A dear friend of mine emailed me this week and told me her friend was pregnant with triplets. Then she asked, “have any tips?” If you’re a triplet momma, then you know the floodgates of your mind open up and you think of about a million tips in 60 seconds that you’d give expectant mothers of multiples. So that made me think I should write it all down and refer those sweet moms whose heads are spinning here when I’m asked next time. This list is by no way comprehensive, and I welcome comments to supplement it with stuff you moms of multiples found particularly helpful. The tips below are what stick with me most two-and-a-half years later.
1. Purchase Must Haves. Now, you can ask a dozen MOMs, and get a dozen different answers. There are a few commonalities and these are my favorites:
• More burp cloths than you can imagine. My rule of thumb is 10 per baby otherwise you’ll be washing clothes every night. Ditto for bibs (it’s just that the high usage numbers don’t kick in for a few months).
• Swings and bouncy seats. We had three of each. For swings, we borrowed one and bought two used. These things are so expensive, good used condition is perfectly acceptable. For bouncies, we were fortunate enough to have three given to us in baby showers (they’re a good price point for showers). The babies’ favorite was one called Little Lamb which vibrated, was super soft, and played calming tunes. We also got the infant-to-toddler rocker which they loved as they got a little bit bigger.
• Other gear: We had two pack-n-plays, and used one for home and one for travel. The kids napped and slept in their bouncies when they were tiny and in their beds when they were bigger. We used the playyard for an additional changing table and an additional space for them to play. Bumbos – people love or hate these, but we used them all the time because we had late sitters (we never used the trays). And though we didn’t use it for six months, go ahead and register for three of those small high chairs that sit in your kitchen table chairs. They save so much space and we still use ours.
• Narrow infant car seats (don’t start with the convertible ones, odds are the babies will be too small to go home in them from the hospital). Then you can fit three across the car. We loved Chicco Key Fit 30. Strollers are a disaster, but our best option was one double and one single Snap-N-Go stroller that we could just sit the Chicco car seats in so as not to wake the babies if we got lucky enough that they fell asleep in the car. These strollers are light-weight and compact, a must when space is at a premium.
• For sleeping, we had convertible cribs. It’s nice because they were adorable for the babies, and now we can still use the same beds for toddlers. Get three sheets per bed, we loved the knit ones, and get a stack of receiving blankets (you’ll use them everywhere you go). Some folks swear by the sheet savers, but we never used them. However, we did love sleep sacks. We started with swaddlers the first few months and then switched to sleep sacks for the next few months. Both are great for baby showers.
• For feeding, we had plenty of bottles. We got both 4 and 8 ounce Dr. Brown’s bottles but borrowed a bunch of the four ounce ones because you use them for such a brief period of time. And if you plan to breast feed, plan on renting the double electric breast pump from the hospital – it saves a ton of time. You can get a great handsfree pumping bra from the Motherhood website that’s endorsed by La Leche, and I would sit in front of the babies and pump while I patted them and sang to them in their little bouncy chairs. That bra and pump saved me a million times by allowing me the use of my hands. (If only they also rented an EXTRA hand!)
· My absolute number one favorite thing of all time – Triplet Calendar. I would have died without this (I used one for nine months after the babies came home). Different medicines and amounts for bottles and remembering who had gone to the bathroom, ugh! I would have never kept it straight had it not been for this gem. (Plus, if you end up going back to work, you can see how they did during the day). Also, there are colored rubber “bands” called inchbugs I used on all my bottles to track each child’s bottle.
2. Action Must Dos. I got so caught up in the lists and the tracking because I’m a bit of a control freak. No one needs to go as overboard as I did, but there are a few things you should definitely incorporate as you prepare.
• Eat a ton of food. Healthy food, but you should allow yourself some mega-calorie intakes. I know so many of us worry about our weight, but I read a lot of books on nutrition and gaining weight in those first two trimesters is key to get the weights of your little ones higher. I gained 100 pounds, and was enormous, but at 32 weeks 5 days all of our babies were over four pounds and went straight to Level 2 NICU (instead of Level 3). FYI, I’d lost all of the weight by their first birthday.
