You guys, I am so honored to share this story with you all today. Ashley's story is going to make you choke up, tears will likely roll down your cheeks, and without giving it all away, let me just say that it is a first for The Baby Wait. I think one of the most beautiful things about the stories that our God has written is that every single one of them is different, yet they all have one thing in common: in one way or another, the glory of our God shines through the tears, through the struggle, and through the rejoicing. Ashley's story is powerful, and I am so thankful for her willingness to share even though her story is far from finished. Grab your tissues, friends.
My husband, John, and I met in college and after dating for nearly four years we got married in June 2010. We both knew that we wanted to have 3 or 4 children and wanted to spend at least a year as just the two of us (and our dogs!) before we started trying to get pregnant. In September of 2011 and as we were laying in bed, John out of nowhere said, "Let's start trying to have a baby." I was of course ecstatic and thrilled that we were both ready for this next phase in our lives. I stopped taking my birth control pills the next day. Being the naive 23 year old that I was, I didn't think we would have any issues getting pregnant, I mean that's what our bodies are made to do, right? We were both young and healthy, and though I wasn't expecting to get pregnant immediately, I figured surely we would be expecting by Christmas. I began tracking my cycles and we just went on with life hoping each cycle would be the one to make us parents.
Fast forward to December of 2012 and I still wasn't pregnant. At this point I knew that something was wrong and that I needed to go see a doctor. I drug my feet around before calling and setting up an appointment because I was absolutely terrified that we would find out that for whatever reason we would not be able to have children of our own. I'm usually a pretty optimistic person, but I was completely paranoid about getting bad news. I finally made an appointment and went to see an OB/GYN in March of 2013. She ran some tests on both John and I. John's tests all came back normal; however, my results showed that I had PCOS and hadn't been ovulating... Kind of a problem when you're trying to get pregnant. My doctor got me a prescription for Clomid and I took my first round in May totally not expecting it to work.
On Sunday, June 2, 2013, I very anxiously took a pregnancy test because I was a couple of days late and was shocked when I saw two pink lines appear. John and I were over-the-moon excited! We'd been waiting almost two years for this! I went to the doctor and the pregnancy was confirmed with a simple blood test. I was due February 12, 2014. The next several weeks went by quickly and without any issues. I was never sick, just really tired. Things seemed to be perfect. Then on July 4, I started spotting. I was terrified and my doctor's office was closed for the next 4 days due to the 4th of July holiday. I took it easy over the weekend and called right away on Monday, July 8. My doctor wasn't too concerned since I wasn't bleeding much, but scheduled an ultrasound just to be on the safe side. The ultrasound revealed a perfectly healthy little baby that looked just like a gummy bear. At that point, I thought we were in the clear. I'd read that once you hear a heartbeat, chances of miscarriage went down significantly. So, we told our families and everyone was so excited. On July 26, our world came crashing down (little did we know, it wouldn't be the last time). We went in for our 12 week appointment and found out that our little gummy bear no longer had a heartbeat. We. Were. Devastated. I had a D&C that afternoon and we tried as best as we could to move on with our lives (easier said than done).
This is the point when I began having a closer relationship with God. I was raised believing in God, but my family didn't attend church regularly and didn't pray often. I began praying that God would help us find peace with our loss and that He would help us to have a healthy baby.
I got pregnant again (with the help of Clomid) in January 2014. Again, everything went great until I was about 8.5 weeks. Then, I started spotting again. I immediately had flashbacks of our last miscarriage. Before I had the chance to get in to the doctor's office for an ultrasound, I started bleeding more and on February 28, I naturally miscarried our baby. We were once again devastated.
