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Couple Hoping for Baby Girl Now Have 3

TIMES STAFF WRITER

With two boys at home, Irene Zozaya wanted a girl badly--but triplets? Triplets?

“We thought the lady who did the ultrasound test was lying--just to crack a joke,” Zozaya recalls. “We cried for two days . . . out of joy, out of worry and just out of shock.”

Now, it’s mostly joy, Zozaya says as the Costa Mesa woman and her husband beat medical odds of 50,000-to-1 on Aug. 6 and had not just triplets--but identical ones, born from the same egg, only the second set in the history of Hoag Hospital.

And in this age of headline-grabbing surrogate parenting and drug-prodded septuplets, the Zozayas surprised even some doctors and hospital workers by producing three healthy girls the traditional way, without the aid of fertility drugs.

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“All three are doing great too,” said Dr. Lawrence K. Wickham, who heads Hoag’s neonatal and pediatric intensive-care unit. “Identical triplets are extremely rare, so we’re all almost as excited here as the family.”

Even at St. Joseph Hospital in Orange, the self-declared “triplets capital of the world,” with 21 such births in the last eight years, nurses can recall only two identical sets born there through the years.

Two of the 34-year-old Zozaya’s three Ds--Desirae and Deborah--made their first public appearance Thursday, posing sleepily for the media cameras at the hospital and then attracting oohs and ahhs from Irene’s co-workers and customers at a Bank of America branch in Costa Mesa.

“Triplets! I don’t believe it,” said one fellow clerk. “I’d like twins, but I don’t know about triplets,” added one expectant father.

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“Where’s the third one?” asked another friend. (Diana wasn’t feeling well.) And from a supervisor: “Here come the munchkins!”

Delivered by Cesarean section about a month early, Deborah weighed in at 5 pounds, 13 ounces; Diana at 5 pounds, 11 ounces, and Desirae at 4 pounds, 9 ounces. Diana is paler and smaller than her sisters, but Irene swears she can barely tell the other two apart--especially with their ample hair growing in over needle marks on the scalps, related to their prematurity, that had distinguished them.

“If I put them side by side, I really can’t tell,” she said. “I’ve looked for birthmarks and all that, but it’s just not there.”

Zozaya thinks she knows why she had triplets--even though it hasn’t run in her family.

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“I prayed too hard for a girl,” she says matter-of-factly. “I had all my friends and relatives praying for a girl . . . and I guess it worked.”

As long as she was getting triplets, Zozaya says she was hoping that all three would be girls--if only for the chance to dress them up.

“The clothes buying is the thing that fascinates me the most,” said Zozaya, a former elementary school teacher who has two boys, ages 5 and 10. “Shopping for the boys, there’s not a lot of selection. With the girls, there’s the frills, the laces, all that.”

Adds husband Don, 35: “I’m just tickled to death. . . . I’m just worried now about hiring enough bodyguards to keep the boys away.”

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Of course, the triplets haven’t come without some minor problems.

Home finances could be tricky for a while for Irene and her husband, who has his own concrete business. They’re now multiplying the costs of strollers, diapers, et al by three, plus the salary of a private nurse, all without Irene’s salary through at least November.

And all three may be on home sleep monitors for possible apnea conditions, along with some other problems of prematurity that physicians call minor. Then there’s the problem of the Zozayas’ 5-year-old boy, who Irene says doesn’t like to be around the girls much yet. “He’s having a hard time adjusting--he wants to know if he’s still my baby.”

But such considerations pale next to the thought of taking all three girls out for a stroll for the first time, dressed in identical outfits--just like in the movies, Zozaya says. “I’m ecstatic.”

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The enthusiasm even seems contagious, medical personnel at Hoag suggest. Another mother had triplets there Aug. 25, the first time the hospital has ever had two sets in the same month.

But the Zozayas can hold onto their spotlight for the moment, at least; theirs were identical.


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