Sometimes someone unexpectedly comes into your life (like, through a blog, let's say) and brings such an inspiring energy and fresh perspective that you want to share it with as many people as possible. And for me that person is Christina (from the blog Three Legged Race) who became a young mother to three adorable infants (Quinn, Zoey and Oliver) a few months ago. She's basically living out that unimaginable scenario that passes through our minds when we see a positive pregnancy test. And she's doing so with a wonderfully supportive husband and an infectious positive attitude. Read her story and be amazed:
1. How old were you when you first got pregnant?
I was 24 when I got pregnant and turned 25 a couple of weeks after my babies were born.
2. Was this planned? Did you intend on starting a family a little early?
Well, we planned to start a family, but the triplets were definitely a surprise! We got married when I was 22 and my husband was 23. We had dated for three years before getting married and decided to start trying for a baby after our second anniversary. Our thoughts weren't focused on starting a family "early" for any particular reason, we just knew from the time we were dating that we wanted kids someday and it felt like the right time.
3. How did you feel when you found out you were having triplets?
We actually didn't find out we were having triplets until I was 18 weeks pregnant. At my first sonogram (at 7 1/2 weeks) they saw two babies, so we had a few months thinking we were going to have twins. That in itself was pretty mind-blowing, but we were so excited (and a little scared). Somehow it just felt right. I had a couple of OB checkups where my doctor only listened for heartbeats. She would find two separate ones and then stop, so we didn't realize there was a third.
My 18-week appointment was the first sonogram I had since that first appointment and we thought the biggest surprise of the day was going to be finding out the genders of the babies. That morning I was getting myself ready and the thought popped into my head, "What if they tell us there's another baby?" I have no idea why I thought about it, it wasn't like a premonition, it was just one of those questions like "What if someone tells me I have a long-lost millionaire uncle? That'd be weird, and of course would NEVER HAPPEN." Even though it seemed completely absurd I couldn't shake that it was possible and the idea terrified me, so I actually said a little prayer and told God that I didn't think I could handle triplets. But, if that's what He wanted for our family, I knew He would provide for us. Who was I to say I couldn't handle three babies if that's what God wanted for us? I even woke my husband up and told him about it and said, "That's impossible right? Tell me I'm crazy," and he of course answered "Yes, you're crazy." After that I didn't give it a second thought. By the time we got to the doctor's office I had completely forgotten about my ridiculous fears and was just excited to learn if we were having boys/girls. The second the sonogram tech put the wand on my belly I saw her eyes grow wide with shock.
I laughed, "Oh didn't they tell you we're having twins?"
She slowly shook her head without making eye contact, "Oh its not twins…triplets."
"Are you serious? Oh my God, oh my God…"
I looked on the screen and saw what looked like a thousand babies rolling around in my belly. I looked over at my husband who I had just heard mutter a word we'll teach the children not to use and he had his head in his hands. I was completely shocked and terrified and immediately started thinking about how this one extra baby would change everything. How could we take care of three? Would I ever be able to go back to work? We only have a two-door hatchback, we're going to have to get a new car. We only have a two bedroom house. How enormous am I going to get? How can I breastfeed three? How long will I be able to stay pregnant? Will I have to go on bed rest? Are they all ok? Will we be able to give them all the love and attention they need? The questions were endless.
It took me much longer to get excited about the prospect of triplets than it did when I thought we were having twins. A whole five minutes after his initial reaction of worry my husband had a giant grin on his face and basically had a "Let's do this" attitude, which helped me a lot. Telling our family and friends the news also helped me to feel more excited and less scared. We got to call all of our friends and family who were anxiously waiting to hear the genders of our "twins" and tell them, "We're having identical girls….AND a boy!" Everyone was so encouraging and for me, knowing that so many people were happy and excited about these babies definitely made me feel better. After the shock wore off a little (I think we're still kind of in some state of shock) I got into research mode and spent the next 4 months learning all I could about triplet pregnancy, prematurity (the average triplet gestation is 32 weeks), the NICU, and what the hell we were going to do when we had all three babies at home!
4. Carrying, birthing and taking care of three babies is unimaginable to most of us, but do you think being a young mom factored into your experience -- for good or bad?
My pregnancy went pretty smoothly (for triplets) and I have to assume that a large part of that was due to being younger and in better physical condition than a lot of women in their late 30s or early 40s who have triplets as a result of IVF. I feel being younger has definitely helped me to handle the marathon middle of the night feedings and still have some sliver of energy for the next day, but I've also had loads of help from my mom and mother-in-law once my husband went back to work, so I can't take credit for doing it all on my own.
5. Looking through your blog, you seem to be in a such a loving, supportive relationship. A lot of women are scared that their relationship will take a toll with one baby -- but three? Do you have any tips/advice for keeping your relationship healthy?
