A New Normal

My postpartum recovery brought a lot more emotions than I imagined. The mom guilt came on quickly. Even when I was hospitalized I believed I could carry the babies three more weeks and when that didn’t happen, I blamed myself. I told myself if the babies would have broken my water or started labor than I would have been OK with them deciding it was time to arrive. Truth be told, I probably would have still blamed myself.  I played the “what if” game a lot the first few weeks. What if I would have stopped working earlier? What if I didn’t have that cup of coffee that morning? I was upset with my body for not being able to carry all three babies. I felt like it quit on my kids even though each person I saw would say, “You made it to 31 weeks. That’s great!” It didn’t feel great.

I’m lucky to have such an amazing support system. Between Mike, my family and even the NICU nurses and doctors, I learned how flawed my thoughts were. At a developmental follow-up, I shared these struggles with our neonatologist who went on to ramble off a long string of medical terms that basically said nothing I did could have caused my pre-eclampsia. I was also enrolled in a postpartum depression and anxiety program through AHN’s Women’s Behavioral Health Center. They started seeing me when I was 20 weeks pregnant and I am so grateful that I had someone to talk through scenarios leading up to my c-section and beyond.

I can say fairly confidently that this will be my only pregnancy, which further complicated my feelings about such an early delivery. I mourned my pregnancy for months after my c-section. Pregnancy is such a special bond between mom and baby or babies. I loved knowing they were always with me–that they were safe. I would sing to them in the car and I had finally reached the point in my pregnancy where I could see them moving around and punching through my skin. Friends and family would always note that getting any larger would have been miserable–which is probably true. But knowing I would never do this again, or that I would have to now share them with the world was hard. Hormones are complicated and as silly as some of these emotions feel now that I spend everyday with three amazing little people, talking about them was so important.

Add to these crazy hormonal thoughts a new daily routine of visiting the hospital. Mike and I remark now that we can’t believe this was our life. Everyday I would wake up, pump and spend my mornings watching the babies on the webcam. Then my Mom would drive me to the hospital where I would stay all day. Mike would arrive around 4-5pm. We would stay through shift change and enjoy a gourmet hospital dinner (LOL) before leaving at 9 or 10pm. Go home, sleep and repeat it all the next day. This schedule would change once I could drive and when the babies started coming home. I was pumping every three hours including during the night. Pumping made me feel like I was actually a Mom not just a woman who was home after having surgery. It was a way for me to contribute to caring for my babies since I couldn’t be there 24/7.

NICU life is something you can really only understand if you have gone through it. At first it was an uncomfortable place. You don’t know if you can hold your baby and its scary to change such small diapers. A few days into our NICU stay, two nurses who were in Owen’s pod took the time to show us how to rotate our kids, do all of their care and feel confident in our rights as NICU parents. We finally started to get comfortable with our surroundings.

We saw and experienced a lot of things that most parents don’t experience. We watched our children learn how to eat for the first time. We changed diapers through holes in an isolate. We learned how to reattach their leads to connect them to their monitors and knew which alarms were worrisome. We knew how to weigh and bath them in their isolates. We learned new terms like “brady” or “desaturation” or “ng tube.” We also had hard moments like seeing them turn gray when their little brains forgot to tell their lungs to breath. And we celebrated when we moved past those scary moments.

I’ve tried to explain some of these things to full-term parents and they look at you blankly. It isn’t something they can fathom and that’s not a knock on full term parents. Bringing home a baby after a vaginal delivery or c-section and also caring for said baby is difficult and exhausting too. It’s just a different type of exhaustion.

Our hospital had NICU parent (but mostly Mom) scrapbooking every Wednesday. It was the best outlet to vent, cry and even celebrate milestones. I will forever have a bond with those women. We actually have a Facebook group where we keep tabs on each other. I think sometimes I cry more about their babies’ progress than my own. We have been on this journey together. We have a team walking at the March for Babies in Pittsburgh. If you are interested in donating to our team you can do it here.

As we got closer to having three babies at home people would say to me, “Oh my, you are going to be exhausted.” We didn’t care. We just wanted our family home together. Once you have experienced a long-term stay in the NICU, the small struggles or exhaustion seem trivial.

