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The babies at the NICU. Image Credit: Supplied

Abu Dhabi: A Nepali couple in the UAE capital have become first-time parents, welcoming not one but three babies into their lives.

Mother Alisha Suwal, 30, and the babies are all doing well, and the children have finally been taken home after spending five weeks in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. “Right now, we are sleep-deprived, and trying to set up a routine for ourselves. Fortunately, both my husband and I are off from work, and this is giving us a chance to settle in,” Suwal told Gulf News. “We had a generally smooth pregnancy, but this is a whole new ball game for us,” she added.

Spontaneous conception

Suwal and her husband, Vivek Sreshta, a 27-year-old security supervisor, have been married for eight years. Having made plans to start a family, they expected to welcome two children. But the triplets were spontaneously conceived, and the couple only found out at the height of the COVID-19 pregnancy. “I had gone down for my three-month scan alone. It was at the height of the COVID-19 restrictions in April. So imagine my shock when the doctor told me that we would soon become parents to triplets. I was shocked, scared and yet excited,” Suwal said. “I have three sets of twins in my extended family, but ours are the first triplets,” Sreshta added.

According to Dr Walid El Sherbiny, head of department for obstetrics and gynaecology at Medeor Hospital, spontaneous triplet pregnancies only occur once in every 6,400 pregnancies. The biggest predictor for a multiple pregnancy is family history of multiples, he said.

Careful pregnancy

After the initial announcement, the couple set about managing the pregnancy. Suwal said the first trimester was especially tough because she could barely stomach anything, but after that, things were progressing fairly smoothly. And having no previous experience, she didn’t feel that her pregnancy was particularly difficult.

Suwal, who works as receptionist at a popular retailer, had already been told to take extra care, and she received permission to work from home. She also avoided strenuous household activities, and opted for a lot of rest. It was a challenge, especially as Sreshta had to manage the daily chores after returning from work. But they ploughed through. “We did not know the gender of the babies since they were never positioned suitably during the scans. So we got baby clothes in pink, blue and other unisex colours,” Suwal said.

Sudden bleeding

In August, the couple had marked a simple baby shower with friends and family virtually. But Suwal woke up to find some bleeding, and told her husband that she was in pain. “We were just seven and a half months into the pregnancy, and although the doctors had said our children would come before the due date because it was a triplet pregnancy, we didn’t expect that it would be that soon. But we rushed to the hospital anyway for a check,” Sreshta explained.

Dr El-Sherbiny explained that Suwal did not go into labour, but that one of the babies’ amniotic sacs had ruptured, leading to the bleeding and discomfort.

Delivery at 31 weeks

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Shrestha and Suwal with the triplets and hospital staff. Image Credit: Supplied

“[Suwal] was only 31 weeks pregnant, but it was deemed safest to deliver the babies. We first gave medicines to improve the babies’ brain and lung maturity, and the babies were then born on August 29,” Dr El-Sherbiny said. He added that Suwal did well after the delivery, and was discharged without any complications after just three days.

Care in NICU

On the other hand, the babies had to remain in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). Dr Govinda Shenoy, head of department for neonatology at VPS Healthcare, said preterm babies typically face respiratory distress because their lungs are not fully developed at birth. Many are also unable to tolerate oral feeding initially, and can develop intestinal infections as a result.

“We wanted to make sure that they were able to suckle and swallow, and be able to take all their feedings orally. Weighing 1,230 grams, 1,280 grams and 1,320 grams, they were small but after the first week, all three were able to feed orally. We kept them at the NICU for nearly four more weeks to ensure that they did not stop breathing, which can happen suddenly to preemie babies before 34 weeks,” Dr Shenoy explained.

Sreshta would bring in expressed breastmilk for the babies’ feeding multiple times a day. Herself recovering from the C-section, Suwal would also visit once a day, spending some time with her daughters and waiting for them to return home. Found to be healthy, they were finally discharged at the beginning of October.

Babies at home

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The couple at home with the babies. Image Credit: Supplied

The couple named their daughters Viyana, Avilasha and Ariyana. Taking them home, they finally got down to parenting three babies who often cry, get hungry and need to be changed all at the same time. “We don’t have childcare support at the moment, but my employer gave me two months off and my wife is on maternity leave. We are now sorting out all the paperwork, and planning to fly down to Nepal so our parents can help us out for a while,” Sreshta said.

Suwal added that they would love to raise their daughters in the UAE, but that the cost of education is a major obstacle. “I want to go back to work as well, so we’ll have to figure out how to actually do this,” she added.