|3-IN-1: Hanani's boys out shopping with their grandfather. |
By BRIGITTE ROZARIO
If you think having one child is a handful, how about three? While having triplets is seen as a blessing and a gift, most parents would be overwhelmed at having to take care of three babies at the same time.
A lot of times, one parent quits their job to stay home and take care of all three. On one hand this makes more sense than trying to find a babysitter who will take all three. On the other hand, as soon as you have more than one child your monthly expenses could possibly double and you will need two incomes to support the triplets.
For Azrul Haji Alwi and his wife Ayu Nordiana Khir, the news that they were expecting triplets was indeed a surprise. They already had two older children and they thought they were just adding one more child to their family.
The owner of myJodoh ( www.myjodoh.net), a matchmaking site, said:
“I remember when my wife told me she was pregnant. It was a normal happy feeling since it was to be our third child. We didn't go immediately to see a doctor. The following month, she kept telling me that her belly was growing differently from the previous pregnancies and she felt like she was carrying twins.”
The Penang couple proceeded to see a gynaecologist. During the ultrasound scan, the doctor showed them each of the babies, one by one.
Although caught by surprise, both Azrul and Ayu were extremely happy, but naturally concerned about the health and cost issues.
Executives in private companies Hanani Hanani Izzati Mohamad Zubir and Zarul Izwan Zainal were also very happy when they found out they were expecting triplets. With two failed pregnancies prior to that, the couple did not want to get their hopes up too high or get too excited.
Unlike Ayu and Hanani, freelance editor Manjula Aryaduray knew there was a chance she could have multiple babies because she and husband Looi Miin Tze, a lawyer, had gone for IVF (In Vitro Fertilisation) treatment.
“We knew we could possibly have more than one child but the chances were less than 5%,” says Manjula. Hubby Miin Tze explains that, at the most, they thought they might have twins.
When they found out it was triplets, the couple did as much reading as possible on the topic of multiple births. They wanted to be equipped to handle any challenge they might be faced with.
Manjula and Miin Tze learnt that they didn't have to buy three sets of everything for the triplets. Some things could be shared and other items would be bought as and when they needed them.
All three couples learnt the art of managing, adapting and juggling. Somehow they found the energy and the money to have triplets.
All three mothers had their triplets by caesarean because multiple births are usually premature and are too risky to be delivered naturally.
Hanani's babies – Fahmi, Faris and Fauzi – were 34 weeks. Fahmi and Faris were kept under observation and on the ventilator for only one night after birth, while Fauzi was kept for two nights because of his weight (1.85kg). They spent just two nights in hospital as none of them had breathing problems or any other complications.
Azrul's triplets arrived after just 31 weeks. The triplets spent more than a month at the hospital. One of the babies, Aisyah, needed to be in the incubator for five weeks. She was 1.2kg while the other babies - Khadijah and Safiyah - were 1.7kg.
Manjula's babies were almost 29 weeks. Nikhil, Tisya and Tara had to be on the ventilator as their lungs were not fully matured yet. Tisya and Nikhil were in the ICU (intensive care unit) for about eight weeks while Tara had a few lung infections and spent about four months in the hospital.
Manjula and husband were going back and forth to the hospital. When Nikhil was allowed to go home, they had to take turns between being at the hospital and being at home. It helped that Miin Tze's mother came over to assist.
Eventually, Tisya came home and finally it was Tara's turn. However, Tara had an oxygen tank with her when she first came home because her lungs were not as strong as Tisya's and Nikhil's.
Hanani and Zarul admit that help from their parents and family was a great boon.
“My parents came from Kedah to stay with us to help take care of the babies. We wouldn’t have been able to cope without their help as all three babies needed constant attention and all three were colicky. After about three weeks here, we went home to my parents' house to complete my confinement period there. After two months, we came home to KL as I needed to get back to work,” explains Hanani.
They decided that they both needed to keep working to support their daily expenses. In addition, they started an online business for a side income ( itsybitsysecrets.blogspot.com).
The couple doesn't have a maid. During the day, the boys are sent to daycare and at night Hanani and Zarul take care of them.
“Whenever my husband has to work overtime or on weekends, we try to get any of our family members (my parents, parents-in-law or my younger sister) to help me with the kids. My parents come all the way from Kedah whenever we need them, especially when the kids are not well or have to be hospitalised. We are thankful for all the assistance given by our family!” she says.
|CARBON COPIES: Hanani and Zarul with Fahmi, Faris and Fauzi. |
Azrul and Ayu already had two older children so the triplets made it five altogether.
Their two older children are now five and three years old and the triplets turn one soon.
“The first few months were the hardest. The babies needed to be fed every 2-3 hours. We took turns, my wife, my mother and myself. Sometimes my in-laws would take over from my mother,” says Azrul.
Fortunately for the family, Ayu had given up her job when she was pregnant with their first child and Azrul works from home.
“Currently, we have a babysitter to take care of two of the triplets in the daytime on weekdays. One of the triplets will spend the night with the babysitter, one will be taken home after office hours. So, two will stay with us during the night.
“We rotate the babies every day so that they are not too familiar with the babysitter. I feel it is easier to take care of them when they are separated. On weekends, all the children are home and it's up to me and my wife to take care of them,” explains Azrul.