 

 

Birth Story Part 3: Recovery and the NICU

The next 24 hours on “the mag” were a complete blur. I remember bits and pieces but I have had Mike and other family members fill in a lot of details. The nurses gave me some anxiety and anti-nausea medications. I did a lot of vomiting and heaving post-surgery.  I remember being really hot again and dunking my hands into ice cold water.  Nurse Pam was back and took care of me through those first 12 hours. I remember seeing our families after surgery before they went home to rest after being up all night. They came back sometime in the afternoon but I was not in a good way.

Mike’s family came back to the hospital around 2 p.m. and he took his Mom down to see the babies. I thought he was gone for hours–it was 20 minutes. I laid there coming in and out of consciousness stewing with anger that he left me for all this time. When he came back from the NICU he brought cloth hearts for me to wear to put in the babies isolates. Since I couldn’t be with them, it would give them comfort to smell my scent. I did not understand why he was trying to shove these under my hospital gown. They were for the babies, he said. To be honest, I had no thoughts of being a Mom at this point. I was confused and even a bit angry. “The Mag” has this affect. I was still hooked up to the blood pressure monitor going off every 15 minutes. They had also put these devices on my feet that made my legs jump occasionally. I believe its to prevent blood clots. Somehow I believe I slept through a lot of this craziness. Thank you, Ativan! The moments I was awake, I don’t really remember except that I was often heaving.

It’s interesting to hear from other friends and family that were on the outside of the situation for those 24 hours. People assume you are in normal recovery. My boss tried to come see me and luckily Mike caught him in the hall because I was not conscious let alone ready for visitors. My brother lives in Richmond and was upset that their weren’t regular updates. My Mom sent him a picture of me asleep in bed because there were no updates to share. I wasn’t awake or talking and the babies were down in the NICU. I didn’t even know my family was in the room. I don’t remember any part of the evening. I don’t remember Pam’s shift ending or when they turned off “the mag.” I do remember the move to my post-partum room. It was now Monday morning. I had been a parent for 24 hours and I had not met my children. This was nothing like the typical recovery of a new mother.

Mike had given the NICU tour to our family members several times at this point. Our kids were in three separate rooms or “pods” and he had to escort one person to each bedside.  He signed all the consent forms. He went to “rounds” and got the updates about the status of our kids. He filled out all their information for birth certificates and social security cards. It was the start of his role as Super Dad. I was terrified to go down to the NICU. I didn’t feel well and was worried I would faint. I knew they would be small and that they would have IVs and be on oxygen but I was still unsure of what to expect. Sometime on Monday, Mike wheeled me down to the NICU. I told one of the nurses, who became my kids’ primary nurse and now one of my best friends, that I didn’t want to know any medical details. I just wanted to know if they were doing OK. Ava and Owen were progressing nicely and would soon be off of IV nutrition. Amelia was taking a little longer and her weight would drop from 3lbs 12oz to 3lbs 3oz- but she would be right behind them.

 

 

It was not the meeting I had envisioned. I was only there briefly because I still didn’t feel great. I didn’t hold them. It didn’t feel like the normal special bonding moment when you meet your children for the first time. Mike would hold Ava for the first time later that evening. I focused on getting myself feeling better so I could visit longer and more often. Recovering from a c-section was no joke plus it was taking longer than I expected for my blood pressure to come down. I felt like I could tell exactly where Dr. Hoyson pulled each baby from. My stomach ached. Lactation came to visit and  I started to pump. Mike would take my colostrum down to the NICU. Once they started to eat they would get donor milk as well.

 

The next few days would get better. I was more comfortable being in the NICU. I started to get use to the wires and the beeping. I held each of them, but Owen was the first. I was discharged on Wednesday and we spent the majority of that day moving from pod to pod to see our kids. It was amazing how well they progressed even in those first few days. We would cheer each new milestone–even the smallest ones. It was the start of the next part of our roller coaster journey as NICU parents.

Birth Story Part 2: We’re having a birthday party

Once I came back to reality on Thursday and could think with a clear mind, I was able to talk more with my doctors about my situation. Blood pressure cuffs give me anxiety. I hate the squeezing feeling and then feeling your own pulse. It creeps me out. This isn’t a new thing for me. I have always hated all things medical. I swore up and down that my blood pressure was high because of my anxiety. And that my anxiety was increasing each time someone took my blood pressure.

