When our first child was 12 months old, I went back to work on a part time basis (three days a week). I was at the stage of my life where, to be honest, I just wanted to be at home having babies. So, within 20 minutes following the scan, it is not surprising I hopefully posed the question ‘So, when should I give up work?’. From my experience of being in the ‘mum circle’, I would say singleton mums generally stop at 35 to 36 weeks but obviously this will vary by person depending on health of mother and baby, type of work and financial situation.
Now for me having triplets, I quickly worked out that 35 weeks would be too late (particularly given the premature labour risk and I had been told they wouldn’t let me go past 32 weeks). So I soon worked out that this latest piece of news could be used to my advantage. The consultant suggested that I should be taking it easy from 24 weeks, but really to do as little as possible from now on. And anything I could do to improve the health of myself and my babies I would go with.
After breaking the news to work colleagues, I had a meeting with the good old HR department which concluded in starting my maternity leave at 18 weeks, taking accrued holiday early and remaining outstanding holiday. I was very lucky in that I was able to finish work early which I believe helped me to continue to go on to have a successful pregnancy. Ok, I still had my 18 month old to look after, but the stresses of work were taken away from the high risk pregnancy.
When I was expecting my singleton, I had a 12 week scan, 20 week scan and appointments with the midwife at the local doctor’s surgery once a month from 24 weeks then every two weeks from 34 weeks. I think this is fairly standard practice. I assumed this would not be the case with this batch.
The general routine for us was that from 14 weeks, we had scans every two weeks at Heartlands Hospital, Birmingham in the ‘Twins clinic’. I used to look forward so much to these little trips with my husband, to see our babies, to see how much they were growing, and be given their estimates of their weight. At each scan I would not relax until all three little hearts had been checked as beating, and then estimates of their growth and weight were made. I remember being overjoyed when they all reached 2 lbs – the bigger they were, the greater their chances of survival in a premature labour.
At 14 weeks we chose to find out the sex of our babies. I chose not to find out with my first born as wanted a surprise, however, given this time it felt like I had a tummy full of aliens so finding out the sex would help personalise them a bit for me. That, and the fact that they were likely to be born in stressful circumstances, meant that we would be more interested to know if the babies were ok and breathing and the ‘it’s a boy/it’s a girl’ element of surprise would be lost on us. So we chose to find out but not to tell anyone else, even close family. If something happened to a baby along the way, I would not want to have to explain that it was a boy/girl. I didn’t want to personalise them to anyone else until they were born.
So…it’s a boy, it’s a boy, and it’s a boy, oh we think…..
When a boy was called for the first, I cried overjoyed that my first born would have a brother. Triplet two was also a boy. We giggled. We knew where this was going. However Triplet three was thought to be a boy, to be reconfirmed at the next scan. I then spent the next two weeks hoping it was a boy as I was worried about the dynamics of having a girl in there. And that no one would ever want to marry her as not only would she have three possibly over-protective brothers, she would also have the risk of being an egg woman like her mother. But at the next scan it was confirmed I didn’t need to worry about that. Over the years I have found that having all boys sometimes gets some unwanted comments, usually followed by the question as whether I am going to try for a girl. When I declared at work I knew what sex my babies were but was going to keep it secret, my boss commented ‘ Oh please tell me you are not having all boys…’ to which I just sort of shook my head and mumbled something and turned back to my computer.
At 20 weeks we received fantastic news that heart issue that had been identified at our 12 week scan, increasing the chance of Down Syndrome in one baby had sorted itself out, to avoid medical speak, so from then on I just needed to concentrate on getting the babies as big as I could. I looked forward to every Monday, when I could be another week pregnant. I so longed to get to 24 weeks, when babies are generally considered viable.
At 28 weeks I received a steroid injection to help develop my babies’ lungs to give them a better chance in the event of premature labour. This is standard practice with multiple pregnancies.
The Mondays kept coming and the babies kept growing, so much so in week 29 I woke up on Tuesday morning with a belly absolutely covered in stretch marks. Now seriously they were not there on the Monday, and they just appeared as if by magic (black) overnight. It was like I had had a few slugs in my pyjama top overnight. I was not happy. I had avoided these with my first. But in the scheme of things, if that what was needed to happen to get through the weeks, then bring it on. I wanted to get to the 32 weeks the consultant we hated said I would be lucky to get to.
The weeks ticked by up to the scan at week 32 when it was decided I would be booked in for an elective caesarean in week 35. Woo hoo. I was just hoping I could keep going and make it to then rather than go into premature labour.
I found weeks 32 and 33 more difficult as people were expecting me to have the babies soon and the questioning and comments from friends and strangers, who I didn’t want to get into discussions about my pregnancy with, got too much at times. My mum took over taking my eldest to his classes and playgroup in week 31 as I was ready to stop, and comments the week before – ‘Ooh you poor thing you look ready to pop’, were getting me down as I saw my size as a brilliant thing, and didn’t want to hear any negative comments about it.
Now another favourite question from people is ‘Will you/did you have them naturally?’. Nobody ever suggested this to me and from the outset I was told that they would be delivered by c-section. After having a natural delivery for my first, I was extremely nervous about this but accepted it as the best way for the babies. I could see that is was unlikely that all three would be able to come out naturally without the risk of causing stress to the babies as surely this could take a lot of time (and effort by me). So I was satisfied with the c-section approach.
We took the decision only to tell close family when the c-section was booked in. I could not cope with the thought of everyone knowing the date and waiting for text messages with wonderful news if something went wrong. It just adds pressure and something else to think about. So best to keep mum.