A nurse informed us that the triplets would soon be arriving. As our family hastened down the hallway toward the double doors marked “DELIVERY” out came our firstborn.
“Boy or girl?” I blurted out.
“Boy, but not your boy,” said the smiling nurse. “We’ll keep you posted.”
This continued for several babies. We even saw a couple that Mama said looked just like Jane. At last two nurses walked out together each holding a baby. “Finally!” I exclaimed.
“Not yet,” one of the ladies in white sympathetically replied. These are twins.”
In a few moments word reached us that we had two girls and a boy. We waited for them to be brought out, but they didn’t come. It was two doctors who came, Dr. English and Dr. Harvey.
“Your firstborn is a girl,” said Dr. English. “She’s doing fine. She weighs four pounds and seven ounces.” He pointed to some scribbling on the back of a paper towel. “The second one, a boy, is doing fair. He’s small and his lungs aren’t fully developed.” From his notes I saw that our son was only four pounds and two ounces.
“The last girl is largest at four eleven, but she’s been through a lot. The umbilical cord was wrapped around her neck. We think she’ll be alright, but she still hasn’t regained her color.”
My mother and I accompanied the doctors into the intensive care unit. All three babies were beyond our touch in their glass domed isolettes. They were naked except for the monitors which were attached to their chests. Umbilical catheters were soon attached to the severed remains of what had been their lifelines.
The first girl looked red-faced and promising. Although small, she appeared healthy considering she had surprised us over a month too soon.
But looking at our son I wondered how the doctors could say he was doing fair. I supposed it must be for our encouragement because he looked hopeless. His chest had a deep cavity which the doctors explained was due to his undeveloped lungs. Even under the oxygen hood he gasped for each breath with a frantic rapidity I judged impossible to maintain.
The last girl was at the opposite end of the spectrum from our son’s frenzied struggle. Her breaths came slowly and almost undetectably. She looked lifeless and uncaring. Her color was still slightly bluish. I could not help but wonder about possible brain damage. I chastised myself for even silently worrying about such when her life was so uncertain.
For the first time in my life, I began to understand the indescribable love of a parent. I understood what it means to say, “This hurts me more than it does you.” And I understood that more than anything else I had ever wanted, I wanted our children to live.
The doctors were cautiously reassuring. Dr. English said that babies are a lot tougher than they look. I wanted to believe him, but I wasn’t sure that I should.
After a brief visit with Jane in delivery, I went to the room where she would be staying. A lady from the hospital’s public relations department asked if I would mind talking to a reporter from The Sun, Warner Robin’s local newspaper. The trio’s arrival was perfectly timed for their Christmas edition.
The pleasant young reporter was new at her work. She had a tablet filled with questions, each of them written on a separate page. Her tone was serious and reflected obvious preparation.
“What did you think when you first found out you were the father of triplets?” she asked.
“Well,” I said with hesitation, “I promised that girl if she had three at one time, I would marry her. I reckon I’ll have to now.” She dropped her number two lead pencil on the floor but was otherwise undeterred by my nonsense. “Who do you think they look like?” she asked.
“My parents and I were just discussing that,” I replied. “We think they favor our milkman.” She stopped writing and began erasing, then asked about their names. Mama was shaking her head in dismay. I figured it was time to stop kidding around and help that nice lady write her story.