25 May 2023

When Chris Jenkins and his partner Vanya-Lee Ashdown decided to extend their family, little did they know their brood would suddenly grow much larger. At the time, their family already included Chris’ 7-year-old daughter and Vanya-Lee’s 14-year-old daughter. In November 2020 they discovered they were pregnant with triplets and their lives suddenly changed as they imagined a future with three babies. Chris shares their pregnancy story.

It was November 2020 and Chris and partner Vanya-Lee were about to get some unexpected news. The couple had been trying for a baby, wanting a sibling for Chris’ daughter and Vanya-Lee’s daughter.

Chris said: “Very early on in the pregnancy we were told that my partner was expecting triplets. She was very poorly in the early days. She was checked over and diagnosed with a water infection. We had an early scan to check all was ok. There were two consultants in the room and it was only weeks into the pregnancy. I could see the screen with the images on and having seen what looks like a marble with a heartbeat before, I knew what to look for. I could see three of these little marbles with heartbeats on the screen but my partner couldn’t as she was lying down. I thought it was a trick of light.“I could see the consultant counting on his fingers. One, two, three and four. He went to four and back to three.”

Then it was like all of the emotions in one hit

The parents-to-be were told that everything was well. The main reason for Vanya-Lee feeling unwell was revealed – she was expecting triplets. Chris said initially the consultant thought there were four babies but confirmed it was a triplet pregnancy.

Recalling the rollercoaster of emotions he felt when they were told, Chris said: “Then it was like all of the emotions in one hit. We were just in total disbelief and shock and laughter and tears and happiness and sadness – everything was happening in such a short moment of time. We were told it was classed as a high risk pregnancy and we would have to take things steady.”


Over coffee, the couple sat in disbelief mulling over the news. “We broke the news to our parents but we knew we were stepping into unknown territory for us all. We kept the pregnancy quite quiet early on as we didn’t know what the future held,” he said.

The pregnancy was later confirmed as triplets, with all babies sharing one placenta. Doctors kept a close eye on Vanya-Lee. During the pregnancy, she was diagnosed with Twin-to-Twin-Transfusion Syndrome (TTTS) and monitored closely. A decision was made not to go ahead with laser ablation surgery due to the position of the placenta.

Chris said the couple attended hospital appointments every two weeks throughout the pregnancy. He thought a lot about the impact having three babies would have on the family, as well as on his partner and their practical life as a family.

“I was extra cautious making sure my partner was ok – she was sick right up until the babies’ birth. She had gone from being a busy physical person to walking up the stairs once and then being exhausted for the day. It was a great worry. I had a routine of making her a cup of tea and toast before I went to work. You are helpless to a point but it’s about being there for her. You put yourself and your needs on the backburner.

"I saw it as my job to be there and support as much as I can. It was a journey we were going through together. We look back and there’s not one thing we would have done differently. We just accepted it for what it was and listened to ourselves and the professionals. Right until the boys were born it was an ongoing anxiety as we never knew what was going to happen. We had hopes of what gestation we were going to get to but ultimately Mother Nature decides.”

Happy faces!

In terms of day-to-day life, the family was in the process of extending their house when they discovered they would be having triplets. Chris said: “There were so many questions. I was thinking about the sex of the babies and how they would all fit in the house. I wondered if we needed a bigger car. What shall I do with work if they’re born early and how does it work with leave?”

One of the key things Chris highlighted was the need to embrace support when you need it. “We were made aware of support early on that was out there for us. One thing we learned very quickly was that if there’s support out there – to take it. If it’s not there, you should ask and don’t stop asking. “If you don’t ask, you don’t get. The journey was tough as it was but would have been even tougher if we didn’t have the support that was available to us and provided by our families. "We were always the ones helping others and we never liked to ask for anything. There comes a point where you realise the enormity of it and you are stepping into the unknown,” he said.

Soft play fun

Marc, Harrie and Jake were born at 27 weeks plus six on 18 May 2021. It was a tough time for the family as the babies all had sepsis and Harrie had a blood clot on his pulmonary artery. Jake was diagnosed with cerebral palsy. The triplets spent 111 days in hospital before finally coming home to their family.

Chris added: “This gave us more anxiety and there were so many ups and downs. As a parent, you just have to ride the storm and remember decisions are made in the best interests of the babies. In your darkest moments it’s not forever and you do get through it. We were very thankful for what we’d been given. Twins Trust has a lot of advice to cover a broad spectrum of multiple births. There’s always something or someone there for you to answer your questions.”

Life is going well for the family and the boys turned two in May 2023. Chris added: “They’re making good progress and both Marc and Harrie have been discharged from the developmental clinic. Jake is soon to have some assistance to help him walk, the cerebral palsy is currently stopping him from standing up on his own. He can walk very well with his walker and does everything his brothers do. A real warming moment is when he was able to climb the stairs on his own as we take them up one at a time for bed."

He said: “We’ve been lucky enough to have had a few Norland Nanny student placements stay with us over the last year as part of their course. This help has been priceless, not only helping us but we are able to give the students a very good experience when they’re here with us and we always have a good time with them. The boys love people. We are looking forward to them learning to speak and growing into their already different personalities.”