Leader Blues

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

NEIGHBORS>> Three’s not a crowd at the Haley home

No, you’re not seeing triple. There really are three of them.

The Haley home, just outside Cabot, is filled with blond-haired, blue-eyed, 1-year-old boys in matching outfits who are distinguishable to outsiders only by the differences in their height and weight.

But that’s only when they are standing side by side, which isn’t often.

The boys were just 2 months old when the Leader was first invited to meet them.

Arriving a month early and weighing a total of 17 pounds and 1 ounce, they were small for their age. But now, weighing in at 20, 21 and 22 pounds, they’d rather run than walk.

They have a growing vocabulary and they could hold their own in a patty cake contest.

Without a doubt, life has changed dramatically for their parents, Brian and Kelly Haley, who were quite surprised to learn in mid-2003 that their family was about to increase in number and dumbfounded to learn when Kelly was five months pregnant how great that number would be.

They don’t eat out anymore. In fact, they’ve only been out once for two hours on their anniversary since the babies arrived. And they’ve stopped trying to protect the living room carpet by entering through the kitchen. It’s simply easier to bring all those car seats and strollers in the front door and the carpet is starting to show the use.

“Our house isn’t as neat as it used to be,” Brian says of the kid clutter that surrounds him.

The living room is filled with large plastic toys in primary colors that don’t coordinate well with their earth-toned upholstered furniture, and racks of baby bottles and plastic bowls can be found air drying on the kitchen counter.

Mason and Logan, the older brothers, who were 10 and 8 when the triplets were born, now share a bedroom. The triplets’ cribs fill the other one, but Brian says there’s no way three twin beds will fit. It won’t be long before the family will be forced to find a larger house.

“It’s not a big deal now, but we figure it will be in a couple of years,” he said.

And how are they getting by on just one paycheck since Kelly had to quit her job at Magness Creek Elementary to stay home with the babies?

“We don’t know,” she says.

Going back to work before Gage, Gunnar and Greyson start kindergarten is out of the question.

“It’d be negative money to put them in daycare,” Kelly says. “I’d be paying just to get out of the house.”

But don’t think the original members of the Haley family aren’t happy with the new arrivals.

Kelly says the older boys willingly play with the little ones while she tends to household chores.

And the little ones have spent hours in car seats and strollers, if not watching their big brothers play football and basketball, at least not fussing too much about it.

The identical triplets were such a novelty when they were born last February at Baptist Health Medical Center in North Little Rock, that hospital officials were eager to talk about their arrival. And according to their dad, “They still draw a lot of attention even with people who see them all the time.”

They were the first identical triplets Dr. Jimmy Chang had delivered in 19 years as an obstetrician. They are the result of a three-way split of a single egg sometime in the second week of gestation. One internet source says there were 6,742 triplet births in the United States in 2000 compared to 118,916 twin births.

Kelly said she thought since triplets are rare, they would garner more attention and possibly financial help from the corporate world, but she quickly learned that modern treatments for fertility problems have vastly increased the number of multiple births. Her little identical boys may cause strangers to do a double-take, but the big companies are not standing in line to pay for diapers and college.

Relatives and good friends from the older boys’ ball teams have helped clothe the boys. Jeannie Rollins, a teacher at Magness Creek Elementary, took up donations that filled the family’s living room with diapers just before Christmas. And a few companies have donated a few diapers, toys and the like.

“We’ve had a few things done, but Oprah has called,” Brian jokes. “Dr. Phil hasn’t called. Maybe we should call him.”

The hectic days of the first few months are now gone, Kelly says. The boys would sleep until 10 a.m. if she didn’t have to get them up to take their brothers to school. They take two-hour naps in the afternoon, until it’s time to pick up their brothers at school.

School – that’s four and a half years away for the triplets, Kelly says. Not that having them at home is anything less than a joy.

But Brian says they have considered breaking up the set for at least an evening so they can have a little time to themselves.

“Friends and family have volunteered to help out. But three at one time? I wouldn’t do that to anyone,” he said.