GREENFIELD — You’ll make it — you’ll just be tired.
Ashley Alexander imagines that message would be the center of the pep talk she’d give herself if she could go back to spring 2015 — back to when she was swollen, aching and waiting, days from giving birth to identical triplet girls.
Exchanging an exhausted grin with his wife, Matt Alexander admits he had no idea it would be this hard.
Hard, yes. But rewarding? Definitely.
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Surrounded by pink and purple polka dots Saturday in celebration of the triplets’ first birthday, the Alexanders, both 32, counted their blessings: one for each child they consider a gift from God and countless others for the friends and family who have helped them through 12 months marked by loving and learning.
Sophia Mae, Alexis Kae and Ella Shae were born March 26, 2015. They are an extremely rare set of identical triplets, doctors say, because they were conceived naturally. They joined big brother Stefan, now 3. Today — 7,300 diaper changes later — the family looks back through tired yet grateful eyes.
Their days have been a vicious cycle of feedings and cleanings. Their nights have been grueling, especially in those first months when the girls were up every two to three hours.
Gazing upon the family of six, people sometimes ask if more little ones are in their plans.
“I just stare at them and say, ‘No way.’” Ashley Alexander said. “They’re not bad babies. There’s just three of them.”
Now crawling, pulling up and cruising furniture, the girls have their own personalities. Ella is a daddy’s girl, always wanting to be the center of his attention.
Sophie sticks to Mom, moody but sweet. Lexi is a ball of sunshine, her mother says, but has a temper when things don’t go their way.
But they’re happy babies. No one stays mad for long.
For all the sleepless nights, there have also been shining moments of blessing and wonder, from simultaneous giggles to dancing along with their favorite songs.
The three-seat stroller sticking out like a sore thumb, the Alexanders said they’ve come to accept the fact that they stand out any time they go anywhere.
There have been a few crass comments – some doubting the girls are identical, others having the gall to ask about how they were conceived.
But always, a common thread:
“… Most people say, ‘I just feel sorry for you,” Matt Alexander said.
But the Alexanders believe in God and in his purpose for their journey.
“People tell us all the time he couldn’t have picked two better parents to have triplets,” Ashley Alexander said. “But we still don’t know why it’s happened at all. It’s been a roller coaster ride of busy.”
Matt Alexander grew up in Hancock County and Ashley is from Whiteland in Johnson County. She works part time as a nurse, and he’s a senior project manager for a construction company.
Scheduling is key. In those early months, when one triplet woke up in the middle of the night, the others were awoken and fed in an effort to create some consistency in their sleep cycles.
Grandma Kathy Turner has been a regular volunteer in the Alexander household. She said the triplets’ individual personalities are what helps her tell the three apart. She always looks forward to helping her daughter out with all four of the Alexander kids.
“They are a day-to-day blessing, always,” she said. “You want to see me smile? Just mention my grandbabies.”
The Alexanders have been stretched not only physically and emotionally but financially. They spend at least $700 a month alone on essentials like diapers, formula and food; that’s not counting dozens of matching outfits and at least 50 hair bows.
But with a year behind them, the Alexanders feel like they’re turning a corner. The girls are almost sleeping through the night, and their parents have developed a sort of Mom and Dad telepathy; they don’t have to talk to know how to help the other out.
And a healthy amount of bartering keeps things running smoothly. Since feeding the trio is the hardest chore – with flying food and puree hair-dos – the parents trade off household chores.
“Like, ‘I’ll clean the toilet if you feed the babies,’” Ashley Alexander joked.
Stefan, soon heading into preschool, likes to help out at home – sometimes a little too much, acting like a third parent at times to the triplets. Still, he’s protective of the girls.
But he, too, has his limits. Ashley Alexander recalls one morning snuggling with her son in bed.
“Mama, there’s just too many babies,’” he told her.