“Dr Kaplan wasn’t quite right. But he wasn’t wrong either”. So said the director of obstetrics and gynecology at New York’s Lenox Hill Hospital, as I awaited the fate of my third pregnancy.
Dr. Kaplan had delivered our first two children, aged 1 and 3 at the time. He thought he had seen a second heartbeat on the dated ultrasound machine in his office. I was determined that he was wrong.
With two small children at home and a full-time job, how could I be pregnant with twins? Twins don’t exist in our families. But as the ultrasound showed the possibility of a second heartbeat, I found myself lying on a cold metal table, where the new doctor informed me bluntly: “There are three heartbeats: “There are three heartbeats. You’re going to have triplets”.
I didn’t go back to work that day. I went home in a daze. It was a confused pregnant rage that I naturally directed at my husband as I threw the ultrasound photos at him. “It’s ALL. EVERYTHING. THE FAULT!”
A few months later, we learned that they were identical triplets. That’s when I stopped worrying about what car we’d drive or whether we’d ever go out to dinner or on vacation again. That’s when I started hoping and praying that we’d have three healthy babies. “Please, God, let them have ten fingers, ten toes, a heart that works, eyes that see, let them be well.
Thankfully, they were born healthy and never spent a day in the neonatal intensive care unit. Somehow, ten years flew by. And our three little guys – whose odds are about 100 million to one – will turn 10 this year, on 10/10. In honor of their birthdays, here are 10 tips for surviving the madness of raising identical triplets.
Celebrate their differences – and dress them differently so you can tell them apart. From day one. We painted each boy’s big toenail – one red, one blue, one green. Sometimes they had better pedicures than I did. But we always knew who was who – and we still do. Because even though they look alike, they’re different. And now they wear red, blue and green shirts.
Never leave home without a plastic bag. Or three. I know they’re not politically correct these days, but trust me, they’re handy for everything from dirty diapers to back-seat puke to minivan trash. Yes, it’s true. Now we drive a minivan. And if you have triplets, you probably will too.
Be prepared for random comments and have an answer. People will ask you, “Are they triplets?”. “Did you do in vitro fertilization?” or even “Oh my God! Triplets? This must be a nightmare!” You can then politely nod, smile, and leave, or respond with “Yes,” “Did you do that?” and “Not at all. Sweet dreams!” Then you politely smile, nod and leave.
Get out of your house. No matter how long it takes them to put on their jackets. Even if it’s cold, even if it’s raining, even if it’s hot, even if it’s snowing. Step outside. It may take you longer to get outside than it does to get in but do it anyway. The fresh air is good for everyone, and it’ll get your kids outside.
Don’t stop using PullUps too soon. Potty training isn’t easy, and potty training triplets is almost impossible. If you think you’ve done it, but they pee on the cushion of a velvet chair in a local restaurant, don’t panic; nonchalantly gather up your things and your kids and leave a big tip. Don’t go back, either. Trust me on this one.
If you have triplets or even twins, highchairs are the new playpen. The problem with playpens is that kids can hit each other with books or whatever you put there to entertain them. The problem with high chairs is that kids can scream “STUCK !!!!”, as we did when we left them there between breakfast and lunch. But if your house is like ours, it’ll be a lot less cluttered after that extended playtime in the highchair. And in a way, that reassures me.
When they start kindergarten, put them in separate classrooms. And on the first day of school, be prepared for them to try to climb back into their mother’s womb. My mistake: wearing a skirt. They crawled under the skirt and refused to move. It wasn’t pretty. But it was necessary to separate them. No kindergarten teacher should have to distinguish identical triplets when teaching the alphabet. It just isn’t fair. Not for them, not for the children. Separating them is the right thing to do. Just wear pants on the first day.
When the triplets are babies, put the other kids to work. They may not like it, but they can do it. Our 2-year-old held the triplets’ bottles. Our 4-year-old matched socks. Today, all five of them help with the laundry, walk the dogs, wash the dishes, and take out the trash. Boom! Who said having five kids was hard?
Listen to them. Maybe they’re small – or maybe they’re already big. Either way, they’re little people with big feelings. Listen to them. Empathize. Take the time. I can’t say I always do, but I can say you’ll regret it if you don’t.
Don’t wish it away. I did. It was overwhelming. We had five children under the age of 5. Four children in diapers. At one point, they were consuming a liter of milk a day. There were dirty diapers, dirty bottles, dogs to walk, and laundry to do. None of that matters. What matters are the moments in between and what you do with them. So make the most of them. Because in the blink of an eye, they’ll be gone and those kids will be 10.