While every parent knows their child is one in a million, a Chapel-en-le-Frith couple has just discovered their triplets are one in 200million after surprise DNA test results.
Colette and Dave Pawluk welcomed sons Milo, Finn and Charlie into the world in March 2017, but it took until last month to discover they were, in fact, identical.
Colette, 39, said: “We thought it was just Finn and Charlie, because they had shared a placenta and sac, and Milo was always separate.
“But as they got older, Milo and Charlie began to look identical and Finn a bit different. I started to get worried that we’d mixed them up, I didn’t know it was possible they could be the same.”
The parents had been keeping track of the boys, first with their hospital tags, then with nail polish dots, different outfits and cot positions, but Colette’s confusion coincided with a trip to the photographer where they were all unclothed, playing and swapping places.
She said: “There was another time when Dave put them to sleep in the wrong place. I picked up who I thought was Milo but he didn’t look right.
“I felt like I knew who was who, and people talk about a mother’s instinct, but it started gnawing away at the back of my mind and making me nervous.”
Colette, who works for Derbyshire County Council, turned to newfound friends on a triplets support group on Facebook, who explained that, although it was extremely rare, there was a chance they could be identical.
The only way to be sure was a DNA test, so the boys were swabbed and samples sent away for analysis.
Colette said: “I was really surprised, but very relieved there was an explanation as to why I couldn’t tell them apart.
“I already felt lucky to have them because we weren’t sure we’d have the big family I always wanted — but this just makes it more amazing.”
As the boys have started to develop their personalities, Colette is starting to have an easier time keeping track of them.
She said: “It’s exciting, because I studied psychology and was always fascinated by twin studies. I’d love to know what they are thinking, and at what stage they will realise they could actually have been one person.
“They are hitting their milestones close together but you can definitely identify them by character now. Charlie is cheeky, Milo is mischievous, and Finn is a bit more sensitive. I’m learning from them all the time.”
With three new babies at once Colette and Dave have been rushed off their feet for the last year.
At one point, they were preparing 21 feeding bottles every day and dealing with a never-ending laundry cycle.
Colette said: “I remember reading that looking after triplets takes more hours per week than actually exist, and it scared the life out of me.
“But you just find a way through, and we’ve learned to do everything more efficiently.”
They have also had constant support from Colette’s mum Maureen Harris, but the biggest star is the boys’ three-year-old sister Maya.
Colette said: “She has coped so well, and I’m very proud of her. I would never ask her to do anything, but we wanted to involve her and now sometimes I catch her doing little jobs to help anyway.
“I didn’t want her to feel pushed out, but we get a lot people stopping us when we’re out with the triplet buggy, and she always makes sure people notice her as well.”
She added: “She’s very special too, and so many people make a lovely fuss of all the children. It makes you realise what a nice community we have.”