Day in the Life of Triplets

How does a family with triplets (and a 4-year-old) deal with life’s little surprises? One at a time

For 22 months Sharon and Max Whaley tried in vain to conceived a second child. Hoping to give Mother Nature a nudge, Sharon’s doctor sent her home with a prescription for Clomid–a medication that stimulates ovulation. After several months of treatment, Sharon discovered that she was pregnant with not one but three healthy boys.”We were shocked,” Sharon recalls. “We knew there was a statistical chance of a multiple birth, but we simply were not prepared.” As for firstborn son, Conner, he took his new housemates in stride. “He was 3 years old when the triplets were born and thought that every family had three babies,” Sharon says. “When he saw a woman with one newborn, he asked where the others were.” At least once, however, Conner let it be known that he felt put out at sharing Mom and Dad. “Can you take Mommy back to the hospital and put the babies back?” he asked Max.

Brothers Austin, Brett, and Spencer–now 15 1/2 months old-stayed right where they were, of course, and this San Francisco-area family says they wouldn’t have it any other way. “We feel like we hit the jackpot,” says Sharon. Of course, the triplet payoff can levy a steep fatigue tax. “We’re not the McCaugheys [the Iowa couple who had septuplets last November],” Sharon says. “We don’t have a staff of 70 volunteers helping round the clock, but we manage.” How? Like all families, the Whaleys have a daily routine that helps keep things on track.Sharon looks after the kids during the day, while Max, a product sales manager for a nearby computer company, chips in whenever he’s not at work. But despite the couple’s best efforts, a day in the life of triplets (plus one) is never predictable and always exhausting. (A word of warning: You may need to rest after reading this.)

4:45 A.M. The alarm clock blares. Max reaches to turn it off and stumbles toward the shower. “I try to leave the house by 5:30 every morning so I can get home early,” he says.

Just as Max finishes dressing, Brett begins to stir. Tiptoeing into the triplets’ shared bedroom, Max lifts Brett from his crib. Austin and Spencer are still out cold, as is elder brother Conner, who snoozes alone in the room next door. Max carries Brett into the living room, and father and son sit quietly, barely awake, on the sofa.

Ten minutes later, Austin is up, and Max returns to the nursery to retrieve him. Both Brett and Austin awoke pretty dry (meaning not soaked through) so their first diaper change of the day gets postponed. Spencer now has the room all to himself.

  • 5:30 A.M. Sharon emerges from the bedroom freshly showered but still looking a little bleary-eyed. “We didn’t get much sleep,” she reports. “Brett was up and down all night long, and Austin and Spencer woke up twice each.” This isn’t typical behavior, so Max and Sharon suspect that the kids’ recent colds may have resulted in ear infections. They decide to schedule a visit to the doctor’s office to make sure. In the meantime, the morning routine goes on. Conner and Spencer continue to sleep as Max bids farewell to Sharon, Brett, and Austin.
  • 6:00 A.M. The first breakfast shift begins. Sharon sets Austin and Brett into their high chairs, and they dig into the morning’s offerings: bananas, Cheerios, and a strawberry Nutri-Grain bar. The babies are just learning to feed themselves, which means that little of what they shovel onto their spoons ends up in their mouths. When Brett’s full, he lets Sharon know by dumping what’s left in his cereal bowl onto the floor. A few minutes later, Austin’s bowl goes sailing through the air.
  • 7:00 A.M. Sharon unloads the dishwasher while Brett and Austin try to climb inside it. “I’ve learned to take the silverware bin out first. Otherwise, they’ll grab the first knife they see,” she explains.

By now, late risers Spencer and Conner are wide-awake and ready for some grub. Sharon serves her second seating while Austin and Brett pull Legos from a box and hurl them onto the floor. When Conner finishes breakfast, he retreats to the sofa to watch Barney.

  • 7:30 A.M. Time to change diapers and get the kids dressed. Sharon hoists Austin and Brett into one of the three cribs in their small bedroom. They play quietly together as she dresses Spencer. While she works, she hums a few bars of that Sesame Street classic, “C Is for Cookie,” and the babies respond by smiling and bouncing in place. Seeing that they’re in the mood for a little jam session, Sharon flips in a tape of Charlotte Diamond’s “Four Hugs a Day.” Bopping to the beat, she finishes with Spencer and exchanges him for Austin and then Brett to complete the dressing rotation.
  • 8:00 A.M. Sharon throws a heap of laundry into the washing machine and pulls out a mound from the dryer. Austin climbs into the basket and sits atop a pile of freshly dried T-shirts while Sharon attempts to fold them.

After finishing the wash, Sharon sends Conner off to get himself dressed. Meanwhile, she retreats to her bathroom to put in her contact lenses and apply a little makeup. Brett, who trails behind her, doesn’t take kindly to being shut out of the bathroom. He starts to cry. Hoping to stave off a full-blown tantrum, Sharon picks up the pace and opens the door a few moments later.

