WESTMINSTER -- The 11-month-old Meile triplets took posing with Santa for the family Christmas card in stride, adding it to their long lists of firsts for this year. Tamie L. and Richard E. Meile tried all the usual tricks to get their babies to smile simultaneously for the camera.
Despite all their efforts, Chelsi cried, Cody pulled Santa's beard and Troy looked the other way.
The picture shows their three personalities.
The Meiles will be celebrating baby's first Christmas times three Tuesday with their sons and daughter.
They said they have many reasons to celebrate.
Tamie said she was thrilled when she became pregnant at 31, after nearly five years of marriage.
One month into her pregnancy, a rapid weight gain made her suspect twins, which run in both sides of the family.
A sonogram at Greater Baltimore Medical Center in Towson confirmed those suspicions and then some.
" 'You're kidding,' was all I could say," said Rick, 33, a driver for Thomas, Bennett & Hunter Inc., a cement company, when he found his family would be increasing by three.
Over the next months, Tamie's weight ballooned from 105 to 186 pounds.
Early in the pregnancy, she quit her job in Central Supply at Carroll County General Hospital. By her fifth month, she was confined to complete bed rest.
"My husband had to cook, clean and shop," she said. "He did everything, and I wouldn't have made it without him."
In early January, to stave off premature delivery, Dr. Steven M. Miller, her obstetrician, admitted her to Sinai Hospital and put her on medication to stop her contractions.
The doctors wanted her to reach 34 weeks of gestation before delivering to give the babies' lungs a chance to develop fully, she said.
During the hospitalization, Rick often slept in the chair beside his wife.
If he hadn't spent the night, Tamie said he might have missed the birth of their "three miracle babies" on Jan. 27.
The children were delivered by Caesarean section within two minutes of each other, 10 weeks short of full-term.
"Preemies don't always cry when they are born. They told me not to worry if I didn't hear anything," she said.
"But I did hear crying. That most welcome sound gave me a really positive feeling they were going to make it."
The Meiles knew from sonograms that they would have two sons.
Their hopes for a girl were fulfilled with the birth of Baby A, Chelsi Mari, who weighed 2 pounds, 15 ounces.
Her brother, Cody Wolfe, or Baby B, followed at 3 pounds, 14 ounces.
Weighing 3 pounds, 7 ounces, Troy Luther, the last to arrive, had the most trouble, and had to be placed on a ventilator.
"The doctors reassured us they were all a good size and really healthy," she said. "They kept our hopes up. We felt so fortunate."
Two days later, Tamie left the hospital to "heal up, get back on my feet and catch some sleep" before her children came home.
After a month at Sinai, during which the Meiles visited daily, the children were transferred to Carroll County General Hospital.
By the end of March, everybody had come home.
Tamie had joined the Mothers of Multiples Club here and the Triple Connection, based in California.
Both groups provided her with support and reading material.
She thought she was prepared to care for the babies on her own.
"For about a month, when the babies ate every three hours, I didn't sleep for more than one hour at a time," she said. "I don't know how I made it."
The resourceful mother said she couldn't stand their cries of hunger and "rigged all sorts of ways" to bottle-feed three babies at once.
All those sleepless times are behind her now.
The children nap during the day, sleep about 12 hours at night and can hold their own bottles.
The Meiles have weathered teething and a few minor colds, and are well into the crawling, climbing stages.
The children are learning to be patient and to share, said their mother.
"They are all developing at their own pace," she said. "The pediatricians say they are growing well with average weights and above-normal lengths.
"They'll probably be tall like their father."
Troy is the most advanced, she added.
He's already pulling himself up and walking around the coffee table, often stepping on his crawling brother.
Cody doesn't protest his brother's footsteps, though.
So far, she added, no baby has bothered the large, decorated Christmas tree standing in the corner.
"They are really happy," she said. "They occupy themselves and follow each other most of the time."
Tamie's parents, Mary Catherine and Luther Myers of New Windsor, stop in nearly every day.
They are even brave enough to baby-sit when Tamie has to -- to the grocery store.
Rick's mother, Carol, has helped the family, too.
"I have almost forgotten there's a real world outside my doors," said Tamie. "Staying home was a big adjustment after all the years I worked at the hospital."
She has a little time for herself now, and the triplets spend their days "on sort of a schedule."
After breakfast and brief morning naps, Tamie scatters their toys around, and it's play time.
"They have plenty of toys, but for Christmas they'll have a lot more," said their father, who often comes home from work with a little surprise for his children. "You just want to buy everything you see."
When weather permits, mom bundles the children into a three-seat stroller for an afternoon outing.
People often stop and admire the children and usually ask if they really are triplets.
"I say 'yes.' We are really proud of what we have accomplished."