Surviving the Grocery Store (and More) with Triplets!
By Megan Woolsey
The minute the magic ultrasound wand revealed three babies with huge beating hearts, our lives were changed forever. A few short years before, my husband and I were living by the beach in San Diego where my biggest concern was preventing the creeping thyme that was growing in between my stepping stones, from dying. Now my concerns were real—I had to grow three babies in my small 5’2” frame—and I had to make sure we all got to the finish line in one piece.
During the pregnancy, I spent most nights awake, sitting straight up against the headboard, in pain, crushed under the weight and stress of so many babies pressing on my organs. It was hard to breathe. During these sleepless nights, I would sweat with anxiety about how we would take care of all four of our children. How would we find time for three babies and still give our preschooler enough of our time? How would we afford the clothes, diapers and formula? My husband and I were avid travelers. I was sure I would never go anywhere in the world again. I wasn’t even sure how I would get to the grocery store with triplets and a toddler.
We immediately went into “Operation Triplet” mode, collecting as many used baby swings, Exersaucers, play mats, and clothes our friends were willing to part with. For the duration of my pregnancy, my dining room looked more like a baby consignment store, than a place where one eats food.
One of the first things we did after finding out we were having triplets, was buy a new car. I was only a couple of months pregnant when we took our nice manageable family of three and drove our small practical Volkswagen Jetta straight to a car dealership to trade it in for a Toyota Sienna. This is how my life would be from now on: #supersizeit. Our new minivan would need to fit a preschooler, infant triplets, four car seats and an entire solar system of equipment.
The next thing we had to let go of was our Billiard Room. We had a very cool adult playroom in our house with a pool table, dart board, a small bar area, and walls decked with one-of-a-kind billiard room art. When the news of triplets sunk in, we sold everything in our Billiard Room and turned it into a playroom
The triplets were born at 33 ½-weeks, I looked at them in the incubators and marveled at their beauty. How did I carry all three of these babies at the same time? They each weighed three pounds and I loved them immediately. The fact that all four of us made it out of this, relatively unscathed, felt comparable to making it down from the top of Everest, alive.
Now the big question became, how would my husband and I manage the daily logistics of caring for all three babies?
For the first six months, the triplets slept in the same crib in our bedroom; three little burritos swaddled right next to each other, bodies touching. They liked the security of being so close. We had them on an extremely strict around-the-clock eating and sleeping schedule that I charted with
pen and paper. It was impossible to keep track of which baby had accomplished which task using only my sleep-deprived unreliable memory. Each night it took us an hour and a half to feed, burp, and put them back to sleep. We did this at 1:00am and 4:00am every night for six months. Our exhaustion weighed down on us and we were left feeling like we were running a marathon in a blizzard. My husband watched “Columbo” every
night while he fed a baby and I would lay in my bed nursing or bottle feeding two babies at once, one balanced on my knee and the other on a pillow, while I tried to stay awake.
When my husband was out of town for work, family and friends would generously offer to help with the night feedings. They would sleep in my bed beside me so we could be ready at service when the first baby started hollering. We would bump into each other like strangers in the night, silent and speechless, all trying to make it back to bed before we collapsed from exhaustion. (One of the most important lessons I learned early on with having higher order multiples, is that you always accept help when it is offered.)
When I wasn't nursing one baby, I was pumping breast milk for the other two and supplementing with formula. My husband and I had an assembly line of formula making, feeding, burping, changing, and putting to bed. We got them all on the same schedule early on, so when they napped, I took that time to do copious amounts of laundry and make meals. Those days life felt like I was on a never-ending hamster wheel doing chores and caring for small humans.
I was in survival mode for the first two years; adrenaline pumping through my veins would get me through each day. I was fortunate because the triplets were easygoing as far as babies go, but having three of them made simple things seemingly impossible. It was difficult to get out of the house with three babies and their infant seats. We didn't have enough arms to hold all of them. It was nearly impossible to feed and change them in public. We had two different triplet strollers but they were big, heavy, and impractical; one of the triplet strollers actually needed to be hitched to the back of the minivan! We resigned ourselves to getting through our days with a divide and conquer system—my husband would take two kids and I would take two kids if we needed to get out of the house.
As you can see, raising triplets has its set of challenges (just like all parenting does). But, the thing about having triplets is how special it is. Yes, “we have our hands full” and many days I don’t know how I do it, either. There was significant physical pain being pregnant with three babies at once. And certainly, the extra financial costs required for raising multiples is often stressful. However all of this has been worth it, just to watch these three grow up together with their big sister. Their triplet bond fills me with pride. I believe being a triplet means you learn to adapt to situations with ease, and this teaches them an early life lesson; there are many personalities to adjust to and situations to navigate.
Today the triplets are nine-years-old, and it turns out we did make it to the grocery store (and lived to tell the story). We are still able to travel with and without the kids. I still drive them around in the same Toyota Sienna I purchased when they were just fetuses, except now that minivan is covered in stains with crumbs in every crevice and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Having triplets has inspired me in many ways. In 2016, I co-authored a book about raising multiples called Multiples Illuminated: A Collection of Stories and Advice from Parents with Twins, Triplets and More. With the book, my writing partner and I hope to help other people who are raising multiples through shared stories and advice.
Get your copy on Amazon now: http://www.amazon.com/Multiples-Illuminated-Collection-Parents-Triplets/dp/0996833501/
The second book in the anthology series, Multiples Illuminated: Life with Twins and Triplets, The Toddler to Tween Years, will be available on August 4, 2017.
Megan Woolsey is co-writer and publisher of two anthologies about multiples called Multiples Illuminated. She lives in Northern California with a very supportive husband, a set of triplets, and their big sister. Megan is published in many national publications, and is an essayist in two anthologies. For a list of work go to MeganWoolsey.com.