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In the News and Out: A trio of tots makes holiday a triple joy for proud parents

Wednesday, December 25, 2002

By Byron Spice, Post-Gazette Science Editor

This is the first Christmas for 11-month-old Chloe, Joshua and Lauren Oliver. Josh will get his first toy truck, the girls will get their first baby dolls and they will all enjoy sticking new things in their ever-curious mouths.

From left, triplets Lauren, Joshua, and Chloe. (John Beale, Post-Gazette photos)

In the news and out, 2002

People make the news. But after their 15 minutes of fame, they often disappear from view. Starting today and running through New Year's Day, the Post-Gazette is revisiting 2002 newsmakers to see how they have fared since their moment in the spotlight.

Day One: Hit by school van, Katlynn still healing

Day Two: Badly burned young man stays upbeat

Day Three: Injured ironworker still finds accident site too hard to handle

Day Four: A trio of tots makes holiday a triple joy for proud parents

But it won't mean much to the tykes. The trip this morning to Grandma and Grandpa's house, the Christmas service at church, the big family dinner -- none of it will lodge for long in their nascent memory banks.

Their parents, on the other hand, will be soaking it all in.

"This is what we've wanted for so long," Rob Oliver said last week. "Not this exact scenario," he added, surveying the living room as the triplets crawled, fiddled with toys and drooled.

"It's three times the blessing."

Rob and wife Becky, both 30, of White Oak, have faced plenty of challenges, including the swimming accident eight years ago that paralyzed Rob from the shoulders down. Their determination to have children, however, was strong, so Becky quit her job two years ago to concentrate on becoming pregnant by in-vitro fertilization, using sperm extracted from her husband.

So when the long-awaited pregnancy culminated in January with the birth of three healthy children at Forbes Regional Hospital, neither Rob nor Becky were inclined to view the care and feeding of three infants as a burden.

"It's one of those things that we have to take a tag-team approach on," Rob said. "I have to help out as much as I can so that it doesn't all fall on Becky."

Though he uses a wheelchair and only has partial use of his arms, he was able to help feed the infants when they were still on bottles. He can hold one child at a time on his lap, helping to mind them while Becky bathes another or makes one of the day's dozen diaper changes.

When it comes to getting the infants to sleep, Rob's wheelchair offers some distinct advantages.

"There's something about the motion of the wheelchair that calms them down," he said. So at bedtime, Rob often will set a baby on his lap while he drives around the house. It could be something about the motion of the chair, the vibration, perhaps the slight hum of the electric motor that lulls the babies. "I'm not sure what it is," he added. "As long as it works, we'll take it."

The control buttons and joystick on the right arm of the chair are tempting for little hands, so Rob tries to remember to turn off the chair when he has one of the infants on his lap. Otherwise, he explained, "every once in a while they'll grab [the joystick] and we'll go on a short joy ride. Your heart sort of stops for a moment."

But oftentimes, Rob helps not by providing hands-on care, but by assuming other duties around the house, such as running errands when he's not at one of his jobs at Children's Hospital or a real estate firm.

One of the keys to minding triplets, Becky said, is keeping them on schedule, beginning with a regular evening bedtime. All three have been good sleepers, usually dozing off between 7 and 7:30 p.m. and sleeping 12 hours.

After breakfast, a bath and getting dressed, it's not unusual for the triplets to take a little nap before lunch.

"We like to go to the mall," Becky said, which means another round of dressing. "Everyone loses at least one shoe. Can't somebody design shoes and socks that stay on little feet?" At the shopping center, the three-seat stroller must be assembled and then Becky searches for a door big enough to accommodate it.

"It's hard to be inconspicuous," Rob said.

The triplets always attract attention and seem to enjoy all the new faces they meet. Becky said she does, too, though at times it can be wearing.

Rob and Becky Oliver of White Oak hold their triplets: Chloe, left; Joshua; and Lauren.

"I've literally had women run after me to stop me so they can see the babies," she added.

Chloe is the largest of the three and has the most teeth, while Josh crawls better than his sisters and is better able to move himself in a walker. Lauren is the talker, Rob said. "Whenever the phone rings, she always says, 'allo!' "

The babies spend a good bit of time in their walkers each day, bouncing around the living room and dining room. Rob said that if they catch sight of him heading for the garage to fetch something, "before you know it, you've got a little train following you."

A couple times a week, a neighbor comes by to give Becky a hand with the infants and the chores and Becky's mother lives nearby and comes by often. By late afternoon, in fact, the house begins to fill with relatives, with both Becky's parents, Tom and Peggy Clark, as well as Becky's sister and brother-in-law, Barb and Mike Sulava, who live next door and have two children of their own. They often stay for dinner.

"You end up with a boatload of folks, which is fun," Rob said. "And everybody helps," whether it's making the meal or cleaning up. Last weekend, the boatload got even bigger, as Rob's parents from Philadelphia and his sister and brother-in-law came for a visit.

"People tend to say, 'It must be so hard with three of them,' " Becky said. And, at those times when all three want or need the same thing at once, it can be stressful. "But there are mothers with one baby who feel trapped at home." In the long run, she contended, her experience is not so much harder than other young mothers.

"As stressful as it can be," Rob added, "at least once a day you find yourself thanking God for these three little kids."

Tomorrow: Jack M. Smith of Bethel Park, who is prone to blackouts while driving.

Byron Spice can be reached at bspice@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1578.

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