Surgery Day

As I start writing this blog, Miss Emerie is in surgery at Alaska Surgery Center with Dr. Winkle, for her left eye lensectomy with placement of intraocular lens.

We were given a pager just like one you receive while waiting for an open dinner table at a restaurant. Sisters are home with the nanny and Grandma.

We had to be at the center by 6 AM and followed instructions of no food or water after midnight, but a bottle of breast milk was allowable before 3:30 AM (four hours prior to surgery). I think it’s really cool that breastmilk doesn’t count as a liquid the same as water does. Typically kids are a little less accommodating when they are hungry; they don’t really care if they are having surgery.

Emerie was a pro this morning and drank a bottle with Craig at about 3:15. Harper and Reagan slept through the whole night without a peep, getting a quick bottle right before we headed out. We loaded up about 5:50 with a wide awake but happy Emerie.

In the waiting room, playing with daddy

After checking in and finishing all the paperwork, Emerie was given Versed to make her calm and drowsy. It worked like a charm! She snuggled and played with her wubbanub and stuffed unicorn. We also broke out her purple moose blanket! She giggled a bit in her “high”, but overall was semi blob like, very different than our normal Emerie!

Happy, high baby

In true triplet style, Dr. Winkle used a purple pen to mark the correct eye! I don’t know if that was intentional or random, but he does have the girls’ colors on their charts.

Total surgery time lasted about 90 minutes. Dr. Winkle came out and told us she did great and everything in her eye was exactly what he had anticipated. He also said this issue was present at birth but the leak that caused the cataract blurriness just occurred later.

It took another almost forty minutes before we went back to post op, which started making me nervous! Of course, the nurse said Emerie was raising hell about the protective eye patch and absolutely refused to leave it on. Sounds about right. We have to continually patch for about a week to protect the eye and incision from infection. Luckily the doctor did the stitches inside the eyelid, which is standard in little kids that want to scratch and rub it.

Post surgery

She was very loopy and tugging at her eye when we got back to post op. She was on a ventilator during surgery so her little cry is completely hoarse and so very sad sounding. After some snuggles and major baby rage, we figured being home would help her relax and loaded up.

We made it home and successfully put on one of her daily patches. I am writing this in the dark in the nursery as she fidgety sleeps on me. Hopefully she’ll be feeling a bit better after a nap. It helps that the house is quiet. Harper and Reagan are headed to some playtime with Daddy and Kerstin picked up the dogs out to burn off some energy.

Thank you everyone for the thoughts, prayers and kind words this week and especially today. It’s going to be a long day but will all be worth it when our tiny girl’s vision improves.

I spy with my little eye(s)…

Since Emerie’s cataract diagnosis, it’s been greatly on our minds if Harper and Reagan would share this issue and require the same procedure. Because they are identicals, we know there’s high probability that all three will share lots of things, good and bad. The doctor told us it could go either way since there is no way to know exactly when her cataracts developed.

We spent our Friday afternoon at the eye doctor, hanging out with both girls in an office less than equipped for 70+ degree weather (that’s hot for here ok!). Emerie had a fun one-on-one afternoon with Miss Chris while we took the other two in.

Unlike their sister, both girls were quite cooperative for the doctor, with Harper only making one peep from the eye drops. Reagan didn’t fuss at all and actually cooperated with great eye contact with Dr. Winkle. She was a pro!

While we waited for the girls’ eyes to dilate and the doctor tended to another patient, we entertained the girls with Baby Shark and Patty-cake. They explored the exam room and tried to climb up the exam chairs. They also enjoyed us sliding and spinning around on the doctor’s chair and some brief toddler dancing. I mean how cute is this…

Both eye exams proved what we were hoping for. Neither Harper or Reagan have any visible cataracts and both present with good vision right now. What a load of stress off our shoulders!

Harper was a little less excited at the checkup, and after further analyzing she has enough of a astigmatism that she is right on the edge of needing glasses. As the doctor explained it to us, her eyes are shaped more like a football than the roundness of a soccer ball. It’s something to monitor as she grows, but she doesn’t need any correction yet. With some luck she might not need it at all! Kids often outgrow it so fingers crossed.

