Lukas, Ryan, and Jason, from Birth to Homecoming By Trenton Print
Birth Stories - Multiple Births Stories
Monday, 09 February 2009 08:56
My wife "Anne" and I had been married for eight months, and had not been trying to conceive, so we had quite a jolt when the pregnancy announced itself. This was not a first for either of us, before I met Anne I had been raising my three children, Kyle, who is now 6, Logan, 5, and Dylan, 3. Anne had two children that she had lost custody of and we were in the process of trying to reclaim those children from her parents who were their guardians. The pregnancy changed our lives and our plans.

As the weeks went by, with morning sickness seemingly 24 hours a day and frequent emergency trips to the doctor, we saw our relationship deteriorate. We spoke to other parents of multiples, and all seemed to have the one thing that made it possible to accept and rise above a challenge like this ... a thing that Anne and I did not have - Togetherness. We had been together so such a short time that our relationship could not withstand the emotional challenge. Where other couples would have been each other's strength and support, we only contributed to each other's nervousness and fears. We made it to the 24th week, and then we had the added stress of waiting for, and fearing, early labor that we knew could make us not parents of babies we had been unprepared for, but of dead babies.

The next four weeks passed, each of us a sad, isolated island. Anne's depression was at it's worst during these four weeks. We could find no common ground, he refused to consider raising our children, and I saw a divorce in the near future, one that would cause me to lose my children, the children I wanted, to a woman who never wanted them! We made it past 28 weeks and after her 29th week appointment Anne left our home and began staying at a relative's home. Our divorce was started.

It is impossible to judge just how much extra pressure and stress this caused, for both of us. It was a dark time. I envy other parents of multiples, who, although they are frightened and unsure, await their children's birth with hope in their hearts and dreaming of the happiness that can result!

Now, with Anne living an hour's drive away, I had an extra worry. I worried day and night that labor will start, and who would notify me when it did? These were the last weeks. Triplets are commonly born between the 29th and 36th week. Anne was on her 32nd week now.

I wondered if I would even be able to see my children at the hospital. It's common knowledge that a woman does not have to reveal the name of her child's father, and if she chooses to do this then he is barred from having contact with his babies while they are at the hospital.

With triplets, who I knew would be born prematurely, I realized that their time at the hospital could stretch into months. The thought that I would be barred from seeing my children both angered and saddened me. I wondered how come for once, just once, life could not be fair.

At 33 weeks my fears and hopes were both realized in one incredible hour. I was leaving work at around 8 p.m., I was about to pick up my kids from my brother's house where they spend the hours when I have to go in to the office. I got the call from my attorney, of all people, telling me Anne was in the hospital giving birth at that very time. I was told to hurry, get there right away, something more important that the actual birth of my children was happening.

I was so overpowered by the thoughts running through my mind, the fact that The Day had arrived, that I gave little attention to the nagging feeling that there was something strange about receiving a call from your lawyer telling you of your children's birth. I got to the hospital within the next ten minutes. I was met by my attorney and his colleague, both of whom looked worried and eager to talk to me.

All I wanted to do was find a nurse or doctor who would tell me what was going on. I saw the doctor Anne had been seeing from the beginning of her pregnancy, and ran up to him. He seemed surprised to see me, but did not have any problem with talking with me about the birth process. Anne was having a natural birth, which was progressing slowly. She was expected to deliver in the next hour, or she would have to have a Cesarean Section, since extended labor was not good for the tiny babies who also had to go through it. I found the room she was in and sat down in a chair outside of it, knowing I could not enter. Only then did my lawyer catch up to me.

Look through into the window in the door, he said. I have to press my face close to the glass to see the side of the room that held Anne's bed. A nurse was fussing over her IV. A couple sat by her bed, holding hands, and the woman holding her hand. I had never seen those people before. My lawyer handed me a paper, I sat down and glanced over it, wondering what could be so important that I had to deal with it right then and there. I felt almost choked with apprehension, and I was being asked to read some fine print? Then, I almost lost sight of what I was doing at the hospital on that day, and quite another emotion choked me.

