Triplets: Shannan and Tom’s Story

Parents Names: Tom and Shannan Cunniffe

Baby Statistics: Triplets

3 Months!

What did you do when you found out you were pregnant? Were you together when you found out?

I think we both went into shock. After having gone through IVF, we knew there was a chance we would end up pregnant with multiples, but you never REALLY think it’s going to happen to you. The doctor was performing the sonogram and found the boys’ heartbeats first. He said, “Oh, you’ve got two in one sac – twins!” and Tom and I looked at each other surprised, but pleased. I think we both thought, “Hey, it’s a twofer!” Then the doc said, “There’s another heartbeat…” and we were shocked. And then the doc said, “And there’s ANOTHER heartbeat…” and I might have said, “You can stop counting now.”

We actually started pregnant with four, but lost one at eight weeks. We had an idea the fourth wasn’t going to make it, because the heartbeat just wasn’t as strong and she wasn’t growing like the others were. I have no idea if it was actually a she, but have always felt in my heart that it was.

How was your pregnancy?

After spending lots of money to get pregnant initially, the doctor sent us to be counseled by another doc, who suggested that we “reduce the number of viable pregnancies to one or two.” And I distinctly remember that he suggested we reduce the identicals because there was more of a health risk with them. Neither Tom nor I wanted to make that decision. We couldn’t. At that point, I put it in God’s hands and said, “Okay, if it’s meant for us to have four babies, so be it.” And in the end, when we lost the fourth, in all honesty, it was a relief, because we were FREAKING OUR FREAKS OUT. And thank God we didn’t listen to him about the identicals, because those are our boys.

I was going into the perinatologist on a weekly basis to be monitored, and at my 25th week appointment, he checked me and said, “Okay, we’re going to go ahead and put you in the hospital on bedrest.” I asked, “When?” and he answered, “Right now.”

Uhhhhh…. whoseewhatsit?! I remember asking if I could go home and get some clothes and toiletries and he said NOPE. I had to call my job and tell them, “Okay – I guess I’m officially on maternity leave,” and they were great about it.

I did work from the hospital for a few weeks, until I just got so exhausted I couldn’t do it, and by that point, I was pretty miserable. Prior to pregnancy, I worked out with a trainer to get myself in shape. Being of “advanced maternal age” – I hate that term (I was 38 when I got pregnant) – I figured it would be that much harder to bounce back if I didn’t have a head start. So sitting in the hospital, doing nothing drove me crazy, and my arms and legs lost all tone and definition pretty quickly (amazing how that happens, isn’t it?). I think I gained 43 pounds total, but it was all in my belly, so by the end, when they were taking me down for my weekly sonograms, I would literally pass out on the table from the weight of my belly. Not fun.

There was a lot of time spent in that hospital bed crying and feeling sorry for myself, but it was also when I started blogging, which has turned out to be a blessing and something I love to do, although the blog platform I used when I began is no longer in existence, so sadly, neither is that blog. I switched to Blogger when that happened and began a different blog that is mainly a fashion/style/lifestyle blog.

I think the doctors and nurses were possibly placing bets on the side to see if I had delivered. Each Monday, when the docs did their rounds, they would come into my room and say, “YOU’RE still here?!” It was pretty depressing, I was in that room almost 24/7, eating crappy hospital food most days, hearing about other moms coming in, staying a few days, and then getting to go home. The great part is that I made friends with some of my nurses – almost all of them were fantastic – and still keep in touch with one of them to this day.

The worst part was getting strapped to the monitors twice a day, sometimes for hours at a time. The nurses would come in, stretch very tight elastic bands around my belly, one for each heartbeat to be monitored, and the goal was to monitor the baby’s heartbeat for one hour without any decels (decelerations in the heart). I could be on minute 58, and if there was a decel, guess what? Another hour on the monitor. It. Was. Painful. I really tried my hardest not to complain to the nursing staff while I was in there, and they knew it (and told me they knew I was not a complainer), but one particularly awful day, after being on those damn monitors for about six hours, I told them I had had it, and to take them off. Give me a few hours without them and then try again. I think that was the only time I demanded anything.

