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Back to One

4 Jun

ME: Days off are hard to come by. I was hoping for a little more fun and relaxation when I put in to take today off for my birthday a couple of weeks ago.

CAREY: I know, but Little Man is sick and can’t go to school. That’s the way it goes.

ME: I’m not trying to complain, it’s just a bummer. Stuck at a Pediatrician’s office.

CAREY: Well, maybe later this evening we can do something fun.

ME: Really?

CAREY: Yeah. We can all watch a kid’s movie together. Then we can play that owl board game he likes so much.

ME: …

CAREY: What.

ME: Nothing.

CAREY: What.

ME: Well, those things aren’t fun.

CAREY: I know, but Little Man is sick. That’s the way it goes.

 

She’s right. That’s the way it goes these days. When you have a four-year-old living under your roof, your schedule is more or less spoken for.

You know? I should rewind a little.

My triplet blog has become a reliably annual affair. It’s not that I don’t think about it throughout the rest of the year. It comes to mind often. Six years ago today, we met and lost our triplet sons Rudyard, Desmond and Oscar. I think of them every day and even now I’m occasionally hit with a surprise pain, almost no warning. Gut shot in the middle of a meeting or during my morning commute. You grit your teeth and ride the red wave. You get through it.

And even though grief is never really, truly over, a few years ago we made the decision to move ahead to the next thing. We’d try again. We weren’t, as they say, getting any younger.

Admittedly, my heart was only half in it. And maybe nature knew, because, after about a year and a half, it became clear that our prime fertility years were behind us. Specialists assured us we were ideal candidates for all manner of treatments and procedures and Just say the word, you’ll be in Healthy White Baby Country lickety split.

But on that issue I was firm. My personal philosophy was such that expensive, medically heroic measures in the name of fertility were difficult to justify in these troubled times. Literal millions of children are in desperate need of loving homes inside our own borders, not to mention the profound need overseas. Understand, that sentiment isn’t meant to indict or alienate my good friends who have participated in fertility treatments (all great, loving parents). In fact, the vast majority of triplet parents in the world partly owe their full quiver to advancements in fertility science. But for me, personally, I couldn’t do it.

So, then… what? Overseas adoption? Foster care? Maintain our DINK status and run out the clock, insulated by disposable income?

I’ll spare you the blow-by-blow of the months and years of vacillation, the tears, the arguments, the starts and stops. In November, we completed our certification and became foster parents to the coolest kid I’ve ever met, a tow-headed four-year-old. I wish I could share his name, his face and his story, but alas. Here’s the best I can do:

Christopher back of head

Carey and I love him. Truly and honestly. When I looked at the remains of my boys six years ago, I remember my own heartbreak about the fact that they’d never grow to become strong, healthy men with big hearts and wise souls. But I look at this kid each morning and it’s my continual prayer for him. “Create in him a clean heart and renew his spirit.” My biggest priority is helping him become the sincere, confident adult my own boys never had the chance to be.

But here’s the thing, and this shouldn’t go unsaid: when we mention our Foster Parent Adventure to people who know about our story, they’ll often give us a satisfied smile and a knowing nod that seems to say, “Yes. That makes sense.”

I promise. It doesn’t.

This journey is the exact opposite of intuitive. Take two reasonably intelligent adults who met and lost their three children on the same day and offer them the chance to involve themselves in a situation that will almost certainly end in tears and heartbreak. A situation fraught with added stressors in the form of court dates, mysterious behavior issues and government accountability. And that’s not even mentioning the surreal experience of saying the word “yes” on a phone call and, two days later, having a four-year-old you’ve never met with issues and traumas and stories you have no idea about dropped off at your house.

“Thanks for parenting him. We’ll let you know when it’s time to give him back.”

It’s a beautiful and difficult thing. I always wondered what sort of a father I would be and I’m finally finding out.

(On a scale of Awful to Awesome, I’d rank my current dad skills at an “Iffy” with signs of slow improvement.)