  • 8:45 A.M. It’s snack time. Sharon passes out sippy cups filled with apple juice and meanders through the house hoping to get a few spoonfuls of yogurt into the mouths of the triplets. Once everyone’s been fed, Sharon attempts to straighten up the house. The kids have been up for only a couple of hours, but already toys are strewn everywhere. Even as Sharon bends down to pick up Lego pieces from the living room floor, Austin is hard at work pulling new ones from the box. “I know this is a useless exercise,” she admits. “But I hate the kids to step on things wherever they walk.”
  • 9:20 A.M. Sharon now has 15 minutes to change three diapers and get three pairs of feet into three pairs of shoes. Then it’s off to a weekly playgroup. By the time Sharon gets all four kids securely strapped into the family’s Suburban parked out front, Austin has decided that now is as good a time as any to test his fresh diaper. “So much for planning ahead,” Sharon says. She quickly unbuckles all of the kids and brings them back into the house. Austin’s diaper is changed in record time, and Sharon loads them into their car seats once again.

On the way over to the Turners’ house, the site of this week’s playgroup, the triplets nod off. They arrive 10 minutes early, and rather than wake them, Sharon sends Conner inside to play with his buddy Camren. Mom stays behind so her three young sons can catch up on their beauty sleep. By 10:00 A.M. the street is clogged with mothers and children. Sharon rouses the babies, and the four of them join the procession of parents and tots heading into the house.

Like her own home, this house has been meticulously baby-proofed. So, despite the chaos created by 15 toddlers and preschoolers, Sharon can relax a little and let the triplets wander around, much as she does at home. “I still find myself counting to three a lot just to make sure everyone’s still here,” she says.

12:30 P.M. After a quick stop for lunch at a Jack in the Box, the Whaley entourage heads for Costco. “My in-laws are coming tomorrow, so I have to pick up a few things,” she explains. Unlike most married couples, Sharon actually looks forward to the arrival of her in-laws. “I get four extra hands to help out with the kids,” she says.

Once inside the store, Sharon grabs a shopping cart and pulls it with one hand while she pushes her triple stroller (a special order from Italy) with the other. Conner asks if he can sit inside the cart, and Sharon obliges. The group can’t move more than a hundred feet without attracting the stares and, in some cases, comments of curious strangers. Most state the obvious: “Wow, look, triplets” or “One, two, three, my goodness.” Usually, their remarks are harmless, but, Sharon admits, she’s met some pretty insensitive people. “This salesman once said to me, ‘I can’t think of anything worse than having three at once.'” Her response: “Well, I’m glad they’re mine then, and not yours.”

2:00 P.M. Home at last. The kids resume their play while Sharon folds yet another load of laundry. The phone rings. It’s the doctor’s office calling back. They have an opening at 3:00 for the kids to have their ears checked. So Sharon feeds the kids a quick snack, changes their diapers again, and herds them all back into the Suburban.

When they arrive at the doctor’s office, she reassembles the stroller and rolls the babies inside. The boys elicit smiles and coos from the staff, most of whom have known them since they were born.

Once in the examining room, the toddlers worm their way out of their seats. Sharon relates their symptoms to Dr. Sanchez and lifts Brett up onto the examining table. Spencer heads for the brightly colored hazardous-waste bin, where he makes a game out of opening and closing the lid. “Conner, don’t let your brother do that,” says Sharon. Conner does his best to control his little brother. At the same time, Spencer, a budding young electrician, begins to tinker with the cords in the wall outlet. “Usually, we’re assigned two nurses during an appointment, or I can get my dad to come with me to help,” Sharon says. But since today’s visit was scheduled at the last minute, Sharon’s on her own.

Austin’s exam is next. Hoping to contain the chaos, Sharon straps Brett and Spencer back into their stroller seats. However, this puts them within arm’s reach of the emergency call button mounted on the wall, which they push–again, and again, and again. A nurse sails into the room to find out what’s wrong. The apologies begin. The exam goes on.

When Sharon pulls Spencer out of the stroller for his turn with the doctor, Brett insists on being unshackled as well. That’s when he discovers that pulling on the doorjamb spring produces a hilarious noise. Boing. Boing. Boing. The sound reverberates down the hall. A medical assistant appears at the door. “It’s the kids again,” Sharon confesses.

For the most part, the doctor’s prognosis is good. “These two look fine,” he says, pointing to Spencer and Austin. “But this one [Brett] has a little bit of fluid in his ear.” He writes a prescription for antibiotics but suggests that Sharon wait to see if his symptoms get any worse before having it filled. Sharon thanks the medical staff for being so accommodating and gathers up her brood.

4:00 P.M. Back home the kids head off in various directions. “Some parents like to keep their kids contained in a few rooms, but I decided a long time ago not to worry about spills on the carpet, fingerprints on the windows, or nicks in the walls,” says Sharon.

