Tomorrow morning when I wake up I will be the father of three 11 year olds. It is incredibly hard to believe that 11 years have flown by so fast. After the next 11 years, I’ll be the father of three college graduates. Now that is a prospect that really freaks me out. Note to self, buy powerball tickets.
While we were in the process of starting our family, 9/11 happened. I remember my brother remarking one night, “How could anyone want to start a family after this? Who would want to bring a child into this world?” My wife and I were silent because, during that time, we were aggressively in the process of trying to do so.
We received the good news a few weeks after that Tuesday in September. The doctor told us it was likely twins because of my wife’s elevated estrogen levels. Somewhere in the beginning of the second trimester we learned that we were not having twins. In fact, we were having triplets. I am pretty sure it was Patrick who was hiding on us during the first 3 ultrasounds where the third baby went undetected (and he has been playing practical jokes on us ever since).
I’ll never forget the night they were born. My wife had gone into premature labor when she was just over halfway through her term (about 22 weeks). She was then put on bed rest at home and given some medication to prevent contractions. At around 26 weeks that medication started to wear off and she had to be admitted into the hospital for supervised bed rest until she delivered. She made it to 31 weeks; a little over 2 months shy of carrying to term.
One evening my wife complained about some discomfort and was given an exam at which point the nurse told us she was 3 centimeters dilated. “Does that mean I will deliver in the next few weeks?” my wife asked innocently enough. “Weeks,” the nurse said, “you are going to deliver in the next couple of hours!”
At that point, everything happened at warp speed. My wife was taken to pre-op where they prepared her for a C-Section. My mother in law was called and joined us at the hospital. I felt as if I needed some more support so I called my big sister, Mia, who came down to the hospital at around 2 am. She was followed by Nick Cappiello, my closest friend since 4th grade. This makes me feel bad about “outing” him over the airwaves of Pace University’s radio station where he was a DJ during his freshman year in college. Nick’s is not really gay but for some reason the 18-year-old Mike Carlon thought it would be funny to say that over the air. Sorry again Nick!
Grace, Patrick, and Maggie were born at 2:07, 2:08, and 2:09 respectively. None of them were over 4 pounds; Patrick wasn’t even 3 pounds. They were fighters from the beginning and, for better or for worse, they have not stopped fighting since! Within a year they were all “on the charts.” Now my girls are two of the tallest in their class and my son is right where he needs to be.
I have learned a lot over the past 11 years and would like to share some of the lessons that I’ve absorbed.
- There are such things as stupid questions. Tom Kriz was my high school English teacher and he was famous for telling us that there is no such thing as a dumb question. One thing I have learned by being a parent of triplets is that, with all due respect Mr Kriz, you are wrong. I can’t tell you how many people have asked me, “Was it hard when they were babies?” I am sorry, but this is a stupid question. Yes, it was hard. We went from zero to three kids in the blink of an eye. They had to be fed every three hours around the clock. We did not sleep at all for the first 3 months. Yes, it was hard – it was worth it – but it was hard.
- When people find out that you have triplets for some reason they feel as if they have a license to be nosey. One of the questions we continually face, mostly from complete strangers is, “Triplets eh – are they natural?” No, they are synthetic. I get a few thousand extra miles out of them before I have to change their oil. For some reason people feel as if they can ask whether or not we had any “help” conceiving simply because we had more than 1 baby at a time. I would never think to ask a complete stranger about their fertility so why do people continually ask us about ours?
- A sense of humor is critical. I became a father of three at 27 – my mother always tells me that out of her four children I was the only one who could handle having triplets because I have a good sense of humor. She’s right – it is required in order to stay somewhat sane during the craziness that having 3 infants brings. So much about life depends on the perspectives you have and the attitude you choose to take. I chose to handle the pressures of being a multiple parent with a smile and a few jokes – it made all the difference to me.
- You learn the definition of partnership. My wife and I constantly play zone defense. Because we are outnumbered, I had to do everything she did and she had to do everything I did. Diaper changes? At one point I counted doing 21 diaper changes in a day. Feedings? I could feed three at the same time with two on my lap and one in a “saucer.” Baths? I was the king of giving baths (there is nothing like the smell of a baby out of the bath – I kind of miss it but don’t get any ideas Nicole). I believe I would have been as hands on if we did not have triplets but, as a result of being so hands on, I have a very close relationship with each of my kids. I frankly cannot picture my life without them. I think they feel the same way. Tonight Gracie told me that she wanted me to live with her when she grows up. She warned me that she would have a very creative house with paint splattered on the walls. I am going to remember this when I am 80 and incontinent. By that point, my wife will be in an insane asylum after having been married to me for 55 years and I will need Gracie’s help to get me back into life with Depends.
The past 11 years have been a whirlwind. We spent so much of it waiting anxiously for a new phase to begin (i.e. to sleep through the night, to walk independently, to communicate clearly, etc.). This came at the expense of not fully living in the moment when they were really small. We missed a lot – it’s not that we weren’t there, its just that we were always waiting for them to grow. Now I find myself thinking the opposite – I want them to slow down!
I have come to realize that my job as a parent evolves around one central description; nourish to flourish. The way we nourish them changes. In the beginning it literally meant feeding them every few hours so they could thrive. Of course we still have to feed them, but nourishment today is much more than a caloric definition. We need to instill in them the ethics and values they need to succeed in life.
Likewise, to flourish means more than simply helping them to grow up healthy. It means helping them become good people, people who are kind to others and individuals who use their talents to make the world a better place. My children all have their strengths and weaknesses academically but I give most credence to the comments section on each report card. Most of the time I read comments about how my children are respectful, kind to others, and always willing to lend a helping hand to someone in need. That means more to me than any letter grade!
I am not always the best parent i can be. I oftentimes lose my temper and am short on patience. I am not always fair and there are times when I say yes to them when I should say no and times when I say no to them when I should say yes. The only thing I am certain about is that I will continue to make these mistakes as they continue to age. That said, I look forward to every minute of it.