'I've been told never to expect a cup of hot tea again!' - new mum as two sets of triplets born in same hospital hours apart
The proud parents of one of two sets of triplets born within 24 hours at a hospital in Co Down have told of the moment they found out they were expecting their trio.
The first triplets arrived at the maternity unit of the Ulster Hospital in Dundonald last Tuesday when Brendan and Kirsty McMenamin, from Downpatrick, became parents to a baby girl and two boys.
Little Zoey, Cameron and Brody weighed in at between 4.7lbs and 5lbs.
The following day, Claire and Johnny Stewart, from Donaghadee, welcomed three baby girls, Annie, Libby and Evie weighing between 4.4lbs and 5.1lbs.
Proud parents Claire and Johnny Stewart recalled the incredible moment they found out they were expecting triplets.
Johnny said: "We had an early scan, I remember sitting there at the appointment and just listening to the consultant say, ‘Do you want to hear something interesting’, and then he said, ‘It’s twins, there’s two in there’.
"And then before we had a chance to recover from that, he said, ‘Actually hold on a minute’ and he moved around and around and said ‘actually it’s three, it’s triplets.’
"From that day forward we had to just take everything as it comes," he added.
Claire said while she was shocked herself, she was also taken aback at how composed her husband was.
She said: "I was definitely very shocked and wasn’t really sure how to respond.
"I think one of my first responses was, ‘I’m so glad my mum’s retired’.
"I also was shocked at Johnny’s response, how composed he was, he asked really sensible questions like ‘are they identical’. I just kind of lay there completely shocked but really delighted and excited about the news."
She added: "The practicalities can soon come into your head, ‘I only have two hands what do I do with the third one?’.
Their three little girls made their arrival slightly earlier than expected.
Claire said: "We had been provisionally booked in for the girls to be born on Friday but they had different ideas and they decided on Wednesday morning it was their time to arrive.
"It was all a big rush and we worried we might have to go to a different hospital."
She continued: "We were delighted we could stay here. We were really impressed with the speed of the teams response.
"They reacted really quickly and we are really thankful for that."
But despite a quick dash to the hospital Johnny said everything was remarkably calm — apart from a rather crowded theatre room.
He said: "The birth was all very calm apart from the fact there were well over 20 people in the theatre and we know some students were looking in from the windows as well.
"And apart from how busy and crowded the room was the staff were fantastic and making sure we were involved and we knew everything that as happening.
"That I knew what was happening with Claire when she wasn’t with me, and just managing our expectations, they were very good.
"Even when the children needed to go into intensive care the way the staff informed us and made us aware of their needs and how they were being helped, and also brought us into the care as the infants’ condition improved and as our skills became a wee bit better, the quality and the support and love and care of the staff made it the experience it has been."
For the family, the most special moment was when they got to hold their children.
Claire said: "We were totally overwhelmed, I just lay there with the tears rolling down my face. Just to hear their cries was amazing and we knew they were well and we could hold them before the teams took them off.
"Two of the girls had to go to the neonatal ward but it was just wonderful to know they got here safely and they were in the right hands."
Johnny added: "It was really special. We got to hold them in the theatre which was brilliant and then there was a wee bit of a gap between that and getting out of their incubators.
"But from the very start we have been allowed to be hands-on even when we weren’t holding them or cuddling them, we were allowed to stroke their faces or change their nappies and eventually get into the feeding programme.
"The staff have been fantastic at bringing us along in that."
The history of twins runs in Claire’s side of the family as her younger brother and sister are twins.
She said: "My mum had four of us under four and she’s signed up to move into the spare room when required."
But the family said it really hit them when they started receiving cards from family and friends that listed all their names.
Johnny said: "When we saw all the names all in a wee card as a family receiving post together that really warmed our hearts, it’s lovely.
"We haven’t really got used to the idea there are 5 of us yet, because the other two have been getting intensive and special care, but I think when we get them home we’ll have another wave of emotions when we get to grips with the highs and lows of all the feeds and changes, washes and doing all the laundry, but we’ll get there and take each day at a time."
And now, the family are looking forward to getting home.
Claire said: "I think to begin with I’ve mixed emotions about getting home, I will be delighted to have the girls together and us in our home as a family.
"But it’s also really nice having the nurses here and they’ve been an amazing help and support.
"So there is excitement and fear about landing home with the three girls. But I’ll be looking forward to sleeping in my own bed and getting a nice cup of tea, hopefully hot, but I’ve been told not to have too high expectations of ever having hot tea again."