Everyone has before-and-afters in life. Little did I know, in spring of 2014, my life would be defined by two before-and-afters that occurred in the span of one month.
In March 2014, my Dad died unexpectedly. I rushed home to my family, including my Mom and five siblings, where we all sat and grieved together. Days passed in a blur, and then it was time to say a final goodbye at his funeral. As my husband and I loaded our three young girls into the car, we heard Somewhere Over the Rainbow blasting on the radio. My husband asked me if I had put it on; I had not. I smiled a sad, tired smile at him and felt like it was a sign from my Dad.
A month or so after his death, I discovered I was pregnant with baby #4. Then, at my first ultrasound appointment, we learned that baby #4 was in fact babies #4, #5, and #6. That’s right, we were having spontaneous TRIPLETS! Nothing could’ve prepared us for the shock. I laughed and cried, as my husband held my hand, and my doctor gave me a pep talk: “You can do this. You were meant to do this.”
Soon after that, I learned that two of my sisters-in-law had also conceived babies, including one “rainbow baby,” during the weeks after my Dad’s death. Amazingly, my siblings and I were expecting FIVE new babies within a few weeks of each other, which would be grandchildren #13-17 for my parents.
After a high risk pregnancy that included two months of bedrest, my triplets roared into the world on a sunny Sunday morning at 30 weeks, 4 days gestation. They were tiny, but they were healthy. I was shocked. I was elated. I was happy to finally be able to breathe and move again. As I sat in my hospital room talking with my sisters, we looked out the window and saw a fleeting rainstorm. It passed quickly, and then my three girls bounded into the room, overjoyed to see me and ready to meet their three baby sisters. “We saw THREE RAINBOWS on the way here, Mom! THREE RAINBOWS!” In that moment, I knew it was my Dad, and I felt him smiling down at us, full of baby joy for these three precious new lives. It was so bittersweet.
In the weeks that followed, my sisters-in-law had their babies, too. We began to call the five babies the “Frederick Five,” in memory of my Dad.
Over the last three years, those babies have brought so much joy and laughter to our lives, at a time when we needed it most. They have been such a bright spot of happiness through some days that have otherwise been all clouds and rain.
The “Frederick Five” is now two-and-a-half, and, as you imagine, they’re busy, playful toddlers who keep us on our toes.
When our family comes together with the 17 kids, there’s always so much laughter and fun. We recently went spent a long weekend together at the beach, where my sister-in-law (and mom of numbers #8, #11, and #17) took this photo of the grandkids.
I’ve been asked how we got the youngest ones to cooperate, but, the truth is, they were overjoyed to be a part of the fun. Each of the kids, when we called out their numbers to line up, proudly marched to their spots, beaming ear-to-ear. They were happy to be part of something bigger than themselves, happy to be part of this big, happy family.
I know that all of us, when we see the 17 grandkids together, are thinking about my Dad. We know how proud he would’ve been to see them all together, laughing and having fun. Even more, we know he’d be so proud that all those kids are such kind, thoughtful, and generous people, thanks in large part to my parents’ lessons and love. I cannot think of a greater legacy than that—one of love and kindness, that will only continue to grow as our family does, too. We will continue to honor his memory, and the love he gave us, through them, and the love we have for each other. I can’t think of anything more bittersweet.
Photo Credit: Annabelle Rose Photography: