‘Scary’: Woman whose sister died giving birth to triplets also fell pregnant with triplets

When Hyran Smith found out his daughter was pregnant with triplets, he could not help but think of his other daughter who died a few years ago giving birth to her own set of triplets.

The second triplet pregnancy was another miracle, but one that had everyone in the whānau worried after they lost older daughter Chervonne Magaoa in August 2017 while she was giving birth to sons Aayden, Blaise and Carson Magaoa.

Younger daughter Merekete McCabe, 34, is the same age her sister was when she died.

“It was scary for Merekete and her husband and it was scary for us. We hoped it wasn’t a repeat,” Smith said.

“She was scared, she was broken. She and Chervonne were very close and so she shed a lot of tears over this.”

Magaoa died after suffering an amniotic fluid embolism. The rare condition occurs when amniotic fluid – which surrounds a baby in the uterus during pregnancy – enters the mother’s bloodstream.

Smith still easily recalls that fateful day, as he had taken Chervonne to the hospital for what was meant to be a 30-minute weekly appointment, before doctors said there was a complication.

Thankfully, Merekete had no complications and she gave birth to three healthy babies via caesarean section on September 3, last year.

Son Alohi was born first, followed by two girls, Ivy and Pia. Their birthday is three days after their triplet cousins’ birthday, August 31.

The family – originally from Bridge Pā – now live in Hawaii. Because of Covid-19 restrictions, only Merekete’s husband George McCabe was allowed to be with her.

The rest of the family waited at home for the phone to ring.

“It didn’t take long, but everyone was on pins and needles.”

Covid restrictions also meant the huge support system provided by what Smith dubbed “the village” – family, friends and church members – that helped care for the Magaoa triplets when they were born, could not happen for their younger cousins.

Smith, who lives with Chervonne’s husband Martin and their older son Tanner, now 9, takes care of his triplet grandsons fulltime during the day, while his son-in-law is at work.

Over the past six months, Smith has also helped to care for the younger triplets – something he loves to do, he says.

“Merekete’s husband George has to work of course, so I go and help at the end of the week and weekend.

“Night times are the hardest. When we go to sleep – I look after one baby and she will have two of the babies.”

When the triplets met their triplet cousins

Describing the first time the older triplets got to meet their cousins, he said the connection was instant.

“The boys love them. I tell them: ‘They’re triplets just like you’. I don’t know how they comprehend that, but they know they’re all special.”

On helping to raise Chervonne’s boys, in particular, he said it was a responsibility he did not take lightly.

'She was the best mother'

“It’s big shoes to fill because she was meticulous in everything. She was the best mother to Tanner.

“She was the mother of the kid the other mothers wanted their kid to be in the same class with – because Chervonne would buy snacks not just for her son, but for all the kids in the class.”

Her triplet sons continue to thrive – as does their brother Tanner, who was only 6 when his mum died.

“Tanner doesn’t really remember Chervonne, but that’s why you have a Papa – to keep those memories alive.

“I do that with the triplets too – every day. When I wash their faces, I say: ‘Mummy wants a clean face. She wants me to comb your hair. She wants her boys to look nice and handsome’.”

Smith said he often thought of daughter Chervonne and his late wife Barbara Jean, who died in 2014.

“When my wife died, I was prepared for that. But I wasn’t prepared for Chervonne.

“When my wife died, she said to me: ‘Don’t worry, dad. I’ll take care of you’.”

He remained “incredibly grateful” for all his grandchildren and the love and support the family continues to receive from around the world, including from friends and family and even strangers in New Zealand.

“With all that’s happened, I can’t help but feel blessed.

“I wouldn’t change anything. It’s meant to be and I’ll see her when I see her.”

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