At this time last year, Will and I were getting ready to reveal the news of Jack, Henry, and Sophie to his family. We had a clever plan worked out, involving six baby socks and five grown ups’ stockings. The FaceBook message followed shortly thereafter. We were fourteen weeks into the pregnancy, and we’d been hiding it from pretty much everyone the entire time. Hiding a pregnancy is never fun, but hiding a triplet pregnancy is downright challenging. I was three times as tired, three times as nauseated, and yes, even at that early stage, three times as big as your average mama-to-be. If you looked closely, you might have noticed that I was already wearing maternity clothes.
Here I am shopping for maternity clothes only 9.5 weeks in. The goal was to hide the emerging baby bump at work. Needless to say, I did not purchase this dress. As cute as it was, it certainly didn’t accomplish the task at hand.
For ten weeks prior, we had met with countless doctors, listened to all of the risks and potential complications, read one sad story after the next, and heard all the reasons why we shouldn’t continue on with this “high-risk” triplet pregnancy. In fact, the moment the doctor revealed I was pregnant with triplets, he mentioned a “reduction.” All in the same breath. We never expected triplets. We were given a 20% chance of any pregnancy at all. The odds of triplets such as ours (after transferring two embryos via IVF) were, according to our doctor, 1 in 1000. But as of December 24, 2013, Will and I knew we were having triplets, we knew all the risks, and we were committed to doing everything we could to bring three babies (with their names already picked out!) into the world safely.
The next few months passed quickly and without complication. Fast forward to March 25th, and at 27 weeks in, I was getting ready to return to work after spring break, the results of the most recent FFN test reading negative, giving me a 99% chance I would NOT give birth in the next two weeks. The goal was to make it to 34 weeks, and I had all of my upcoming appointments scheduled. Three days later, on March 28th, the babies had different plans. I felt a few twinges, we ended up in the hospital, and that night, the neonatologist came in and said if I were to deliver then, these little babies would have an 80% chance of survival. For a lot of things, 80% sounds pretty good. When it is coupled with a 20% chance that your children will not survive, 80% does NOT sound good. Still, the most recent tests said there was only a 1% chance I would be delivering before my 30th birthday rolled around on April 15, and I was sent home to wait it out. On Wednesday, April 2, I was back in the hospital (my third visit now), and at 4pm, they were getting ready to send me home to continue waiting. “Nothing’s changed,” they assured me. Until they realized things had changed. By 4:15pm, I was being prepped for a c-section, and by 5:34pm, Jack Waldron Strumolo had arrived. He was followed one minute later by his best buddy and younger brother, Henry Samson Strumolo, and one minute after that, Sophie Ann Strumolo arrived on the scene.
For their two month stint in the NICU, our trio continued to defy all odds. We kept hearing how well they were doing “for 28-weekers” and “for triplets.” When your babies are hooked up to all sorts of monitors, being fed through a teeny tiny feeding tube, and don’t yet know how to breath on their own or regulate their own body temperature, it’s hard to wrap your head around the doctors’ claims that they’re doing “really well.” When you have to wait five days before you can hold your baby, it feels like forever. But as any NICU parent knows, these things are all par for the course for preemies. In fact, each day I am grateful for what an “uneventful” pregnancy, delivery, and NICU stay we Strumolos had. Many parents of preemies wait much longer to hold their babies. And some never even get the chance. The risks of a multiple birth are real, and I sometimes wonder why we lucked into such an “easy” one. No surgeries. No lingering health issues (except perhaps for reflux, but what’s a little vomit when you’re snuggling with your trio?).
Still, each day that Will and I trekked back and forth to the Beth Israel NICU (four round trips in total) felt like an eternity. 65 LONG days later on June 7, we brought all three babies home. At the same time. Again defying the odds.
Today, Henry, Jack, and Sophie are working on sitting up and crawling. They are laughing and smiling, babbling to themselves and each other, and reaching out their arms with an excited grin on their faces when Will and I get home from work. They are nearly nine months old. It is hard to believe that a year ago today, we were just starting to spread the news of the impending arrival of these tiny creatures. A year ago today, when we imagined what next year’s Christmas would be like, I am not sure we could have possibly anticipated the joy these three little people would bring to our lives every day just by being here. The days in the NICU felt long. And sometimes, when the day starts at 5am, includes a 10-hour workday, an hour with the babies before bed, and then hours more of household chores, the days still feel long. But the years are short.
I realize this isn’t really a Christmas post. With any luck, I’ll find time later today or tomorrow to chronicle our holiday adventures. But with every (long) day that passes, I grow more and more grateful for our new life with Henry, Jack, and Sophie. It is a bit of a miracle (if you can really have a “bit of a miracle,”) that they are here at all, and I sometimes wish, just for a moment, that time would slow down so that we could soak up every minute of their little lives.