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A triple blessing

Couple brings home triplets

By MARINA PARR

Contributing writer

Having a baby, they say, changes everything.

Having three babies at once, well, that’s something else entirely.

Bianca and Tucker Dotson of Oak Harbor are the proud parents of triplets, a fraternal trio that includes Gabriel, Travis and Cecilia.

The babies were born Sept. 9 at University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle.

“I just can’t believe they were all in there,” said Bianca, as she patted her stomach.

Bianca, 20, and her husband, Tucker, 24, are first-time parents who, with the arrival of two boys and a girl, have become a family of five overnight.

“I was freaking out,” said Bianca, when she learned at eight weeks into her pregnancy that she was carrying three babies.

Her husband, on the other hand, seemed to take it in stride.

“He was like, two more,” she said.

To which Tucker, an only child himself, can’t help but add, “It’s more kids to play with. I never really worried about it. I always wanted a lot of kids.”

In giving birth to triplets the Dotsons beat steep odds. Just one in 8,000 births in the U.S. are triplets and an estimated 60 percent are due to fertility treatments. Multiple births also occur more frequently in older mothers.

But for Bianca, who was pregnant with the trio at 19, her bounty of babies happened naturally, even miraculously.

Tucker’s mother has a fraternal twin, but Bianca doesn’t know of any multiple births on her side of the family.

The 2003 Oak Harbor High School graduate was working as a receptionist at Supercuts, when she noticed she was putting on weight fast and was having difficulty breathing. Never having been pregnant before, she did not know what to expect.

Finally, her stepmother, Helen Farrell, encouraged her to see a doctor. After finding out she was pregnant with three babies, she began seeing a specialist at the UW medical center.

Meanwhile, Tucker Dotson, a petty officer second class at AIMD, shipped out to Iraq.

“I tried to keep my mind off it,” Tucker said. “It doesn’t do much to worry 12,000 miles away. It helps to think positive.”

Bianca counted on her stepmother, Helen, and father, David Farrell, for support. The Farrells also have three children of their own and Bianca’s half-siblings are young aunts and uncles to her brood.

Helen Farrell was especially helpful, shuttling Bianca to Seattle for regular doctor’s appointments and giving her other practical advice.

“She was my saving grace,” Bianca said. “She took charge and helped me.”

Her Supercuts coworkers also stepped in to support her. Bianca worked at the haircut shop through her 28th week of pregnancy.

“I was working so long to keep my mind off of things,” said Bianca, who worried about her husband in Iraq at the same time she grappled with the pressing problem of how to prepare for three babies at the couple’s two-bedroom apartment.

Both Dotsons are very appreciative of all the support they have received from the community. Pregnancy Care Clinic, for example, donated three car seats, which now cover every available space — save the driver’s seat — in the couple’s Geo Prism.

“We have to cram them in,” said Bianca.

When the couple travels with the triplets, they take two cars, so that mother and father, as well as babies, stroller, diaper bags and other essentials, arrive at the same place together.

One of Bianca’s uncles called from Texas to congratulate her but first tried to play a joke, telling her she had won a Mercedes.

To which Bianca replied, “Mercedes? We need a minivan!”

Friends and relatives have helped stock the Dotsons’ shelves. Members of Tucker’s command donated 20 packs of disposable diapers that stand waist high in the nursery closet. Other people chipped in high chairs, a changing table and crib.

“People really go out on a limb for you,” Bianca said.

Right now Tucker is on leave and is able to pitch in with the feeding and changing of all three babies.

On a recent weekday morning, the couple sat in their living room, a baby in each of their arms, as a third dozed nearby in a baby bouncy seat.

The babies sucked on bottles of formula and squeaked and burped, as newborns do.

The triplets, who were breastfed the first few days of their lives, now depend on formula for their nutrition. Bianca simply could not produce enough milk, in part because the triplets spent the first two weeks of their lives in the medical center’s intensive care unit, gaining weight and learning to suckle. Now they go through a huge can of formula in just three days’ time.

Already, the couple is learning how to efficiently handle three children at once. They take turns getting up in the night to feed and diaper the triplets.

“He’ll do them all by himself and then I’ll do them all by myself. That way only one of us is waking up,” Bianca said.

At first it took an hour and a half to feed and change the triplets, a process that now takes about 20 minutes.

“You learn tricks along the way to make things go faster,” Bianca said with a knowing smile.

Having triples is a special experience for the extended family as well. Bianca’s father, David Farrell, is a first-time grandpa and self-employed software writer.

“When we left the hospital it almost felt like we were stealing someone else’s baby,” Farrell said.

Farrell moved to Oak Harbor five years ago with his wife, Helen, and three younger children from Southern California. Bianca, who was living with her mother in Brownsville, Texas, soon joined them and later graduated from Oak Harbor High School.

Bianca spent part of her life in Texas growing up with many of her little cousins along the Mexican border.

“When she grew up she was always helping little brothers, little cousins,” her father recalls. “Yes, she has three infants of her own. But she did it when she was 12 years old. I think it would probably have been harder for my wife and I to handle it than she did. We’ve been very proud of her.”

As for Bianca, she hasn’t counted out having more kids --- sometime in the distant future, anyway.

“I say ‘no’ right now,” she said.

But when her children are older she said she might give parenthood another go.

“I’m always scared that it (having triplets) could happen again,” she said.

But when the triplets are teen-agers she figures, “I’ll get that loneliness.”

For the time being, however, she has more than enough hubbub to handle.

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