The blood pressure machine was also behaving oddly. The cuff would pop off my arm. They tried a larger size but it wasn’t working well. I was convinced both the machine and my anxiety were showing my blood pressure was higher than it actually was. That’s crazy, right? Well, its because I didn’t feel sick. Beyond having swelling in my legs and feet, I didn’t have any of the symptoms they asked about when they rounded. Based on this, I thought I would be a West Penn Hospital tenant for the next three weeks.

My friends brought magazines, books, board games– you name it. I went for an occasional walk. I looked like I was staying in a hotel, other than the IV in my hand. So many friends and family visited and others texted to check in. But everything changed on Saturday night.

Around 9:00pm my blood pressure readings had started to get higher. Up until now I had occasional high blood pressure readings, but they normally went back down. The nurse had told me that because I had a few in a row they wanted me to wear the cuff and have it test me every 15 minutes. My best friend, Vicki, and Mike were there. We were actually watching the Stanley Cup Final and cheering against the Capitals. When suddenly Dr. Hoyson and my favorite resident appeared in the door. They sat down on the couch. They weren’t happy with my blood pressures. She said, “If you have one more blood pressure like the one you just had, we are having a birthday party.” I started to sob. She stood up from the couch and held me, “you have done everything you can for these babies, but we are reaching a point where they will be safer outside of your body.” I continued to cry as we started to discuss the plan. Mike went to go call our parents.

When I last ate would determine how soon the c-section could happen and they would want to consult with Maternal Fetal Medicine. They would be sending a neonatologist to come talk to us about the state of the babies’ development at 31 weeks and 2 days and give us more information about the NICU. The conversation with the neonatologist was so difficult for Mike and I. It’s really hard to hear all the ways your baby is not going to be prepared for the world. I trusted my doctors though and I knew me and my children were in great hands.

My estimated time of a c-section was after midnight. What would I be doing between now and that time? More Magnesium Sulfate. But this time, there would be no ice chips or water since I would be going into surgery in the next few hours. This is where we meet Lisa, my other angel nurse. After the bolus was over and the drip began, I think Lisa sensed my nervousness. She kept me talking as I kept sighing and taking deep breaths to keep my nerves in control. There was a question from anesthesiology of whether I could have a non-sedated c-section which required more blood work and waiting.

It was a busy night at the hospital and so when the decision was finally made that I was in the clear for my c-section, it was 4 am. Since the beginning I had been terrified of having a c-section. So terrified, that I had a consult with the head of OB anesthesiology and she had given us a tour of the operating room.

The experience could not have been better. I made it clear to all my doctors and nurses that I needed them to talk to me to keep me calm. The anesthesiologist resident was my favorite. He made a list of things we were going to talk about before we got into the operating room. Dr. Hoyson held my legs while they did my spinal. And when I started to feel nauseous, she laid me down and held the basin while I tried to puke. When I stopped for long enough, she said “Ok, Alyson. Are you ready? I’m going to go scrub in.” She took care of me like I was part of her family. The anesthesiologist held my hand when I started to get a bit more anxious. It was an emotional experience for both Mike and I. I remember both of us tearing up. This was not the night we had planned for but we were about to become parents. We were worried for them but hoped for the best.

I wasn’t sure if I wanted to see the babies over the curtain as they took each of them out, but I opted to see Owen as he was Baby A. I decided not to see the other two, because it had increased my anxiety a bit. It took a little while longer to get Amelia out and Mike tells me that I yelled “Jess, how we doing over there?” She responded, “Working on it, Alyson!” Apparently I was relaxed enough to start calling my doctors by their first names. Owen Garnet arrived at 4:33am on June 3 and Amelia Marie came three minutes later at 4:36am, followed by Ava Angelina at 4:38am. All three were wrapped in plastic to maintain their body heat and taken to the NICU. Mike remembers each of them crying. I just remember wanting to know their stats. The attending anesthesiologist grabbed Mike’s phone and ran to the other side of the curtain to snap some pictures. It took me months before I could really look at those photos.

Owen was 3lbs 5oz and 16 inches long. Ava was also 3lbs 5oz but only 15.5 inches long. And Amelia was 3lbs 12oz and 17 inches long.

 

I can’t begin to describe how amazing it felt to have all that pressure released from my body. I had no idea that I had been walking around like a pressure cooker for the last several months. It was a glorious feeling.

