Delivering triplets

Our babies were born on December 14th, about eight weeks before their due date, and four weeks before my scheduled C-section. The past two weeks have been an incredible blur, but I wanted to make sure to write out everything that happened leading up to (and during) the delivery, before I forget more detail.

On Thursday the 13th, Chuck called me on his way home from work. About a week prior, my doctors had asked me to start checking my blood pressure at home, even though my numbers had never been elevated. As I’ve mentioned a bunch of times, my pregnancy had been surprisingly smooth, especially considering I was carrying triplets. I hardly had morning sickness, and my back had just begun to really ache. I had been diagnosed with gestational diabetes, but was watching my diet pretty closely, so I never needed insulin. 

I had checked my blood pressure a couple times with an old cuff that Chuck had at home, but wasn’t really concerned about doing it regularly. The cuff was also unreliable—the numbers tended to read high. But when Chuck called, he asked me to check right then. Actually, he was adamant that I check, which was unusual for him. So I did, and as I was expecting, my numbers were high. We decided that I should call the hospital. I responded to most of this by rolling my eyes…I had been healthy for months and didn’t expect anything to change, especially so suddenly.

My doctors’ office was closed for the day, but I left a message with the hospital. They called me back within ten minutes. I explained that I checked my blood pressure at home and my numbers were elevated, but seriously, my husband’s cuff was really old and who knows if it’s even close to my actual reading. The PA told me that it’s important I come to the hospital, that I should pack a bag, and asked how soon I could be there. At this point, I was slightly aggravated, as I was sure I would end up apologizing for using a shoddy cuff and wasting everyone’s time.

Chuck and I got to triage and waited for about a half hour before they brought us back and went through all the standard tests. Soon after, a doctor came and sat on the edge of my bed. From that moment, everything sort of went crazy. 

She held my hand. You have severe preeclampsia.

My experience with preeclampsia was limited to Season 3 of Downton Abbey. I pictured Lady Sybil fading out of consciousness while giving birth. I was terrified, but mostly I was shocked. I knew my chances for developing preeclampsia were higher with triplets, but since everything had gone so well so far, I figured I was clear. I never anticipated developing something "serious" or "dangerous" (words that my doctors associated with preeclampsia) when I was being so closely monitored. 

I didn’t process much else of what she said. Luckily, Chuck asked, “So just to be clear, these babies are going to be born within 48 hours?” which put everything into perspective. 

I cried. I was scared for the babies. I wasn’t ready…I thought I’d still have at least a couple weeks to wrap my head around actually giving birth. Chuck held me. Before I knew it, I was surrounded by nurses. 

The next 24 hours were...hard. They were probably the hardest of my life. I was given a shot of betamethasone (steroids) to help develop the babies’ lungs. The full course would’ve included a second shot after 24 hours, but I didn’t make it that long. I had IV's put in both hands (it took a several attempts, which I only mention because I hate IV’s) and given a drip of magnesium sulfate to prevent seizures. 

Finally (and most miserably), my nurses strapped three belts around my stomach connected to fetal dopplers to monitor the babies’ heart rates. In order to accomplish this, they had me lay on my back (which is already the height of pregnant discomfort) and gave me an ultrasound in an attempt to pinpoint the location of each baby. I would need to hold this position forever (until I gave birth).

That was the longest night of my life. I remember staring at the clock on the wall in front of me, watching the seconds tick by, trying to encourage myself to be strong. Whenever I would adjust my hips, or try to turn slightly, or really make any movement, the belts would shift and the doppler would lose track of one or more of the babies’ heart rates, and the nurses would come in and try to find them again. Half the time they would have trouble and need to do the ultrasound all over. My entire body was locked up from hours of trying not to move. I could hardly breathe from spending all that time on my back. I was soaked in ultrasound goop. My throat was so dry it felt like the sides were sticking together, and I wasn’t allowed even a sip of water. And to make matters worse, I’d been fighting a cold on and off for the previous month and my entire face was congested.

