A young woman who found herself both homeless and pregnant with triplets has decided to share her rollercoaster of a journey on how she’s raised her triplet boys whilst being single. Now that she’s overcome the struggles she feels like that she’s come out of it for the better and wants to share her story.
Jessica Elsey, of Polgooth near St Austell, Cornwall, couldn’t believe it when she discovered that she was expecting triplets – especially as she knew she’d be solo-parenting.
The 22-year-old was living in London at the time and was on a visit to Cornwall when she had a romantic encounter she hadn’t been expecting.
Jessica told Cornwall Live: “I grew up in a nice village. Growing up I had two married, ambitious parents, a little sister, we had a dog, two cats, guinea pigs, a hamster, a rabbit, and a good house – the lot.
“We had a nice life and came from a nice area and I really didn’t intend to get pregnant out of the blue like that.”
Yet within just three weeks of discovering she was pregnant, Jessica found that she was experiencing a lot of pain. To clarify she and the baby were okay, she attended an emergency appointment and was worried when they said she needed to go to the early pregnancy unit.
She said: “That was awful. It was a really hot day and I was sat with my back to the window and there was a chill in the air.
“I was surrounded by women losing their babies and I was becoming more aware as the hours that went by, that most people who are sent there come out with heartbreaking news.”
In the first appointment, she was told that although her pregnancy hormone levels were high, the doctors couldn’t find any sign of life. Yet during a second appointment, they told her they had found twins but sadly, there was no heartbeat.
She said: “It was a really confusing time – the doctors were confused, my hormone levels were still too high for it to make sense.”
The doctors presumed she was experiencing an ectopic pregnancy so asked her if she was experiencing any pain in her shoulders.
Describing the difficult time, Jessica continued: “Here I am, shocked that I’m even pregnant, and now I’m mourning two babies, that I wasn’t ever expecting to have in the first place and Googling ‘what happens when you have an ectopic pregnancy?’.
“I didn’t know what to feel, or what I had a right to feel and I was scared about all the possible outcomes.”
When she reached the five-week pregnancy mark, after having had multiple tests and hours spent being examined by doctors and nurses, Jessica was shocked when they informed her there were not two but three viable pregnancies.
Believing it had to be a joke, she literally swore at the nurse and then burst into laughter. She felt the situation was mad, she couldn’t believe what she was hearing.
Jessica said: “I was so glad I had the support of my best friend when I found out, who had travelled to London to be there.
“And I wish my reaction was more pleasant than it was, but I was already convinced that my two babies hadn’t made it and I was coming to terms with that.”
She continued: “I remember thinking ‘this never happens to people’.
“One child is incredible and when people tell me they are pregnant I think it’s amazing. Your body is literally making a child. It’s the most beautiful and natural thing.”
Within the space of just a few weeks, it felt odd to Jessica that she had been this single and ambitious woman who hadn’t even thought about having children and now she was pregnant with not one, not two but three babies. She couldn’t believe that she was now going to be having a healthy set of triplets after originally being told that it was unlikely there was even one heartbeat.
She said: “The whole time until they were born I just thought they were going to die. I didn’t want to be pregnant at first and I also didn’t think I would ever have children, let alone this.”
Although the thought of being a mum to three babies was a terrifying thought for her to process, she knew that abortion was not an option. She was even provided with information on foetal reduction, which is a surgery that involves lowering the number of foetuses – it’s a procedure offered to everyone who has higher-order multiples.
She explained: “Nobody should feel the need to justify themselves, especially on why they have aborted or reduced a pregnancy – they will have good reason and that’s personal to them.
“But for me, I just couldn’t work out why I, personally, would do it. Of course, there were reasons. The doctors told me that it’ll be very expensive to raise them but this just wasn’t enough for me.
“My little babies and I had already been through so much. It had already been so emotional. I knew that the three little balls of cells inside me, that were developing each day, had so much potential and I personally don’t have the strength to think ‘what if?’ for my entire life.”
She added: “I had been blessed and I owed them the chance, my babies had already given me so much strength.”
Carrying so many babies, Jessica found that it was a difficult pregnancy and she had countless hospital admissions, severe morning sickness (hyperemesis), severely low iron levels and there were signs that her babies would be born early and arrive around 24 weeks, this would mean they had no chance of survival out of the womb.
