A proud mother who, having weathered failed IVF and a miscarriage is now believed to be the UK's first cystic fibrosis patient to become a mum to triplets, says her remarkable story has been made possible by the power of love.
While other children were still dreaming of marrying their popstar idols, aged just 14 and 15 and attending neighbouring schools, Amy and Craig Sargeant, of Carmarthen, South Wales, had already fallen for each other so deeply that she had told him she was living with cystic fibrosis (CF) – an incurable, life-limiting lung disease.
Showing remarkable maturity, already head-over-heels, Craig, 29, vowed to stay with her, even though, back then, doctors had predicted her life expectancy to be just 30.
Craig and Amy as teenagersPA Real Life/Collect
When Amy, now 28, turned 16, the couple went for genetic testing and were delighted to discover Craig did not have the CF gene, meaning they could start a family together, safe in the knowledge that their future babies would be carriers, but would not have the condition themselves.
Smiling proudly at their adorable triplets, Ronnie, Lottie and Tommie, born on January 27 2018 at Glan Clwyd Hospital in Rhyl, North Wales, Amy said: “We still feel like we're in a whirlwind with it all. We had waited so long to have a family that it is almost surreal seeing the triplets. They really are miracles."
Craig now cares full-time for Amy, who is classed as disabled, having been diagnosed with CF – a genetic condition, which sees the lungs become clogged with a sticky mucus – at five months old after doctors noticed she had salty sweat, which is a tell-tale sign.
The family all togetherPA Real Life/Collect
Speaking of their battle to have a family, Craig said: “You do try to hold on to hope, but there were times during the seven years when we were trying for a baby when it began to fade.
“When we found out that, not only was Amy pregnant, but it was triplets, we jumped for joy.
“Of course we were nervous too, but when they were born after years of infertility, two failed cycles of IVF and a miscarriage, our dreams were finally a reality. We were Mummy and Daddy. If Carslberg did best moments, that would be one of them."
The tripletsPA Real Life/Collect
But Amy and Craig are a couple with a love so strong, they never stop smiling for long.
And Amy knew he was the one the moment she told him her first big secret at the tender age of 14.
She said: “I was so young back then that I almost tried to hide my CF. I didn't want to be different from everybody else."
Amy going down to theatre to deliver the babiesPA Real Life/Collect
“It's a really big thing to tell somebody else, not least because of the life expectancy. It took me a few months to find the courage to tell Craig and I thought he would up and leave, but he didn't."
In his mind, Craig had already decided they would be together until death parted them.
He added: “I didn't know what CF really was, but it didn't matter to me. I fell in love with Amy for her. I had found my soulmate and felt like the luckiest guy in the world."
Buoyed by the good news after his genetic testing, as their relationship went from strength to strength, Craig popped the question on Christmas Day 2011.
Once engaged, they decided to try for children with the approval of Amy's CF consultant.
“We knew that with Amy's health, things could take time, so we wanted to try as soon as we could," he said.
Craig running Cardiff Half Marathon for the CF TrustPA Real Life/Collect
But, when they tied the knot two years later, in August 2013 at a church in Carmarthen, they were still childless.
Craig added: “We were surrounded by our family and friends, but without the child we longed for. Still, Amy looked stunning in her strapless white gown. I promised to love her in sickness and health, and I stand by that."
While the Cystic Fibrosis Trust says many women with the disease have babies without needing fertility treatment, it can also mean they are more likely to experience irregular or absent periods if they are ill or very underweight.
Amy and Craig the day they found out the babies genderPA Real Life/Collect
The condition can also thicken the vaginal mucus, making it harder for sperm to reach the egg.
But doctors said neither was the case with Amy, and nobody could seem to find a cause for the couple's difficulties.
Finally, in 2015, after four years of trying, they were approved for two cycles of IVF on the NHS.
A 20 week scan of the tripletsPA Real Life/Collect
Amy, who worked hard at physiotherapy to keep herself healthy as she tried to fall pregnant, said: “We were over the moon to find out we had been approved, as we know it can be a real postcode lottery.
“It was a relief to know we were getting help, and being naive, we thought we would have a baby soon."
Excited, the pair bought baby clothes, bottles and looking at prams in anticipation – but still nothing happened.
Amy at her baby showerPA Real Life/Collect
Craig said: “Looking back, I wish we hadn't, but we really thought we were pretty much guaranteed a baby with IVF."
In around September 2015, after their second cycle of IVF, they were ecstatic to discover Amy was pregnant.
But, tragically, it was not meant to be and she miscarried at about five weeks.
Trying for a child, often can be a difficult decision, when you or your partner have CF. Our Family Planning pack,… https://t.co/BJeYxJYuKJ— Cystic Fibrosis Trust (@Cystic Fibrosis Trust) 1529348448.0
“We walked away from that hospital broken. To have something you had wanted for so long taken away in a heartbeat – it was so hard," said Amy.
