May-June 2019

Two of Everything

For parents of multiples, life can be doubly—or triply—exhausting

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Jeffrey Jay is the father of triplets Noah, Lilly and Isaac, now 27, and an older son, Lightning, who’s 31. The Bethesda psychologist was able to trim his workload when the kids were young in order to share the caregiving load with his wife, Compass real estate agent Molly Peter.

“Birth is a miracle in and of itself,” Jay says. “But it’s a hyper miracle with triplets. It was a party that never ended. We slept in shifts, the living room became a playground, and we had this huge triple stroller. Living in Mohican Hills, it was a huge effort just to push it up and down our driveway.”

As babies, the triplets usually were awake by 5 a.m., with at least two crying at a time, and the couple learned that the best way to calm them was to take them for a group walk. “When the weather in Montgomery County was good, we were at Cabin John and Wheaton regional parks,” Jay says. “But in bad weather, we’d be up as usual at 6 a.m. So, we’d go to White Flint or Montgomery mall—us and the geriatric walkers, running down the halls.” Life with triplets meant constantly getting stopped by strangers and being peppered with questions—What are their names? How old are they?—whenever they were in grocery stores or restaurants.

Although the triplets developed distinct personalities early on, they were all gregarious children who enjoyed the outdoors, basketball and music. They’ve remained close. Isaac Jay, now a television writer in Los Angeles, says his strongest bonds are to his triplet brother and sister. Post-college, all four siblings lived near one another in Brooklyn, New York, and got together for weekly basketball games. They live in different areas now, but they text constantly and take trips together. “Nothing’s better than growing up with an entire posse,” Isaac says.

His mother says stressing the triplets’ individuality helped them connect, rather than compete. “We never went for the dressing alike or the rhyming names,” Peter, 65, recalls. Triplets were both a thrill and a source of bone-weary exhaustion. “For six years, we didn’t sleep. It was very rough. But now we’re the parents of four incredible adults. One extra pregnancy and you get a bonus-pack family.” That extra pregnancy was also a physical feat. The babies weighed a total of 15 pounds at birth. The day before the delivery, a friend snapped a photo of Peter from the side. “My stomach was horizontal,” she says.

For Christine Riley, who’s still in the throes of parenting small children, the endearing moments make up for the tough ones. “It’s really fun to witness the connection they have with each other,” she says of her twins. “Most babies are in parallel play with other babies until they’re 2,” but her 1-year-olds chatter with each other and throw things to each other across their cribs. “They recognize each other in a way that is much more connected. It’s striking. They’ll hand each other a toy or food on their plates.”