Jan 16, 2013
Yes, They Are Triplets
Hindi Kanarfogel (nee Krinsky) of Crown Heights tells about how she is raising triplets and still smiling. Plus: Gallery of multiples in Chabad families.
By Rishe Deitsch - N'shei Chabad Newsletter
Q: How and when did you find out you were carrying triplets?
From the very start of my pregnancy, my mother believed I was having twins.
At first I thought it was a joke, but she actually had this strange intuitive feeling and kept nagging me, “Go for a sonogram, Hindi. You’ll see, it’s twins.”
She was so sure about this that she even insisted that I take my husband along for moral support.
Eventually, at her insistence, I did get a sonogram and found out that I was having, not twins as my mother first suspected, but triplets. Thank G-d my husband was there with me when I found out. Needless to say it was quite a shock. The whole situation was surreal as the chances for producing a pregnancy of “spontaneous triplets” are about one in 8,000. Still, I guess I shouldn’t have been that surprised, multiples do run in my family… and besides, my mother is usually right about most things.
Q: Was the pregnancy uneventful or complicated?
All pregnancies of multiples, even twins, are considered high-risk because they are more susceptible to complication. I think it’s essential that all expectant women are aware of the type of medical care they are receiving.
Although boruch Hashem my own pregnancy was mostly uneventful, I did switch doctors in the middle. I did this because my first doctor, a regular OB/GYN, told me that my pregnancy was not classified as high risk despite the fact that I was carrying triplets, and that I would have typical once-a-month appointments. At first I was elated, but after reading more about the complications I could potentially face, I realized that this doctor was not a specialist in multiples and perhaps was not the best person to manage my pregnancy.
Intuitively, my husband and I also felt that something about his very confident approach was not right for us. Maybe he was too confident, and we wanted someone more cautious and alert. We ended up switching to a specialist who assured us that although there was a good chance the pregnancy would be completely uneventful, I would need to be closely monitored. This meant more frequent appointments (twice a month for the most part and then once a week in the last trimester) and regular tests for gestational diabetes, toxemia, etc. Additionally, there are specially trained sonographers to spot multiples-related gestational issues like twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome (a potentially life-threatening condition). They also monitor the blood flow from the placenta to the individual amniotic sacs to make sure that each baby is receiving equal amounts of nourishment and developing properly.
After switching doctors, I also became aware that approaches differ even among specialists. My own doctor usually advises against routine bed rest, and indeed I was not on bed rest at all. Though I definitely slowed down and took it easy, I went to work until two weeks before the birth. He did not want me on bed rest unless it was truly necessary. Some doctors advise routine bed rest for mothers of multiples from the onset of pregnancy, but my doctor cautioned that it can often lead to physical issues (like blood clots) and deeply affect the expectant mother’s mental state.
Though it can be a real challenge to switch doctors mid-pregnancy, it’s important to be aware of yourself throughout the process and to make sure that you are completely comfortable with the type of care you are receiving and the people giving it.
Q: How was the birth?
I went into labor naturally and wasn’t induced, but did have a C-section as this is usually the healthiest way to deliver a high-order multiple pregnancy.
I experienced quite a bit of labor first because it took the hospital some time to assemble all the necessary staff (each baby is assigned its own team of doctors and nurses). At the birth, my smallest child, Baby B, weighed in at just 3 pounds, 12 ounces. She went to the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) first as the doctors seemed pretty sure that she would need some breathing support because of her size. It turned out that she needed absolutely no help at all and was feeding from a bottle an hour later.
Q: How did you deal with the shock and inevitable anxiety during pregnancy? Did you read about multiples, or talk to those who had raised them?
My husband and I did read some books while I was pregnant. I think we read one book on twins and high-order multiples (three or more). Though I don’t think you can ever fully prepare yourself for the reality of bringing home three newborns at once (especially if they are your firsts), I do think there are some very important things to be aware of if you are expecting multiples. For example, a full-term triplet pregnancy is typically 34 weeks (in contrast to a full-term singleton pregnancy which is 40 weeks). The reality is that most high-order multiples do spend some time in the NICU though their condition is not always serious (my kids were boruch Hashem just “feeders and growers” and spent a week there). It is something expectant multiple moms should be aware of and prepared for before going to the hospital.
Each hospital also has its own policies regarding which babies need to be in the nicu and when they can be sent home: their weight, need for supplemental oxygen or breathing support, jaundice, etc. Some hospitals have certain weight restrictions and others simply need to see signs of growth. Overall, we were very happy with our NICU experience and thought they monitored our babies very well. Overall, we found the NICU experience to be very nurturing, calming, and even loving.
Q: Did you get family support, did you hire help, or both?
At the very beginning help was really essential. We simply needed hands. Hands to hold babies. Hands to feed babies. Hands to change diapers and give baths. My advice is do not be picky: any person who knows how to hold a baby can be of help. My babies were pretty small when they came home from the hospital, so I would give all our helpers a little demonstration on how to hold and feed them properly. All you really need in a good volunteer is a person with time and two arms who really wants to help.
