The one bout of clarity I can recall during that haze, when I was feeling severely depressed, was the day after William was re-admitted to the NICU.
Coincidentally, less than 24-hours after visiting three separate hospitals with our son, I came down with my first case of mastitis. I woke up at 4 AM with chills that were so severe, the only way I could get any comfort was to sleep in a scalding hot bathtub. The water was so hot - there was steam billowing around the room and the mirrors and windows were instantly fogged.
As I lowered my aching body in to the tub - I noticed that my right breast was engorged at least two times larger than my left and was extremely painful, red and swollen.
That didn't look right.
I climbed out of the tub, zipped on my hands free pump bra and tried to express milk with the aid of my hospital grade pump. After a grueling 15 minutes, and less than 2 ounces extracted, I had a suspicion something was amuck. But I was so tired and in such discomfort - I opted to deal with it later. Rather than wake up Charlie or place a call to my doctor, I climbed back in to the scalding hot tub and fell asleep for several hours.
When I woke up in a heavily pruned state, my mother - stepping through the mist of the bathroom came to me and insisted that instead of draining the tub and adding more scalding water, which is what I really wanted to do, I get up and call my perinatologist.
After a futile argument with mom, which was lost when I realized I had morphed in to a flailing idiot, I begrudgingly climbed out of the bath.
I described my symptoms and shockingly, 104 degree temperature, to my perinatologist and he diagnosed me with mastitis and told me that I needed to continue pumping and he'd be calling in a prescription for Keflex, immediately.
While Charlie, my mother and I prepared to go pick up my prescription - and then head up to the hospital so I could visit the babies (which no one thought I should be doing - but nothing was going to stop me from seeing my children), our postman dropped a package off at the front door.
It was a package for me - from my friend, Julie. Inside, there was a letter. It read:
Dear Jenna -
I hope this reaches you and finds you and your family well. How lucky Elizabeth, Carolyn & William are to have been born in to a loving home - as you know it's love that will nurture and protect them - in whatever form it comes. I hope you like the enclosed that I created - it's like a little reminder to call upon and to thank our Guardian Angels. I send this to you and your family with the very best of wishes.
Love - Julie Maggi
My dear friend had created a picture with a heart surrounding a moon and a sun, and a caption written across the heavens that read:
As day turns to night
And night to day
I sleep and I dream
I learn and I play
I can't see them
I know they exist
My Guardian Angels
Ever so near
In the mist
Their love is forever
And it always will be
This little group of mine
My Guardian Angels
This gift from my friend came at the absolute perfect time. It was a time when I felt so defeated, all I wanted to do was slip under the scalding hot water in my bathtub and have the misery of my mastitis and ailing babies in the NICU - that I could do nothing to help - end.
After enduring years of infertility, a long pregnancy that ended much too soon, a slow recovery from HELLP Syndrome, four torturous weeks of seeing our tiny babies hooked up to machines and struggling for life in the NICU, our little boy readmitted to the hospital after less than three days home, our little girl struggle to overcome an infection that could be fatal, and now - mastitis ... I'd had enough.
Yet this one simple gift completely transformed my outlook.
Not only did I have Guardian Angels that I could see ... my husband, my mother, my family .... ever so near in the mist were Guardian Angels that I couldn't see.
I just had to find my lost faith to believe that they were there.
My mentality changed dramatically. Rather than thinking of the NICU as a place that my children needed to hurry up and get out of ... I appreciated that they were under phenomenal care. The blood transfusions that all three of them would need - from their Dad's Superblood - was going to make them stronger and was not something I needed to fear.
I was reminded that once the babies came home ... they were 100% our responsibility ... and I could kiss the peace and quiet of our house goodbye. (I could also kiss goodbye any kind of organization or cleanliness - but that storm wouldn't hit for another 12-months.) With such a radical shift in my mindset, I tried to savor the remaining time that our babies were under the exceptional care of the NICU staff. It wasn't very soon after receiving the much-needed morale boost from my friend Julie, we received a call from our neonatologist.
Carolyn was being released.
Because she was still having apnea events, we were given the option of spending the night in a Parent's Room at the hospital to become familiar with the monitor she would need to wear when discharged. Instead, we opted to receive training with one of the equipment manufacturer representatives ... and within an hour - with a prescription of Reglan for her reflux, and Caffeine for her apnea in hand, our baby girl was ready to go home.
