Same-Sex Couple ‘Blessed’ With Triplets

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A same sex couple in South Africa are believed to
be the first in the country and possibly the world
to have triplets – which also include identical
twins – using a surrogate.

In another rare twist, the male couple share
biological fatherhood as DNA from both men was
used.
The new parents, who were friends and neighbours
of former Paralympian Oscar Pistorius, met their
surrogate only because of the athlete’s murder
trial.

The couple, Christo and Theo Menelaou, have now
taken their triplets back home to Pretoria after a
nerve-wracking three weeks in hospital, where the
babies hovered between life and death.
They were delivered prematurely at just over 31
weeks on 2 July.
Joshua was the first triplet born by caesarean and
was the heaviest, weighing 1.82kg (4lbs), Zoe
came next, weighing 1.4kg (3.1lbs), and finally
Kate followed at just 1.3kg (2.9lbs).
Joshua, also the longest of the trio, measured only
40cm (less than 16ins). They were put on
breathing apparatus and constantly monitored until
they were considered strong enough to leave
Sunninghill Hospital in Johannesburg.
Even so, they went home separately with Joshua
being the first discharged on 22 July at three
weeks old; Zoe left 10 days later, followed by her
twin Kate on 4 August.
These were the triplets no one thought would ever
be born. The couple themselves believed they
would never be parents.
Christo Menelaou told Sky News: “When you are
gay, there is always the thought that it just may
not be possible to be a parent no matter how
much you would love to be.

“It’s very hard to be accepted for adoption and we
were told we would always come after heterosexual
couples. And then we just never thought we’d ever
find a person who would want to be surrogate to a
gay couple.”
But they did. A mother of three whom they
encountered through the Pistorius murder trial
agreed to bear their children.
The couple met their surrogate after a group of
neighbours on the residential estate where the
killing took place got together after the trial.
Few knew each other before the athlete shot dead
his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp in February 2013.
But, in the aftermath of the traumatic events, many
became firm friends. One of the key state
witnesses introduced Christo and Theo to their
surrogate.

South Africa’s strict laws on surrogacy meant both
men, their surrogate and their surrogate’s husband
had to sign affidavits in agreement and appear
before a judge to insist they all agreed and were
willing participants and no money would be
exchanged (aside from expenses incurred as a
result of the pregnancy).

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In a further bizarre twist, the first judge scheduled
to consider the case was Judge Masipa – the judge
who presided over the Pistorius trial. She was
changed at the last moment.
The couple went to an egg bank and chose their
eggs before one embryo fertilised with Christo’s
sperm was implanted in the surrogate’s womb,
along with another embryo fertilised with Theo’s
sperm (two embryos is usually the limit implanted
to avoid dangerous multiple pregnancies).
But 10 weeks into the pregnancy, a scan revealed
that one of the embryos had split and the surrogate
was now bearing triplets of which two would be
identical twins – an extremely rare occurrence.
A string of doctors advised the couple and the
surrogate to terminate two of the babies to give the
third a better chance of survival but finally they
found a gynaecologist who agreed to help them
deliver all three.
Dr Heidra Dahms, the gynaecologist at Sunninghill
Hospital who delivered the babies, told Sky News:
“It is extremely rare. I have never heard of this
before.”
In fact, there’s very little data for same-sex
surrogate babies – and the likelihood of triplets
makes the event even rarer. When you take into
account that two of the babies are identical twins,
the family enters a largely unknown set of
statistics.

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A team of more than 20 surgeons, nurses,
anaesthetists and the two fathers were all in theatre
as the babies were born in early July with three
separate medical teams dealing with each baby.
With the babies weighing a little over a kilo each,
their lungs needed extra help to breathe at first and
Theo slept in the hospital by their bedside for
three weeks until they got stronger. Even so, there
are challenges ahead with Zoe needing surgery on
a heart defect which must be carried out within six
months.
Right now though, the couple are just celebrating
the fatherhood they never thought they would
enjoy, caring for the triplets at their own home with
the help of two nurses who are with them night
and day. Each baby is still fitted with a monitor
which sounds an alarm when the baby stops
breathing.
“We have to gently massage their backs,” Theo
said, “or tickle their toes just to remind them to
take a breath.”
His eyes fill with tears as he talks about the births.
“We feel so blessed. We really do.”

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