Scientist Turned Mother: Being “Dr. Mom” to Triplets

This post is contributed by Laurie Lambert, a writer and mother living in the Cincinnati, Ohio area. Here she recaptures the story of early days with her triplets and the kind of precise attention they needed in order to grow. 

What is it like to grow up with a Mom that is a medical research scientist; a Mom that also happens to live on the anal retentive side of the street?

AND to be the product of an experiment, a scientific endeavor near to God: the incubation of harvested eggs with purified sperm in a petri dish?  The first pictures in the baby photo album were taken with a microscope, just prior to surgical implantation in Dr. Mom.

AND further (oh the poor dears) – to be a cohort – triplets?  N=3.

Let the adventures begin.

It starts with a home version of a lab notebook, and a baby scale, and a tape measure, along with all the other paraphernalia that accompanies new babies.  On the long-awaited and very truly blessed day that the babes are brought home from the neonatal intensive care unit of the hospital, the data recording begins.  Weight, length, and head circumference are measured weekly.   Each day, the time and amount of breast milk and/or formula consumed is written in, along with the feeding time.  Of course, output is monitored and marked down as well.  Wetness, poop, and vomit are all transcribed in what appears to be an emotionless listing of numbers alongside names and times.

This tells such a small part of the story, but these details seemed imperative at the time.  They answered the questions quaking in the heart of the scientist turned mother:  How are we doing?  Is everything okay?

By deduction, if nourishment was going in and the products of metabolism were coming out, we were moving forward.  If heads were getting bigger and people were gaining weight, we were succeeding.  In spite of the reluctance to feed, the ocean of spit up and the fecal deposits that surely outweighed not only the nourishment consumed but even the child.

tripletsThe subjects were growing.

I still have these Lab Notebooks of my children’s early life, stashed in a desk drawer for close to twenty years.  I pulled them out at this writing, and they are as I remember.  I recorded dutifully when Claire’s umbilical cord fell off on May 15th, the same day she “spit up out her nose” not once but twice, at 3 a.m. I recorded every poop, and every milliliter of fluid consumed.  On the twelfth day of their lives, my babies were drinking between 40 and 60 ml of breast milk (that’s between 3 and 4 tablespoons) every 3 hours, around the clock.

Ideally, each baby was awakened from a sound sleep for their feeding.  When my Mom was visiting to help, this drove her crazy, waking a sleeping baby for a bottle.  Our “Act, Don’t React” modus operandi grated on her terribly.  “That baby doesn’t need feeding, it’s SLEEPING!” she would say.

But if we waited for one baby, any baby, to wake up hungry and crying, we would in short order have three awake crying babies on our hands.  It’s hard to be patient feeding a premie baby with a weak sucking reflex, and it’s a hell of a lot harder when another baby is crying in the background. 

Whether they were hungry or not, they needed to be fed.   They needed to get heavier. Those three heads needed to keep getting bigger, those six legs longer, and those beautiful tender cheeks fatter.

We all needed to live, to thrive, and writing it all down was reassuring proof positive of our progress in a time of dizzying stress and confusion.


Copyright Laurie Lambert, 2015; Used with permission. 
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