3 is the loneliest number…

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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.

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19 thoughts on “3 is the loneliest number…”

  1. I totally agree with your statement that if someone’s friendship is not enriching your life, then it’s okay to let it go. I went through a transition phase after college where I had to make that decision about a long time friend… The only thing that was keeping her in my life was the fact that we had been friends for 10 years. But, really, life is too short to waste it with people who are not true friends!

    :) becky

  2. Very well written Rachael. I think you said what alot of us (MoMs) think but are afriad to say. ” 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.”, thank you it was just what I needed to hear. ;o)

  3. Thank you for sharing. I am 13 weeks pregnant with twins and I am already seeing the friendships change. It doesn’t help that they are all unmarried and starting a family is the furthest thing from from their minds. The fact that I start to fall asleep at 8pm also isn’t the best timing for my night-owl friends. I am definitley going to be joining my local MOTC and hopefully some of my friends will stick around but I’m not holding my breath. I just hope that my DH will still get the social interaction he needs because that is very important to him.

  4. Wow. That was good. While reading your post I could think of at least four relationships that have essentially dissolved since my twin pregnancy landed me on bedrest. Interestingly, I’ve been too busy to think too much about them but you’re right. I’ve gotten more support online, from not-so-intimate friends/relatives and from strangers than from the friends/relatives I would have considered my “closest” in the beginning.

  5. Rachael,
    This is exactly why I love you! You put your heart in your words every day!
    I felt many of those same feelings of isolation that you described, esp. since I too spent many, many months on bedrest fearing the loss of my babies. It was lonely and like you, it was the strangers who stepped up to help and friends and family who disappeared.
    I too found solice in online communities and without that, I wouldn’t have remained even close to sane.
    However, I have to say I wouldn’t trade it for the world! My babies have brought me so much closer to God, my immediate family and I have become friends with people online who I absolutely love like I have known them my whole life (I just wish they lived closer. wink wink)
    ps This was just beautifully written too;)

  6. It’s interesting, I had a somewhat reverse experience, but much of what you said rang true. I was actually feeling fairly isolated before I had kids. We don’t live near family, and most of our friends had left the area. I had suspected that having kids was the icebreaker I needed, but I had no idea what a blessing in disguise it was to have twins for that reason. My moms of twins club has been a total lifesaver.

  7. Nice post. I, too, was disappointed when I had exactly two visitors the whole 10 weeks I was on bed rest. And no one stopped by to see the girls at all after they were born.

    I was surprised to see you mention the Nest – I’m a regular on the Multiples board and had already had your blog in my bookmarks!

  8. Well said… I completely agree! I had several childless friends who just seemed to be stepping back farther and farther until their relationship is pretty much nonexistent with us anymore. We used to go on nightly walks and even after the twins were born, they didn’t ask me anymore unless I invited myself. I don’t have family close by but they would fly out to help. I tried to join on MOMs group but the group I tried to hook up with had a president whose hands were too full to manage the club and events got cancelled and no meetings and blah blah blah…

    Now my twins are almost five and I have a wonderful best friend (who has three kids) and the support I have found online.

  9. My twins haven’t been born yet so we’ll see if my friendships change after they are. I did want to mention that it sounds like you had it really rough with your twins. My mom was on bedrest for almost 3 months with us (her triplets – at 30.5 weeks) but she didn’t breastfeed and moved in with her parents (my dad too) for some help. I think online communities are great but I do notice how women today aren’t prepared to be mothers the way they used to when they lived near family and grew up taking care of younger cousins, siblings, etc. Seems like we all have to figure it out from scratch which is too bad and certainly can lead to feeling isolated.

  10. Rachael,
    Thanks for the honesty. I have just started the journey with my triplets now at home. I am so glad there is a triplet mom posting here now. It makes me so happy. My closest “friends'” now are people online. If it was not for them, I would be nuts!

  11. Great article Rachael! So much of what you said rings true and I love the way you put it. Beautifully written! Kudos to you for being open and honest about what is the haze of the first year of triplets (not to mention the crazy pregnancy and bed rest). I love your blog and love everything you write…you are an encouragment to me as I raise our girls. Keep it up!


    P.S. BTW – your little peaches are so cute! :)

  12. What a great article. I know so many women who felt completely isolated when they became pregnant with multiples, they didn’t know what to expect of the pregnancy or once the babies were born and there were few people around to help.

