After months of preparing ourselves mentally for the arrival of triplets (that’s what bedrest allows you to do), we were acutely aware that we’d be spending considerable time in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) with our girls. It was not a question of “if”, it was a question of “how long”.
I had been watching pictures and videos and reading stories about premature babies – some heart-breaking, some full of hope – the conclusion was that the longer they stayed inside me, the lower the risk of complications and the less time in NICU. I think this prepared me a bit better to deal with seeing all the feeding tubes, IVs and the sometimes chilling things we saw in NICU. I was also mentally prepared for serious health complications, which are always a real possibility with triplets.
I would like to start by saying that we are so incredibly thankful for the outstanding care I received throughout the pregnancy and after the birth from everyone at the St Luc Univerity Hospital in Brussels. The high risk pregnancy, the maternity and the neonatal care units are all amazing and the staff couldn’t have been more caring, attentive and sensitive towards their patients.
You’d think that seeing your babies for the first time (without the drugs) in incubators would be traumatising. Well, it wasn’t, it was awesome to see them alive, breathing and beating all the odds to be here with us. There was an intense sense of pride for what we had achieved as parents but also for these precious little lives that were showing such amounts of strength we didn’t think was possible to have. And that applied beyond our own babies, we were inspired by all the babies and parents there, some who had made NICU their home for months, and some babies being born with as little as 600 grams, all still there fighting to grow and go home with their loving parents.
On day 2 I was able to hold our babies skin to skin. They call it the kangaroo. I first held my tiny Laura, with her 1.3 kilos. Barely a little more than a bag of sugar. I can only describe that moment as highly biological. I had a rush of hormones flowing through me that was simply unbelievable. Same happened with Alicia and then Ana. It was like being high on drugs for a brief moment. As a person who doesn’t like babies very much and who has never felt her biological clock tick or smelled a baby’s head with longing, I can honestly say that it’s an indescribable feeling. I can’t speak for Mr. H but for me, NICU was my babies’ home and there was nowhere else I rather be. It was now my home too.
Parents were allowed in NICU 24-hours a day, with the exception of three half-hour slots that the staff used to switch shifts and update each other on the patients. Visitors were allowed for an hour every day. We kept the list of visitors to family, mainly grandparents, uncles and cousins of the girls. We were told we could phone any time, day or night, to get news on the girls. I religiously called every morning at 6.15 to get news and each nurse in charge of my girls would take the phone and give me a detailed update on feeding, pooing, crying or anything worth mentioning (which, to a mum with a baby in NICU is EVERYTHING).
We would then spend most of the day there taking care of the girls. As they grew stronger we were encouraged to take on more tasks such as nappy changing, bottle feeding, bathing them etc. As the girls had no major complications and were mainly “feeders and growers”, we had the privilege very few parents get – an intense personal training from specialised nurses about how to care for babies. I don’t think we’d have been able to deal with three babies with confidence without their professional and loving help.
As far as complications were concerned, Laura and Ana needed a CPAP for two days to help their oxygen levels, Alicia and Laura both developed a NEC which required fasting and antibiotics for a week and Ana had three episodes of tachycardia which resolved on their own pretty quickly. All this was very upsetting to me but Mr. H often reminded me that we were very lucky that these were the only issues they had. He was right, of course, and all the tests the girls had done showed no pathologies, no malformations or conditions so we were dealing with things that “are common in premature babies”.
Two weeks in NICU and we were able to take all three girls in arms at once. Its one of those things that we only got to do for a little while as they grow up so fast! We were feeding them two by two sometimes (just for showing off purposes) and we held them for hours in our arms. Time stood still for us and they kept getting stronger by the day.
After a month in NICU all three girls had their IVs out and only Laura still needed a feeding tube. They were moved to non-intensive neonatal care where they stayed for two further weeks, mainly to allow for Laura to catch up on weight and avoid making our lives a logistical nightmare by having two girls home and one in hospital. That being said, taking home three babies at once, with leads attached from the babies to monitors, necessary because they were premature babies, was a logistical nightmare on its own, but that will be the subject of many other posts.
On June 9 when we took the girls home, we felt we were ready to handle what was to come. We were right for the basic stuff, but the reality of new-born triplets cannot be understood until one lives it.
A new reality. Two became five.