Once again, the floors are covered with toys. Sharon lets the babies play while she and Conner sit down for a game of Arthur dominoes. “One of the hardest things about having so many kids is trying to find time to give each of them some one-on-one attention,” she says. To that end, she and Max work doubly hard to make sure that Conner’s needs don’t get lost in the shuffle. “We try to fit in one night a week when my parents can watch the babies, and we can go out alone with Conner.”

The game of, dominoes doesn’t last long, since Austin and Brett are intent on stealing the pieces. At least for a while, Sharon manages to keep all four kids busy playing with Legos. But then Spencer and Brett break away from the pack and set their sights on something a bit more challenging: They take turns opening up the living room cabinets and yanking out books.”We put safety latches on those doors, but as you can see, they’re absolutely useless.” Sharon lets the kids be, deciding, instead, to get started on dinner.

5:30 P.M. Daddy’s home. All four kids rush to greet him. The triplets scramble into Max’s arms, and he hoists them into the air before bestowing a little extra attention on his eldest son–presently clinging to his thigh. “So, Conner, tell Daddy what you did all day,” Max asks. “I played at Camren’s!” he exclaims.

Max takes over the kid patrol so Sharon can finish making dinner. As soon as it’s ready, Sharon rounds up the boys. She and Max and Conner gather at the table, while the babies sit nearby in high chairs. As usual, the ratio of food on floor to food in mouth is about 2 to 1, and the industrial-size splash mat beneath the chairs does little to contain the mess. For dessert, Sharon passes around snack packs of chocolate pudding. The troops eat while platoon leaders Sharon and Max race to clear the table and load the dishwasher.

6:30 P.M. Bath time. Max strips off three food-encrusted outfits, and three naked babies wander about. He fills the tub with water, collects the kids, and lowers them one by one into the bath. With three babies, two rubber duckies, a shovel, a ball, and a floating Donald Duck, there’s not much room to move around. But the cramped quarters don’t seem to dampen anyone’s spirits. Austin hits Spencer over the head with a plastic bottle. Brett whacks Spencer with a toothbrush. The kids couldn’t be having more fun.

Spencer wants out first. Max calls Sharon for backup. She bundles her son up in a fluffy towel and heads to the bedroom. Five minutes later, Brett’s had enough.

With two small children gone, there’s now room for big brother to take a dip. Conner strips down and hops in. Soon after, Brett and Spencer charge back into the bathroom wearing their pajamas, lean over the tub, and soak their sleeves. Austin and Conner are still whooping it up, but Dad’s ready to pull the plug. The two remaining Whaley boys get toweled off and changed for bed.

Sharon keeps the triplets entertained by letting them bounce all over her bed while Max plays with Conner, who has pulled out his collection of miniature animals. Moments later, the room is overrun with little bodies knocking down zebras, snatching giraffes, and drooling over lions. Conner tries to escape the invaders by gathering what animals he can and heading for higher ground–his bed.

  • 7:30 P.M. Bedtime. “We usually decide who goes down first based on who’s losing it the worst,” says Max. Tonight nobody seems particularly happy. In the end, it’s Brett that Max carries off first. Fifteen minutes later Max returns to take Austin off to dreamland. And, finally, Spencer gets tucked in for the night.
  • 8:00 P.M. The triplets are fast asleep. But Max and Sharon’s evening is not over yet. Sharon reads a story to Conner, while Max prepares for tomorrow by filling three sippy cups with milk. Next, he sets about repairing a curtain torn down by a young vandal earlier in the week. Then Max and Sharon do their best to pick up the remaining toys littering the floor.

With the dishes done, the last load of laundry folded, and the house more or less in order, Sharon retreats to the bathroom to wash up. Meanwhile, Max and Conner play “the tickle game” on the couple’s queen-size bed. Sometime after that, Max, Sharon, and Conner all conk out with the lights still on. That is, until Mom wakes up with Conner’s knees in her back.Sharon rouses her sleeping husband and points toward their son. Max gently picks up his eldest and carries him back to his room. Then Max returns to bed, and, at long last, he and Sharon are alone. But any conversation doesn’t last very long. “We used to have long talks at night, but now we don’t waste our time worrying about the small stuff,” Sharon says.”We’re really exhausted by the time we get to bed.” And so as the familiar weight of fatigue takes over, Max and Sharon decide to call it a day. Soon after the lights are out, they are too.

Resources

Mothers of Supertwins 516/434-6678

National Organization of Mothers of Twins Clubs 800/243-2276

The Triplet Connection 209/474-0885

Twins Magazine 888/558-9467

Twin Services 510/524-0863

National Online Fathers of Twins Club http://member.aol.com/nofotc

Twinnet http://www.ghg.net/ 4dee/index.html

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