It’s homework time at the DiVincenzo house. Nick, 12, starts his graphing assignment. Jenny, also 12, opens her 3-ring binder to math. And Scott, yet another 12 year old, reluctantly pulls himself away from a movie and begins filling out his math worksheets.
Pediatrician Cathy DiVincenzo and her husband Ken were firsthand witnesses to the multiple birth revolution that started 20-odd years ago. Their triplets were born in 1994 when DiVincenzo was 35.
“From the moment we saw them on ultrasound, we were thrilled. We were just so lucky to have an instant family,” says Cathy. However the DiVincenzo story also highlights the challenges that come with multiple births, since Scott was born with serious heart problems and Down syndrome.
Ken and Cathy met as teenagers when they both worked at McDonalds. They married six years later but waited to start a family until their 30s, a decision they don’t regret now. “A lot of my friends are empty nesters, but I’m still having fun with 12-year-olds,” said Ken DiVincenzo.
Since Cathy took fertility drugs when they were trying to conceive, the couple was actually hoping for twins. Triplets were an unexpected bonus, although Cathy who was in her third year of medical school had to delay graduation an extra year.
She also spent 13 weeks on bed rest. “I had seen enough preemies to know that I was the best incubator, said DiVincenzo who carried the babies to 33 weeks. The night before her scheduled C-section, DiVincenzo got a taste of what life with three infants would be like. “They must have picked up on my anxiety, because it was a wild, wild night in there,” she said, laughing at the memory.
The couple chose not to have amniocentesis, so it was a shock to learn after the birth that Scott had serious health problems. “Looking at the three of them together, it was quite obvious, “ DiVincenzo said. “I remember thinking, “Well I have a healthy boy and a healthy girl and a special boy with some extra needs.”
The DiVincenzos shed plenty of tears over Scott’s disability, although his heart defect put Down syndrome in perspective. “I felt I could deal with it. But I couldn’t face the thought of losing him.” Scott pulled through and today, he, his brother and his sister just call themselves normal. “There is no bad thing (about being a triplet),” said Scott. Nick, Jenny and their parents agree. “Initially we thought things were going to be very difficult but you get to the point where you realize you’re just a regular family,” Ken said.
When the kids were little, the DiVincenzos had lots of help from family and their community. Cathy finished medical school and became a pediatrician, who, not surprisingly, specializes in both multiples and disabilities.
Jenny and Nick are naturally protective of their brother, although their parents try not to put the task of caring for Scott on them. When pressed, however, they have just a few minor gripes as they recall growing up with Scott.
“He went to physical therapy and had all of these fun things to do,” Jenny said. “We were jealous.” “Yeah,” Nick added. “We’d have to go after school and sit around.” Their mother laughed over this recollection.
“The best therapy he had was being at home watching the two of you,” Cathy said. “Watching you crawl was how he learned to crawl. The two of you motivated him so much.”