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Friday, 29 May 2015

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Three times the joy as family celebrates triplets’ birthday

It was a first birthday party that was remarkable for the fact there were two sets of triplets present.

Stephen and Gemma Schollick with their year-old triplets from the left Andrew, Aidan and Alfie.

Alfie, Andrew and Aidan Schollick were joined in the soft-play at Haltwhistle Leisure Centre by three sisters who were born the week before them at Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary.

Their parents have stayed in touch ever since, which has been a god-send as far as Gemma and Stephen Schollick are concerned.

“When we talk to them, we know they understand in a way other people don’t,” said Gemma.

The couple had a roller-coaster of a ride in the months between learning they were expecting triplets and the fortnight during which they finally got them all home from hospital.

They never got round to placing a birth announcement in the Courant, such was the stressful run of events at the time, but they did finally place a Happy Ad marking the boys’ first birthday.

It was more of a milestone than for most!

They were born on January 29 last year, nine weeks early. Alfie was the smallest – and he still is – at 2lb 2oz; his identical twin, Andrew, was 3lb 3oz and Aidan was 3lb 6oz.

The couple had already endured the ordeal of two miscarriages and then, in September 2010, the stillbirth of a daughter who was born at full-term.

With three older children – Ben (10), Joshua (8) and, just 10 months younger, Sophie, who is also eight – they were planning only one more.

So it was something of a surprise when a scan appeared to show twins.

“I thought ‘we can cope with that’,” said Gemma. “But then I went for another scan the following week, and Stephen wasn’t with me that time, and that’s when they told me we were having triplets.

“I just sat and cried”

The situation was put into perspective, however, when medics explained the high risk of miscarriage with triplets.

Having lost three babies in a row, Gemma was quick to decline the offer to reduce the number of foetuses she was carrying in order to give the remaining one/s a stronger chance of survival.

She said: “You can’t pick and choose, can you? I just realised that whatever was meant to be, would be.”

The couple are frequently asked if the boys were the result of IVF treatment, but they were conceived naturally.

“If I was going to spend that type of money, I would have been in the Bahamas!” said Gemma, wryly.

When she was 18 weeks pregnant, a scan revealed the umbilical cord supporting Alfie was inordinately short, so Gemma had to go in to be scanned twice a week from there on in.

So the family took no chances when she woke up with a bad back one Sunday – Stephen and her mum persuaded her to go to hospital for a check-up.

“I don’t have very long labours,” she said. “So when we got there, they said they were going to keep me in.

“Stephen went to get my bag from the car, but by the time he got back, they were whisking me down to theatre.

“I wanted a natural delivery, but they said no because of Alfie’s cord, but as it was, he came out first and quickly.

“They were already performing the caesarian section, so the other two were born that way.”

There weren’t enough cots in the special care unit at the RVI, so Aidan was initially sent to a hospital in Stockton. He was brought back a few days later, only for there to be another shortage at the RVI, at which point he and Andrew were dispatched to Cumberland Infirmary at Carlisle.

“We spent a lot of time on the A69!” said Stephen.

“It was difficult, because we had the three at home and then the boys in two different hospitals. We were trying to split ourselves between three places.”

Luckily, Gemma’s mum and sister live in the house directly opposite theirs on Haltwhistle’s Capel Avenue, and her aunty is further down the street. “Honestly, if I open the door and shout, somebody comes,” she said.

Sophie, it has to be said, is a little disappointed, because she’s got five brothers instead of the little sister she really wanted.

But she cheered up when her parents promised to call one of them Aidan, the middle name she had been given in honour of her late grandfather.

“She does a lot for being eight years old and now she regards Aidan as hers,” said Gemma.

“The others gang up on him, because he’s the softy. I think that’s because Sophie sits and plays with him so much, he doesn’t need to fight for anything.”

Alfie is the mischievous one, always trying to climb and explore, and Andrew is the friendly one, greeting visitors with a big smile.

Fortunately, the Newcastle and Carlisle hospitals synchronised their feeding patterns at four-hourly intervals so that by the time they came home, their parents wouldn’t be up all night, every night. Now, the boys sleep soundly for around 11 hours a night.

Stephen said: “They are on the go pretty much all day long though, so I’ve got to admit, it’s nice when they get their pyjamas on at 7pm – you finally get a chance to sit down.”