With two boys ages 10 and 13, Ryan and Amanda Kopf thought their days of diapers and late-night feedings were finished. That’s until Amanda started experiencing unusual nausea.
A doctor’s appointment confirmed she was about six weeks pregnant. That was a big enough surprise, but she was in for another shocker: there were three heartbeats. “I was overwhelmed,” she remembered. “I just started shaking.”
Ryan was also shocked. “I was scared to death and was worried about my wife and the babies being OK,” he said. “I also worried that I wouldn’t be able to take care of everyone.”
Triplets are still unusual. The U.S. Office on Women’s Health says 6,208 women gave birth to triplets in 2005.
Amanda and the babies needed special care, so she was immediately referred from her hometown of Willow Springs, Missouri, to Mercy’s Dr. Barbara Wotherspoon and to Mercy Clinic Maternal – Fetal Medicine in Springfield. By her second trimester, she was visiting the clinic every other week. “We were keeping a close eye out for potential problems,” explained Dr. Robert Fraser. “Amanda’s babies had detailed ultrasounds to assure normal development, including fetal echocardiography. That means our sonographers were taking close looks at the babies’ hearts to ensure everything was going well.”
Once the Kopfs got used to the idea of three little ones on the way, Amanda focused on having a healthy pregnancy. “She did amazing,” Dr. Wotherspoon said. “Despite thinking her family was complete and getting the shock of her life, she weathered her pregnancy so well. Women who’ve had one baby know pregnancy can come with aches and discomfort. When you have three little ones vying for limited accommodations, it’s even harder, but Amanda never complained.”
At 32 weeks into her pregnancy, the week of Thanksgiving, Amanda gave birth to identical twin girls and a little boy. Karissa Jean weighed 2 pounds, 7 ounces; Kaislynn May was 2 pounds, 14 ounces and Kade Valdan weighed 2 pounds, 15 ounces.
“I was ready for them to come, but scared,” said Amanda. “I just wanted them to all be OK.”
The doctors say things couldn’t have gone better. “They’re doing awesome,” said Dr. Melinda Slack, medical director for Mercy Kids’ Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). “In my 35 years of practice, this is the first set of triplets I’ve seen get to 32 weeks gestation. The credit goes to Dr. Fraser and Dr. Wotherspoon, whose care kept them from being born earlier. Every day less premature is a day in the baby’s favor.”
The NICU’s design means all three are in the same spacious room. “The privacy is so nice,” Amanda said. “I’m glad they’re all together so I’m not running around to check on them. I can be with all three at once.” Dr. Slack says research has proven that babies who stay in individual family rooms are in the hospital for less time, gain weight faster and have less risk of infection.
Amanda has been staying at the Ronald McDonald House inside Mercy Kids, meaning a warm bed and hot shower are just a few steps away from the babies. “I couldn’t be here every day if it weren’t for them,” she said. Her husband and older boys come to visit on the weekends, and they’re planning to have Christmas at the hospital. “We’ll probably open gifts in the House and then come over to the babies’ room,” she said. “It will be different this year, but we’ll all be together.”
Ryan added, “As worried as I was in the beginning, I couldn’t be happier with how everything turned out.”