Its 8am and Lucia, my youngest triplet is nudging at me and whining. Their mattress was just next to mine so they could reach me anytime they like. I was exhausted after having only slept at 4am, researching my dissertation the night before. I took her by the arm and laid her back on her mattress and gave her a pacifier.
At 8.10am Lysbeth and Liora, my two oldest triplets, try their luck too at getting me up. I do the same with them, and hope the pacifier will keep them busy. I just wanted to sleep 15 minute more, please. I’m so tired.
My 2 year old toddler gets up and I can hear her rallying them to head to the living room with her to play and I could feel their little chubby legs crawling over my body to follow their big sister to the other room. I’m so glad they are leaving me alone now and I drifted back to sleep.
At 9am, all four girls were surrounding me and crying. This is it. They are truly hungry. I need to get up. I force my aching body up, rubbed my eyes and looked at their sad little hungry faces and said, “Mummy is getting up now, I’ll make milk, don’t cry.” I headed to the bathroom with the four of them trailing me, still very much tearful. They look so disappointed when they realise I chose the toilet over their milk. Its so hard to go to the toilet, I told myself.
Then I removed their bottles from the steriliser and when they saw their bottles, they cries turned more high-pitched because they just couldn’t wait. I prepared their formula milk and headed to the living room and at this point, they were all excessively crying and sprawled on their floor, like their mother just died. They forced themselves to crawl toward me to receive their milk. I propped each one on their respective breastfeeding pillow and they sat comfortably, gulping their breakfast like there was no tomorrow. The breastfeeding pillows were never used for breastfeeding, they have always been used for bottle-feeding or as a pillow for my back.
Then I attended to my 2 year old toddler who was quietly following me around all this time. I prepared her banana and oatmeal, gave her a piece of bread, and poured her some milk. She has always been an independent little child, and she got up to her toddler chair and fed herself. At this point the triplets were done with their milk but they were still hungry. I took their bottles and left it on the sink to be washed later and prepared their oatmeal that I left in the fridge the night before. After heating it up, I put on their bibs and spoonfed them the oatmeal. They are so different from their sister. They are always so hungry. My husband and I always chalked up their eternal hunger to all that competition for nutrients in-utero.
After everyone had their breakfast, I bathed them individually. To save time and protect my aching back, I never used a tub. I carried each girl, sat on a high stool, placed her on my lap and removed her clothes and proceeded to bathe her in a sitting position. Then brought her to the bedroom to be changed, diapered and clothed. I repeated this process with the two other triplets. I leave the triplets in the bedroom and went to bathe together with my toddler.
I always bathe with cold water, especially in the hot months. The cold water rudely rouses me from my sleepiness. After my bath, I feel like I can finally function like a human being. Other mothers drink coffee, I have a cold-water bath.
The girls were in a much better mood and went to the living room to play, removing all the toys from the cabinets and making a big mess. You would think I could sit at this point and rest but really, the sink and laundry was waiting for me. I always start with boiling a kettle of hot water, then wash all the breakfast dishes and milk bottles and sterilised them. And then start piling the laundry into the washer. Our washer broke down the first month the triplets came home, I guess it couldn’t take it. We barely made it ourselves those early months. I have always liked the sounds of cleaning in progress, it makes me feel calm.
The triplets are crying again. Sigh, I haven’t even gotten breakfast. But I am never hungry. I have always been the kind of person who is so task-oriented that she forgets to eat. I carried them to their mattress in the bedroom, popped in their pacifier, and they immediately went to sleep. How tiring their life must be. I close the door after me because I have learnt the hard way that my toddler will go in the room to wake her sisters from sleep because she didn’t like to play alone. I reminded Livia, my toddler, “Mei mei sleeping, sshhh.” She then brings me a book to read and I read her a book. Other times, I occupy with her painting or Play-Doh activities. Its the only time of the day she can do these things because the triplets will make a big mess or eat the Play-Doh if they were around. While she plays from an hour to two hours, I check my e-mail, Whatsapp and Facebook and get deeply engrossed chatting with my friends. Livia is good at knowing when I get engrossed, and this is her chance to do something risky – like go into the fridge and find a piece of snack she is not allowed to have, or take a pen and draw all over the floor. I know she does it to get my attention. I get quite upset because it gives me more cleaning to do.
Sometimes Livia is really good with cleaning up after playing, but today was one of those days where she wasn’t. I had to nag at her to tidy and clean, including all the toys that the triplets took out. She resists of course but I fiercely insists, and she reluctantly drags her feet while cleaning. Just like in Weapons of the Weak. It takes her 10 minutes to clean. In an ideal world, I would have used this time to prepare lunch. In an non-ideal world like today, the triplets have already gotten up from their nap and screaming for attention, so I open the door, and they quickly crawled out, excited to be free from their bedroom-prison.
12pm, its lunch-time. Incredible, where did the time go? So I proceed to make their second bottle of milk of the day, and while they were drinking that, I heated up their lunch-purees. After spoonfeeding them, and cleaning them up, I heated up lunch that I prepared the day before for Livia. Sometimes I join her for lunch, but most of the time I was not hungry. I didn’t like to eat when I don’t feel relaxed and there was a million more things to do.
