These Members Face a True Triple Threat
To say that Rep. Michael McCaul was surprised when he found out his wife was pregnant with triplets is an understatement.
“I started to hyperventilate,” the Texas Republican recalls of that day in the doctor’s office nearly nine years ago. His shock didn’t end there. “To witness a triplet birth is pretty incredible. At the hospital you see one, two, three heads popping out one after another.”
With the birth of children Lauren, Avery and Michael, now 8 years old, McCaul became a member of an exclusive group on Capitol Hill: the triplet caucus.
McCaul joined a handful of men who are triply stressed: They spend their days legislating and their nights and weekends chasing around a brood of young children. At least four Members of the House have triplets, and it’s a topic that they have bonded over.
“To have a triplet stroller, you really don’t know what it’s like until you experience it,” says McCaul, who counts Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), father to 6-year-old triplets, as a friend.
Rep. Vic Snyder (D-Ark.) can also relate to the shock of finding out his wife was having three babies at once. Doctors initially told Snyder and his wife that they were having twins. A later ultrasound revealed a third heartbeat.
“Were we surprised? Hell, yeah, we were surprised!” he says. Wyatt, Sullivan and Aubrey are now 18 months old.
Triplets were not a total surprise to Rep. Patrick Tiberi, father to 17-month-old Christina, Daniela and Gabriela: Multiple births run in the Ohio Republican’s family. Other Members say in vitro fertilization had a hand in the birth of their children.
“We wanted to have triplets,” explains Rohrabacher, father to 6-year-old Tristen, Anika and Christian. “These are in vitro babies, so we were trying really hard to have children.”
The Rohrabachers “had a birthday party with all the kids’ friends from school, and it was a mad house,” he says.
While having multiples certainly creates a lot more work for parents, all of the fathers agree that the children have changed their lives for the better and influenced their approach to work.
“I think it’s very grounding,” McCaul says. “First of all, it’s a joy to be around little kids, I think. I really enjoy playing with them. It gives you a better perspective. So many Members are focused on themselves and ego-driven, but when you have five little kids, it gives you perspective.”
In some cases, that perspective includes new views on personal safety. Rohrabacher’s wife told him there was good news and bad news in having triplets. The good news being that they were going to start a family.
“I said, What’s the bad news?’ and she said, Well, you’re never going to Afghanistan again,'” he remembers. “I used to do a lot of very risky things while I was a Congressman. … I have just stopped doing that by and large.” Since the children were born, Rohrabacher has cut back on his travel to dangerous places.
For Snyder, triplets changed a lot more than his perspective. They actually changed his career path. After trying to balance being a father and Congressman for more than a year, he decided to retire and spend more time with his wife and children.
“The divided geographical lifestyle does not work for my wife and my lifestyle,” he explains. “It did not work for us, and I tried to talk myself into running for re-election, but it hurt too much.”
McCaul, whose family lives in Texas, also felt the strain of work and family, but rather than retire, he is bringing his children to Washington, D.C. The children will be home-schooled for the 2010-11 school year. “They are mature enough now to understand what Dad does,” he says. “We’re going to try to make it a fun family adventure for one school year.” His wife and children plan to return to Texas in 2011.
While Rohrabacher misses his children, he has no plans to relocate them to Washington. “I want my kids to be Californians — junior lifeguards, surfers, people like that,” he says.
Still, Rohrabacher says he struggles with being far from his family and worries about missing major milestones in their lives.
“When I come home, if it looks like they changed a little bit, I feel like I’ve really been deprived of being with them and of something special,” he says.
While being a Congressman requires these fathers to spend time away from their families, it also allows for certain perks. For example, McCaul had the opportunity to take his son Michael, 8, to Camp Swift, a National Guard training site in Texas.
“They gave him a Kevlar vest, and they let him in a tank,” McCaul says. “I can’t believe they did this, but they let him shoot a .50-caliber weapon. They really made his day.”