A Co Down hospital is celebrating the birth of two sets of healthy triplets in the space of just 24 hours.
A baby girl and two boys were delivered at the Ulster Hospital’s maternity unit on Tuesday, followed by three little girls Wednesday, last week.
Neonatal ward manager Alison Bartlett said it had been a number of years since any triplets had been born at the hospital, let alone two sets in 24 hours.
Brendan and Kirsty McMenamin, from Downpatrick, are the parents to the first trio to arrive.
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 tipped the scales at weights between 4.4lbs and 5.1lbs.
Ms Stewart said the timing of the birth had been a shock as they had been booked in for the birth on Friday, but that the girls “had different ideas”.
“They decided on Wednesday morning it was their time to arrive so it was all a big rush on Wednesday morning and we were worried we might have to go to a different hospital as we had been warned it depended on the availability of cots here in the Ulster,” she said.
From arriving at the hospital to the girls being born, they didn’t leave much time, but the team here reacted really quickly and we were really thankful for that.
She describing holding her daughters with tears running down her face after the birth.
“I had thought before I won’t know how to respond when I get handed the girls but just to hear their cries was just amazing, and we knew that they were well, and we could hold them just before the teams took them off, two of the girls had to go to the neonatal ward,” she said.
“It was just wonderful to know they had got here safely and were in the right hands.”
Mr Stewart described the birth as “very calm” despite there being more than 20 members of staff in the room to ensure all was going to plan.
“Apart from how busy and crowded the room was, the staff were fantastic at making sure we were involved, that we knew everything that was happening, that I knew what was happening to Claire whenever she wasn’t with me and managing our expectations,” he said.
Even whenever the children needed to go into intensive care, the way that the staff informed us and made us aware of their needs and how they were being helped, and then also brought us into the care as the infants’ condition improved and our skills became a wee bit better.
"I think the quality, support and love and care of the staff has really made it the experience that it has been.”
He said from the moment they found out they were having triplets, they took it one step at a time.
Ms Stewart added: “I was very shocked, wasn’t sure how to respond, think one of my first responses was, ‘I’m so glad my mum is retired’.
“I also was shocked at Johnny’s response, how composed he was, he asked really sensible questions like are they identical, whereas I lay there completely shocked but really delighted and excited about the news.
“The practicalities soon come into your head, things like I only have two hands, what do I do with the third one.
It really hit us when we looked at the statistics of how many triplets were born in Northern Ireland, which was the day after we had heard about it (the other set being born) and we realised how rare it was.
Ms Stewart said her younger brother and sister are twins.
“My mum had the four of us under four so she has good practice and has signed up to move into the spare room when required,” she said.
Mr Stewart said the first congratulations cards listing out all the names made it real that they had gone from a couple to a family of five.
“We haven’t really got used to the idea there is five of us yet because the other two have been getting intensive and then special care but whenever we get them home, we’ll get a whole other wave of emotions whenever we have to get to grips with the highs and lows of all the feeds and changes and washes and doing all the laundry but we’ll get there, take each day at a time,” he said.