After surgery I laid in recovery as Mike spooned ice chips to me. I have never been so happy to have some water. I ate those chips as fast as I possibly could. A nurse came to take Mike to see our families. And soon after, the neonatologist came to take Mike to meet the babies. I don’t remember much about the report she gave us but it seemed like everything was as good as it could be. I wouldn’t be meeting them until the next day because I was headed back to my room for 24 more hours of Magnesium Sulfate.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our Birth Story Part 1: “The Mag”

I had taken off work on Wednesday, May 30 because I had both my ultrasound and an appointment with my doctor, Dr. Hoyson. I was now 30 weeks 5 days pregnant.  My ultrasound went fine. It was onto my OB appointment where I peed in the cup as you do at every appointment. At this point of my pregnancy I had become close with the nurses and aides, so when she said, “Oh, there is a little protein in your urine.” I responded with, “Shit.”

She took my blood pressure which was moderately high. The moment she left the room, Mike asked what that would mean. Pre-eclampsia. It meant pre-eclampsia.

Each appointment I would ask Dr. Hoyson, what would cause me to be hospitalized. How would I know? I knew all about pre-eclampsia (or atleast I thought I did). I bought my own blood pressure cuff for home because I knew that either pre-eclampsia or preterm labor would be what brought these babies into the world. I had worried a lot about my water breaking or having contractions and not knowing they were the real deal. We would never get that far.

In came Dr. Hoyson, who is the most reassuring, kind, compassionate individual I have ever met. She saw my crazy and didn’t run from me. She put up with my notebook full of questions. She listened to me, she hugged me, she kept me calm and sane through this entire process. More about her later. They were sending me to the hospital for 23 hours of observation. I had mild pre-eclampsia. If I was a singleton mom, they would just monitor me but because I had three, we were off to West Penn Hospital.

Mike was slightly freaked out as we drove the minivan down to West Penn. I was relatively calm. This was just a precaution. Even if I was getting admitted, these babies were staying put for awhile. Throughout the last few weeks of my pregnancy, Maternal Fetal Medicine and my OB had seemed confident that I could make it to 34 or 35 weeks. We were on cruise control.

Obviously my OB wouldn’t be there when I arrived, but she was going to be at the hospital starting Friday through Sunday at 9am. From the moment I arrived at the hospital every resident and attending reassured me that they were under strict instructions to keep Dr. Hoyson up-to-date on everything that was going on. If these babies were coming, she was going to be there.

After a stint in triage, with more urine and blood tests, checking for contractions, and my first of two steroid shots,  I was taken to a room on the ante-partum floor. I had so much protein in my urine at this point that they told me they wouldn’t need to test that again. I suspected that I was going to be here longer than the originally planned 23 hours.

They won’t let you eat when you first arrive at the hospital in case the babies need to come that day. So this starving, pregnant lady finally had some snacks in the afternoon. After dinner Mike was going to head home to get me some stuff. My parents were going to come down to visit for a bit and then Mike would also head home to sleep. That plan quickly changed when they decided at 7pm that my blood pressure was high enough that it warranted 12 hours of Magnesium Sulfate. Or as we call it “the mag.”

Not a medical professional here, but let me tell you what I understand about Magnesium Sulfate. They give it to pregnant woman who have been diagnosed with pre-eclampsia to protect the baby’s brain and also to protect the mom from having seizures. A woman’s risk of seizure is highest 24 hours after delivering the babies and so most women have it right after they deliver. Because there is a risk of seizure, you are only allowed to have clear fluids. Your choices include: ice chips, apple juice, ginger ale, and popsicles. My clue that I was in for one hell of a night should have been when my favorite nurse of all-time, Pam, brought in basins of ice chips, ice water, and towels.

Let me give you a clear visual of that evening. On my left arm was my blood pressure cuff. It went off every 15 minutes. Pam would be by my side all night long logging my vitals. We would high five each time my blood pressure was normal. It was the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Across my belly were four monitors, one for each baby and one for contractions. Each time a baby moved we had to find the baby to get it back on. On my right hand was my IV where to kick off “the mag” they would do a bolus of the drug over 15 minutes. I would learn bolus means to give the drug to you as fast as possible. This is where the ice water and rags came in handy. Mike was putting a cold rag on me and it was turning warm in 30 seconds. After the bolus, it would be fluids with “the mag.”

