“We spent 18 months trying for a baby. After turning to IVF, we found we were having not one, but THREE babies.
John and I were married in December of 2014. We decided to start for a family right away. After about six months, nothing happened, and I was really starting to feel discouraged. It’s seemed like everyone around me was getting pregnant! I read and read about how to be more deliberate in our trying to conceive journey. I took my temperature, downloaded apps, timed everything, tested for ovulation, etc. We did this for another 6 months. It was truly exhausting. It makes tensions high for a couple too. You don’t know if a behavior, habit, etc. of yours or your husband’s could be at fault for not conceiving… maybe a health issue. It’s so trying on a couple. I thought at points it would break us.
11 months after our wedding I had a yearly appointment with my gynecologist. I told her we’d been trying and nothing was happening, and I was concerned. Since you must try for 12 months to qualify for infertility she set me up for an HSG procedure (Hysterosalpingography) with the possibility for starting meds at 1 year. That HSG procedure was one of the most painful things I would endure on our journey. The cramping was incredible; it took my breath away. You get 3 ibuprofens… that’s it. At one point during it they said there was a blockage in one of my fallopian tubes, but the dye broke it loose. Probably why it was so painful! The test looked to see if things were able to move as they should in my uterus and fallopian tubes. The result: nothing was wrong. It’s pretty discouraging to find out everything is ok, in a way, because then you think, ‘well what is stopping us from having a baby then?’
After that test, I was given a medication called Clomid. It really messes with your hormones and it’s not fun. I took that for three months, or cycles. Each time I ovulated. Again, there was ‘nothing wrong.’ After the three months my doctor referred me to a reproductive endocrinologist because clearly something more was happening. We chose Chicago IVF and they were amazing. John and I both had full blood work-ups and some exams + testing. John started a special vitamin. We were labeled ‘unexplained infertility’ because again, the tests came back all good. The RE decided to have us start with an IUI (inter uterine insemination). It was another round of Clomid followed by a shot of HCG and the IUI procedure. This time I had a lot more checkups and blood test throughout the month. The IUI procedure was relatively simple. I could go back to work right after. The only issue with that level of intervention is it begins to feel cold, disjointed, and nothing like trying to have a baby between you and your husband anymore. It’s so sterile. I completed two unsuccessful IUIs.
After 11 months of trying and 5 months of fertility meds, we made a plan with our RE to try IVF. We were so grateful we had very good insurance coverage and could move through the steps rather quickly. IVF is so much more involved. The nurses at our clinic were my friends at this point because I was seeing them 2-3 times a week! IVF involves a lot of decision making, like will we freeze extra embryos, what happens to those embryos if one of us dies, if we divorce, if we both die, etc. Really heavy questions that you aren’t prepared for. Once we got started, I took birth control to reset everything in my body, then took so much medication I can’t even remember them all. Follistim, something with a G that helped grow follicles, HCG, Crinone, another med to prevent hyper stimulation of the ovaries, and an estrogen patch. It was SO MUCH. I remember when the box came, and it was the size of our dining room table! The process was painful with shots and stomach cramps. It was difficult to schedule things around the exact time we had to do the shots. And I was at the point of feeling like we were doing so much, and what if this doesn’t work too?
I went in for my retrieval and they only retrieved 4 eggs. It wasn’t very promising. They made 3 embryos of those four eggs. I remember feeling so incredibly discouraged. They determined we needed a Day 3 transfer which reduced the chances for success by about 20%. I was so sad. I remember thinking I will have to do this repeatedly. We went in for the transfer and had the option to use 1 or 2 embryos. Because we were Day 3, we chose to use 2 to boost the chances of success. It was a low, low percentage that an embryo could split anyway. We didn’t even know that statistic until we were in the pre-procedure room. I remember asking John, ‘Should we change it?’ ‘No,’ he replied. ‘We have already decided.’
We waited two weeks for the results of our transfer and on Memorial Day 2016 we found out I was pregnant. I cried so hard and gave John the tiny Bears and Blackhawks jerseys I had been holding onto for over a year. We were overjoyed. A couple of days later we went to the clinic to confirm and saw one little baby on the ultrasound. We made an appointment to come back the following week to continue checking on the baby.
The next week we came back, and they found two babies! We were shocked at the change but totally prepared for the challenge of twins. We knew this was a possibility when we chose to use two embryos. We were so happy that we were going from infertility to two babies and knew that with two of us, we could handle it! We went back the following week for another checkup…
…and almost immediately, triplets showed up! WHAT?! Now we were going between excited and totally freaked out. How can we handle this? There are only two of us? Do we need a new car? Oh my gosh, college?! Finding out there were three was a whirlwind. I could see it on the screen before anyone else. No one was talking. I should three fingers to my husband and said, ‘just wait.’ Panic set in immediately. Unfortunately it wasn’t joy at first sight because I was so worried about being high risk, how we’d manage, the financial aspects, etc. It took until the end of the day for everything to settle in more and think, ‘Ok, we’ve got this!’
