Finding out that you are going to have triplets changes your thought process in so many ways. There are the obvious: bigger vehicle, finances being pushed to the limit, possible disabilities, bed rest and worries about what happens after the babies are actually outside of your body and need attention 100 percent of the time.
For me, being pregnant with triplets was the easy part. The stress on my body felt minimal, except for the modified bed rest. When climbing the stairs prompted early contractions, I made a little nest upstairs with a mini refrigerator and microwave. I had my computer, television, telephone and books. Down the hall were my bedroom and bathroom. I sat in my recliner and stared out the windows daydreaming. My little nest was in the same room that the children were going to live in once they were born and home from the NICU.
I spent the time preparing for my life after the children arrived. I studied books on higher order multiples, watched television shows to glean information that might be helpful, and the Internet became my resource for all things helpful and terrifying. I made sure that I would have a triple stroller, a vehicle that could accommodate three car seats safely and legally. I made sure that we had the right furniture, toys and a beautiful nursery.
Higher order multiples are often born premature and spend time in the NICU getting stronger and being monitored in case of an emergency. I was prepared for the children to stay behind when I went home, and I was blessed that the staff at St. Peter’s Hospital cared for them so well. I did not like going home empty handed, but I understood the reasons. Recovering from a cesarean section is not easy, but knowing the children were being so well cared for while I was home recovering helped.
What I was not prepared for was how solitary life could feel despite the full house. Although my husband came home every night and even worked from home for many weeks after the children were released from the hospital, I would feel utterly alone and isolated.
The day eventually came when my husband went back to work, and I was left by myself with the children and my anxiety. I felt crushing doubt about my ability to be a good mother. Forget “good” mother, I just wanted to be adequate.
It’s a strange kind of solitude, some of it self-imposed and some of it driven by impossible logistics. Sure, you can take the kids to the park, but how does one mom chase three kids going off in three different directions? When the kids were still infants, I worried about leaving the house for fear that someone would take one of the babies.
For these reasons I felt alone and lost, despite having a support system that included my mother, my husband, and his brother and sister.
I don’t know if other women felt this way after giving birth, I only know that post-partum depression played a big part in my loneliness. My fear of “something happening” to me or the children was a paralyzing, and I don’t think all my fears were irrational or baseless.
Five years later, I have some perspective under my belt. I now take the kids on adventures (we call them “bear hunts”), and we run errands together. We have even gone to fast-food restaurants just the four of us and we all survived to go hiking another day. But there are times even now that I feel alone.
The remedy for the loneliness has been difficult for a shy individual such as me: I have had to put myself outside my comfort zone. I made myself stay after school while the kids played on the playground and forced myself to talk to other parents. At times I’ve felt socially awkward, sure that other parents would think I was a poser and would see through my facade.
These days, I still feel passing waves of loneliness. Triplets surround me with love and acceptance but also make me feel as if I am alone in a spotlight waiting on stage for the entrance of a grown-up friend.
Jennifer Steuer is an Albany mom, whose busy household includes her husband, Harlan, and 5-year-old triplets Olivia, Benjamin and Rebecca. The one thing she misses most about pre-triplet days is sleep.