On July 2nd 2016, Christo and Theo Menelaou, welcomed their three newborn babies to the world: Joshua, Zoe and Kate.
A team of over 20 surgeons, nurses and anaesthetists were present, with three different teams tending to each baby, in Sunninghill Hospital, Johannesburg.
Born prematurely, at just over 31 weeks, the babies weighed a little over one kilo each. They initially needed help to breathe and Theo stayed with them for three weeks until they became stronger.
Dr Heidra Dahms, the gynaecologist at the hospital, who delivered the babies explained to Sky News: “It is extremely rare. I have never heard of this before.”
Possibly first same sex couple to have triplets
Sky News says that the couple “are believed to be the first in the country and possibly the world to have triplets – which also include identical twins – using a surrogate.”
The couples’ tale contains a number of rarities and hurdles. Firstly, they are both biological fathers to their children, as DNA from both of them was used.
Then there was the 10-week scan which “revealed that one of the embryos had split and the surrogate was now bearing triplets of which two would be identical twins – an extremely rare occurrence,” says Sky News.
Thirdly, they – and the surrogate – were repeatedly advised to terminate two of their babies to increase the chances of survival for the third.
And in an unusual twist, they met the woman who was to become their surrogate through the former Paralympian Oscar Pistorius’ murder trial.
Celebrating fatherhood they thought would never happen
At home in Pretoria and feeling “blessed,” the couple are celebrating the fatherhood they thought could never happen.
Having persevered until finding the right surrogate – Christo said: “we were told we would always come after heterosexual couples” – and having faced strict South African laws on surrogacy, the couple still have some challenges to face.
Within six months, Zoe will need surgery due to a heart defect. And each baby still has a monitor which sets off an alarm if the baby stops breathing.
Doting dad Theo said: “We have to gently massage their backs,” “or tickle their toes just to remind them to take a breath.”