FROM fighting for survival to three healthy bundles of joy – these triplets are finally enjoying family life.
And what a clan Michelle and Derek Russell now have – with seven children.
Mum Michelle, who had planned to stop after her fourth child, was left stunned when a scan on her unborn fifth revealed she would also be having a sixth - and a seventh.
But when the new additions arrived early, weighing just 2lbs 8oz, Michelle, 32, and Derek, 37, of Washington, were told devastating news.
Tiny Terri, Derek Jnr and Daniel Russell were whisked away as soon as they were born due to overcrowding in the special baby unit at Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary.
Derek and Daniel were rushed to the University Hospital of North Tees, Stockton, with their dad.
Hours after arriving, Derek Snr was told that his boys’ lungs had collapsed and they needed to be put on life support machines.
Derek said: “It was scary seeing them with all of the tubes coming out of them. Michelle was still at the RVI with Terri and I didn’t want to worry her so I kept telling her everything was fine.”
Within days Michelle and Terri were able to travel to Stockton so the family could be reunited.
“It was a relief to see them and hold them properly for the first time,” said Michelle, 32, of Horsley Road, Barmston.
“It was such an emotional day and we’ve got the doctors to thank for saving their lives.”
Five months on, and the triplets, who were born minutes apart, are now settling into their new home with their four siblings, John, 14, Rebecca, 11, Anthony, 10, and Joesph (CORRECT), eight.
But the trio of new faces were not planned.
It had come as a shock when, eight years after giving birth to her youngest, Michelle discovered she was pregnant.
And when a scan revealed there was going to be three babies, she couldn’t quite believe it.
“We really didn’t expect to have any more, so this came as a surprise,” Michelle said.
“Triplets don’t run in the family so we felt it really was one of a kind for them to be conceived naturally.
“It was like we’d been given them for a reason. They’re my tiny little miracles and we’re so blessed.”
As well as being an unexpected pregnancy, their arrival into the world was another shock for Michelle and Derek.
At 29 weeks and six days, Michelle, who was wheelchair bound from 18 weeks because of a displaced pelvis, was taking a tour of the RVI as part of antenatal classes.
Michelle said: “We were being shown around the different units and the nurse said ‘I hope none of you are planning on having them any time soon because we don’t have room’.
“I’m sitting there and thought “this can’t be happening” and went into full on labour. I couldn’t believe it.”
She added: “I truly do believe we’re blessed. We have the best family ever and I’m so grateful but we’re definitely not planning on having any more.”