Three Years Ago Today

I barged into the room with a purpose, but couldn’t remember for the life of me what that purpose was until I saw the familiar red banner of the USA Today sports section. Birthday or not, the world of college football stops for no one. I hadn’t planned on watching any of the action that day, but I was such a bag of nerves that I desperately needed a distraction. After reviewing the docket of games, I decided to place a small wager on one of them—a symbolic fifty dollar bet that I was sure to win. For that day was a lucky one—it was three of my four children’s birthday. Auburn catching seventeen points against Florida at The Swamp was my selection. On the way out the door, I jumped at my own reflection in the mirror, surprised at what looked back at me—a haggard man clad in jeans and an untucked blue button-down with big dark circles under his eyes offset by visible sweat rings protruding from each armpit. Lovely.

I walked the bleached sterile, hallway back to the labor and delivery unit where Caroline had been transferred earlier that morning. It was there she’d receive her epidural and go over the last-minute details of what was to follow. On my way, I pondered the decision I had yet to make—above the curtain or below it during the C-section?

After extensive research on the matter, I learned that above the curtain was a great option because, from that vantage point, you could see an infant’s first moment unencumbered. Below the curtain was also great, because, well, you couldn’t see anything. A C-section, after all, is major abdominal surgery and abdominal surgery meant guts. I’m not into guts. While I desperately wanted to see each child’s first breath, doing so would come with the risk of catching a glimpse of what was moved out of the way to get each child that first breath. Given my squeamish nature, potential fainting spells could not be disregarded. I entered the room undecided.

Randy, a barrel-chested nurse anesthetist with wavy brown hair, was busily administering the epidural shot in Caroline’s spine. I sat down and pretended to be preoccupied with my newspaper, but I guess I wasn’t very convincing as Randy fired several questions my way, though I couldn’t tell you what they were or how I answered them. A few moments later, Dr. Barron, our pastor, came by to wish us well. We spoke about sports, football I think, before he politely excused himself to the general waiting area. Family and friends continued to file into our room. I spoke with all of them but don’t recall much of what was said. It’s hard to make small talk before big moments.

Peggy came to wheel Caroline to the delivery room and instructed me to meet her in the small hallway that separated it from the rest of the floor once Caroline was fully prepped. I had fifteen minutes to kill, and I spent the first few of them staring out the window thinking of everything imaginable, but nothing in particular. It was a gorgeous morning, not a cloud in the sky, which was a shade of blue that bordered on perfection of some significant sort. I wondered how anything could be so beautiful as well as why a sight I had seen countless times in my life suddenly evoked such feelings of grandeur.

It wasn’t that long ago when I was walking the earth alone, hoping to share the love inside of me with my very own family, though I remained skeptical I was destined for such a blessing. But in just twenty minutes, I would welcome my second, third, and fourth child into this world—my first three biological ones.

I put on the scrubs Peggy had given me and noticed a wet smudge on the blue top. I rubbed my eyes and conducted a quick survey of the back of my hand which confirmed what the scrubs had reported—my eyes were moist, but not with tears of anxiety or even joy—but rather tears of resolve. The same resolve that never let me give up on falling in love and having a family. The same resolve that led me to Caroline and Alli. The same resolve that helped lead us through the thirty-six-week maze to where we were at that exact moment. I dried my eyes and made my way to the hallway outside the delivery room.

Once there, I tried to wash my trembling hands in a deep stainless-steel sink, but I couldn’t find the handle to turn it on. There wasn’t one. You had to step on a pedal to get the water to come out. Still shaking, I examined my two soap choices and selected the one on the left. It was lotion. Undeterred, I got it right the second time. The area no longer felt like a small hallway adjacent to a delivery room but rather like a long skinny holding cell, which I began to pace. After a few minutes, the butterflies in my stomach compelled me to sit down on the metal bench opposite the delivery room door. I stared at the opaque glass.

What’s going on in there? What are they doing to her?

Peggy walked into the hallway from the hospital side. “I thought you were already in the delivery room,” I said.

“I was, but I stepped out to get this chart,” she answered while waiving a clipboard as proof. “What’s wrong?” she asked.

