Beaming with delight as she cradles two new additions to her family, Libby Cooper looks like any proud older sister.
But in reality three-year-old Libby and the newborn girls are actually triplets, born almost four years apart.
All three girls were conceived at the same time during IVF treatment, but while Libby was born in May 2008, her sisters Neeve and Maddie did not arrive until earlier this month.
Three of a kind: Libby cradles Maddie, left, and Neeve, who were born three years after her birth to complete the triplet set
Parents Nadine and Martin Cooper told of their delight at their extraordinary triplets yesterday, years after doctors warned they might never have children.
Mrs Cooper, 38, said: ‘It’s a bit surreal having triplets who are different ages but we can already see the resemblances between them.
'When we started fertility treatment I never imagined we would have one child, let alone three. It’s a dream come true.’ The Coopers married in June 2005 and started trying for a family, but were devastated when doctors warned they might not be able to conceive.
The nurse and her engineer husband went for medical tests and learned they both had fertility problems.
Mrs Cooper said: ‘We went for tests after we’d been trying for 18 months with no luck. Martin was found to have low mobility and low motility in his sperm count and I was told I wasn’t producing very good quality eggs, so our chances of conceiving were low.
'It was very upsetting but we weren’t prepared to give up on our dream of having a family and we started looking into other options.’
Delighted: Parents Nadine and Martin Cooper had triplets courtesy of IVF treatment
The couple decided to try to conceive using IVF and in August 2007 they paid £6,000 for a private cycle of the fertility treatment to avoid the NHS waiting list.
Six embryos were created and one was implanted immediately, while another four were frozen for possible use in the future.
The couple were warned they might have to undergo several cycles of IVF but were thrilled when Mrs Cooper fell pregnant on their first attempt, and Libby was born in May 2008.
Then last year the family from Melksham, Wiltshire, decided to try for another child using the remaining frozen embryos.
Mrs Cooper underwent another embryo transfer in June and doctors implanted two, to increase her chances of a successful pregnancy.
She told the Daily Mail: ‘The doctors told us there was just a 14 per cent chance of one of those embryos being viable.
'They didn’t give us any odds for both embryos taking, as it’s thought to be less than one per cent.
'Martin and I were very aware that we might not be so lucky this time and we tried not to get our hopes up too much.’ To their amazement, a pregnancy test revealed Mrs Cooper was expecting again after that treatment.
And the couple had another surprise when the six-week scan showed she was pregnant with twins.
'We were overjoyed,’ Mrs Cooper said. ‘We’d struck lucky twice with the IVF treatment and now we were having not one but two babies. The nurses were smiling and saying “What’s your secret?”. It was more than we could ever have asked for.’
Maddie and Neeve were born on February 5, four weeks early, weighing 5lbs 8oz and 4lbs 12oz respectively, and were allowed home two days later.
Mr and Mrs Cooper say they will tell their non-identical triplets about their special relationship when they are older.
Mrs Cooper said: ‘We’re still trying to get our heads round the fact we’ve got triplets who are different ages but it’s lovely to see people’s reactions.
'Libby’s too young to understand how it all works but when she’s older we’re going to explain how her little sisters were actually made at the same time, but they were just kept in the freezer a bit longer.
'A few years ago we didn’t even think we’d have one child, and now we’ve got three. We feel very lucky.’
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