Elizabeth Staubach and her husband, Justin, had a pretty quiet Christmas in 2016. There was nothing much to do but sit and wait.
This Christmas is a different story. After giving birth on New Year's Eve, 12 months ago, Elizabeth gave birth to triplets on Nov. 15 at Bellevue Woman's Center in Niskayuna. Now, not only will her oldest son, Tommy, celebrate his first Christmas, but his three siblings, Oliver, Brady and Vivian, will also be part of the festivities.
"We were always planning on having two children, and we waited 10 years until the time was just right to have Tommy," Elizabeth Staubach said. "Then, we wanted to have our two kids close together, so I got pregnant again, and we were thinking that would be it."
Dr. Phillip Pan talks with Elizabeth Staubach's father, Tom Oliver. (Marc Schultz)
But Staubach got some surprising news just two months into her pregnancy, and another shock four weeks later.
"We found out I was having twins at eight weeks, and then at 12 weeks they told us we were having triplets," Staubach remembered. "We were less cool about the triplets than we were the twins. But we were still pretty excited. There were some nerves because you think about the reality of the risks, but we understood that right away, and we got excited pretty quickly."
Staubach grew up just outside of Fall River, Mass. She and Justin met at the University at Albany and remained in the area.
She works as an economic developer for a local municipality, and her husband is employed by the state in the information technology field. Staubach is hoping to head back to work in February.
"Our health care has been amazing, and fortunately, we have two good jobs," Staubach said. "And I can't say enough about how well we've been treated here at Bellevue. From the nurses to the receptionists to housekeeping. We've been here so often, we feel part of the team."
Dr. Nicholas Kulbida, the obstetrician who delivered the triplets by cesarean section, was the leader of that team, and Dr. Phillip Pan, the director of neonatology at Bellevue, immediately began taking care of the infants after birth, while Kulbida stayed focused on Elizabeth. Each of the children also had a respiratory therapist and two nurses watching them closely immediately after the delivery.
"It's a daunting challenge — much more uncommon than twins, so there's a lot to prepare for," said Kulbida, who has been at Bellevue for 19 years. "Pre-term babies usually are going to require additional assistance of some kind, but thankfully nothing unexpected happened. We had planned, and we were ready for them."
Staubach gave birth just after 32 weeks of pregnancy, which is early but typical for triplets.
Pan said Bellevue has had three sets of triplets born there in the last 14 years.
"Then there are always concerns when you realize that pre-term babies sometimes don't grow that well after they are born. But I couldn't be happier about how these three are doing."
Elizabeth Staubach (center) with the nursing staff at Ellis Medicine Bellevue Woman's Center. (Marc Schultz)
There were more than a dozen people in the room when Staubach began delivery, which lasted approximately 30 minutes. Mom began giving birth at 1:54 p.m., with Oliver weighing in at 5 pounds, Brady at 4.8 pounds and Vivian at 4.2. Staubach's happy to report that, at their last weigh-in, both boys were nearly at 7 pounds, while Vivian tipped the scales at 5.5 pounds.
"The pregnancy went very smoothly," said Staubach. "I went home the Sunday after the delivery, and the babies came home on Dec. 4. My parents are up from Florida, so I have a great support system.
"Right now, the triplets are still small and kind of quiet, so, so far so good. They just eat and sleep, but I feel it's a little bit like the quiet before the storm. There's not a whole lot of action right now, but that's going to start changing soon."
Staubach said she and Tommy usually take an afternoon nap, and it's her husband who does the 8 and 11 p.m. feedings.
"Then I do the 2 and the 5 and 8 a.m. feedings," Staubach said. "During the day, my parents help out, and we cycle through the feedings. We usually have at least one person on baby duty, while somebody else hangs out with Tommy. Our system is working pretty well."