    Throughout my pregnancy with the twins my husband was deployed in Iraq, my family live overseas and my husbands family live on the opposite coast so it was me and my 12 year old son. When the babies were born my mother had to fly from Australia to spend the first 5 weeks with me because nobody offered to do anything. My mother-in-law wouldn’t even fly out because she wanted to wait until my husband returned from deployment … we are still waiting for her to visit nearly 2 years later, mmmmm. Only 1 person (a wife of somebody my husband was deployed with) brought me a meal. Nobody else lifted a finger to help in any way. I too joined an on-line forum and quite a few of those girls I’m still very close to now and regularly see. I owe a lot of those girls so much for keeping me sane, offering advice and being friends when a lot of my own friends weren’t.

  13. Oh Rachael, that was so wonderfully real and I have tears in my eyes because I feel like you spoke what I feel! SO glad to have ‘friends in the computer’ like you! Great Job!!!!

  14. Rachael, I’m sorry that you feel so isolated, and as a mother of twins, I don’t know who you do it with three babies! However, you say your friends stopped talking to you but you stopped answering the phone because you didn’t want to answer the question “how are you?” Maybe you need to take a step back and think about how your actions affected the way your friends see you. I know I went through a period after my babies were born where I didn’t see my friends, but now they are 9 months old and my husband and I are planning a big BBQ for all our friends and neighbors that we haven’t seen much of lately. It is our way of letting them know that we’re coming out of the fog, and we want to be treated like ourselves again. I agree that I did re-evaluate some of my friendships and let go of some that were forced due to having a long history with that person, but most of my friends are very dear to me and by them accepting my invitation to my BBQ I can see that they are glad I still want to be friends with them. Though most of them have not yet had children (and those who have, have singletons) they appreciate and value our relationship and do the best they can to be understanding of my situation. I hope that you will begin to feel less isolated and more confident as you are more able to get out and about with your triplets. Good luck!

  15. Well said Rachel…. on the one hand I did not have the isolation because we were just forced to take the babies out and go places due to Jack’s being in the hospital…. on the other hand I feel sometimes like I am even more of a ‘freak’ – I’m not just the girl who had triplets, i’m the girl who had triplets and one died. That makes people extra uncomfortable around me.

    I have lost many friendships but most of them I will not miss. I have made many many more friends than I have lost, and seen who our real, true friends are, and who are the people that truly care about us. Another way that my babies have been a blessing.

  16. You are such an eloquent writer. I randomly came upon your site, and your ability to express your past year in a transparent, and honest way is amazing! I can’t imagine the significant life change that takes place, and on top of that the emotions, hormones, and feelings that go into all of it. I read some of the responses, and wanted to just post another POV on the friend thing. This may or may not be “right” but I know for myself, when friends experience life changes, whatever they may be, I feel that I am intruding if I call, or stop by. I associate not hearing from them, as being too busy, and I don’t want to stress them out. I also think that they would prefer to be with family, or that if they needed me they would call (I make sure to extend the offer)..

    I guess what I am trying to say is, you have your “main” group, whether it be family, or friends, or whatever and so for me, I don’t want to overstep my place by hanging around, or take away from that time with them.

    I am sure this seems completely ridiculous, and from what you’ve written I realize that I am completely off in my thinking and need to step it up.

    It’s like grief, or other events..

    People either:
    {A} Call and support in a tangible way..
    {B} Wish they knew how to help, and think about the person, but don’t call or stop by because they don’t want to impose, or don’t know what to say, or how to help..
    {C} Just don’t care and disapear..

    The sad thing is, the last 2 { B&C } look the same..

    My guess is many are in the “B” category (including myself), especially those who love you and know you. BUT, If I were you, I would assume what you have, and feel the same.. I am SO glad you’ve found people who can love, support and encourage you in a way that specifically relates to your life.

    I guess the purpose of my random/ long response is to hopefully shed some light on what some of your friends are possibly thinking, or why they are doing what they are doing. Hopefully all of this will encourage you that it’s more about the person than it is you. It’s their own insecurities or inadequacies that cause them to withdrawl.

    You sharing your experience opened my eyes to how I may be doing this with my friends, and I really appreciate that. I have experienced situations that aren’t the same, but have had similar reactions, and remember how that felt. I know for me, the feedback I got was let people help when they ask. I always said, “I’m good” b/c I didn’t want them to feel obligated, or whatever {girls are SO complicated} and they backed off because they didn’t really know what to do or how to help. I learned that I needed to be honest, and if I needed help, say it when someone asked. If I wasn’t ok that day, say it when someone asked. I gave the impression I was ok {pride}, and I really wasn’t..It turned into an isolating, and lonely situation, and I felt abandoned. Do I wish we could just know what to do in these things, like push past the fake and see what state that person is really in? OMG yes.. I personally didn’t want to have to ask, or put myself out there, I wanted people to just know what to do, or how to be a friend. It’s humbling to look at it from the other side and realize or relate to what they may have felt.