Their confidence was knocked, but they soldiered on together, taking some time out to focus on each other, knowing their love would see them through every adversity.
Then, in 2017, unable to afford private IVF, which can cost around £5,000 per cycle, they started investigating alternatives.
The tripletsPA Real Life/Collect
On a Facebook CF support group, Amy kept reading about intrauterine insemination (IUI), which involves directly inserting sperm into the woman's womb.
Less invasive and significantly cheaper than IVF, at around £800 a time, IUI also has a much lower success rate, with only 18 per cent of women under 35 going on to have a healthy baby after a cycle, according to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority.
Fortunately, Amy was one of the lucky ones and around two weeks later in July 2017, her pregnancy test was positive.
The couple with Amy's positive pregnancy test when she found out she was expecting the tripletsPA Real Life/Collect
More amazing news came at her six-week scan, when midwives announced that she was having triplets.
“We'd wanted a baby for so long, and now we were having three. Going from a two to a five was scary, but so exciting," said Craig. “Amy was so strong, and from the very moment I knew they were coming, I loved my three babies more than anything in the world."
Happily, Amy, who was closely monitored by doctors, had a smooth pregnancy, aside from complications in the last trimester, when the pressure on her body saw her cough up blood.
Amy whilst pregnantPA Real Life/Collect
At 30 weeks, she was admitted to hospital.
“I stayed in for a few days before being allowed home – but then, before long, my waters broke and I went back," she explained.
“So, towards the end, I was in and out of hospital a lot, but aside from that, the pregnancy was brilliant."
Amy with Ronnie just after he was bornPA Real Life/Collect
On 27 January 2018, at Glan Clwyd Hospital – the nearest place that had specialist cots available – the triplets arrived by caesarean section.
First came Ronnie at 17:27, weighing 3lb 10, then his sister Lottie at 5:30 weighing 3lb 13oz, followed by Tommie at 5:32, weighing 3lb 1oz.
As they were premature, they remained in hospital and were tube fed as they grew stronger.
But one by one they came home – Lottie after 35 days, Tommie after 46 and Ronnie after 53.
Ronnie, who had been the most poorly, did suffer a terrifying setback when he stopped breathing one night as the family watched TV.
Fortunately, Craig remembered watching a DVD about CPR at the hospital, and, quick-thinking, performed it on his son, not stopping until the ambulance arrived.
Ronnie moving hospitals in the helicopterPA Real Life/Collect
“That was a really horrible time, but thankfully, Ronnie pulled through," he said.
Now, the babies are all happy and healthy, and Craig and Amy are enjoying life as the parents they were born to be.
While the tots carry the CF gene, they do not have the condition, and Amy is thought to be the first mum with the condition in the country to have triplets.
Craig and Amy with the triplets on their first ChristmasPA Real Life/Collect
Currently doing well, with a lung function of around 63 per cent, she said: “Nothing is guaranteed with my health. I can be fine one minute, then pick up a bug and be really poorly.
“It can make things like planning family days out difficult, but we do our best.
“No two days are the same with CF, that's the difficult thing."
Determined to raise awareness, the pair have shared the ups and downs of their life together through candid Instagram blogs called @daddy2triplets and @mummy2triplets.
The triplets on their half birthdayPA Real Life/Collect
Clearly their story has touched lives, as after being nominated by one of their followers, Craig has won the Partner's Voice Award from respected baby charity Tommy's – a brand new category this year, which celebrates a partner who has spoken out about their own difficult pregnancy experience.
Now, the couple hope to raise awareness of CF and kickstart vital research that could one day find a cure.
Craig concluded: “I am so honoured to have won the award from Tommy's. It blew my mind to even be nominated."
Amy and Craig at the Tommy's AwardsPA Real Life/Collect
He added: “All I want to do through the Instagram is raise awareness of CF. It's a horrid disease but Amy fights it every single day with dignity, pride and hope.
“If I could ask for one thing, it would be for a cure, so my babies don't lose their mum. She's even started making videos for when they reach their milestones in case she isn't around or her health deteriorates rapidly.
“But we are a family, and we will continue the daily fight together."
Craig with Giovanna Fletcher at the Tommy's AwardsPA Real Life/This Is Dodd/Tommy's
One in four women will lose a baby during pregnancy or birth. Tommy's believes that every baby lost is one too many and works tirelessly to reduce the UK's unacceptable rates of miscarriage, stillbirth and premature birth – pioneering medical research to discover the causes of baby loss.
They help women at every stage of their pregnancy journeys, supporting them and their partners with expert information and care. Together, with your support, Tommy's will make pregnancy safer for all and ensure that excellent maternity care is available for every woman, every baby, everywhere.
The Tommy's Awards are for families who have been touched by pregnancy complications or the loss of a baby and faced their circumstances with courage, bravery and solidarity. The awards celebrate the incredible supporters, families, researchers, brands and healthcare professionals who have come #TogetherForChange.
For information visit www.tommys.org