Faith Babbitt has stressed-out days like any parent, days when she’s wishing away the minutes until bedtime.
In her house, it’s triple the activity, messes and mayhem. But, as she and other parents of triplets often see it, it’s also triple the opportunity for love.
She’ll go from wearily watching the clock to watching with happy tears as her children dance cheek-to-cheek to music playing in the kitchen.
“A little something happens each day that reminds you why you’re so blessed,” said Babbitt, of Woodstock, whose triplets, Emily, Avery and Leah, are 4 years old.
“You experience something not much of the rest of the world gets to, and you just cherish it,” Babbitt said.
Babbitt, along with four other families with triplets – all members of McHenry County’s Miraculous Multiples Mothers of Twins Club – share a common bond ... times three.
They’ve shared their fears, their stresses, their questions, their answers and their blessings, either through the group’s social media outlets or in person as friends.
In honor of Mother’s Day, Babbitt, Debbie Kempf of Crystal Lake, and Stacy Lehman, Jackie Harding and Sandra Mack, all three of McHenry, share their stories of miracles discovered and new normals. Stories that began with shock and disbelief and grew into daily routines.
Their lives are hectic, their arms full, but so are their hearts.
When they’re asked – as they pretty much are daily – how do you do it? They simply reply, “You just do it.”
Here’s a glimpse into what they do.
Jackie Harding and Debbie Kempf had known each other for years before they both learned they were having triplets.
Harding actually heard about Kempf’s triplets from her husband, Ryan, who works with Kempf’s husband, Matt, on the way to her own ultrasound.
“I said, ‘Oh my gosh, what do you do with three?’” remembered Harding, who already had a son, Mason, who’s now nearly 7 years old.
She’d soon discover on her own what to do with three.
Days can be tough, the mothers admitted as they laughed at their children bouncing around one another in gymnastics, but they know they’re lucky on many levels.
“It’s easier because they have each other,” Kempf said. “I love that they have that.”
The friends had their triplets two months apart. The triplets – Harding’s 2 ½-year-old girls, Reagan, Emersyn and Kennedy, and Kempf’s nearly 3-year-olds, boys Nick and William and girl Emily – are growing up together. They all take the same tumbling class – filling the entire class – at Elite Kids Gymnastics in Crystal Lake.
“I love that they’re all friends,” said Kempf, who also has 9-year-old Austin and a stepson, 18-year-old Tom.
Like Kempf, Harding had a feeling she was carrying more than one baby, but thought twins were more likely.
When she heard the triplet news with her husband, she said: “I laughed. I didn’t know what else to do so I laughed. It was a super quiet ride home.”
The mothers became part of Miraculous Multiples initially because of the annual resale the group holds, but have enjoyed the camaraderie, sharing resources and advice.
“I feel like I’m helping other twin moms,” Kempf said. “There’s a ton of stuff to do for the kids too.”
The biggest advice they offer is to get out and about, whether it’s to the park, shopping or elsewhere. It might seem intimidating to gather everyone up and make the trek at first, but it’s worth it, they say.
“The more they go out, the easier it is,” Kempf said of her children. “They learn to adjust to everyday life.”
“I prefer to be on the go,” Harding added.
“You can learn a lot at home, but you can learn more going out, even if it’s just going to the grocery store and getting milk.”
‘Our new normal’
Stacey Lehman still remembers how white her husband Mike’s face became at the ultrasound.
“Oh wait,” the nurse had said, “you’re having triplets.”
The eggs had split into two identical and a fraternal triplet.
“My mouth dropped open and I couldn’t believe it,” Stacey said.
Those babies – Jackson, Caleb and Parker – are now 1-year-olds needing bottles, baths and bedtime kisses. She also ensures they’re dressed the same simply because, “They’re triplets and I want them to look alike.”
“Now we’ve got a routine so we know what works,” Stacey said.
“We don’t know any different,” she said. “The triplets were our first and will be our only, so that’s our new normal. You do what you’re supposed to do, and that’s what God gave us and it’s just, we do it.”
