Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Rule #1

So, we have a list of "Truths" around here. Rule #1, Babies are gross. Rule #2, refer to rule #1.

And they are. Really disgusting little creatures. Their exploration of self and surroundings leads to some discoveries which turn the tummy.

First of all, they are booger making machines! I've become quite handy with the nasal aspirating bulb--can free a stuck bat from the cave in under 10 seconds. But their favorite method of boog-removal is simply rubbing their nose crazily on my shirt until it's relocated.

All three of our kids have suffered from quite severe reflux, so for a while it was kind of a barf bath around here. It was a good day if we (the caretakers) only went through three shirts each, and maybe just one change of pants. You'll notice that our kids have bibs on in all their pictures from about 2 months to 7 months. Once they started solids, it mellowed out a bit, but bibs were required attire for quite a while.

Of course, then there's the poop. Again, until solids started, we could count on one "blow-out" per day. These were up-the-back nightmares requiring a full bath and lots of scrubbing of the victimized clothing. These tiny little miracles produce more pollution than BP. I estimate on a particularly "active" day, we change about 12 poopy diapers. It's even worse during teething, when 12 can come from one kid.

Some of the things the girls do are just plain bizarre. And gross. Devynn discovered her tongue not long ago, and began pulling at it. She couldn't get it she put her hand further and further down her throat. Well, you can imagine how THAT ended. Fortunately, this phase only lasted a couple of days.

Recently, Devynn has begun spitting large amounts of drool on the linoleum, then sucking it back up. Not sure what this does for her development, but I say, Rock on with yo' bad self, Devvy!

So, in addition to being gross, babies are expensive! I remember many years ago a friend of mine saying kids aren't too expensive until they start school--only about $100 extra per month. Clearly inflation has affected this figure. Substantially.

Admittedly, formula is much more expensive than breastfeeding, but as previously mentioned, that's not a realistic option for us. The kids are all on the regular formula now, and we go through about 6 cans a week. That's about $350 a month. (When they were on the preemie formula, it was more expensive, but then, they didn't drink as much either.) Our kids kill about 25 diapers and 40-65 wipes on a particularly "active" day. That's about $330 a month. They eat about 35 jars of baby food and 3 boxes of rice cereal a week. Another $100 a month. And then there's desitin, tylenol, mylicon, poly-vitamins, hypoallergenic baby wash and lotion, fragrance/dye free detergents, blah blah blah. That $100 "extra" per month is looking pretty dated!

Ah, well. For all the puke, poop, boogs, money, gray hair, and wrinkles--they are worth it over and over again.

Monday, August 9, 2010

I Have Our Pediatrician on Speed Dial

With Cassie heading back to work and Nanny Cathy at the ready, it was time to settle into a daily "routine" around here. For the first several months, everyone told us, "it'll get easier! Then harder. Then easier!" The nights definitely got easier, with each baby sleeping about 4 hours at a time (never the SAME 4 hours, but at least we could get 1-2 hours of sleep in a chunk). During the day, however, the girls now wanted a lot more interaction and "play". This is great, of course, as they were developing beautifully and happily. It did make for finding time to maintain the household a continued difficulty. It seems minor and silly, but you never realize how nice it is to have an hour to clean your bathroom until you don't have that hour anymore!

So, what would a "routine" with triplets look like? Well, unfortunately, the babies create the routine. Try as you might, there's only so much the parents can mandate. We have a few things that have helped however. We do baths EVERY night. Even if they don't need it, they at least get to hang out in the warm water for a bit. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, it let's them know that it's time to start thinking about bed. THEY might not be thinking about bed, but we sure are! Second, after not seeing them all day, this gives Cassie some one-on-one time with each girl. She has a cute little dance she does with them in front of the mirror and a song once they hit the water. They love it. Then we play their "nighttime" music (which has become a bit maddening after all these months), turn down the lights, give bottles, read stories, and crash out. Of course, once the gals are in bed, we hit the floor running to get everything ready for the night and the morning. Bottles cleaned and re-poured, garbage and diaper pails emptied, laundry and dishes finished up, and then getting ourselves ready for bed. It's a process!