At this point, my doctor ran some more tests and determined that I had MTHFR, which causes my blood to clot more easily and most likely caused clots in the placenta leading to both miscarriages. Knowing this, we came up with a plan for my next pregnancy. I got pregnant again in May of 2014 once again on my first round of Clomid. I began giving myself shots of Lovenox to combat the blood clotting. Our due date was February 14, 2015. A Valentine's baby! Everything was going well; I had another small bout of spotting at around 9-10 weeks, but ultrasounds showed a healthy baby. It was measuring a bit small, but it wasn't a big concern to the doctor. Our 12 week appointment rolled around and we were thrilled to hear a healthy heartbeat. My doctor scheduled my monthly appointments as well as a monthly ultrasound to monitor for blood clots. We shared our news with our family and friends and on social media. I told the student in my class (I teach 5th grade) and John and I prayed daily for a healthy baby. We thought we had everything figured out and that in February we would be welcoming our first child.
On September 8, 2014, John and I went in for our 16 week ultrasound (I was actually 17 weeks, but couldn't get in at 16 because of scheduling conflicts). We were so excited and were hoping to be able to find out the sex of the baby. The ultrasound technician was wonderful and completed the ultrasound noting that the baby was really curled up and she couldn't determine the sex. She said she needed to go make sure that she got everything the doctor wanted her to get and that she'd be back shortly. Only, she didn't come back, the doctor did. My doctor was not available, but another from the practice came in. She informed us that she suspected that our baby had holoprosencephaly and that in her 25 years as an OB/GYN, she had never seen a baby survive the defect. Our world came crashing down for a third time. I don't really remember much of what else she said at that appointment and everything became a big blur. I remember begging God for the ultrasound to be wrong and for our baby to be ok. My doctor's office referred us to a specialist and we scheduled an appointment to confirm the diagnosis two weeks later. It was the longest two weeks of my life.
The specialist confirmed the holoprosencephaly diagnosis and let us know that our precious baby was a girl. She suggested that we have amnio performed because more often than not a chromosome abnormality accompanies the holoprosencephaly. The amnio revealed that our baby girl had triploidy; a complete third set of chromosomes... A fatal diagnosis. At this point I prayed more and harder than I ever have in my life. At first, I was angry. Why was God taking another baby from us when he already had two? After all we had been through with the infertility to begin with, and then the miscarriages and MTHFR and shots, why were we now having to go through this? Then, I began praying for peace and for acceptance. At this point I was about 22 weeks pregnant and we continued with the pregnancy knowing that our girl would either die in my womb or shortly after birth. We began making plans for a funeral instead of decorating a nursery.
On November 21, I woke up not feeling quite right. I knew something was wrong. John and I went to the doctor as soon as they opened and my suspicions that our daughter's heartbeat had stopped were confirmed. I was induced that evening at 28 weeks and in the course of the next 36 hours I was given 6 rounds of Pitocin to induce labor to deliver our daughter. At 7:46 a.m. on November 23, 2014 our precious Hope Madalynn was born an angel. She weighed a mere 8 oz and was 9 inches long. A rush of peace swept over us; the waiting for the inevitable was over. Our girl was with God. We spent several hours with Hope and our families got to meet her and hold her. Then, I was discharged from the hospital and left empty handed.
Planning and attending Hope's funeral was the hardest thing that I have ever had to do in my life. I think about our daughter every. single. day. A week after Hope was born, we began attending church again and have since welcomed God into our lives more than ever before. The anger that I once had has turned to love and appreciation that our sweet girl knew nothing but love. She never experienced any pain or any of the bad things going on in the world, just love. With the help of our families and God, we started a program at our local hospital called Hope's Hugs to provide tiny blankets and other comforting items to families that have to walk the same road we did.
Now here we are almost 8 months later and close to four years after we started to begin our family. We have been trying for the last 5 months to get pregnant again so that we can expand our family. The Clomid is not working like it has in the past. We will do one more round this month before we begin to explore more drastic fertility treatments. I hope and pray with all my heart that we are able to have our own children whenever that may be. If there's one thing I've learned from all of this it is that God's plan may not always be the same as our own, but He does have a plan. Prayers for all of you other mamas who are also waiting for your miracle.
"For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you HOPE and a FUTURE. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you." - Jeremiah 29:11-12