Sarah Ward and Benn Smith are a proud lot – they’re parents to four babies under the age of 18 months. But that leaves them drained so much, they end up prone on two sofas most evenings with hardly enough energy to lift a cup of tea to their lips. Seven-month-old triplets Stanley, Reggie and Daisy alongside 8-months older Freddie may be cute little pieces of gorgeousness, bestowing gummy smiles on one and all, however, they are highly labour-intensive. From the moment the children wake up at 6am till they are tucked up in their cots 12 hours later, Sarah and Benn go-through a kinda military-style routine tantamount to an utter chaos.
‘Some nights we’re so tired, not a word will pass between us. Benn will be lying on one sofa and I will be on the other and we’ll just look at each other and smile before zoning out,’ says Sarah, 29, from Crayford, Kent, juggling a baby in each arm.
They had envisaged having two children, probably one of each, nicely spaced apart – however this is something utterly the opposite. Barely weeks after birth of Freddie, in June 2013, Sarah naturally conceived the triplets — a one-in-8,000 chance. The couple was living in a one-bedroom flat at that time. Sarah was in tears on being told the news at her 12-week scan – mainly out of panic and fear, rather than pure joy. Stanley gave birth to triplets in March by emergency Caesarean, when her heart rate suddenly dropped dangerously low.
The washing machine runs around-the-clock while there are 175 nappies to change, 80 bottles of milk to make up, clean and sterilise each week. Sarah and 31-year-old Benn walk to the High Street shops – a bracing two-hour round trip, pushing two double buggies stacked with nappy bags and supplies. Their journeys turn even longer as strangers usually stop them to gossip, ask questions and coo over the babies.
The torment worsens for Benn because he works in a Post Office and often leaves the house at 4.35am – after a night of interrupted sleep brought on by intermittent crying by four healthy babies. The fatigued couple cannot be blamed for dozing off the minute the little ones go to bed! However, the shock is gradually waning.
‘It’s been incredibly hard, but we see all our children as a blessing and feel incredibly lucky,’ says Benn. ‘When the triplets started smiling and laughing at us, that’s when we really started to enjoy it, and we can’t wait until they start toddling.’ ‘But managing things at home was a big challenge. We had a double bed, a cot and three Moses baskets crammed into one bedroom. The space was so scarce, one basket was half in the walk-in wardrobe.’
The couple faced a near tragedy two weeks after the babies were released from hospital. Stanley caught bronchiolitis, a lung infection and almost died. That episode strengthened the couple’s love more – now they fear losing any of the children. Sarah adds: ‘I can’t imagine life without them all, but our family is definitely complete. No more babies.’
The triplets for Sarah and Benn are a dream-turned-reality because they had faced fertility problems and feared Freddie might be an only child. ‘It took us a year of trying before I fell pregnant with Freddie, so we both thought it might take as long again when we came to planning our second child,’ says Sarah. Soon after Freddie was born Sarah took a home pregnancy test as a precaution – and was stunned at the positive result. She sent a picture message of the test to Benn, with the words ‘Guess what?’ He nearly fell off his chair at work. Benn was shocked and all he could say was: “What are we going to do?” However, they decided against abortion and resolved to cope somehow.
At the 12-week scan the sonographer detected a third heart-beat and when the news that Sarah was carrying triplets reached the ears of the couple – it was like a series of tiny bombs exploding. Stanley, Reggie, and Daisey the triplets arrived in quick succession – and whisked away to incubators after the briefest of tear-filled hellos. ‘It was amazingly touching. They looked like a speck – and I felt so helpless because I could do nothing for them,’ says Benn, whose children would spend the next seven weeks in hospital.
Sarah says: ‘The first few weeks were very tough. Benn had to take a long leave – clubbing holiday to paternity leave and worked day through night, it was kinda strenuous.’ ‘We pinned feeding charts, and once they settled into a routine and started sleeping through the night, it became lot easier.’ Sarah says: ‘We are always on a budget, and luxuries are out. We bulk-buy nappies and formula milk, and do our best to manage everything.’ ‘We feel incredibly lucky, and just can’t imagine life without them’