“1 in 200 million” – Our Triplet Story

I never thought I would be a mom of multiples. There are no twins on either side of our family. So when my confirmation ultrasound about 8 weeks into my second pregnancy showed I was carrying two babies, I was floored. I was having twins!

During the next eight weeks I was the most exhausted I have been in my entire life. I’m a bone marrow transplant nurse at Cincinnati Children’s – it’s one of the most demanding units in the hospital for RNs, but I was used to it. I knew a twin pregnancy would be harder, but this was ridiculous, I couldn’t figure out how my pregnant co-workers had so much more energy than I did.

The exhaustion was high on my list of things to discuss with my OB during my 16 week appointment, but the reason became clear before I even had a chance to ask. While looking for the babies’ heartbeats my doctor asked me where I could feel the babies – the area to which I pointed couldn’t make sense. That is unless I was pregnant with triplets. They sent me to ultrasound to see what was going on, but said the chance of triplets was slim to none, they simply wanted to look at the positioning of the babies.

But that simple check provided the first glimpse of our THREE baby boys.

My 17 year old daughter patted me on the back and said “it’s ok mom, we’ll get through this” and I’ve remembered her words and encouragement many times since then.

That ultrasound changed everything. No more working, modified bed rest, no cleaning, no unnecessary trips out of the house – my job was to stay pregnant as long as possible, and I took it seriously. My “full term” goal was 36 weeks. My doctors said they would be thrilled with anything over 30 weeks. Despite breaking my foot during my pregnancy and spending the last few weeks in the hospital, I carried my boys 34 weeks and 5 days. They were the longest weeks of my life, but I’m proud of myself and my body.

All of my boys were over 4 pounds at birth:

Baby A – Ayden Joseph  4 lbs. 10 oz.
Baby B – Liam Christopher  4 lbs. 2 oz.
Baby C – Carson Anthony  4 lbs. 15 oz.

With such a high-risk pregnancy, I had many ultrasounds and had known from early on that there were two separate placentas – a set of identical twins sharing one and a singleton with his own. But when they were born, they all three looked alike. Like, really alike. It was impossible not to wonder if they could possibly all be identical. But there was no way; there were two placentas and when I asked the resident doctor at our delivery hospital about the placenta pathology results, he said they were not identical.

I was a bit bummed – because, how cool would it be to have identical triplets?! – but my babies were big and healthy and that’s what mattered. We moved on from the idea, but still I wondered. They just looked so much alike.

So alike, in fact, that before I cut their hospital bracelets off, I painted each of their toenails a different color – red, white and blue. We kept them painted for the first several months because the thought of mixing them up was terrifying. We kept expecting them to start developing appearance differences, but they all three have matching dimples and a matching pinched spot on their ears. It was nearly impossible to find differences that could be used to help tell them apart.

When he was about five weeks old, Liam started having color changes at home that prompted a trip to the emergency department and then later an ambulance ride to and 6 day stay at Cincinnati Children’s. He had stopped breathing. It was classified as an acute life threatening event (LTE) and called for a whole battery of tests.

One of the physicians we met during that period of testing was Dr. Robert Hopkin. He is a genetics specialist who was interested to know about the health of Liam’s brothers and in particular about Carson who shared a sac with Liam in utero. He recommended we do genetic testing on Liam and Carson to make sure they were identical and to determine if there could be something genetic that caused Liam’s LTE. He said if everything was good with Carson, it would be good with Liam if they were in-fact identical. Because I had the chance, I asked Dr. Hopkin about testing Ayden too, just in case they could all three be identical. He said bring them all, then we’ll know for sure.

When the follow-up call came, my relief that they didn’t find anything concerning was overshadowed by the shock that the tests had found all three of our boys are identical! I think I was more shocked with this news than I was with the news that we were having triplets in the first place.

