December 13, 2019

The day we found out

I stood there at work shaking. An hour earlier, we’d been told we were having triplets. I was in complete shock. Mumma C (my wife) and I had gone in for the scan that morning. When they told us the news, we looked looked at each other and laughed -- then cried. I had to sit down for a while as the nurses hugged us.

Ironically, Mumma C had been really sick when we got the positive pregnancy result. I mean really sick, as in pull over on the M25 and throw-up out the window sick. We kind of thought it might be twins after looking on the net and we even joked...could there be more in there??

I couldn’t stop shaking. My heart was going 100 miles per hour. The worst thing was, I couldn’t tell a soul. It was very early in the pregnancy. Mumma C and I work at the same place. If I said anything at all, it would spread like wildfire.

It was hard to not get carried away. If I didn’t start buying things now, what would we do when they arrived? Where would they sleep? What would they wear? The car. What do we do about the car? They couldn’t all fit in the back seat, could they?

I mean, OK - it’s triplets, but they were still the size of a poppy seed or whatever Mumma C said that week. I knew we had to be ready, but didn’t want to jump the gun and start buying three of everything...what if something bad happened? What if we lost one or two or all of them…

Anyway, once I got over the initial shock, I tried to work out what to do and prepare for the long waiting game.

The pregnancy  

As the weeks passed by, the poppy seeds turned into sunflower seeds, and then peanuts, and then grapes. We hit key milestones: 12 weeks, then 20 weeks, then it was Christmas and we started thinking...blimey, maybe this is actually going to happen.

With every scan, the doctors told us not to get carried away. But I couldn’t help but think: I need to get stuff.  Shall I buy something, anything, even if it’s just a pack of nappies? No, what if I have to look at the nappies if something goes wrong? I can’t.

To their credit, the doctors -- who were amazing -- kept us grounded, informed and realistic about the risks.

We then found out it was going to be three girls. Three girls???

We already had a son, Henry, who was four at the time (and -- don’t tell Mumma C -- truly the best thing that ever happened to me, and by my own admission and to my wife's annoyance, cannot do anything wrong in my eyes). But THIS was something altogether different.

Twenty-seventeen had arrived and I finally decided that the girls -- my girls -- needed a room. We had gotten this far and now we were going to be positive and believe they would all be OK and arrive safely. I painted their room pink and put up wallpaper. Henry “helped” by flicking paint all over the floor and my head...but who cares, we had fun and the room got painted

We went to weekly scans and the doctors always found issues. Too much fluid...this one hasn’t grown...too much tension on the umbilical cord...I mean, what does that even mean!

At 24 weeks (early February), the girls hit a crucial milestone -- they could now technically survive if they had to be born.

Wow. The relief. The JOY! We had been waiting months for this moment. The doctor confirmed all was OK and then said, “You now need to get to 28 weeks to have a better chance that they will be born with no mental or physical problems.

Wow. Thanks, Doc. Another month of wondering if all will be OK and if we should buy the matching headbands from Claire's Accessories.

The girls continued to hit their checkpoints and we finally announced that we were having triplets to our friends (our family knew early on). That’s when the questions started. I mean some people were happy and just casually said, “Well, you’re screwed.” But others launched an investigation…

What car will you get?
Will you move?
What you going to do for money?
How will they sleep?
How will YOU sleep?

I tried to play it off, saying it would all be OK to reassure my so-called friends and work colleagues.

But inside my head, I cried: I don’t know. I don’t know!

The truth was, I didn’t know what we would do. We couldn’t afford to move. I did change the car and got the massive Ford S Max family van I’d always dreamed of as a kid…

We just had to wing it and get on with it, but we really couldn’t until the little babies arrived.

The girls grew from bananas to melons to grapefruits. As the weeks entered the 30s, we could see the light at the end of the tunnel.

We finally got a due date: April 6. My wife had grown from a slim 30-something woman to a triple baby carrier. We knew in our hearts that it really was going to happen.

The birth

The day was finally here. My brother came to take Henry to nursery and they waved us off. As we drove to the hospital, we both were on top form. We had music on the radio and were in good spirits.

The special treatment came from the first moment we checked into the hospital. We’d been given our own big room; we were called “the triplet parents” by the nurses and the doctors. It was all very good fun.

Then the reality started to kick in. Now, I know I am the man in this and I don’t go through the physical pain (my hat goes off to all the women out there who have had a baby -- you are stronger than I ever could be), but I was scared.

So, so scared.

I was scared my wife wouldn’t wake up. I was scared one of the babies wouldn’t survive. And even though we’d previously had a baby (natural birth and conception), I really had no idea what to expect. As a distraction, I put a surgeon’s gown on and posed for a photo, then walked around the hospital nodding at other doctors and patients hoping they’d think I was a real doctor.

Then it was time. It was time for my little family to go from three to six (seven, if you include Reggie, the beagle. Considering I get a Father's Day card from him, he must count).

The room was filled with at least 20 people. Three doctors. Three resuscitators. Three midwives. An anaesthetist. And many more. It was completely daunting. As I waited outside the room to be called in, a million things went through my head. When the call came, in true British style, I bit my lip. I knew my wife and girls needed me. I took a deep breath and stepped inside.

Mumma C was laying on the bed. I asked when they were going to perform the cut and she said they already had. Despite thinking I would want to see the cut and watch the babies leave the womb live, I knew I couldn’t handle it. I sat where I was told at the head end. I was also told not to film it for live streaming and not to touch anything.

No problem.

