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'Blessed': Parents of triplets thankful for their survival, happy to be ambassador family for April event

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2012 March for Babies Ambassador Family - The Starks

March and Jennifer Stark are pictured with their triplets, Mary Blanche, Edwin and Charles, at their home in Orangeburg. The triplets were born six weeks early, on July 18, 2011. The Starks are this year's 2012 March for Babies Ambassador Family.

Marsh and Jennifer Stark count their blessings by threes every day because they realize the miracles they have in their bouncing, bright-eyed triplets, who were born six weeks too soon.

The triplets — Mary Blanche, Edwin and Charles — were born on July 18, 2011. Mary Blanche weighed 4 pounds, 8 ounces; Edwin weighed 4 pounds, 3 ounces; and their brother, Charles, was the smallest, at 3 pounds, 9 ounces.

The Orangeburg couple didn’t know what to expect when their babies were born at 34 weeks at the Medical University of South Carolina, but they say they realize how fortunate they are now.

“They’re into everything,” Jennifer said. “We are busy 24-7, but it’s a good busy. We’re happy.”

The couple are also grateful to the March of Dimes, which has invested more than 40 years into raising money to find answers for premature birth and birth defects.

The Starks have been chosen to serve as the 2012 March for Babies Ambassador Family. Jennifer said she felt compelled to serve because she understood the work that the March of Dimes did in conducting research and promoting the enhancement of neonatal intensive care units.

“I just felt like I had to do it,” she said. “I just needed to give back.”

For the 40th year, March of Dimes March for Babies will bring people together to promote awareness in April. The March for Babies campaign for Orangeburg and Calhoun counties will culminate with a walk at 9 a.m. Saturday, April 14, at the Orangeburg County Fine Arts Center in Edisto Memorial Gardens. Registration will begin at 8:30 a.m.

Families, teams and individuals in Orangeburg and Calhoun counties will walk and raise research funds to fight birth defects, premature birth and infant mortality.

The Starks will participate in their first March of Dimes March for Babies this year. Jennifer said it was important for her family to give back to those who had given so much to them.

After the triplets were born, Mary Blanche was sent to the Level II nursery while her brothers spent one day and one night in MUSC’s neonatal intensive care unit, where they were assisted with their breathing before their trip to the nursery.

The babies were eventually transferred to the Regional Medical Center in Orangeburg, where Mary Blanche and Edwin spent one week. Charles spent three weeks there. The babies’ body temperatures were regulated and they learned to eat while in Orangeburg.

“The staff at the Regional Medical Center were so good to us,” Jennifer said. “They helped get the babies transported back to their hospital from MUSC when I was discharged so they could be close to home.”

Jennifer said it’s important that mothers receive prenatal care.

“Even as high-risk as my pregnancy was, I made it as far as I did because I had great prenatal care from my physician, Dr. Susan Connor,” she said. “I had to be very cautious and do what she told me to do to take care of myself. We didn’t take any chances.

“Not everybody can say that they’re fortunate even when they do the right things, but it’s a good start to help prevent a baby from being so sick.”

Marsh said his wife was able to work up until the day she was admitted into the hospital, but her health took a turn for the worse at the time the babies were about to be born.

“I had pre-eclampsia, and then it turned into HELLP syndrome, where your blood pressure goes up and your blood platelets drop. My kidneys were also shutting down,” she said, noting that she was on a drug to help against seizures from the HELLP syndrome after giving birth.

“I was out of it,” Jennifer continued. “I was on that drug for 24 hours, and by the time I had gotten off of it, the boys were out of the NICU and in the Level II nursery.

“We were just very blessed. When I had them, I did not hear the boys cry. They have to have the oxygen masks, but Mary Blanche came out crying and has been screaming since.”

Marsh said Jennifer didn’t get to see the babies for almost a day and a half after they were born.

“We were under the impression from the start that all of the babies were going to go to the NICU,” he said.

The 8-month-old triplets are now busily crawling around their Ruple Drive home and, according to their parents, are sometimes hard to keep up with.

“It’s like trying to herd chickens,” Marsh joked, noting that the babies are generally well-behaved and are progressing normally.

“It’s a job, but it’s a good job,” Jennifer said. “I said if God was going to give us three, I guess he figured he’d better give us three good ones.”

Marsh said he appreciates the March of Dimes’ mission, especially since there was a baby boy who was born at just 22 weeks and clung to life the same time his triplets were at MUSC.

“When my boys were in the NICU, there was a little baby next to Ed that ... was one pound, six ounces,” he said. “I know their mission is to help babies like that, and make it where babies that are not full term at least go a lot longer than 22 weeks.”

Jennifer also stressed her family’s appreciation for the support they’ve received from friends and colleagues at Orangeburg Preparatory Schools, where she and her husband work.

She said the staff at The Pediatric Clinic have also contributed everything from milk to immunization care. The Interact and Key clubs at OP are both working to raise funds for the March for Babies event in April, and the Key Club will have its own team — The Starklets — participating in the walk.

The Starks have three older children: Carson, 11, Elliott, 9, and Kate, who will turn 8 in July. How do they handle it all?

“We just do. Marsh’s mom lives with us, too, and she takes care of the babies and helps us when the big kids are here,” Jennifer said. “It takes all three of us to do for all six of them.”

Marsh said, “I don’t think you ever really know how, but some kind of way it just gets done. You just find some kind of way.”

Contact the writer: or 803-533-5534.


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The 2012 March for Babies event will be held at 9 a.m. Saturday, April 14, at the Orangeburg County Fine Arts Center in Edisto Memorial Garden…

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