Stacey, who works full time as a seventh-grade teacher in Elk Grove Village, and Mike, who works from home, get help from Mike’s mother, the triplets’ caregiver during the day.
Stacey also became part of Miraculous Multiples to take advantage of the group’s resources and says more moms should do the same.
“It’s important for moms of multiples to know there are groups out there to help them, or just to be a sounding board if nothing else,” she said.
‘Always something new’
Sandra and Pat Mack thought they’d give their oldest son, Joshua, now 6, a brother or sister.
Having trouble, they saw a fertility doctor and Sandra underwent in vitro fertilization, having three embryos transferred into her uterus.
“They said the chances of all three taking were very slim,” she remembered.
All three took.
Mike was more excited than Sandra, whose immediate reaction was fear.
“He thought it was cool,” Sandra said of her husband.
Joshua now has three little brothers, 2-year-olds Jacob, Dylan and Evan, all born healthy.
“Adjusting at home [after the hospital], that was a little crazy at first,” Sandra remembered. “There’s always something new. ...
“We probably never will adjust,” she added with a laugh.
Her days involve breakfast, books, walks, lunches, naps, dinner, baths and bed. And a repeat the next day. Those days can be both slow and fast at the same time.
Her advice to other moms, especially those of multiples, is to get the babies on the same schedule, try to be as laid-back as possible and absorb it all as much as possible. Because one day, it’ll be a blur.
“Even though it seems like at the moment that stage is never going to end, take it all in and enjoy it for all it is,” she said. “It does go fast when you look back at it.”
‘I’m just going to keep them alive, keep faith and keep moving’
Doctors gave Faith Babbitt a 1 percent chance she’d actually deliver three babies upon discovering she was pregnant with triplets.
Though recommended otherwise, she forged ahead determined. To do otherwise was never a possibility for her or her husband, David, who also has 14-year-old Reese and 12-year-old Ella.
“You go from being on cloud nine to being completely shocked and having to immediately go into Tiger Mom mode, and I’m protecting these babies,” she said.
Born at 26 weeks at about 1 1/2 pounds each, Emily, Avery and Leah didn’t have the smoothest start, but they’ve grown into healthy, curly-haired 4-year-olds busy with activities and each other.
Along with Miraculous Multiples, the family has become heavily involved with March of Dimes (www.marchofdimes.com), serving as the ambassador family for a recent McHenry County fundraising walk in Woodstock. The Miraculous Multiples team of 15 families, led by the Babbitts, raised more than $10,000 for March of Dimes, the organization that helped the family with resources and support after the triplets were born.
In the hospital – first on bed rest and then with the triplets in the neonatal intensive care unit – for basically six months, Faith shares her story with families in similar situations to help, provide hope or at least let them know they’re not alone.
“That’s doing the one thing I would have done for myself – come back and tell myself it’s going to be OK,” she said.
“People will say, ‘How do you do it?’ Well, we just did it,” she said. “There wasn’t a real thought-out formula. It was, ‘I’m going to keep them alive, keep faith and keep moving.’”
Faith also has become a sounding board for families like hers, some who’ve experienced heartbreaking losses.
“There’s just this unseen element of people that have gone through that and don’t have their babies today, and it’s not really talked about,” she said. “When you’re there and they tell you their stories, it’s really kind of an honor, not just to raise the money, but also to be allowed into people’s sacred information, you know.”
Along with her community involvement, Faith works full time, from home often, but has to travel a bit for a job. Her father, Norman Jacobson, a recent cancer survivor, lives with the family and helps take care of the triplets.
A life that once revolved around heart monitors, oxygen masks and intravenous lines has become much less complicated. A different kind of busy.
“You just kind of keep them occupied and happy and try to give everybody their due time and individuality,” Faith said.
“There is a huge normalness to our life too, just going to gymnastics and the grocery store and trying to manage three car seats across the back of a minivan.”
Striving to draw more mothers into Miraculous Multiples and all the resources it offers, she tells parents of multiples: “Ask for help when you need it. Get out and live the life you would have wanted for your children if you had them one at a time.”