After everybody had their afternoon lunch, I let them play a little until it was close to 1pm and I tell them that is nap-time. Nap-time can go very smoothly where everybody heads to the bedroom and promptly falls asleep, or it can be very difficult where I have to keep bringing them back to bed to sleep. On difficult days, which is most days, it will be around 2.30pm before everyone is fast asleep. Now I feel like eating and so I use the time to have my lunch. After lunch, I clean the dishes and the bottles again, and transfer the clothes from the washer to the dryer. If I had a late night before from working on my dissertation, I usually join them for a nap. If I felt I had energy, I used that time to start on preparing dinner. Most of the time, I choose to take a nap.
The girls always get up before me but they don’t disturb me because they had a satisfying breakfast and lunch and could wait for their third milk feed. But its my husband calling me on the phone that forces me to get up from my nap. There are days when I pick up the phone and he’s going, “Hellooooooo…” because the phone slips off my hand as I fall back to sleep. This time though I got up. He’s asking me what he should get for dinner. We discuss a bit and I hang up and I felt like going back to sleep but I force myself up. It was time for their third milk bottle of the day and I took out the bottles from the steriliser yet again and propped them on the breastfeeding pillows where they drank quietly. Then I went to prepare some snacks: sometimes yoghurt, sometimes fruits, sometimes biscuits. While they are quietly feeding themselves, I removed the clothes from the dryer and proceeded to fold them.
By the time I was done folding the clothes, my husband is home. The sound of his key opening the gate lifts my spirit, and all the girls run/crawl to the door to greet him in anticipation. He always go, “Hi sweeties, how was your day.” And they smile and grin while my toddler goes, “Daddy come home!” He unpacks dinner and we dine together. After dinner, I heat up more purees and spoonfeed the triplets. They usually make quite a mess so we bathe them for the last time in the evening. Its easier to do tag-team bathing where I undress the girls and pass them to my husband for him to shower them and then he passes them back to me for dress and diapers. But there are many days where he is working and I have to do this on my own.
After dinner, we do a number of things depending on the day. Sometimes we go to the swimming pool, sometimes to the playground, sometimes we spend the evening reading books to the girls, or we watch a movie at home. There are days where my husband has overtime work and I am home alone with them. So they either play on their own while I am cleaning the dishes and performing other mundane chores, and then I read to them individually. I always make a point to try to read to them individually. Its good for them to feel like an individual and have some time with mummy alone.
The girls start rubbing their eyes around 8pm and I know its time to prepare them for bed. I urge Livia to keep the toys and books again. She stares at me and I give her the “you have to do it” stare back and she proceeds to clean. If my husband was home, he would put them to bed. But if I was home alone, which happens quite often when he has an afternoon and night shift, I start the process for the third time of the day to put them to sleep. So I bring each girl to their mattress again and as usual they don’t go right to sleep. They crawl everywhere. I give Livia her milk, brush her teeth, and tell her to visit the toilet one last time before she sleeps. Then Livia heads to the bed and I carry each triplet back to their bed. I leave them in the room to fall asleep but I always hear giggling, laughing and intermittent shrieking because their big sister think its still play-time. I have to return to the room at least three times to fiercely remind my toddler that its bed-time and each time I have to carry the triplets back to their bed. I guess you must be wondering, wouldn’t it be easier if I had a cot? And they won’t be crawling off the mattress all the time. We just find it over-indulgent to get three cots that they were going to outgrow really quick, plus their mattress only costs me $50. Its not really until 9pm that all the girls have fallen asleep, usually scattered everywhere around the room because they crawled off the bed again.
When they are all sleeping, I breathe a sigh of relief and sit down and feel the tiredness permeating through my body. If I was having PMS, it really does feel like a truck hit me. More dishes and milk bottles were waiting for me at the sink, and a pail full of cloth diapers were waiting to be laundered. And I was dripping in sweat and needed to bathe. I push the thought away and start on what I have been looking forward all day. It varies between opening my journal to draw, working on my sewing project or opening up my dissertation files to read. It was my me-time of the day. No disturbances, no hungry children, no crying. I always over-indulge my me-time and sleep too late. There is usually some night wakings and crying, and I have to walk back to the room to pop in their pacifier, but its usually less than three times a night.
I am not sure how I do this everyday. The mundanity of it is ironically overwhelming. My days are tireless. There isn’t a time of the day where I have the space to reflect on the ridiculousness of my situation, or how I have so little help. I am always on the move. And whatever pockets of free-time I had, I gave it willingly to each girl. I play with them, cuddle them, and hug them to bits because I know those chubby bodies were going to thin down really quickly in a few months’ time when they start walking and running.
When you are pregnant, you don’t imagine a long day of cleaning, feeding and diapering. You think of long day outdoors having fun with the kids. That doesn’t really happen when you have triplets and you can’t bring them out alone. So everyday I wistfully think ahead of the day where we can indeed have long summer day outdoors. That day is nearing. I can feel it.