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The Moment: Ali Mountifield

Ginger Gorman

The moment parents-to-be go into their first ultrasound is exciting and perhaps a little nerve-wracking too. There’s always a nagging doubt: what if something is wrong?

For Ali Mountifield and her husband, Tony Smit, it was no different. On that day back in April 2007, Ali was both excited and anxious.

The pair had been through IVF and knew they were pregnant with twins. But when Ali had that first internal ultrasound, she noticed something odd.

Hear what happened next by listening to the latest episode of The Moment podcast or scroll down to read on.

“We left the [ultrasound] office and I said to hubby: ‘I thought I saw three.’ And he said, ‘Oh don’t be so stupid,’” Ali recounts with a smile.At the next scheduled 13-week ultrasound, the radiographer pulled them aside. The radiologist told the couple: “Look, I’m sorry, but I think I’ve got three babies.”

Understandably, Tony was shocked and responded with the question: “What did she say?!”

Ali, on the other hand, had suspected this was the case all along.

“I said, ‘It’s three babies and I told you so!’” Ali recalls, laughing.

“Hubby went quiet for quite a while and then declared we were having no more scans, because he was worried we might find another one,” she says.

Of the two fertilised embryos Ali had had implanted by her IVF specialist, one had split into identical twins. She was carrying two baby girls and a fraternal triplet.

In the medical profession being pregnant with twins or more is considered high risk. As we talk, Ali gets emotional when she recalls that so-called selective reduction – where the number of fetuses are selectively reduced via abortion – was mentioned by doctors as an option.

Although Ali knew the risks were significant, she says her “immediate reaction was ‘No.’”

“It was quite scary to have all these high risks given to us. The chances for me, the chances for the babies, it was all very, very scary.

“We were, in a way, gambling with my health and the babies’ health. But we are lucky. It’s like winning the lottery to get three babies in one and take them all home, and that they’re all well,” she says.

At 34 weeks and two days Ali had a planned caesarian birth to bring her three babies into the world. Twenty-four medical staff were in the room to make sure it went smoothly. And it did.

Even so, the babies were premature and Ali recalls it was quite a feat to breastfed them.

It was hard work keeping them latched on,” Ali says, “They were so little, being premature babies.”

Ali says she’d put one baby on the breast and Tony would hand her another baby. By the time she got the second one latched on, the first one had fallen off. Then there was still a third mouth to feed.

Once they were home, the challenges began in earnest. How do two parents keep three newborn babies fed, clothed, bathed, well-slept and in clean nappies?

“I cannot remember a lot of what went on in those early days. We were so sleep-deprived,” Ali says.

A team of 10 volunteers came to help with the endless domestic work and it was a blessing. Ali recalls just going out to the washing line alone for a quick breather was a treat.

“I left them [the volunteers] with the babies and I went to the washing line, and I loved it. I knew that my children were being just adored and cleaned and all those things,” she says.

Now Ali’s triplets Hannah, Lucy and Oscar are thriving eight-and-half-year-olds.

Ali says while having three babies at once transformed her life in ways she couldn’t have imagined, she wouldn’t change it for the world.

“My life is completely different from what I could have expected as a result of having triplets. Really, I think they’ve shaped me to become a totally different person.”

She says her triplets have “given me life experiences that I don’t think I would have had” any other way and certainly made her “grow as a person.”

Ali has since become chairperson of the Australian Multiple Birth Association and is glad to give back to the community in this role.

As AMBA chairperson, Ali feels she is giving those skills “back to other families to help support them.”

To hear Ali explaining the surprise, joy and sheer hard work of having three babies at once, listen to our podcast.

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Ginger Gorman

Ginger Gorman is a fearless and multi award-winning social justice journalist. She has an innate ability to connect and communicate with some of the most interesting and marginalised people in our community. Ginger works hard to translate those untold stories into powerful and insightful journalism. She regularly writes stories, makes radio and TV for media outlets such as: news.com.au, Fairfax online, The Guardian, The Big Smoke, HerCanberra and the ABC. You can follow Ginger on Twitter @GingerGorman. More about the Author

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