GREENFIELD — Exhausted from the delivery, Ashley Alexander looked across the room and managed a small smile.
Her family had just doubled in size with the birth of naturally conceived triplet girls.
As her husband and son admired the newborns, Alexander could hardly put her emotions into words.
“Surreal, but so happy,” the Greenfield mom said as she watched her loved ones across the room.
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“It’s love times five.”
Sophia Mae, Alexis Kae and Ella Shae were born to Matt and Ashley Alexander on Thursday. Proud big brother Stefan, 2, couldn’t help but count the cribs in the room over and over: “One, two, three!”
Doctors say it’s extremely rare to see identical triplets who were conceived naturally, let alone see them born so healthy and strong. Ashley made it to 36 weeks in her pregnancy, the longest her health care professionals said they’d ever seen for triplets.
Each weighing between 4 and 5 pounds, the babies were greeted by more than a dozen friends and family — many of whom, the Alexanders said, supported them throughout the hectic pregnancy with prayers.
“It’s a miracle,” Matt Alexander said. “Three little miracles from God.”
Miracles, perhaps, but doctors also credit the couple’s strength and perseverance for the successful delivery.
“She just had such a great attitude,” Dr. Kris Beckwith said after the cesarean section. “They’ve just been a delight.”
The operation was quick: Each little girl was delivered, shown to her parents and then weighed and measured. Squeals of life from the girls; tears of joy from their mom.
And plenty of pictures and snuggles from the proud papa.
As he looked at the triplets, Dr. Harold Bivins said these are the moments he loves.
“She was great,” Bivins said of Ashley Alexander and how she handled the high-risk pregnancy. “She did everything I asked her to do, told me the things she couldn’t do, and we worked through it.”
It was a lot of “working through” for her husband, who Ashley Alexander said was her rock during the physically exhausting final weeks. The mom-to-be originally thought she would only make it to 32 weeks.
“By 34, I was done. And here we are at 36,” she said, just before being taken back for surgery Thursday afternoon.
“I pushed her, said, ‘We gotta just keep going,’” Matt Alexander said. “’The longer we go, the better it is for the girls.’”
The couple listed her sacrifices: giving up Cherry Coke, coping with only two or three hours of sleep at a time and dealing with pain.
In the nail-biting moments before the surgery, Pastor Tim Wiford gave these simple words: “Those tears will give way to tears of joy.”
And there were a few sarcastic punches.
“God has a great sense of humor,” Wiford said.
“Oh, he’s laughing hysterically right now because I wanted two,” Ashley Alexander added.
The wit was evident after the surgery when she said, “I can see my feet now!”
Matt Alexander provided an understatement as nurses congratulated him when he escorted his girls to their room: “I’m outnumbered now.”
He announced the birth to a waiting room packed with family and friends.
“It’s really hard to fathom, hard to wrap my head around,” Gerald Turner, Ashley’s father, said when he learned his daughter and granddaughters were safe.
“They’re blessings from God,” Grandma Penny Alexander said.
With matching outfits and dozens of hair bows waiting at home — including 17 in the hospital bag — the girls will have plenty of pampering in the coming weeks.
It will be tough to tell them apart at first, Ashley Alexander said, but she is sure their individual personalities will emerge.
And if not, she’s got a system ready — pink, purple and blue nail polish.
Ashley Alexander said she already figured out their personalities by feeling them move and kick inside of her: Sophie’s the pistol (like Mom), Ella’s laid-back (like Dad), and Lexi — the smallest — is a little fighter.
“It was God,” she said of what got them through the final few weeks. “God, prayers, some family and a lot of friends.”
And as Matt Alexander showed Stefan his little “sissies” for the first time, a new chapter for the family was started: “We get to take them home with us.”
Identical triplet girls were born to Matt and Ashley Alexander Thursday:
Sophia Mae — 4 pounds, 15 ounces; 17¾ inches
Alexis Kae — 4 pounds, 1 ounce; 18 inches
Ella Shae — 5 pounds 2 ounces; 18 inches