Dr. Hopkin told us they could be as rare as one in two hundred million. When our local NPR station did a story about the boys, the reporter looked nation-wide and couldn’t find any other documented sets of spontaneous (meaning conceived without any type of fertility intervention) identical triplets that were divided in utero as ours were.

There is also now a theory – presented by a doctor who is familiar with my pregnancy – that Ayden, Liam and Carson are actually the only documented triplets of their kind. He believes the two babies who shared a placenta should have been conjoined twins but they somehow, miraculously, fully separated. I feel like I hit the jackpot three times in a row – I really am the luckiest mom ever!

I am ok with the fact that I will probably never fully comprehend the magnitude of how rare they are. And honestly, I’m not sure it really matters. They’re my boys and these last eight months with them have been life-changing in all the best ways.

It’s hard to think that this time a year ago I was trying my hardest to stay positive despite my growing physical discomfort. A triplet (or higher-order multiples) pregnancy is not an easy experience and if I could share one piece of advice with other triplet mommas, it would be to learn early on to ignore the negative comments. A large pregnant belly invites unsolicited comments and questions and I was shocked by the number of total strangers who said things like “triplets, wow, your life is over” or “you’re never going to do anything alone again,” or “how will you ever manage that many at once?”

They are wrong. Every one of those people is wrong and should be ignored. A life with triplets will be different from anything you’ve known before, but it will be better in so many ways. Alone time is certainly not as abundant as it once was, but I appreciate it that much more now and am always so excited to get back to my kids when I’ve been away from them. And, you will manage. You can do this and you will love it – it will be hard at times, but you’ll rise to the occasion, solve the problems, ask for help when you need it and quickly find a new normal that is better because your babies are part of it.

 

Liz Wells

About the Author: Liz Wells

Liz is a mom of four and a nurse on the bone marrow transplant unit at Cincinnati Children's. Her life changed significantly when she found out she was expecting triplets in 2014 and the journey so far has been more amazing than she could have imagined. Liz and her family live in Northern Kentucky.

