I always thought I would have two children, or none. When I
got divorced at 37, I assumed it would be the latter and had accepted that. But by
age 40, I was the mother of three children in fewer than three
years. My Irish triplets.
When my first baby was born, my son, I experienced a rush of
happy lightness that I put down to hormones and relief. It lasted several
weeks, and one of my earliest thoughts was I would like to do this again, as
soon as possible.
I was 38, his dad was 51. We were hardly babies having
babies, and we had already agreed that if we had one child we should have two.
We both grew up with siblings and wanted our son to have the same.
Still, we were not actually trying to have another baby
right away. We were adapting to life as parents and
figuring out—rather literally—the in's and out's of a newborn. But we also
weren't doing anything to prevent it. When our son was just 8 months old, I
was pregnant again.
My son was 17 months old when our daughter was born. A set of Irish twins.
My boy was
delighted by her and enjoyed kissing her and placing objects on her forehead
when she was sleeping. And he was old enough to participate, bringing me the
baby wipes when I needed them, picking up her toys when they fell. Rather than it being twice the work, we felt more relaxed
than we had with our first—more qualified, more competent.
Our family seemed complete. But my Irish husband wanted a
third, and would talk about keeping baby stuff "for the future." I used to feel guilty, thinking, absolutely no
way are we having another child.
The night of my 40th birthday, when our son was
just 2 and our daughter 7 months, we were in a pub in Amsterdam when my
husband said, "Three might actually be stressful. Perhaps we should stop."
Having three children so close in age has big benefits for us and for them.
A month later, I was pregnant again. I stared at the blue
lines on the pregnancy test in disbelief. Practical thoughts raced through my mind: we would
need a station wagon; we would need a financial planner; we would need my husband to have a vasectomy.
Our second daughter was born when my son was two months shy
of 3 and our first daughter was 17 months. They adored her. My husband took great joy in
telling anyone who asked that they were aged 0, 1, and 2, and a year later, 1,
2, and 3, and so on. Proud Irish daddy of his Irish triplets.
For me, the lines between pregnancy and post-partum,
breastfeeding and weening, and the déjà vu of each early stage of infancy all blend into each other. Although I remember them individually, it feels like the pregnancy and delivery and early stages of each of my children were one fluid process—which actually suits me more than if I hadn't had triplets ... well, Irish ones.
Physically, my mind is blown by what the body can do—and
without much rough for the wear. That I could carry, deliver and nourish three actual people and go back to feeling (and, for the most part, looking) like myself
is a wonder to me.
Many assume that our lives are a logistical nightmare, and
it does require a lot of forethought and organization, particularly back when the diaper
bag had to accommodate three sizes of diapers and three changes of clothes. But like with anything, you just go with it.
It helps that Irish triplets are, of course, not actually triplets. They begin quite different from each other. When you compare a child, no
matter how young, who can walk, talk a bit and eat a banana by himself to a newborn armed only with the ability to suckle and a falling reflex, the former looks like a
There's a sort of accordion effect, as my husband puts
it. They start out far apart, but quickly catch up with each other. Now, they are moving forward more or less at a similar level.
I could be a cautionary tale. But our lives are actually quite happily full and calmer than you might think.
Having three children so close in age has big benefits for us and for them. They play well together, for one. My eldest two are good
friends but also fierce competitors. They have different personalities but feel
very equal, and push each other forward in ways nobody else can.
Our middle daughter has never really given my son the
feeling of being an older brother, being so close behind him and, more or less, his height. So it's wonderful for him to have our youngest looking up to him. Of course, being precisely between the two in age, my middle daughter is
equally a good companion to her younger sister as her brother.
Although the youngest is still in diapers and still working
on her speech (my son, so used to a new sibling every year, asks me why our youngest
gets to be the baby so long), it won't be long before the three can all
participate in the same activities, enjoy the same games and really talk with
each other. My husband and I both hope this will lead to a life-long closeness,
long after he and I are gone.
I could focus on overflowing diaper genies and constant laundry and how well my logistics-minded husband organizes the various shelves of hand-me downs by size and season. I could say you'd want to be an octopus to get three kids bathed and ready for bed. I could be a cautionary tale. But our lives are actually quite happily full and calmer than you might think.
We have our moments of havoc, we all do. There are stretches of time when I feel like all we do is get up in the morning and repeat the day before, times when we look around the house and wonder where all of these people came from.
But there's always that moment, just before we fall asleep, my husband and I, when the last thing we do is not complain but share something that made us laugh or that we feel we should have handled better.
Our lives are busy and full and look nothing like five years ago, but we manage to manage every day. More than that, we enjoy it, and we are lucky—to be sure, to be sure.