Halfway through the evening, the residents taking care of me started to suggest we were doing this for 24 hours. Hell no, that was not happening. I was starving. I hadn’t slept all night because I was so uncomfortable. I exhausted all my clear liquid options several times over and the popsicle gave me heartburn. I started to plan how I was going to convince the crew of doctors and nurses that we were done with this after 12 hours. I gathered information from each new person that came to see me. While I laid there unable to sleep, I planned my entire speech. Luckily I didn’t have to convince them– it was only going to be 12 hours.

I had a hunger headache and couldn’t lift my eyeballs as the sun started to come up outside my hospital windows. It was a gorgeous view but I was not in a good way. They ordered me regular breakfast and Pam asked if I could have some of the bagel or granola bar that I had in my bag. They allowed it, but my body was not OK with it. “The mag” made me sick. I couldn’t keep anything down. I can’t remember the last time I puked so unexpectedly and with such force. God bless Pam. She is my angel. This would be the first of many times that she would take care of me with such grace and kindness. For some insane reason, she requested to take care of me on each of her shifts.

One of my maternal fetal medicine doctors compared coming off of “the mag” to coming off of an acid trip. And I imagine that is pretty accurate. I freaked out. I felt like I needed to get out of my bed. The twelve hours were over but my blood pressure cuff was still on. The machine started to go off, like it had every fifteen minutes for the last 12 hours, and I ripped it off. I felt like I needed to run away. The new nurse had just come on and I was a mess. I hadn’t slept. I had this terrible drug leaving my body and I was hungry but couldn’t eat. It felt like hours of flipping out but it was only minutes. I finally relaxed enough to be taken back to my room.

The doctor who would become my favorite resident had come to see me as they were about to stop “the mag” and she asked me what I understood of my current situation. Even as woozy as I felt, I looked at her and said. “I’m not going home until I have these babies.” She nodded and so began my stay at Hotel de West Penn.

 

A Blissfully Uneventful Pregnancy

It’s crazy to think about where we were a year ago. After spending time with our family in Winter Park, FL, Mike and I flew to Miami to spend the New Year Holiday. It wasn’t supposed to be our baby moon, but it was, since I was put on travel restrictions earlier than most. At this point I could make it until about 4 pm before getting sick which meant we could spend the day on the beach before spending the evening in our room. Poor Mike exhausted the in-room dining menu. I did make it up until the ball dropped and we watched fireworks from several different towns on our balcony.  We headed home and started to prepare for our new family.

I learned things in my Google searches like “No, you can’t put triplets in the same crib.” I read blog posts by triplet moms that were helpful and I learned that there were online communities for moms with triplets. That turned out to be the greatest discovery because that is where I met Mallory. Mallory and I were meant to have triplets so that we could meet and become friends. She delivered her triplets at West Penn a month before I did and so we spent most days checking in on each other. Her and her rock star babies made it to 35 weeks and 1 day and they went home with her. There is so much more to her story including the adoption of her two sons. You can check out her Instagram to see her crazy journey. Since meeting Mallory, we have added Angela to our daily text check in as she is 32 weeks pregnant with triplets and now we have a Pittsburgh Triplet Moms group on Facebook with 25 women and growing. So if you know someone who has triplets in Pittsburgh, tell them about it because we have hit the ground running with events and our own little community.

Goodbye First Trimester
We were almost out of the first trimester and it was time for our 12-week ultrasound. As our tech rolled the transducer over my belly, there they were, our three miracle babies. It was the family of five we never knew we needed. I held back tears and smiled at Mike. This had suddenly become more real, and seemed completely normal. I was carrying three babies, our babies. I was a mom to triplets. This was going to be our journey.

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12 Weeks Pregnant

It doesn’t seem strange to have had three babies at once. Starting at 12 weeks, it became our normal. I always made our tech guess at their genders. Even at 12 weeks, Owen was always a boy. The other two showed no signs of boy features, but we waited until 16 weeks to be positive that they were girls. We had our families over for a gender reveal. Mike and I knew the genders but it was so fun to watch everyone’s reactions.

