GREENFIELD, Ind. (AP) — It had to be a joke.
The moment Matt and Ashley Alexander saw two fetuses on an ultrasound monitor was breath-taking enough. They could handle twins.
But when the technician spotted a third, Matt piped up:
“Is this a joke?”
“She said, ‘Sir, we do not joke about this,'” Ashley recalled.
That was back in September.
Now that Ashley is just weeks away from delivering triplets – rare, identical triplets conceived naturally – sometimes the Greenfield couple still just pauses, looks at each other and shares a jittery laugh.
Juggling careers, a toddler and renovations to their home, the couple describes these moments leading up to meeting their three daughters as both precious and overwhelming.
But they say they have faith on their side.
“We knew God had a reason,” Ashley, 31, told the Daily Reporter (http://bit.ly/1KYVn0I ).
Married for five years, the Alexanders had their son, Stefan, in 2012.
Then in August of last year, Ashley was surprised with a positive pregnancy test. They had just gutted the interior of their home for renovations but were overjoyed at the thought of a new addition to their family in the spring.
Then Ashley’s clothes started feeling snug a little too quickly.
“I said, ‘Honey, I think there’s more than one,'” she recalled. “He said, ‘There’s no way there’s more than one.'”
It was during the ultrasound at eight weeks that they spotted three figures on the monitor.
“We didn’t cry; I just kept laughing and then spazzing and laughing,” Ashley said. “(Then I started thinking), ‘We have to buy a van,’ ‘We’re renovating our house.'”
The reactions they got from family ranged from “Why are you showing me three of the same ultrasound picture?” to squeals of delight.
It’s rare to conceive identical triplets naturally, but the exact odds are hard to pinpoint. Ashley has been poring over online articles about mothers like her, often stumbling on the statistic that they’re one in a million. Multiples in general are becoming increasingly more common through in vitro fertilization or fertility drugs, according to Dr. Lesley Regan, author of “I’m Pregnant.” Identical triplets happen when one egg is fertilized and divides into three separate embryos: the babies will share identical gene structures and, in the Alexanders’ case, share the same placenta.
The questions and comments the Alexanders have heard from family and strangers alike are seemingly endless.
“Was it through IVF?” No, Ashley says.
“Well then, how did it happen?” All I wanted was a back rub, she quips.
And then there’s the question they don’t really know how to answer yet: “How are you going to get by?”
Matt was born and raised in Hancock County and has family nearby. Ashley’s from Whiteland, so her family is less than an hour away. And there are friends and church acquaintances to lean on.
“How? We don’t know, we don’t have an exact plan,” Ashley said. “.You can plan whatever you want, but a child changes everything, whether it’s one, two or three.”
While they’ll lean on others, their jobs also provide flexibility so the couple can care for the children on their own. Matt is a supervisor for the New Castle-based Sproles Corp., which builds large churches on weekdays.
Ashley is a part-time nurse and works weekends. The way things are now, they’re able to trade off on caring for Stefan – something they’re grateful for and hope to continue after the triplets arrive.
Now 27 weeks along, Ashley is on modified bed rest. Multiples are usually born early, and Ashley hopes to make it at least three more weeks. She is trying to take it easy since a scare in December when she started having contractions at work.
“I couldn’t stop them; it became something that was out of my control, and I had all these great goals in my head, and I had to stop and realize God is in control of it and not me,” she said. “I had to let go and trust the people who knew more than I did, and it took medicine to stop it.”
These days, Ashley still has frequent contractions, and she worries about a medical scare while she’s caring for her 2-year-old.
And then there’s the overall discomfort of carrying three babies.
“Just last night, I felt a kick on my left and a hit on my right; then, I’ll have one push here, one push there, and I’ll have one pounce on my bladder,” she said.
So far, the girls seem to be healthy; three weeks ago, doctors estimated two of them weighed 1 pound, 4 ounces and one weighed 1 pound, 3 ounces.
There’s no date yet for when the triplets will arrive, but they do know it will be by cesarean section. The risks associated delivering naturally are too high, Ashley says. She hopes the girls will wait until at least mid-February, and even then, they’ll have to stay in a neonatal intensive care unit for several weeks before coming home.
That – maybe – will give the Alexanders time to at least try to put their house in order. The entire second floor of their home remains under renovation.
The Alexanders plan to stock up on the rest of their baby supplies after an upcoming shower. It’s hard to know how much to buy; Ashley estimates they’ll go through 7,000 diapers in the first year alone.
They’re also trying to prepare mentally, reading up on the techniques to survive. Ashley’s goal is getting all three on the same eating and sleeping schedule.
Matt is a bit of a skeptic.
“When one’s crying, there’s no way you can put her in bed with the other ones,” he said.
Stefan calls the babies his “sissies,” but Ashley and Matt know he can’t fully grasp what’s about to happen.
“He’s excited sometimes, but he doesn’t have a clue what’s coming at him,” Ashley said. “He knows there’s a baby coming; I don’t think he realizes there are three babies coming. He just thinks they’re a thing on a screen.”
One of the most common sentiments they hear about their upcoming daily existence with multiples: “Your lives are going to stop.”
“No, our children are an addition to our lives. They’re a part of our lives,” Ashley said. “We don’t view our children as an inconvenience. Our lives changed wonderfully because of our son, and it’ll change even better for our triplets.”
Put simply, Ashley adds, children “make marriage a family.”
So while they don’t know when the girls will arrive, how the surgery will go or how they’ll manage a crazy new household, the Alexanders have hope in a greater power to get them through the most uncertain of times.
“We just believe in the sanctity of life and that God has a reason,” Ashley said. “We don’t know the reasons always, but that’s where our faith comes in.”
Information from: (Greenfield) Daily Reporter, http://www.greenfieldreporter.com
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