Being 27, married with four children may not the norm in this day and age and I certainly get some rather perplexed looks when I announce my family situation however when I explain that three are triplets I suddenly am flooded with the usual and rather tiresome questions.
My wife, Claire, has a son from a previous relationship and when we married in 2010 we were pretty adamant we weren’t going to wait to add to our family. I had always wanted to be a Dad, it was a prospect I was excited by. I hold my own father in very high regard and so aspired to be that hero to a child of my own. Being a young-ish Dad never really phased me either, granted non of my friends have children or are even married, few are even in meaningful relationships – too busy making the most of being young. Fair enough, but for me I wanted to be able to play with my children without taking time outs, or have them spend a whole Saturday afternoon playing while I played football or rugby just like my brothers and I did when we were younger. I wanted my children to experience first hand that I could play sport and not have to listen to endless stories about “When I played or I used to be able to.”
Believe it or not, I had always wanted three children too. Having Callum as a stepson meant that we planned to have a further two, never in my wildest dreams did I imagine I could be the father to triplets. It was completely natural with no previous history in either family. At first an overwhelming sensation of excitement hit me, looking at Claire who simply burst into tears knowing the massive implications of having triplets as the screen of what can only be described as three prawns on a plate was shown to us. It took Claire a couple of weeks for it to sink in, she had been there before, I didn’t appear until Callum was three, she knew about the expense, the sleepless nights, the routine, the potential risks, all of which were all completely new to me.
Claire didn’t enjoy the pregnancy in the slightest, having been dancing at a wedding the night before she had Callum, she was almost bed ridden by 24 weeks. I found myself having to be the shoulder to cry on when hormones and boredom set in, it wasn’t easy, every pregnancy has risks but with multiples the risk is increased, although I never really believed there would be a problem, there was always an uncomfortable worry throughout the whole pregnancy. Ebay became our best friend, having to buy three of everything meant that we had to find things cheaper and sometimes used. We did buy certain necessities new and we also sold off anything to help with the endless amounts of nappies and wet wipes!
Claire went into premature labour just under 32 weeks. Our triplets arrived weighing 4lb 5oz, 3lb 8oz and 3lb 7.5oz. Claire found it hard seeing the babies in a neonatal unit, again not having anything to compare it to I saw it as a means to an end. However I don’t think I could ever withstand the annoying beeps from the monitor in that neonatal ward.
The first few months of having the babies home were the hardest of my life. The most crucial and important piece of advice is to get a ROUTINE!!!! As early as possible we got the babies into a routine, bath, bottle, bed by 7pm, we were feeding every 3-4 hours. We never had a night off, we both had to feed. As a primary school teacher, working after having little or no sleep is possible the hardest job to have. A teacher needs to have their wits about them at all times, in the 5 years of teaching I had never worked with a hangover as I knew it would be a nearly impossible task. However having a very supportive and understanding team it did help and I learnt very quickly that you can never be too proud. If I was struggling or needed help I had to ask. This wasn’t just within work, family and friends were put to the test and asked to help as much as possible. I also learnt to say “NO” within work. As a teacher I dedicated a lot of time into my job outside the normal teaching hours, when the babies came along it put everything in perspective. I had to prioritise, plan ahead, delegate and limit myself to find a more balanced work life arrangement.
Persistence paid off, by 7/8 months the babies slept from 7pm – 5am, and that has continued every since, the days of teething interrupted this for a while but we have always kept to the routine and have gained sleep normality ever since. The routine was the most important part to this, and whether myself or Claire were otherwise engaged we made sure a grandparent, friend or other family member was on hand to help to keep the babies in the routine. Currently, all the children sleep in the same room and rarely wake each other up. The babies also would have naps in the day when they were 6-12 months they would sleep in the morning and afternoon. From the age of one, they normally have a nap in the morning for an hour to hour and a half.
When the babies turned one it was time for me to get rid of the excess weight I had gained in the first year of being a Dad. We did rely on take aways and was normally so tired that I had no energy to do anything. But when the babies were sleeping through at night I had no excuse and had never felt so motivated before in my life. I strived to be the best Dad I could be, I get up before work go for a run knowing that if I want my children to live a healthy lifestyle I need to lead by example. This has been something I have applied to other parts of life, grudges forgotten, enemies forgiven. I had to be the example I want to instil in my children. In 2 months I dropped over 20lbs, I found that I was more refreshed and energized which helped as the babies were starting to walk and therefore needed the energy to make sure they weren’t getting to places they shouldn’t.
My final thought about being a father of triplets is how people will always stop to admire your children. As any proud parent will tell you, you want to shout from rooftops and exclaim about this wonderful child that you are obsessed with but rarely will people show an interest unless you are unusual, ie have more than one. Not always positive and sometimes a burden, generally people are interested and will congratulate you on a job well done! And any parent with multiples should be congratulated because it is hard and only other parents of multiples will ever know the real truth about how difficult and over bearing it can be at times, but there is no better job in the world! There is no better feeling than coming home from a hard day at work, with a thousand things that need doing without any time to do it, turning the key into the door and being greeted with three beaming smiles, everything else doesn’t matter!
About the author:
I am Lee Parkinson, 27, from Manchester England. I am married to Claire Parkinson, 34. We married in July 2010. We were blessed with triplets Harry, Charlie and Lily Parkinson who were born in April 2011, now nearly 18 months. Claire has a son from a previous relationship, Callum who is 9. I have been a Primary School teacher in Trafford for over 5 year and Claire is a social worker.