Having duel care between London and Cornwall, throughout the pregnancy she spent most of her time 300 miles away from family and had to work every day up until she went in labour at 34 weeks pregnant. Jessica and the father of the triplets had completely parted ways by this point.
After a long day of labour, the three boys, Arthur, Brodie and Carter, were welcomed into the world by an emergency C-section in October 2017. To the surprise and delight of the medical staff, they found that all three babies were perfectly happy.
The babies were born in London and after a couple of difficult weeks spent alone in a neonatal ward, Jessica and her boys travelled to be with her mum whilst she tried to find them a home.
She said that this was the most challenging time in her life and every three hours the boys would need feeding. Sometimes, she would be feeding them for 16 hours a day. Until they were almost a year old, they were exclusively breastfed.
The mum said that she felt breastfeeding was really versatile and would allow her to feed two of the babies at once. Meanwhile, the other baby she’d pop in a bouncer and then swap around.
In total, it would take two hours to feed all three and she would often be left with less than an hour between feeds.
She commented: “It was a huge challenge. But it is the best thing I have ever done, something I’m immensely proud of my body for doing.”
In the early days, Jessica didn’t have a car and would struggle to get around with the triplets. Before leaving anywhere, she would make sure to feed them but she’d still find they’d needing feeding whilst out in public too.
Eventually, when the babies were three weeks old, Jessica was given a key to their own home and she was overjoyed to find that she and her boys were no longer homeless.
Being a mum of triplets, she has found that there is often the misconception from others that she must be incredibly organised and have a set structure for the day to day runnings of life. In reality, Jessica enjoys being relaxed on how she raises her sons. She says that over time, she has come to realise that the secret to motherhood is simply working on each challenge as it comes and not to worry about things that haven’t actually happened yet.
She said: “I’m not going to pretend I am organised. There are a lot of things you can do with one or even two that you really have to think about when you have got three.
“I just try to enjoy it and learn from each lesson. Before they were crawling, there was no point worrying about when they would start crawling. It is all about living each day as it comes and enjoying it. You can’t second guess toddlers and every time I got good at something or found a parenting hack, they would develop.”
When out and about, Jessica finds that she and her boys attract a lot of stares from passersby and many have even made comments such as “rather you than me”. Whilst doing the food shopping, she can get stopped up to 30 times.
She explained: “We get some odd comments. I do worry when the boys are older how they might take these things, as they can sometimes be hurtful, or not even make sense.
“But this is a blessing and I can let it go because people are just being friendly most of the time. But you do sometimes feel like your family is a bit of a circus.
“And I do know how very blessed I am. We also get ‘wow’ and ‘aren’t you a lucky mummy’ which is lovely and I would never want anyone to feel they couldn’t stop me.
“But by the thirtieth time, when you are trying to pack your shopping in the supermarket and there are three of them running around with people trying to ask me about how they were made, if it was IVF, and also telling me they are tearing the chocolate off the shelves, it can be a bit much.”
Currently, Jessica is working within the charity sector and enjoys that this allows her to travel around the country.
Alongside raising her sons and working, she is studying a degree to become a teacher and a diploma to be a forest school leader. There have been points where she has considered quitting her studies and just aiming for a lower-paid job, or moving back to London where jobs pay more but she knows, in the long run, this will give her little family the better and brighter future.
She documents her life as a mum to her three boys – who are two and a half years old – on her Instagram account. She says that she’s never been afraid to share her hardships as a mum and likes to be clear that she has financial struggles like many people, especially over the past few months during the coronavirus pandemic.
She said: “We have recently found things tough and challenging, particularly, during lockdown. Living as a one-parent family, with three toddlers whose idea of fun is to decorate my walls and break furniture.
“We started the journey homeless and have had some incredible support from the village, family and friends. I think anybody will be able to relate to how much children cost. You just can’t imagine it.”
She added: “We’re lucky to live in Cornwall because going to the beach and the forest is generally free, but it is difficult if you can’t afford the parking.
“I know that my family are among the many living in poverty in Cornwall, but I’m doing my best.
“My children have taught me many things, but the biggest thing they have taught me is that there is no shame in asking for help and it wasn’t until people started donating and sending us things that I realised how much we really actually needed it.
“Because of peoples generosity my children have been able to eat, play, have warm milk and toast. This mummy has not quite been able to relax, but I have been a lot less stressed than I could have been, so I thank everyone so, so much.”