Three bundles of joy

IN September 1999, Jane Ingram made medical history when her triplets were delivered successfully - despite one of the trio developing outside her womb.

IN September 1999, Jane Ingram made medical history when her triplets were delivered successfully - despite one of the trio developing outside her womb.

Reporter Liz Hearnshaw spoke exclusively to the Suffolk mother about the ordinary lives of her three extraordinary children.

THE three youngest children in the Ingram household are like any other toddlers - bright, mischievous, and a lot of hard work.

They are blissfully unaware of the impact their entrance into the world made nearly five years ago, when shockwaves were sent rippling through the medical community as a result of their birth.

For Ronan, one of the trio, had developed in his mother's fallopian tube as an ectopic pregnancy, creating his own “womb” with his own blood supply and beating odds of more than 100 million to one to survive. Experts began describing his birth as a miracle of modern medicine.

But, despite the amazing circumstances which brought Ronan, Olivia and Mary into the world, their parents Jane and Mark are determined they should be treated no differently to their big brothers and sisters.

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“I always wanted a large family but never imagined it would be this big,” said Mrs Ingram, 37, from her home in Thurston, near Bury St Edmunds. “But all our children are special in their own way.

“Bringing up multiples is completely different to raising one or two siblings, but there is no handbook to help you through. We just do our best and deal with problems as and when they happen.

“Although things are still hard, and probably will be for a few more years yet, we just keep strong and keep going.”

Mrs Ingram learnt that she was expecting triplets 11 weeks into her “nightmare” pregnancy, but only discovered one was ectopic at 28 weeks during an ultra-sound scan at the West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds.

Although both mother and babies could have died at any point, the news gave doctors the chance they needed to ensure mother and triplets had the best possible chance of survival. Experts at King's College Hospital, in London, worked out how best to deliver the babies, with a team of 26 on hand to assist with a complicated Caesarean section.

Unsurprisingly, Ronan, Mary and Olivia were all tiny at birth, weighing 2lbs 1oz, 2lbs 4oz and 2lbs 10oz respectively and needing round-the-clock care to nurse them through their first few days.

“The pregnancy was not very nice at all. It was very uncomfortable, quite painful and a nuisance,” remembered Mrs Ingram, who works part-time as a carer. “I just glad it happened to me and not somebody else, as I wouldn't want anyone to have to go through that. It was nature going wrong, and just something we had to experience.

“But we were very fortunate. If it had not been for the radiographer at the West Suffolk Hospital, none of us would be here. Had she failed to spot Ronan, I would have had a normal Caesarean and we would have lost our lives. We were very lucky.”

And when the trio returned home to Suffolk three months later, their older brother and sisters were delighted with the newest additions to the household - which took the number of children in the family to seven.

But, although the hardest part was over, life still had its ups and downs for the Ingrams. The triplets rapidly grew up and started nursery school, but Mark, 38, was made redundant and was forced to take a salary cut when he found another job.

However, his new employment has left him with more free time to spend with his children, including Sam, now 18, 14-year-old Rachel and step-sons Daniel, also 14, and seven-year-old Thomas.

“Mark's work now fits in around the family, which is really important,” added Mrs Ingram. “He never really saw Sam and Rachel grow up, so is really making the most of things now.

“But he is brilliant with the triplets and has a lot of patience. People often ask me how we cope, but we just get on with it. You have to be positive and strong as no-one else is going to do it for you.”

Mrs Ingram, who believes Ronan is still the only baby in the world to survive an ectopic pregnancy from a multiple birth, has now started working as a carer for one day a week, and is looking forward to September, when the trio start school in nearby Rougham.

She said: “I had not worked for years, and was almost house-bound, so to go out and get some work done has been nice. My self-esteem and confidence have started building up. Although I'll miss the triplets when they start school, it will be quite a relief as I will at long last have a break.

“Ronan, Olivia and Mary have been keeping us pretty busy and I think this year has been the hardest for Mark and I. In preparing them for school, we have had to encourage them to be more social so they will fit in, and have also been aware that people will pick them up on their manners more than ever.”

Yet although the triplets share similar facial characteristics and a unique bond which promises to link them for life, each has their own separate and distinct personality.

“We do not know if the girls are identical or not, but they do look similar,” continued Mrs Ingram. “I can see the difference in them, and dress them differently so I can tell them apart, but Mark used to mix them up. He would put them in the wrong pyjamas and into the wrong beds.

“But all three have all got completely separate personalities. Ronan has been a handful since day one, but is calming down a little now. Olivia is so laid back it is unbelievable, and it can take 90 minutes to get one sock on her in the mornings. Mary is quite bright and eager to learn, but has a terrible temper!

“They also seem to have an intuition with one another, and when one goes down poorly, for example, the others also do in sympathy.”

However, despite the difficulties involved with raising seven children - especially when three are aged under five - the proud parents would not change things for the world.

“This is just something that happened to us,” said Mrs Ingram. “It was very difficult, but everything has turned out well in the end, which is wonderful.

“And the birth has gone down in medical history, which is important for the medical profession. Hopefully they can learn from this and go on to help other people.”

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