It's time for a family photo. Two-year-olds T.J.
and Kiley climb into the laps of their parents, Stacey and Tim
Cavanagh. Three-year-olds Ryan and Jack decide to climb onto the
back of the couch, while 3-year-old Charlie lies on the floor
nearby and refuses to cooperate. Two-year-old Kate has discovered
the nearby closet and is opening and closing the door to peek out
while Tim patiently jokes with her and encourages her to come join
her siblings in the photo. In the meantime, Stacey and Tim have
resorted to bribes to get Charlie into the photo, offering lunch at
a favorite restaurant if he will cooperate.
"This is going to have to be quick," Tim says under his
breath, as both sets of their triplets finally land on the couch
for the photo. Tim and Stacey are unflappable as photos have to be
re-shot because Kiley has a wadded-up Kleenex peeking out of her
fist, Charlie is struggling to break out of Stacey's grasp, and
Jack and Ryan have squirmed down out of sight behind
This is life in the Cavanagh household.
For Stacey and Tim, life with two sets of triplets under
the age of 4 is their normal. After the dark days of thinking they
would never have a child, to have six healthy, happy kids is like
winning the lottery for the Lincoln Park couple.
Tim and Stacey met 10 years ago at a legal firm downtown
where Tim was a lawyer and Stacey was a law clerk. As their
relationship grew more serious, they talked about kids. Tim is from
a family of five kids, while Stacey is the oldest of three girls.
They both knew they wanted children of their own. After several
years of marriage and numerous rounds of unsuccessful fertility
treatments, the couple despaired of ever having their own
Stacey was beyond discouraged. "The stress it puts on you
as a person and your marriage, it's palpable. You could sit next to
me and feel the pain. It was a hard time."
Elated when they realized in vitro fertilization finally
worked, the joy wore off when they saw three little blips on the
ultrasound screen. Having triplets is inherently risky and Stacey
had even more risk factors: she was over 35 years old, this was her
first pregnancy and she was a petite 5-foot-3-all things that
increased the possibility she wouldn't carry the triplets to
"I was very scared but I was going to do everything in my
power to keep them healthy, and the rest was out of my hands,"
Stacey says. On Dec. 24, 2006, at 36 weeks, Stacey developed
pre-eclampsia and had an emergency C-section. She gave birth to
Ryan, Jack and Charlie, three healthy little boys who spent only a
short time in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit before heading
Life became a blur of triple feedings and diaper changes.
Time passed quickly; then Stacey was surprised to find out she was
pregnant again-without any fertility treatment-when the boys were
five months old. Because it was an ectopic pregnancy, the pregnancy
ended, and Stacey and Tim focused on their boys. Jack, Ryan and
Charlie were 11 months old when Stacey realized she was pregnant
Then came the stunner-three dark circles on the ultrasound
screen. "It took my breath away," Stacey says. She began crying and
laughing, not sure how to feel. "The thought of having triplets
again was overwhelming. I had tears streaming down my
Always optimistic, Tim looked at Stacey's tears and said,
"Why are you crying? We just won the lottery."
But realizing there would be six small mouths to feed, six
little bodies to hug, six babies who would need some one-on-one
time, Stacey worried. Because they could afford to hire help, Tim
and Stacey knew they'd have no problem keeping the kids fed and
healthy. "But I worried, can I meet their needs as a mom?" Stacey
recalls. "Is there enough of me to go around for six needy
On July 22, 2008, Stacey took a deep breath as T.J. was
born-oh my God, four boys, she thought. She relaxed when minutes
later Kiley and then Kate were born. It was time to buy some pink.
All three babies were healthy, born at good weights and doing
As Stacey lay recovering from her C-section, Tim told her,
"I've got good news and bad news. The good news is, they're not
going to the NICU. The bad news: They're all coming to us."
Prentice Women's Hospital gave the family the largest room
available, and Tim and Stacey prepared to care for their latest set
The family's Lincoln Park home, purchased before they had
any children, was now filled with six cribs. They added a second
triple stroller to their stockpile of baby equipment. Bouncy seats
lined the floor.
It became like triage, the couple remembers, a whirlwind
of feedings and naptimes. "It was crazy. It was kind of a blur,"
Stacey says. "But when you come from the dark days of not thinking
you could have kids and then to have six healthy kids, there's
never a bad day."
They reach all the typical developmental milestones times
three-and then they do it all over again. When it was time to
potty-train the boys, Tim teased Stacey that her impeccably
decorated powder room was about to become a urinal. At Halloween,
it was six pumpkins and six costumes. Six parent-teacher
conferences at the kids' preschool.
Tim and Stacey delight in it all. They watch the kids'
different personalities develop. The younger set of triplets
interacts more. T.J. becomes upset if Kiley is upset. But he also
metes out his own justice: if Kate hits Kiley, then he hits Kate.
The older boys play together for hours, although all the kids can
resort to bickering and fighting.
"You have to be patient and keep yourself in check, but
usually those moments are short-lived," says Stacey, who works
part-time so she can be home with the kids.
At the triplets grow, so does their need for more space.
Stacey and Tim have reluctantly put their house on the market and
are looking for a home in the suburbs where they can have a
backyard and a swing set. Tim, a personal injury lawyer and founder
of Cavanagh Law Group in Chicago, knows the kids need more room but
dislikes the idea of being far away from them. "One of the nice
things about living downtown, I'm only two or three miles from
work. I can be hands-on because I have my own business and I can
zip home and run to the school and work my schedule around it," he
Their Suburban is jammed to the roof with car seats and
kid-gear; they know a bigger car is in the near future as well.
When they let themselves, they know the challenges in the future
are even bigger: teaching multiple teens to drive, getting six kids
through college. "But we'll find a way to get it all done. Right
now we're just having fun with them," Tim says.
"This wasn't the way I envisioned building our life,"
Stacey says. "We didn't have kids the way we planned, but our
dreams came true."
Liz DeCarlo is the former senior editor at Chicago Parent.
See more of Liz's stories here.
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