Again, though, this kid is amazing. I could go into detail, but to sum up: his life is difficult, but he loves it anyway.

Six years ago, I wondered what my future life would be. Could we find or build a situation that would replace what’s lost, that would fill the hole?

Nope. No dice. But maybe that’s okay. This is a whole other thing. A scary, weird, unnatural, fun, frustrating, exhausting, hilarious, ridiculous other thing.

Places, everyone. Back to one. Let’s change things up a bit, try some improv. Everybody set? Still rolling? Sound speeding. Quiet, please. And:

Action.

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An Actual Tip

4 Jun

It’s not inconceivable that part of the modest traffic that this blog manages to attract are new and expectant triplet parents. Maybe, like me years ago, you’re trawling the internet, looking for wisdom and advice about how to handle the task of having and raising three individuals at the same time. Well, today I’m going to try something I haven’t attempted in an awful long while: an actual tip, as it were, on triplets.

But since this is TipsOnTriplets and nothing’s easy-breezy, before I get to the advice, I’ll start with a story. I like to call it My Greatest Moment As A Triplet Parent.

Triplet pregnancies are fraught enough, but Carey’s had the added peril of Lupus, a condition she’s lived with since college. Every moment of our boys’ gestation would need close monitoring, which is what took us to Long Beach’s Magella Medical Group, specialists in high-risk pregnancies.

As you might expect, I had a jones to document everything with an eye toward eventually cutting together a highlight video of the pregnancy and eventual birth of the boys. I was on the lookout for odd moments, hopeful moments, important moments… anything that could communicate the nervous frenzy of the time, assuming we’d one day appreciate the look back.

So we arrived at Magella Medical Group for our initial consult and tests, a situation ripe for the video reel. And since the idea of producing a video had only occurred to me a few days prior, this was going to be one of the very first moments of the eventual edited piece. So I got to work grabbing b-roll of the building, the sign, the elevator ride up to the office. I imagined all of this cut together montage-style atop a heart-swelling music bed.

magella-sign

elevator

We entered and I was getting footage of everything, no matter how mundane. Carey signing in. Carey’s blood pressure being taken. No moment too small.

sign-in

We entered an exam room and an office supervisor told us to have a seat. I pulled out my phone to grab a shot or two of Carey getting situated. The office supervisor said, “Just so you know, we unfortunately can’t allow any video taken here in the office.”

I said, “What do you mean?”

“Well, it’s one of our rules. I could explain all of the liabilities behind it, but suffice it to say it’s our policy here.”

“What about photos?”

She hesitated. “Photos are ok, maybe just a couple. It’s video we can’t allow. It looked like you were about to record with your phone, so I have to mention it.”

I thought about it for maybe two seconds. It made sense: an office specializing in high-risk pregnancies meant they’d likely seen quite a few pregnancies go badly. Failed pregnancies = angry parents = looking for someone to blame = “evidence” gathering, however legit, however spurious = legal battles = headaches the Magella Medical Group would just as soon avoid. I should also point out that the good people at Magella are as smart and conscientious as they come. It’s a wonderful place and we were lucky to be there. “I get it,” I said.

And that’s when My Greatest Moment As A Triplet Parent happened:

I lied.

“No problem, I won’t take any video. Maybe just a couple of photos.”

As reasonable as the Magella Medical Group’s policy on video capture was, it was a rule I just wasn’t going to follow. Sure, I thought, I could respect the wishes of the office. It’s their space, they get to decide what’s allowed. On the other hand, I pictured myself a decade in the future, me and three 9-year-olds huddled around a laptop. I would play the video their dad shot when they were still in the womb, showing how excited their parents were to meet them, how committed we were to taking every precaution to keep them safe and healthy.

Or I could tell them the story of why we didn’t have any video because we followed a lame f&%#ing liabilities rule.

