Family of 5 to family of 8: Community is helping Palatine parents with their wild triplets ride
Aletheia and Nelson Dueck were told April 1 they were pregnant with triplets.
Naturally, the Palatine couple thought it was a joke.
When they realized it was for real, Aletheia Dueck had a panic attack: They hadn't planned on getting pregnant again so soon, let alone times three.
"I almost called, that morning, the office to tell my husband that it was twins as an April's fool," Aletheia said. "I'm so glad I didn't do that, because the prank would have been on me."
Panic attack over, Aletheia, a stay-at-home mom, and Nelson, an engineer, had to get used to the idea that their family of five -- including children Ayla, 6, Hazel, 4, and Benjamin, 2 -- would become a family of eight.
The triplets are identical boys named Nelson, nicknamed "Nels," Oliver, nicknamed "Ollie," and Joseph, nicknamed "Joey." They were born Aug. 24, also their father's birthday, after 27 weeks and four days' gestation.
Nels weighed only 1 pound, 15 ounces. Ollie weighed 2 pounds, 6 ounces. Joey weighed 2 pounds, 8 ounces.
"My husband could hold a baby in his hand. His pinkie was the size of their arm," their mother recalled.
The triplets spent months in the newborn intensive care unit at Northwest Community Hospital in Arlington Heights, where "the nurses took care of us as much as they took care of our babies," Aletheia said.
The babies had lung issues and had to be intubated. There were terrifying moments during which they stopped breathing. All three had surgery for hernias in their groins.
"These little guys have been through so much," their mother said.
Ollie and Joey were brought home Nov. 29. Nels -- who was diagnosed with chronic lung disease and has to be on oxygen -- came home Dec. 23.
All three recently caught a respiratory virus that landed them back in the hospital for a few days, this time at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, which has a pediatrics ICU. They were back home Thursday.
"That hit us a little hard," Alethia said. "It was like starting all over again, seeing them on oxygen again with a feeding tube."
Aletheia has been documenting the family's journey on Instagram at @ourduecktribe, which has been therapeutic in processing her myriad feelings, she said.
Thankfully, the triplets' older siblings are doing well and have welcomed the little ones with open arms, Aletheia said.
Still, "we're kind (of) at our limit," she said. "We're stretched beyond what we can handle."
To that end, fellow Palatine resident Freyda Lewis organized a baby supplies drive for the family on Jan. 9.
A mother of four, Lewis said she read Aletheia's posts on the Palatine Mom's Club group on Facebook. So she sent her a friend request and the two started talking on the phone, finding out they have a lot in common.
"I just felt this connection to her," Lewis said. "My heart goes out to her."
Lewis said her own family got much help from people after her mother lost an arm in a car accident when Lewis was a baby. "I always felt it was the right thing to do, to give back."
The Duecks truly are grateful for Lewis' effort, Aletheia said. "She has a really helping heart. She's so sweet."
The family also has received help from Aletheia's mother, who lives in Palatine, and Nelson's parents, who are visiting from Canada, as well as members of the Palatine Mom's Club and The Church in Palatine, who have offered dinners and prayers.
"It's been a real blessing to us," Aletheia said.
Triplets occur naturally in about one in 10,000 pregnancies, according to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine. The odds of having identical triplets are even higher, with estimates ranging from one in 62,500 to one in 200 million.
The birth of the Duecks' triplets had a lot of hidden risk factors. Aletheia said she went to the hospital thinking she needed more fluids, but doctors realized Joey had broken his water sac.
"They told me, 'You're going to deliver today.' I was so in shock."
As it turns out, Nels' hemoglobin count was so low that he would not have survived much longer. Mom had a placental abruption, also life-threatening.
"We really feel like God has covered us this whole time," Aletheia said.
Now, the triplets have quadrupled their weight and already have distinct personalities.
Nels is a social flirt who smirks when held and loves to be talked to. Joey is the feisty one who pulls at his tubes, rolls around, loves to eat and seeks out people with his eyes. Ollie is the laid-back one who's content being fed and left alone.
Nels has a birthmark on his back, but Ollie and Joey have not a freckle of difference, their mother said.
"They have name bands with Velcro on their ankles and wrists so we can tell them apart."
To help the Dueck familyWhen: 10 a.m.-noon Sunday, Jan. 9
Where: Parking lot of the Palatine Police Department, 595 N. Hicks Road. Look for a white SUV with a sign saying "Triple the love -- baby supply drive" parked in the spot labeled "Internet Purchase Exchange Zone."
What: The Dueck family needs Enfamil Gentlease Infant Formula, diapers size 1 and up, baby shampoo, baby body wash and gift cards for restaurants. GrubHub and Instacart are welcome. No baby equipment needed.
More: visit facebook.com/events/287582776740120 for more information.