Sunday, September 02, 2007

triplet guilt

Last week, I received an e-mail from a woman who has 2.5-year old triplets and is expecting a "surprise" singleton, any day now. In her note, she asked how I get through every day and whether or not I was struggling with guilt.

Her e-mail was written with such anguish, I could feel her desperation as she was coming to grips with having another baby, also her fourth in less than three years.

When I read her note to Charlie, he looked perplexed and asked "Why would you be struggling with guilt? That doesn't make sense."

But I understood exactly what she meant and the answer is YES. Yes, I am struggling with guilt, but I didn't recognize that nagging feeling until recently.

Considering my Catholic background, I should have known, immediately.

I feel guilty because of the intense joy and sense of accomplishment I have that I was able to get pregnant, without any kind of medical intervention.

I feel guilty because we had to have medical intervention to conceive our triplets and I wonder if their creation wasn't forced. Although in my heart, I don't believe that they would be here, scaling our walls walking this earth, if they weren't meant to be.

I feel guilty that I wasn't able to carry our triplets in utero as long as I carried Henry.

I feel guilty that our triplets spent six weeks in the NICU and came home on medication and apnea monitors due to their extreme prematurity.

I feel guilty that I wasn't able to spend five days laying in a hospital bed with our triplets following their birth - not watching one iota of television - because I was so awestruck gazing at the healthy newborn baby in my arms.

I feel guilty that I wasn't able to hold, rock and nurse on demand our triplets, the way that I am able to hold, rock and nurse on demand their baby brother. Although I do spend as much time as I can holding and loving on each of our triplets, I always feel like I am robbing two other children of my time.

I feel guilty that I am lavishing so much attention on my newborn ... attention that I could not lavish as completely on them - and attention that is now being diverted from them and to another baby.

I feel guilty that giving birth to Henry has been the most healing experience of my life. I didn't realize just how painful infertility, a high risk pregnancy and three premature infants was on my psyche, until now.

I feel guilty that THIS experience I am having with Henry, is the motherhood experience I've always dreamed of and always wanted.

I feel guilty that when Henry is the triplets age, there will only be one of him and the things that he will do to drive me crazy, will not be enough to cause my temper to explode. Because the only time my temper really explodes is when the three of them do bad things together.

Which these days, seems to be all the time.

I feel guilty that my patience with our triplets (who I never referred to as "triplets" until they had a new sibling) has reached an all-time low. And I'm hoping with every thread of my being that my intolerance of their behavior is a function of their age.

I feel guilty that I am rushing their childhood and not savoring every moment, because I want them to HURRY UP and grow out of this age - because with three of them - they really and truly are driving me completely crazy. Particularly when they do things like throw their food all over the place, scream, fight, not listen to a and destroy anything and everything that they can get their paws on.

I feel guilty that I expect them to act more mature than they do and have to frequently remind myself that they aren't yet three years old.

I feel guilty that because Henry is a singleton, I'm not running zone defense with him and therefore, the chances are excellent, I will enjoy every stage of his infancy and toddlerhood a little bit more.

I feel guilty that when I have the triplets, one-on-one, I see a budding little person that I absolutely adore. And yet, this budding little person is completely transformed in to a man-eating monster, that I'm not always particularly fond of, when reunited with their triplet siblings.

I feel guilty that when I look at our toddler triplets, I feel zapped of every last bit of what little energy I had in my body and my head hurts. But when I look at my newborn Henry, I feel renewed and my heart feels lighter than a cloud.

I feel guilty that our triplets have been driving me so insane lately with their absolute defiance, that the thought crossed my mind to drop them off on the side of the road in the country.

Oh, wait. That's a different post....

I feel guilty, not just for what our triplets didn't, don't and won't have ... but for what I didn't, don't and won't have with each one of them, as individuals.

I grieve that our triplets are all growing up - and going through the same developmental phases - at once. Even though we have four children, our first three almost count as one. And I feel guilty for thinking that way.

Now that I have a singleton baby that I am enjoying so thoroughly, I wish that I could have had this bonding experience with each one of the triplets and I wish that I was looking forward with great anticipation to their next phase of development. But because there are three, I feel like I am bracing myself to survive the next onslaught phase of triplet hood.

Now, for the great enigma.

I wouldn’t trade my experience as a mother of triplets for the world.

Nothing makes me more proud than our children. They have an amazing bond. They speak their own language. They have built in playmates and as a result, they are so much more socially advanced than other singleton children their age. When they are sleeping, I am instantly reminded how much I love them - independently and as a team.

I am reminded that the insanity they are creating in our lives at this moment in time, is because they are growing in to their own selves and this too shall pass. It damn well better or someone is going to hear from me.

It is because of the incredible bond that our triplets share, that I feel guilty for Henry. I feel guilty that he won't have a sibling companion in the church nursery ... or kindergarten ... or freshman year in college. I feel guilty that he will be the odd-person out as he grows older and even though we have four healthy children - that is one of the primary reasons I hope for another child. So Henry won't feel overshadowed by his triplet siblings.

