“1 in 200 million” – Our Triplet Story
I never thought I would be a mom of multiples. There are no twins on either side of our family. So when my confirmation ultrasound about 8 weeks into my second pregnancy showed I was carrying two babies, I was floored. I was having twins!
During the next eight weeks I was the most exhausted I have been in my entire life. I’m a bone marrow transplant nurse at Cincinnati Children’s – it’s one of the most demanding units in the hospital for RNs, but I was used to it. I knew a twin pregnancy would be harder, but this was ridiculous, I couldn’t figure out how my pregnant co-workers had so much more energy than I did.
The exhaustion was high on my list of things to discuss with my OB during my 16 week appointment, but the reason became clear before I even had a chance to ask. While looking for the babies’ heartbeats my doctor asked me where I could feel the babies – the area to which I pointed couldn’t make sense. That is unless I was pregnant with triplets. They sent me to ultrasound to see what was going on, but said the chance of triplets was slim to none, they simply wanted to look at the positioning of the babies.
But that simple check provided the first glimpse of our THREE baby boys.
My 17 year old daughter patted me on the back and said “it’s ok mom, we’ll get through this” and I’ve remembered her words and encouragement many times since then.
That ultrasound changed everything. No more working, modified bed rest, no cleaning, no unnecessary trips out of the house – my job was to stay pregnant as long as possible, and I took it seriously. My “full term” goal was 36 weeks. My doctors said they would be thrilled with anything over 30 weeks. Despite breaking my foot during my pregnancy and spending the last few weeks in the hospital, I carried my boys 34 weeks and 5 days. They were the longest weeks of my life, but I’m proud of myself and my body.
All of my boys were over 4 pounds at birth:
Baby A – Ayden Joseph 4 lbs. 10 oz.
Baby B – Liam Christopher 4 lbs. 2 oz.
Baby C – Carson Anthony 4 lbs. 15 oz.
With such a high-risk pregnancy, I had many ultrasounds and had known from early on that there were two separate placentas – a set of identical twins sharing one and a singleton with his own. But when they were born, they all three looked alike. Like, really alike. It was impossible not to wonder if they could possibly all be identical. But there was no way; there were two placentas and when I asked the resident doctor at our delivery hospital about the placenta pathology results, he said they were not identical.
I was a bit bummed – because, how cool would it be to have identical triplets?! – but my babies were big and healthy and that’s what mattered. We moved on from the idea, but still I wondered. They just looked so much alike.
So alike, in fact, that before I cut their hospital bracelets off, I painted each of their toenails a different color – red, white and blue. We kept them painted for the first several months because the thought of mixing them up was terrifying. We kept expecting them to start developing appearance differences, but they all three have matching dimples and a matching pinched spot on their ears. It was nearly impossible to find differences that could be used to help tell them apart.
When he was about five weeks old, Liam started having color changes at home that prompted a trip to the emergency department and then later an ambulance ride to and 6 day stay at Cincinnati Children’s. He had stopped breathing. It was classified as an acute life threatening event (LTE) and called for a whole battery of tests.
One of the physicians we met during that period of testing was Dr. Robert Hopkin. He is a genetics specialist who was interested to know about the health of Liam’s brothers and in particular about Carson who shared a sac with Liam in utero. He recommended we do genetic testing on Liam and Carson to make sure they were identical and to determine if there could be something genetic that caused Liam’s LTE. He said if everything was good with Carson, it would be good with Liam if they were in-fact identical. Because I had the chance, I asked Dr. Hopkin about testing Ayden too, just in case they could all three be identical. He said bring them all, then we’ll know for sure.
When the follow-up call came, my relief that they didn’t find anything concerning was overshadowed by the shock that the tests had found all three of our boys are identical! I think I was more shocked with this news than I was with the news that we were having triplets in the first place.
Dr. Hopkin told us they could be as rare as one in two hundred million. When our local NPR station did a story about the boys, the reporter looked nation-wide and couldn’t find any other documented sets of spontaneous (meaning conceived without any type of fertility intervention) identical triplets that were divided in utero as ours were.
There is also now a theory – presented by a doctor who is familiar with my pregnancy – that Ayden, Liam and Carson are actually the only documented triplets of their kind. He believes the two babies who shared a placenta should have been conjoined twins but they somehow, miraculously, fully separated. I feel like I hit the jackpot three times in a row – I really am the luckiest mom ever!
I am ok with the fact that I will probably never fully comprehend the magnitude of how rare they are. And honestly, I’m not sure it really matters. They’re my boys and these last eight months with them have been life-changing in all the best ways.
It’s hard to think that this time a year ago I was trying my hardest to stay positive despite my growing physical discomfort. A triplet (or higher-order multiples) pregnancy is not an easy experience and if I could share one piece of advice with other triplet mommas, it would be to learn early on to ignore the negative comments. A large pregnant belly invites unsolicited comments and questions and I was shocked by the number of total strangers who said things like “triplets, wow, your life is over” or “you’re never going to do anything alone again,” or “how will you ever manage that many at once?”
They are wrong. Every one of those people is wrong and should be ignored. A life with triplets will be different from anything you’ve known before, but it will be better in so many ways. Alone time is certainly not as abundant as it once was, but I appreciate it that much more now and am always so excited to get back to my kids when I’ve been away from them. And, you will manage. You can do this and you will love it – it will be hard at times, but you’ll rise to the occasion, solve the problems, ask for help when you need it and quickly find a new normal that is better because your babies are part of it.