This continued until the next morning. I was so utterly miserable that I couldn’t even communicate to Chuck how I was feeling. I was hyper-focused on the belts across my stomach and wondered if I was capable, physically, of lying there for another 24 hours.

I didn’t sleep, but at some point that morning, I hazily opened my eyes and was surrounded by the doctors from my practice. I was, honestly, kind of awe-struck. This was the group I had been handed over to by my regular OB-GYN because her office “didn’t do triplets.” I’d only really saw pictures of them, having had my appointments with nurses and PA’s, but here they were, the high-risk pregnancy experts discussing my situation.

The belts must have shifted because they brought in the ultrasound. The doctors tried (again) to find each baby. I’m not sure how much time passed with all of them in the room, and can’t remember most of what they talked about, but eventually, one of them turned to me and explained that they weren’t able to distinguish, with certainty, each of the heart rates, and therefore, they would be delivering the boys. Like, right now.

Everyone flew into action. I was terrified, but relieved. The nurses came back into the room and began to prep me for surgery. Before I knew it, I was being wheeled down the hallway.

There were about 25 people in the operating room. Aside from my doctors, nurses, and anesthesiologists, each baby had their own team. 

They hung a blue curtain to block my view of my torso, and Chuck was brought to my side wearing scrubs and a mask. I was given a spinal block to numb the lower half of my body (I don’t remember even feeling the shot). Once it took effect, the only sensation I had was my stomach rocking back and forth on the table. I asked the closest doctor if they were starting. She laughed and said they were way past starting.

I have a clear picture of that doctor’s eyes. She was constantly reassuring me. I turned to look back and forth between her and Chuck over and over, and kept hoping it was almost done. 

Finally, a voice said, “first baby out!” There were some brief, and soft, sounds of celebration, and I heard a tiny whimper. Each baby was immediately placed in an incubator and sent to the NICU. They stopped briefly beside me on their way out, but I could barely see inside. I wouldn’t get to visit them again for hours, which was probably the most torturous part of the whole experience. As I was being wheeled out of surgery, I noticed a bright red splash of blood across the ceiling and pointed it out to Chuck. “Yeah I wasn’t going to mention that,” he told me. 

My recovery was pretty uneventful. I trembled and shook for a while after, which I was told was normal. I was finally allowed to have a drink, and although the nurse told me to take it slow, I guzzled ice water and apple juice. They were the best drinks I ever had in my life. I was seriously overjoyed to be drinking anything.

Our families came to the hospital and, agonizingly, were able to see the babies while I remained confined to my bed. When I was finally helped to a wheelchair and brought to the NICU, I saw that the boys were covered in a jumble of tubes and wires. It would be 2 days before I could hold one of them. After 4 days of happily residing in the hospital, close to my babies, I was discharged and sent home. 

Ben, Noah, and Charlie are now just over 3 weeks old. The NICU doctors and nurses have been incredible, but it’s hard. I thought the constant back-and-forth to the hospital would get easier, but every day is worse. I tend to be in a constant state of either crying or getting ready to cry. I tear up when I leave my dogs in the morning, I tear up when I’m getting ready to leave the hospital, I tear up when I get home and the house is a mess. It’s ridiculous. The days are moving quickly, but it feels like forever until they’ll be able to come home. 

And when I’m home, I’m pumping. And it’s miserable. I’ve always loved and guarded sleep, but I’m so worried about producing enough milk for everyone that I’m (probably overzealously) waking myself up throughout the night to stay on schedule. Of course, there will come a point when I won’t physically be able to make enough milk for 3 infants, although I still won’t be sleeping, because I’ll have 3 infants at home.

Even though I constantly feel tired and weepy and gross, I’m so happy. Our boys are making progress every day. They’re gaining weight, drinking bottles, and showing us pieces of their little personalities. I’m looking forward, every day, to having them home with us. As wild as the past 4 weeks have been, they’ve made everything worth it.