Despite being born about eight weeks early back in November, everything was going well for a set of Quebec triplets.
The newborns were tiny, but also surprisingly sturdy. "I was able to see them straight away as soon as we left the delivery room. I was able to touch them," said their mother, Laurence Fortier.
But preemies Ellie, Jake and Mila were born during a pandemic, and their early delivery was only the beginning of their adventure.
The siblings were born on Nov. 29 at 11 a.m. and the trio had quite the audience.
Nykia Rossignol said there were four full medical teams in the delivery room at the Centre hospitalier de l'Université Laval (CHUL) — a hospital in Quebec City that specializes in premature babies.
"One for me in case something happens, another for each baby. There were nearly 30 people in the room," she said
The next day, they were transferred from the neonatal intensive care unit to intermediate care.
"Honestly, for 32-week-old babies, that was really an ideal scenario," said Rossignol.
For the better part of a month, the triplets remained under the watchful eyes of specialists. Fortier and Rossignol said their little babies were gaining weight and getting stronger. The couple is from Saint-Honoré, Que., about 400 kilometres northeast of Montreal.
Finally, on Christmas Eve, the infants were treated to their first airplane ride, flown to the Chicoutimi hospital, and eventually, they made their way home with their mothers.
But then, as the rest of the world celebrated the start of a new year, an unwanted visitor came knocking on their door: COVID-19.
"We have no idea where we got this from. We only went to the hospital. It's been about a year and a half since we've seen anyone," said Fortier.
This comes at a time when hospitals across Canada are reporting serious complications from COVID-19 in some pediatric patients. A two-month old baby died of the disease at Montreal's Sainte-Justine Hospital back in December.
For much of the pandemic, young people were largely unaffected by the disease. But now, kids and teens — and even newborns — are among the rising number of Canadians being hospitalized with COVID-19 as Omicron infections keep surging across the country to unprecedented levels.
Luckily, Fortier said, the triplets didn't seem to get too sick and quickly were on the mend.
"They had congested noses," she said. "They were more tired, more whiny. We're used to happy babies."
Their pediatrician remained positive as the babies, for the most part, were asymptomatic — showing only mild cold symptoms, said Rossignol.
"At first, we were really afraid that something bad would happen to them, but for the moment everything is under control," she said.
Now the mothers say they are looking to the future with optimism.
"We think it's going well. Honestly, having three babies is magical in the sense that you marvel at absolutely everything they do," Rossignol said.