    Being 100% honest..
    It never ever EVER crossed my mind that people in your shoes would have these kinds of feelings.. From the outside looking in, it’s a celebrated/ happy life event. It all looks happy, and perfect from the outside.. Not something I would associate feelings of lonliness, depression, isolation, anger, etc with.

    Ignorance at it’s finest right?

    I hope you get where I am coming from..

    It’s kind of like when you’re first married and everyone has talked up how fabulous the first year, and how perfect life is, and you have had these dreams, and finally it comes, and it’s nothing like that, and the change and adjustment is overbearing.. No one from the outside looking in would associate those feelings with newlyweds, yet many of them feel this way and rightly so.

    Don’t ever let someone dictate what you should feel, or what is appropriate. Screw them if they impose their ignorance on you. Your feelings are reality, and are completely valid, and the more you post your thoughts like you’ve done here, the more educated people will become {hopefully}. Feelings are feelings, and people waste their time setting generic templates for how certain life events should impact someone, and the typical/normal/appropriate feelings, or thoughts one should have.

    I am all over the place, and I just realized that I have been sitting here typing this random stream of thoughts out for the past hour. It just struck a cord, because I have been feeling the same thing, but wearing the other pair of shoes.
    I have felt like they have moved on, or would prefer to be around people who actually can relate in some form to what it significantly impacting their life. I have felt like they view my life as simple, and how would she know, and basically like I said, moved on. These friendships are some of my longest, most faithful ones and so I have been so sad, but just assumed it was “natural”.

    Notice the amount of “I’s” I am using??

    I have focused on MY feelings, what I think, or perceive and basically had a really selfish, woe is me/ envious perspective. {Again, embarrasing to admit} and all incredibly self centered.

    Again, am I really still going on this??

    I am just thinking to myself “man” or in my case “woman” up and put yourself out there. I haven’t given up on my friends, and most likely they haven’t given up on me. It’s my personal responsibility to take the initiative as a friend, and put myself out there. And one of these days the same will be true for them. It’s a give and take thing and you really opened my eyes to that.

    I will FINALLY finish this ridiculously long response and say this. When you feel alone, isolated, or insecure know that all of it won’t be wasted or go “void”. You have been dealt cards that make you stand out from the average gal and because of that you have a captive audience. Being completely honest, your life is just more interesting, and facinating and while that carries it’s load of burdens it also gives you the opportunity to educate, in ways most people can’t. I am a perfect example of how your post really opened my eyes to what’s probably going on in 3 of my closes friendships.

    Thank you for your honesty, and transparency.
    I hope what I have said makes sense, and haven’t come across offensivlely, or in the wrong way. It all comes from humility. I have been obsessive compulsively replying to this post for who knows how long, and I promise I am not a creeper. Your words sound like they are coming from the mouths of my 3 very best friends, so that, in addition to adderall and coffee has given you a novel.

    I hope it will open the eyes of your friends as well.


  17. Rachael, having met you thru MOMC I have so admired your willingness to step out and be a part of the community even with all of the daunting responsibilities of a mom of a teen and triplets. Your blog seems to be such an excellent emotional outlet and it inspired me to start my own. I too have felt isolated for a long time. Having been prego with triplets, but having only two survive I really took that hard and don’t feel as though I have anyone I can relate to. I feel it is time for me to move thru this and I will take your advice and look for friends online. Thanks for being so honest, but leaving one with hope.

  18. This was an artfully, thoughtfully composed post! You’ve touched on a personal issue for me, that wasn’t so much about friends fading, but about the sad necessity in our family (namely me) to address long-glossed-over concerns with members of my own family…what influence they would/should have…if they even elected to…

    Surely having a single baby causes new parents to evaluate relationships and perhaps clarify roles, but when multiples enter the picture…somehow the need seems more pressing.

    Thank you for a very well-articulated, and candidly honest post.
    (So glad you’re here!)

  19. Thank you for writing this. It is so truthful and it really touched something with me. You have put into words what I have tried to for 4 years now. Thank you. Triplets ROCK!

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