Dr Penman – My Premature Triplets

Dr Penman – My Premature Triplets is an emotive article from Dr Penman, a fetal medicine specialist. Readers may find some of the content of this post distressing. Dr Penman would like to remind others that this is his account of his own experiences and does not necessarily reflect what other parents of premature babies might encounter.

My wife and I with our triplets in 1992

The triplets’ birth

In 1992, my wife Helen and I welcomed premature triplets – two girls and one boy – who were born at 27 weeks of pregnancy. The triplets each weighed less than 2lbs – an average baby born full-term weighs between 7-9 lbs.

Whilst we did expect that our triplets would be born before they reached full-term, we weren’t expecting them to come quite as early as they did, at 27 weeks; In the UK about 8% of births occur prematurely. Of this number only 5% occur before 28 weeks, 10% occur between 28-32 weeks and 85% occur between 32-37 weeks. The cause of premature birth is often unknown but there are number of risk factors including being pregnant with more than one baby.

My wife and I with our premature triplets outside St Thomas’ Hospital, London in Spring 1992

Some health problems

After he was born, our son suffered a haemorrhage in the motor cortex of his brain which led to him later being diagnosed with cerebral palsy. One of our daughters had a haemorrhage in the brain ventricles and later developed hydrocephalus. This, thankfully, resolved on its own without the need for medical intervention.

One of our daughters shortly after she was born

The triplets’ homecoming

At the end of August 1992, our triplets finally came home. This was a particularly poignant time, as it was around their original due date. Whilst our son remained on 24-hour oxygen for another year after this, we focused on the fact that he was healthy enough to be home with us and his sisters.

All three triplets finally at home together in August 1992

Coping with premature babies

The birth of our triplets was a very difficult time. For a while, there was a great deal of uncertainty as to whether or not they would live. Even after they were out of critical care, it remained to be seen how they would thrive. We tried not to think too much about the “what ifs” and focused on what we could know – that each and every day with our babies signalled another day that they were growing and fighting.

My wife with our triplets in the Intensive Care Unit of St Thomas’ Hospital, London

26 years on and our plans for this year’s World Prematurity Day

Our triplets are now grown up; our daughters are married and working, and our son is studying for his PhD. One of my daughters is expecting her own baby early next year.

As this year’s World Prematurity Day falls on a Saturday, I will be holding my usual Saturday baby scan and gynaecology clinics in Kent all day. In the evening, my wife and I will be having dinner with our triplets and their families, grateful for the fact they are all here today.

The whole Penman family together

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Beauty In A Maze
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Beauty In A Maze

This is such an inspiring story! Not only did they manage to have triplets, they had them early and yet they were still able to survive. I think people that are able to help their children survive after being born prematurely have a much deeper relationship with their children than parents that didn’t have many complications or any at all. In my opinion, it could be because someone who had no complications during birth aren’t faced with the idea of losing their children before their lives have even started, which means that sometimes their children’s lives are taken for granted.… Read more »

Matthew
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Matthew

Oh wow! What beautiful babies they were. I have 4 children myself but no sets of triplets, or even twins for that matter but I would have loved to have twins. I have heard from a few friends of mine who has had twins and they said it was quite hard work when they were born looking after them but it seems like you had it even harder with triplets and with your son being born with a brain heamorrhage and cerebral palsy. It seems like he is doing really well for himself now though going for his pHd. That’s… Read more »

Heidi Yates
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Heidi Yates

I came across your site as I have a friend expecting triplets and felt I needed a bit more information so I could at least talk logically with her about what to expect. So far her pregnancy is going well so while she is not expecting a full term pregnancy, obviously she’s hopeful of a lot later than 27 weeks as was you case. I had no idea there was a World Prematurity Day so thanks for sharing this information. It is so heartwarming to hear your children are all now grown and doing so well. My very best wishes to… Read more »

Bill
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Bill

I am so glad there was a happy ending to this story, and that all the triplets are alive and well. This is very good information and shows how important it is to have a baby scan and to be under the care of a professional such as yourself. Thank you for sharing,

Is there anything that can be done to prevent premature births?

Bill

andy
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andy

My youngest daugther was born slightly premature.  Though I did not have triplets, the worry that we faced was very similar.  She also had the cord wrapped around her neck and was a breach baby.  She almost didn’t make it which was the scariest thing for a parent to face, but thankfully she is a fighter and was able to make it.  She does have some learning difficulties, possibly from birth, but that doesn’t matter at all.  What matters is that she made it and she is here with us today.  I could not even imagine my life without her.

Susan
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Susan

Dr. Penman, Your work sounds impressive and very helpful to mothers prior to giving birth.  Your story of how you and your wife were able to cope with three premature babies all at once is an inspiration to others.  The problems that can happen when a baby is born prematurely are countless and the more aware women are the better.  Taking care of themselves during their pregnancy is vital.  I am always amazed when I find stores like yours of the success that comes from a loving and nurturing family and how the babies can survive and turn into loving… Read more »

Genesis
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Genesis

What an inspiring post! I’m so glad your babies grew and thrived adn are now grown up. It’s so amazing that they can go from so tiny to full grown. I follow a family with quads on Facebook and they were also very, very tiny when born and are now six years old and running around. Is the younger boy in the photo your son or your grandson?

Michael
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Michael

I’m glad to hear that even with all the complications your children had when born, that they came out alright and are doing well.

my twin and I were born premature as well, and both the doctors didn’t know if we’d make it. Luckily though we did and are both doing very well.

I have a quick question though. How hard was it raising 3 kids at one time? Did you get a lot of sleep, did you rotate who stayed up, and did you do anything to save money and curt back on cost?

JT
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JT

What a story and great family. Patience, determination, love and giving back by helping others. Ads a bright spot to the world making it a better place for all. I’m sure it has helped others out with their situation and given hope in the face of adversity. The fact that you have gone through having triplets and having such good luck and success is probably very comforting to your patients. 1st hand experience and not just science and advice.