Justin Clark – the 43-year-old – he couldn’t be happier.
Just over a month ago, he and his wife Christine, 36, brought home their now three-month-old quadruplets – all girls – from the special care unit at Rotherham Hospital.
Caroline, Darcy, Alexis and Elisha were born prematurely at 30 weeks and they are very special babies indeed.
After nearly a decade of trying, the couple had almost given up hope of becoming parents and had resigned themselves to being childless. It was their first round of IVF that proved successful — quite spectacularly.
And that is not the only reason the quads are extraordinary. Incredibly, they are also the result of just one embryo after it split into three and then one of those embryos split into two.
The odds of one embryo creating four babies have never been calculated. ‘People have quoted odds of two million to one and even 70 million to one, but it’s simply not quantifiable as it’s never happened before,’ says Justin.
‘We’re the first people it’s happened to and even some doctors find it hard to believe.’
All four tiny girls, still weighing only around 5-6lb each, are snuggled up like dormice in one cot.
‘You wait nine years for one baby and then get four at once,’ smiles Christine. ‘We’re just so lucky.’
Justin and Christine met in a pub 12 years ago and married three years later. Like most young, married couples, they longed to start a family.
The couple tried several treatments, including the ovary-stimulating drug Clomid, but the side-effects made Christine ill.
‘IVF was really a last resort because we knew what a rollercoaster it could be,’ she says.
Justin and Christine were referred to Care Fertility in Sheffield, and were offered two rounds of IVF on the NHS.
The couple’s fears were realised when only two of Christine’s eggs were collected for fertilisation. Sadly, one of those eggs turned out to be too immature to be used.
Once the embryo had been implanted, Christine was told it would take 12 days before a pregnancy test confirmed whether it had worked.
‘I cheated and took the test on day ten, and was absolutely shocked when it came out positive,’ she says.
‘I took the test downstairs to Justin, who said: “What does that mean?” I told him to read the box and when he had, he was speechless.’
By this point, the couple dared to believe they were finally going to be parents — to one baby. It was seven weeks later that they were given the most astonishing piece of news.
‘I was lying on the scanning bed and the sonographer was looking at the screen, but not saying a word,’ says Christine.
‘I felt sick thinking something had gone wrong, but she quickly reassured me that I was definitely pregnant. Then she said: “I can see three sacs — you’re having triplets.”
‘I was in total shock. So was Justin. The sonographer wanted a second opinion, so she asked us to go to the waiting room and she’d get a consultant to confirm it.’
The pregnancy was far from easy and Christine suffered from severe morning sickness.
‘It was horrific,’ she says. ‘People said to me after my 12-week scan “You should be full of energy now”, but I was being sick morning, noon and night. I’d even wake up in the middle of the night and throw up.
Christine was admitted to hospital for bed rest at 24 weeks and the twins were delivered by Caesarean section at 30 weeks on March 25, weighing between 2lb and 3lb each.
Christine left hospital a week later, but her daughters remained in special care for nine more weeks until they came home at the end of May. ‘I couldn’t wait to have them home,’ Christine says. ‘I wanted to be their mother and look after them here.’
Now they have been home for more than a month and life has changed beyond all recognition.
‘You’ve got your hands full there’ or ‘Oooh, double/triple/quadruple the trouble . . .’
‘I love the fact that people come up to us and say nice things, but I do feel like saying: “Yes thanks, I know!” ’ smiles Christine.
‘Someone asked me the other day if we were going to have any more children. I think the answer to that is absolutely not!’