The babies were born at 9.23pm, two tiny boys and a slightly bigger girl, They were healthy, though jaundiced and low birth weight, and Vicki, still numb from the epidural, was only allowed to have them in her arms for a second or two before they were whisked away by the medical team. She only saw them again when she was transferred to the private ward. The three incubators were wheeled in by smiling nurses, and she tried to lift herself up.
“They are ok, aren’t they?” she asked softly.
One of the nurses grinned. “Beautiful! All fingers and toes intact!” She moved to the side of the bed. “You have three absolute angels! Sleeping already and breathing normally! The doctor will be in shortly. I just want to check your blood pressure.”
Vicki smiled up at her husband when the nurses had gone.
“Two boys! Daniel and Joshua? Still happy with those names? And Casey? Or have you changed your mind?”
Luke squeezed her hand. “The names are perfect, my love. And so are our triplets! Thank you! This is the most wonderful gift ever!” He bent over her to kiss her lips, and she smiled.
“They’re so tiny! Does everyone know?”
“They do. They’re all excited of course. But Mark said they can only come over to see you and the babies tomorrow. It’s very late, and you need to rest now.”
“You’ll let the school know? I couldn’t even say goodbye to my class!”
“I’ll sort everything out. No need for you to worry about anything! I - I need to go in to work in the morning. You do understand, don’t you? But I’ll come back here as soon as I can. It’s only tomorrow and Friday and then it’s the end of term.”
She smiled at him. “I’ll survive! In any case, I want to come back to the house as soon as possible!”
“Max says the babies will be here for another couple of weeks! Definitely until Carrie is recovered. Brad said she was so upset that she couldn’t be here for their birth!”
He squeezed her hand again, lifting her fingers to kiss them. “Our babies are really beautiful, darling! Just like their mom!”
“Have you let your mother know, Luke?” Vicki asked. “She was going to come and stay for a couple of days after they were born.”
He nodded. “I spoke to her. She’s over the moon! Brad said he’ll arrange for Roy to fetch her later tomorrow.” He gazed at the infants in the incubators. “Gosh, I’m sure that they’re not much bigger than my hand!”
“They’ll grow very quickly,” Max said from the doorway. He was no longer in his scrubs, and he shook Luke’s hand, then bent over to kiss Vicki. “Congratulations! Three perfect little individuals! The nurses will take them back to the nursery later, so you can sleep. How are you? Any discomfort?”
“Not really. Are they really ok, Dr. Max? Are their lungs developed? Does that machine help them breathe?”
Max smiled at her. “The incubators keep them as warm as they were in the womb! They appear to be breathing normally, but the nurses here will keep their eyes on them. Don’t worry, Vicki. You heard them cry, I’m sure. Their lungs were developing well before they were born! You know you had the absolute best pre-natal care!”
“But they were only due next month!”
“Vicki! You managed to carry those babies for thirty-five weeks! That’s longer than most multiple-birth pregnancies last! They are tiny, but that was expected. You obviously won’t be able to take them home for a couple of weeks, but hopefully Carrie will be on her feet by then and will be able to check their progress.”
He grinned at Luke, “Don’t stay here too long now, proud daddy! Your wife needs to sleep. It’ll be a very early start tomorrow if she still wants to breastfeed!”
“Is it possible?” Vicki asked quietly. “They’re smaller than I thought they’d be.”
“The nurses will show you how to use the breast pump. They’ll be fed with your expressed milk through a tube at first, but when they’re bigger, and stronger, it’s entirely possible, even if you need to supplementary bottle feed as well. It’ll be hard, even if you decide to use a formula, but you’re fortunate to have so many people to help you.”
Mark and June came into the ward while he was checking the sleeping infants in the incubators. They congratulated the parents, and Mark made a few jokes about 'smelly nappies and sleepless nights times three'! Then they left the new parents together, with a warning to Luke not to stay too long, and went back to the mansion.
Tom Arnold had just left, and the older members of the family had congregated in the lounge for a nightcap.
“Hi. Where’s the new daddy?” Ian asked, moving towards the bar area. “What can I get you to drink?”
Mark grinned. “Beer for me, please. Luke’s still in shock, I think. But he won’t be long. The nurses will throw him out soon enough!”
“How’s Vicki?” Carrie asked her uncle. “Did she hold her babies? Are they going to be all right?”
Max took his beer from Ian and took a long swig before he answered. “She’s doing well, and yes, she held them after they were born. Luke only held the girl! One of the boys will need extra care, but he’s breathing on his own now. The nurses know exactly what to do, and will watch him carefully.” He saw her pout, and added gently, “Vicki will still need your help when the triplets come home, my angel.”
“I should have been there!” Carrie mumbled sadly, leaning against her husband on the couch.
Brad’s arms enveloped her comfortingly. “I’ll take you over there first thing in the morning, Carrie. Don’t feel depressed that other nurses had to stand in for you.”
She shrugged. “I’m not depressed. I think I’m actually a little jealous! I was looking forward to being at the birth of the triplets!”