“Nothing,” I answered. “Nothing.”

“Promise?” she asked.

“Promise.”

“Okay. Hey, I’ll stick my head out when it’s time for you to come in.”

“Peggy,” I said, just as she had turned to enter the delivery room.

“John,” she answered with a smile.

“Everything’s going to be okay, right? I mean with Caroline.”

“Everything’s going to be fine.”

“What about the babies?”

“They’ll be fine, too. You’ve got about five minutes. Hang in there.”

I rested my elbows on my knees and held my head in my hands, staring down at the cold white floor between my feet and tried to think random thoughts. A warm spring day popped into my mind, one with a sky similar to the one I’d stared at ten minutes earlier. It was Alli’s first baseball practice. Her dad and I were standing on either side of her when Alli’s coach beckoned her to practice fielding grounders. She looked up at me, her blue eyes gray with fear.

“John, come with me,” she pleaded while tugging at my shirt. It wasn’t unusual for a parent to take the infield with a child at that age, particularly during the first few practices of the year, but I hesitated awkwardly.

“Rob, you go,” I said with an inviting nod toward her father.

“No, John, you go. You’re good at this stuff.”

I walked Alli to the infield for her very first time and felt so proud to be alongside her—so proud to love her. The image of us in the late afternoon sun—Alli slapping her mitt, me patting the top of the Oriole hat that covered her thick blond hair—froze in my mind, allowing me to admire it from every single angle until a sinking feeling came over me.

How in the world could I duplicate that love three times over? It’s physically impossible to be in more than one place at the same time. I could never simultaneously be with each of the triplets on such an occasion. I’d never be able to love the triplets like I loved Alli. Even if I could, they’d never be able to feel that love the same way because it would be divided by three. It’s not that I wouldn’t try. It’s just that it seemed impossible.

Peggy gently nudged my shoulder—I hadn’t even heard her approach. I looked at the opaque glass and was surprised at the clarity, but I shouldn’t have been. The door was open. “We’re ready for you,” she said, gesturing toward the room our babies would soon share with us. I walked inside and took the seat reserved for me right beside Caroline, immediately noticing the sheet partition that extended up from her chest.

Oh yeah, above it, or below it? I guess it’ll be a game-time decision.

There were more people in the room than I was expecting. In addition to Peggy, there were three other nurses, the nurse anesthetist, three doctors from the NICU, and last, but not least, the leader of the procession, Dr. Saraceno. I held Caroline’s hand and stared directly at her. If she was nervous, she didn’t show it. She flashed me a serene smile, making her eyes wide as she did so. She looked a little out of it, but she was calm. She looked happy. I was, too. It was time.

Lost in our gaze, I almost didn’t notice the sudden bustle of activity that was going on all around us. One of the nurses rushed up to Dr. Saraceno. Our firstborn was about to breathe his first breath. I stood up, still holding Caroline’s hand, looking first at her, then toward Dr. Saraceno who skillfully pulled Samuel Cave Osborne (Monster) into the world. His tiny arms vacillated with surprising speed, but his elbows never left his side. His little red face appeared smooshed, possibly from sharing the womb of his small momma with his brother and sister for so long. He had a tuft of dark hair that went well with his pronounced widow’s peak.

Sam! You’re here!

Peggy cut Sam’s umbilical cord, an act he acknowledged with an ear-piercing scream. One of the NICU doctors carried him away to a sink on the far wall. She cleaned him up before weighing him and depositing him in an isolette off to the side of the foot of the bed. There were two other empty ones forming a row toward us on our right, both waiting patiently for an occupant.

“Baby A, four pounds, nine-and-a-half ounces. Nine seventeen,” someone announced.

The NICU doctor jotted down notes as Peggy and another nurse tended to Sam. I watched as they monitored our perfect little man until a tear clouded my view. I wiped it away and turned my attention back to Dr. Saraceno just in time to see him pulling out John Turner Osborne (Biggs).

Jack! Mommy and I have been waiting for you!