As the very beginning many people are eager to help. The biggest challenge then is to know what to do with the help.
You need to have some kind of a game plan to utilize even the most well-intentioned assistance properly. Because my own children were pretty small when they came home, they needed to be fed on a regular schedule. To make sure all of our well-intentioned family and friends were doing the most good, we put together a baby binder. Each page was a day on which we graphed their feeding schedule (2-5-8-11, both a.m. and p.m.). We used it to keep track of how many ounces each baby consumed at each feeding. At first they were drinking breast milk from bottles, then formula.
When possible, we also tried to document how long they slept and their overall disposition. I know this sounds ridiculous, but it was actually incredibly helpful and efficient. It helped us make sure we weren’t feeding the same baby twice (which is easy to do when you’re exhausted) and generally made our lives a lot easier. On our weekly doctor visits, I would just grab the binder and discuss whatever had happened with the pediatrician. We only used this binder for about six months, but during that time it was really indispensable.
As the triplets have gotten older, we do keep to a basic daily routine, but we are also much more flexible with the details. I think life is more manageable with structure, for both adults and children, but at the same time, you need to take advantage of opportunities to veer off schedule and enjoy being spontaneous.
So, in short: accept any and all help you can get. The offers don’t last forever. People are more willing to drop everything and help you when the babies are very small, but eventually they too must go back to their regular lives. So take what you can, for as long as you can, but prepare for the eventual reality that you will have to somehow step up, emerge from the chaos of diapers and bottles, and learn to manage on your own.
Q: Did you breastfeed, bottle-feed, or both? Is it possible to exclusively breastfeed three babies?
I pumped and managed to exclusively breastfeed for about seven weeks; after that I gradually transitioned to formula.
It’s important that you do what works for you. Don’t let anyone convince you that if you cannot breastfeed all three babies all the time, you are somehow less of a mother. Do what works for you. Also, utilize the hospital’s lactation consultants; they are a valuable resource and can be very helpful and supportive. (Contact La Leche League if you want to talk to women who have successfully nursed their multiples.- Ed.)
Q: Are the children identical or fraternal?
Identical twins are the product of one egg that split into two after fertilization.
In contrast, fraternal twins are two eggs that fertilized separately and then went through pregnancy together in the same womb. It is possible to have identical triplets, though it is very rare. It is also possible to have triplets of which two are identical and one is fraternal, if two eggs are separately fertilized and then one splits. Our children are all fraternal, though we were told at one point that the girls may be identical. After some blood work, we
discovered that they have different blood types so they are definitely not identical. In other words, genetically they are as closely related as any three siblings.
Q How are the babies different, and how early were you able to see these differences?
As with all children, the triplets have distinct personalities. Though it took some time to emerge, my husband and I are constantly amazed at how each of them experiences the same exact thing so differently. They even have very different food preferences. One of my daughters hates sweets; she won’t eat ices or even drink juice. She prefers salty foods like olives, cheese, and pistachios. Meanwhile, her sister loves fruit and wouldn’t touch a slice of cheese with a ten-foot pole. I‘m thankful that my son eats some of
the foods his sisters do, so I don’t get stuck making three totally different dinners every night.
I think that it is important not to try to force your children to have personalities that they don’t inherently possess. With multiples, I find that everybody, even a complete stranger, is very quick to say, “Oh, she’s the friendly one,” or, “He’s the shy one.” It’s very tempting to typecast them because people want to be able to distinguish between them and get to “know” them quickly. My husband and I actively try to avoid this. Instead, we advise people to refer to them by name or by a physical trait (like hair or eye color). We do this because we want their personalities to emerge unforced. Since having the triplets, I have definitely come to believe that it’s largely “nature” rather than “nurture,” though you can’t underestimate the power of good parenting to encourage both individuality and collaboration.
Q: What type of baby furniture and “things” would you suggest parents expecting multiples should buy, and what did you discover to be a waste of money and space?
You do not need three of everything! Distinguish between the essentials and the extras. Essentials include cribs, car seats, and high chairs. When your children are very young, a big floor mat is also important so that they can all lie on it together and interact with one another and develop their core muscles.
One thing that I have found helpful is to arrange the toys in little centers or areas and have the kids rotate around the room when they play. Sometimes this helps avoid fighting over toys, but not always. It is good to bear in mind that multiples are forced to share everything, even their mother, before they cognitively understand what sharing means. Most kids don’t have to really share toys until they reach preschool age; with multiples this happens much sooner. When the inevitable argument happens, I try to be positive: maybe they’ll learn to share sooner than singletons.
Lately, we’ve started a countdown trade-off game for whoever wants to play with the same toy. Basically, the kids count off ten seconds and then pass the toy to the other. Then they count again to ten and pass it back.
