People often come up to Forestview seventh-graders Nicole and Hannah Rud and ask if they’re identical twins.
That is partially true.
The 12-year-old girls shared a placenta in the womb and are identical. The only physical characteristic that sets them apart is a tiny red dot, a hemangioma, that Nicole has on one of her earlobes.
They’re actually two-thirds of a set of triplets. Their brother, Nathan Rud, rounds out the trio. Together they are the youngest three of Dr. Paul and Claire Rud’s six children. Rud is an orthopedic surgeon at Northern Orthopedics in Brainerd.
The Rud triplets made headlines when they were born on Feb. 2, 2000, one of three sets of triplets and two sets of twins born at Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis that day. The hospital was teaming with babies. Claire gave birth six weeks early with help from 20 hospital staff members. While the babies spent two weeks in the hospital following their birth, they were healthy.
The Ruds discovered they were having triplets at an ultrasound when Claire was 14 weeks pregnant. They are spontaneous triplets; fertility drugs weren’t used to conceive them.
Life became busy when the Ruds brought home three infants to join their three older children under the age of 9. Fortunately, they had help in those early days. Claire’s parents moved in with them for the first seven weeks and more than 60 volunteers from the Brainerd Newcomers group and their church, Lord of Life Lutheran Church in Baxter, volunteered those first months to help out with feedings, diaper changes and rocking the babies to sleep.
“It’s all kind of a blur,” Claire recalled last week, of her triplets’ first few years.
The triplets are nearly teenagers now and life isn’t nearly as frantic as it was when they were toddlers. But the Ruds are still busy, driving each of them to their various school and church activities and to friends’ houses.
Hannah is active in tennis, ballet, track and basketball while Nicole is involved in basketball, tennis and ballet. The girls also play violin and help teach Sunday school at their church. Nathan is in football, baseball, basketball and tennis. They all enjoy tubing and swimming at their Gilbert Lake home. Every now and then, Nathan talks his sisters into playing football or another sport with him.
While the siblings get along well and share many of the same friends, there are the obvious gender differences between the girls and their brother.
“Nathan is all boy,” Claire Rud said of her youngest son. “He can tell you all the stats from football games; the girls like to make lists and check things off.”
Many people have a difficult time telling Hannah and Nicole apart. Their parents often dressed Nicole in pink and Hannah in another color just to make it easy to figure out who they were. The girls, naturally, don’t dress alike now but they plan to dress as “Thing 1” and “Thing 2” for Halloween.
The girls have all the same classes at Forestview since they are both in the honors program. All three of them are in honors math and science classes together.
The girls have only switched places once when they were in fourth grade at Lowell Elementary School. They tried to trick their teacher by switching glasses and hairstyles on April Fools Day but it was difficult for them to see out of each other’s eyeglasses so they switched back, they said.
For now, Nicole has braces and Hannah does not, although she’ll be getting another set of braces again soon. Nathan was fortunate that he is the only member of the Rud household who doesn’t need glasses. He didn’t need braces either.
The triplets like to have friends over at the same time, which makes for a houseful of preteens. The three shared a bedroom until fifth grade, when Nathan moved into his own room after his older sister, Kara, was in college.
“It’s like a girl cave,” Nathan said of his sisters’ room.
While Nathan loves sports, Hannah and Nicole enjoy reading. Nicole read 20 books this summer and recently finished reading Jules Verne’s “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.” Hannah is nearly finished reading it now.
Being triplets has many benefits. Nicole likes to write and in third grade wrote her first play. She enlisted the help of friends and her siblings to put on the play with her for their parents.
“It’s nice to have someone to do stuff with,” said Hannah.
“They gang up on me a lot,” Nicole said with a smile.
“There’s a lot of laughter that goes on,” added their mom.
The triplets’ older siblings are Kara, 22, a senior majoring in sociology at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities campus; Christopher, 20, a junior biology/pre-med major at Concordia College in Moorhead; and Lauren, 17, a Brainerd High School senior.
Surprisingly, the Rud triplets are one of two sets of triplets in their seventh-grade class at Forestview. There are also several pairs of twins in their grade, too.