There is a one-in-8,000 chance that a mom-to-be will conceive triplets naturally, so it’s no surprise that the young Oregon woman’s doctors approached her special delivery with extreme care. They expedited the surgery for the first-time mom’s cesarean section after discovering one of her babies had a very slow heartbeat, barely detectable on an ultrasound.
The medical team performed surgery to pluck the approximately 33-week-old triplets from their mother’s womb four days ahead of schedule. As the doctors did so, they could not believe what they saw when each baby was delivered on Monday, August 1, 2016 at Oregon’s Providence St. Vincent Medical Center.
Amber Hills and her high-school sweetheart, Logan Brown-Fletcher, were both normal 19-year-olds from Newberg, Oregon, before finding out that she was pregnant. And it wasn’t until Hills’ first ultrasound that the pair found out their lives were going to differ even more from the average teenager’s – medical staff told them they were going to be parents three times over.
Hills reacted calmly and a week after the birth she told entertainment journal Us Weekly why. “My dad has multiples in his family, so I figured it would happen to me someday,” she explained. Hills maintained the same unflustered attitude throughout her pregnancy. She told TV news magazine show Today, “I was totally calm and collected. It must be the mom hormones or something.”
On the other hand, boyfriend Brown-Fletcher had an entirely different take on things. “I was crying and swearing,” he told Us Weekly. But his initial fear came from a rational place. “I was a little scared because I was still in high school and working a small job with not many hours,” he explained.
But the teens, who had become a couple in June 2015, began to feel more and more confident as their babies’ birth crept closer. “As we started to approach their due date, I was like, ‘This is going to be life changing, but I’m ready,’” Brown-Fletcher told the magazine.
Nevertheless, the road to their triplets’ August delivery was far from smooth sailing, even after they realized they were ready and excited to be parents. Unbelievably, Hills’ first ultrasound also revealed that she had a basketball-sized cyst on her ovary, growing alongside her precious three babies.
This was one of the few moments that Hills found her cool mom-to-be façade cracking. She cried upon hearing the news, fearing only for the safety of her children. “I was so scared I could lose the babies,” she told her local newspaper The Oregonian in August 2016. “I bawled the whole way home.”
Hills had to undergo surgery to remove the giant cyst as well as the affected ovary. Between the ultrasound and the procedure, the cyst had managed to twist, causing what she described as “the worst pain [she’s] ever felt.” And bear in mind she made this statement after childbirth.
The young couple also faced lots of backlash from their friends, classmates and even total strangers who had found the expectant teenage parents on social media. “A lot of our friends weren’t very supportive at first,” Brown-Fletcher told Us Weekly. “They were all like, ‘You are too young, you are not ready.’”
As for their online detractors, most of the adverse comments came through Hills’ Instagram account. The mom-to-be utilized the picture-based social media app to document each stage of her pregnancy. Unfortunately this attracted trolls who used their internet anonymity to leave nasty comments on her posts.
Brown-Fletcher explained to Us Weekly how the couple took that negativity in their stride. “[The commenters] don’t know who we are,” he said. They have never met us, so they have no idea whether we are too young. We are both pretty mature for our age. And we know what we are doing.”
That maturity and fortitude would soon be put to the test on the day of the C-section to deliver the triplets. At just about 33 weeks, the babies had reached the average gestational age for a set of three. In comparison, one baby usually reaches 39 weeks in the womb before he or she is delivered.
First came Raelyn, who weighed in at two pounds, 12 ounces. Next, doctors delivered three pound, 11 ounce Avery. Last came Elaina, who weighed three ounces more than her eldest sister. All three girls arrived safely – but after their checks doctors soon shifted their attention to something even more unexpected than naturally conceived triplets.
The triplets were identical to one another, a rarity when it comes to multiple births – and that’s putting it lightly. Dr. Craig Novack was one of the neonatologists working with the family at the time of the babies’ birth. He was quoted by Today as saying the chances of having identical triplets are “somewhere around one in a million.”
Novack even said he “told Brown-Fletcher to go buy a lottery ticket,” because he and his partner were that lucky to have delivered three identical babies. Bearing in mind that when raising triplets everything is three times the price, the couple could have done with the money. Nonetheless, something else the doctor said put the rarity even more in perspective. Novack told The Oregonian that he had only seen one other case of identical triplets during his career – and he has been on the job for 22 years.
More importantly, however, all three girls were delivered healthily. They came into the world breathing fine on their own, but needed feeding tubes at first because they were too small and weak to eat unassisted. Happily, after three weeks of hospital-based care, they were ready to go home.
Back in Newberg, the new family received lots of help from the tight-knit community in that small city. One of Brown-Fletcher’s teachers gave the couple her old stroller, which she had used for her own twins. The couple even received more than $2,500 through a GoFundMe page set up to help them with parenting expenses. Hill and Brown-Fletcher invested in a van and a trio of car seats.
But those first few weeks spent in hospital had given Hill and Brown-Fletcher time to learn the ropes. And also time to devise a strategy with which they could identify the individual members of their brood. The young parents brushed nail polish in different hues on each baby’s toes, so they could tell which one was Raelyn, Avery or Elaina.
Hill and Brown-Fletcher have not provided any public updates about their girls since the initial news of their three identical daughters broke. At that time, the pair expressed the wish to get married, with their triplets as part of the ceremony. Surprisingly enough, Hills envisioned more kids down the line. “I want boys,” she told The Oregonian with a wry laugh.