MARTIN Magaoa is doing the best he can to bring up three little boys his wife so desperately wanted but will never get to see grow up.
The young dad lost his wife, Chervonne Magaoa, shortly after giving birth to their triplet sons Aayden, Blaise and Carson, in late August.
The 34-year-old, who was born in New Zealand but raised mostly in Hawaii, where the family now lives, died after suffering an amniotic fluid embolism.
The condition happens when amniotic fluid - which surrounds a baby in the uterus during pregnancy and contains products such as cells, hair, urine and secretions from the babies - enters the mother's bloodstream.
It can cause serious reactions such as heart failure and uncontrollable bleeding. It is regarded as a rare event that kills about two mothers in New Zealand each year.
Speaking to the NZ Herald for the first time since his wife's death, Martin Magaoa said family and friends had been rallying around him to help take care of the babies.
The daily chores and the boys' schedule kept them very busy, but there were always times when thoughts inevitably went back to the woman he had spent the past 10 years of his life with.
"Everything's still kind of fresh. There are days where, you know," he says, before his voice drops out.
The couple's eldest son Tanner, 6, had provided a lot of comfort and strength for him, he said. But like all children, Tanner still asks after his mother.
"He's holding up pretty strong. Once in a while he'll ask: 'Where's mommy at?'
"I take him up to her grave and he knows. He doesn't really cry - there's been only once where he's really cried for his mom.
"He understands a little bit that she's not going to be around. He says: 'Mommy's in heaven'. That much he knows. He's stronger [than I am]. I say: 'Okay, that's good. You be strong for the both of us'.''
Since the triplets' birth, up to 50 volunteers have signed up to help care for the boys each day; with groups of people coming to the family home on rostered shifts starting from 6am and the last one at 10pm.
Chervonne's father, Bishop Hyran Smith, said most of the volunteers were from members of their church congregation, the local Maori community and extended family and friends.
"They are all grandmothers and mothers and when they come in, we have them scrub up, feed the babies, change diapers, swaddle them up and put them down.
"The last one is a little hard to get them to do because they all want to hold and cuddle them."
A log is also filled out for each of the boys - the time they eat, how much they weigh, when they sleep and other details.
"The wider community has been great too, with random packages arriving in the mail or personally delivered from New Zealand and elsewhere," Smith said.
Gifts had included taonga for each of the boys, All Blacks jumpsuits and toys.
Despite losing their loved one, the family maintains they feel "truly blessed'' by the love and support they have received.
Magaoa said: "The babies are healthy and they're growing. They're happy, so we're happy. We can't complain."
There is a sense of real pride as he speaks of his boys, even when the topic is nappies.
"Every day is just the regular feeding, changing diapers. It's not different from any other baby. The only difference is there's three so it's just a little more work,'' he laughs.
Since September, scores of people from around New Zealand, Hawaii and around the world reached out to help the family; raising more than $US70,000 ($AUS87,880) through a GoFund page set up for the boys.
Magaoa said the words "thank you" did not do enough to express the family's gratitude to the public.
"It makes a big difference knowing that there are people out there who care and are willing to help and are reaching out. It really means a lot."
This story was originally published on the NZ Herald and is republished with permission.
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