These three tiny brothers are believed to be the most premature triplets ever to have survived in Britain – after they were born 15 weeks early.
Max, Harvey and Lucas Udell each weighed under 2lbs when they were born at 24 weeks and five days.
They were delivered by emergency caesarean section and whisked straight into intensive care, where they underwent 12 blood transfusions between them.
They survived against the odds and have now come home from hospital with mother Rachael, 31, and father Ashley, 29, for the very first time – three months after they were born.
Mrs Udell, said: ‘It feels like they are our babies now. Before, we did not feel like parents.
‘We could not have much contact because they were in boxes. We could not touch them much because they needed rest and had the risk of infection.
‘We were only able to bring them out now and again for skin-to-skin contact. It was so hard with tubes down their throats and so many wires coming out of them.’
The couple, from Trowbridge, Wiltshire, who have been married for two years, decided to start a family and were overjoyed after conceiving triplets naturally.
But they had not even had a chance to buy nappies, clothes or toys when Mrs Udell went into labour.
Despite regular weekly scans she was unaware there were any problems with identical twins Lucas and Max, and brother Harvey, until she began having pelvic pains.
Mr Udell took her to the Royal United Hospital, in Bath, Somerset, on November 19 but they sent her home later that day. However her pain continued and she was taken back to the hospital in the early hours of the next day.
Doctors realised the babies were imminent, gave her drugs to delay labour and sent her straight to St Michael’s Hospital in Bristol for an emergency caesarean section.
Mrs Udell, who works as a medical secretary for Wiltshire Primary Care Trust, said: ‘We were having scans every two weeks and everything was fine.
‘They were growing exactly how they should – until I had pelvic pains.
‘I was rushed to hospital in Bristol and my waters broke. I just went into panic and I was really scared.
‘I didn’t think they would survive – I knew the chances of premature triplets dying was high anyway – it was awful.’
Mrs Udell’s waters broke at 5pm on November 20 and at 7.55pm Max was born weighing 1lb 4oz, followed by Lucas one minute later weighing 1lb 6oz.
Harvey was the last to be born at 7.59pm, also weighing 1lb 6oz.
The babies, who had been due to arrive on March 6, were taken straight to neo-natal intensive care units in incubators.
Mrs Udell said: ‘It was dreadful. Instead of being excited about my babies I was terrified that they would not survive.
‘I was in the maternity ward for three days then we went straight by their bedside. They were so small and I knew they were in a lot of danger.’
The brothers received 12 blood transfusions between them during their time in intensive care and doctors also performed a life-saving operation on a tear in Max’s stomach.
As each of the babies became stronger, he was taken back to the Royal United Hospital in Bath.
Harvey was first to leave on December 15, followed by Lucas five days later.
Their parents had to travel between the two hospitals over Christmas before Max joined his brothers in Bath in the second week of January.
Finally all three were able to come home for the first time last Saturday – each weighing between 4lbs 4oz and 5lbs 8oz.
The triplets still require a high level of care and round-the-clock attention, but the delighted new parents are relieved to have their healthy family all together.
Mrs Udell said: ‘It is fantastic to have them home – we finally feel like a proper family.
‘Things like complaining because they are crying feels so trivial now, it is just great that they have survived.
‘All our friends helped out with buying clothes and toys for us too. The people at the hospital say they cannot believe they have come home with no drugs or breathing apparatus because they were so early and triplets.
‘It is hard even for one baby to survive as early as they were. Even now, they are still not even supposed to be born yet.
‘Their eyes are still developing and they are having checks all the time. People look at them and say they look so tiny, but to us they look massive.
‘They have gone through so much.’
The couple estimate they will get through 560 nappies a month as their three survivors grow.
Mr Udell, a gardener for English Landscapes, said: ‘It was a very scary and daunting experience.
‘Our families have been brilliant and we would like to thank the intensive care staff, St Michael’s and Royal United Hospital and Ronald McDonald House at St Michael’s.’