Within a matter of what seemed like seconds, they pulled Annabella out and lifted her up for us to see and put her straight into a towel and incubator. Florence was out a minute later. And then a minute after that, Lottie. All the same drill. Within three minutes, we had three children.

I held my wife's hand and we cried and cuddled and I have never been so proud of anyone in all my entire life. A true trooper. She even beat me to a joke, “You wait three years for a baby and three turn up.” The whole theatre was in hysterics. That’s her to a tee.

She wasn’t able to see the babies, but I was allowed round to the NCIU unit (where they’d been immediately whisked away) to meet them. It was amazing seeing them all there. Those months of worry and uncertainty...and here they were, just laying so beautiful.

Three weeks in the hospital  

When you have triplets, they take them at 34 weeks at the latest so you’re told to expect one-to-two months in the hospital. We knew and expected this, which made things a bit easier. We also decided to keep Henry at nursery as he was to start school in September and we didn’t want to disrupt his routine.

Mumma C felt poorly after the birth. I won’t go into detail, but she had a negative allergic reaction to the drugs. She ended up in the hospital for ten days. That was incredibly difficult for me; I was caught in the impossible position of “who needs me most?” I decided it was my wife at first, so whilst I wanted to spend every second with the kids, we could only spend two or three hours with them as she was in a wheelchair and had little strength. This tore her apart and it was hard for me to see, but the important thing is we got through it as a family.

The babies had full-time care with a designated midwife. They were fed by tube (my wife's breastmilk wasn’t able to be used whilst on medication). I knew they were being looked after. I’d spend the day with my wife helping her get stronger and then come home in time to spend some time with Henry -- out on the bikes or playing football and just trying to make sure he was OK and happy.

I also had to confront another issue. A confession: I am scared of the dark.

I have been since I was young and until that moment, had never stayed on my own in a house. The first night was grim. I ended up awake all night, laying on the sofa. I tried to get over it -- I  slept the next nine nights in my bed...but with a light on and the blind open.

Hey, I got through it!  

The girls got stronger and reached milestones that were important: breathing unaided, taking all the milk, maintaining body temps and weight. Once Mumma C was back to full strength, she was able to go home.

The hardest bit about leaving the hospital was no more access to the biscuit tin in the, seriously, we had to leave our little ones in the hospital overnight for several more weeks until they could be released. This was something that took a while to come to terms with; at first, we said no way, but the reality is that it has to be like that as the parent rooms are for parents of sick children. We understood that.

The girls spent another two weeks in the hospital getting stronger. Family and friends regularly stopped by to offer support and see the girls. And we learned about about the routine.

The Routine

As a man -- and before the triplets -- when the word “routine” was mentioned, I would switch off and look at Mumma C. Mumma C would tell me what to do and when to do it. I didn’t have to think. She’d continually tell me information which I never bothered to remember or take in. With Henry, we fed him when he was hungry; he slept when he was tired; and we changed him when he needed it!

After the arrival of the triplets, however, one of our doctors told me to learn the feeding routine or, basically, you’re fucked. Boy, was he right.

It sounds simple and is simple:

10 a.m. feed and change Triplet 1

10:30 a.m. feed and change Triplet 2

11:00 a.m. feed and change Triplet 3

Repeat every four hours and under no circumstances change this.

Well, of course we changed the routine and what happened? They all cried and we had a huge row and we vowed never to change the routine again.

The way it works for us is we do this at 10 p.m., 2 a.m., 6 a.m., 10 p.m., 2 p.m., 6 p.m….you get the idea. It means a very structured approach to any situation. We have to bring the right amount of feeds anywhere we go. (We have already broken one steriliser.) We also go through 24 nappies a day, not including unscheduled poo explosions and outfit changes. We need 12 bottles on a constant cleaning cycle. We go through three bottles of gripe water a week, six tins of premature milk a week, three bottles of Colief, a box of gaviscon.

Etc. Etc.

It a military operation that goes well most of the time. We’ve decided as a family we are going to get out and amongst it and not let it stop us from living our lives (much to Mumma C's worry).

Why do we have to go and feed them in Costa Coffee?” she asks me.

The answer is simple: so we can have a coffee and feel like we are normal. We take them to the seaside, we have been to Centre Parcs, we go to farms and zoos and all the other things normal people do. I think subconsciously it may be because I don’t want Henry to miss out and I love our family time.

We spend time passing babies to each other to wind and feed and change. Put one down, pick another one up, cuddle for longer if they need it, let them cry it out a bit, strip them off...all the normal stuff, just all at the same time and with three!

Is it a nightmare? Yes, of course it bloody is, but as I write this we are 11 weeks in!


Whatever way you look at it, having three babies doesn’t really work. I mean, there are very few buggies to choose from, you can only really hold and feed one at a time, women only have two nipples...

So you have to think on your feet. One cot in our room will do to start with -- they spent seven-and-a-half months together, they must like each other! So that’s what we did, we put a rolled up towel to divide the cot and off you go. They love it. Of course, there are two more cots ready for them in their room, but for now that will do.

And that’s the point when you think of things like: How will we afford it? How can we go abroad on holiday? How can we afford their weddings? (They will not have boyfriends, of course.) The point is, don’t overthink it. Take it a day at a time. Today they were in one cot. Today they are in a double lay-down, Mountain Buggy bassinet -- a complete lifesaver. (I’m clearly into all this stuff as I didn’t have to text Mumma C to ask her what the buggy is called.) What will they be in next? Well, we have a Maclaren Double Stroller and a Maclaren single which we will clip together. Will that work?

I have no idea, but I hope so!

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