Abu Dhabi: Overcoming COVID-19 and a high-risk pregnancy, a Pakistani couple in the UAE has become first-time parents to triplets this year.
With their trio turning three months old in April, Iqra Nasim, 28, and her husband, Sarmad, are both heaving sighs of relief, while also bracing for more sleepless nights, and vigilance amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“My husband always believed we would be parenting multiples when we eventually started a family because we have twins among our relatives. But finding out we were having triplets was still a huge surprise, and I never thought we would be having them amid a global pandemic,” Nasim, a homemaker, told Gulf News.
“It has been an exhilarating journey already, and with my babies being such balls of energy, things show no sign of letting up any time soon,” the mommy said.
Spontaneous triplet pregnancies are rare, and only one in 4,000 couples experiences one. In fact, Nasim and her husband, who have been married for three years, first found out they were expecting triplets when she was about two months along.
She narrated how she had gone to see a doctor because she had been feeling unwell.
“The physician performed a routine scan and told me nonchalantly, ‘You are fine and all your babies are doing okay’. I didn’t think much of it, and simply corrected her, saying that this one would be my first baby. She then showed me on the screen how I was expecting not one but three babies!” Nasim said.
Bumps along the way
The news was greeted joyously by the couple’s families, and they prepared for what could be a high-risk pregnancy. Nasim said her doctor warned her about the risks, and told her to be extremely careful. She had to be hospitalised for about five days when she ended up dehydrated during the first trimester. This was when they saw the early signs of how COVID-19 would impact their pregnancy.
“I was all alone in the hospital because of COVID-19 restrictions, and it was very surreal. I’m sure things would have been quite different had there been no pandemic, and my family would have been around to provide assistance. But as it happened, even my husband could not accompany me during my stay, and likewise, he was unable to attend many of my doctor’s visits,” she said.
Brush with COVID-19
In the fifth month, Nasim and her husband, who works as an auditor in Dubai, found out they were expecting two girls and a boy.
But then, a few weeks later, the couple came face to face with what they were dreading. Some members of Nasim’s extended family in the UAE tested positive for COVID-19, and when she herself began experiencing symptoms, she decided to get tested. “I had a cough and tremendous bodyache, and I had been in contact with a few relatives a few days earlier. So I got a PCR test, and it confirmed what were some of our worst fears — I had COVID-19. I soon began developing a fever at night, and we were very, very afraid at the time,” Nasim recalled.
She isolated herself at home, and her husband — who had tested negative and was working from home at the time — waited on her round-the-clock, nursing her from a safe distance. “My doctor prescribed only three days of antibiotics, and I rested up. Meanwhile, my husband tended to all my needs and my parents sent over food. It was isolating, and I was very scared and stressed. The bodyache was really bad, and the coughing hurt a lot,” Nasim said.
At the turn of two weeks however, she began feeling better and a subsequent PCR test came out negative. “My cough lasted for two to three more weeks, but I was relieved to have beat COVID-19,” Nasim said.
Once she was in the clear, Nasim and her husband began preparing for the arrival of the babies. Again, this was also coloured by COVID-19 and its related restrictions, and Nasim said she had to plan out her shopping carefully.
The average gestational age for triplets is about 32 weeks, and the obstetrician had told Nasim she could expect to delivery any time after the 28th week. But the young mother-to-be got up to 34 weeks without much incident.
On January 7, she suddenly started experiencing labour pains, and rushed to the hospital. “My doctors took a look and decided it was safest to get the babies out. My target had been to get to 35 weeks, and since I was at 34 weeks and four days, it seemed right,” Nasim remembered.
An emergency C-section was performed and at just about midday on January 7, Nasim and her husband became first-time parents to three healthy triplets, weighing about 2kg each. The overjoyed couple named their two daughters Zynah and Zimmal, and their son Ibrahim.
The babies remained in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit for about two weeks. One by one, Nasim and her husband were able to take their babies home to the next chapter of their lives.
“My husband was home with me for a month after the delivery. But when he went back to work, there was just so much to do. I had a maid to help around the house, but being parents to triplets can feel rather never-ending, with the constant feeding and diaper changes,” Nasim said.
The young parents got down to tending to their babies, and began dealing with the constant feedings and sleepless nights.
Travelling with triplets
When the babies turned about two months, Nasim bravely travelled to Pakistan with them for her younger sister’s wedding. Her father and brother accompanied her during the flight, and helped with the triplets.
Once she reached Pakistan however, Nasim found that she had to be extra careful. She had wanted to be present for her sister’s being day, but with the COVID-19 outbreak growing, she has had to be extra careful. “I rarely allow anyone to carry or touch the babies, and I keep them away from all the gatherings. In essence, they are hidden away in a room, but this is the only way to protect them now,” she said.
The impact of COVID-19 has of course been unmistakable throughout their journey as new parents. For example, even though the couple has many relatives residing in the UAE, very few have actually been able to visit the triplets till date, simply because of COVID-19 precautions.
“We insist that even those who come by first test for COVID-19. Of course, so many more people would have come by if there had been no COVID-19 outbreak because everyone is excited to see the triplets, but this is just how things have to be for the moment,” Nasim said.
In addition, Sarmad himself contracted COVID-19 after his family left to Pakistan. “It must have been so hard for him since he was all alone, but thankfully, he has tested negative and is recovering now,” Nasim said.
In the meantime, the babies are growing quickly. Nasim said they laugh and giggle often, and watch colourful objects with keen interest. “Here in Pakistan, they are mesmerised by ceiling fans. And I can already see how active they are going to be as growing children,” the mother said.
The trio already keep her on her toes constantly, and Nasim said she hasn’t slept a full night in more than six months now. “Then again, when we look at our babies during a moment of calm, we feel so very blessed, praise be to God,” the proud mommy added.