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At 15 weeks we announced our news online. We called it our “hat trick” with Mike and my love of hockey it seemed like a good fit. We were overwhelmed with the response from our friends. I joked that we broke the internet. There were friends who had to look at the announcement a second time to realize that by “hat trick” we meant three babies.IMG_0328

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16 Weeks Pregnant

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once I hit 18 weeks, the sickness subsided and I was able to enjoy being pregnant. Our friends surprised us with a “Chuggies and Huggies” party. I don’t think I have ever been as surprised as I was that day. When we were pulling up to the house and saw the cars in the cul-de-sac I was slightly disappointed that I was going to have to share my time with our favorite two-year-old. It wasn’t until I fully walked into the house that I realized the party was for us.

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19 Weeks Pregnant

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The rest of my pregnancy was blissfully uneventful. I had a beautiful shower and we were overwhelmed with the love and generosity of so many. My work threw me a shower, which may have even been more of a going away party. I think most expected I wouldn’t be back. I was tired and had pregnancy rhinitis, which might be one of the most annoying symptoms, but overall, I felt good. I stayed in my routine and kept working. I cheered each milestone 24, 28, 30 weeks. I had goals of 34 or 35 weeks but that all changed at my 30.5 week appointment.

 

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29 Weeks Pregnant
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28 Weeks Pregnant

 

 

 

Winning Christmas

Before we knew we were having triplets, we went on Etsy and bought a ton of “we are having a baby” reveal items. We had planned to save all of that until Christmas Eve and Christmas but instead decided we would tell our parents the day of our ultrasound.  My parents were in Las Vegas so we Facetimed to share the news. They were ecstatic and “all in” as my Dad said. They spent the rest of their trip telling card dealers and other random people that they needed to win big in Vegas because their daughter was pregnant with triplets.

We told Mike’s parents we were going to be near their house to see friends so we were going to stop in. We brought along their Christmas card, which actually said they were being promoted to Grandparents. We went ahead and wrote “Joyce Babies Arriving Summer 2018” since the card wasn’t made for a triplet announcement.

Here is Mike’s Mom’s reaction:

 

Ignore the poor quality and angle. I was secretly filming. Mike’s Dad’s reaction, as an avid camper, “I’m going to have to buy a bigger tent.”

We bought Mike’s 89-year-old grandma, a scratch off card and gave it to her on Christmas Eve. It took her awhile, but you can see where she finally reads the card below. She thanked us for having three. You know, cause we can control that. 😉 She was worried we were just getting three dogs not actually having three human babies.

By far the most boisterous reaction was my entire Dad’s side of the family. Every year from about December 26-December 29, we travel to someone’s house in either Orlando, Philadelphia, Annapolis or Pittsburgh for Christmas. This year we were going to Orlando, which meant I had to stomach a plane ride. To make matters more difficult, my Grandma and the Annapolis side of the family were not arriving until the next day. We wanted to wait until everyone was there before we shared our news. For 24 hours I had to hide that I was pregnant. I was sneaking to the bathroom, eating so many bagels and napping. My Aunt thought she had me figured out. When we were alone she looked at me,  “You’re pregnant.” I played surprised for a moment but then I revealed, “You got me, I’m pregnant.” We were then standing with my Mom, Dad, Mike and her. She was ecstatic and overjoyed that she was in on the secret. I signaled to the room that she didn’t know the whole story. It would make the reveal later that evening even better.

We had bought my Grandma a charm that said “Great-Grandma.” Here is the reaction as we tell the whole room, that we were having our trio.

When you are almost 30 years old, and you say you have an announcement, people assume you are pregnant. But once the excitement of that news faded and we would share that it wasn’t just one baby—we would shock everyone. Our family went nuts. This was so rare. The excitement was contagious. It was tough at first to handle the news ourselves, but sharing with those close to us we quickly realized the village that will be ever-present to raise these kids.

You guys did great…three times

Over the next few weeks I became increasingly more ill. By six weeks pregnant, I was vomiting constantly. There was a Saturday in December where I was getting sick every hour. Mike and I started reading various methods to help keep things down. I was drinking lots of Gatorade and eventually the combination of Unisom and B6 seemed to help. When you are puking due to pregnancy you are still hungry after you get sick. It’s a terrible cycle. Ramen Noodles, as well as other childhood favorites, became the one thing I could eat. It didn’t always stay down–but atleast it tasted good.

The week before my 7 week ultrasound, I looked at Mike and said, “this better be more than one baby, because I can’t do this again.” And he replied, “don’t say that, we can’t handle twins.” I tried to stay positive because I knew puking meant high HCG, which meant this baby was healthy. I was still nervous for the ultrasound. I tried not to get my hopes up. You hear so many stories of couples going in and finding out there is no heartbeat. Mike and I both braced ourselves that we could get bad news.

