The odds are 10 in one million, but after two failed pregnancies a Nelson couple will be bringing home identical triplets this summer. Katherine van der Veen and her husband, Ain Baird, were stunned when they heard the news.
“It was a huge shock. My husband didn’t even believe me until I showed him the sonogram images,” van der Veen told the Star from Burnaby, where she is staying with her in-laws. It’s also where the babies will be born.
There is no neo-natal intensive care unit in the Nelson area, and the three baby girls will need to spend time in the unit to ensure they are healthy before making their way home to the Kootenays in the couple’s new minivan, recently purchased to accommodate their yet-to-be-born children.
The road to van der Veen and Baird’s miracle pregnancy was far from easy.
Van der Veen had a miscarriage in 2017. Then, after giving childbirth a second shot, she had a preterm birth at the start of her second trimester. Their child, Ivy Kate, did not survive.
“It was incredibly traumatic to lose a child that way. You feel helpless. Your hands are tied.”
Van der Veen took sick leave and worked through the pain of losing her second child with the help of a team of specialists and friends, including a naturopathic doctor, grief counselor, and acupuncturists.
Then, she and Baird tried again.
In late October 2018, van der Veen was laying on her side during a routine ultrasound. She says the technician kept looking at the screen and looking back at her. Her first thought was, “Oh no, it’s another miscarriage.” Then the nurse asked her if it was a natural conception. Van der Veen said yes. The nurse informed her she was pregnant with triplets. She couldn’t believe it.
It’s incredibly rare for this kind of natural pregnancy to occur. A study in the the Journal of Bio Social Science, published by the school of public health at Cambridge University, says the odds are 10 in a million.
Van der Veen says each of her children, still in utero, have unique personalities. They do, however, reportedly have one thing in common: they love the Toronto Raptors. Van Der Veen says they kick like crazy when the Canadian NBA team is on the television, a hint that leads her to believe she has three little athletes inside of her.
But even if they don’t turn out to be athletes, van der Veen thinks Nelson, where she has lived for almost 15 years, is the perfect place to raise children.
“I think this place affords them lots of opportunities to simply be themselves, whoever they turn out to be,” said van der Veen. “And I’m grateful they get to grow up in a beautiful mountain town.”
The last identical triplets born in Canada were also from B.C.. Mahalia Meeuwesun, 43, gave birth to identical triplets in Salmon Arm, in November 2015.
Van der Veen is currently seven months pregnant. Doctors are anticipating the girls will be born early and the babies are expected to spend a month in intensive care.
A GoFundMe campaign has been started to help offset the costs of raising triplets. Nelson Family Place is also accepting donations of clothing, toys, diapers, etc., on their behalf.
For more on the history of triplets in the West Kootenay, see Greg Nesteroff’s piece from his blog, The Kütne Reader, here.