At just eight weeks pregnant, mom-to-be Karen Gilbert started to feel different. Already parents to three-year-old daughter, Faye, Karen feared that the pain in her abdomen meant she was having a miscarriage. She rushed to her doctors office for answers — and what she got was a surprise like she'd never imagined!
At the hospital, doctors informed Gilbert that the pain in her belly was not a miscarriage. She was having the pain because she was having triplets — and not just any triplets: identical triple ts. The babies were conceived on their newlywed parents honeymoon to New York. Doctors and Gilbert shared their shock (and awe!): the odds of giving birth to identical triplets range between 60,000-to-1 and 200 million-to-one. Basically, this type of thing rarely ever happens. "The lady doing the scan had to call somebody else into the room to check what she was seeing was right," Karen told the BBC. "We pretty much left the hospital laughing, crying, laughing, crying... but we were over the moon."
The pain in her growing belly was because each baby was fighting for space and nourishment — and as all three were sharing one placenta, the fight for fluids was important. Doctors were so worried, in fact, that they suggested that Karen and her husband, Ian, consider reducing the number of babies and only having two children to allow enough room for them to grow and receive all the food and energy they'd need (not to mention the room). But the Gilbert family did not share their doctors concerns: they were going to have all three babies. "They all grew and fought so quickly it was practically ripping Karen’s muscles apart," Ian told the_ Daily Mail_. "But we couldn’t consider termination — they were our babies. We were scanned every week to make sure they were growing fine."
Going against medical recommendations was not the only hurdle in her pregnancy. Doctors feared that the triplets could suffer from twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome (known as TTTS) , but in this case, it'd be triplet-to-triplet. TTTS occurs when an egg splits in two and then one of the eggs splits again. It causes identical fetuses that occupy the same space and feed off the same resources. When this happens, doctors fear that the placenta (responsible for delivering blood to each baby) could deliver a disproportionate amount of blood to one baby and not the other or that the babies could potentially kill one another. Because of this, TTTS pregnancies come with a high mortality rate (which can be as high as 60 to 100 percent) in pregnancy.
As fate would have it, their troubles were far from over. Daddy-to-be, Ian, came home one day later in his wife's pregnancy to find his wife, pregnant with triplets, unconscious on the floor. She'd slipped on the top of the steps and had fallen all the way to the bottom stair. "Our three-year-old daughter Faye was in bed and I was at work,” he said. "I came home to find Karen unconscious on the floor. I was petrified. I still can’t believe we made it through." Yet, even a fall to the floor was not enough to deter Karen's pregnancy.
Two months before her due date, Karen went into labor. She delivered her three daughters Ffion, Maddison and Paige, at the Royal Gwent Hospital in Newport via c-section. Each of the baby girls weighed in at 3 lbs., 8 oz., 3 lbs., 5 oz. and 3 lbs., 4 oz, respectively. And though it was love at first site, it was still a shock for the now four-time parents to see just how little their girls were. "At first they didn’t look real and you could pick them up with one hand," Ian told the Daily Mail. "'It was a bit of a shock."
Even after Karen delivered, the worry about what would happen next wasn't over. She said, "We were worried the hospital wouldn’t have enough beds and we’d have to split them up. It would have been horrible. There was also the worry that one would be ready to come home before the others. Luckily, we managed to keep them together." But with all that worry came one huge, heartwarming surprise. "The doctors thought it could be up to three months before we could bring them home, so we feel privileged to have got them here with us so soon." At just eight weeks, Ffion, Maddison and Paige are home with mom, dad and their big sister, Faye.
"Their personalities are already starting to shine through and I can’t wait to get to know them better," Karen said. The only thing that hasn't gotten easier? Telling them apart. "We kept their hospital bands on for as long as they could but they grew out of them, so Ian had to buy more on eBay and we're still using them. They're that identical, it's scary!"
Check out these adorably sweet photos of the new family:
Photos courtesy of the Caters News Agency
Did you have a complication-free pregnancy? How did you deal with the complications that arose?