December 15, 2017
Because we were still being treated by the Reproductive Endocrinologist, I wasn’t allowed to see the ultrasound screen. And Mike actually waited in the waiting room. It took a long time, longer than any internal ultrasound I had before. My tech had seen me every time and is such a wonderful, caring person- but she wouldn’t tell me anything. She did ask, “how did we get you pregnant again?” and I responded, “just 50mg of Clomid.” That should have been a hint that our lives were about to change.

We were taken back to our doctor’s office and she started with some small talk asking how we were doing. And I responded with, “it depends on what you are about to tell me.” She looked at us and said, “well you guys did great– you did great three times.” She laid out the ultrasound and there they were, three little sacs.

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The Joyce Triplets first photo

The next 10-15 minutes were a blur of details: high risk pregnancy, maternal fetal medicine, c-section, etc. I remember her saying, “well we knew this was a risk and we did do those shots.” I corrected her, “No, there were no shots, just 50mg of Clomid.” She was shocked, this wasn’t something that happened often. Mike couldn’t speak. We had gone in there hopeful for one healthy baby and we were leaving with three. We now knew why I had been so sick. For me, this was exciting but the next day I fell apart.

This was not our plan. I was going to be a mom of two with a career. Between the vomiting and this news, I was a wreck. Mike and I started worrying about things like paying for three college educations, maybe three weddings? I cried over silly things like having to get a cot when we go on vacation. We had spent the last 5 years traveling, we were going to be those parents not afraid to travel with our first and second kid. How do you go to Disney World with triplets? Truthfully, we spent the next two weeks coping. I couldn’t bring myself to Google anything about triplets. I kept asking God, “why me?” And at the same time, I hated myself for feeling that way. I had been gifted three healthy babies– so many women would give anything for such a gift.

I can’t speak enough about Mike through the entire first trimester and beyond. You don’t know the strength of your marriage until your husband is cleaning up puke, picking you up off the floor daily, taking on every single household chore and also helping you cope emotionally with this shocking news. I now know how terrified he was, for both me and our children, but we held each other, prayed about it, and knew we were going to “win Christmas” this year.

Where Our Journey Started

Now that my trio is five months, I wanted to write a little about our journey. We are coming up to the day where I found out I was pregnant (with what I thought was one baby) and I thought it would be a good idea to rehash the last year. Partly because I am afraid I will forget the details and want to be able to tell it to our children, but also because you get a lot of questions when you are pregnant with triplets and I know there are women out there going through the same things we did.

Taking Charge of My Fertility
Like so many women I never had regular cycles as a young teen. I was put on birth control and told not to worry about it. Fast forward to being a 29-year-old married woman ready to start a family. Based on what I knew about my body, this was not going to be easy considering I could go a year without any sign of “Aunt Flow.” Luckily for me, I had a fantastic OB who ran the blood work right away. It led to a referral to a reproductive endocrinologist. Over the next 3 months I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism and put on Synthroid. There was still no sign of ovulation. So Clomid it was!

I now know so many women who have taken Clomid. It’s pretty standard for women suffering from infertility issues. Often doctors don’t do regular ultrasounds to look for follicles when prescribing the drug – which is where a lot of women get multiples. That was not the case for me and when my first round of the drug produced way too many potential eggs– I was cancelled. It was devastating. I just wanted to be able to try.

If you have ever known someone going through fertility treatment they will tell you that it is all consuming. People would ask me how I was doing or what was new with Mike and I and I would politely say nothing new, but inside I wanted to scream “trying to have a baby!”

They decreased my dosage and the next month we were given the thumbs up to move forward. I had three follicles– they are now my children. We were told we had a 10% chance of twins and a .5% chance of higher order multiples.

To me information was power so I was that person who took and graphed my temperature every morning. I used OPK’s, I read Taking Charge of Your Fertility, I was going to give us our best shot. So, when my temperature plummeted the Monday before Thanksgiving, I thought our chance this month was over. When you are pregnant, your temperature stays up for 18+ days–this was day 10. Turns out, it was just an implantation dip because the next day–at 3.5 weeks pregnant- I was already nauseous.

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My Basal Body Temperature Chart– pregnant with triplets.