A mother who beat one in 200 million odds to have identical triplets naturally has spoken of her delight at having her babies home.
Lorraine Burke (36), from Belleeks outside Newry, and her partner, Robert Devlin, now have to juggle the challenges of being new parents on a scale unimaginable to most after the smallest of their daughters, Eve, was finally allowed to come home.
Lorraine defied the odds to conceive identical triplets naturally and gave birth to blue-eyed bundles Paula, Eve and Kate at the Royal Jubilee Hospital on June 30, 31 weeks into her pregnancy.
Kate, who weighed 3lb 6oz when born, was the heaviest, followed closely by Paula at 3lb 4oz and finally little Eve at 2lb 12oz.
After spending some time in the intensive care baby unit at the Belfast hospital, the babies were transferred to the special baby unit at Daisy Hill, Newry, where Eve remained in the children’s ward while she grew stronger and a feeding routine became established.
She was finally allowed home two months after she was born to join the other triplets and older siblings Lisa (8) and four-year-old Jason at the family’s home at Belleeks just outside Newry.
“This is the first time we will have had the three girls at home together, so it is a very special time for us,” said Lorraine.
“The house is awash with pink at the moment and although it will be busy, and probably a bit frantic, we are thrilled they are all well enough to be home after being in hospital for two months.
“So far, we have only had Paula and Kate for a short spell before Kate was taken back into hospital with a reflux problem.
“I suppose in some ways, it has given me a gentle introduction to coping with three small babies, but my main worry will be telling them apart.
“When the two were home together, I developed a system of plain bodysuits for Paula and patterned for Kate — but that won’t work now that Eve is home too.
“They are all so alike — all have the same amount of dark hair, all have big blue eyes, the same little button noses, and now all over 5lb in weight so it is virtually impossible to tell them apart.
“That is the reason I have kept their hospital wristbands on, although my friend has bought bracelets engraved with each baby’s name so that will help me not to get them mixed up for now,” added Lorraine.
And as a consequence of her own experience, Lorraine is now lending her support to a new campaign by TinyLife, Northern Ireland’s premature baby charity, to recruit more volunteers in the Newry/South Armagh area to help other mothers struggling to cope.
Identical triplets occur when one fertilised egg splits to create separate embryos and it is thought the odds of this happening naturally could be as high as one in 200 million.
Non-identical triplets occur when three separate eggs are fertilised and this is more common in women who have undergone fertility treatment. When a routine scan revealed three heartbeats instead of one, it was a lot for Lorraine to take on board — especially when there had been no family history of twins, triplets or multiple births on either family’s side.
However, while the the arrival of the triplets has been a shock to the system, Lorraine said: “It took a while to come to terms with the fact that everything was going to have to be multiplied by three — and I know it’s not going to be easy — but as well as three times the work we have three times the joy.
“I know I probably won’t get a full night’s sleep for two years at least and my social life will be zero, but I wouldn’t change my girls for anything.”
Tiny Life, the charity which helps mums like Lorraine, currently needs more volunteers and anyone who feels they could spare a few hours a week to help new mums in difficult circumstances should contact the charity.
Anyone who would like further information about TinyLife should visit www.tinylife.org.uk or those offering their support should contact Janice on 028 9081 5050.