SCS family welcomes ‘one in a million’ identical triplets

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published March 11, 2015

 The Whiteley triplets are “one in a million,” says Dr. Savitri Kumar, of Henry Ford Health System. Identical triplets are extremely rare, she said.

The Whiteley triplets are “one in a million,” says Dr. Savitri Kumar, of Henry Ford Health System. Identical triplets are extremely rare, she said.

Photo provided


ST. CLAIR SHORES — A month after the birth of identical triplets, a local couple is together at home, adjusting to life with five boys in the house.

Mike Whiteley and his wife, Lauren, welcomed identical triplet sons Jan. 25: Alexander, Nicholas and Timothy.

“We knew she was pregnant in July; she did an at-home pregnancy thing,” said Whiteley, 31.

He said Lauren, 32, went by herself to the first doctor’s appointment for the pregnancy because he stayed home with their two older sons: Lucas, who will turn 4 this month, and 2-year-old Nolan.

“Her (doctor), at one point they were doing the ultrasound ... the lady left and came back and had a few more nurses and Lauren got concerned,” he said. “She’s like, ‘Oh, it’s twins,’ and they’re like, ‘No, we’re seeing three.’

“She had to lay down.”

Whiteley said they have no family history of multiples and so were shocked by the news. However, because that made the pregnancy high-risk, they then had to go looking for a new doctor.

“It was definitely a couple weeks where you think about, ‘How are we going to do this?’” he said. “Finally, we both sat down ... (and decided) we’ve got to take this one day at a time or we’re not going to make it to the end of the pregnancy. We’re just going to run ourselves down.”

It’s difficult to pinpoint the odds of having identical triplets, said Dr. Savitri Kumar, a neonatologist with Henry Ford Health System who cared for the boys after they were born at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit.

“Mostly, people say (it’s) one in a million,” she said, adding that in the 40 years she has practiced neonatology, she has never seen identical triplets until now.

The odds of conceiving non-identical triplets range between one-in-6,400 and one-in-8,000, she said.

The Whiteley triplets were born at 34 weeks, 4 days, which Kumar said was quite a long term for multiples. Because of their small size, she said, they needed intravenous glucose to improve their blood sugar levels and help with a feeding tube to make sure they got enough to eat.

The only significant issue the babies faced, she said, was apnea due to the immaturity of their nervous system. The triplets were treated with caffeine to stimulate breathing, and Alexander and Nicholas were able to be released from the hospital without any medication. Timothy was sent home still on caffeine treatments and a monitor to keep track of his breathing.

“Overall, they’ve done very well, actually, and I believe should do well in the long term,” Kumar said. “The good thing is ... they’ve gone to a very nice family with a lot of support from the grandparents, and both of (the parents) are school teachers and they should be able to do well.”

The couple has lived in St. Clair Shores nearly their entire lives — both graduated from Lakeview High School — and bought a house in the city when they married in 2008. They both teach in Macomb County schools.

Alexander and Nicholas came home from the hospital Feb. 13, and Timothy arrived home a week later. Life, Whiteley said, is still a “work in progress.”

“For the most part, the NICU at Henry Ford was pretty regimental about, every two to three hours ... feed at the same time,” he said. “Waking them all up at once, that’s been an adjustment.”

But the couple has had a lot of help, with family members coming over to help in the mornings and again from 9 p.m. to midnight so the parents can get some much-needed sleep.

Whiteley said they first learned during an ultrasound that there was a high probability the babies were going to be identical because they shared a placenta, but were each in their own embryonic sac. After they were delivered, lab tests confirmed that the boys were identical.

When the Whiteleys planned their third pregnancy, they thought that after already having two boys, odds were that the third child could be a girl. Even when they learned they were having triplets, he said, it “seemed like there’s got to be a girl inside of there, maybe two or three.”

“It just was not in the cards.”

The parents have some tricks to tell the babies apart at the moment: Timothy’s monitor has visible leads, and they marked Nicholas’ toe with a red mark in a nod to St. Nicholas to tell him apart from Alexander.

“I think, eventually, as they get older ... between their personalities and just little characteristics, I think Mom and Dad will pick up on (it), but we’ll definitely be able to play tricks on other people,” Whiteley said.

Even now, he said, if you line the babies up in a row, Timothy is the longest, Alexander is the smallest, and Nicholas is in the middle.

Their older sons are adjusting, he said. Lucas was already used to being a big brother and likes to help grab diapers or hold bottles. Nolan, Whiteley said, took a bit longer to adjust but now is starting to emulate his older brother, although “there’s still those moments where, if we’re holding someone, he wants to climb up and do the same thing.”

They are all adjusting to life at home as a family, he said.

“Everyone’s doing good, eating good and they’re sleeping good, and we’re adjusting to the lack of sleep,” he laughed.