When first-time parents Amy and Mike Howard of Center Moriches, New York, arrived at their obstetrician's office for a routine checkup last year, the last thing they expected to hear was that they were about to become mom and dad to a set of triplets.
"I was kind of a little bit in shock," Mike told TODAY.
But that wouldn't be the only surprise that came with the birth of their sons, Hunter, Jackson, and Kaden. In fact, just a few days after the triplets were born last October, doctors noticed something unusual about the shape of the boys' heads: Hunter and Jackson, who are identical twins, had skulls that protruded in the back; Kaden, their fraternal brother, had more of a triangle-shaped skull, with a "pointy" forehead.
As it turns out, Hunter, Jackson, and Kaden are the first set of triplets to have all been born with craniosynostosis, a rare birth defect in which the plates of a baby's skull fuse together prematurely, causing problems for their developing brain. The condition only occurs in one in 2,500 babies — but the chance that it would occur in all three babies in a set of triplets is one in 500 trillion, according to CBS New York.
So, when the triplets hit 11 weeks, they were taken to Stony Brook Children's Hospital for an operation that would open up the fused seam in their skulls. Parents Amy and Mike were nervous to send their babies into surgery at such a young age, but everything went smoothly: Hunter, Jackson, and Kaden were the perfect patients, and they were back out of the hospital within two days.
Today, the Howard triplets wear custom-made orthotic helmets that help to mold their skulls as they grow. They'll have to wear them 23 hours a day for the next six to nine months, but Amy says that's no biggie for her super-strong boys.
"It took them a little bit of time to adjust, but they don't give me any problems taking [the helmets] off or putting them back on at all," she told TODAY.
As things slow down with the boys' craniosynostosis, other things are starting to pick up in the Howard household: The first-time parents are still learning how to adjust to life with two cats and three babies — all of whom frequently want to be picked up at the same time.
"It's a little chaotic," Mike said. "It's awesome; I wouldn't change it for the world, but it's crazy."