Another reason is so we won't suffer from extreme empty nest syndrome in a span of less than three years. And yet one more reason is because I am hopelessly addicted to babies AND large families.

Deep in my soul, I truly believe that had it not been for William, Elizabeth and Carolyn ... Henry would not be here - and vice versa. I believe that our family is exactly the way it was meant to be and we are blessed beyond measure.

I believe that each one of our children are a gift straight from God and although our triplets are currently at a phase where they are a great advertisement for birth control ... I feel guilty and insane and greedy and slightly embarrassed for wanting one more.

Most of all, I feel guilty that I haven't told Charlie about the 12-passenger van I scoped out. And, that those little "pills" I'm taking are actually placebos.


  1. that is so right on jen. great post.

    my most immediate cause of guilt is that i will be birthing this baby at home, and of course the triplets were ripped from me too early to be stabbed and prodded and hooked up....

    i wonder if i am unconsciously keeping this baby in.


    but i do wonder if at the moment of birth my head will explode with joy AND pain. this is too hard.

  2. Such a true, honest post. Mommy guilt is the worst. Although our situation is the exact opposite (2.5 yo singleton, 1 yo triplets) the feelings are very much the same. I worry that I'm never going to be able to have the bond with the 3 that I have with the one. Things are definately getting better now that they are toddling about and much more like little people. Like you there's also the worry that the one will feel like she's missed out by not being a triplet. Her life was completely derailed when I went on bedrest. The good news is that part is a distant memory already, and they are all so close in age that they will likely not remember a time without each other! What a blessing it is to have siblings... born on the same day as you or not.

  3. I feel what you've written in this post right to my very bones. How strange that I wrote today about what a good phase mine are in right now.

    Another mother of older triplets told me right when I was in the thick of the stage you are starting right now, that you have to get through the threes to understand how they need to go through that to become the fours.
    Now I understand. Then she smugly laughed that she couldn't believe all her little ones were still alive to see four.

    It's crackdown time, Jen. They need a major crackdown to help get them to the next stage. They are going to test you to the brink of your sanity. I have never known that I could be that pissed off until I hit that stage.

    In some ways, I was lucky to have Austin so much closer because he really is just part of the pack. He is not going to be left out at all and when they are in classes, I get him all to myself, and I love every minute of it!!!

    You'll get through this bad time and I think it's perfectly okay to wish this particular stage away, because you've got way better times ahead!!!!

  4. What an amazing post. I don't have triplets, just one almost 3 year old. Lately, his almost 9 year old sister and him have been making me nuts. I homeschool - so they are together all day. My little guy likes to push her buttons and everyone else he comes in contact with. While I don't have the same guilt you have... I have the guilt that my poor 9 year old dd is getting less and less of me. It seems most of the time I am telling her to be a big girl and not fight with her little brother. Like you - I find myself wanting for him to grow up and out of this stage. Only I know how fast it really does go when I look at my oldest ds who is 18. Then I just grab a piece of chocolate and hope for a better day tomorrow.

  5. When I thought my twins were our last children, I felt bad that it was over sooner than I'd expected (we were stopping at 4), and that probably my last newborn-baby experience would be hectic rather than a time to concentrate on what was happening. So I was very happy to have little unexpected Henry.

    I feel like things even out. The first child (if a singleton) is lucky to get so much focus and attention--but also gets his parents' mistakes, and sometimes too MUCH attention. Multiples have to divide attention, but also have the special experience of being multiples--it's some bad, some good, and they get both. Children in big families get less attention--but they get to have more siblings and more relationships. I think it evens out.

  6. I could have written this post when I got pregnant with my singleton after my twins. I think I worked thru a lot of the feelings before she was born.

    THere are times now when I wish she had a twin, because it really is nice to have someone to go thru life with (or a couple of someones, if you have triplets!)

    The only thing I will tell you is expect to feel like you have quads in a few years. My twins are 7 and my daughter is 3 1/2 and they do pretty much everything together and fight like cats and dogs on occasion and I have had the odd experience of being asked if they are triplets (yes even with that age difference_). henry is close enough in age to the trips that they will accept him as one of them as the years go by, and he will try mightily to keep up.

  7. Hi! I'm so glad I found your blog! I'm doing a little satirical take on my kids' lives over on my blog starting with my son's NICU stay (he's a 32 weeker).

    Someone left me a comment that I needed to come over and check out your blog. I'm so touched reading your past posts.

    So far I've just been sticking to making jokes about the whole experience, which I suppose is my little way of kicking prematurity in the teeth.

    FYI my son was born a couple of weeks after yours, I get pregnant through ZIFT (a form of IVF), then got "magically" pregnant three months later. Hence my Irish twins.

    I just love reading your blog and will be back for more!

  8. I feel as if I have no right to post a comment on this particular post because I have no idea what it is like to have triplets and singleton, but rather two singletons, fairly close in age, which I can only imagine, comes NO.WHERE.CLOSE.TO.TRIPLETS.PLUS.NEWBORN. But, I decided it was worth it, and that you should know that all mommies, no matter who you are have some type of guilt...almost like its within our being. It isn't good to have, but I think that putting it all out there is good for your soul. I hope you feel better about the guilt (as in, not feel as guilty) just after letting go of it into words. You shouldn't feel guilty because you are doing an amazing job! You might not have AS close of a relationship with C, E, & W as you do H but that is why God gave them each other too...its a give and take and I think a bond such as a multiple can't be matched--even by a bond with a try to not be so hard on yourself. And, know that my 26 month old drives me INSANE every day also, and I don't know what'd I'd do if there 3 of him.

