Jill and Jackson Michael have a beautiful family. Their triplets – Jack, Gabriel and Isabella – celebrated their first birthday this spring. It’s hard to imagine, looking at their family, that becoming parents wasn’t easy for the Michaels.
Jill and Jackson wanted children more than anything in the world. After suffering the heartbreak of three miscarriages, they made the decision to seek fertility treatments and soon Jill was pregnant.
“At the first ultrasound, when the doctor said there were three heartbeats, three babies, triplets, I just started to cry,” remembers Jill. “The weight and sadness of the three pregnancies I lost just lifted. I said to the doctor, ‘I lost three’ and he said, ‘Well honey, we just found them.’”
With her history of miscarriages, Jill was cautious. Weekly ultrasounds helped her doctor monitor the triplets’ development, and also gave Jill and Jackson the amazing opportunity to watch their babies grow inside her.
“We saw them every week in the ultrasounds, and it was as if we watched their personalities develop. We just couldn’t wait to meet them!” Jill says. “It got to the point where they were so tight and tangled, you didn’t know which limb was whose. To this day Jack likes his space, probably because he had to fight for it in the early days.”
At 20 weeks, Jill came to St. Mary’s Family Birth Center for the first time.
“The triplet monitor hadn’t been delivered to the hospital yet,” Jill remembers, “so our nurse hooked three monitors onto my belly for each of the babies.”
At week 32, Jill made her fourth visit to St. Mary’s for a routine check-up. She ended up staying.
“I was put on bed rest for two weeks prior to giving birth. My doctor knew I wouldn’t slow down if he didn’t make me. Little did he know, even in a birthing suite, I’d be making friends!”
Jill quickly became close friends with several members of the staff, both in the Family Birth Center and St. Mary’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, or NICU. This special unit, directly attached to the Family Birth Center, provides critical care to preemies and other babies who need extra care after birth. The new friends Jill and Jackson met would bring them valuable peace of mind in the coming weeks.
And peace of mind became increasing important. Triplets are almost always born prematurely, so Jill and Jackson knew the happiest day of their lives could become one of the scariest in a heartbeat.
“During what could have been a very uneasy time, St. Mary’s made me feel at peace,” Jill shares. “Our NICU nurse visited me in my suite in the days leading up to the birth. She told me everything to expect. She told me when I would be able to hold them, she recommended care, explained how I would manage breastfeeding, everything I needed to know to make a scary experience comfortable.”
Jill walked into the operating room for her planned c-section on March 31, 2009, with a smile on her face. Not long after, she held each of her beautiful babies before nurses lovingly took them to the NICU. It was comforting to know exactly where they were going and who would be caring for them.
Jack and Isabella stayed in the NICU for two and a half weeks and Gabe for three and a half weeks. Their NICU nurse, Lisa, became a lifelong friend of the Michael family. Jill says she held their babies under her wing when they needed an angel most.
The most difficult day came when Jack and Isabella left the hospital and Gabe, still on oxygen and not strong enough to go home, had to remain. Knowing how tough this time would be for the new parents, Lisa assured Jill and Jackson that Gabe would be cared for, and above all, loved, every moment he was at St. Mary’s.
From memory, Jill recites a verse Lisa wrote in Gabe’s words the day his brother and sister went home: “Mighty as can be; The middle of the three; Just you wait and see; Soon I will be free!” A week later he, too, came home.
Those first weeks at home were beautiful but challenging, filled with the normal joys, work and anxieties of parenthood, times three. Jill was able to turn to her friends at St. Mary’s NICU when she had questions.
“Well after being discharged I still called on them,” she says. “Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, if I had a problem I had a staff of NICU nurses more than willing to offer solutions.”
Today, watching the three happy, healthy, energetic toddlers, it’s hard to believe Jack, Gabe and Isabella once needed St. Mary’s NICU. The care they received before and after delivery’’’
After her experience, what advice would Jill give to other mothers-to-be? She smiles and says, “Enjoy every moment.”
Learn more about this and other health news in our 2010/2011 Winter Health Outlook magazine.