“4 years ago, I was 31 years old and completely single. I was starting to worry I’d never find the kind of man I was looking for. I refused to settle and I wasn’t sorry about that. I’d always known I wanted to be a mom, so I started to think about what I would do if I never found a partner to have a family with. I was trying my hand at online dating and finally matched with THE guy. The first time I met Adam, it felt like I had known him forever.
2 years later, we got married, and less than 3 years after that, we found ourselves outnumbered by our kids. We took one dose of Clomid to help with ovulation. The medicine gives you a 10% chance of having twins. I thought twins would be great! I was getting older and wanted to complete our family sooner rather than later.
I went to my first doctor’s appointment when I was 9 weeks pregnant. When the OB started the ultrasound, I immediately saw two babies and I was very excited! ‘Wait, wait, wait,’ the doctor said. ‘Here’s a baby, here’s a baby, and here’s a baby. You have three.’ My life completely changed that day.
My pregnancy was relatively easy at first. Early on, I was tired and experienced some nausea that was helped by some over-the-counter meds. As the pregnancy went on, overall, I felt pretty normal, my belly was just getting bigger by the day. Fun fact: Triplet bellies measure about 12 weeks ahead, so when you’re 20 weeks along, you look 32 weeks pregnant. At 24 ½ weeks, I went to my OB’s office for my weekly checkup. He found I was 1 centimeter dilated, so he said I should go home, pack up a few things, and head to the hospital. When I got to the hospital, I was hooked up to a bunch of monitors. One strap around my belly to watch each baby’s heart rate, and one to watch for contractions. I was having some painless, stomach tightening Braxton Hicks contractions, and by that night, I was dilated to 2 centimeters.
Based on things I’ve heard people say, I always thought there were ways to stop labor once it had started. It turns out there are a few things they can try, but they aren’t all that effective, especially with multiples. Babies are deemed ‘viable’ at 24 weeks, but it is not ideal to have them that early. Every 1 day in the womb can save 3 days in the NICU, so it is much better for the babies to stay in. If the babies were going to come, there were a few things they wanted to do to help them out. I got a 12-hour drip of magnesium to help with babies’ brain development and steroid shots for their lung development. The first 30 minutes of a magnesium drip is pretty awful. You get really hot and sweaty, and you feel sort of drunk, and not in a fun way.
Luckily, after that first 30 minutes, I started to feel a bit better. Magnesium relaxes your muscles so you cannot get up at all. I received my first catheter that day, I was not allowed to eat at all, and I had to limit my fluid intake just in case things were to progress and I needed a c-section. Moms go through a lot for their babies, even before they arrive!
A neonatologist came and talked to us for an hour about what may happen if the babies were born that weekend. I had read about the many issues preemies can have, but at that point, I was terrified because it was happening to me. It was too early. At that time, the survival rate of babies born that early is only 50%. I pleaded with the babies and with my body to hold on a while longer. I stayed in the hospital that whole weekend, and I had to attend my drive-through baby shower via video chat. On Monday afternoon, they let me go home because it appeared I was stable. It was so nice to be home for a few days. I got to sleep in my own bed, and take a shower without IVs in my arms.
That Friday morning, I woke up with some cramps. I called my doctor and they suggested I head back to the hospital. When I got there, they checked me and I was 4 centimeters dilated. I knew at that point I would not be going back home. I was either going to have the babies or be on hospital bed rest from here on out. I got 24 more hours of magnesium and another round of steroids. By Saturday evening, I started feeling some very slight pressure in my pelvic area. The doctor checked me and said I was fully dilated. It was time to go. I was only 25 weeks and 6 days pregnant.
My husband was given a hair cap and a bunny suit, which is a one-piece, white disposable jumpsuit to keep the operating room sterile. During surgery prep, I think I heard someone say they were giving me an anti-anxiety medication, which thinking about it now, is probably the only reason I wasn’t a nervous wreck. I was wheeled into the OR on my back and staring up at the ceiling, knowing what was about to happen was a very strange feeling. The room was very bright with white tile everywhere. All I could think at that moment is this OR didn’t look like the ones on Grey’s Anatomy. I couldn’t really see how many people were in the operating room, but I was told there would be a lot. Obstetricians, anesthesiologists, neonatologists, nurses, etc. My husband told me later there were about 25 people in the room.
Within 45 minutes of being told it was time to go, my babies entered this world. They took Grace out first, Nolan second, and Audrey third. They all cried when they came out, which surprised me and brought tears to my eyes. Usually, at their gestational age, their lungs are too weak to cry out, so the fact they cried made me hopeful they were stronger than we thought. The doctor held them each up briefly so we could see as they were taken from my body, and then they were whisked away to be worked on and evaluated. While my doctor was working on closing me up, they walked each baby by in an isolette on their way up to the NICU. All of my babies were alive.
