Before they lived on the same street in Friendswood, the Elmore and Lacombe triplets were connected.
Ten years ago on a June day, they were born 12 hours apart at Woman’s Hospital of Texas.
The Elmore girls — Paige, Kara and Reagan — debuted just after 7 a.m. Then arrived the Lacombes — Noah, Carter and Emma — just before 7 p.m.
Before they celebrated birthdays together, before they told each other what they got for Christmas, and before they referred to each other as cousins, their mothers, Stephanie Lacombe and Heather Elmore, bonded through a hospital program called Space City Triplets.
The women chatted online and swapped stories about what it was like to be pregnant with three babies at once. In the decade since their births, the Elmores’ and the Lacombes’ relationship has blossomed into a long-lasting friendship.
“Other people looked at you weird,” said Justin Lacombe, Stephanie’s husband. “So, if we went somewhere with our triplets and hung out with another family, we almost thought they were uncomfortable. When we would hang out, it was like they are in the same boat as us, so nobody was judging anyone.”
Stephanie Lacombe, pregnant for the first time, cried when she found out she was carrying triplets. The responsibility felt overwhelming.
“I was having a total meltdown mentally,” said Stephanie Lacombe, 47. “You think ‘Why this? Why can’t I just do it normal like everybody else?”
Heather Elmore, who already had a daughter, Brooke, now 15, had a similar breakdown. She wondered how her two arms were going to handle three babies.
“How am I going to get them downstairs?” said Elmore.
Both mothers used in vitro fertilization to become pregnant. Still, triplets are rare in the United States: only 3,400 triplets were born in 2018, compared to 123,536 twin births, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 3 million babies were born in the country last year.
“When you’re going to the doctor in that process, they’re almost telling you ‘We just hope that you get pregnant,’” said Justin Lacombe, 38. “So, your thought process is ‘Hey, we just want to have a baby, right?’”
But after getting the unexpected news, the two mothers found solace in each other. They chatted online about doctor’s visits. Other mothers in Space City Triplets had triplets of varying ages, so the moms could also look to them for comfort and what to expect.
Then, Stephanie Lacombe’s water broke at 20 weeks.
Heather Elmore, who still hadn’t met Lacombe in person, broke down in tears.
“I just laid on my bed and cried and cried and cried,” said Heather Elmore. “I knew what she was feeling because I had so much fear.”
Stephanie Lacombe’s doctor explained that since only one baby’s water broke, she would have to wait because all three babies needed to be delivered at once.
Heather Elmore was also waiting. She was put on bed rest for six months, but could barely sleep at night, describing the pain she felt from carrying so many babies as a “blow torch.”
Both women delivered their babies 14 weeks later on June 11. Even more surprising, another mother, Karen Estrada, also gave birth to triplets — Robert, Brian and Anthony — on the same day at the same hospital. However, the mothers lost touch with Estrada and said her family moved to New York.
Lacombe and Elmore finally met face to face as they were being wheeled into the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) by their husbands.
During the first few days, Stephanie and Heather would look at their own babies and then walk over and admire the other’s.
Playdates as friends
When the Lacombes and Elmores brought their triplets home, they were in for more surprises.
The Lacombes made baby formula in a 3-gallon pitcher and had 36 bottles each day taking up a shelf of the fridge.
They bought diapers by the case. With so many kids to manage, grocery store trips sometimes ended abruptly, with the moms rushing out without any groceries in hand.
Despite the chaos, the moms made time for their triplets to spend together. Playdates got easier when the Lacombes and Elmores became neighbors in Friendswood. First, the Elmores moved in 2010 and then the following year the Lacombes joined them, moving on the same street as their friends.
The triplets began to bond just as their mothers did. They would have sleepovers, go to the zoo and even travel together. They had playdates, which the moms said was like setting up a daycare in their home. The parents’ bond was also growing stronger.
“We hung out sometimes, not because we weren’t friends but also for self-preservation,” said Troy Elmore, 49, laughing.
Now the triplets aren’t babies anymore. They are 10-year-olds who like playing football, basketball, and going to dance practice, but also still enjoy hanging with one another.
Their personalities are also emerging.
Noah is the goofiest, they say. Reagan and Emma are the most outgoing.
The triplets describe how they never feel lonely, get to share clothes and even sickness together.
“We get to go on trips together,” said Noah Lacombe. “Sometimes we laugh at each other. It’s kind of fun.”
Their parents say they’ve hit the “sweet spot” and joke about what it will be like to deal with six teenagers at once.
But they are all grateful for their triplets and the bond they share between one another.
“It’s been a better life than I could ever imagine,” said Troy Elmore.