Until the girls were about 5 months old, it seemed we were at the pediatrician's office about 3 times a month. Now, I'll readily admit, some of these visits were because I have severe First-Time Parent-itis (One of my pediatrician's more recent comments, "Yes, it is very serious. I'm glad you brought her in right away. This... is dry skin." Sigh.), but there were a few concerns that seemed a bit unusual, at least to me. Because of their position in the womb, Delaney "sat" on Devynn. This resulted in Devynn having torticollis. It is essentially a twisted neck. It was quite subtle, but her propensity to favor holding her neck in one position was creating a flat spot on her head. The only treatment she required was physical therapy, fortunately. It's completely gone now and her little noggin is as round as a pumpkin!

Meanwhile, we'd noticed that Drew's ears were strangely developed. When we asked the doc about it, she ordered an ultrasound of her kidneys. WTH? So, a-googlin' I went. Turns out that the ears develop at the same time as the kidneys in utero. If the ears have unusual folds, it may be a sign of underdeveloped kidneys, Turner's Syndrome, or a few other maladies. The ultrasound found no abnormalities, but again, just a little something to turn my hair gray. Oh, and her ears are growing nicely now.

Other fun things we've seen the doc for: Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (all three kids), innocent heart murmur (Devynn), low birth weight related anemia (Dev and Laney), neonatal jaundice (Drew), blocked tear ducts (Dev and Drew) and persistent external yeast infections (Dev).

Mary Bridge Children's Hospital (where all three kids were born) has a great neonatal follow-up program for kids who were premature or borderline preemie. Every few months we trek up to Tacoma and meet with physical therapists, social workers (to make sure we're not losing our minds and, therefore, posing a threat to the kiddies), nurses and the like who check out everything that's anything. It's very helpful and educational and keeps us motivated to focus our activites around physical play and learning activities with the girls. All three gals are still at risk for future developmental delays, so the sooner we catch any abnormalities the better.

When we visit Mary Bridge, we see children who are not as fortunate as our kids. Their health issues are much more serious and debilitating. They are so precious and delicate. Each day I am so grateful that we, and our gorgeous daughters, have the gift of health.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Home Again, Home Again, Jiggety Jig...

From the time we'd left home to meet with the specialist at Tacoma General to the time we returned home with our new family, 30 days had passed. It was so surreal to leave the temporary home(s) we'd had in Tacoma and go back to our tiny cabin in the woods--with three new additions. My sister-in-law had left the previous day (she was SO much help with everything that was going on--it would've been impossible without her) and Cassie's mother Jeanne) and sister (Jessi) arrived around the same time. So the seven of us crammed into the tiny place to try to adjust to this new life.

To say we were disorganized would make you Captain Understatement. We thought we knew what we would need, how we would set up routines, when babies would sleep and eat, etc. We had no clue. Anyone with a baby knows how demanding they are. Yes, they sleep 18-20 hours a day. But not in a row. And not necessarily when you want them to. And when there's three... NEVER at the same time. I'm sure I'll repeat this theme over and over, but three babies isn't three times as hard as one, it's exponentially as hard. The only people who really look at me with the kind of fear/sympathy/admiration/disbelief that I think befitting our situation are parents of twins. They know how hard two at a time is and, thus, have a clue about the triplet thing. Not to take away from mothers who have their babies the right way (i.e., one at a time), because I know how hard your job is! I'm just sayin', having triplets basically ends your life. For a while. There's no cooking, cleaning, showering, shopping, visiting, watching telly, reading, sleeping, for at least a year. Not looking for sympathy--just trying to explain why we don't accept party invitations or go out to dinner. We have become elderly shut-ins: in bed by 7:00 and up at 4:30. In between, we're up at 9:30, 11:00, 12:15, 1:00, 2:45, 3:00, 3:30, and 4:20. This may be a slight exaggeration, but really? Only slight.

