Triplets in the House

By Asia Butler |

Anyone can be a mother, but it takes a lot to be a mom. Elizabeth McLamb is one of Wilmington’s local supermoms, because she sees in triplicate. She is mom of Lilly and 5-year old triplets, Austin, Lee, and Currin. Although Elizabeth was raised as a twin, she never imagined she would be raising identical triplets.

Her unique reflections on the highs and lows of motherhood remind us why all the moms in our lives deserve to be cherished.

CFL: How do you tell the boys apart?

McLamb triplets and big sisterElizabeth McLamb: We color code them, which is something I thought I would not do. In the past two or three years, when they started preschool, we started so their teachers would know who they were. Austin’s always in green, Curran’s always in blue, and Lee really likes purple, but it’s hard to find purple for little boys, so he’ll pretty much wear any color that’s not blue or green. They’re very attached to their colors. They have their coats, their shoes, the plates they eat on, everything is color-coded because it makes it easy in pictures. There are some identifiers. In person, I think their voices sound different, and Curran is taller and stockier and Lee has a big scar on his belly. When they were babies, we were paranoid we’d get them mixed up, so we kept the foam bracelets that the hospital gave us for a long time. I have trouble identifying them from behind and have to make them turn around so I can look at their faces. I can identify them correctly about 90% of the time, my husband is closer to 75-80%, and Lilly never gets them mixed up.

CFL: In what ways are your sons like you?

Elizabeth: The three of them are so different individually, which is sometimes so hard for people to see, but Austin mirrors my personality. Austin is the oldest one by a minute and he’s the most sensitive one, but he’s usually the first one to break apart from the three to play with a neighbor friend or a friend from school.

CFL: Like their father?

Elizabeth: My husband’s name is John. He’s an engineer and he loves to build and fix things. Currin is the one who builds and likes to construct things with Legos. Currin is very much a leader. Our other son, Lee, likes to fish a lot and my husband liMcLamb tripletskes to fish, so there are little parts of what they like that is a blend of what we like. One thing they all like is NC State. That’s where John went to school, so that’s all they know. They are some of the biggest Wolfpack fans already and they’re only 5 years old.

CFL: What was your initial reaction to finding out that you were having triplets?

Elizabeth: I have a twin sister and I always wanted twins, because that’s all I know. When we were expecting Lilly, our firstborn, I said “Aw, it’s just one? What are we going to do with just one baby?” and then I had her and I had to call my mom and say “I don’t know how you did it, one baby is hard enough. I don’t know how you handled twins.” A year or so after we had Lilly, we wanted brothers or sisters for her and in the first ultrasound they saw twins, which wasn’t what we were expecting. In the next ultrasound they found the third one, and I think it’s going to be one of those moments I never forget because I just started shaking. I didn’t know anyone who had triplets. Certainly no one who just spontaneously had triplets, so we were in denial for like a week and didn’t really talk about it. We didn’t think it was real and then the next ultrasound still read triplets. Even now I sometimes catch myself thinking “I can’t believe we had 3” … and they’re 5 years old.

CFL: How did you meet your husband?

Elizabeth: I went to Meredith College in Raleigh and John was at NC State. A girl on my hall was dating his roommate at State and their fraternity was having a semi-formal. She set the two of us up on a blind date for the semiformal. We’ll have been married for 15 years in June – thanks to a blind date.

CFL: What’s the hardest thing about being a mom?

Elizabeth: Always worrying if you’re doing the right thing and giving everybody enough attention. Making sure that you have discipline and set limits and boTriplets plus sisterundaries and being able to balance that with showing love is difficult too. Having to send them out into the world for school is hard too because you’re hoping that you’ve taught them well and that everyone treats them well.

CFL: What is the best thing about being a mom?

Elizabeth: Realizing how much love you can have for another person and watching them learn something new every day.

CFL: What is the scariest thing about being a mom?

Elizabeth: When they’re sick and you have to hand your baby over to a doctor and trust them to take care of things. The boys were prematurely born at 32 weeks, which is pretty average for triplets. Carrying them was scary and every week was another milestone for them. They had to be in an incubator for a while and that was frightening, especially with another baby at home. Two of them were fine and then Lee got really sick after birth and had 3 surgeries. Now he’s fine, but he had a couple of surgeries after coming home. Now you’d never know, he’s caught up with his brothers and is as healthy as can be.

Once they were born, it was paying for daycare versus taking home a teacher’s paycheck, so I’m staying home with them, but I really miss the classroom. I’ve been substituting at their preschool because I want to do something in the classroom while I figure out what will fit best with the children’s school schedule.

CFL: What is date night like?

Elizabeth: It used to be very rare to find a babysitter that was willing to take on toddler triplets and a four year old. Both of our families live in the Raleigh area so their grandparents would come down and watch them. Now that they’re older, we have a couple of babysitters that we’ll call on regularly. We’re having a babysitter come in so we can go to some of the concerts at the Azalea Festival. In the last year, we’ve been better about going out more regularly, because it’s important to remember your spouse while you’re still raising young children. We like to go to concerts and nice restaurants that don’t serve chicken fingers or pizza. We like it in the summers. Summers are easy because paying for a babysitter is expensive, so we’ll grab something to eat and go to the beach or do something that’s free.

CFL: What is a typical day like at your house?

Elizabeth: Busy! They are up at 7 or 7:30 a.m. We take Lilly to elementary school, then I get the boys ready for preschool. The boys are in school from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m., so during that time I try to run errands, go to the gym, go grocery shopping, or do laundry. There’s at least a load or two of laundry every day. Before the boys started preschool, I thought 9 to 12 would be so long and that I’d have so much time to myself. I pick the boys up at noon, we come home and eat lunch, pick Lily up at 2:30 p.m., and then it’s homework and choir practice at church, or art lessons, or piano lessons. Afterwards we eat dinner, put them to bed, then crash and start everything over the next morning. Now that it’s so much nicer and springtime, we can get out and play more so we’re not stuck inside. We ride bikes – and we have a lot of kids come here. We have a pool at the end of the street, so we were either at the pool or the beach over the summer daily. They are very much water kids. It’s neat that they’re growing up in a place where going to the beach is a thing they can do any time they feel like it

CFL (to the kids): What’s your favorite thing about your mom?

Lilly: “She makes yummy meals.”

Austin: “She smells nice.”

Lee: “She gives us ice cream.”

Currin: “Her cuddles.”

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