It’s a short enough time span to circumvent a temper tantrum while giving them all a chance to play with the same toy. Also, with three kids underfoot, spaces can get sloppy fast. The space in which your kids play can really affect how they respond to the playtime itself. For the most part, I don’t think kids play well in a mess.
They have a hard time focusing on the toy or blocks they are playing with and can get overwhelmed by clutter. To avoid this, I try to limit how many toys are out at one time and reset the room (as annoying as that is) during their nap.
Q: What do you plan for the future, to help avoid or minimize jealousy and comparisons among the children?
I don’t think you can control how other people view or judge your children so we don’t bother worrying about that. Mostly, we just avoid comparing them among ourselves. Also, we’re very egalitarian at home and consistent with the rules. Everyone helps clean up toys and everyone gets the same ten-second time-out for misbehaving.
Personally, I think the best way to avoid sibling rivalry (at least at this young age) is to emphasize and celebrate each child’s unique strengths and abilities. We make just as big of a deal when my son reads his Aleph Beis as when my daughter uses the potty as when their sister collects flowers in the park. Everyone is truly special in their own way and no one outshines the other. In fact, they often take pride in each other’s work and recognize their sibling’s individual accomplishments and strengths.
Q: Would you send them to different schools, or different classes?
I can’t say what will happen later, but at this point, I would not separate them. I have always felt that the triplets have a special connection; a relationship that so few people in life get a chance to experience. At times, I feel that they have both an individual identity and a broader group identity—a way of being together that is just so special and unique. I don’t think I would ever want to discourage or weaken that bond. My husband and I see this deeper connection manifest everyday. When one is crying the other will offer a blanket or give him or her a sympathetic hug. It’s truly unreal how much they care and are aware of each other. They go searching if one is missing and are very conscious of the other; many times they anticipate their sibling’s need before my husband and I are even aware of it. In many ways, they are a little selfsustaining cheering squad.
Q: Do you dress them alike? Why, or why not?
I don’t have a strong policy either way. It depends a lot on the state of the laundry – sometimes you just wear what’s clean! For the most part they coordinate, although lately one of the girls has exhibited some very strong fashion opinions and so we do often end up with fascinating combinations. We also have some ensembles with similar styles but different colors.
Q: What words of wisdom would you say to a young couple that has just found out they are expecting multiple babies?
Try not to stress about all the details. Prioritize the essentials and be flexible with the rest. Also, try to consciously work as a team because it’s the only way you will get through the tougher moments and emerge stronger.
Though raising multiples can be challenging in ways that typical child-rearing is not, rest assured that it will also be one of the most rewarding and enriching experiences of your life.
The key is to be organized but not to make yourself crazy about it. Forgive yourself. There is no need to be perfect.
One last piece of advice: be aware of your mental state. If you feel that you’re about to lose it, try to take a time-out before you do. In the beginning I used to take an occasional six-minute walk around the block. I have learned to know when to check out—nothing will happen if someone watches your kids for six minutes or if you and your husband switch off dinner duty one night or if you pick up a dinner sometimes instead of making it yourself.
It also helps to keep your own mind active with non-baby activities, read a book (even if it’s just a page), do a crossword puzzle, or knit something—anything to maintain your sense of self within the constant demands of baby life. It can make all the difference in the world and help you be the happy, healthy, and supportive mother your children—all children—really need.
From the N'shei Chabad Newsletter. Watch out for an article coming soon with highlights of the new Shvat issue, including details of a special sale.
Eliana, Hudi, and Ezra Kanarfogel, Photo: Chayitty’s Portraits
Eliana, Hudi, and Ezra Kanarfogel, Photo: Chayitty’s Portraits
Mrs. Fraida Abramowitz, a”h [RIGHT] and tbl”ch Mrs. Bella Licht [L]
Rachel Bronchtain and Goldie Lerman (Mrs. Abramowitz's daughters)
Shoshi Eichler and Mimi Lewis (Goldie Lerman's daughters)
Mimi and Elchonon Light
Chaya & Sheina Simons
Nochum Leib & Shalom Dovber Vogel 2.5 years old from Crown Heights
Chaim and Kayla Fogelman Photo: Dini Groner
Meital (Mackenzie), Yakira (Jordan), and Ronen (Ryan) Colley
Rikki and Cherry Wolf
Mottie, Schneur and Shmulik Muzikant, Photo Credit: Azriel Yitzchaki
Shterna and Esther Miriam Shepherd, age 11, Oak Park, MI
Esti and Chaya Bialestock, Photo: Aviva Rand Photography
Mimi and Elchonon Light, Photo: Chana Blumes
Chaya and Ovadia Zaklikofsky
Chaya and Menachem Mendel Piekarski
Clara and Golda Sosover
Light Family – Two sets of twins and a singleton. The outer girls are Sarah (L) and identical twin sister Yehudis (R). Inner left is Mimi, inner right is Elchonon and in the middle is the oldest, Ari