“Don’t be jealous either.” Mark smiled at her. “Your absence gave the other nurses the experience of a multiple C-section. The first one we’ve had at the clinic since my brother had it constructed for me!”
“And only my second experience of delivering triplets in the many years I’ve been practising,” her uncle put in. “Actually, worked out well that Vicki’s gynae was on holiday!”
June took a sip of the sherry that Ian had poured for her, settling herself beside her husband on one of the couches. “The babies are beautiful. It was exciting to be able to assist at their birth.” She smiled. “Poor Luke! He looked so awkward! I’m sure he thought he was going to drop his baby daughter.”
“New daddy syndrome!” Max said with a laugh. “I think most men suffer from it as soon as they become dads. Even doctors who have delivered lots of babies! Mark suddenly became scared of holding Erin minutes after she was born, I remember!”
Mark grinned. “Yeah, it even surprised me to find my hands shaking when I realised that the baby you put in them was my own daughter!”
It was another fifteen minutes before Luke arrived from the clinic, to be greeted with congratulatory handshakes and hugs. Brad had not risen from his seat beside Carrie on the couch when he had offered his hand to Luke, making Max eye him thoughtfully for some minutes.
When the others had moved to the other side of the lounge, the doctor took a chair close to his niece. He kept his voice low as he asked Brad, “Is everything ok? You’re not having pain, are you?”
“No more than usual. Why?” His tone was flat, uninterested, but he tightened his arm around Carrie as she turned her head to look into his face.
“You’ve hardly spoken since we got in.” Max whispered. “Are you worried about something? Vicki - the babies? Or Carrie here?”
Brad forced a smile. “No, no! There’s nothing to say. Everyone else is talking. I’m just listening. And relaxing. It’s been quite an eventful day!”
“You’re just tired then?”
“I’m fine, Max. Really!” Another forced smile, this time at his wife. “I’m not going to give you any reason to be angry again. I’ll tell you if I get pain.”
Max eyed him for a few more seconds, then he sighed. “Hmm. I still need to give you an injection before bed. It’s late. Will you be going up soon?”
“I hope so,” Carrie put in quickly. “I’m feeling worn out.”
Brad immediately sat up straight, frowning. “Why didn’t you tell me? I’ll take you up right now!”
She shifted her position as he stood up to lift her, and said quickly, “Only if you’re ready. You haven’t finished your beer.”
He glanced at the hardly touched liquid in the glass, and shrugged. “I don’t think I really wanted it in the first place. Come, sweetheart. Let’s go up.”
They said their goodnights and Brad pushed the wheelchair through to the lifts and took Carrie to their room. He helped her wash, and she was already in bed when the knock on the door brought Max, to give Brad the injection that would keep the painful spasms at bay.
When he had gone, Brad finished in the bathroom, checked to see that Sarah was still fast asleep, and slipped into bed beside his wife.
She turned to him. “Ok Brad, if it isn’t pain, what is it that’s worrying you?”
He put his arms around her, drawing her close. “I’m fine, Carrie! It’s just been quite a day. Maybe I am a bit tired!”
“So it’s nothing I can help with?”
“I’m not worried about anything!”
She was silent for a moment, then she muttered against his chest. “Uncle Max wasn’t the only one to notice that you were very quiet, you know.”
He stiffened slightly, swallowing. “Everyone was talking about the triplets and Vicki. They were all so excited, so there was nothing for me to say! ”
“Are you - jealous?”
He blinked. “Jealous?”
“Of Luke? That he’s got sons?”
Brad lifted himself up on one elbow and gazed down at her, smiling into her eyes. “Oh Carrie! You are funny! Why on earth would I be jealous because Luke has sons? They’re my nephews! And now I have a niece too! I’m happy for Luke and Vicki!”
“But - but we can never have sons!”
“Who says so? The next child we adopt could be a boy! But it doesn’t matter what gender the child is anyway.” He paused. “Are you worrying again because you can’t have my baby? I thought we’d been through all that - many times in fact!”
“We have, I know. I just wondered. You - you don’t have a son to carry on the Conway genes!”
“I have brothers who can do that! Darling, please. As soon as you’re well enough we’ll approach the authorities again for a brother or sister for Sarah.”
She smiled. “Then if it’s nothing to do with that, why were you really so quiet? You’re not usually at a loss for words!”
His eyes twinkled, and he kissed her lips before he answered. “There are a number of things I’ve been thinking about, apart from all the excitement of the triplets! I need to arrange with Roy to fetch Luke’s mom. I have a private meeting with Chef in the morning, a flipping scan I need to have before I see Jim Dennison on Friday, my book that I can’t seem to finish! But mostly…” he kissed her again, and there was a definite catch of excitement in his voice as he finished his sentence, “…whether you’re really well enough for my love-making!”
Her arms went up around his neck as she drew him even closer, a gurgle of laughter in her throat as she muttered huskily, “Only one way to find out!”