Jose Calix and Gladiys Oliva, of Lake Ronkonkoma, gave birth to triplets Jan. 22 at South Shore University Hospital. The couple spoke Thursday about adjusting to life as parents of triplets. Credit: Newsday/John Paraskevas

Sleep is hard to come by these days for Gladiys Oliva and her husband, Jose Calix, while mealtime — and even the simplest outing to the grocery store — can be an adventure in parental multitasking.

Such is life as the parents of newborn triplets.

Mia and Brianna, identical twins, and Sofia, a singleton, were born Jan. 22 at South Shore University Hospital, the first set of known triplets at the Bay Shore hospital in the past 65 years. A previous pair of triplets was born there in 1958, records show.

The babies, all conceived naturally — a one in roughly 10,000 occurrence — made their public debut, albeit one they largely slept through, on Thursday as they were reunited with the hospital delivery staff who feted the family of five with a baby shower and gifts such as diapers and onesies.

The new parents are both from Honduras: Oliva, 25, came to the United States last year, and Calix, 38, moved here six years ago.

Oliva said she was scared when she first learned that she was pregnant with triplets.

"It wasn't easy," she said through an interpreter. "I don't have any experience with this."

The Lake Ronkonkoma couple find themselves in rare territory.

In 2020, there were 142 sets of triplets born in New York State, representing just 0.06% of all births, according to State Health Department data. Those numbers are largely in line with national figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which show there were just 2,785 triplets born in 2021, representing about 0.07% of all births. The data does not indicate how many were conceived naturally.

But triplets are not unusual for Oliva's family. In fact, a cousin in Honduras was pregnant with triplets during the same time as her pregnancy, she said.

Dr. Jolene Muscat, a maternal-fetal medicine physician and the vice chair of obstetrics and gynecology at South Shore University Hospital, said in the latter stages of the pregnancy, the babies' growth had become restricted and they decided to proceed with delivery at 34 weeks through a cesarean section. (A normal pregnancy is about 40 weeks.)

"But the babies had other plans for us," Muscat said.

Oliva came in a bit before her scheduled due date in preterm labor, and South Shore's carefully laid out delivery plans were adjusted on the fly, with staff coming in from home on their days off to assist, said Dr. Gina Murza, the hospital's chief of neonatal medicine.

A team of doctors and nurses was assigned to each of the babies, who were stabilized in the delivery room before being transferred to the hospital's new neonatal intensive care unit.

"It is not easy to set up in the [operating room] to take care of three babies at the same time," said Dr. Quratulain Zeeshan, an OB/GYN and an attending physician at South Shore. " … They were 34 weeks and they needed a lot of attention. So it definitely was big teamwork." 

The babies, who ranged in birth weight from 3 pounds, 11 ounces to precisely 4 pounds, remained in the hospital for about two-and-a-half weeks, Murza said.

Oliva said raising triplets has been an exhausting experience thus far, one in which she and Calix, who works in landscaping, sleep for only short spurts at a time.

Most days, she said, all three babies wake up at the same time and seemingly cry in unison. 

But Oliva said she wouldn't have it any other way.

"We don't sleep much and it's tough," Oliva said. "But it's not that hard when you love somebody that much."

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story failed to mention another set of triplets born at South Shore University Hospital because of incorrect information supplied by the hospital.

Sleep is hard to come by these days for Gladiys Oliva and her husband, Jose Calix, while mealtime — and even the simplest outing to the grocery store — can be an adventure in parental multitasking.

Such is life as the parents of newborn triplets.

Mia and Brianna, identical twins, and Sofia, a singleton, were born Jan. 22 at South Shore University Hospital, the first set of known triplets at the Bay Shore hospital in the past 65 years. A previous pair of triplets was born there in 1958, records show.

The babies, all conceived naturally — a one in roughly 10,000 occurrence — made their public debut, albeit one they largely slept through, on Thursday as they were reunited with the hospital delivery staff who feted the family of five with a baby shower and gifts such as diapers and onesies.

The new parents are both from Honduras: Oliva, 25, came to the United States last year, and Calix, 38, moved here six years ago.

Oliva said she was scared when she first learned that she was pregnant with triplets.

"It wasn't easy," she said through an interpreter. "I don't have any experience with this."

The Lake Ronkonkoma couple find themselves in rare territory.

In 2020, there were 142 sets of triplets born in New York State, representing just 0.06% of all births, according to State Health Department data. Those numbers are largely in line with national figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which show there were just 2,785 triplets born in 2021, representing about 0.07% of all births. The data does not indicate how many were conceived naturally.

But triplets are not unusual for Oliva's family. In fact, a cousin in Honduras was pregnant with triplets during the same time as her pregnancy, she said.

Dr. Jolene Muscat, a maternal-fetal medicine physician and the vice chair of obstetrics and gynecology at South Shore University Hospital, said in the latter stages of the pregnancy, the babies' growth had become restricted and they decided to proceed with delivery at 34 weeks through a cesarean section. (A normal pregnancy is about 40 weeks.)

"But the babies had other plans for us," Muscat said.

Oliva came in a bit before her scheduled due date in preterm labor, and South Shore's carefully laid out delivery plans were adjusted on the fly, with staff coming in from home on their days off to assist, said Dr. Gina Murza, the hospital's chief of neonatal medicine.

A team of doctors and nurses was assigned to each of the babies, who were stabilized in the delivery room before being transferred to the hospital's new neonatal intensive care unit.

"It is not easy to set up in the [operating room] to take care of three babies at the same time," said Dr. Quratulain Zeeshan, an OB/GYN and an attending physician at South Shore. " … They were 34 weeks and they needed a lot of attention. So it definitely was big teamwork." 

The babies, who ranged in birth weight from 3 pounds, 11 ounces to precisely 4 pounds, remained in the hospital for about two-and-a-half weeks, Murza said.

Oliva said raising triplets has been an exhausting experience thus far, one in which she and Calix, who works in landscaping, sleep for only short spurts at a time.

Most days, she said, all three babies wake up at the same time and seemingly cry in unison. 

But Oliva said she wouldn't have it any other way.

"We don't sleep much and it's tough," Oliva said. "But it's not that hard when you love somebody that much."

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story failed to mention another set of triplets born at South Shore University Hospital because of incorrect information supplied by the hospital.

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