Two years ago, I was a busy mom of three girls under six, constantly running around, fetching drinks, finding shoes, and running errands. Then I got pregnant with (surprise!) triplets, but I still kept moving, doing, meeting needs. I did not slow down. That abruptly changed when I went on strict bedrest at 23 weeks gestation, in an effort to keep my babies growing for days and weeks to come. All of the sudden, I was not the go-to person for giving baths, tying shoes, wiping bottoms, or playing outside. But, there was one thing I could do with my older daughters: sit and read with them.
I would lay on the couch or in my bed, my giant belly providing a shelf for the girls’ books, and we would snuggle in and read together. We read The Day the Crayons Ran Away over and over; they always found the “naked,” unwrapped beige crayon to be hysterical. We read The Kissing Hand when one of my daughters suddenly became anxious about going to school. After we finished reading it, I’d grab her hot little hands and kiss them hard before closing her fingers down around her palms so that she could carry my phantom kisses with her each day. I couldn’t get up to see her out the door each day as I used to do, so I that was the best I could do. I read My New Baby repeatedly with my two-year-old, Emily, and we’d point on the big sister on each page, calling her Emily. We’d talk about her new babies, and, while doing so, I held my breath and hoped I could keep her baby sisters growing for weeks to come. I lay and helped my oldest daughter read her homework books, listening carefully as she sounded out each word. I was patient and unhurried, because there was nothing else for me to do but lay and be still.
I worried about so many things during those long, still, stressful days: would be my babies be okay? Would I move into the hospital at my next dr. appointment? Were my big girls getting enough of me, when there was so much I couldn’t do for them? Were they doing okay without having their mom as they always have? I tried to push those worries aside and offer what I could—my hands, my heart, and my voice—as I lay with them with my arms around them, reading quietly and snuggling close.
After two months on bedrest, I gave birth to three beautiful baby girls, born at 30 weeks 4 days gestation. They were small, weighing in at 3 – 4 pounds each, but they were healthy. And just like that, with a blink of an eye, my days of lying on the couch were over.
My baby girls are now 18 months, and our days are crazier than ever; I’m always moving, tending to the tasks of the day, changing diapers and chasing babies. I sometimes think back to that two-month period where I was on bedrest, when everything hung in the balance as we teetered on the edge of hope and heartbreak. While I don’t miss the extreme stress of not knowing what would happen, I do miss those days of being still and present, reading with my older daughters. I know now that I gave them everything I had, and that was enough.
These days, we try to read as often as we can, which is, admittedly, a challenge. Bedtime is an especially chaotic time in our house, and my efforts to read to the babies usually result in them swatting each other and their books. Yet even on my most hurried nights, I always pause and notice when my two oldest girls sit on the floor with the babies in their laps, reading to them and making them laugh. In those moments, I feel overwhelmed with gratitude and thanks. For my thoughtful, helpful older girls who love their baby sisters so much. For my healthy, busy baby girls. For the stressful yet special time I had with my big girls where there was nothing to do but sit and be still and read.