Jennifer Degl's doctors advised her against having another baby. Her three sons had all been born via C-section, and she'd had to have a D and C following a miscarriage. This left her with a dangerous amount of scar tissue. Another pregnancy "might not take," she was told. And yet... something in Jennifer desperately wanted another baby.
Jennifer conceived a fourth baby -- but it was an incredibly difficult journey that resulted in four life-threatening hemorrhages through her pregnancy. Her baby, Joy, was born at just 23 weeks. But through it all Jennifer relied on an insistent feeling of hope that kept telling her it would be all right, somehow.
"I had a burning feeling and I couldn't get it out of my system," Jennifer says of her desire to have a fourth baby. She says it wasn't so she could try for a girl. She just had a feeling that she was supposed to have another baby. She says she's not especially religious or spiritual, but she trusted her gut -- even when things looked dire.
Jennifer had her first hemorrhage while she was on a sleep-away field trip with students (she's a teacher) at 17 weeks. It turns out her placenta had implanted itself in the scar tissue and was growing through it -- into her bladder and other organs. Not only that, but it was a 100 percent placenta previa pregnancy, and the baby was growing directly on top of the placenta.
But after that trauma, doctors did an ultrasound, and the baby was fine. Her heartrate was good. "I'm not giving up on her," Jennifer remembers thinking. "I just had a feeling. I truly believed it would be okay -- whatever that looked like," she says. Jennifer believes her hope helped her baby stay strong and hang on to life.
They needed it, too. There were three more hemorrhages, bed rest, and the premature delivery. Joy was born at 1 pound, 4 ounces, 11 and three-quarters inches. She was in the NICU for nearly four months. Despite a scary blood infection throughout Joy's entire body, Jennifer kept hope alive.
Now, almost a year later, baby Joy is thriving. Her vision is normal (babies born prematurely frequently have some sort of vision impairment). She has occasional respiratory problems, but she's babbling, eating well, and almost walking.
Jennifer wrote her story in a new book, From Hope to Joy, to give hope to other parents struggling with challenges like hers. "Never give up," she says. "Go with your gut and keep fighting." There's a lot more to her story -- the book sounds like a page turner, and knowing it has a happy ending doesn't make it any less compelling.
Have you ever experienced a pregnancy like Jennifer Degn's?
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