A lot of people ask me about breastfeeding and feeding in general with triplets. I’m sure you have noticed, but Derek and I are super open about our experience so those questions really don’t bother me. While I was pregnant I knew all along that the possibility of me breastfeeding very long was slim. I wanted to try, but bottom line was that I wanted to do what was best for the babies and was open to whatever feeding method that may be. Since they were born almost 8 weeks early, they did not know how to suck. I started pumping immediately after they were born. Pumping around the clock with your babies in intensive care far away from you is miserable, but it also gave me purpose and made me feel close to my babies at the same time. I tried breastfeeding during the first week and kept trying each time I was allowed to see the babies (once or twice a day) but it was really hard for them. Latching was just not a skill that they were capable of as preemies. Some moms of preemies are lucky and their babies figure out latching quickly but that wasn’t the case for me. I still kept pumping and my babies had my breastmilk the entire 5 weeks that they were in the NICU. Also, it took a few weeks for SLO to even learn how to take a bottle. I had always thought that to leave the NICU a baby had to be 5 pounds. Turns out that graduating from the NICU has nothing to do with size. The 4 things that a baby has to accomplish before leaving the hospital is breathing on their own without their heart rate dropping for 5 days straight, maintaining temperature, maintaining and consistently gaining weight, AND they had to be able to drink 16 bottles in a row (only bottles for 2 straight days). At the beginning, this seemed impossible. We would celebrate when one of them would drink 10ml out of a bottle (30ml is 1oz). Since our goal was for them to be able to drink a bottle, it felt weird to encourage them to do anything but that.
The biggest hurdle in breastfeeding though was this terrible thing called mastitis. I had to go through a lot of physical pain in carrying and birthing triplets, but seriously nothing compares to the pain of mastitis. It destroyed me. Because I was only pumping and making enough milk for 3 babies, my body just could not handle it. Mastitis is a really painful infection that causes shakes and fevers and aches. After week 3 of mastitis, I decided that my body was trying to tell me it had had enough. So, I started weaning myself off of pumping. It was the same time that the babies were coming home. Less time pumping, meant more time holding and snuggling babies. I have so much respect for mom’s of multiples that breastfeed, pump, or both!! Seriously, you guys are CHAMPS!! For me, the best decision was moving to formula. Each mom and family has to figure out what is best for them, and I seriously understand and respect moms that sacrifice their bodies and free time to breastfeed and the moms like me that decide to formula feed. Mom shaming and mom guilt is so real, but really we are all just doing our best to take care of our babies and ourselves and just keep doing you!
Derek and I loved getting to tag team with bottles. It was so much fun getting to fully share the feeding task. We had our system in the middle of the night where he would go make bottles and I would change diapers and we would each feed one of the boys and whoever finished first got Lucy. It was always a race. I also love that we got to invite family and friends to join in too. Our parents got to be feeding experts, and I got to watch all kinds of friends that I love feed my tiny babies. There was (and is) always a baby to share.
It was a sad and wonderful day at the same time when the babies learned how to hold their own bottles. I genuinely loved feeding three babies. When I was on my own, I would feed both boys at the same time while calm Lucy played at my feet. Then I would feed Lucy while the boys rested. Feeding time was really calming and created sweet bonding time for me. Even the middle of the night feeds bring such sweet memories. I loved sitting with Derek (or my mom) in the dark holding babies. We had dreamed of that exact thing for so long, and I love that bottle feeding really allowed Derek and I to be equal partners. We had to be a true team. And together, we learned how to rest with our babies in the midst of the crazy. We would go from all 3 crying and the mad rush of changing 3 diapers and making bottles (side note: the Baby Breeza is the best invention maybe ever, yes ever) to silence while the babies ate. It was so peaceful. We still feed them a bottle before bed and hold all three in the dark to bottle feed. It is often the most peaceful time of my day. I love sitting there with all 5 of us quietly just resting.
Every year I have a theme verse or verses that cover something that I want to embody or learn that year. This year, my verse is Exodus 33:14: “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” I like to get the full context so I have started in Exodus 1 and have been re-reading about Moses and the journey of the Israelites out of slavery and into the wilderness. This is a weird time for the Israelites. They have been slaves for centuries and are now trying to figure out their new identity in freedom. They have not entered the Promised Land and aren’t technically even wandering aimlessly through the wilderness yet. They are just trying to heal and catch their breath after the plagues and the Red Sea. In that time of waiting, God begins to teach and shape the Israelites. He gives them the 10 commandments and really lays out laws and rules of living in harmony with one another. He teaches them about how to communicate with Him and how to obey and respect Him. He teaches them how to remember and celebrate, to dance and to mourn. He teaches them about art and how to build the Ark of the Covenant, the Table, the Lampstand, and the Tabernacle. He teaches some of them how to be priests and how to properly be in the presence of God. He teaches them about sacrifices and incense and altars and so much more. BUT as I have been reading, I am amazed that one of the very first things that God teaches the Israelites as they leave slavery in Egypt and begin a new life is to REST. First God provides water, manna, and quail. He takes care of their physical needs, and then He commands them to take a day off. Not just one time, but one day a week, every week! Exodus 16:23, “ This is what the Lord has said: ‘Tomorrow is a day of complete rest, a holy Sabbath to the Lord.’” This is where the Sabbath begins. In order for them to truly love God and others, they need to learn how to take a break and just dwell with the Lord and one another. If you find yourself in a season of wandering or waiting, let God teach you how to rest. Infertility did that for Derek and I. I wasn’t allowed to work out as much, and just really had to be still a lot. So I rested. Now, life with triplets is insane but for us, it is a Promised Land. It is a place that we had longed for and journeyed long and far and we arrived at the most beautiful promise fulfilled. But when we forget that essential piece of rest, we forget that this is the Promised Land. We forget that God is with us and that His presence will be with us through all of the new challenges. In the verses after Exodus 33:14, Moses asks God to let him see His Glory. God responds to Moses, “Stand on the rock, and when my glory passes by, I will put you in the crevice of the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by.” As we begin year 2 with SLO, my prayer is that God’s presence will go with us and that he will again give us rest. I pray that He covers us with His hand and that we learn more and more about the ever present glory of the Lord.