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Comments

  1. Sandra Smith May 18, 21:39
    Thank you for sharing your blessings. They are adorable! May God continue to bless your family with good health and happiness.
  2. tj May 18, 22:53
    Great story! :-) :-)
  3. Karyn May 19, 00:38
    Hi Liz-- So much of your story sounds a lot like ours that I just wanted to comment and say hi! We had surprise spontaneous identical triplet boys in 2011. At 6 weeks we saw one heartbeat; at 8 weeks we found out we were (surprise!) having twins; and at 13 weeks, we discovered the third baby. I totally understand exactly how tired you must have been during your pregnancy, and when I read that you'd been more exhausted in your first trimester than you've ever been, I thought to myself, "Yeah, and probably more ravenous too" because that's how it was for me-- my incredible 0-60 hunger during the first tri was noteworthy and a feeling I'll never forget. Anyway, congratulations on your 3 little guys. They're precious.
  4. Ginger May 19, 01:31
    I am so proud and still so amazed. Keep writing you are a natural.
  5. Angela Powell May 20, 03:17
    Hi, Congratulations on your Triplet Boys!! Your story brought back wonderful memories!! My girls are also spontaneous identical triplets. They each had separate sacs but shared the same placenta. Rare indeed!! Born at Bethesda North in Cincinnati 1985. They all still live in Harrison Ohio. Hard to believe they will be turning 30 years old on September 6,2015!! Hang in there!!! Please contact me if you need any advice. :-)
  6. Sharon May 21, 08:54
    Liz, Believe it or not: I am in Hershey Pennsylvania but am from Cincinnati. I gave birth to triplets in 1986 at Christ hospital. Naturally - no fertility help! We thought we were having twins which do run in my family however at birth we had triplets. God took one of our little girls home with him. The girls were in 1 placenta. We did not do testing but the doctors felt certain they were identical. 29 years later it is still hard for me to wrap my brain around the fact that we had triplets naturally! The girls Lauren, Jacqueline & Cynthia (who went to be with Jesus) were born 6 weeks early and each weighing around 3.5 lbs. Cynthia's cord was twisted due to lack of space to move which caused her death. I miss her everyday! Lauren and Jacki were born very healthy with no need of oxygen, etc. Today they have each given us 3 grandchildren. 4 boys and 2 girls!
  7. Kathy May 26, 10:56
    What a wonderful journey awaits your family. My father and his two brothers, born in 1928 in Dayton, Ohio, were identical triplets. Since both conception and survival of triplets was such a rarity, once they arrived home from the hospital, they were placed in front of the living room window and people would come to the front porch to see them. As a child I remember looking at newspaper clippings about the triplets and hearing some pretty hysterical stories about the tricks they could play on unsuspecting dates! My dad and uncles lived full lives into their 60s and 70s and we, my siblings and cousins, always felt a bit special ourselves! Our journey continues. Congrats to you and yours!
  8. Amy K. May 26, 17:10
    What a wonderful article! Absolutely amazing and definitely a testament to God's many blessings! Congratulations on your handsome boys! :)
  9. Amber May 27, 04:32
    Thanks so much for sharing your story. They're absolutely precious! Welcome to the Cincinnati Children's family boys! :)
  10. robin June 01, 08:37
    I was very excited for you and the babies. I looked at the picture and said WOW those are some beautiful babies. They are a joy and a blessing, every child is a blessing and we all come with challenges and we keep it moving. Three more people in the world to love and be loved by.
  11. Lucia Abdelrahman July 06, 02:33
    Iam amom of five And I love kids. Iwas very excited for you and the babies They are a blessing form God God bless you
  12. anna July 10, 19:39
    That's cool i am a triplet myself. i am very very happy to be a triplet. you always have somebody to play with, and in i am 90 percent sure that those triplets you have will all act differently. that is at least how it went with me.
  13. Gramma Susie July 12, 01:50
    From the twinkle in those eyes you are in for many pranks and laughs in your future! enjoy and be newly blessed every day
  14. barbara July 25, 03:29
    they are so cute& an amazing very lucky.
  15. jenna September 05, 23:29
    Thank you for sharing your story. I am from louisville ky and recently found out we are having identical triplets... naturally!! We are still trying to comprehend. We are just now at 10 weeks and I am in the extreme exhaustion phase. I kmow I have a long way to go but your story is encouraging!! I hope to make it as far as possible!!
  16. Ash O November 24, 04:34
    I never comment but I thought this blog was so uplifting!!!! Thk you! I'm 32 wks with triplets and this definitely encouraged me!!!!
  17. Faith December 17, 08:10
    Hi mums! Am from , Africa and expec triplets :-) tKenyaexpectanttriplets for your sharing your story, congratulations. Had one question, were ybreastfeedexclusively the three exclusively? Thanks.
    • Elizabeth wells January 13, 23:03
      I was pumping. I didn't produce enough milk so I had to supplement. I'd be happy to answer any questions you have my email is lizzard8737@yahoo.com
  18. T21Grant March 07, 22:56
    We had the privilege this weekend to have Liz as our sons nurse! She kept us entertained with stories about the triplets while we were trying to not worry about our son. I just had to look up the boys story!
  19. BP September 29, 00:51
    You are so blessed! <3 Your boys are so cute!! I lost my identical triplets (baby girls) 4 months ago at 20 weeks gestation... I didn't know I was expecting triplets until the day the nurse told me there was no heartbeat, then I had to go to the hospital for an ultrasound... It has been a nightmare, but I am thankful because I met them, they were beautiful and tiny... of course I didn't receive the proper care because for 20 weeks we didn't knew I was expecting three babies. Their umbilical cords were in a knot, so I don't know if we could've prevented their death :( But I have a 2 year old who is my everything, and who keeps me going... Thank you for sharing your story, God bless you all!!! <3 <3 <3