I got in my PJs, Bill got dinner and the movie. Then, things would never be the same again …
We had just started to watch “Remember the Titans,” and I automatically needed a bathroom break. To my surprise, I had started to bleed. I immediately called my doctor, and she told us to meet her at the triage at the hospital for some monitoring. I was SCARED beyond belief. At 9:45 pm, I was admitted where they monitored all the fetal heartbeats. The babies were all as happy as could be! Then when they went to perform an internal on me, they discovered that I was 6 cm dilated with bulging membranes! I was in preterm labor and was immediately admitted to the hospital and brought up to the second floor – Labor and Delivery room 9. Everyone involved thought that we would be delivering the triplets that night. Everything was moving so quickly. There were tons of doctors describing the worst of what could happen and said that if the babies came that evening, their survival rate was barely 50%. I was barely 24 weeks! There was lots of monitoring of the babies, my contractions and vital signs. Bill had called both sets of parents. The second floor family area had become everyone’s home away from home. Our poor dog, Max, was so confused. I really missed him even with everything else that was going on.
At 11 pm that evening, they administered the first of four steroid injections for the babies lung development, should I deliver them that weekend. I was placed on permanent bedrest in the trendelinberg position (my head was lower than my feet). What an awful position! They were trying everything to keep those babies in me as long as possible. I was also loaded up on magnesium sulfate (“the mag”) to control my contractions. Fortunately, it seemed to be doing its job, although it made me feel horrible!
No one got much sleep that evening. Bill was by my side the entire time. We were scared!
Saturday, April 21st was now upon us, and I was still pregnant. At 11 am, I received the second steroid shot. I was still under constant monitoring, and everything was still OK, all things considered. My parents went home to Barrington and Bill’s to our home in North Kingstown (they live in New Hampshire) earlier to get some rest, but everyone was back by this point. I was stabilized for the time being. Now it was just a waiting game.
Room 9 did not have any windows, so I completely lost track of time. I could only tell by the shift changes. I hadn’t gotten much sleep and wasn’t really able to. I was still very scared. At 11 pm that evening, I was given the third steroid shot.
On Sunday, April 22nd, I was given the fourth and final shot. I was thrilled that I was able to hold on to those babies and get them those ever-important steroids for their lung development. I felt like I had tackled a huge hurdle. I was not able to eat or keep anything down. I did get sick at one point and felt that “Baby A” had moved a bit further down the birth canal. They immediately paged the attending doctor, and she performed an ultrasound. Everything appeared OK.
By this time, the nurses figured that I was there for the duration, so they were able to move me to room 18. I felt like I had just checked into the Ritz! It was bright with windows. I didn’t feel like I was in a dungeon. I was, though, still on my head! That stunk!
Monday, April 23rd was a day that I will never forget. I was able to get a shampoo and spongebath (modesty was out the window), which made me feel great. Everything was status quo. The nurse who was on for the daytime gave Bill and my mom and crash course on the incubators that were in the room; and one of the doctors from the NICU gave them a tour of that area again. It was sort of a foreshadowing.
Right after the 3 pm shift change, the nurses performed more monitoring and “Baby A” had really moved down low into the birth canal. My bleeding had changed colors a bit, and things needed to be checked out. Just so has it, my ob/gyn was on at that point. She performed the deciding ultrasound that made it official – it was time to deliver that baby!
My parents were at the hospital, and Bill’s were on their way back down from NH. I was given an epidural, and Bill had to put on scrubs. It was all happening within a matter of minutes. They wheeled me into operating room 9 where it was bright and very, very cold. My doctor and her team of many were describing to us what was about to transpire. After a few hard pushes (yes, a vaginal delivery!), Elizabeth Jane entered the world at 6:01 pm. She weighed 610 grams (1 pound, 5 ounces). She was breathing on her own and was beautiful! We had our first daughter. Elizabeth was quickly whisked away, and then the doctors performed a cerclage on me. Basically, they put everything back inside and sewed me up to keep the other two sacs in tact. Now, it was in the hands of God when the other two babies would make their arrival into the world.
This situation was extremely rare. There were so few similar cases, that the doctors had to really research to find any information on it. It was more common with twin pregnancies, but with triplets it was almost unheard of. I had made medical journal history with my experience. Each day that I remained pregnant was even more remarkable!
The next two weeks were unbelievable. We had a daughter who was fighting for her life down in the NICU, and I was on semi-bedrest, pregnant with the other two. The nurses on 5 West would wheel me down in a stretcher a few times a day so I could spend time with Elizabeth.