Okay, enough bitchin' for the time being. It won't be the last of it, but the good stuff outweighs the bad stuff, so let's get on with it. We found some things work really well some of the time, and some things never work. Nothing really works well all the time. Babies have their own distinct personalities and preferences so flexibility is key! Jessi and Jeanne helped a bunch with getting our home back in order after we'd spent a month living out of suitcases. Jeanne made many meals to freeze for future use. We started to perfect quick diaper changes, formula makings, and baths. After about two weeks of only sleeping about two hours (cumulatively) a night, we realized the only way we were going to survive was shift sleeping. I'm a night owl and a real pain in the butt before 6 a.m. Cass is the opposite. So I took the babies from 8 p.m. to 1 a.m. and she took them from 1 a.m. to 6 a.m. It wasn't a perfect arrangement as too often two or more babies awakened at the same time and the person "on shift" had to awaken the other. However, it made for us getting at least a small chunk of sleep.

Preemies have unique needs which further complicated the schedule. Devynn was good about waking to eat, but Delaney often had to be awakened. Most pediatricians will tell you, newborns should not go more than 3 hours without eating. Delaney would just sleep on and on if allowed to. Drew's jaundice also posed a problem. In order to get rid of the jaundice, babies have to eat often so they can get it out in their waste. Drew was to eat every two hours. The first three months were dedicated to making sure these little gals ate. A lot. Often. Like, all the time. The frequency of feedings made for one baby crying virtually nonstop. We'd try to be sure that no one was ever hungry and being forced to sit and cry, but it often happened despite our best efforts. It made breastfeeding out of the question. We couldn't spend 30-45 minutes feeding one baby while another screamed inconsolably. That was extremely disappointing, and I know we've gotten more than one raised eyebrow when people find out we're formula feeding. However, I'm fairly certain it is impossible to exclusively breastfeed triplets. We did pump when we could and supplemented their formula so we could try to get some of that good immune-booster into their systems!

So, throughout the holidays, Grandma C came to meet the little ones and help out for a while. Grandma I returned for 10 days in January. These visits were a huge help. When the babies outnumber the caretakers, that's when all hell breaks loose. When Grandma I left in January and we were alone with the girls for the first time with no visitors on the near horizon, we realized we were in trouble. Cassie was scheduled to resume work the first of February, and it was just not possible for one person to do this. Along came the patron saint, Nanny Cathy. Cathy was our buddy from Montana who was willing to sacrifice a good job and proximity to her friends and family to come be our nanny. Not a glamorous position, this. She works about 12 hours a day, at least 5 days a week, and helps out with bathtime just because she's nice. I was initially concerned about how the girls would do with a stranger. They had started to develop a bit of stranger anxiety and I was nervous they would flip out with someone new as a caretaker. I don't think they ever batted an eye. Cathy has a very calm demeanor, and they took to her like fish to water. It was as if she'd been here all along. Now, when they see her in the mornings, they all clamor to get her attention. It's very cute.

During the transition, we became painfully aware that a new living arrangement was crucial. We had naively thought we could make it work for 6 months or so in our little one-bedroom, 600 square foot cabin. The place was fine for the two of us: cozy, "outdoorsy", and super cheap. But, while babies are small, their STUFF isn't. Playpens, changing tables, dressers, rocking chairs, swings, etc., take up loads of room. The final straw was when, during a significant rain storm, water began dripping on to the changing table. I was furious at myself for bringing our perfect babies into this environment. So we started looking for another place. Quite a challenge when there's no one to babysit while we look for a place. So Cassie followed the advice of a co-worker who, while well-intentioned, had different ideas about what was an acceptable living arrangement for three newborns. Cassie's sister and best friend, my brother and his brother-in-law all converged for a moving party. We moved into a place, virtually site unseen. That night, while attempting to run the dishwasher, we realized the water was running on to the kitchen floor. My bro took out the dishwasher to find the problem. He discovered a rat's nest and copious mold. Further inspection of the house found another rat's nest and more mold. Clearly this was not a place we could house newborns, especially with one recovering from respiratory weakness. We were devastated. I was so overwhelmed by the thought of finding another place and moving again within a week, I could barely speak. In addition the "landlord" was being difficult and not wanting to refund our money. Well, my brother and his brother-in-law stepped up AGAIN and took care of us. We found a place, and they moved us the following Saturday. Murphy's Law averted again. But the stress was taking a toll.