Reagan also has a minor astigmatism, although less significant than Harper’s. All in all, it looks like Emerie will be the kiddo in glasses as a toddler and we’ll recheck the other two on their next birthday.

Emerie continues to wear a patch an hour per day. We’ve mildly slacked on that time the last two days with her cold making her unbearably upset during patch time. When she doesn’t have the cold, distractions keep her from full baby rage and time passes quickly. Post surgery patch time moods should also improve, as she will be able to see out of the corrected eye better.

A few other fun things with the Douglets this week. Emerie started choking on a cracker (not fun) but when Craig tried to get it out of her mouth, she chomped down really hard on his finger. Would you ever believe this adorable face would do such a thing?! Silly baby.

Big Emerie smiles

Outside playtime is a new daily joy, especially with the gorgeously sunny week we are having! The girls have taken to it quite well and some wonderful coworkers gave us several new toys, like a playhouse! Everyone still likes to eat rocks, grass, dirt, and anything else available outside, but they also like to open and close the playhouse windows and climb on the little tike slide. Emerie has even figured out how to climb it with her shoes on and then go down on her butt, unassisted. When did they get so grown up?!

Playtime with friends

They also run three different directions at all times, so outside time can be stressful! Everyone is getting used to shoe wearing since we are outside now. At first they walked around like dogs in new booties or just stood still looking at us; now they are pros and run around in their little summer jellies.

Saturday morning the three discovered escape from the parents is possible through the tiny dog door in the dining room. I didn’t think they would figure that one out so quick…thanks a lot animals…Harper made it through in no time and was running across the deck by the time I made it outside!

It appears teamwork is starting to occur, like this video proves! They are started to briefly work together on things (when they aren’t smacking each other with toys), so I know we aren’t too far from the trying to knock the playpen down in a triple escape effort.

Oopsie-Dais…er Douglets…

Funny story, something we’ve either done a bunch of times and never noticed or just did for the first time. Take a close look at this picture…what is wrong with it??

It’s a great photo right?? Everyone is looking, almost smiling, and in their matching Minnie Mouse pajamas. But if you look a bit closer…

You are right…we are swapped! We aren’t sure when that happened, either at bedtime or after the early morning feed (more likely), but I definitely picked up Harper from Reagan’s crib, thinking nothing of it. After putting on sweaters and settling everyone for breakfast, things just didn’t look quite right and they weren’t! Unlike when they were smaller, Craig and I can tell looking at them who is who (90% of the time), at least when we are paying attention! But it definitely doesn’t help when we dress everyone in matching pajamas…

Or maybe we just need some more sleep 🙂

Bare, Hair, or Barely There?

One of the bigger surprises (other than 3!!) for me was the fact that everyone was born with some hair on their heads. Granted, not a lot, but not bald either.

We learned at one of the last belly NSTs in week 31 or 32 that Baby A (Harper) had hair that was visible through the ultrasound.

Now that we are about 30 weeks out of the womb, we’ve been watching the girls hair start to grow in more places than on their birth day. They still have a solid bald spot in the middle of the back of their heads, but other than that it’s starting to grow!

Reagan’s hair starting to come in.

Emerie had a bald spot over her right ear for a couple months. We thought it was due to a birthmark, but luckily that doesn’t seem to be the case now and hair is starting to grow in the same spot.

Everyone has a “five o’clock shadow” and I think by Christmas we will see a lot more!

Oh and the color!

I was positive during pregnancy that everyone would be born bald and eventually grow into little toe headed blondes. That doesn’t seem to be the case; in fact, we are certainly going to have redheads of some kind! In the sun, the girls hair definitely shines reddish, not blonde.

I am so very excited to see the color!!

Craig still sporting the hair…the girls are working on catching up…

Identical or fraternal? A little triplet genetics!

One of the most common questions I get asked about the girls is if they are all identical. Our typical reply is that Harper (Baby A) and Emerie (Baby B) are identical, because they shared a placenta, and that Reagan (Baby C) might be, because she had her own placenta but looks awfully similar to her sisters.

To that end, we decided to do DNA chromosome testing to find the real answer, are the Doublets really all identical, or is Reagan fraternal to her sisters?

