Some say three’s a crowd, but AJ and Jessie Smith of Wilmington, North Carolina believe six is a family. On July 25, triplets Bailey, Lainey and Ruby joined their big siblings Chloe (7), Finn (4) and Huxley (2).
“We were supposed to have a 9:30 am surgery and got bumped by emergency c-sections all day,” Jessie said. “They all came out screaming in order, A-B-C, same as they’ve always been.”
Following the birth of their girls, the Smiths stayed at the Ronald McDonald House of Chapel Hill to be close to UNC Children’s, while their babies were cared for in the NICU.
In 2016, RMHCH provided 5,838 nights of lodging to families with children in the NICU, the most of any medical specialty referred to the House.
The Smiths were first introduced to the House about 18 weeks into their pregnancy when they found out that Ruby has hypoplastic right heart and pulmonary atresia, which will require three surgeries throughout her life.
“That was really scary because we had just wrapped our head around having triplets and all girls,” Jessie said. “And Ruby’s identical twin Bailey had intrauterine growth restriction so we had to do weekly cord monitoring. It was a really scary pregnancy.”
After 10 weeks at the House, all six Smith children are now home together. “It is wonderful,” Jessie said. “Busy, crazy, chaotic and we wouldn’t trade it for the world.”
The older siblings are excited to have the babies home after visiting periodically during their parents’ stay at the House.
“Having the older kids come and stay on occasion made it so much easier for us to focus on visiting the babies,” Jessie said. “The organized activities for the kids was an awesome way to keep them distracted and positive during a stressful and uncertain time.”
The Smiths’ best memories of the House include the other families they met and spent time with. “The sense of community is strong and we built friendships that will extend past our stay at the House,” Jessie said.
For Jessie and AJ, the House was a “life saver,” enabling them to stay with their babies as long as they did.
“It is really an amazing place that supports and cares, the volunteers are so friendly and willing to listen. Overall a life changing experience, the 10 weeks we spent there made a world of difference for our health—mental, physical and financial—while we waited for our babies to be released from UNC.”
Carolina Love is a series of stories written and presented by Ronald McDonald House Chapel Hill.
CAROLINA LOVE: Celebrating the stories of families, volunteers and donors who have made the House a true home away from home over the last 30 years. For three decades, we have embraced every family that has come to our door, and each has a unique story. These are but a few of the many stories the House has been a part of since it opened. Carolina Love is a behind the scenes look at what we do, those we serve and those on whom we depend to help us carry out our mission of keeping families close.