Now that they are here, and we’ve survived, I can’t even believe I was ever so scared and not immediately thrilled, but I suppose that was a natural reaction. I was so afraid for them and me medically. There was so much more risk than twins. The clinic had us confirm over the course of three weeks that they were growing and doing well. Doctors mentioned selective reduction, something we would not consider at all. It was such a whirlwind.
As the pregnancy progressed and the babies continued to thrive, I switched OBs to someone experienced with triplets and prepared to care for all four of us. I began seeing a maternal fetal medicine doctor and my OB on an every-other-week basis. Quickly it became every week and then both doctors each week starting at 30 weeks. Overall, the pregnancy was very uneventful in a good way. I did have to visit Labor and Delivery three different times for dehydration and mild contractions, but each time the babies were doing great and I just needed some fluids. I made it to my scheduled C-section date at 35 weeks and 2 days! I never got very big with the triplets so here I am days before I delivered.
The babies were born January 5th, 2017. They arrived in this order:
Thomas – 19 inches, 5 pounds, 2 ounces
Isla – 17 inches, 4 pounds, 12 ounces
Declan – 16.7 inches, 3 pounds, 15 ounces
They were born within 4 minutes and all cried a perfect cry when they emerged! Each of them was taken to the NICU and given a checkup. All three received tubes for feeding. Thomas and Isla had to receive oxygen through a CPAP machine. They each were on that for a few days, then moved to lower flow oxygen. Thomas and Isla had OG tubes for feeding (through the mouth) because of their oxygen support. Declan had an NG tube (through the nose) but didn’t need it much. He did very well with the bottle early on. They were the smallest babies John or I had ever seen. They stayed in the NICU for 11 days. It’s short in comparison to other multiples born much earlier, but I must say it doesn’t negate the heart wrenching feeling of leaving your baby/babies at the hospital when you are free to go. We have two dogs and lived 40 minutes from the hospital, so we opted not to stay at the Ronald McDonald House and came home each night. It was good to sleep in our own bed, but it was almost worse coming home to an empty house that was prepared for the babies. I knew the odds of NICU time was high, but the longer I stayed pregnant, the less I worried about it. No amount of knowledge can prepare you for the feelings. I sobbed SO HARD each night when we left. I was a mess. During that time, I pumped every 2-3 hours to ensure they could have some breast milk. I had a rough time producing enough, but they were able to each get some which was good.
On January 16th we were able to bring them home, all together. It was wonderful! Things were crazy those first three months home. It was 3 times the eating, sleeping, pooping and the night feedings took a while to figure out. After John went back to work I figured out night feedings on my own and fed the babies at 12 a.m. and 3 a.m. alone, and he did the 6 a.m. feeding alone. There were on a tight 3-hour feeding schedule and doing those late night/early morning feedings by ourselves allowed each of us to get 6 hours of uninterrupted sleep in. It really helped with feeling rested and allowing us to maintain a good attitude toward each other through it all. I returned to work when they were 10 weeks old. It was so hard emotionally. I loved my teaching job, but I longed to be home with them. I worked for 3 months and then it was summer break. We decided to take a leap of faith and have me stay home with them. I still am at home, but I maintain a solid tutoring business both online and in my home with several students. It’s very helpful in allowing me to stay home with our children.
The babies are currently 17 months. They are amazing little toddlers and we love them so much! We are almost to the point of them having here with us for the same amount of time we spent dealing with infertility. It’s crazy because the time before them dragged on, but the time after them has flown by. We really love this triplet parenting gig and couldn’t imagine it any other way. We are very relaxed about it, take the kids wherever we go (out to eat, grocery shopping, zoo, park, fairs/festivals, road trips, etc.) They’ve adopted that relaxed attitude and are extremely chill kiddos. They behave surprisingly well at most of those things!
For anyone going through infertility, there aren’t enough words to make you feel better. Each journey is different. I’m sending you love, hugs, and prayers that you’ll have success too. To new triplet parents, you won’t die, even if random strangers say you will. People are constantly proclaiming ‘I would die!’ when they see me out with them alone – soooo rude! It’s totally doable. Get on a good schedule, be teammates with your spouse, not opponents, and take those expectations you had for having one baby and adjust them. Trying to meet them will only make it harder. Having triplets has not changed our lives by stopping things we used to do; it’s enhanced our lives! I can’t imagine life any other way.
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Becka Butler, 29, of Elburn, Illinois. You can follow her triplet adventures on her Instagram page. Submit your own story here, and subscribe to our best stories in our free newsletter here.
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