The McDaid family feel ‘very lucky’ this new year as their triplets, born at 26 weeks in August, are at home, happy and thriving.
Baby girls Alyssa, Ella and Freya have joined their seven older siblings, Jordan (19), Lauren (16), Tyler (8) Kayla (5), Evie (4), Darcie (2), and Esmae (1) at their home in Buncrana.
With 10 children, seven of them aged five and under, it’s a very busy house for parents Jackie and Paul, but they told the ‘Journal’ they feel ‘blessed’ and wouldn’t have it any other way.
Jackie was 10 weeks pregnant when she found out she was having triplets, but knew beforehand that ‘something was different.’ She initially thought she could be carrying twins, something she had always wanted.
The couple went for a private scan, as Jackie ‘had to find out’ and saw two babies on the screen.
“I asked her: ‘Is it two?” Jackie recalled. “She leaned over to me and said: ‘There’s three’.” Paul ‘sank into the seat’ when he heard the news and the couple said they then both ‘laughed with shock.’
Jackie added: “I remember saying: ‘What am I going to do? I have a three year old, a two year old and a one year old already.” After the initial shock wore off though, they were delighted and ‘just got on with it.’
Jackie was told she’d be looked after by Holles Street Hospital in Dublin and at 15 weeks pregnant it was found there may be a problem with Ella and Alyssa, who are identical. It was confirmed they had twin to twin transfusion syndrome, which was putting them at risk, and Jackie had to undergo laser ablation surgery in a bid to rectify it. This put all babies at risk, which was ‘very scary.” Thankfully, it was successful and the pregnancy progressed well. However, at 25 weeks, Jackie began to get very uncomfortable and was in pain.
“I didn’t know if this was normal with triplets and got checked out but was told all was ok. On the Wednesday I had a glucose test in Letterkenny and told them I wasn’t feeling the best. It turned out that my waters had broken and I was having contractions, but couldn’t feel them.”
Letterkenny Hospital administered steroids to help the babies’ lungs and Magnesium Sulphate for their brains and Jackie was flown by coastguard helicopter to Holles Street, arriving at Dublin Airport, where she was met by two ambulances and a Garda escort. There, it was found the twin to twin transfusion syndrome had returned and the girls were born on Friday, August 23 when Jackie was exactly 26 weeks pregnant.
Freya weighed 900g (2 lb), Ella was 630g and Alyssa was 650g.Paul said the hospital was ‘happy’ the girls were all over 500g and all three remained quite stable the entire time they were in hospital. Freya did suffer a collapsed lung and underwent lazer eye surgery. Each girl also underwent four blood transfusions each and Jackie told how she ‘panicked’ when she was informed of them. But, the medical team reassured them that these and everything else the girls went through were ‘quite common’ for premature babies.
The logistics of looking after three babies in Dublin and seven children at home in Donegal was ‘very difficult,’ particularly as Paul had to return to work.
The couple received some respite in the form of the charity-run Hugh’s House, in which they were able to stay in Dublin, and told of how the team at Holles Street were ‘amazing.’ The couple worked out a schedule of who would be in Dublin and Donegal and when Freya was 12 weeks old, she came home, to the excitement of her siblings.
At one stage, it looked like one baby may be home, another would be in Dublin and another in Letterkenny Hospital. But, much to the family’s relief, Ella and Alyssa were both transferred to Letterkenny. All the girls were home in Buncrana on December 5 - just over three months after they were born.
The family were all together for Christmas which was ‘great’ and ‘very busy,’ as is life with triplets and seven ‘amazing’ other children, who Jackie said are a ‘brilliant help’ to her and Paul.
Freya is now 8lb 8, Ella is 7lb 3 and Alyssa is 7lb 6. While looking after the triplets is ‘constant’ and neither parent gets any time to themselves they feel ‘very lucky.’ Jackie said: “Someone is definitely looking out for these babies.”
Paul agreed “Everything worked out well for them after all they went through. Even the two days, from when Jackie was having contractions until they were born on the Friday, helped them. They’re definitely being looked after.”