Raising A Miracle: Ashley's Story

Photos by Jennifer Folk

Photos by Jennifer Folk

"You have HELLP syndrome, a potentially fatal complication of pregnancy. The only treatment is to deliver the baby."

I was 23 weeks and 3 days pregnant and these were the last words I wanted to hear. My baby wasn't even considered viable until 24 weeks, and yet the doctors were explaining to us that the critical transport team was on it's way to get me to take me to a hospital equipped with caring for an infant of this gestation. 

Infant. Barely. My baby was still a fetus. How can you be equipped to care for a fetus outside of the womb 4 months before it's meant to be earth side? 

But we continued on. There was no stopping it... my body was failing me. My liver and kidneys were failing. My blood was breaking apart inside of me. My blood pressure was so high I was at risk of stroking out and was put on stroke and seizure precautions. 12 hours after I walked into the hospital in excruciating pain they had diagnosed me, transferred me, and delivered our sweet baby into this world.

A girl. I gave birth to a 14 oz baby girl.

Nothing prepared me for the first time I saw her the next day. She weighed less than a pound of butter. Her whole hand fit into my husbands thumb nail. Her skin was still semi translucent and you could see where her organs were by way of dark patches. Her eyes still fused shut. Her heart beating away at 175 beats per minute, her tiny body so fragile you could see her heart beating beneath the skin. She was phenomenal, yet terrifying. The ventilation system breathing for her used tiny vibrations so her whole body vibrated and her skin was so thin it was weeping fluids so they had to make her an incubator inside her incubator by keeping a plastic bag draped over her and the humidity cranked up.

And then, somewhere along the way we moved past that scary, jaw dropping, absolutely terrifying time. 

We knew from the beginning that we had to support one another. We could not let our marriage fall apart through the stress. We had to be each other's support system and we had to find the silver lining. The situation wasn't ideal, but we couldn't change the hand we'd been dealt so the next best thing was to keep our chins up and work hard at getting her home. 

She spent 175 days in the NICU. Drove over 31,500 km to get to her over those 6 months. We had sleepless nights, and unimaginable worry. But through it all, we also had hope. We had strength, and determination. We were fortunate to celebrate milestones that in a term baby you would never experience, or would seem trivial. 

We watched our baby's eyes open for the first time. We waited patiently for 1 month and 2 days before I held our baby and then celebrated like mad. We waited almost 3 months to hear her first cry. We celebrated big weight gains, and good blood work. We learned from the best of the best how to care for her and we brought our baby home with more knowledge than most new parents ever get. 

And here we are, a little over a week after coming home and I promise you, our journey in the NICU seems like a distant memory. A new chapter has opened, and I have no doubt that having our daughter so extremely early has made me a better Mother. She has made me appreciate the little things, and not to lose sleep over things we can't control.

She is darling. And I am stronger because of her.

{About This Story}

This story was written and shared by Ashley Durance, Mama to the beautiful baby Hazel. 

You can follow their journey over on Instagram at: Instagram.com/ashleydurance