It was Monday and for the next two days, we would relish having a newborn to dote upon. Two days later, on a Wednesday - we received another call from our neonatologist.
William was being released.
Our little guy who had been so terribly sick just a few weeks earlier - was being released without an apnea monitor and without any medications.
For the next two days, we relished having two newborns to dote upon - and began to fool ourselves in to believing that caring for multiple newborns wasn't so hard, after all.
The day after Thanksgiving - we received another call from our neonatologist.
Elizabeth was being released.
Similar to her sister, she would be coming home on an apnea monitor and with prescriptions for Reglan and Caffeine.
In less than a week, we went from having no babies at home - to having all three.
By the time Elizabeth was discharged - it had been exactly six weeks since they had been born. Although they spent a month and a half in the NICU - when they arrived home, they were still three weeks premature and extremely vulnerable to infection. But with my mother in town to lend her assistance and Charlie on a 12-week extended leave from work - we thought that with a 1-1 ratio of adult to baby, taking care of triplet newborns would be a breeze.
What we didn't consider was that there would be some minor disagreements in the way my mother thought things should be done - versus the way we thought things should be done ... which would create a minor amount of unrest and tension. To the point that mom was prepared to fly home the day after Elizabeth was released - which caused Charlie and I to fall in to a fit of
We didn't consider that the release of our babies from the hospital coincided with the height of RSV season, so we were especially paranoid about anything and everything coming in to contact with our preemies. Including Jim, who flew in to town to stay with us and immediately came down with a cold. And as such, was immediately asked to leave and stay in a hotel. Since Jim was unfamiliar with the area - mom went with him ... leaving us alone with the babies.
We didn't consider that babies waking up at various times and apnea monitors going off at all hours of the night would prevent us from sleeping more than two hours at a time.
We didn't consider that the trauma of a triplet pregnancy - the roller coaster ride that was the NICU experience - the exhausion of having three premature newborns to care for, would drive us to the absolute brink of desperation.
We didn't consider that although it would have been a tremendous help, we would be too paranoid to let anyone, other than the three of us, take care of the babies.
We didn't consider that William might be diagnosed, three weeks after his release, as lactose intolerant - which would make feeding time absolute torture for him and an absolute nightmare for us.
I didn't consider that the thought of being left alone with my longed after babies, that weighed less than 15 pounds collectively, when my mother went to visit her girlfriend, or Charlie ran off to the store - would cause me to hyperventilate and have a trembling panic attack.
I didn't consider that when I would tell my mother how nervous I was - she would respond "It's wonderful! You are going to have so much fun!!" I would furiously tell her "It's wonderful for YOU because YOU get to go home soon!!!"
I certainly didn't consider that less than a week of having all three babies home - I would look at my husband through bleary eyes and confess "I didn't sign up for this ... I wanted one baby, not three."
But here they were. They were ours. And like it or not, nobody was going to come by and take them back.
What we never considered was that - as a team - Charlie and I would survive the first few months of triplethood, even after my mother flew home to South Carolina.
We never imagined that by the time Charlie returned to work, and with the aid of a handy-dandy Excel Spreadsheet, our babies would be on a fixed schedule that had them napping three times during the day and sleeping 10+ hours at night.
We never imagined that I'd be successful at breastfeeding all three of them (with a small amount of formula supplementation) or that we would dodge any and all ailments for the first year of their life (with the exception of a bilaternal hernia repair for William when he was 10-months old).
We never imagined that with time, our lives would regain a new kind of "normalcy" and we would feel empowered to do anything.
We never imagined that although we were outnumbered by children ... we would quickly realize that we were blessed beyond measure.
We never imagined that our once three-pound premature infants, that needed a gavage tube to eat, Caffeine to keep their hearts beating, or Reglan to battle reflux ... in less than three years, would be able to polish off 10 pancakes at a sitting; a dozen banana muffins in the blink of an eye or three gallons of orange juice in a single week.
We never imagined that our tiny babies - would blossom in to adorable toddlers that find extreme joy singing to each other in their cribs, holding hands and dancing in circles, or comforting one another when they are hurt.
But what we most definitely never imagined, was that once again ... my mother would be right: Triplethood is wonderful and we are having the best time of our lives.
Although we certainly didn't sign up for "this", I'm convinced one of our Guardian Angels did it for us.