Holly, Cara & Kate’s Story

Finding out early on that we were expecting triplets was not really what we were prepared for, and what we had initially hoped would be a very uneventful pregnancy turned into a very eventful one indeed!

From our initial first scan which showed we had 3 tiny little embryos, medical staff were very negative about our chances of having 3 live babies at the end of the pregnancy.  This made it a very stressful pregnancy and almost made us afraid to bond too much with the babies before they were born.  As well as one baby being in a sac on her own, we had two babies growing in the same sac sharing a placenta, which is a high risk situation for both babies as it puts them at risk of cords getting tangled and also developing twin to twin transfusion syndrome, which can be fatal for both babies.

However, our pregnancy continued fairly normally at first – apart from my rapidly growing bump making me look much further on than I was and being often asked by checkout assistants if I was due soon when I was only 20 weeks pregnant!  Unfortunately, this all changed at 24 weeks when a cervical scan picked up that my cervix was beginning to funnel and would soon open.  This was not at all what we expected to hear as I was feeling really well and hadn’t noticed anything not feeling right.  I was admitted to hospital the next day, prescribed bed rest and was observed for the next week.  Unfortunately my cervix was still not co-operating and I had to have an operation under general anaesthetic to have a cervical stitch put in.  I remember this being a really stressful time, as we were told that the actual stitch could cause me to go into labour quicker so it was a tense few days until we discovered that the op had worked and my cervix was staying shut.

I chose to stay in hospital as I was worried we lived too far from the hospital if something went wrong, so being in hospital for weeks on end was hard.  On the one hand, I knew that the longer I was in then the better, as the babies were still in the womb.  Then at 30 weeks and 2 days (I had been counting and marking off every day and willing them to stay in longer) my waters broke and it was all systems go.

As we knew we would have a caesarean section, it was a very calm delivery.  I was very upset and cried all the way through it, but I knew that our babies had stayed in much longer than we thought they would and we were so lucky that they hadn’t arrived before then.  Holly, Cara and Kate were all around 3 lb and breathing on their own when born, so after a wee cuddle, they were then whisked up to the special nursery.  Later that evening, I saw them all in intensive care.  This was hugely upsetting as they were attached to tubes and just looked so tiny and vulnerable on their own in their incubators.  But I remember gazing at them each for so long, amazed that they were mine and finding it hard to take it all in.  My job was then to express milk so that they could start feeding, something that sounds easy, but took 2 long, tense and tearful days before my milk actually came in.  When I was able to express and feed them with my own milk, it gave me a real sense of purpose, filled in the long days and allowed me to believe I was doing the best thing for my premature babies.

The next few weeks were hard – I got home from hospital a week after birth, but of course without my babies, and was very unfit after having been effectively bedridden for 6 weeks – even standing at the incubators changing the girls’ tiny nappies was a huge effort.  And so we had daily trips into the special nursery to see the girls, I would be in during the day and then we would both go in in the evening.  It was always hard to divide our time between the three of them, though I remember we both always felt so lucky that we had three babies when everyone else just had the one!

However, things were about to become much harder when, at three weeks, Kate developed an infection rarely seen in a special nursery and did not respond to medication.  We had a heartbreaking week when Kate had practically no platelets left in her blood despite repeated transfusions due to the infection and was at serious risk of haemorrhaging, her liver was much bigger than its normal size due to trying to fight the infection and we were taken into a room one morning and told that she may not survive the day.  The feelings I felt at this point were so overwhelming – I had only just given birth to this much wanted wee girl and I was now faced with the very real possibility of losing her.  But somehow, at the eleventh hour, a mix of antibiotics not normally used on babies and the last option in each antibiotic group worked and Kate started to recover.  It took us a while to recover from this, we were very worried that the others would catch the same infection and not be so lucky and so every little infection (of which premmie babies have many) was very worrying.  But the girls all started to grow stronger and eventually at 6 weeks old we received the shocking news that they were ready to come home!  We spent 3 nights in the parentcraft room, an experience that was really helpful but also a nightmare with 3 noisy babies who needed fed all the time!  And at last, in mid November 2007, Cara, Holly and Kate were all ready to come home.

I won’t pretend that the last four years have been easy – the first year I didn’t even feel like a proper mum as I couldn’t even look after the babies on my own and needed almost constant help from both our mums (who have both been absolutely wonderful), but we almost reminisce at those early days and nights when we’d get two hours sleep and then be up feeding and expressing, all five of us sat spread out on the couch, working our way through the whole boxed set of ‘Friends’ at the same time!  Then two hours later we’d be back for the next episodes!

Fortunately, when you have triplets, it starts off being as hard as it possibly can be and so every year life has got easier and little things like being able to take the girls out on my own and know that they won’t run off makes a huge difference.  We have the family we hoped we’d have eventually, just a little bit sooner than we thought, and we know that if it wasn’t for all the wonderful work that the staff at the special nursery do to save these little babies’ lives and the support they give to disoriented and traumatised parents, we would not have the happy little family that we have today.  And for that, the special nursery will always have an important place in our hearts.