Four months in the hospital on bedrest? It must have felt like an eternity! That must have been hard on your husband too. Did he get to stay with you at night, or did he only get to visit?

You are right – it DID feel like a frigging eternity. I am definitely not one of those moms who says, “I LOVED being pregnant.” Nope, not this guy. It pretty much sucked, but then, then end result was worth it.

Tom was A-MAZ-ING. He literally spent every single night in the hospital with me but about five nights (on the horrible fold out chair/bed thingie), eating crappy hospital food right along with me (or even better, bringing something from outside). When the weather was nice, he would push me on the path outside the hospital. Just being able to get outside, however briefly, helped enormously.

Tell me all about your delivery. Were you there, Tom?

Tom:  Yes, I was there. There was a lot of staff in the O.R. – a team for each baby. I watched as much as I could see, with the sheet blocking some of the view. They held each baby up as they delivered them, but took them right away to clean them up. At some point they took me to hold each one of them very briefly before they took them up to the NICU. They were doing a lot of crying and kicking when they came out.

Shannan:  They finally decided to deliver the kids at 33 weeks and six days, which was pretty good for triplets. I vaguely remember having to drink something horrible that morning – I can’t remember what it was for – getting into my gown and being wheeled down to the operating room with Tom.

Delivery was set for 7:45 a.m. so we got there early enough to get a spinal block. I was laid out on the table with the sheet UP. I had NO desire to see what was going on. When the clock hit 7:45 a.m., the docs started. There was an immense amount of tugging and pulling. I couldn’t feel anything per se, but it was incredibly uncomfortable and almost painful. They pulled Gavin out, held him up, and whisked him away. At 7:46 a.m. – second verse, same as the first – they pulled out Simon, and at 7:47 a.m., pulled out Scarlett. At some point I remember my nurse saying “Why is Shannan wincing like she is in pain? GIVE HER MORE MORPHINE.” And they did, and I floated away to la-la land.

At some point, they wheeled me up to the NICU to see the babies, and I had to sign each of their names when I signed in. I was so hopped up on the goofball that I misspelled Scarlett’s name. I could not remember how to spell it for the life of me.

When I held them for the first time I cried like a baby.

How much did the babies weigh when they were born?

The boys were each 4 pounds, and Scarlett was 4 pounds 5 ounces.

How long were they in the hospital after they were born?

They were born on May 16, and in the Level III NICU until May 31. On that day, the hospital transferred them to another hospital closer to our home because they didn’t need Level III anymore. Scarlett came home first on about June 6, Simon was a week after that, and Gavin stayed in until July 3. He was the kid who, in utero, kept having decels on those monitors.

You two are outnumbered! How do you handle that? 

Shannan:  Thank God for my family – in particular my mom – who has been an enormous help from the moment they were born (and even before that – she was bringing me home-cooked meals to the hospital on Sundays). We have also had a lot of help from other family members and were lucky to have found two nannies in particular whom the kids have grown to love.

Tom:  The first few months weren’t easy. It felt like we were waking up every hour on the hour to feed and change them. And Shannan and her mother each tried to burn down the house, but that’s another story.

Shannan: In my defense– and speaking for my mom – we were both sleep deprived, and may have each accidentally left a burner on after sterilizing rubber nipples. HMMMPFH.

So now that you are five years past the difficult pregnancy and delivery, what do you think is harder, pregnancy or triplets?

I think triplets, because I got to spend ALL my time in bed with pregnancy. Can’t quite say that these days.

Do you have any advice for other parents who may be in a similar situation to your pregnancy or delivery?

Shannan: Hang in there, and keep the faith. And even though you may want to punch everyone in the throat who says, “You should enjoy this time (during pregnancy – especially if you’re on bed rest), because once those kids come, you won’t have time to sleep…” Listen to them. It’s the truth.

Tom: Don’t do it. No, seriously – just take it one day at a time, and enjoy it, because it goes by pretty quick.

2 Responses to Triplets: Shannan and Tom’s Story

  1. Thank you for sharing your story! I enjoyed it :)

  2. Thank you for sharing your story . Your children are beautiful .

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