When Manjula and Miin Tze discovered they were expecting triplets, they decided that she would quit her job.
“In the first year we hardly slept. When we look back we're not sure how we survived. I think with a lot of help from my mother-in-law and the maid,” says Manjula.
Although Tara was brought home with an oxygen tank, she is now fine except that she has chronic lung disease. Her lungs were not as strong as Tisya's and Nikhil's and it'll take her some time to recover. Now, whenever the children have the sniffles or the flu, Tara always gets it the worst.
|BIRTHDAY BABES: Manjula and Miin Tze celebrating their children's birthday. The toddlers turning two (from left) are Nikhil, Tisya and Tara. |
“It was a hard first year but in their second year they started to improve and catch up quite a lot with their full-term peers.
“Development-wise, Tisya and Tara are fine but Nikhil has some problems. He's not walking yet. So we've got quite an intensive programme for him – physiotherapy, speech therapy and hydrotherapy (basically, like physiotherapy but done in water; he really likes it),” says Manjula.
She now has two maids to help – one for the housework and one for the triplets. She explains that someone needs to help with Tara and Tisya when she takes Nikhil for his therapy sessions and helps him with his exercises at home.
All the mothers say they did not have enough milk for all three babies and had to supplement with formula milk.
Hanani says she managed to nurse in the first month and had to stop due to breast abscess.
“After the operation to treat breast abscess, I almost had a second episode so the doctor and Mak Bidan (midwife) advised me to stop breastfeeding to ensure that the problem did not recur. We also supplemented with formula milk from the very beginning as I didn’t have enough milk for all three boys.
“When I was breastfeeding, we used a chart to record which baby was given breast milk at what time and how many times a day to ensure that all three would get a fair chance of getting the benefits of breast milk.
“The first few months were definitely the most difficult and tiring with many sleepless nights and not enough rest. When I was not breastfeeding, I would be pumping milk from the breast which was affected by breast abscess. The open wound from the operation meant that milk produced from that breast could not be given to the babies (in case of infection), but because the babies were feeding from the other side, milk was still being produced from both sides and I had to pump milk as much as possible. And also at that time, the babies wanted to be fed almost all the time. Each baby would wake up for milk about three to four times a night!” she explains.
Life will never be the same again
According to Manjula nothing is done spontaneously anymore. Now, if she wants to go out, the planning needs to be done so that she can get a friend or family member to be with the triplets.
Having a routine is the key to maintaining order.
Hanani agrees, adding, “Since small they have been trained (or sometime even forced) to go to sleep at the same time because this is when we too will get some sleep, rest or do some housework.”
All three families have three car seats for the triplets. They either have a twin stroller and a single stroller or just a twin stroller – one child gets carried or the triplets take turns walking.
With triplets, there isn't a moment to rest as their homes are usually a hive of activity.
Manjula says her kitchen is always busy as there's always something cooking.
|BABIES MAKE SEVEN: Azrul and Ayu with triplets Aisyah, Khadijah and Safiyah, as well as their older children Adam and Anas. |
Azrul explains that there is never enough time.
“Not enough time to sleep. Not enough time to prepare delicious food or eat. Not enough time to bathe. No more time for 'teh tarik' (tea). We don't even have time to watch TV. No more once-a-month vacation trip, plenty of laundry, can't event attend 'kenduri kahwin' (wedding feast) ...” he says.
Movie addicts Hanani and her husband used to go for movies almost every weekend.
“Now, we still watch movies, but we download and watch them at home when the kids are asleep. Before the triplets, I used to need enough sleep and would be really cranky the next day if I didn’t get enough sleep. Now, I can function even with only a few hours of sleep. We’ve also learned to manage our finances better,” she explains.
Although the first year was hard, things have picked up a little, says Manjula. Friends and family helped out. Manjula and Miin Tze got a lot of secondhand baby items. Everybody wanted to help and the couple didn't even have to ask.
Hanani admits that sometimes she still feels overwhelmed. “But, whenever I look at my boys, I realise how very lucky we are and that we wouldn’t have it any other way, ever.
“Having three very active toddlers is hard work. That’s why we are not ashamed to get our families to assist whenever possible. Also, we try to childproof our house as much as possible to avoid any unwanted injuries. We have minimal furniture in the house,” she says.
All three couples say the best thing about having triplets is watching them communicate and play with each other. The triplets know there are three of them and when one is put in the car, he/she looks for the other two. Similarly, if one is given a treat, he/she asks about a treat for the other two. There is an instant bond between triplets.
Hanani sums it up best:
“For me, it’s waking up in the morning or coming home from work to see three beautiful smiling faces. It’s wonderful to watch them growing together and our house if always full of joy and laughter. We always believe children are a gift from God, and we’ve been very lucky to be given three at the same time. Now our life is a constant adventure and we’re enjoying every moment of it.”
|JUST ANOTHER DAY: Fahmi, Faris and Fauzi out for dinner with their parents (not in photo). |
* Photo on ParenThots' mainpage shows Azrul and Ayu's triplets Aisyah, Khadijah and Safiyah shortly after birth.