My husband and I are so lucky to have such a solid relationship. We both make active efforts to encourage each other throughout the day. When I'm frustrated and feeling overwhelmed my husband is sure to tell me how much he appreciates all that I'm doing for our kids and that he's proud of the mom that I am. When he's concerned that he isn't getting enough time to bond with the babies, I tell him how happy they look when he holds them. We really respect each other as individuals and we recognize how hard the other is working. Its such a huge deal to know that your partner appreciates what you're doing as a mom, but its also a big deal for dads to know that the stresses and pressures on them aren't going unnoticed either. I think what really works is that we put each other first. If I notice that he really needs some time to just veg out and watch a soccer game then I do the next feeding. If I've had a really hard day with the babies, then he takes over when he gets home from work so I can get out of the house for a bit.
You have to be able to pick up on your partner's stress cues and do what you can to help them get back to a happy balance before that stuff builds up and causes you to snap at each other and get upset about the little things. But when the moments of stress inevitably do build up and you get short with each other, you recognize that you're both under a lot of pressure and you forgive each other quickly. We always talk through the things that we're struggling with or that bug us and work through it before it gets to be a big issue, and we know each other better because of it.
6. Both you and your husband are graphic designers. Is your career something that you hope to pursue, or are you planning to put it on hold?
Being a designer is a huge part of who I am. I definitely am just taking a break while the kids are little to focus on them, but I'm really looking forward to going back to work when the time is right. I'm having to stay home longer than I anticipated when we were planning for our first baby, because financially I just wouldn't make enough to cover the cost of child care for three little ones. I'm hoping I can start working part-time after the first year. I'm doing a little bit of freelance work for the studio I used to work for, and I have my own Etsy shop that is a nice creative outlet.
7. In your opinion, what are the advantages to early motherhood?
My parents were "older" parents (37 and 42) when I was born. There were a lot of things my dad in particular couldn't do because of health issues, like teach me how to ride a bike or get down on the floor and play with me, and they're both older grandparents now so they probably won't be around to see as much of our kids' lives as we wish they could. I'm glad that we have an early start to be able to live really active lives with our kids and be around for a long time as they start their own families.
I'm also thankful that I'm the first of most of my friends to have babies. Its hard in a lot of ways because as a young mom your friends are in such a different time of life and there are a lot of things about our new life that they just don't understand, but I'm happy that I'll be able to be a source of encouragement, empathy, and knowledge when its their turn to be mamas. Having a baby (or two or three) helps you to grow up a bit and think outside of yourself more, something that you don't have to do much if you're single and childless throughout your 20s.
8. Have you faced any challenges specifically because of your age?
We're both still so early in our careers that our income isn't where we thought it would be by the time we had three kids. We had planned ahead and saved a good amount of money in preparation for one baby, but having three meant that I had to stop working altogether, so now we're on one income. My husband has a good job but its definitely not a salary that is easy to take care of a family of 5, so we're on a couple of government programs that help pay our insurance premium and for formula each month. We both grew up in comfortable middle class families that never needed government assistance so its been humbling for us both, but we're thankful that those programs are in place. It's one of the many ways we've seen God provide for us when we didn't see how we could possibly do it on our own.
9. If you could go back and tell your pregnant self one thing, what would it be?
It won't be as bad as you think! I started to get really nervous about having all of the babies at home near the end of my pregnancy and during the 5 weeks they were in the NICU after they were born. It was definitely really hard especially in those first couple of months when we had 2 hour feedings every 3 hours throughout the night, but it hasn't been as hard as I imagined it would be. A big part of that is due to the amazing amount of help we've had from my mom and mother-in-law, who for the first two months each spent the night a couple of nights a week. They still come over during the day to help me out, which is incredible. I'm pretty sure I would be a total wreck if it weren't for them.
10. Do you have any advice for other moms of multiples?
If you're currently pregnant, my biggest advice is to take care of yourself! Multiple pregnancy is so different from singleton pregnancy, you really have to know that the risks for preterm labor are extremely high and do all you can to keep those little ones cookin'. Listen to your body and slow down when it tells you to.
Once the babies are born, don't be afraid to ask for help from friends and family members you trust. People will offer to help but they really need you to tell them what you need and when you need it.
Also take advantage of any opportunity you have to spend with your partner alone. Run out for coffee or even a short trip to the store while someone stays with the babies for 30 minutes. Its amazing how just that little bit of time helps you recharge and reconnect with each other.
It can be difficult when there is so much work to do to remember to stop and enjoy your newborns. Some singleton moms I know have made comments to me like "Don't you just love to sit and stare at them all day?" Um, I'll let you know when I have a chance to do that (4 months and counting, hasn't happened yet). But make sure you take your chances to cuddle up with those sweet little ones while you can, and allow yourself to focus all of your energy and love on one baby when you have the chance. I find myself feeling guilty for focusing on one baby because I can feel my heart pulling towards the other two, but if they're sleeping or with someone else make sure you let your heart feel all of the love you have for the one currently in your arms. Otherwise you're just denying yourself and your babies of the fullest relationship you can have with each of them.
Thank you, Christina, for sharing your story! If you want to know more about Christina, read her story about breastfeeding the triplets (because you know you were wondering about feedings!) and see videos of her sweet babies. And stay tuned for a "cool music for kids" series that Christina will be doing here on Early Mama next week.