The theme of the past year and a half of my life has been exhaustion, so it is fitting that as I type this I am, yup, you guessed it…exhausted. It really is no secret that if you are expecting multiples you can also expect to be tired, so I prepared myself for the inevitable exhaustion that comes as a result of having multiple newborns in the house. I read all of the books about raising triplets (and multiples) that I could get my hands on and I did an enormous amount of research in preparation for their arrival to make sure that nothing caught me off guard after I had the babies. But, of course, despite all of my efforts I found myself completely unprepared, and therefore ill-equipped, to deal with the loneliness and isolation that has come since seeing their three little heartbeats on an ultrasound screen for the 1st time over a year and a half ago.
I think that something strange happens when you have multiples…people start to disappear. Friends who you have known your entire life stop calling and emailing and strangers are suddenly your only intimate acquaintances. From the moment I divulged the news that I was pregnant with triplets, the people around me began to look at me and talk to me as if I were some sort of scientific phenomenon. And because I was such an interesting specimen, it granted them the permission they needed to bombard me with inappropriately personal questions and comments. I ceased being Rachael and became instead, Rachael, the sideshow freak with the triplets; people stopped asking about me and instead asked how the babies were and how the pregnancy was going. I lost my identity in the eyes of the people who know me and our encounters became awkward and forced. Friends and family, some of whom are people very dear to me, suddenly had no idea how to act around me anymore. It was as if they could no longer see me as me; and as a result had nothing to say. (Or I was just like Kate Gosselin to them…anyone heard that one before?)
I am sure that, in part, my demeanor and attitude during the pregnancy contributed to this trend, it was impossible for it to be unaffected. It was a very uncertain time for our family, and we were faced with the possibility of losing our babies on a daily basis with no one close to us to really turn to for advice and support that had actually been through what we were going through. That would be difficult for anyone under normal circumstances, but I also had the added impact of being in a hospital 45 minutes from home which made those feelings of isolation that much more intense. I slept all the time, literally, because there was nothing else I could do to make the time go by faster. I avoided phone calls because I didn’t want constant discussion about the reality of what we were dealing with. And I hated answering the question, how are you? I wanted distractions from what was going on, but all I got were reminders, so I withdrew; which of course only made the isolation worse.
When I had my first daughter at 18 years old, I thought that I knew more than my fair share about isolation and loneliness, but once I was enmeshed in the world of multiples those feelings were brought to an even higher level than I thought possible. And after the babies were born 11 ½ weeks prematurely, I was too busy to do much more than acknowledge those feelings briefly. I did have hope that things would get better once I was released from the hospital after their birth, but because my babies were born so prematurely and came home right as RSV/Flu season was beginning, I was stuck in our house with no visitors for 8 long months. Which of course only exacerbated those already overwhelming feelings of loneliness and isolation. In the beginning people extended invitations for social outings and gatherings, but they were nearly impossible to attend when I was pumping every 3 hours and getting very little of the 8 hours of sleep I need to function on a normal level. In those first few months, I was so exhausted that the thought of getting myself presentable enough to go out in public (ie: shower and put on clean clothes) was enough to throw me over the edge. I couldn’t form a coherent sentence, much less engage in conversation. I felt like a zombie.
Now that the fog of that 1st year is lifting and the fuzziness in my brain is beginning to sharpen around the edges, I am just now able to really see how much was changed by my pregnancy, the delivery and the past year of raising triplets. I find it quite ironic that though we were surrounded by help in the early days, it still felt like we were alone. People we barely knew pitched in to help us out, bringing meals or buying diapers, but my friends only talked about helping. So I was not surprised to see that not everyone stuck around long enough to make it this far with us, but I was kind of shocked to see just how much my relationships were affected. And I was surprised to see that I have very few friends left. I wish I would have had more time to devote to keeping those friendships intact, but the reality was that I didn’t. And unfortunately not many of them understood. I certainly don’t expect my friends with singletons (or my childless friends) to understand what it is like to have multiples, because I know that I did not get it before I had triplets. But I did expect some support and understanding, something that is integral to the heart of every friendship. I didn’t expect what I got from some of my oldest friends: guilt trips, judgmental criticisms and comments made with the intent to devalue the experiences over the past year and a half. I expected my friends to be, well, friends.
Thankfully, I was able to find the support and camaraderie I needed online. Without the friends I have made over the past year and a half through my blog, The Nest and The Triplet Connection I would not have been able to maintain my sanity. There are some incredible women that I have connected with and it was wonderful to have people (even ones I haven’t met) to turn to who got what I was going through and didn’t expect me to have it together all the time. I was able to vent and laugh and cry, but most importantly I felt supported and I was understood. Those friendships have become increasingly important and I cherish the women I have met online. They have given me the confidence I need to seek out new experiences and make new friends in my “real life.”
I know that though my experience is not the standard for multiple pregnancies and births, but it isn’t unique either. I know that many moms of multiples have similar feelings of loneliness and isolation in the first year after their babies are born. If you are expecting, or already the parent of, multiples make sure you seek out and use the invaluable networks of support available to you online. And I cannot stress enough the importance of seeking out other MoMs in your area in the earliest days of your pregnancy. It is the one thing I wish I would have done differently, because then maybe I would have found the support and understanding I needed. Resources I found particularly helpful were friends I met through my blog, The Nest message boards, The Triplet Connection and MOST; but they are just a few of the many places you can turn. You can also find information on local multiple support groups in your area through NOMTC or Meetup. And, of course, you can always turn to us.
I have spent a lot of time over the past 11 months evaluating who I have chosen to surround myself with and I have come to the conclusion that if a relationship is not making me happy it is ok to let it go. Though I am sad to see the friendships go, I am also hopeful that I can make new ones.