Surviving the Sick Season with little kids

January-April has been filled with germs, snot, teething, ear infections, Hand Foot Mouth (Satan’s disease), sinus infections, pollen, eye infections…The list goes on. We have officially been through 5 bottles of tylenol, 5 bottles of motrin, about 8 bottles of nasal sinus rinse, been to the doctor more times then I can count, and we survived! Well as I write this, I just got back from the doctor and 4/6 ears on my triplets are infected again, so kind of survived. haha I will start off by saying that many of you have had it MUCH worse. My babies are overall very healthy babies, and I am beyond grateful so please don’t read this as me complaining. BUT it has been hard. By the end, we gave up on trying to keep the healthy baby (or babies) from getting the sickness and just started trying to infect them from day 1 so that we could have 3 sick babies at one time instead of a sick baby constantly. No matter how hard we tried to quarantine or keep pacifiers, toys, and cups separate, it’s just not possible. Everything goes into their mouths, so it’s just impossible to prevent the spreading of germs.  When Shepherd and Lucy got Hand Foot and Mouth (seriously it was the worst), Oliver was healthy for a day and a half, and we felt bad for a little bit knowing that it was just a matter of time until he succumbed to the terrible sores and fevers that is HFM. There is no way to quarantine him so we just started feeding him after S&L. We pretty much just sped up the inevitable. As sad as that sounds, I would suggest that to any Moms of Multiples out there. When one gets sick, let the others get sick quickly. Make them share spoons or pacifiers. They WILL get each other sick. It is so much easier to have one really hard week, then to have 3 pretty hard weeks. 

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Having sick babies was and is hard in ways that I did not expect. The hardest part of making it through this sick season has been taking care of myself. I started out this blog as a way to process all that God has done in our journey from miscarriage, to infertility, through IVF, and now as we raise our triplets. We have had many unique (or maybe not so unique) experiences, and I hope that we can provide resources to people going through similar circumstances. Throughout this entire journey I have been completely open and honest because Derek and I believe that healing comes through brokenness and that community is truly formed in vulnerability. So in that frame of mind I’m also going to share with you my weakness over the past few months and things that I have been doing to bring peace and healing to those areas.

I have always been a “do it myself” kind of independent person. I love exploring and run everywhere. I rarely do things slowly and am pretty clumsy because I just start moving and end up running into something. I love to be outdoors. I thrive on sunshine, good company, and stretching my muscles. I love to help others and to lead others and talk to others. I am a 2 “The Helper” on the Enneagram Test but tend toward an 8 “The Challenger” in times of stress. Lately, my 8 self has been strong. I have been stressed and anxious. I have had panic attacks. I have been controlling. I have not been eating healthy things. I have not been drinking water. I have been pouring every ounce of me into the kids and some into Derek and friends and mentoring but not much into me. I have spent days and weeks trapped inside on sick weeks with no space to move, fresh air, or people to talk to. The thing about panic attacks is that you stop thinking logically. When I am in a good place, I know that this is a season and that sickness doesn’t last forever. I know deep down that I am doing a good job and that I am not alone. I know logically that the kids will be fine (maybe even better off) if I do an ok job at parenting instead of a “perfect” job. I know that it’s ok to stress. But when I am in the middle of a panic attack, nothing makes sense. I start out by stressing about something that is not a huge deal. Then I get stressed about feeling stressed, and mad at myself for not keeping it together. Then I feel guilty about not keeping it together, which makes me stress more. So I feel guilty about being stressed and then I stress about feeling more guilty. The stress about being stressed is the worst. If the kids are around, then I can pull myself out of the stress cycle quicker, but if I’m alone or just with Derek my mind goes haywire. I get so stressed that I can’t eat, and I forget to drink water, and I just started to snowball. 

In that insane period of about 6 weeks when I didn’t know what day it was or what time of day at any given moment, I had to give up my desire for independence and embrace the beauty community. Derek and I are incredibly blessed with a village that would bring us food or come hold sick babies even if it meant they might get sick. My mom came for an unplanned visit to help clean and let me eat and do laundry. We had people send texts and grubhub (it’s one of our new favorite ways to bless people – food delivered right to your door – There are so many options to choose from!). When you aren’t sure how to help someone struggling regardless of the thing causing the stress, food always helps! Even now that the kids have been healthy for a little while and life has calmed down, I have people offering to bring food, and it is always a huge blessing! We also had people providing wisdom left and right and seriously, even though I felt isolated and trapped, I never was. So many people loved us well. But, I still felt like I was just surviving. 

Finally during Spring Break (first week of April), Derek was home all week and the kids were healthy for an entire week which hadn’t happened since the beginning of January. Together we started brainstorming ways to get me back to my – just stressing a normal amount – self. I needed margin. I needed the kids to start napping. I needed to dream about possibilities of using my brain again. I needed to reach out to all of the women that mentor me and help me process. I needed to have time that was just for me regularly. I needed time to eat and drink water. So, I joined a gym. Not just a gym, but a gym with childcare! Some days, I barely work out and enjoy just sitting in the sauna or in a comfy chair or at the cafe. Some seasons are just seasons of survival. It’s part of life. Sometimes life is just hard and exhausting. When you can take a breath or even before you get there, make sure that you find ways to really take care of yourself. Taking care of yourself looks different for everyone! Some people need to work in the yard, plant flowers, get their hands dirty. Some people need to carve out time each day to sit in the quiet and read a book or listen to a podcast. For me, I needed to use my brain and get some exercise.  In addition to joining the gym, I started tutoring more. It sounds crazy that adding something to my plate made me stress less, but I have loved getting to use my math brain!!

Another thing that Derek and I have both always done is to spend quiet time in the morning. We are both morning people so we also usually get up early everyday. I give myself about an hour before the kids get up to eat, pray, stretch, get dressed and fix my hair. That simple act of getting ready calmly and without rushing actually does help. A lot! It’s often the only meal I eat in peace, and it’s the only meal that I get to eat all of. I usually have to share half of my meals with my 3 beautiful vultures. 

Another thing that I love doing to bring peace and wisdom into my life is that I ask a few women that I admire and love (some my age, some older and full of wisdom) to come hang out with me. I ask them questions about how they handled parenting situations. I listen to their stories and find camaraderie in knowing that I am not crazy or “the only one.” Mostly though I just hang out with them. Having people to mentor you is clutch! Shout out to all of you wonderful women that I admire and cherish (you know who you are!). Thanks for bringing joy and wisdom to my crazy swirly mind 🙂

I have also learned that when someone asks what they can do for me, I actually give them something tangible that they can do. I ask them to bring me food or to come play with kids or to come hold a screaming sick child for me. I have learned that most people who ask if they can do something genuinely want to help. Letting them isn’t easy. I am very independent. I hate not being able to do everything on my own. It physically pains me some days. But in letting others love me and love my kids I have gained so much more. I have also realized that it brings other people joy to help. For starters my babies are seriously cute, so who wouldn’t want to help. haha But for real, when you refuse to let people help, it takes away their ability to bless which isn’t good for you or for them. Letting others serve you is so hard sometimes. We always want to be the ones washing the feet, but sometimes my feet are just too tired, and I need to sit down and let other people in.

What works for me though, may not work for you. The bottom line, take time to figure out what brings you life and find a way to get that into your regular routine. If you don’t know what brings you life, then start searching. Taking care of yourself takes work. It takes time. It takes courage. Asking people to come into your life, your messy life or messy home, is hard. Sometimes it’s plain embarrassing, but it’s what brings life. Im learning to embrace my dependence. 

Feeding Triplets and Finding Rest

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.