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Trenia Hill

Martha Williams

“Dr. Gudavalli explained everything to me. Even though it was medical terms, I understood because she gave me step-by-step explanations.”

Twenty-nine-year-old Trenia Hill was worried as she sat in the emergency department of NewYork-Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist Hospital waiting to be seen. The Flatbush resident was three-months pregnant, with what she thought would be her third child, when she began to feel incredible pains.

“I thought I was having an ectopic pregnancy. I had an ectopic pregnancy before,” she says. An ectopic pregnancy occurs when the fertilized egg implants itself outside the uterus. “[The nurse] did a sonogram. She said, ‘Oh, you’re fine. You’re having triplets.’ I was like, ‘Can you check again?’”

Trenia and her husband, Hasani Phillip, were shocked. Multiples do not run in her family, she says. Although the rate of triplet births has increased substantially over the past 40 years, the odds of having “spontaneous” triplets — children conceived without the aid of fertility enhancements — is low. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate it occurs in about 1 in 8,100 pregnancies.

Having triplets wasn’t just a surprising miracle for Trenia and her family. It also posed many potential health risks. Carrying multiples increases the risk of preeclampsia, pregnancy-induced hypertension, and gestational diabetes in moms. It also comes with risks for the babies, including premature birth and low birth weight, which can cause cerebral palsy, vision and hearing loss, and developmental delays. Because of the potential risks to mom and babies, Trenia was referred to Sanford Lederman, MD, a maternal-fetal medicine specialist, and the chair of obstetrics and gynecology at NewYork-Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist Hospital.

“I think I was more than nervous. I was afraid. One child is a lot; three is like ‘Oh, my gosh! Where do you begin? What do you do? Where do you start? What’s next?’ Every feeling you can possibly think of — happiness, sadness – because I want to make sure I do everything properly,” she says.

Over the next three months, Dr. Lederman closely monitored Trenia and the babies’ development. Until January 19, when Trenia went into labor.

She says: “I was at work and I wasn’t feeling too good. I was on a call with a customer. I had to put her on hold because I was like, ‘I think I’m in labor.’ My whole office was panicking. Then, my mom and dad came to get me and took me to NewYork-Presbyterian [Brooklyn Methodist].”

Trenia was only 28 weeks pregnant at the time; full term is 40 weeks. Dr. Lederman tried to stop preterm labor by administering medication that works to slow contractions of the uterus. Babies born before 37 weeks gestation have a greater chance of respiratory distress, anemia, and other problems. Over the next three days, doctors worked diligently to extend Trenia’s pregnancy as long as possible.

On January 21, she had an emergency cesarean birth. Her family eagerly welcomed the arrival of Sanii, weighing 2 lbs. and Saniyah, weighing 1 lb. and 15 oz.; and Mason, weighing 2 lbs. 1 oz. The babies were quickly taken to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). After four days in the hospital, Trenia was discharged without her babies.

“Just having had the babies but not bring them home with me when I was discharged was an emotional rollercoaster. I thought, ’What did I do wrong for me to go into early labor?’” she recalls. Each day, after dropping her other children off to school, Trenia would return to the hospital to spend as much time with her babies as possible. “The NICU staff helped me understand the feelings that I was feeling. It was normal to be sad that you have you babies here. It was normal to see them like this. It was helpful to be like, ‘OK, I’m not being a bad mom for feeling this way.’”

In the NICU, the triplets were under the care of Madhu B. Gudavalli, MB, BS, a neonatal-perinatal medicine doctor at NewYork-Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist Hospital. The babies had some complications. Sanii and Saniyah had a spontaneous intestinal perforation (SIP) — a hole in the gastrointestinal tract with no obvious cause. Mason had to be transferred to NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center for surgery.

“Dr. Gudavalli explained everything to me. Even though it was medical terms, I understood because she gave me step-by-step explanations. I didn’t have to go look it up, they gave me pamphlets and broke it down for me. They told me what to do, the procedures. They were very informative at the NICUs in both locations,” she says. Also there to help with explaining medical issues and provide emotional support to Trenia was a NICU nurse named Patricia. “Nurse Patricia worked nights. She would come to me and say, ‘Talk to me,’ because she could see in my eyes that I was tired and needed to take a break. She would console me, like ‘It’s OK to go home. I got them, they’re here with me.’ She was amazing. Anything I needed, she made sure we had it. Anything that they needed to call me for, she would call me.”

After three months in the NICU, Sanii and Saniyah were discharged from the hospital. A month later, Mason was also released. Now nearing 10 months old, the triplets are healthy and growing. And Trenia is adjusting to her exponentially larger family.