A little background from my research on this topic.  Many people ask me if multiples run in our families- this actually doesn’t matter unless the girls are fraternal. Why? Fraternal multiples involve more than one egg being fertilized by more than one sperm, a trait that can be passed down on the mother’s side of the family.  Identicals, on the other hand, start from one egg splitting and in my case, that one egg split once, or twice.  One fertilized egg splitting occurs because of the mother and is often called “biological luck.”

The DNA test, ordered online, involves cheek swabs for each baby.  We did this a couple weeks ago and sent them back for lab testing.  Each baby is swabbed twice to ensure the samples are usable and correct.  The results display two lines of DNA for each baby, one line from me and one from Craig. Twenty-four genetic markers (called loci’s) are analyzed, and if the results depict the same numbers, then they are officially identical triplets. More info is available on BioGene’s website at https://dna-paternity-testing.com/twin-zygosity-test/.

So the answer on the report?  Drumroll please….with 99.9999999% accuracy, the girls are monozygosity (MZ) triplets. Monozygosity is a fancy term for identical, meaning Reagan is, in fact, identical to Harper and Emerie!  How cool is that?

According to my MFM (maternal fetal medicine) doctor, with two placentas and three separate sacs in utero, we had about a 30% chance that the girls would turn out identical. The odds that spontaneous triplets would turn out to be identical? There are a lot of differing statistics online for that, anything from 1 in a million to 1 in 200 million.

A few things I’ve learned regarding identicals:

Do identical babies have the same fingerprints? The short answer, no. Fingerprints develop around the fifth month in pregnancy, and are influenced by several factors, including amniotic fluid and sacs, bone growth, and womb pressure. So in the case of my girls, Emerie was shoved in the corner by Harper, meaning her fingerprints will be different, although probably similar to her sisters who had a bit more space.

Are there other distinguishable differences? Yes, even if they are slight and not easily noticeable.  One difference is the eye irises. While all the girls have blue eyes, their irises may have slightly different patterns.

Why do identical triplets have physical differences if they have the same DNA? This question is pretty easy- while DNA matches on a cellular level, both nature and nurture cause varying changes as the girls grow. Nature (genetics) and nurture (environment) both have “skin” in the game (haha!).

One article explained it more clearly for me, using pie : “Think of it this way–when I bake an apple pie, it turns out a little different each time. The shapes of the apple pieces are never quite the same. Maybe the stove is a little hotter, or I add slightly more sugar. Maybe a distraction like the phone ringing keeps me from taking it out of the oven exactly when I planned. I use the same set of instructions every time. But each pie is still unique because differences in the environment make it is impossible for me to follow the instructions in exactly the same way. So identical twins are kind of like two pies made from the same recipe. They are more similar than pies made from different recipes, say apple and blueberry. But if you look closely, they are still not exactly the same. They will always have some physical differences due to differences in their environment (https://genetics.thetech.org/ask/ask142).”

So what other differences can happen? Heights and weights will vary, because it depends on how much one is eating or exercising in their environment. For example, Emerie is technically identical to her sisters, but was born over a pound smaller, due to a smaller umbilical cord connection than Harper. Does that mean they aren’t identical? No, it is just a nature difference.

Harper and Emerie both have strawberry hemangiomas (in different places), but that doesn’t mean they aren’t identical. Hemangiomas are a collection of blood vessels close to the skin’s surface that are considered a birthmark and typically fade as the child gets older.  That is a nature change that occurred after birth.

How do we tell them apart? When we were just home from the hospital, we put teal nail polish on one of Reagan’s fingers and pink on one of Harper’s.  We’ve gotten lazy on that and haven’t kept up with that method; mostly we use the girls colors (Harper: pink; Emerie: purple; Reagan: teal) in their day-to-day outfits to instantly know who is who. In addition, their laughs and mannerisms are different. And the strawberry hemangiomas ensure we never permanently confuse who is who.

All in all, it is really exciting to have the official answer! As the girls grow, they seem to all look more alike, especially Harper and Reagan.  At some point Emerie will catch up with her sisters on weight and then it’ll be a bit more difficult.  It is very exciting to have spontaneous, identical triplet girls, and we are enjoying the adventure!