This past year has been difficult, to put it mildly. Right now, Barnes has the zoomies. He runs back and forth until he gets it out of his system. I laugh at these crazy antics. Sometimes I can’t smile, and Barnes will snuggle up to me. I am raising our kids now as a single mom. I always thought I would have more time with Harlan. When I get stuck in my own head, I remember my pregnancy and the delivery of Alex, Benjamin and Olivia because I can smile at how the five of us made a family.
I don’t know where the last 16 years have gone. I can still feel them rolling around and kicking inside me. I can feel how tiny they were the first time I could hold them in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). I can smell that new baby smell. I remember Harlan and l leaving the hospital after four days without our babies. A very kind nurse told me to make sure I had something in my hands when we were leaving the hospital because it would help with the panic I might feel. I know the joy I felt when we were told that they would be coming home. They were still so little. I couldn’t believe the trio was going to be home and we would all be together!
I went to all my pre-natal appointments. I took the medications and vitamins. I vomited daily, sometimes hourly. Every ultrasound was a chance to see our babies. My body was keeping Benjamin, Olivia and Alex safe. A premature delivery is likely when the mom is pregnant with multiples. After listening to all my doctors, we decided that I would have weekly ultrasounds and eventually non-stress tests were added. My car could practically go on autopilot from home to the office. I am so grateful for the doctors and nurses because they supported me. They also knew when it was time to head to the hospital. On that Thursday, at 30 weeks and six days I was sent to the hospital because I was contracting.
I got shots of steroids in my rear end because they can help the lungs mature if a baby is going to be born prematurely. The doctors were trying to stop the contractions. The nurses tried to comfort and distract me. The entire staff was amazing that night. Unfortunately, the contractions kept building and getting closer together. I hallucinated the entire night from the different medications trying to stop the labor. I remember talking to people who weren’t there and praying. I had sent Harlan home because he had to work the next day. He was getting ready for bed when I called him and let him know he needed to come back. Our babies were going to be delivered in the next 10 hours. I needed him. Harlan held my hand and prayed, too.
I will never forget what the doctor said when she came into my room: How do we feel about babies? I laughed and replied: We like babies. She said that I was going to have our babies that morning. It still didn’t feel real. Everything seemed to happen both slower than molasses and at warp speed.
Our babies were going to be delivered at 31 weeks, nine weeks early. Harlan and I knew there were no guarantees. We knew that there could be a bad outcome. I wanted to keep our babies inside for another nine weeks. I had to trust my body. I had to trust the doctors and nurses. I cried then I put my shoulders back and faced the fear. The day Alex, Olivia and Benjamin were born it was raining. I would like to think the raindrops were happy tears falling from above.
I cherish the memories of Harlan becoming a father. I got to see what unbridled joy looked like. He had wanted to be a father since he was a little kid. He saved different things growing up to give to his future children. He was so proud of the kids. He was a diaper changing, bottle holding, vomited on and playing on the floor dad. Harlan loved teaching them about anything and everything. There is one thing I hope Olivia, Benjamin and Alex will always remember about Harlan: He loved his children unconditionally.
Jennifer Steuer is an Albany mom with 15-year-old triplets Olivia, Benjamin and Alex, and their 50-pound lap dog, Barnes. Follow her on Instagram: jennifersteuer.