A warm feeling of love embraces you from the moment you walk into the Patton’s home. It’s a real undiluted love in its purest sense, and it’s in every move which Maria Patton makes as she looks after her precious miracle babies.
The three Patton boys were born to mum Maria and dad Brian on November 30, but theirs was not an easy journey into this world, born at just 29 weeks (75 days premature) Noah came first at 2lbs 8oz; followed by Alex, 3lbs; and Reece at just 1lbs 10oz.
Maria and Brian’s journey was not an easy one either. Blessed with daughter Mia (now aged seven) the couple had tried for a number of years to add to their family. But fate intervened and unfortunately the couple lost two babies to miscarriage.
And then last spring Maria took a pregnancy test which returned two blue lines and changed their life in a heartbeat… or three. She explains, “I was so delighted to be pregnant, but my belly was shooting out so much that I was worried there was something wrong. I tried to get a scan as soon as I could, especially after the previous miscarriages, but was told the earliest we could get one was 15 weeks. I arranged to get a private scan at 12 weeks… and that’s when they told us there were three heartbeats.
“I laughed at first from the shock – they were conceived naturally so we weren’t expecting anything like this – and then I cried at how I was going to cope, and then I nearly fell off the table.
“From the very beginning Reece was the smallest baby, he was always below the markers. Noah and Alex shared a sac and Reece was on his own so realistically he should have been the biggest.”
When the couple went for their 26 week scan things started to look bleak for the Pattons. “We were told there were complications with regards all three. The medical advice was that we should sacrifice ‘triplet three’, which was Reece, to give the other two a better chance of survival.
‘We can’t play God’
“We couldn’t do it. I suppose I was stubborn and then I became fearful,” Maria explains. “The doctors were warning us about the repercussions of keeping all three – from bleeds on the brain, to the babies being born disabled. I said to Brian “are we doing the right thing”? He said ‘of course, we can’t play God’.
“So we just tried to keep going with what we thought was right.”
Maria remained in hospital from the day of her 26 week scan (November 6) and was scanned on a daily basis. When it came to delivery day there were no cots available in the Royal and Maria and Brian found themselves on their way to the Coombe Hospital in Dublin where an expert team awaited them.
“The staff at all the hospitals (Altnagelvin, the Royal, and the Coombe) were unreal,” Maria explained.
“The staff in the Coombe work 10am-10pm shifts, I arrived shortly after midnight and the staff had stayed on for me as they knew there was a triplet birth coming. It was so overwhelming, but the way it played out was the best for the babies.
“I think there were about 21 people in the delivery room. Three doctors for each of the babies and three for me, and the head consultant, nurses and midwives.
“The boys were delivered between 4.26 and 4.27am. Noah came first, and he gave a little gurgly cry; then Alex, he was pink and limp and needed help breathing; and then came Reece, he was very pale and blue, and limp. I saw Noah for a few seconds; Alex for a spilt-second; and I didn’t see Reece at all.
“They were all taken off to ICU. One of the doctors came to me and said ‘you are very lucky, take that on board, things are looking good’. I relaxed a bit then and slept for a while but when I woke up they told me Reece was struggling, his lungs had shut down. He didn’t actually feed for 10 days.
“There was very little we could do. It was very hard not even being able to hold my babies. So on December 4 we decided to get the babies baptised. We thought the worse from day dot for Reece as it seemed as if he was never meant to be here.
“I’m not really holy but this felt like the only gift I could give him. And from the very next day Reece just shot straight up. He was actually the first of the three who was fit to be moved to Altnagelvin. He went on December 10, Noah followed on December 11 and then Alex and I came up together on December 12.”
With mum Maria home in time for Christmas the Pattons still had a long road ahead of them. But it was a truly unforgettable moment for Brian and Maria as daughter Mia was able to meet her three baby brothers when she was allowed in to the ward to see them on Christmas Day.
Growing stronger by the day Alex and Noah were promoted to cots on January 3 and were able to come home on January 22 after 53 days in ICU, while little fighter Reece followed his brothers home on February 4, after 66 days in ICU.
Clearly delighted to have her ‘mummy’s boys’ home Maria is trying to establish an eating, sleeping, and feeding routine that works for them all. And it’s a routine which relies on some self-soothing as it’s impossible for Maria to be able to deal with each baby at the same time.
Both Brian and Maria are thankful for all the support they have received from their families and friends, in particular their mothers Rose Patton and Kathleen Nicholas who take a night shift each during the week.
After just a few weeks each of the boys have already made their presence felt in their home. “You can see their personalities already,” Maria explains. “Reece is the smallest, but he’s the loudest. Noah is the most chilled, but when he shouts he wakes the rest of them, and Alex is the greedy one, he just loves his food.”
Faced with all the craziness of bringing up a baby multiplied by three Maria doesn’t shy away from the task. “I’ve seen them fighting all along, so the least I can do is keep going and be there for them, my miracles babies. We are so blessed.
“And it might be three times the work… but it’s also three times the love,” she beams.
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