If Jill Marewski had a second to stop and think, let alone solve math problems in her head, she'd realize that she's changed 3,880 diapers since the Monday in January when her family, in a matter of two minutes, doubled.
It's been three months since the birth of triplet sisters Alicia, Brooke and Camryn Marewski. How they came to be is something their parents still consider the rarest of miracles: they are identical triplets, conceived by chance and without the help of modern fertility medicine. By some statistics, it will happen once in 2 million births.
Since Jan. 9, the days and weeks have been full of milestones and surprises and happy ups and scary downs for the Marewskis. They're learning to live by scheduled feedings and with little sleep, and also by celebrating little feats — like a morning escape for coffee with a Patch editor who is eager to show off the town's newest miracle additions.
"I have no time to reflect; I'm pretty much in survival mode," Jill Marewski said. "At night, I don't spend time thinking about it. I just sleep.
"I guess if I had to say how I feel, I'm just thankful."
We first told the Marewski family's story two weeks after the girls were born (
Jill and Marc Marewski, already the parents of son Niklas, had tried for years to have another baby. They gave up hope and told themselves they would be a family of three, only to become pregnant with triplets shortly after. But these weren't your ordinary triplets: Marewski babies A, B and C, as they were known, shared a placenta — meaning they were identical.
During her pregnancy, Jill was faced with her share of scares. The triplets developed twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome and Jill needed to be on strict bedrest. In January, about six weeks before the girls' due date, the severity of the syndrome necessitated an emergency delivery of the girls, who weighed in between 4 pounds and 4 pounds, 12 ounces.
Shortly after they were born, all of them required blood transfusions or reductions because of the syndrome. Brooke and Camryn stayed in the hospital for two weeks; Alicia stayed longer — 44 days.
Life with 3 babies
The girls now each weigh between 10 and 12 pounds. They are thriving, Jill said. She tries not to label them, but when pressed she described Camryn as "smiley" — though they all give plenty of smiles — and Brooke as "hungry."
Alicia, who stayed in the hospital the longest, is characterized by her mom as "feisty." Her story is one that brings Jill to tears; because of the various complications of the transfusion syndrome, she scared her doctors after she was born. At one point Jill asked the doctor, "Are we going to lose her?" and the doctor responded "I don't know."
But Alicia is a survivor. Despite her lengthy stay in the hospital, she is doing well at home. She has recently been diagnosed with severe hearing loss that will most likely require cochlear implants in both ears.
"We've already begun the process of getting her fitted with hearing aids until she's ready for the implant at 12 months," Jill said. "We've learned that with early intervention and speech therapy, she should be able to develop normal speech, and we're confident she'll be able to do that.
"There are so many resources available to help her in this area."
Jill's mom lives with them from Sunday afternoon through Friday. She helps with round-the-clock feedings — which is a job for at least two.
Jill said they change 40 diapers a day — 280 a week. They run the dishwasher, full of bottles, three times a day. Jill pumps her own breast milk and supplements with formula.
Big brother Niklas, who is 4 1/2, "loves the girls to death," Jill said.
"I thought after a few weeks the novelty would wear off, but it hasn't," she said. Despite his age, he has a keen awareness of the change it has brought to his family.
"One day I was having to put off and put off playing something with him because I was so busy with the babies," Jill said. "I felt so bad. But he said to me, 'Mom, I know it's not your fault.' He is so patient."
And then ... this
Marc Marewski doesn't want people to feel sorry for him or for his family — and he doesn't want friends or strangers to worry. But this is so much a part of their story of perseverance that it's hard to not tell it: Marc was diagnosed with cancer just before the birth of his daughters.
In December, doctors discovered he had a rare form of lymphoma, which doctors discovered after a biopsy of what he first thought was a bug bite on the back of his leg.
He's had chemotherapy — he recently shaved his head while son Niklas helped — and is going for radiation therapy every morning before work. His prognosis is good because the cancer had not yet spread when it was detected.
Jill acknowledges that life right now is overwhelming. "It's going to be a long time before we can do this completely on our own," she said.
She has joined a support group for moms of multiples and can foresee a night not too far into the future when the girls (and their mom and dad) will be able to sleep through the night.
Jill said she is amazed by the outpouring of support, not only from family, but from friends old and new. "So many of our friends and neighbors have brought meals or offered to help out," she said. "Within just a few weeks of moving to our new house late last fall, our new neighbors mowed our lawn, and one new neighbor, knowing that I was on bedrest, offered to get Niklas to and from pre-K every single day.
"She continues to do this for us now, since getting one preschooler AND three babies out the door is a pretty daunting task."
She's also amazed how fast time is passing. "I can't tell you how many times I've sat down thinking it is just after breakfast, and it is 1 p.m., or it seems like dinner just ended, and I look at the clock and it's 10 p.m.," she said.
"There is so much to get done from the beginning to the end of the day, that sending a simple thank you email or phone call to a friend takes weeks, when it used to be something I could do in a day."
How you can help
When we first told the Marewski family's story in January, we received an outpouring of offers to help from readers. Jill said it's hard to gauge what they really need right now — besides sleep — but there are two things that are a necessity: diapers and formula.
Starting Monday and continuing throughout next week, in downtown Rochester has agreed to partner with Rochester Patch for a diaper and formula drive for the Marewski family.
You can drop off the following items during normal business hours, then we'll make sure they reach the Marewskis, who are beyond grateful.
- The formula: Enfamil "Enfacare — For Babies Born Prematurely" (or, Jill said, coupons for the formula, which help a lot).
- The diapers: Size 2 or 3, any brand.