The office manager left the room and I started shooting. And that’s how the rest of the morning went. I caught some great moments: The doctor telling us how the placentas work. Our hearing their heartbeats for the first time. Poring over ultrasound prints, relating to the camera what we’d just found out about our then-healthy three.

doctor

ultrasound

And stern looks from the staff. “Nope, just lining up a great photo moment,” I’d tell them, video rolling.

Of course, the video I really wanted to make was never made. But I did use the Magella footage in the memorial video I cut together after the boys passed. And you know? It’s not only my favorite moment in the whole memorial video, it’s footage I wouldn’t trade for all the riches in the whole wide world. While it was the postmortem footage of the boys (4:40) that caught the interest of The Daily Beast, BBC World Update and Good Morning America, it’s the Magella material (1:01) that makes my heart the happiest. Because there it is, in full-color, living, breathing, 24 fps shaky glory: two expectant parents who love their children more than anything, full to the eyeballs with excited, terrified, nervous anticipation. That’s the real stuff. That’s where life is.


Ok, that was quite a wind-up to get to the point of this post and the reason we’re all here: a Tip on Triplets. So here it is.

As a triplet parent, nature has already decided to chuck your special ideas about the traditional way of doing things right out the window. You have to wing it, you have to make it up as you go along. And the world is loaded with rules and philosophies about how you’re supposed to handle these three little aberrations.

These triplet children of yours are a messy, imperfect miracle. Listen to what the critics and the experts have to say. Take it in. Consider carefully. But keep in mind:

These children are yours. You make the rules.

That’s really it. You get to decide. If you need to go rogue, man, go rogue. This isn’t twin parenting and lord knows it sure as hell isn’t singleton parenting. It’s a whole other thing that demands reserves that John and Jane Q. Public don’t fully understand.

If you need to shoot the video, god’s sake, SHOOT THE VIDEO.

Go nuts. It’s up to you. The status quo was miles back, do your own thing.

That’s all.

(But, you know, within reason. Vaccinate your kids. I mean what are you, a bunch of toothless hill people?)

Memorial Video: The Bear Triplets

28 Jun

Below is the video produced for the June 25th, 2011 memorial service for Rudyard, Desmond and Oscar Bear, our triplet sons.

Please be warned: while this video contains a handful of images from their brief lives, it also contains some imagery captured shortly after their passing. If you’re disturbed or offended by this sort of thing, please don’t feel any obligation to watch.

Thanks for celebrating them with us.

Au revoir, youth!

5 May

My wife has worn a belly button ring for, I don’t know, probably almost a decade now.  Every so often, over the years, I’ve asked her if she’d ever take it out.

“Maybe,” she’d say, “if I were pregnant or something.  I’ve seen post-pregnancy belly button ring scars.  Not pretty.”

And a few days ago, as news of Osama Bin Laden’s timely demise barked from the TV, Carey was standing in front of the bathroom mirror, deciding to remove it.  It was getting pretty uncomfortable, see.  Time to go.


So, my counter-culture, hippy-trippy, vegan activist wife is surrendering herself over to motherhood, moment by moment and bit by bit.  I’m not sure why, but seeing her pop that thing out was a surprisingly momentous picture for me and I’m not entirely sure why.

See you later, childhood.  Next stop: Who Knows Where.

Ultrasound Avalanche 2: The Reckoning

3 May

Last Thursday’s anatomy scan at Magella means a whole new busload of ultrasound pics.  So, friends, because you demanded it, behold!  The fellas are progressing nicely.

(Oh, and if you’re the sort of person who wants to compare the progress from a month and a half ago, refer back to Ultrasound Avalanche v.1.)

Thanks for visiting!

Baby A:

Baby B:

Baby C:

Babies ‘R’ Terrifying

18 Apr

Friends, we did it.  We looked into the abyss and glimpsed the future.  And we’ve returned to tell you about it.

For you see, on Saturday, friends, we pilgrimaged to Babies ‘R’ Us.

