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.

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