Wilton, Gymea Bay and Picton public schools are each in for a triple treat this year, as the Buckley, Bartolo and Reed triplets front up for Kindergarten.
The nine children will be among an expected record Kindergarten enrolment across NSW public schools of 73,000 students.
The parents of Eliza, Chloe and Bronte Buckley, Sienna, Liam and Lucas Bartolo, and Isabelle, Evie and Sophia Reed report many similar experiences from their children’s early years – and many different ones.
Shock was the universal emotion among the parents when they first learned their families would be growing by three in one hit.
Ally and Peter Buckley laughed uncontrollably in disbelief, Aimee Bartolo’s husband, Paul, had a big smile, having spotted the third heartbeat on the ultrasound before the obstetrician, and Star Reed’s family did not believe her because it was the day after April 1.
The difference in personalities and whether the triplets were identical or fraternal were a big surprise to all three couples, and a strong reason for ensuring all nine are being raised as individuals rather than being recognised only in relation to the other two.
Another strong point of agreement is about the outstanding support offered by the Multiple Births Association as a way to meet parents who understand the situation.
Ally says contact with other multiple-birth parents meant her girls have grown up seeing being a triplet as normal. Aimee says she would encourage any multiple-birth parents or parents-to-be to join their local club. Star agrees and says the understanding and support received is immense - from borrowing premmie clothes and baby equipment, to receiving donations of food and nappies.
The families have the same number one practical tip: develop a routine fast and stick to it, because it is the only way you will have enough time to yourself to stay sane enough to keep going.
Eliza, Chloe and Bronte Buckley
The Buckleys established a highly practical approach to managing as well as bringing up identical triplets from the outset.
The baby girls left hospital fully colour coded, with their toenails painted in different colours – purple for Chloe, pink for Eliza and green for Bronte. The girls love their colours and it will be a boon for their teachers, even if they are in separate classes, with lunch boxes, drink bottles, pencil cases, hair ties, watches and initials on their school uniforms all sticking to the code.
Ally sometimes tests husband Pete at bath time with the question “Which sister have I got?” but their eight-year-old brother, Fraser, never confuses them.
“Fraser is a caring, protective and loving big brother – most of the time,” says Ally. “Over time he has learned to be their biggest protector and even arranged at Kindergarten orientation for his friends to partner up with his sisters for lunch as he could not sit with all three of them at once.”
The biggest challenge for the family was the first year: “A seemingly endless routine of sleep, feed, change nappies, express milk, burp, sleep and repeat,” says Ally. “It all seemed like a fog and we would high-five each other at the end of the day for making it through.”
The Buckleys’ philosophical approach is that while life with triplets is an intense juggle, it is also an amazing gift.
“Our motto is ‘Three might be a crowd, but four is our family circus’,” says Ally.
“We are ridiculously proud of how far they have come from such tiny premature babies born weighing just over two pounds (900 grams), to tall, strong, beautiful and confident little humans.
“We are super blessed to have all four wonderful kids."
Sienna, Liam and Lucas Bartolo
The Bartolos’ biggest surprise after the shock of learning they suddenly had three children was how fast time seemed to pass, and their advice to parents in the same boat would be to savour the moment.
“Enjoy every minute of them, some phases are hard but know that they are just phases and before you know it they will have moved on to the next,” says Aimee.
The biggest challenge has been trying not to compare them with each other too much.
“They are all individuals and I think sometimes we forget that it’s normal for them to be doing different things from each other,” says Aimee. “So often we will see friends or go places and people will say ‘the triplets are here’ – we have tried really hard to steer away from that happening as we want them to be recognised as being their own person.
“Our triplets are fraternal and to me they all look very different, although people tend to get the boys mixed up if they are wearing hats. The boys do try to trick people and tell them that they are the other even though they look completely different.”
Aimee says she and Paul are both excited and sad about the children starting school. They are excited to see them flourish, but the house is going to feel suddenly very empty on school days. They will be in the same class, but at different tables.
One of Aimee’s philosophical tips is to remember that while the sleepless nights are tough, they soon become a distant memory, and you still have your beautiful children.
Isabelle, Evie and Sophia Reed
With a three-year-old girl and a one-year-old boy, the Reeds’ second thought after the shock of learning they were having triplets was that nothing they had would be big enough, from the pram, to the car and the house.
But once the practicalities – like fitting five children’s car seats into one car – were fixed, things quickly came together.
“Their older siblings love and care for them,” says Star.
“All five attended preschool at the same time when I went back to work and their older brother would always ask the teacher how his babies were.”
Surprises and challenges have included the rudeness of people assuming they can photograph or touch the girls without asking, and the dexterity required to give attention to all three at once.
“Feeding was always a challenge but I found ways to make it easier with things like bottle props and bendy straw-type bottles,” says Star.
“It’s almost impossible to hold all three teething at once. At one point I had one in a baby backpack, one in a front pack and one on my hip to calm them.”
Which is why Star stresses it is important to reach out when it all seems too much: “Don’t be afraid to ask for help, I’m incredibly grateful for the support from friends and family.”
Star can still mix them up. “I still do to this day, I don’t even get upset anymore. If I say the wrong name I hear them answer in the distance.
“Just recently they realised they can try to [mix themselves up] and it gives them a good giggle. I see right through it though because they are terrible liars.”
Star says her family had no history of multiple births: “Now I have set a precedent my whole family is afraid to conceive.”
Her final piece of advice: “Give in to the fact that you will not sleep, eat or do anything beneficial for yourself for a good six to 12 months. Realise that this is necessary to keep your children alive, but it will pass and it is worth it. Don’t be afraid – you are amazing.”