The paper was a request for the adoptive parents to be present at birth, and a notification of intent to adopt. The kind of document that a father may or may not receive, depending on his luck, when someone decides to give away his child. Take notice, you have this many days to make your response. Take notice, this paper grants the adoptive parents the right to be present at the birth, you do not have this right. Take notice, the adoptive parents have been issued passes into the NICU, it'll take a miracle for you to get the same privilege. But then, the kind of uncommon miracle that no one has the right to hope for happened. A single sheet of paper, on stamped stationary with an official seal. Sign this, it said, it will revoke the right of the adoptive parents to spend time with your newborns. Sign this, claim your right to your children. Sign this, if the mother doesn't want to be a parent, it doesn't give her the right to decide that you cannot be. I held the pen over the dotted line. There was no question running through my mind, except, how did it come to this? I signed, in the same minute as the door of the delivery room burst open and Anne was wheeled out and quickly wheeled toward the operating room.

I stood up, and came face to face with the people who believed they had the right to take my child. Who were they? Had they been told the children have a father? Had they been told that that father would turn the world upside down to stop them? Did they intend to fight? I wondered all of this, but I only turned away and walked down the hall to the OR, again to wait outside a closed door. I only noticed out of the corner of my eye that the couple had not followed. That was the first and last time I saw them. I hope that they have found a child to adopt, I hope they have, but I hope just as strongly that they did not destroy someone's family in order to build their own.

I can only be thankful that they backed away, that they did not feel justified to proceed with the adoption and use the injustice and bias of the US courts to challenge the right of a parent to not have his children taken away by force based not on ability to parent but on gender.

My last thought on their account was to wonder if they were any more ready to parent triplets that Anne and I had been. I paced outside the OR door, straining to hear anything from within. I heard nothing, but again the door burst open, and something was quickly wheeled out. I saw only the backs of the nurses and the doctor, the wires, the already buzzing machines. I could not imagine a baby, let alone three, among that. I strained to see over the shoulders of the nurses as they passed me.

I wondered if I should follow them. Was this it? Were my children really in there? I was afraid to leave the hall in front of the OR, and just as afraid to let my children out of my sight, lest someone else get the right to see them, touch them, take them, just like someone else had received the privilege of being at their birth, had it been a natural one and not a Cesarean Section.
The doctor I mentioned earlier came out, and followed the procession of nurses, he motioned for me to follow and waited until I caught up. We walked down endless corridors, or maybe it only seemed that way to me because my heart gave a jump each time I lost sight of the nurses ahead of us when they would turn a corner. The NICU was a buzzing, humming place, a room out of some sci-fi movie. Incubators stood in straight rows, machines buzzed all around, wires and tubes creating webs around each one. And there, in the far corner, three incubators with, not Anne's name, but my name, and a the letters A, B, and C, on cards taped to the front. She had used her married name, my name, for the medical insurance, I had known that, but seeing my name on those cards was the first sign, for me, that something was going right that day.

I had to step close to see inside the incubators. Baby A, with a clear tube bringing oxygen directly to his left nostril. Baby B, hardly over three pounds, with an oxygen tube in his nose and another tube down his throat. Baby C, with an oxygen mask held in place with tape. Tiny hands, tiny faces, tiny hats on their tiny heads. The smallest baby, Baby B, had a body that was the length of the palm of my hand. I wondered how you would hold a being that small. Not that that was an option.

My presence in this room, seeing my newborns, was not even my right. I should not have been there, I had no right to be there, I could not expect to be there again. I stood in front of the three incubators until a nurse informed me that my visiting time was over. I had been there less than twenty minutes. I didn't know when, and if, I would ever be able to come into the NICU again. I left the NICU not feeling much of anything, no, more like feeling that all my energy had been drained out of me by the experience of seeing my newborn babies. They were certainly not the only newborns I had seen, I was the first to see and hold each of the three children, who had also all been Cesarean Section, so I was used to the normal feelings, as intense as they are, that a new parent experiences when he or she first sees the little being that just entered the world.

But seeing these children was no normal experience, and what I experienced cannot be described as normal feelings. Pulling my mind away from them, having to remember that I had three children waiting to have me pick them up and take them home, was not easy. I went to get my boys, and took them home even though my brother offered to have them stay with him. I needed my kids home with me. Suddenly I desperately needed a reminder that raising children was something that brought me pleasure, and that I already had the experience, both in childcare and in dealing with family court, to face this new challenge. I spent the night going over old documents, organizing my paperwork, keeping busy because I did not want to slow down and let myself dwell on the image of my babies spending their first night in this world, alone in the NICU.