  9. What a wonderful post! Why do you have to make a pregnant girl cry?? While I only have one toddler and in 5 short months will have another baby I feel the guilt of sharing my attention with the new baby. I think any mother goes through bouts of guilt... it is what makes you a great mother! Don't be so hard on yourself.

  10. Jen, this was a very honest post. I have to admit I have a lot of guilt similar to these feelings, about appreciating my children (age 4 and age 7) differently. It's like they take turns being annoying or extra cute... of course I love them both. But sometimes it's so different, one from the other.
    But the main reason I am responding to your post is... Does your husband NOT read your posts? Are you really taking phony birthcontrol pills?

  11. Hi Jen,
    I have just started reading your blog and you make me laugh so much - so thanks for that. I wanted to respond to this post because it was so honest and because I think we all have guilt.
    I had my first through my third IVF/ICSI, she just turned 5 last week. When she was six months old we found I out was pregnant naturally, my daughter and my now three year old son are 14 months apart. They are often mistaken for twins. I also felt guilt at feeling so healed that I WAS able to do this myself. I also felt that my first would be `cheated` somehow, through the lessening of time and one-on-one attention. I also felt guilty for the second baby who I felt sure I couldn`t possibly love as much - though of course I do and did the moment I held him. These two they fight, and fight...but they are so tight. They have a very good bond.
    Well not wanting to leave too big a gap and have our third child left out, we tried again and again and again. After two miscarriages we found I was expecting triplets through FET. They are 13 months now. We were blessed they were born at just under 35 weeks so two came home from the hospital with me, the last one 1 week after.
    But once we knew there was three the guilt comes again. My then two and three year old didn`t understand why mummy couldn`t slide down slides and generally mess around anymore. They didn`t understand that I couldn`t carry them. That hurt. The guilt of not wanting triplets. The fear of it all going so horribly wrong. The fear of not being able to do enough for anyone once we had five children under four.
    But like you I have found we do our best and we get things done. The kids, this is their reality. *I* am the one that always feels that I should be doing more. The kids, they are happy, so I try to go easy on myself too :) I hope your e-mail lady who promped your post reads all these replies. We all have different situations and we all have some kind of guilt.

  12. Its not just a triplet thing Jenna, though I can see how so many in such a short period of time is so hard.

    I have three singletons born within 3.2 years and always feel like I am leaving someone out, not spending enough time with each one etc. What I have figured out is that this is a "me" problem. My kids won't ever remember this hectic time when they are all so young and needy. I will remember, and feel sad that I couldn't let the almost 2yr old walk anywhere because he had to be strapped in the stroller so I could keep up with the 3yr old and the 3month old swinging in the Baby Bjorn. Or that I couldn't just hug the baby because I had to break up a fight. Or that my baby is nowhere near rolling over because she NEVER gets left on the floor because her siblings would step on her and squash her!

    The natural pregnancy vs the assisted one- can't comment on that. But ART kids have every bit as much right to be here as "whoopsie" ones!Of course you know that :)

    I am one of three kids born in under 3yrs, with two more born 5yrs later (16 months apart). I take great comfort from my Mum and siblings because, we are all fine. We had to share Mum's attention, and its OK. We are close, we older three have had 3 babies each in the span of 6yrs, so all the cousins are nice and close.
    There are definate benefits to having a lot of siblings close in age- and the benefits outweight the negatives.

    I'd love to hear your Mum's take on this. Surely she must have felt this way with the 6 kids in 7 years. And then to have you as the much younger baby to smother with love. But perhaps back then with no option of spacing kids (Was she a Catholic too? The "no birth control" type?) there was no guilt because lots of kids quickly was just what everyone did?

    And I LOVE the 12 seater van thing. We bought an 8 seater car before child number 3. One of my DH's arguments against 4 kids was "but we'll need a bigger car"- so I have conquered that argument already. Just have to tackle the other 10 reasons he has ;)

    Be gentle on yourself.
    Rebecca D

  13. You must be a mother, you have such beautiful and eloquent guilt.

  14. jen, thanks for your post.

    my trio are turning one this month and I'm expecting our fourth in January. it's helpful to stop and think about these feelings that I've shoved aside. I'm too busy to feel guilt! But yes, it is there tucked away. And bringing it out into the open is refreshing and helps dispel a bit of it's subconscious hold on me.

    i wish i could spend more time with each of my babies and give them my undivided attention. but tonight before bedtime as i was watching them chase each other around and fall into fits of laughter i realize that they have other gifts than all my time.

    i am also starting to get a bit excited about this new baby and the opportunity to bond with a singleton. you've made it sound so beautiful - almost makes up for freaking me out about my future with triplet toddlers ;)