April 6 is a special day for Britt and Chris Bernard for three reasons: Gideon, Eleanora and Conrad.
The northeast Minneapolis couple recently had a birthday picnic for 4-year-old Gideon and 2-year-old Eleanora, both of whom were born on April 6.
Then, Britt went into labor.
Later that day, she gave birth to Conrad, making for a triple birthday in the Bernard family — "the trifecta," as Britt describes it.
It wasn't by design, she said. "People think this is a really calculated choice, we have three babies exactly two years apart," said Britt, "but it was a lot more organic than that ... and those are pretty crazy odds."
To boot, all Bernard birthdays span just 13 days, with Britt's on March 24 and Chris' March 28. That puts their family in rare company.
The chances that a second baby is born on the same day as the first baby is 1 out of 365, said Rob Warren, director of the Minnesota Population Center and a sociology professor at the University of Minnesota. The chances that a third baby is also born on that same day is 1 in about 133,000, or about 8 in 1 million.
'Filled with extremes'
The Bernards met in Haiti in 2006.
Britt, who grew up in Elk River, Minn., moved there with her family. Chris, who's from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., was in Haiti on a mission trip when their paths crossed.
Through AOL instant messenger and e-mails, the two developed a connection that led to an engagement in New York City's Central Park in May 2008 and marriage in January 2009.
They moved to Waco, Texas, and enrolled at Baylor University, where they graduated in 2013 from master's programs — social work for Chris and public health for Britt.
In 2017, Gideon was born in Dallas before the family moved to Minnesota in 2018; Eleanora was born in St. Paul the following spring. Though the couple had hoped Eleanora might have a birthday all her own, she arrived on Gideon's second birthday.
This April, the siblings were enjoying doughnuts during their picnic celebration at a park near Columbia Heights Golf Course when the party was cut short for Conrad's arrival.
After a speedy delivery at the Minnesota Birth Center in Minneapolis, they were able to share a birthday dinner that night for the first time as a family of five.
"This has caused me to become a puddle of mush just to see the way that his two older siblings just dote on him," Chris said. "He fell asleep in Gideon's arms the other night. ... It's just been absolutely beautiful."
Not lost on the Bernards is the juxtaposition of this beauty at such a troubled time.
"To be watching the Derek Chauvin trial verdict with a newborn baby in your arms, it's a lot ... just how much life is so filled with extremes, especially it seems like this last year in the pandemic and all the racial injustice and our city being brought to light more," Britt said.
Her father is the fire chief in Brooklyn Center, also under a national spotlight with the recent police killing of Daunte Wright.
The Bernards consider themselves fortunate to have three healthy babies and for finding their way to the Twin Cities to raise their family — with many big birthday celebrations to come.
Rule of three
In 2012, a couple from Eyota, Minn., also experienced the triple birthday rarity.
Carrie and Shawn O'Neill have three children who were born on March 5 exactly two years apart, just like the Bernards. The O'Neill's fourth child almost joined the family birthday club, but decided to have a birthday of her own one day later, on March 6.
"So we have birthday week, it's kind of a big deal in our household. I usually take time off — like Christmas all over again," said Carrie, a Mayo Clinic nurse. "We try to make it very special and the kids just take it in stride."
The O'Neill children — Evelyn, 7, Russell, 9, Rebecca, 11, Nolan, 13 — are beginning to realize it's rather unusual to share a birthday.
"I had to explain that not all kids share birthdays. My kids had thought that was just the norm," she said. "It's taken them a little bit of time to understand the uniqueness of it."
The O'Neills celebrate with cupcakes so that each child can have something of their own while sharing their birthday with their siblings.
The Bernards decided on doughnuts for the same reason.
Chris said his next challenge is figuring out how he and Britt can ride bikes with three kids. He's thinking about welding two Burley bike trailers together — an intentional design this time.
Kim Hyatt • 612-673-4751