We received the news on 16 November. A flurry of hospital appointments followed and it was quickly drummed into us that this would be a complicated pregnancy, with additional risks thrown into the mix because two of the three babies were identical twins and thus were sharing a placenta. We were told to expect that my wife would require complete bed rest from late-December/early-January.
This presented a potential problem. My wife and I are both ex-pats, from Spain and the UK respectively, and earlier in the year had invited our families to share Christmas with us here in Belgium. My wife’s family also live in Belgium, but mine were travelling from England and by now had already booked flights and hotels. Naturally, we were reluctant to cancel. In fact, we reasoned, sharing Christmas together would present a great opportunity to tell everyone the good news.
We spent a few days considering the pros and cons of cancelling the Christmas gathering, but this wasn’t even the most pressing matter.
Home was a two-bedroom apartment where space in the bedrooms had seemingly been sacrificed to make the living area larger. It would certainly have been possible to make it work for triplets, but almost as soon as we received the news we’d begun talking about looking for a bigger place. For some inexplicable reason, we were determined to find a five-bedroom house so that the triplets each had their own room, with an additional bedroom for whoever we could persuade or bribe to come help us out (at this point we already had a shortlist of people!). The thought that the triplets could – and probably should – share a bedroom for the first few years, never crossed our minds.
We had about a month to sell the apartment and find somewhere to rent. From the very start this seemed like an impossible task, and so it proved. The estate agents we chose assured us that our apartment would sell in good time and, hopefully, for the price we wanted, but confirmed our suspicion that a ‘quick sale’ was simply out of the question. Even if they found a buyer instantly, the whole process of exchanging contracts, updating the deeds and dealing with the mortgage providers and the notaries would take anywhere between four and six months.
We needed to be in the new place by mid-December, but to complicate matters further, it rapidly became clear that we needed more cash than we had access to. We were facing the prospect of paying rent and a mortgage for some months to come, not to mention the costs associated with moving house and having a baby – or three. A trip to the bank thankfully proved fruitful and kicked the money issue into the long grass for a while. If the apartment didn’t sell in good time, as the agent had assured us it would, it had the potential to cause serious cash flow problems down the line.
My wife had arranged viewings for a handful of promising properties and we swiftly narrowed the choice down to two. A few more days and we were signing a rental agreement.
Within a couple of weeks we had confirmed the Christmas get-together, put our home on the market, viewed a few houses to rent, picked one and signed a rental agreement, and sorted out a moving company. With the help of our estate agent, we’d even arranged for a building contractor to tidy up a few things at the apartment to help increase the chances of a sale.
Rarely had we ever been so busy or productive. It felt good, and naively, in some small measure, we thought it might have helped prepare us for life with triplets.
Another week and we were in our new home. Boxes were everywhere and, in truth, many of them remained unopened until well into the new year, but we were just about ready to welcome our families for Christmas. Hurdle number one well and truly jumped.
During this hectic few weeks, on one of our last few nights in the old apartment, I was awoken by eight whispered words: “love, we need to go to the hospital.” Immediately fearing the worst, but desperate to remain calm for my wife’s benefit if not my own, I was dressed and ready to depart in less than a minute, before even knowing what the problem was. Turns out my wife had gone to the toilet and deposited a good amount of bloody fluid all over the toilet seat and bathroom floor. Obviously, we assumed, this couldn’t be good. The staff at the hospital were fantastic and performed a number of scans and tests, assuring us as best they could at every stage. They couldn’t find anything wrong beyond noting a small loss of blood from the uterine lining.
To cut a long story short, they ultimately concluded that some bath water had entered my wife earlier that evening and chosen that exact moment to evacuate, taking with it the aforementioned blood from the uterine lining. In short, it looked far worse than it actually was. Even so, that night’s bath would be the last one my wife would have for a good eight or nine months!
The scare did serve one useful purpose, and that was to highlight how easy and quickly this could all go wrong. From that moment on my wife did as little as possible. She stopped working immediately and spent her days doing nothing except consuming as much trash TV as possible. If something needed any physical effort, no matter how little, it was now entirely down to me. Shopping, cleaning, cooking, the works. Not that I minded of course, but this was a new dynamic in our 16-year long relationship. And with a house move and Christmas around the corner, my wife would have been forgiven for expecting the worst.
Day 23 and we were in our new home. Even now, some eight months or so later, it still amazes me how quickly our lives changed.
One sentence and 22 crazy days is all it took.