Sextuplets’ parents in 24-hour bedside vigil

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The overjoyed parents of Ireland’s first sextuplets are keeping a round-the-clock vigil as their babies continue to fight for life.

Nuala and Austin Conway have been staying at the Royal Jubilee Maternity Unit in Belfast since the babies were born on Friday.

It is believed the couple have already chosen names for the tiny tots, who weighed between 1lb 7oz and 2lb 2oz — less than a bag of sugar.

One boy is named Austin after his father and grandfather while the other will be called Eoin. The four girls have reportedly been named as Shannon, Kerry, Carla and Natasha.

Three of the babies were taken off their ventilator at the weekend but all six are expected to remain in hospital for the next few weeks.

The Belfast Health and Social Care Trust has maintained strict confidentiality surrounding the family and the condition of the infants. However, people in the Dunamore area of Co Tyrone where the Conway family lives said the babies were doing “as well as could be expected”.

The parents, who are “overjoyed” at the multiple birth, were able to hold their babies briefly before they were taken into intensive care.

Parish priest Fr Patrick Hughes, who has been in regular contact with the family since the birth, said he has been encouraged by the infants’ progress.

“Three of the babies came off their ventilator on Saturday and it seems that everything has gone okay since then,” he said.

“They will improve and get stronger as time passes, every day will see things move on a bit, and we pray they will continue to strive and grow.”

Fr Hughes visited the parents in hospital over the weekend and said they were “over the moon” at their “beautiful little miracles”.

“Nuala is keeping a picture of the babies by her bedside,” he added. “I have seen their pictures and they are lovely — tiny but beautiful.”

According to Fr Hughes people in the close-knit Dunamore community are planning to hold a welcome home ceremony when the new family returns.

“They will have plenty of help and support,” he added. “It will be a very special day for the parish when they come home, all being well. We’ve had twins baptised before but never sextuplets. That will take a bit of planning but it’s something everyone will look forward to.”

Local Sinn Fein councillor Sean Clarke said the Conway family was in everyone’s prayers.

“The babies are doing well given the circumstances. It is a long and slow process but it seems they are heading in the right direction,” he said.

Nuala and Austin married in 2006 and will celebrate their third wedding anniversary next month. They moved into a new bungalow beside Mr Conway’s family home in Dunamore, around seven miles from Cookstown.

This is not the first multiple birth in the Conway family. Austin is one of six children and has twin first and second cousins.

Meanwhile excitement is continuing to grow in Nuala’s home town of Cappagh. Local councillor Michael Gillespie knows her family and said the whole community is captivated by the story.

“It’s amazing news,” he said. “The sextuplets are not just the talk of the village, they are the talk of the whole world. People are delighted for the family and everyone is just praying they come through the next few days ok.”

The six babies were born by Caesarean section in just five minutes with the help of a 30-strong medical team.

Doctors confirmed the babies were not conceived through IVF. The birth of sextuplets is extremely rare, a one in 4.5million chance. The last sextuplets born in the UK were the Waltons from Liverpool in 1983.

* This article is from the Belfast Telegraph