• Tour your hospital’s NICU. This is a tough one. We actually had to get our doctor’s order to be admitted. But we toured both Level 2 and Level 3 and I was so glad we had after the babies arrived. Schedule the tour early, in case you’re placed on bedrest, and ask questions. We found out that I wouldn’t be able to see the babies for 12 hours after my c-section, so we know going into my delivery that Bray would leave with the doctors to follow the babies up to the NICU so he could give me a firsthand account. I was prepared for him to leave me in the delivery room, but it would have been hard to make that decision in the moment. We also knew what to expect, what machines looked like, and what those first few hours might contain. We cried after the tour, but in the end it helped prepare us.
• Take it easy. Please don’t overdo. We’re busy women with lots to do, but when you are told to rest, rest. Fortunately, I was not put on bed rest until 26 weeks, but once I was, we moved a hospital bed into our living room along with a hospital wheeled-tray. I stayed there all day, worked on my computer or watched t.v., and at night I slept in our bedroom. I had already set up the nursery before my bedrest stint so I knew that things were ready for the trio and I could focus on cooking them. I stayed in the hospital for 10 days before the babies were born and obeyed my doctor. This is not a time to take on extra responsibility or activity.
· Say yes to help. I’m pretty independent and have never been crazy about accepting help. If you’re like me, then make an exception. Many people offered to help, and I was instructed to tell them yes. We used the Care Calendar website which my assistant and best friend ran and organized. Folks signed up for meals or grocery runs or laundry help. That support system the first couple of months the babies were home helped us survived the transition (and eat).
3. Emotional Might Expects. I realize this is incredibly personal and varies dramatically from mom to mom. Some higher order multiple moms take all of their babies home when they leave the hospital and some never have the chance to take their babies home. We are incredibly blessed to have three precocious two year olds, but we were in the NICU with the boys for four weeks and with baby girl for five weeks. We went through two close calls that shaved years off of our lives. The one real take away is to give yourself permission to feel whatever you’re feeling. Don’t worry about anyone else beside your little family during this time of pregnancy and the months following the births.
• It’s okay to feel isolated or become isolated. I didn’t speak to anyone besides Bray, and sometimes my mom, during the NICU weeks. Lots of kind people called and tried to help, but I was so worried about the babies. I felt no one could understand what I was going through besides Bray. I leaned very heavily on him during that time and we grew incredibly close as we walked through the dark valley.
• It’s okay to feel scared. I’ve written about a few of our near misses, with the baby’s breathing stopping and little girl’s infection, and I was terror stricken. That time can be so completely out of your control and your comfort zone, and it’s unnerving. Take a deep breath and say a prayer.
• It’s okay to feel disconnected. I thought I would feel this overwhelming sense of love and connection to the babies the second I laid eyes on them. But when I was wheeled up the NICU and met them, I didn’t immediately connect to each of them. This of course led to terrible guilt because I didn’t turn into a momma bear in a millisecond, but apparently lots of moms run into this. You’ve just been through, what may have been, a rough pregnancy. Possibly a rough delivery. Likely you’re still hopped up on strong pain medicine. The connection comes. So don’t beat yourself up. I sat by their little isolettes each day and pumped milk to give to them, and read them books, and held them against my skin, and the overwhelming unconditional love and gratitude came.
• It’s okay to feel like you won the lottery. I think sometimes I felt like I needed to temper our absolute utter delight over these little creatures because not every mother of multiple has been as fortunate as we have. But Bray and I still look at each other and smile and our hearts jump up in our chests over the sheer joy we feel over having these angels in our lives (not all the time mind you, they’re two, but definitely daily). And after all of the above emotions we’ve experienced, this is a perfectly appropriate feeling too.
PS – A couple of great things I remembered after first publishing. Sock away some money for a night nanny. Ours saved our lives after the babies came home from the NICU and we weren’t going to be using our vacation money any time soon. Also, get plug in adapters for your battery swings to save some big money on replacing D batteries.