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“Dr. Kaplan wasn’t exactly right. But he wasn’t wrong either.” That's what the director of obstetrics and gynecology at New York's Lenox Hill Hospital said as I awaited the fate of my third pregnancy.
Dr. Kaplan had delivered our first two children, who were 1 and 3 years old at the time. He thought he saw a second heartbeat on the dated sonogram machine in his office. I was determined that he was wrong.
With two toddlers at home and a full-time job, how could I possibly be pregnant with twins?! Twins don’t run in our families. But, since the sonogram showed the potential flutter of a second heartbeat, I found myself lying on a cold metal table, where the new doctor bluntly informed me: “There are three heartbeats. You’re having triplets.”
I didn’t go back to work that day. I went home in a daze. Actually, it was a confused pregnant rage that I naturally directed at my husband as I threw the sonogram pictures at him. “This is ALL. YOUR. FAULT!”
A few months later we found out they were identical triplets. That’s when I stopped worrying about what car we would drive or if we’d ever go out to dinner or on vacation again. That’s when I started to hope and pray that we’d have three healthy babies. “Please God, let them have 10 fingers, 10 toes, hearts that work, eyes that see, please just let them be OK.”
Thankfully, they were born healthy, and never spent a day in the NICU. Somehow 10 years have flown by. And our three little fellas — the odds of which are about 100 million to one — turn 10 this year on 10/10. In honor of their golden birthday, here are 10 tips on surviving the insanity 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. At times, they had a better pedicure than I did. But we always knew who was who — and we still do. Because although they look alike, they really are 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 believe me, they are handy for everything from dirty diapers to back seat barf to trash from the minivan. Yep. Now we drive a minivan. And if you have triplets, you probably will too.
Be prepared for random comments and have a response. People will ask “Are they triplets?” “Did you do in vitro?” or even, “Oh my God! Triplets?! That must be a nightmare!” To which you can politely nod, smile and walk away or respond with “Yes”, “Did you?” and “Not at all. Sweet dreams!” And then politely smile, nod and walk away.
Get out of the house. No matter how long it takes to get their jackets on. No matter how cold or rainy or hot or snowy it may be. Go outside. It may take longer to get out the door than you actually spend outdoors but do it anyway. Fresh air does a body good and will tucker your tots out.
Don’t pull the plug on PullUps too soon. Potty-training isn’t easy and potty-training triplets is almost impossible. Of note, if you think you’ve nailed it but then they pee on a velvet chair cushion in a local restaurant, don’t panic; just nonchalantly gather your things and your kids and leave a big tip. Also, don’t go back. Trust me on this one.
If you have triplets or even twins, highchairs are the new playpens. The problem with playpens is that the kids can beat each other with books or whatever you put in there to entertain them. The problem with highchairs is that the kids may scream “STUCK!!!!” like ours did when they were left in there between breakfast and lunch. But if your house is like ours is, it will be a lot less cluttered after that extended high chair “play time.” And somehow, that made me feel better.
When it’s time for kindergarten, put them in separate classes. And on the first day of school, be prepared for them to try to climb back in the womb. My mistake: wearing a skirt. They literally got under it and refused to budge. It wasn’t pretty. But separating them was necessary. No kindergarten teacher should need to distinguish identical triplets while teaching the ABCs. It’s not fair. To them or the kids. 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. And today, all five of them help with laundry, walk the dogs, do the dishes and take out the trash. Boom! Who said having five kids is hard?
Listen to them. They may be small — or maybe they are already big. Either way, they are your little humans with big feelings. Listen. Show empathy. Take the time. I can’t say I always do this; I can say you’ll regret it if you don’t.
Don’t wish it away. I did. It was overwhelming. We had five kids under 5. Four kids in diapers. At one point, they were consuming a gallon of milk a day. There were dirty diapers, dirty bottles, dogs that had to be walked, laundry to be done. None of that matters. What matters are the moments in between and what you make of them. So, make the most of them. Because in the blink of an eye, they will be gone, and those kids will be turning 10.