Wednesday, January 15, 2014
A guest post by Denise
Wendi asked me to write a post on "Successfully Raising Triplets." My first thought was "I don't think I'm qualified! They aren't old enough to know if we are successful!" Haha! I'll try and give a super quick rundown of our background. (I did say 'try'!).
Our triplet boys will be 8 years old in March. Easton, Dalton and Quinton were born 2 minutes apart from each other at 33 1/2 weeks gestation. I had successfully received steroids and was on magnesium sulfate before they were delivered via c-section. Their stay in the NICU was 25 days. Each had to learn how to eat and keep their stats up before they came home with us. We had a few scares of PDA for Dalton's heart, his breathing and being on O2, and possible NEC with Easton. Those never ended up being an issue, thank The Lord!
I'd like to give a HUGE shout out to any NICU nurses out there. They are angels from God that not only treat the baby(ies), but touch the lives of the entire family.
At the age of 6 months, we showed up to a welcoming party for PhD students at the University of Arkansas, where my husband was enrolled in the program. The stories we hear now are about how they didn't think we would make it! They have since gotten to know Dan and his extreme drive for supporting our family. After trying to commute, we made an official move to Arkansas when the boys were 1. Once those 3 1/2 years were done, we moved to Jackson, TN where Dan is now Dr. Slater and teaches business management at Union University. The Christian atmosphere at the school is an amazing fit for our family. We can't believe we have been here 4 years already!
Through each of our moves, we have not had local family. My family in Michigan and Dan's in Missouri would come and visit. The day to day things were all on our shoulders. I'm going to touch on some of the main things people have asked me over the years and things I had to do in order to cope.
First off for any moms of twins, triplets, quads or more - find a local support group!!! The Northwest Arkansas Mothers of Multiples club was my SAVING grace! They got it. They understood. They would help out via email or chat any time of the night. Your problems are different. Your kids are different having a sibling the same age. I never went to a meeting in the beginning. However our private online posting group was fantastic for help! When I got enough time to finally attend a meeting, it was refreshing to hear others talk on topics that helped me out as a mom of multiples.
"Are they natural?" Is among one of the many, many invasive questions we have gotten over the years. Mind you I'm a private person that prefers to stay behind the scenes. We dealt with infertility for years and only a couple family members and friends knew about it. All of a sudden I'm asked about my sex life and how my kids came into this world! To answer the question, it depends on if they are being nosy. "Nope, they aren't fake - they are real!" Is my joke answer. Or I'm more sensitive to those that seem to be hurting and really are asking a different question. "Triple trouble", "you're hands are full!", and "ugh, couldn't you get a girl in the mix?" are the common other questions. I always smile and answer "Triple the blessings!" because it's in front of my kids! No matter how much I want to tear my hair out or zip tie their hands behind their back so they don't touch another thing in the store - I don't want them EVER to hear me call them trouble.
Don't even get me started on "must be nice to just get all three done at once!"
It's ok to say no if someone coughing wants to hold or touch your baby. You're not being rude, you're saving yourself a week of dealing with a sick child. Seriously, some people don't have any manners and will even curse you out for it! (Yes, that happened to me).
Preemies have to be woken up every three hours to feed. Preemies don't like to wake up. They also don't know how to eat properly. Forcing their jaw down to latch on to a bottle still takes them 30 minutes each to eat 1 ounce. I learned that when someone came by to help that holding and feeding a baby wasn't help. I let it go and did dishes and laundry, all the while knowing they were getting off their schedule and I'd have to feed them again. Next time when someone asks to help, have them fold laundry and the many many sleepers and burp rags because your kids always spit up. I wish I had been able to do this when mine were babies.
Stay on a schedule.
We stayed on the schedule from the NICU. As soon as their doctor let them try and sleep through the night, we did the Babywise cry-it-out method. Wendi has gone over it previously. My cousin Jessica, more like a sister, promised me it worked. I cried when we did it. Dan was super strong to help me through it. It was worth it. Our kids are the BEST sleepers to this day!
Let it go
Whatever your preconceived ideas were for nursing, let it go. Don't be guilted by anyone. My kids never would latch on. I also had never nursed before. The lactation consultants tried hard to help me. I pumped for 2 1/2 months before I just let it go. Think about it; getting up every 3 hours to feed bottles and change three kids took 1 1/2 hrs. Then I'd pump after that. It was the best decision for me to let it go and sleep.
Have enough bottles for one entire day
Measure out a days worth of formula in a gallon jug and keep it in the fridge. I'd pour it into the bottle, use the bottle warmer for 90 seconds and it was ready! At the end of the day I'd do a load of bottles in the dishwasher and they were clean for the next feeding.
Keep a chart and go in order
A written list might work for you. We had a laptop with an Excel spreadsheet next to our recliner where we fed the boys. I always fed and changed them in birth order. They had vitamins and iron added to one bottle, and I'd mark that on the sheet. I had to give them reflux medicine, I'd mark it down. If they had a bowl movement, I'd mark it on the sheet. When we fed them, I marked it on the sheet. At 3 in the morning and you're half awake and don't remember if you fed that child or not, it helps!
Share the load
When our boys were born, Dan worked an 8-4 job. He has changed just as many diapers fed as many bottles, and cleaned up as many spit up messes as I have. We worked a rotation where we would do a feeding together when he got home from work at 6pm. Then he would take the 9pm and 12 am shift. I'd go to sleep right after that 6pm feeding and wake up to do the 3am feeding. Depending on the day one or both of us would do the 6am before I had all the day shifts. The first night we did this and I had 6 hrs of consecutive sleep was heaven!
Baby gowns are awesome
My mom got some from another mom of multiples in MI. I didn't want to put a "dress" on my boys. I resisted it until one day all their sleepers were dirty. Holy cow was it was nice! All the middle of the night feedings and changes were much better without snaps!
