A heartbroken mum has told how she lost two of her triplets due to a common virus she contracted while she was pregnant.

Vicci Dunne had travelled to Cyprus just before the pandemic hit the UK for IVF treatment. It was Vicci and husband Paul's last try for a much-wanted second child after two miscarriages.

Despite going into lockdown, the 36-year-old from Widnes, Cheshire, managed to make it to the hospital and back home on a flight pregnant with three babies.

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She said: "You can take a pregnancy test 10 days after IVF, so I knew I was pregnant, I just didn't know how many there were.

"When I went for my first scan in April 2020 my husband and son, Alfie, four, could still come.

"On the way there I said to Paul 'I feel nervous' and Alfie asked why, Paul told him I had butterflies in my stomach.

"When we went in, the sonographer said 'there's one, there's another and there's another' so Alfie asked 'are they the butterflies?' and that is what they have always been."

After a gender reveal in June 2020 Vicci was over the moon to find out she was expecting two girls and a boy - later named Heidi, Harriet and George, reports the Liverpool Echo.

Harriet, Heidi and George reunited for the first time since their birth
Harriet, Heidi and George reunited for the first time since their birth

Vicci, who works in recruitment, was told at her various scans that Heidi and Harriet weren't growing and to "prepare for the worst".

By nearly 28 weeks doctors were concerned about 'fetal demise' - the death of a baby in the womb - so Vicci gave birth by c-section to Harriet, 1lb 6oz, George, 2lb 9oz and then Heidi at 1lb 4oz.

The tiny babies were rushed away for specialist care as Vicci herself had emergency surgery after haemorrhaging.

She woke in a daze and was quickly called into a room to see a team resuscitating Heidi.

Vicci said: "I hadn't even seen her yet and there she was being resuscitated - it was completely surreal.

"I was crying in a full-blown panic just stroking her foot and willing her not to give in.

"The relief I felt when she was stabilised was overwhelming."

But Heidi had fluid on her heart and needed special care until Vicci's worst fears were confirmed and she was told Heidi wasn't going to make it after there was a bleed on the brain.

She said: "It was all about memory-making then. We got them all together and took pictures and then we were in a separate room where we held her and waited for her to pass away.

"You are just going through the motions really.

"They put her in a cold cot and sometimes would close the door quietly so as not to wake her forgetting that she wasn't going to wake up."

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Vicci's heartache continued when Harriet was found to have an infection and began deteriorating.

She said: "Harriet's lungs weren't working properly and when she had a blood transfusion all her numbers just dropped.

"It was so painful to watch it all happening again. Paul and I felt so alone. You are surrounded by nurses, but there are no family there, no one can imagine what you are going through."

That is when Wirral Wings - a charity that helps parents who have experienced the loss of a child - stepped in.

Vicci said: "A friend had been in touch with them and they sent this beautiful hamper to the hospital - it was so lovely and everything related so much to what we were going through.

Some of the keepsakes created by Wirral Wings
Some of the keepsakes created by Wirral Wings

"I asked them if they could make dresses for Harriet and Heidi for the funeral from my wedding dress and I was amazed at the talent.

"The intricate detail of taking the beading off my wedding dress and basing their dresses on its design was incredible.

"I dressed the girls with the help of the funeral home and we had butterflies and rainbows on their coffins.

"The funeral was so hard. When someone passes it can be such a quiet and intimate moment, but there are so many faces at a funeral - it was the hardest day."

Vicci now helps Wirral Wings by talking to others who have lost their children and said it was important to keep talking after such heartache.

She said: "Wirral Wings give people the freedom to grieve by allowing you to share your loss and celebrate your children.

"I remember in the hospital a mum had lost her nine-month-old and I didn't know what to say to her even though I had just lost my baby too.

Baby George spent three months in hospital
Baby George spent three months in hospital

"You just have to talk - that's all. Forget about making people feel uncomfortable, talk about it, it helps, share your baby's life.

"And try and allow yourself to enjoy moments without feeling guilty, you can not let it consume you."

A post mortem revealed that Harriet and Heidi had all contracted cytomegalovirus (CVM) in the womb - a common virus that is usually harmless but can be fatal for those with weakened immune systems.

George spent his first three months in hospital and on the day he arrived home Wirral Wings decorated Vicci's house to celebrate the milestone.

Vicci said: "There was a point when I thought we would never bring him home, I even put off buying a pram because I was so nervous."

Now nine-months-old, George is doing well and causing trouble for mum Vicci with his big brother Alfie.

Vicci added: "Alfie never got to meet Harriet and Hiedi but we talk openly about them all the time.

"We use the idea of the butterflies that he talked about on that first scan and how they have flown off to heaven.

"Alfie and George get on like a house on fire and will be causing lot of trouble - but I wouldn't have it any other way."