ARBEIT MACHT FREI

Look, I have no idea what sort of reputation Babies ‘R’ Us has in the baby-parenting community.  I have no doubt whatsoever that it’s probably seen as some oasis of convenience for sleep-hungry mommies who are in desperate need of one of those bulby-squeezy things to blow wax out of their baby’s ear or whatever.  But for baby n00bz like us, it was a total sensory assault.

This is the last thing I saw before passing out.

They don’t waste time, either. As soon as you walk through the door, you’re in the middle of Grand Central Station, next stop OnesiesVille. There’s no “easing” into Babies ‘R’ Us. Like lotto, you’ve gotta be in it to win it.

Our objective was simple enough: the wife has been having a hell of a time sleeping and the experts seemed to agree that what she was missing was a “body pillow.”  Carey saw a pretty attractive one on the Babies ‘R’ Us website, and we were in the neighborhood, so we stopped in.

It didn’t take long before we were swimming in options.  Options for everything.  Clothing options, bedding options, baby monitors, change stations, formula warmers, car seats, play pens… they had an item called The SuperYard, which, near as I can tell, is some sort of mini Mad Max-style Thunderdome for your living room, in case you want to get the wee ones interested in cage fighting early.

It's no small feat finding the loudest baby outfit in the store. Certain garments are only appropriate for a) baby girls or b) old women at the mall experiencing dementia.

I’m sure there’s a perfectly good reason to expand your diaper options ad infinitum, but man I don’t know.  Our eyes bulged and we felt small and alone.

An associate walked up to us and asked if we needed any help.  We mentally surfaced long enough to notice that we’d drifted into the stroller section.  Carey asked, “uh, do you have strollers for three?”

He shook his head.  “No, we have a lot of 2 seaters, but no 3s.  I know they make ’em, but that’s pretty specialized.”

“We’re having triplets this summer,” I told him.

He covered his mouth and suppressed a laugh.  “Hoh man.”

I don't know what you're selling, sneaky baby, and I don't trust your furtive side-glances. You hear me, sneaky baby? I have no business with you. So, good day then. MADAME, I SAY GOOD DAY.

The designers of this device endeavored to recreate the experience of Six Flags, reduced to a 1.5 square foot area, and baby-proofed. Congratulations, science.

Oh, you need a baby hygiene product of some sort? Let me go hit the hygiene aisle.

I'm sure I'll only be a minute.

We eventually got out of there with our body pillow (which has indeed helped), but not before signing up for a Babies ‘R’ Us rewards card.  At some point in the very near future, we’ll need to register for baby shower stuff, but, at the moment, our eyeballs haven’t stopped spinning.

The wife mentioned that she had no idea, pre-B’R’U, how much we have to learn about this whole parenting deal.  (Kids outgrow car seats?  You have to buy more than one of these things per kid as they get bigger?  At $200+ per car seat, per triplet, per growth cycle, that works out to roughly, mm, awholelottafriggindough.)  She suggested we do what our also-expecting friends Tony and Stacey are doing, which is take weekend baby classes.  After this experience, I’m not ruling it out.

Anyhow, it was our first visit of likely many to come to America’s Infant MegaMart.  Like some kind of expectant-father-former-P.O.W., I’m not looking forward to going back in, but, by god, I’ve gotta do it eventually.  After all, I’ve got buddies in there who are counting on me.

For the triplets.  THE TRIPLETS.

Ho!

Bump

30 Mar

Any sort of pregnancy chronicle must contain, by law, the requisite “belly progress” pics.  So, full compliance, let’s get to it.

Carey at 13 weeks (this morning):

13 Weeks

OB says, with triplets, 13 weeks is the equivalent of being 18 weeks with a singleton.  (“Singleton.”  That one still sort of cracks me up because it just sounds snooty.  “Oh, you’re only having a singleton?  Mm.”)

Anyhow, latest checkup says everything looks good.  Babies still kickin’.  We’re on track.