When Catherine Ahrens broke the happy news to her family that she was pregnant, she was stunned to learn she wasn't the only one.

"Here I am thinking I'm going to tell this big secret, and I find out my other two sisters are pregnant," Ahrens said Wednesday.

The sisters -- Ahrens, 35, of Holbrook; Angela Grancio, 38, of Mastic; and Josephine Scalone, 33, also of Holbrook -- wound up delivering babies just four weeks apart at Southside Hospital in Bay Shore.

"My sisters and I always grew up as 'the triplets,' " Ahrens said. "It's wonderful that our children will actually do the same."

The sisters have always been close.

As kids, they shared many of the same friends. As young adults, they stayed in touch every day. When they married, they didn't stray -- putting down roots only minutes apart.

Each of the sisters already has children, although for Grancio, who has two stepsons, it was her first pregnancy.

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The clustered deliveries weren't planned, the sisters said, but they used the pregnancies as a chance to bond even further, supporting one another throughout.

" 'Who's crying? Who's laughing? Let's go for a walk, we're gaining weight,' " Scalone recalled. "We were really all there for each other, so it was nice. If we're having a symptom, you call the other one up, just to see if they're having the same thing."

The children -- Francesco Grancio, born Sept. 9, Valentina Scalone, born Sept. 27, and Madeline Ahrens, born Oct. 11 -- "met" each other for the first time Wednesday, but their parents are already planning upcoming family get-togethers, said the babies' grandmother, Kathy Mannino of Holbrook.

On Halloween, Madeline and Valentina will be dressed up as Snow White and Sleeping Beauty, respectively, while Francesco will boast a Captain America costume.

To mark the unique triple birth, Southside Hospital Wednesday gave each mother a pack of diapers and a $150 Babies "R" Us gift card.

"We couldn't be happier at this point," Grancio said. "We're all excited to be having them all together."

The mothers are looking forward to the babies forging their own special bonds.

"They'll have friends," Ahrens said, "but they'll always have that family that they'll have so close to them. . . . It's wonderful."