July 27, 2009

Marine's new assignment: Raising triplets

Medically puzzling pregnancy derails Iraq orders

By Jennifer Micale

Darcel Faulkner is no stranger to dramatic shifts in her life path.

After graduating from Deposit High School in 2001, she spent the next 4 1/2 years at SUNY- Cortland, studying to become a biology educator.

Adventure beckoned, however, along with a desire to aid the nation during wartime. So, she left her incipient teaching career to join the Marine Corps.

"I wanted to go straight to Iraq," she remembers. And she did, working as an ammunition technician. She loves the job and is proud to be the only woman in charge of a fire team, she says.

The Marine corporal was poised to leave for another stint in Iraq at the end of January when she hit another curve in life's road at the age of 25. During a routine test, she discovered she was pregnant - with triplets. All boys, two identical and one fraternal.

"I think you are mistaken," she said after receiving the initial test results. Because of a lifelong health issue, she needed medical intervention - or so everyone thought - in order to conceive. But life had other plans.

Instead of the Iraqi desert, Faulkner is now in a room at Wilson Regional Medical Center, where she's been confined to bed rest since June 26 to help prevent preterm labor. She's due Sept. 25, but expects to give birth sometime next month.

She talks with the children's father, fiancÚ Stanley A. Carver, via Skype on a computer laptop perched next to her bed. A Marine staff sergeant from Greenville, S.C., Carver is still at the base in Camp Lejeune, N.C. His pride in becoming a father three times over is evident in a smile that stretches from ear to ear.

"Hey baby!" he chimes, as she brings the video-conferencing laptop to life.

About three weeks after becoming a father, Carver will deploy to Afghanistan with the Fifth Battalion 10th Marines, where he will remain until March 2010. If it weren't for the unexpected pregnancy, he would be there already, Faulkner said.

"We hate that he is having to leave at this time, but we both know that this is part of the job and it's what we love to do," Faulkner recently wrote from her hospital bed.

For now, though, the two can chat over the computer. Carver is waiting for the word to come up to the Johnson City hospital for the birth. He jokes that he's only claiming one of the identical twins as his own.

"Don't worry baby, I'll adopt the other two!" he says.

"Thanks, sweetheart," she replies with a laugh.

Triplets are rare; they accounted for only 143.4 per 100,000 births in 2006, according to National Vital Statistics Reports. The rise in multiple births, including triplets, is usually attributed to older mothers and women using fertility drugs - but Faulkner falls into neither category.

Faulkner, who came home because there was no neonatal intensive care unit at the North Carolina base, will get help from her family in adjusting to her new life as a mom of multiples. Her parents, Donald and Cindy Faulkner, live in Deposit; her fiancÚ's folks, Steve and Sandra Carver, live in Greenville, S.C.

"I already had one grandchild. Now I'm getting a bunch!" said Cindy Faulkner, while paying her daughter a visit.

There's not a lot to do in her hospital room, Faulkner admits, as a television at the end of the bed silently flashes CNN and the summer sunlight leaks in from the shaded window. That's OK, though; this is a time of waiting.

"I can't concentrate on anything," she says with a smile.