Susan Pinsky had triplets sixteen years ago. The thirtysomething UCLA graduate had health insurance and a loving husband who was a successful doctor. Despite being married to “probably one of the smartest men in America,” she says lovingly of her husband Dr. Drew Pinsky, having triplets was very difficult.
In the early ‘90s, Susan and Drew Pinsky were a normal couple from Pasadena. Dr. Drew’s Loveline wasn’t yet nationally syndicated, and he didn’t have multiple television shows. When they found out they were having triplets, they couldn’t have imagined the uphill battle for their family’s survival.
Susan experienced a variety of health problems. She was bed-ridden for three months prior to delivery, and remained in the hospital after the delivery. The Pinskys soon realized that they had to hire around-the-clock professional help to ensure the safety of their newborns. “People who have one baby cannot believe that someone who had three could handle it. One baby is plenty for one human being to endure,” she says. These triplets ripped through thirty diapers every day.
“It was worth it,” she says of the effort and sacrifice in raising Douglas, Jordan and Paulina. Their fraternal triplets are now sixteen, each with a driver’s license.
LAist wondered how trying it must it have been for the Pinskys with triplets, and what that might project for the future of Nadya Suleman and her newborn octuplets. Suleman, a single mother, has a total of fourteen kids living in her Whittier home.
What are your thoughts on Nadya Suleman?
I feel for her. I think it’s a serious situation. I hope it works out. It’s not that she’s a bad person. She’s not some strange trashy person that just decided to have a bunch of kids. She’s got a degree, she’s well spoken, she means well, and they are her babies — she should get the respect for that. They are her children.
This woman kind of got the short end of the stick. She clearly didn’t know she was going to end up with 8. Maybe she was crazy enough to have a couple more but nobody seems to understand that she hadn’t really intended on it. She didn’t know she had eight until she was 20 weeks pregnant. Which also shows she didn’t have very good pre-natal care either. You can know in a couple of weeks.
You had in vitro fertilization. How did that go?
I had five embryos implanted and we knew that we had a good chance of having the in vitro take. When we implanted five, four actually had a heartbeat. Our Obstetrician was insistent that four would really affect our life. He said health-wise it would to be tough for me. I was lucky because one of the embryos didn’t make it past 10 weeks. Three sounded like better than quadruplets.
How costly was the delivery?
It was $100,000 total. It took 17 people to deliver three babies. Out of pocket for us was $10,000. I had a PPO. They even covered the medication for in vitro at the time — which they don’t do now. It was great. The only thing it didn’t cover was the actual in vitro itself. I think that the insurance company got rid of me after that.
Could you have afforded it without health insurance?
Drew and I could’ve afforded it had we done it on our own. We’d probably still be paying it off now, but we would’ve been able to do it.
How did your newborns fare?
The babies came out completely healthy and normal. They were ready to go home right away. My hospital bill was a lot lower than it would’ve been had any of them been in an incubator.
They stayed in the hospital with me for one week because I was sick after the delivery. I was in the hospital a week before, and a week after. It was all worth it.
How was your health?
When you come home from the hospital after giving birth, it’s really difficult because your body has been traumatized. I didn’t do very well after the pregnancy. It took a week or two before I could really be of service to my own children.
What will it be like for Nadya to have eight newborns?
It’s more than anybody can endure. Maybe she’ll have a support system, but people seem to be turning against her.
There’s so much stuff that you use that helps you get through the day. You have to stock the refrigerator with 10 bottles per kid everyday. Somebody has to get up, wash all the bottles, fill all the bottles, and put them in the refrigerator. Then you have to wash them and start over again. She’s going to have to sanitize the bottles. We used a microwave sanitizing system.
They tend to need a change of clothing regularly because they are so extremely burpy. She needs to have enough clothing for everybody plus she needs a good washer and dryer — and someone to work the washer and dryer.
What sort of help did you have?
Drew was a big help but I had to have help around the clock. The manpower needed to provide a safe environment is astounding and goes on 24 hours, 7 days a week. Overnight nurses are key so mom can recover after delivery. Having multiples can be fatal not only for the babies, but for the mother.
Picture five bottles and 10 diapers each per child, per day. If you can’t afford help, you’re really putting these kids at risk. If you have three mouths, or six or eight — you don’t have enough energy as a human being to be able to handle that.
Can you rely on friends for help?
It’s all fun the first couple of weeks, but after that they sort of disappear. At a certain point the house becomes exhausted. Unless you’re paying someone, you can’t really expect them to stay when you really need them the most.
What advice do you have for Nadya?
These kids are precious, fragile human beings and if she has any respect for that she’ll do the right thing. If that means she needs to adopt them out to great parents that can raise them, then that might be it. I’m not saying the right thing has to be adoption — but I guess there’s no other way — that’s why it’s hard.
Did your family make a donation to the Suleman family?
We bought a case of powdered Similac and 400 diapers. That’ll last her a week and a half.
Did any of your kids have health problems?
I had one baby with colic. He cried for three months straight. A nanny took him under her wing. I needed somebody who went home and slept at night to come back and hold him and do whatever it was we were trying to do to get him stop crying all the time.
If Nadya has 4 kids with colic, it’s going to be a nightmare. Talk about a lot of screaming and crying.
How were things as triplets started growing?
I went a little bit crazy at certain points. You can’t imagine the sleep deprivation. I didn’t sleep for the first two and a half years.
Douglas had some issues with sleep because he had an arachnoid cyst growing on his brain and we didn’t know it. He’d wake up every night and he would cry and spit out his pacifier. Because he wasn’t sleeping through the night I was getting sicker and sicker.
We had baby seats for keeping them in a safe place. If we were holding two, one would stay in the baby seat.
Did you work at all when they were young?
I was a travel agent for a while when they were small. I was having a good time with that. I could work with adults and work out of my home. I took Laura Schlessinger’s advice, I was a stay-at-home mom, a working mom.
Then after the World Trade Center, Drew requested I make being a mother my career. I said I’m in. Now they’re all going to graduate from high school in 2 years. I have to figure out what I’m going to do next.
How are your triplets doing today?
My kids are doing great. They are substantial human beings. I’m happy that I’ve had that opportunity to be part of that. I‘ve dedicated myself to being a mother. It’s probably the hardest job there is. It’s not an easy life. People give me a lot of respect for it, for what I’ve done, and I really appreciate that.
I’m lucky to have Drew and his support and his medical background because otherwise it would’ve been really difficult for me. I’m not an expert at this. I get an education everyday.
Where might Nadya be going wrong?
This woman is delusional, that she is going to give them her time — that’s all they need. That’s not possible. One person cannot care for six kids, let alone 14.
She thinks she’s going to nurse all of these kids. Really, that’s just hysterical. There’s no way that’s going to happen.
If you have a $50,000 student loan, with 16 kids and you think you’re going to go back to college and make a living, and pay your debts — that’s great. More power to you. Honestly, unless she gets an endorsement from some company and does a commercial she’s not going to be able to pay it off.
Any last thoughts?
Let’s not just shun her and turn her into a villain. She’s crazy but turning our back on her isn’t going to make it better. I would like Nadya to have the opportunity to be a part of her own family and love her kids. When I see the love she has for those kids — my heart goes out to her — she really does want those children.
If I had a wish it would be for her to get support from the correct organizations so that she doesn’t crash and burn.
Photos courtesy Susan Pinsky (Twitter)