It had to be a joke.
The moment Matt and Ashley Alexander saw two fetuses on an ultrasound monitor was breathtaking. They could handle twins.
But when the technician spotted a third, Matt Alexander piped up: “Is this a joke?”
“She said, ‘Sir, we do not joke about this,’” Ashley Alexander recalled.
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That was in September. Now she is just weeks away from delivering triplets — rare, identical triplets conceived naturally.
Juggling careers, a toddler and renovations to their home, the couple describe the moments leading up to meeting their three daughters as both precious and overwhelming.
But they say they have faith on their side.
“We knew God had a reason,” said Ashley Alexander, 31, who grew up in Whiteland as Ashley Turner and graduated from Suburban Christian School in 2001.
The Alexanders have been married for five years and have a son, Stefan, who was born in 2012.
In August, when Ashley Alexander learned she was pregnant, they had just gutted their home for renovations but were overjoyed at the thought of a new addition to their family.
Then Ashley Alexander’s clothes started feeling snug a little too quickly.
“I said, ‘Honey, I think there’s more than one,’” she recalled.
An ultrasound at eight weeks showed three figures.
“We didn’t cry. I just kept laughing and then spazzing and laughing,” Ashley Alexander said. “(Then I started thinking), ‘We have to buy a van,’ ‘We’re renovating our house.’”
The reactions they got from family ranged from “Why are you showing me three of the same ultrasound picture?” to squeals of delight.
It’s rare to conceive identical triplets naturally, but the exact odds are hard to pinpoint.
Multiples in general are becoming increasingly common through in vitro fertilization or fertility drugs, according to Dr. Lesley Regan, author of “I’m Pregnant.” Identical triplets happen when one egg is fertilized and divides into three separate embryos: the babies share identical gene structures and, in the Alexanders’ case, share the same placenta.
The questions and comments the couple have heard are seemingly endless.
“Was it through IVF?” No, Ashley Alexander says.
“Well then, how did it happen?” All she wanted was a back rub, she quips.
And then there’s the question they don’t really know how to answer yet: “How are you going to get by?”
Matt Alexander was born and raised in Hancock County and has family nearby. Ashley Alexander’s family is in Whiteland, less than an hour away. And there are friends and fellow church members to lean on.
“How? We don’t know. We don’t have an exact plan,” Ashley Alexander said. “You can plan whatever you want, but a child changes everything, whether it’s one, two or three.”
While they’ll lean on others, their jobs also provide flexibility, so the couple can care for the children on their own. Matt Alexander is a supervisor for the New Castle-based Sproles Corp., which builds large churches. He has weekends off.
Ashley Alexander is a part-time nurse and works weekends. The way things are now, they’re able to trade off on caring for Stefan.
Now 27 weeks along, Ashley Alexander is on modified bed rest. Multiples are usually born early, and she hopes to make it at least three more weeks. She is trying to take it easy since a scare in December when she started having contractions at work.
“I couldn’t stop them. It became something that was out of my control, and I had all these great goals in my head, and I had to stop and realize God is in control of it and not me,” she said. “I had to let go and trust the people who knew more than I did, and it took medicine to stop it.”
Alexander still has frequent contractions, and she worries about a medical scare while she’s caring for her son.
And then there’s the overall discomfort of carrying three babies.
“Just last night, I felt a kick on my left and a hit on my right; then, I’ll have one push here, one push there; and I’ll have one pounce on my bladder,” she said.
So far, the girls seem to be healthy. Three weeks ago, doctors estimated two of them weighed 1 pound, 4 ounces each, and one weighed 1 pound, 3 ounces.
There’s no date yet for when the triplets will arrive, but delivery will be by cesarean section. The risks associated with delivering naturally are too high, Ashley Alexander says. She hopes the girls will wait until at least mid-February, and even then, they’ll have to stay in a neonatal intensive care unit for several weeks before coming home.
That — maybe — will give the couple time to at least try to put their house in order. The entire second floor of their home remains under renovation.
The Alexanders plan to stock up on baby supplies. It’s hard to know how much to buy. Ashley Alexander estimates they’ll go through 7,000 diapers in the first year alone.
They’re also trying to prepare mentally, reading up on the techniques to survive. Ashley Alexander’s goal is getting all three on the same eating and sleeping schedule.
Matt Alexander is a bit of a skeptic.
“When one’s crying, there’s no way you can put her in bed with the other ones,” he said.
Stefan calls the babies his “sissies,” but his parents know he can’t fully grasp what’s about to happen.
“He’s excited sometimes, but he doesn’t have a clue what’s coming at him,” Ashley Alexander said. “He knows there’s a baby coming. I don’t think he realizes there are three babies coming. He just thinks they’re a thing on a screen.”
One of the most common sentiments they hear about their upcoming daily existence with multiples: “Your lives are going to stop.”
“No, our children are an addition to our lives. They’re a part of our lives,” Ashley Alexander said. “We don’t view our children as an inconvenience. Our lives changed wonderfully because of our son, and it’ll change even better for our triplets.”
“You can plan whatever you want, but a child changes everything, whether it’s one, two or three.”
Ashley Alexander of Greenfield, on preparing for the birth of triplets