I spent 2 hours in the recovery area after the surgery. I was extremely tired and still in disbelief we were parents. We learned our babies were 1 pound and 13 ounces, 1 pound and 14 ounces, and 2 pounds and 1 ounce. My husband left after one hour to go up to the NICU and see the babies. Once I was stable, they rolled me up to the NICU in my hospital bed. Each baby was in their own room in the most intensive area of the NICU, in an isolette that was very warm and humid. I had seen pictures of preemies before that scared me, with all of the tubes everywhere. My babies were so tiny but still looked beautiful to me. I think I felt that way because I am their momma. By the time we got back to my room, Adam and I were deliriously tired.
The next day I tried to rest, we visited the NICU, and I let my boss know the babies had come, and I wouldn’t be coming back to work for a while. That night, we had just fallen asleep and were awakened by a knock on the door. A doctor came in and came over to my bedside in the dark. She said, ‘I have some bad news about your son,’ and then paused. I was still waking up, but my heart sank to the floor and I started crying immediately. I could not speak. My first thought was he had died, and that’s what she was coming to tell us. That was the worst moment I’ve had since becoming a parent.
After a few seconds, she started to describe he’d had an intestinal perforation due to his extreme prematurity. My husband sprung into action and started asking questions. We learned a surgeon was on the way to do a small operation to help him. We’ve received several calls in the middle of the night since then. It is a terrible feeling. You’re confused because you’re being woken out of a deep sleep, and you have to answer the phone and then comprehend what a nurse or doctor is trying to tell you and it’s almost always bad news.
Due to umbilical IVs, I could not hold my babies until they were 6 days old, 7 days old, and 9 days old. If you’re a parent who got to hold your baby right after they were born, think about how that would feel if you could not. If you’re a NICU parent, you already know. Besides the intestinal perforation, we dealt with intubations, extubations, and re-intubations, bleeding in the lungs, UV light treatments, multiple blood transfusions, spinal taps to check for infection, heart defects, and lots of scary plummets in heart rate and oxygen levels. Everything that happens feels like it could be the end, and when you ask a doctor, they always say it’s a common issue that can come with extreme prematurity. It hurts to see your babies struggle, but it helped me a bit, knowing the staff had seen the issue before and knew how to handle it.
The NICU is an overstimulating and overwhelming environment for parents. You can hear all kinds of alarms and beeping from the various machines. Every noise is scary until you learn the difference between the alarms that are okay and the alarms that mean something is wrong. I’m a person who is usually annoyed by constant beeps or dings and it doesn’t phase me now, unless it’s the bad kind of alarm.
For the first few weeks after the babies were born, I could not drive due to my c-section. Adam drove us to the hospital once or sometimes twice every day so we could visit with the babies. After that, I was able to drive myself and sometimes we take separate shifts. I started back to work after only 4 weeks off, in order to save 8 weeks of FMLA time for when the babies come home. I’ve always known the maternity leave situation in this country was terrible, but it’s not until you’re in it that it feels like a complete injustice. My husband goes in the mornings to be present during rounds, where the doctors visit each child and talk about their progress and the plan for the day. I work during the day, and then I go to the NICU at night to spend time with the babies. We do skin-to-skin or kangaroo care with each baby for at least one hour per day. My husband and I take turns each day on who holds two babies and who holds one. Sometimes I spend 5 hours in the NICU and I wonder how time passed so quickly.
The NICU does not allow any visitors besides my husband and me. My parents and in-laws are struggling because they have not been able to meet their grandchildren, and it’s hard for them to watch us go through this alone. We have shared photos and done video chats to try to make up for it, but I know it’s not the same. Our family and friends have all been very supportive: reaching out to see how we’re doing, bringing us meals, and doing chores at our house. Another great source of support is the Triplet Moms and Dads groups we’re a part of on Facebook. That group really knows what we’re going through. It’s a great place to ask questions, share updates, or just vent. When you have premature babies, they can take steps forward and steps backward with their progress, sometimes all in the same day. I’ve chosen to take a cautiously optimistic view of everything. I go into each day hoping it will have a great outcome, and then I adjust if things do not go as planned. I feel so fortunate things have gone as well as they have so far.
Today is Day 50 of my babies being in the NICU. We’ve been told as a guideline to expect the kids will come home around their 40-week due date, which is Mother’s Day and would be day 100. There are still many skills they need to develop and refine, such as breathing on their own and breastfeeding. We’re only halfway done with our NICU journey, but we’re all stronger than ever, and I can’t wait for my babies to be home and then our next chapter will begin.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Christina Pashak from Detroit, MI. You can follow their journey on Instagram. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
Read more stories like this one here:
‘He may not make it through the next hour.’ I didn’t want to answer the phone. I just had to get to the NICU.’’ Mom mourns the loss of adopted 8-day-old micro-preemie, ‘His tiny footprints are forever stamped on my heart’
Provide hope for someone struggling. SHARE this story on Facebook and Instagram with your friends and family.