Just after Jack took his first breath, someone handed me a baby blanket with Sam’s footprint and handprint before handing me Sam himself. His eyes were closed. His mouth was open. He was still screaming. I showed him to Caroline who managed to smile adoringly at our firstborn just before he was taken from me. I looked back toward Jack in time to see Peggy cut his cord. Jack didn’t utter a peep. I wasn’t sure, but I thought he yawned. Like Sam, he had a little pear-shaped torso with tiny arms and legs. Unlike Sam, his entire body was still. He had a nonchalant air about him, as if he’d been born a million times before and knew exactly what to expect. He was a little longer and leaner than Sam, particularly his face, but I guessed him to weigh about the same as his brother. His brother. Wow. Jack was whisked away by one of the NICU doctors and cleaned off in much the same way Sam had been, only without all the screaming. He, too, was weighed and then placed in his own isolette.

“Baby B, four pounds, nine ounces. Nine eighteen.”

I turned my attention back to Dr. Saraceno just as he was pulling out Caroline Kirby (Peanut). I was standing again, though I didn’t remember leaving my seat. Dr. Saraceno held our daughter in the air and I fell in love for the third time in two minutes.

Kirby, look at you, pumpkin. You’re absolutely beautiful!

She was tiny, much smaller than the boys. She made a funny face, her lips pursed; the upper one almost touching her nose. Her head was perfectly round and small—smaller than a baseball.

“Baby C, three pounds, five ounces. Nine nineteen.”

As Kirby was placed in her isolate, a nurse handed me a blanket with Jack’s prints, before carefully giving me Jack. I looked at my lean little guy before stealing a glance at Kirby, just as two of the NICU doctors began working with her, one poking and prodding, the other taking her temperature. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the third NICU doctor rushing toward her.

What’s wrong?

“Nothing to worry about John,” Dr. Saraceno reassured. “Every baby under four pounds gets that treatment. She looks great, buddy.”

I looked back at Sam. He was still screaming, lying on his back in the isolate to the right of the foot of the bed. Then I peeked at Jack. He was still lying silently in the middle isolette. I looked at Kirby, but it was harder to catch a glimpse of her with all the latexed hands that continued to assess her. When I did manage to get one, she was still beautiful. She was the closest to me, but the furthest from reach, as I wasn’t allowed to hold her. Each of our babies looked different. Each of our babies looked perfect.

Kirby opened her mouth for the first time, making another funny face as she did so. A scream that started faint and grew ever louder in a perfect crescendo escaped from her parted lips. It rivaled Sam’s, only more delicate. She lifted her itty bitty legs in the air and as she did, I was shocked to notice she was so little that she didn’t even seem to have a bottom—just two tiny flesh-colored sticks attached directly to her back. With her limbs in the air and spread apart, she let out a relatively impressive stream of urine, an act which temporarily silenced her.

If there’s vinegar in there, then it’s official—she’s just like her momma.

“Baby C has voided.”

Voided, hmmm.

Someone placed Kirby’s blanket in my lap on top of the other two. Look at that little footprint! I showed it to Caroline, but she didn’t seem to notice. She gave my hand a gentle pump as she looked alternately at our three babies. I followed suit before feeling something rubbing against my forearm. Unbeknownst to me, three ID bracelets had been secured around my wrist—one for each baby.

Four nurses, three doctors, three blankets, two screams, two parents, two babies held, two boys, one girl, and one new application for the word voided. Entropy had surely never been more perfectly askew.

Sam and Jack stayed with us in the delivery room as Dr. Saraceno sewed Caroline back up. He thought they were probably big enough to stay in the nursery, but wouldn’t say for sure. The nurses closed Kirby’s isolette to keep her temperature stable and took her away for further evaluation—again, standard operating procedure for a baby under four pounds. She would probably spend a “considerable amount of time” in the NICU due to her size, but Dr. Saraceno wouldn’t speculate how long. At that point we didn’t care. Like her brothers, she was out of the womb. Like her brothers, her first few moments indicated nothing out of the ordinary. Our commute was finally over, but the journey was just beginning.

And thus, it was so. The Osborne triplets had begun their reign of Planet Earth. One by one, each of the hospital staff on hand congratulated us and told us how beautiful the babies were. They say that to everyone and everyone believes them. We did, too. They were telling the truth.