Baby boys like to squirt!
Turn the fans off when changing diapers. A wipe warmer was my best friend to help them not react to the cold and pee. Also throwing a new diaper over them while trying to put on Desitin on was very helpful.
Our boys shared a room until 3 years ago. They each had their own beds. When one was sick, we took them out of the room and into a pack and play in another room. If two were sick, we would take out the third. When two succumbed night 3 to the cry-it-out method and the third was still screaming when laid down half asleep, we put him in the other room in the pack and play. (Oddly enough, he is our child that now loves to sleep and will put himself down for a nap on occasion.)
A swing that goes side to side or front and back are the best for little babies! My kids loved that swing. Worked wonderfully when having to do nebulizer treatments on one of my sons.
Get out of the house. Find a Bible study group. No matter how hard it is, get out. I found a local church in Arkansas that had an AWESOME Bible study. With childcare. My kids were at the clingy stage. At least one cried when going into class. They had food there I didn't have to prepare and it was yumm. I rarely had my homework done. They didn't care. The ladies at my table were so supportive of me just coming. We didn't have any money, Dan was in graduate school! THIS was my break. It was refreshing. I needed it and my kids needed it!
Sleepers put on backwards with the feet cut off work for toddlers that take their diapers off in their beds.
Potty train when they are ready. Michelle Duggar has two sets of twins. She lived 20 min from where we lived in Arkansas. She spoke at one of our multiples meeting. The question of potty training came up. She said when her kids are bodily aware enough to pull down an s back up their own pants, they are ready to try and potty train. Sure enough, my three were at different stages of coordination when I tried to train all three. I ended up training them one at a time. It's what worked for us.
If you're moving to a new area or starting to think about schooling, call the school and ask their policy on multiples. Some places let the parents choose. That is the best scenario. Some require them to be together. Some require them to be separated. If you are looking to move to a new area, this is important to know. There are many articles out there and laws that have been passed to have the parents choose. Print them out and have a meeting with the principal if you need them to change their stance.
To separate or not??
That's always a question. I thought for sure we would separate our boys starting in kindergarten. When the time rolled around, I felt it was drastic to split them up for 5 full days of school when they were used to being together. We put them together. We asked the teacher not to sit them together. We don't have a shy child that has their brother talk for them, it was to keep them from getting too hyper. I thought it would then just be for kindergarten.
Revaluate each year what works for your family. Ask your kids input. After talking to their kindergarten teacher, she said it was like having three boys in her class. No extra work for her, they didn't exclude others, and they didn't only play with each other. We have been blessed with Godly women as their teachers for kindergarten, first grade and now second grade. Yes, we are in a public school. However the area we live is very faith driven. I know my kids teachers pray for them because they tell me! We have been blessed.
Having three in one class allows me to work with one teacher, one party at a time, one class to volunteer with, one homework. I have really liked it! We do have the option of splitting them up (there currently are nine 2nd grade classes at their school). Right now they are together and it's what works for us!
Before having kids, Dan and I discussed how we wanted to parent. Godly and honestly is our top priorities. God first, spouse second, kids third. While our kids were babies and toddlers, the immediate need of the physical act of taking care of our children was a priority.
Think about your spouse. When they were little, after bedtime we would eat together and watch a show together. We would take turns "sleeping in" on a Saturday. As they have gotten older, we now get a babysitter every 4-8 weeks and go out on a date. Sometimes we even do lunch together as a day date! Our dates with a babysitter usually starts at 4:30. We have time to do some things before dinner. We will do dinner and possibly a movie. More often than not we will rent a redbox or an amazon instant movie. Our favorite is coming home 30 min after bedtime. We have the rest of the night at home and we didn't have to do the bedtime routines, clean up, or pay a babysitter for more hours!
We are honest with our kids, on their level. We have had reasons to do or not do something. We tell our kids and explain why. Difficult things come up about friends moving and we tell them on their level. When discussing keeping them together for the next school year, we ask them individually for their input. They are always told mommy and daddy are the final decisions. We talk about our lives when they will be grown and out of our home. They are always surprised! Mom and dad will have a life without us? We encourage college or a trade. We talk a lot about finding our passions in life. We talk about their futures and potential spouses. We talk about how they will love them more than us. Nothing stabs at your heart more than a 7 year old saying "I can't love anyone more than you, mommy!" I tell him he will and he should, according to the Bible. I tell him I love Daddy first before them. They know that we are a team, we love them for just being them, God loves them more, and they will really love their future immediate family.
Last year for Christmas we gave our kids date cards. Four with mommy and four with daddy for the year. Then they got 4 "stay up late" cards to stay up 30 min with mommy and daddy past bedtime by them self. It was listed as one of their top gifts last year! Having three kids and rotating the dates proved to be challenging because each time required one parent to go out with one child and the other home with two. So this Christmas we gave them each 3 with each parent and still 4 "stay up lates". If you have two kids, it would be easier. Or if you have family nearby to help split up the time, it would be easier. Our kids have LOVED the one on one times with us! We have really enjoyed it also. They don't stop talking the entire night. We have done bowling, park, bookstore dates, craft dates, etc. The list is endless!
Wow, apparently I had a lot of words to say! That happens when my husband has been out of town and I've been with three 7 year olds through the end of Christmas break and snow days! This has become my adult interaction . I hope something I mentioned has helped. The biggest thing I always have to work on is letting go and just let it be. Let go of what I thought something would be or what I thought I was going to get done. Let it be for what it is and don't let the mom guilt creep in. So what if you don't cook all organic for your kids? That is probably not your passion. Your kids don't craft? Probably not your thing. But maybe you are outside playing ball with them and that's what you enjoy.