Imagine yourself in one of any of the following scenarios: you’re about to be a first-time parent; you’re pregnant with multiples; you go into labor five weeks early; or, when you give birth, it’s immediately clear that your baby has a birth defect.
Any one of those scenarios would be nerve-wracking at best, if not utterly terrifying. So now imagine how you’d feel if you experienced not one or two of those situations, but all of them at once.
That cluster of scary odds and possibilities is the very real everyday life for parents Amy and Mike Howard. Amy delivered the couple’s first children – Hunter, Jackson and Kaden – on October 22, 2016, five weeks before their due date. While the labor and delivery was a success, it became very clear within the first few days of their lives that something was amiss— the reason the adorable triplets are wearing helmets in the photo above.
“You could tell that their heads were a little bit malformed, or deformed,” Amy shares in the video below from New York’s Fox5 News. “But we didn’t know it was all three until they had their CT scans done.”
“It” is a condition called craniosynostosis, a rare birth defect in which the skull fuses together too early. You know how babies have “soft spots,” the two fontanels that allow a infant’s head to fit through the narrow birth canal? They stay open after birth to accommodate the growth of a newborn’s brain.
Craniosynostosis disrupts that process, as the plates grow and fuse together much too early. Left untreated, the birth defect can restrict growth and lead to vision loss. More obviously and immediately, it also leads to an abnormal skull shape, as the brain continues to grow.
This abnormal skull shape was the first sign that there was something wrong with the Howard triplets. Identical brothers Hunter and Jackson had long-and-narrow-shaped heads, eventually identified as Sagittal Synostosis, the most common type of craniosynostosis. Fraternal brother Kaden, with his triangular-shaped forehead, had Metopic Synostosis, a much more rare version.
Generally, craniosynostosis is pretty rare, occurring in about 1 out of every 2,500 births. For triplets, though? The odds are even slimmer! Dr. David Chesler, one of the triplet’s surgeons at Stony Brook University Hospital, told CBS News, “We worked out the probability of maybe one in 500 trillion to see a set of triplets that looked like these three.”
Even more incredibly? These triplets were conceived naturally! Their parents shared with Today:
The triplets were conceived without fertility treatments: “I think we just got lucky,” Mike said, recalling that his first reaction at the news was “Holy [expletive]. I was kind of a little bit in shock.”
Amy remembers hysterically crying: “I was terrified. It took me a little bit of time to get used to the idea, to be honest.”
Of course, the shocked parents had no idea what was coming. Still, they have an absolutely incredible perspective on their babies’ rare condition. “If this is the worst thing that happened,” says Amy in the video below, “it’s still a blessing.”
To see that blessing in action, learn how Stony Brook doctors helped the triplets, and to see how these precious boys are doing today, watch the video from Fox 5 NY.
Are you inspired by the Howard triplets’ story? Have you had any experience with craniosynostosis or other birth defects? What other incredible birth odds have you seen?