Before Riley Nicole from Memphis, Tennessee, got pregnant in 2017; she had shared on social media about naming her next daughter, Bella. Interestingly, 2 weeks later, Riley found out that she was expecting triplets- all girls. “I knew that Baby A’s name was Bella,” Riley said. Sadly, the moment Riley, 36, had envisioned for so long took a ᴛʀᴀɢɪᴄ turn in June. The mom-of-8, only brought 2 babies home; Bella had ᴅɪᴇᴅ in her arms at 11 days old. Riley built a strong social media presence behind her “My Triplets Journey”, so the stay-at-home-mompreneur continued to update her followers after her ɪɴsᴜꜰꜰᴇʀᴀʙʟᴇ ʟᴏss because, she found out that the worldwide connections helped her cope.
Riley knew she would have the identical triplets early, and her prognosis was correct. She delivered by ᴇᴍᴇʀɢᴇɴᴄʏ C-sᴇᴄᴛɪᴏɴ at 28 weeks on June 8; baby Bella’s decreasing heart rate was behind the doctors’ quick actions. According to Babycenter.com, carrying multiples is high ʀɪsᴋ; triplets are born on average at 33 weeks, and any born weighing less than 5.5 pounds is considered a low birth weight. Bella, along with her sisters, Brooklyn and Bailey, was born just over 1 pound. The girls spent weeks in the ɴᴇᴏɴᴀᴛᴀʟ ɪɴᴛᴇɴsɪᴠᴇ ᴄᴀʀᴇ ᴜɴɪᴛ (NICU), and the trips to and from Memphis’s Sheldon B. Korones Newborn Center emotionally drained Riley. “Any little milestone that they got over was an accomplishment, I don’t care if they gained 1 pound. I was happy because I know how NICU can be,” she said. “I tried to cling to any good moments.”
Riley couldn’t hold her babies for several days. She embraced Bailey and Brooklyn first but waited longer for Bella. The morning doctors cleared Riley to hold Bella, she and her partner, Cedric Williams were given a ʜᴇᴀʀᴛʙʀᴇᴀᴋɪɴɢ report; they were told that Bella had an ɪɴꜰᴇᴄᴛɪᴏɴ. When Riley arrived expecting the highly-anticipated moment with Bella, the newborn had a ʙʀᴇᴀᴛʜɪɴɢ ᴛᴜʙᴇ attached to her throat. Baby Bella was on 100% oxygen. Doctors informed the family that they were doing everything possible to keep her alive. “Never once did I think death was an option,” Riley recalled. “I hear about babies getting sɪᴄᴋ in the NICU, but the doctors got it. It happens. It’s part of the process. To hear the doctors say at this point we’re just trying to keep her alive long enough for the antibiotics to kick in, that kind of freaked me out.”
Riley believed with all her might that her baby would make it but unfortunately, Bella didn’t recover. Riley said she talked to God, believed in the ᴍᴇᴅɪᴄɪɴᴇ and spoke good health into Bella but as her oxygen and heart rate continued to decrease, doctors offered one final suggestion. “She hands her to me. I start talking to her,” Riley pushed out through tears. “This is the first time I’m holding my baby and she’s ᴅʏɪɴɢ.” Riley realized it was selfish to ask Bella to fight the ᴘᴀɪɴ, so she had to let go. Her last words to her: “Mommy’s going to be OK, you did a great job. I love you and I’m going to miss you.” “Then my baby took her last breath in my arms,” Riley said, “and they unplugged the machine.”
Riley’s life was forever changed after Bella’s ʟᴏss. Not only did she have to endure the NICU with 2 other babies, who recently went home healthy and weighing more than 4 pounds, she had to ʙʀᴇᴀᴋ the news to her other children. She discussed it with Tyler, 17, Lawrence, 15, and Madison, 14, but not with her toddlers Ava, 5, and C.J., 4. The super mom was prepared to bring 3 babies home. She had 3 of everything – even 6 of some others. And though it’s been too hard to part with some of these things, Riley has however, given most of them away to pregnant relatives.
Bailey and Brooklyn are also often mistaken for twins. It bothers Riley, who admitted she has compared herself to other triplet moms with complete trios. She is deciding whether or not she wants to explain the ᴅᴇᴠᴀsᴛᴀᴛɪɴɢ ʟᴏss each time. “It has been bittersweet,” Riley said of bringing Bailey and Brooklyn home. They spent 56 and 63 days in the NICU. “I had been looking forward to this moment from the time I found out I was having three babies. Everything I envisioned, none of it is how I saw it. Now, I’m having to adapt to my new reality that I only have two babies, and they’re not twins, so it’s difficult.”