Ballymena mum Deirdre Kelly could not be more proud of her trio of tiny tots.
Despite being born eight weeks early the three boys did not have any of the issues usually expected of premature babies.
However the delivery room was rather crowded on March 10 with a team of 18 medical professionals on hand.
Now, nearly eight months old, the three Cs – Cillian, Conor and Ciaran – are bringing joy not just to their parents Deirdre and John, but to many others they meet.
With Northern Ireland’s only premature baby charity gearing up for a major awareness campaign (see bottom of article) the 32-year-old explained what it is like to start life as mother at the deep end – with not one but three premature babies.
She said: “At my booking scan they thought it was twins but at my first consultant scan they found the third one.
“I was really excited, my husband was in a bit of shock.
“He was glad he was sitting down. I just laughed in disbelief. You never plan for something like this but they’re an absolute blessing.
“We knew they were going to come early – with triplets they always do – so we knew they were going to be in neonatal for a while.
“I had a planned section so I knew from the week before what my date was. Antrim Hospital were amazing, there was a team of 18 in the delivery room, each of the triplets had their own doctors and neonatal team assigned to them.
“After they were born we were able to see each baby but then we had to take them away to neonatal.”
She added: “The nurses told me they were prepared for them to be quite sick babies but they were really healthy for the gestation they were born at. They maybe needed a little bit of breathing support but there were no real interventions.
“I was brought round to see them on my way back from the ward. I think it was the next day before I got to hold them.”
Cillian was born at 3lb 3oz, Conor was 3lb 10 oz, Ciaran was 4lbs.
Deirdre said: “It was quite hard because everybody else was there was with their babies and I was without mine.
“Because I knew what was happening beforehand I’d had time to prepare.
“I kept telling myself ‘I’m not going to see them, but they’re going to be okay and I’ll get round to see them as soon as I can’.
“But no matter how many times you tell yourself [that], it’s not the way anybody plans to start out being a mummy. It’s hard but you just have to get on with it.”
Deirdre said looking after three babies at the same time is not proving as difficult as she had been warned.
She said: “Each day is very different. The boys are so good, they make it easy. Everybody says: ‘I don’t know how you do it with three, I can hardly do it with one’. But you’ve no choice. You just get on with it.
“We’ve got a triple pram now. For a while we used a single and a double. It’s busy and there’s a lot of equipment in the house. You’ve three bouncers, lots of playmats, three cots.
“They all sleep at the same time but thankfully they don’t cry at the same time. They’re very laid back and chilled out.
“It’s hard to get shopping done with people stopping to look at them. I look at it that you’ve made somebody happy by seeing them. They bring such happiness to everybody, not just us.”
THE WORK OF CHARITY TINYLIFE:
‘Premvember’ is charity TinyLife’s signature event in November to raise awareness of the six premature babies born daily in NI.
Deirdre said: “Tinylife have been amazing. Right from the start we were able to hire a breast pump.
“Then because the boys were so small, clothes out of the shops wouldn’t fit them, but there’s people who knit for TinyLife so the boys had hats and cardigans and blankets.
“Whenever we got home we started going to TinyGym, that’s where they see the physio to help their development. They’ll do things like baby massage and exercises to nursery rhymes.”