The hardest hour was the hour that middle of the night visitations happened at the NICU. I could not help but wonder who was standing in front of my children's incubators, who was experiencing what should have been my right to experience. Sometime by 4 or 5 a.m. I fell asleep on the couch, and was wakened by my oldest son, demanding breakfast, at around 8.

I took my children to my father, who had just arrived home that morning from a business trip. They would remain with him for seven weeks, though I did not plan on this. I spent the morning with my attorney. By afternoon I felt that we had taken care of a lot, but I still did not have what I wanted, the right to see my babies. I stalked the hospital halls.

At around 6 the same doctor as last time again smuggled me into the NICU. I watched a mother hold her infant, wrapped in wires that stretched out of his incubator. I watched a father reach into an incubator and hold his baby's hand. I could only watch my three through the clear walls of their incubators. This crazy routine would continue for the next eight days.

Some days pacing the halls would gain me nothing, and sometimes after hours of waiting and hoping I would gain entry to the NICU. I saw my children maybe a total of two hours over their first nine days of life.

The tenth day, I spent five hours with them, taking advantage of each visitation time, sometimes not going home in between hours, just waiting for the next. My attorney had come through for me. Not only did I now have the right to see my children, but I had physical custody, the right to take them home when they were able. It would still be a long road before anything was decided, I received physical custody only because the mother had given up her right to it, when she was planning their adoption, and did not make an attempt to reclaim that right after her attempt fell through. It would have taken only a single signature from her to take away my right to both see my kids and to take them home, even if she had no intention of being the one to do it, and it would have taken only a single signature to reclaim physical custody rights and get the right to take the babies home when they were able. She did none of this, and time was ticking away, from the day she signed papers stating that she did not wish to raise the babies and wished to give up her parental right to them.

Even though she would have months to change her mind, with each day that passed that she did not attempt to do so or to see them her case became weaker and my case became stronger. The total of 67 days that my babies were in the NICU I alone visited them. As the days and weeks passed my visits became more and more pleasant. Each week there were fewer wires, fewer tubes, fewer machines.

Until one day the last baby, Baby B, was taken off oxygen. On December 7, at 67 days of age, Baby A, Lukas Thorn, Baby B, Ryan Hunter, and Baby C, Jason Kurtis, came home. Born at 3 pounds, Ryan had been the smallest. Jason was next, at 3 pounds 4 ounces, and Lukas was 4 pounds 7 ounces, though it's unclear why he was so much larger. Although their birth weights varied, they all had similar health statuses, and the doctors who watched over them repeatedly decided against sending any one of them home earlier than the others.

I believe that they also based this decision on the fact that having one baby home and the others still at the NICU would put an extra strain on me, trying to divide my time between them and between the two places. Having my babies come home, at last, finally woke me up to the fact that I had just taken on something that was beyond challenge. Triplets as a single parent. How does one go about doing this? It's mind-blowing. When you think of it this way it seems like an amazing challenge, something too big to attempt. But I had raised three kids already, and small kids at that, and though they had not been three infants at once they provided me with the knowledge and experience I would need.

Every day is simply a day during which a number of things have to be accomplished. You don't think about taking care of three infants, not to mention a toddler just over the Terrible Twos, a preschooler, and a 1st grader, you just think about the diapers and the formula and the schedules for this and that. As a parent I believe that the parent should bend and shape his lifestyle and schedule to meet the needs of his children, not the other way around. I do what works, and use what seems to be in the best interest of my children. I consider myself a stay at home parent, I am at home with my children at all times, which is allowed me by the fact that I own my own business.
How I would deal with this plus a day job is not something I want to dwell on. With my legal troubles over, Anne went through with the termination of her parental rights and did not take advantage of her right to have an open-adoption type of relationship with my children, I am free to enjoy the wonderful, though challenging, adventure of raising triplets.

My family, Kyle, Logan, Dylan, Lukas, Ryan, and Jason, is my pride. My experience with a triplet pregnancy can be described as frightening, at best, but one thing I know for a fact, there is nothing frightening about raising my six children as a single parent, compared to the alternative that nearly came to be.

In a perfect world, the birth of my babies would not have brought such fears, and such a risk. The fact that they were preemies, and high risk, the possibility that they would not survive ... that should have been enough without adding to it the possibility of losing them because someone else decided that I, their father, did not have the right to raise them.