Hello from Phenix City, Alabama. We are a family of five. Three of which happen to be triplet boys. All three of the boys have been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, as well as other manifestations that accompany ASD.

Our boys were born prematurely; 32 weeks. I spent pretty much my entire pregnancy in the hospital. Our doctor admitted us four, just after my first trimester, and I didn’t leave until a week after the boys were delivered. There were some complications after the delivery that extended my stay. The triplets were born on Aug. 21 and came home on Sept. 10, so they weren’t in there long.

After the boys were brought home, we didn’t take them out in public. We feared that they might catch who knows what from the general public. Not only that but, all the extra stuff you needed to pack just to leave the house! It would take me longer to pack for the boys and load them up in the car than it actually took me to run the errand. So, basically, I became a hermit.

The schedule with multiples is an absolutely wonderful and beautiful experience…some might say. Well, it absolutely unequivocally is NOT! Don’t get me wrong I fell in love with our babies from the very first moment we found out we were pregnant. But, unless you follow an organized schedule, your life as you know it can get unbearable. Lack of sleep, hygiene, depression, friendships, eating, spouse time, and every other activity you had prior to your miracles coming home ceases to make it in your calendar.

The most regretful thing about my boys growing was the fact that it was all a blur! What I mean by that is the time flew by so fast! I didn’t get the opportunity to enjoy them and our family as much as I should have. I have often referred to that time as my survival period. All I could concentrate on was the babies. There was no time for anything else, let alone any outside interests that I might have had prior to the babies. My identity had now become “the triplet’s mother.” As a result, I lost quite a few friendships along the way.

Even my husband felt somewhat neglected. And I’m sure he absolutely was. We somehow forget that we had a life before the babies. We had interesting people, places and experiences that we no longer nurtured. Without any family or close friends to count on, we became in a sense held hostage. From the day the boys were born until they were five years old, I had not had any time away from the boys. No dinners together with my spouse. No time for pampering myself at the salon or nail salon. All those things took way too long and out of budget. I recall craving the few times that I could actually go to the grocery store by myself!

Now, the only respite time we get is when the boys attend Camp Smile in Mobile every summer. Otherwise, it’s 24/7…365 per year. I love my children more than anything else in the world, however they consume every hour of every day. When they are home, it’s every moment spent with them. When they are at school, it’s every spare moment advocating for them. The running joke at the boy’s school became that I should be put on the payroll because I spent so much time at the school.

I feel exhausted all the time. No time to take care of myself. I haven’t been to my dentist since 2011! I was religious about my six months appointments. Now, I keep putting it on my to do list, but somehow it inadvertently gets placed at the bottom. And that goes for really anything that I used to be anally retentive about.

Respite for individuals that are caregivers is even more so important than the dependent, at times. Because if they cannot take care of themselves mind and body, how can they be effective for their loved ones. Oh, how I used to hear that from everyone outside of my home. Outside of the 24/7 placement. “Easier said than done,” is what I would walk away thinking. Everyone who says that I believe truly means it, but getting someone to actually step forward and volunteer—another story entirely.

However, along came some beautiful ladies whose lives mirrored mine. Maybe, not with multiples, but with special needs children. Or others that just happened to also be caregivers for their loved ones. As we exchanged stories and experiences, one lady introduced us to Alabama Respite. Since then, whether it be with my husband or not, I have an opportunity to take some much needed time for myself.

We ladies often get to make plans to spend time together. Away from the grind and escape to another beautiful setting with us women, being together and connecting. I have learned so much more and my life, as well as my family’s lives, have grown richer for the experiences.

Really, it doesn’t matter what you do with your respite time; read a book undisturbed, taking a walk, connecting with friends, or just fulfilling your personal appointments. Life still has to happen. Connections with the outside world and/or yourself, is just as important to your mental and physical well-being as just breathing.

I wasn’t breathing before. Now, I can get some time for me. I am breathing better than before. Thank you, Alabama Respite, for enriching my family’s life. We now have the opportunity to enjoy being together and living our best lives. We are most definitely grateful.

All the best,

No longer, JUST the triplets mother