Once Dr. Saraceno was completely finished, the nurses took down the sheet. Whether I would peer above that sheet or stay below it had never even crossed my mind. I had merely acted instinctively. Since I witnessed each of our babies coming out of the womb, I knew I had been above it, though I wondered why I hadn’t noticed the things I was scared I might. Love must see only the things that matter.

I turned around and looked out the window that was behind us—the sky was still perfectly blue, just like that day at the ballpark with Alli. I thought of her practice, and then my concern of not being able to simultaneously love three children as effectively as I loved Alli. I breathed a sigh of relief at the knowledge gained in my first moments as a father of triplets—I had absolutely nothing to worry about.

It would, too, be possible to love Sam, Jack, and Kirby—all three at the same time, and all three every bit as much as I loved Alli. In fact, it would be impossible not to. And what’s more, they’d feel every single ounce of it. Because love is infinite. And infinity divided by three is still infinity.

* * *

The preceding was a chapter from my book, Tales from the Trips, which is available for only $9.00 directly from the publisher.

Happy Birthday, guys! I LOVE YOU! Here’s a slide show of some old pics along with a few we took on Monday when we gave them the birthday presents and cupcakes. (Pookie’s with her dad today, and we wanted her to be a part of it, so we did it early.)

[slideshow]

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About john cave osborne

John Cave Osborne is a writer whose work has appeared on such sites as DisneyBaby, Babble, YahooShine, TLC and the Huffington Post. He was also referenced by Jezebel one time, but he’s pretty sure they were making fun of him. He and his wife, Caroline, live with their five children and spastic dog in Knoxville, TN. Nothing annoys him more than joke-heavy bios written in the third person, with the possible exception of Corey Feldman.

  • http://worldofweasels.blogspot.com WeaselMomma

    Happy Birthday to the trips and congrats to their parents on not only having survived the first three years, but having done it with style.

  • http://worldofweasels.blogspot.com WeaselMomma

    Happy Birthday to the trips and congrats to their parents on not only having survived the first three years, but having done it with style.

  • http://www.fabricmarketknoxville.com Laura

    Beautiful. My John stood up the whole time and saw everything during my C-section too. This post brought back more than just memories. Sights and smells and sounds too. Beeps and cries and questions. And after the agonizing period of wondering how Charlie would turn out, memories of a huge feeling of relief and gratitude for 2 healthy babes. So, now I have to dry my eyes and get ready for work! Thanks for the memories and Happy Birthday to your crowd. Y’all are terrific.

    • http://www.johncaveosborne.com john cave osborne

      laura —

      you made my day!

      xoxo

  • http://www.fabricmarketknoxville.com Laura

    Beautiful. My John stood up the whole time and saw everything during my C-section too. This post brought back more than just memories. Sights and smells and sounds too. Beeps and cries and questions. And after the agonizing period of wondering how Charlie would turn out, memories of a huge feeling of relief and gratitude for 2 healthy babes. So, now I have to dry my eyes and get ready for work! Thanks for the memories and Happy Birthday to your crowd. Y’all are terrific.

    • http://www.johncaveosborne.com john cave osborne

      laura —

      you made my day!

      xoxo

  • http://www.realmendriveminivans.com PJ Mullen

    Happy birthday to your little gang. I was an absolute mess when they handed my my two kids to me for the first time and that was two plus years apart. I seriously don’t know how you managed to still be conscious to remember it all, let alone transcribe it, for posterity.

  • http://www.realmendriveminivans.com PJ Mullen

    Happy birthday to your little gang. I was an absolute mess when they handed my my two kids to me for the first time and that was two plus years apart. I seriously don’t know how you managed to still be conscious to remember it all, let alone transcribe it, for posterity.

  • http://www.loulousviews.com Loukia

    Happy Birthday to the most beautiful triplets ever. :) It’s amazing and scary how fast time goes by!

