Lindsay and Simon Fernandez always wanted to have three children but never expected they would arrive all at once.
The Cairns couple recently arrived at the Special Care Nursery (SCN) at Cairns Hospital with identical twin girls Hazel and Willow, and little boy Luca, who were born at Townsville University Hospital at 32 weeks on October 9.
The Cairns Hospital Special Care Nursery is a temporary home for the family, as the triplets grow stronger and work towards independent feeding, so the family can head home together.
Prescribed letrozole, a medication that stimulates ovulation, Lindsay and Simon knew twins were a possibility, but they never anticipated triplets at their seven-week dating scan.
‘At first there were two heartbeats. We had come to terms there was a chance of twins, so we didn’t bat an eyelid. A couple of minutes later they then found the third.
‘There were just no words. Simon was standing and I think his face went white and he said ‘I need to sit down’. It was a lot to take in.’
With triplets on the cards, the risk of premature birth and complications rise. It was discovered Lindsay had a shortened cervix, so at just 22 weeks’ pregnancy, the couple relocated to Townsville, supported by their employers to continue working.
‘We knew they were going to be premature babies and Townsville University Hospital (TUH) has got the facility to handle any risks,’ Lindsay said.
Cairns Hospital Special Care Nursery acting Nurse Unit Manager, Rebecca Capper, said the nursery worked closely with TUH, so that when babies and families were ready to return, they were supported with a smooth and timely transition.
‘This transition closer to home is an experience we are so lucky to be a part of; to support parents of twins and triplets into the next stage of their journey heading home,’ Rebecca said.
This year, Cairns Hospital has helped to support the birth and development of three sets of triplets and 36 sets of twins. Lindsay and the triplets returned to Cairns on Monday 31 October, with Simon arriving the day after.
‘Willow is the middle child, she’s the most boisterous,’ Simon says. ‘Hazel was down the bottom, she was always pinned so she’s quiet. Then Luca is a mix of the two. He went through a lot when he was born.’
Luca could not breathe unassisted and needed extensive support.
‘He was over everyone touching him,’ Simon says. ‘You had to hold him down, but he would start flailing with his hands. In the end he let everybody know when he was ready because he grabbed the tube in his chest and started pulling it out. And he pulled his own CPAC (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) off his face because he’d had enough of it.
‘This is all inside of him not even being a week old yet. Now he is also pretty relaxed. The nurses said all three of these babies are chilled out and relaxed.’
The biggest challenge with multiples is the reaction of others, according to Simon.
‘The worst part is every time you tell someone, they’ll say ‘it’s hard’ or ‘you’re stuffed now’. I’ve loved every second of it. I tell everybody if I’ve had a bad day at work, I come here and I pick one of them up and nothing else matters to me.’
The family are now preparing to bring their babies home, which they hope to do within weeks.
‘Because they are so premature their brains aren’t developed,’ Simon said. ‘For Luca in particular, he gets so hungry that he doesn’t breathe. He just starts the bottle and they don’t have the motor skills to know to suck, swallow, breathe. You have to pull the bottle out and they will breathe.
‘At the moment they are on a feeding tube but they are not far off getting the tubes out. They are advancing a lot faster than we expected. We are really excited to take them home.’