We took each day that I remained pregnant as a bonus day for the other two. The biggest threat that could impact the two remaining babies was the risk of infection. So, besides being on and off “the mag,” I was on constant antibiotics to ward off infection. The nurses were still constantly monitoring Baby B and C and re-sticking me to change my IV location. I felt like a human pincushion, but if it was helping those babies, I didn’t care.
Elizabeth had lost weight and was on all sorts of IVs and a respirator. Her eyes were still fused shut. She would, though, respond with my husband’s and my touch. It still didn’t seem fair that she had to go through this.
On Saturday, May 5th, my brother was up visiting from New York City. He wanted to see his first niece and visit with Bill and me. That day, I felt very different. I was constantly chilled and didn’t have much of an appetite. After Neal left, Bill and I decided to order some take out and watch a movie on TV. I think takeout and a movie was our sign that something was about to happen. My soup wasn’t agreeing with me, but “Happy Gilmore” was keeping my mind off of it. Around 10 pm, Bill and I were laughing very hard at one of the scenes, and all of a sudden I felt my water break and started having severe contractions. They immediately started to monitor me, and after the doctor on call examined me and confirmed that I was certainly in labor, I was whisked down to the second floor into my fifth different room at the hospital. I was given another epidural and wheeled into OR room 9 again (that was our lucky room!). At 1:53 am, Catherine Emma made her debut at 710 grams (1 pound, 9 ounces), and then at 1:58 am, Victoria May entered the world at 750 grams (1 pound, 10 ½ ounces) by c-section. All of our babies were born! And three girls! We couldn’t believe that it had finally happened. We were so overjoyed that we were finally parents, but knew that there was such a long road ahead of us before we could even think about bringing our girls home. Our girls, being born at 24 and 26 weeks, were considered super preemies. We had no idea how long their hospital stay would be. We knew it would be a very long summer.
The first item on the agenda was to get me back in good, strong health. I never realized how much childbearing takes out of you until you are the actual childbearer. During my last week of recovery at the hospital, I kept spiking a fever and was just completely wiped out. I wasn’t allowed to go home until the infection that I had gotten was gone. Finally, it cleared up, and I was able to go home. I felt so guilty leaving my babies at the hospital. I felt as if it were my fault that they were in the NICU; that I could have done something different to have prevented this from happening. I felt like an awful mom!
It was strange to be home for my first Mother’s Day with no children to share the day. Bill felt the same way when Father’s Day arrived, also. But the time did pass, and soon it was July. Each day was pretty much the same routine. I would get up and go to the hospital first thin in the morning. This was especially important to me once the girls started bottle feeding. I would spend a few hours with the babies, and then do my daily activities after the visit. Bill would head over to the hospital on his lunch hour and have “lunch with the girls.” Then once he came home from work, we would have a quick dinner and then head up again for their final feeding and “put them to bed.” Some days were exciting, when we were able to see progress whether it was a good weight gain from the previous day or just being able to hold them for a few minutes. It helped us feel like we were real parents. Other days were quite blue. Just knowing that our babies were in the hospital was sometimes very disheartening for me. I don’t think that I have ever cried so much and felt so many different emotions than I did during the summer of 2001.
By the middle of July, the girls had been upgraded and moved to the Continuing Care Nursery (CCN). This was such a highlight – we could really see the light at the end of the tunnel. On July 23rd (three months to the day after Elizabeth was born), we got the news we had been waiting for since April – one, if not all three of our babies, would be coming home by the end of the week. And sure enough, on Thursday, July 26th, Victoria took her first car ride and accompanied us home. We were beside ourselves! All we did that entire evening was stare at her. We couldn’t believe we had a baby home with us. That weekend, we took turns making the journey to visit Elizabeth and Catherine who were still in CCN. But then on Monday, July 30th, they came home to join Victoria and the rest of their family. We were ecstatic that our family was finally together at home. The girls spent one month in that home, because at the end of August, we moved into our new home in another part of North Kingstown. People thought we were crazy to do it, but our lives had been in chaos since April, so what was a little more craziness.
Now we’ve settled into our new home, and the girls are doing great! Elizabeth, Catherine and Victoria are almost 5 ½ years old and entering their second year of pre-school. Their little brother, John, is almost three and a FUN addition to the mix. They are truly our miracle babies, and we feel so blessed each and every day!
Submitted by Jane Salisbury Schultz