LIFE can be full of surprises, can’t it? But when you are mum and dad to one child and discover that in a matter of months you will be parents to three more children all at once — it’s a lot to take in.
“Finding out we were expecting triplets was a massive surprise,” says Gemma Daly, who is a teacher, and lives in Kinsale with her husband Jamie and their four sons, Oscar, aged three, and triplets, Sebastian, Hendrix and Ashton, aged nine months.
The couple relocated from Dubai when Jamie, an architect, was offered work with his company in their Cork office.
“Kinsale was a clear choice,” says Gemma.
“We fell in love with it and we bought a house here.”
Gemma had come a long way.
“I had suffered two miscarriages last year and more or less said, this is it. I’ll have no more.”
She didn’t bargain on having three more children.
“I was really sick,” says Gemma, recalling life before the Daly family of three became a family of six.
“I decided not to wait to have a scan at 12 weeks because of the waiting time and I decided to have a private scan at 10 weeks.
“I hadn’t been so ill since the previous miscarriage. What could be wrong?”
The scan got it right. Eventually.
“Two heads popped up in the scan,” says Gemma.
“I thought, ‘what’s going on? Twins?’”
The radiologist wasn’t sure either.
“She said, ‘take a moment. Calm down’.”
The radiologist thought she was seeing things.
“She said, ‘Oh my God! Hang on a second.’
"She rolled down the video on the screen and there was a third.”
Was Jamie still standing?
“He filmed 11 seconds of our amazed reaction, even if he wasn’t meant to!”
Capturing the one in a million moment was very special. Triplets born without any medical intervention is extremely rare.
“We’ll have that moment forever,” says Gemma.
Then it was all systems go.
“A triplet pregnancy presents high risk,” say Gemma.
“There is a 62-63% survival rate. We arranged to meet the multiple birth specialist at CUH. Two of my eggs released split into two so Ashton and Sebastian are identical twins. Hendrix is a singleton.
“We were given the option of foetal reduction to lessen the likelihood of losing one baby and increasing the survival chances of the other two.”
But the threesome were always destined to be together.
“Seeing all three wriggling around, I was excited,” says Gemma.
“If they could get to so many weeks, I just had to get them out. I knew there was still a risk involved.”
The triplets were born on April 15, at 30 weeks and five days.
Gemma had to take things easy beforehand to give her unborn sons the best chance possible.
“I had to have a lot of bed rest. I was admitted to hospital in March, coinciding with the first lockdown, and I could have no visitors. I didn’t see Jamie or Oscar for five weeks. They were very long weeks.”
Gemma focused on a happy reunion with all the family.
“If I got to 34 weeks, I would have a C-section. The aim was to keep them as long as possible. I didn’t get that far.”
The nurses and doctors monitored the babies day and night.
“I didn’t get much sleep, I was uncomfortable,” admits Gemma.
The babies weren’t interested in sleeping, they wanted to meet their dad and their big brother ASAP!
“I was two centimetres dilated when the doctor examined me,” says Gemma.
“I was in the high-dependency unit as a precaution for the day. There was no stopping now.”
The team got into action.
“The medical team were scrambled together. Each baby has its own team. It was 4pm. The team hoped to deliver the babies before the night shift began.”
It was a serious business.
“There was no conversation with the neonatologist. Jamie was allowed in two hours before the birth. Dads are not allowed into the neonatal, there were no mobile phones allowed, so no photos. It was a tough time for him and very emotional for us,” says Gemma.
There was a team at the ready in Kinsale who sprang into action when they got glad tidings of the triplets coming home.
“A friend in Ballinspittle told me about a lady near me who might know somebody interested in child-minding,” says Gemma.
“And she put me in touch with Trish Ryan.”
Trish was a fairy godmother.
“She popped round and said ‘what do you need?’ Before we knew it, the whole neighbourhood had organised a system, dropping meals at our door. The local GAA sent a hamper with nappies, sanitisers and baby wipes. Supplies just kept coming! A huge team of people got involved. The community was amazing.”
Was three a crowd in the close-knit Daly household?
“It could possibly get chaotic!
“I breast-fed the triplets for three and a half months,” says Gemma.
“It was the best thing to do for premature babies.”
She did the best things she could do for her sons.
“At birth, the babies couldn’t latch on, so I expressed my milk for four or five weeks. I also received donor milk as a supplement from kind ladies because the babies were under a certain weight.”
The babies were losing no time in thriving.
“At times I found it hard to keep up the demand!”
Was Gemma exhausted?
“Having a team to look after the babies in the neo-natal was the silver lining,” says Gemma.
“I had five weeks bed rest and I got the chance to bounce back. I was quite weak and I had no muscle tone. I was either sitting or just going down to the neo-natal unit.”
Coming back down to earth must have been a bit of a jolt?
“It was a lot of work, and it was exhausting,” says Gemma.
Feeding the babies was done with military precision.
“When the babies came out of neo they got into a four-hour feeding routine which I tried to keep up,” says Gemma.
“Having a regular routine is important. Even if they are still sleeping I wake them up at feeding time. Otherwise it really would get chaotic!”
“Ashton and Sebastian have no night feeds now. Hendrix just has one feed during the night.”
Nine months on, are the triplets still a novelty?
“I’m often walking down the street carrying one triplet in the carrier and with two in the buggy. People don’t realise I’m carrying another baby. They think it is one from the buggy! When they realise I have three babies they are stunned!”
Is going from being a mum of one to being a mum of four crazy?
“It is mad!” says Gemma.
“Jamie had one son, Oscar. Now he has four! Oscar got a shock at the start but the babies slept a lot. As they got bigger, they got more active. He was a bit put out then by the attention they were getting.”
But soon the crowd of three became a gang of four.
“They are a team of buddies now,” says Gemma.
Who is the leader of the pack?
“Sebastian, the eldest by two minutes, is the leader,” says Gemma.
“If a new toy arrives he will look at it and touch it first.
“Ashton is the observer. Hendrix is jolly and happy-go-lucky. But they have similarities like all brothers do.”
It is a good mix.
“On different days they are different people! Not what you expect!”
Gemma, in the throes of blissful motherhood, never expected to be diagnosed with Hyparthyroidism, a condition where too much of the hormone thyroxide is produced.
“I was experiencing heart palpitations. I didn’t feel right,” says Gemma.
“I thought maybe it was the stress of the babies. The thyroid consultant said it was all down to the pregnancy. A biopsy showed nothing sinister.”
But things became sinister.
“A week later I was called back to the private clinic which I thought strange,” says Gemma.
“I wasn’t going to bother... but I decided to go to the appointment.”
The C word came up.
“There was a tumour that needed to come out,” says Gemma.
“It was hard to comprehend. I was floored. I had surgery to remove the tumour,” say Gemma.
“It was a day surgery, which was good. The babies were so small I didn’t want to be away from them too long.”
The troops rallied once more.
“I couldn’t lift the babies after my surgery,” says Gemma.
“My dad flew over from London to help out.” The stress lessened considerably.
“I have a big scar on my neck and the significant margins around the tumour will continue to be tested to check for cancer cells. If there are none, I won’t be monitored again for five years. But I’m stress-free for Christmas.
“I hope both Dad and Mum can be with us for Christmas here in our own house if we’re Covid-free.”
Santa will be coming too.
“He will! says Gemma, smiling.