By Alan Sorensen
Gildford residents are understandably excited about three of their newest residents -- Dane, Devon and Dylan, the Miller triplets. But like good neighbors, they've shown extreme restraint by staying away to protect the boys from infection.
Born to Julie and David Miller at Benefis East in Great Falls on Nov. 11, the triplets are still more or less quarantined to their home in Gildford.
"They're all on medication," Julie Miller said. "We're still very cautious of exposure. We just had to be real, real careful when we came home."
"Christmas Day was their only day out," David Miller said. "We went to mom and dad's across town."
Mom and dad are David's parents Don and Diane Miller of Gildford. The triplets' maternal grandparents are Jim and Barb Janicek of Moore.
"We've been fortunate," Julie said last week. "My mom's been here, but she's going home Sunday."
The boys were very similar in weight and length at birth:
Dane -- 4 pounds 8 ounces, 18 inches;
Devon -- 4 pounds 14 ounces, 18 inches;
Dylan -- 4 pounds 11 ounces, 17 inches.
"They're pretty close now, too," David Miller said. "They saw the doctor Tuesday and they're all at 7 pounds or over now."
The Millers learned that they'd be the parents of triplets way back in May, but kept the information to themselves.
"We kept it to ourselves until August, then we told my family and it was all over town," David said. "News travels fast in these parts."
"We were in shock for several months," Julie said.
But that shock didn't prevent the Millers from beginning to stockpile disposable diapers, wipes, and other baby needs in May. They've got several boxes of size one diapers in their basement and David's sister is storing numerous larger size diapers in her basement a few doors away.
"Some of our other baby items are over there, too," Julie said.
To facilitate their child care, the Millers have three charts with attached pencils, one for each boy, that lists the medications and has room for "X"ing out diaper changes, feedings, baths and other daily routine activities.
"We know we change a lot of diapers, but this way we know who is who and keep track of the feedings and medications," Julie said.
At just 2 months, the boys are beginning to develop personalities and are increasingly aware of what goes on around them. And they're getting much stronger and starting to show joy.
"Dane and Dylan really like their swings," David said. "Devon hasn't gotten used to one yet, but Dane and Dylan really like to sit in them."
Just two days after the boys were born, the family held a special birthday party for their daughter Kiera who turned 2 on Nov. 13.
"We celebrated her birthday in the conference room at the hospital," Julie Miller said.
During the next three weeks, Kiera only saw her parents once or twice a week. She stayed at Grandma and Grandpa Miller's in Gildford while her mom and dad kept vigil with the tiny triplets at the hospital in Great Falls.
"Kiera's life turned upside down because she stayed with my parents for the three weeks we were in Great Falls," David Miller said.
"She was afraid that we'd abandoned her," Julie said.
When the new family finally returned home, it took Kiera a few days to trust that her parents wouldn't leave her again. Since then, she's been their little girl again and a help with the boys.
Of course, her parents had a lot on their minds, too, when they returned to Gildford.
The nurses at Benefis had put the babies on a schedule and spent a lot of time teaching David and Julie how to take care of the babies. They handled the babies, administered their medications, tended their monitors, fed them, bathed them, changed them.
"From day one ... we would take temperatures, change diapers, give medications at the end of their time there," Julie said. "When we came home, there were a lot of things on our minds, but we weren't just plain scared."
When they brought the babies home, the Millers gave them the same schedule they had at the hospital. There are the 11 p.m. feedings, and then the Millers have to get up for the 3 a.m. feeding.
They go through a package of diapers and wipes every other day.
There's little chance the boys will be mistaken for identical triplets any time soon, according to their parents.
"We've gotten a lot of identical clothing as gifts," Julie said, "but someone's always throwing up or messing, so they never end up looking alike."
The babies are still small enough to fit into one crib and hooked up to the prescription monitors when they're sleeping. Daytime visitors may find the home quiet and well ordered, but that's not so at night, the Millers said.
"Their out-of-control times are at night," Julie said one afternoon last week. "Their monitors go off more; they fuss more. This is their good time."
"It's been pretty exciting," David said. "There have been nights when I didn't know. ...
"But you do what you've got to do and take one day at a time is pretty much it."
Julie said the monitors measure the babies' breathing and heart rates and can go off for a variety of reasons. When they do, they make a high screeching sound like a smoke detector.
The monitors record the babies' vital signs over a period of time and the information has to be downloaded and sent to the hospital for review.
Despite the regular nightly awakenings, the Millers seem extremely relaxed and happy with their tiny trio.
David works at Hamilton Consulting Group in Havre during the day and spends his evenings splitting chores with Julie. In the summer, he'll be working on the family farm.
"He comes home from work and we have feeding time and baths," Julie said. "It's an hour-and-a-half feeding time, and we have a 2-year-old, too."
"When I get home at 5:30," David agreed, "it doesn't take long to get to 11 o'clock at night."
Julie, who worked for Hill County Public Assistance in Havre, is now without a job. Her maternity leave expired last Friday.
The couple hasn't gone out at night or watched a movie, even a video, for weeks.
"We watch CNN at night and that's about it," Julie said.
Nor has Julie been back to Moore since April. "I was on a short leash the whole time," she said, "and now I'm on a shorter leash."
Though they don't come over much ("We're still very cautious of exposure"), the Millers' neighbors, friends and relatives have been a great help in other ways. They've done some grocery shopping, brought meals and run other errands for the home-bound family.
They already have a second crib in the babies' room and are expecting the gift of another crib.
"That's one thing about it," Julie said. "A lot of our friends have babies, too, so they're offering stuff."
David looked around the babies' room and then walked into the hall and living room. "We've kind of outgrown the house, I think," he said. "We'll have to do something when the boys get wheels (start crawling)."
While trying to live one day at a time, the Millers still have an eye on the future of their sons, members of the KG Class of 2017 or '18. They've already begun planning for the boys' college.
"We really want to express our appreciation to the people who are helping us," Julie said. "We're going to need help for a really long time."
Then she added with a laugh, "If there are any night owls who would like to help ... ?"
The Millers aren't sure if their boys are part of a trend in the area, but five sets of twins were born at Northern Montana Hospital between July 28 and Dec. 20.
The average of one set of twins per month for five months were:
Girls born to Wylnn Shambo of Hays on July 28;
Girls born to Fontana and Gene Swick of Havre on Oct. 18;
Boys born to Carrol Dobbins and Michael Teel of Havre on Oct. 21;
Girls born to Kendra and Rick Carlson of Havre on Nov. 6;
Boy and girl to Spring and Neil LaMere of Box Elder on Dec. 20.
And there's another set of triplets scheduled to be born in coming weeks to a couple in Cut Bank. The Millers said they and that couple keep in touch with each other for mutual support.
And if any of Hill County's other triplet families, such as the Hamblocks, would like to offer their experience, strength and hope, the Millers are all ears.