The triple Mitchells are off

NEW ADVENTURE: The Mitchell triplets – Lucy,  Amelia and Madeline – are leaving Christchurch with their family of eight.
NEW ADVENTURE: The Mitchell triplets – Lucy, Amelia and Madeline – are leaving Christchurch with their family of eight.

Even after five years, Rob and Amanda Mitchell still need to look at their daughters face-on to tell them apart.

Amelia, Lucy and Madeline were born, in that order, on December 10, 2008, seven years after their parents decided to stop having kids. Needless to say, they came as something of a surprise.

The Mitchells already had three children together, plus Amanda's two from a previous marriage. The triplets make eight.

The Multiple Birth Association says the chances of naturally conceiving identical triplets is about one in 200 million.

Five years on, the girls are almost impossible to tell apart, dressed in matching ballerina shoes and pink fairy costumes.

They're big on fairies - and Barbie, dancing and drawing.

They sit in alphabetical and birth order.

As babies, Amanda put them to bed in that order to keep track of which one is which, and they still instinctively line up the same.

Madeline is the youngest, and the boss.

Lucy already wants to be different and Amelia knows who came out first.

The biggest challenge raising triplets, even after raising five other kids, is bedtime.

"I think it's the time most mothers dread. They sleep in the same room and talk to each other, keeping each other awake."

While they're still young, for the most part, they dress the same. It isn't about cutesy matching outfits but convenience.

"If I lay out three different outfits in the morning, it can take 20 minutes to negotiate who's going to wear what," Amanda said. "I always thought it was cheesy but it's just easier."

When you have three little girls who all look the same, you just figure out ways to make things work. Older brother Ben, 16, recently bought a new video game. Soon realising he would have to share the television with his little sisters, he got his wallet, got on his bike, and came back with three colouring books.

The strategy has kept the girls busy and granted him a lot more screen time.

Of course being triplets isn't always easy.

"When they get home from preschool they all want to tell me the same thing," Amanda said. "It's a race between each other as to who gets it out first. They're very competitive and we have to make sure we're really fair."

Despite still being young, the girls have already clicked on to the benefits their identical triplet status affords them. "They're making a lot of noise in the other room," Rob said. "So I go in there and ask who's making all the noise, and they say ‘not me', ‘not me', ‘not me'.

"If one of them is spotted doing something wrong, we ask them which one they are, and they just say, ‘not telling'. They're on to it."

Next month, the girls will start their first year of school. The Mitchells are moving to Melbourne next week to be closer to Amanda's eldest daughter, now in her 20s, and for Amanda's paediatric nursing career.

The Press