    • http://www.johncaveosborne.com john cave osborne

      i love LouLou, y’all. her writing drips with her bubbling personality. she’s a very positive person and it’s always a treat when she stops by. you should check her out. http://loulousviews.com

  • http://www.loulousviews.com Loukia

    Happy Birthday to the most beautiful triplets ever. :) It’s amazing and scary how fast time goes by!

    • http://www.johncaveosborne.com john cave osborne

      i love LouLou, y’all. her writing drips with her bubbling personality. she’s a very positive person and it’s always a treat when she stops by. you should check her out. http://loulousviews.com

  • http://wwwjackbenimble.blogspot.com/ Jack

    We didn’t do the C-Sections so I was down below if you will. I remember thinking that it was just like lining up as an Offensive Guard (right side if must know).

    What a crazy and incredible thing to see my children emerge. I’ll never forget watching as they came out and having the 30 seconds of wondering whether this beautiful child was a boy or girl.

    Happy birthday to the Trips.

    • http://www.johncaveosborne.com john cave osborne

      jack,

      everyone’s different, but for me, seeing the first moment of a human being’s life is about as intimate as it gets. so, to that “end” (if you will), i would have been “down below” as well. however, w/ three, there was never any doubt Lovie was going the C-section route. much thanks for the bday wishes, as well as for your friendship.

  • http://wwwjackbenimble.blogspot.com/ Jack

    We didn’t do the C-Sections so I was down below if you will. I remember thinking that it was just like lining up as an Offensive Guard (right side if must know).

    What a crazy and incredible thing to see my children emerge. I’ll never forget watching as they came out and having the 30 seconds of wondering whether this beautiful child was a boy or girl.

    Happy birthday to the Trips.

    • http://www.johncaveosborne.com john cave osborne

      jack,

      everyone’s different, but for me, seeing the first moment of a human being’s life is about as intimate as it gets. so, to that “end” (if you will), i would have been “down below” as well. however, w/ three, there was never any doubt Lovie was going the C-section route. much thanks for the bday wishes, as well as for your friendship.

  • Travis

    Happy Birthday!

  • Travis

    Happy Birthday!

  • http://liayf.blogspot.com Seattledad

    Happy Birthday to the three big kiddos. We almost had to do a c-section too, but in the end I was down below too. watching it was surreal but wonderful.

    We’ve all come a long way, haven’t we?

    • http://www.johncaveosborne.com john cave osborne

      well put, buddy. we have come a long way. it’s really cool.

  • http://liayf.blogspot.com Seattledad

    Happy Birthday to the three big kiddos. We almost had to do a c-section too, but in the end I was down below too. watching it was surreal but wonderful.

    We’ve all come a long way, haven’t we?

    • http://www.johncaveosborne.com john cave osborne

      well put, buddy. we have come a long way. it’s really cool.

  • http://www.margeryraveson.com/ kim

    okay. I’m crying now.

    “Love must see only the things that matter.”

    Peanut’s not the only deep one in the house.

    Happy, happy 3 for 3.

  • http://www.margeryraveson.com/ kim

    okay. I’m crying now.

    “Love must see only the things that matter.”

    Peanut’s not the only deep one in the house.

    Happy, happy 3 for 3.

  • Opus

    Happy Birthday, Munchkins! Good job to the parents for managing to keep them alive this long! :)

  • Opus

    Happy Birthday, Munchkins! Good job to the parents for managing to keep them alive this long! :)

  • Patrick (yeah, that one)

    Happy happy everyday to you and your family. :-) Birthdays are special for the memories they invoke, but for you I know every day with your family is something to cherish. Congrats, and happy birthday to the trips. 😉

  • Patrick (yeah, that one)

    Happy happy everyday to you and your family. :-) Birthdays are special for the memories they invoke, but for you I know every day with your family is something to cherish. Congrats, and happy birthday to the trips. 😉

  • http://sahdinlansing.com Chris (@tessasdad)

    Happy Birthday Trips! Thanks for posting those pictures so we can share in your joy. BTW, this was my favorite chapter from the book :)

  • http://sahdinlansing.com Chris (@tessasdad)

    Happy Birthday Trips! Thanks for posting those pictures so we can share in your joy. BTW, this was my favorite chapter from the book :)