Married for 14 years with two young sons, Kristie Laux hoped to have one more child before she turned 40, when she and her husband were surprised with triplets on Jan. 6.
“When we first got married we were young and had our first child after we were married for two years,” recalled Laux, of Ventura, whose two sons, Gavin and Dylan, are 10 and 12 years old. “We wanted to have another one before I turned 40 because we love kids. But we also wanted to be fiscally responsible.”
Laux, who turned 40 on Sept. 9, works full time as a consultant for a finance company. Her husband, Dan, 35, is a registered nurse.
“Because we have a double income we were really excited about having another child so we decided to start trying,” Laux said. “I knew right away I was pregnant. But we decided to hold off on telling our boys until we had the first ultrasound.”
Multiple births do not run in her family, “so it was never a thought that crossed our minds,” she said.
Laux, unaware she was having triplets, wanted to surprise her two sons with the news of her pregnancy in a special way. She used her morning sickness as an excuse to visit the doctor, and invited her boys to come along.
“They both want to be doctors when they grow up,” Laux said. “So after my first trimester when I had my first ultrasound, the boys got up early and dressed in their best clothes to be doctors for a day.”
At this point, her sons simply thought their mom was sick, and were completely unaware they were about to become big brothers of not one, but three siblings.
“We got to the doctor’s office and brought a bunch of cameras because we wanted to get their reaction to the news,” Laux said. “We told the doctor to get started, and my husband would bring the kids in.”
Plans for the surprise changed when the doctor pulled up her ultrasound on the screen and discovered triplets.
“My husband and I were completely shocked,” said Laux, who noted she had no trouble getting pregnant and didn’t use fertility drugs. “The doctor said we might want to hold off on telling our kids because it was a serious conversation.”
“It was so surreal — like your brain cannot compute,” she said.
In the back of their minds, the couple knew there was a risk with triplets. That’s because multiple-birth pregnancies are much more likely to result in premature birth than single-birth pregnancies.
“With a triplet pregnancy there’s always markers for Down syndrome,” Laux said. “We had the testing done and the markers were fine — everybody came back good. We sat there and I thought this is the most unusual, freakiest thing to happen to our family. Nobody thought in a million years that I would have another baby — let alone triplets.”
The rarity of multiple births
Multiple births are quite rare to begin with, but when considering women who have triplets naturally, the odds become even more astonishing, said Chad Barber, an assistant professor of biology at California Lutheran University.
“There were about 4 million live births in 2013 and only about 4,000 of them were triplet births,” Barber said. “So only about 0.1 percent of the total births were triplets.”
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control report that more than 75 percent of those triplet births involved women taking fertility drugs, he said.
“Therefore, there were only about 1,000 natural triplet births that year,” said Barber, noting that “births” is considered an event, not number of babies born for that event.
“Recent studies seem to indicate that the incidence of multiple births, in general, is going down,” Barber said. “We can suppose that better understanding of the fertility drugs and physician use of them has led to fewer unexpected multiple births.”
Interestingly, “twinning” or multiple births could have been favored by evolution, Barber added.
“Two theories exist — one suggests women who were able to have more than one egg develop at a time had a better chance at conceiving,” he said. “Also, there may have been an advantage for women who were able to conceive two babies at a time. Obviously, the more babies carried at one time, the riskier the pregnancy. That is most likely why all humans don’t all have triplets naturally these days. With modern medicine, pregnancies and deliveries have become much less risky.”
When Laux revealed the news to her sons, she wasn’t sure how they’d react.
“At first I thought they wouldn’t take the news very well but they were so excited,” she said. “The boys teared up. They were over the moon that they were going to have three siblings.”
Brooklyn, Charlotte and Mason
On Jan. 6, just after midnight, Laux underwent an emergency C-section at 34 weeks at Community Memorial in Ventura. She had two girls and a boy, and named them Brooklyn, Charlotte and Mason.
Technically her children are fraternal. “But just because they’re fraternal doesn’t mean they’re not identical — so the girls might be identical,” Laux said.
“No one can really know if the twins or triplets are identical or fraternal until they are born and similarities or differences can be seen,” Barber said.
For the Laux couple, life has changed dramatically since the triplets were born.
“I don’t think I’ve slept since Jan. 6,” Laux said. “Right now we’re taking it day by day and hoping everything works out the way it’s supposed to.”
Before they knew they were having triplets, “My husband was going to stay home. But things changed so dramatically,” Laux said. “I have to feed and pump every two hours around the clock. That creates a challenge when I have to go back to work. But I will take the leave that’s allowed to me.”
Financial planning
For a typical middle-class family, there are pluses and minuses that come with the surprise of triplets, said Priscilla Liang, Ph.D., associate professor of finance at California State University, Channel Islands.
“It’s wonderful news — three lovely little ones,” Liang said. “Eventually, when the parents finish, they will be very proud of this journey.”
“From a financial point of view they pay less taxes, but most importantly they have to look at their finances and make a plan,” Liang said. “When you have a family the size of seven you have to make a plan based on what you have and your priorities. When you’re forced into the situation, you can get by. It’s just a matter of how.”
The planning depends on the parents’ net worth, their current income level and what they can afford, Liang noted.
“How much does child care cost and how much do they bring in?” Liang said. “There’s also the emotional cost — do you want to be there with your kids when they grow up? That’s a personal choice.”
A family should also consider the help they have around them.
“Do you have relatives, in-laws that can help care for them?” Liang said. “It’s very family-specific. But you have to have a plan and have priorities and stick with your plan and your budget.”
Modern technology is a helpful source to assist a family in planning.
“On the Internet there are worksheets in which you plug in your numbers based on your own family situation,” Liang said. “There’s tons of information on the internet and a lot of people doing financial planning post things on the Internet for free, or they charge a little bit.”
When it comes to planning for college, “Kids with good grades can go anywhere — small school like CSUCI will give scholarships if the kid performed well at school,” Liang said. “They can also go to a community college, and after two years with good grades, they can go to UC schools.”
Meanwhile, it’s important to make every dollar count, she said.
“Basically they need a budget — budget every dollar in and out; record everything,” Liang said. “If they’re disciplined with credit cards, use cash budgeting and don’t spend what you don’t have. You don’t want to end up with huge bills, especially credit card bills. Later on, they have to pay back when kids are out of the house.”
The future
The couple plan to closely watch their finances as they continue to work while raising their expanded family. They refuse to rely on government assistance or receive any other monetary support.
“My friend wanted to start a Go Fund Me account and I said no; my husband and I are both working so we’re not asking for any handouts and we didn’t do any fundraisers,” Laux said. “We don’t want to have our hands out when life gets hard.”
As far as college is concerned for her five children, Laux and her husband hope to instill the importance of earning their own way.
“What we’re trying to do is create the next generation of children that knows money comes from work, rather than rely on the government and the community to help out,” Laux said.
“We will help them as much as we can but we don’t want student loans — they are going to get scholarships or work a job and pay cash for college,” she said. “If they want to go to a college out of state, they need to figure out how much work they have to do.”
As of now, Laux and her husband plan to work as they continue to raise their five children.
“Dan is already back at work. I am not scheduled to go back yet because I plan on taking the California family leave. We will be looking for a caregiver while I am on family leave,” she said. “Three is more complex of a process so right now we are just trying to get into a routine and then we will start figuring out the rest.”
Laux admitted the unknown is “very scary.”
“We’ll never have money again,” she joked. “But we’ll have these amazing kids.”F