Down the Road…Deb, mother of Heather, Calli & Micah

Eight years…8 years…YEARS!!…But how can it feel like yesterday? And at other times it seems like a fog…a dream…or maybe even something I made up in my imagination? How can you even begin to describe it to people who haven’t been through it? How do you reconcile such beautiful happiness with equally grueling grief? Even after eight years, I have no idea.

Losing our two triplet daughters was the absolute worst nightmare. One I couldn’t even have begun to imagine – until it happened.

All we wanted, really, was to have another baby. People do it all the time. Sometimes unwanted, by accident, even. We already had a perfect son, 8 years old. He had arrived five weeks early, but was perfect and healthy in every way. That pregnancy had been trouble-free, so it never occurred to me that any subsequent pregnancy would be anything different. But it was. Beginning with two miscarriages. After that, when I had another positive home pregnancy test, my doctor ordered an ultrasound, just as a precaution. Surprise! There were THREE!! Three?? How can that be? No in-vitro, no fertility drugs…just triplets, spontaneously.

Overwhelmed, yet thrilled, we began our journey of extreme highs and unbearable lows.

Up until my 24th week, things progressed normally. My ultrasounds all showed healthy, growing babies. Then on Super Bowl Sunday of 1995, the contractions began and off to the hospital we went. I was admitted to the hospital for bedrest and was dreadfully ill from the “mag,” which did stop the contractions. I felt like I was in for the long haul. Unfortunately, our Baby A didn’t quite agree, and her water broke a week later at about 10:30 p.m., and when they couldn’t stop the labor, our three baby girls were delivered, at 25 weeks gestation, within a minute of each other by emergency c-section the following morning, February 6, 1995, at 3:13, 3:14, and 3:15 a.m. I remember the delivery nurse telling me, “There are three girls and they are all pink.” I thought that was a good thing.

I was totally out of it from all the medication and the trauma. I spent the remainder of that day in my hospital room barely able to even keep my eyes open long enough to have a conversation. My husband, Phil, spent much of the time in the nursery with our girls. My sister tried to encourage me to go see my babies in the nursery, but I was just too unable to function. I truly believed there would be plenty of time for that.

How wrong I was about that. About 4 a.m. the next morning, February 7, the neonatologist came to my room telling me that Baby A was in serious trouble. He had called Phil to come back to the hospital and suggested I try to make it down to the nursery to see her. This was my first trip there. I cannot honestly say I remember much, except that I was surprised how little my baby girls were and how frightening it was to see all the monitors, tubes, and the way their little chests were vibrating from their ventilators.

Up until that point, we hadn’t really decided on any names for sure, but we named our girls then, Heather Lynn (A), Callista Rose (B), and Micah Joy (C), and had the hospital chaplain baptize them.

Heather, at 1 pound, 3-1/2 ounces and 12 inches long, died a few hours later on February 7, 1995 at 10:45 a.m. We were holding her and my mom was also with us when she died.

The possibility of losing one of our daughters really never had occurred to me. Looking back, I’m sure I was in shock. I didn’t know how to act or react, but just went through the motions. I still had two daughters in the nursery who needed attention, not to mention an 8-1′ 2 year-old little boy who just lost a baby sister. So we made it through the rest of that day. And the next day.

It was Thursday, February 9. Calli and Micah were now 3 days old. Over 72 hours had passed since their birth. We thought they were out of the woods. Boy were we naïve! I was busy trying to focus my thoughts on Calli and Micah, and away from losing Heather – as much as was possible. It was the day that I was to be discharged. I was also excited to be pumping my milk for the girls. When Phil and Josh arrived at the hospital, I happily instructed Phil to take my newly pumped milk down to the nursery. He came back to my room with a look I’ll never forget. Micah was now taking a turn for the worse. He was asked to leave and the blinds on the windows were drawn. Shortly afterwards we got word…our Micah Joy passed away at 10:59 a.m. She was the “biggest” at 1 pound, 5 ounces and 12 inches, so I just assumed she was the “strongest” and “healthiest.” But now, here we were, getting to hold our little girl for the first time after she had died.

You know, I think after Heather died, I just figured the worst was over. How could anything worse possibly happen? Everything happened so quickly with Micah, that we were in absolute and total shock.

In all the turmoil of the shock and confusion, I decided I had to get away from there. We called my sister to come and take Josh and I home and Phil would stay with Calli. Just before leaving the hospital, we took one more trip to the nursery to see Calli. Incredibly, while we were at her bedside, she also began to take a turn for the worse. Josh was with us and I’ll never forget the fear on his face as he watched the monitors going off. I still can’t believe I left Calli in the midst of her crisis, but I did. I went home. We called Phil’s brother to go down to the hospital to be with Phil so he wouldn’t be alone. It wasn’t until later that Phil called and filled us in on Calli’s condition. She was still seriously ill, but stable. The neonatologists made a decision to switch her to a different vent and she responded the way they had hoped she would.

Finally, after 5 months, 2 weeks, and 2 days – innumerable ups and downs – Callista Rose came home from the hospital – alone – without her triplet sisters. She was on oxygen for 3 years and 4 months. She needed an NG tube for feedings until age 3. There were plenty of bumps along the way, but now, as an 8-year-old, she is absolutely the picture of health. She has no disabilities whatsoever. She is reading, beginning to add and subtract, and can hold her own against her 16-year-old brother on Nintendo and computer games…not to mention being the apple of her daddy’s eye.

It has been a bittersweet 8 years. Most days now are good days. Some days, however, are still filled with gut-wrenching sadness, but they are now fewer and farther between. The hardest times come around special dates – holidays, their birthdays and anniversary of their deaths – at night when it is quiet and the thoughts, memories, and questions, tend to run rampant. But it is possible now, finally, to try to keep my thoughts of Heather and Micah as a “warm glow,” rather than the cause of a meltdown. Aside from my parents and sister, rarely do people mention Heather and Micah to us. Have they forgotten? I hope not. Do we forget? Absolutely not!! We have their pictures hanging right alongside the pictures of Calli and Josh on the living room wall. We visit the cemetery frequently. We talk about them. We wonder about them. What would it be like to see Calli playing with her two sisters? Would they look alike? How would it feel to see our triplet daughters as the “stars” of their school programs? I know my parents would be thrilled to have all three of their triplet granddaughters to show off, and my sister equally thrilled to show off all three of her triplet nieces! Josh would be the star in his own right, with THREE 8-year-old sisters looking up to him instead of only one. And, oh what fun the birthday parties and holidays would be! We can only wonder….the “what ifs” will go on forever.

So instead, we look at Calli and know she is a miracle and that her sisters are there. With her. With us. We hang on to the belief that we will all be together someday for all eternity. Maybe then our questions will finally be answered. But for now, we go on, but we are changed. I’m sure people see us and think we are fine. We have good jobs. We have two beautiful living children. We have a comfortable home. We even have fun. BUT – we ARE changed. We know bad things can happen – do happen – and can happen more than once. We are okay now, but we will never be quite the same.