A mother who longed for a bigger family after having three children finally had her prayers answered when she welcomed quadruplets, after enduring six devastating miscarriages.
Childhood sweethearts April, 42, and Phil Gardner – who now spend $400 a week on food and slept for just 45 minutes a night when their youngest four were babies – were teenagers when they welcomed their first child, Rilee, now 24.
April, who suffers with fertility issues such as polycystic ovary syndrome and endometriosis, had six marriages before successfully giving birth to her quadruplets thanks to hormone injections which helped stimulate her ovaries.
Reflecting on her incredible journey, April, who works in financial services, said: ‘The miscarriages were obviously very hard to take. There were times when I blamed myself.
‘I’d had children before, so I didn’t understand why I suddenly couldn’t. I’d say to myself, “What’s wrong with you?” But something in me told me to keep going.’
First meeting at school, Phil, 43, who has just retired from working in communications for the Air Force, was in the year above April when they fell in love – before discovering they were expecting when she was 18.
‘I’d wake up in the night with these agonising stabbing pains in my lower tummy,’ she said. ‘Sometimes they were so bad I’d be physically sick.’
Diagnosed with endometriosis, a condition where tissue usually found in the lining of the womb grows in other parts of the body and sometimes causes fertility issues, doctors were confident she would still be able to conceive.
With no immediate plans for more children, it only became an issue six years later – then living back in Utah – when April had her first miscarriage, so early in her pregnancy that she had not known she was expecting.
Conceiving again shortly afterwards, in 2002, the couple were delighted when Whitlee was born.
But in 2005, when Whitlee was around three and April and Phil began discussing giving her a sibling, they had no idea that it would be 11 long years before baby number three came along.
April fell pregnant in around August 2005, soon after they began trying, but, just eight weeks later, she miscarried again.
Six months later, in early 2006, April found out she was pregnant again – but felt too afraid to tell anybody aside from Phil.
Heartbreakingly, at just six weeks, she began cramping, later discovering she had lost the baby.
After eight months of trying, April sought advice from her doctor in mid-2007, who discovered she was having a severe endometriosis flare-up.
Next, she had a laparoscopy, where a tiny telescope was inserted into her abdomen, before surgeons made small incisions to cut out the patches of endometriosis.
Doctors thought the flare-up was the reason I’d been struggling to conceive,’ she said. ‘Thankfully, my ovaries were unaffected, so I figured I would be able to start trying for a baby again soon, once my body had recovered.’
But sadly, April suffered two more miscarriages between 2008 and 2010 – one at eight weeks and the other at 10.
‘The 10 week one – my fourth – was very tough. That really took me down,’ she said. ‘I’d been so close to my second trimester. I was almost out of the scary zone and then it all went wrong.’
Over the years, April also tried various fertility treatments including clomifene – a drug that encourages the release of an egg every month – all to no avail.
Prescribed follistim and progesterone injections to help stimulate her ovaries, after three months, she fell pregnant before miscarrying for a fifth time just six weeks later.
Resuming the injections, April fell pregnant once again three months later, only to have her sixth miscarriage at eight weeks.
‘All the miscarriages have been the same – the weird feeling something isn’t right, then the cramps and the sinking feeling when you realise the baby has gone,’ she said.
In 2012, following injections at the fertility clinic, April discovered she was expecting again. And this time, she carried her baby to full term, with little Jaxton arriving in February 2013.
After that, the couple did not think they would have any more children.
But, in early 2015, they became aware of the huge age gap between Jaxton and his sisters and decided they wanted to give him a sibling to grow up with.
So, returning to the same fertility clinic in Alabama that had helped them before, April began follistim and progesterone injections again – conceiving after just two months, only for a bombshell to be dropped at her six-week scan.
She said: ‘I remember looking up at the screen and seeing two little blobs. I cried out, “Oh my gosh, it’s twins!” The sonographer told me she could see more than two. She fetched a doctor to check and they counted six.
As predicted by doctors, two of the fetuses still had no heartbeat by 10 weeks and their tissue was absorbed by the others.
But the four remaining babies were going strong – giving April the confidence to tell her family at 13 weeks.
Thankfully, April’s closely monitored pregnancy progressed very well.
Then, at 30 weeks and two days, she finally delivered her non-identical quads – three boys and a girl – at Baptist Medical Center East in Montgomery, Alabama by cesarean section, just after 6:30am on October 16, 2015.
First came Ryker, weighing 3lb 1oz, followed by Tallon at 2lb 12oz, then Bowen and finally the only girl, Berklee – both 2lb 8oz.
After five weeks, the babies were all sent home within two days of each other – first Ryker and Tallon on the same day, then Berklee and finally Bowen.
Now, they are thriving four year olds, who have forged an unbreakable sibling bond.
‘They aren’t identical, but they looked very similar when they were first born, so we assigned them all a color, meaning we could tell apart things like their bottles, clothes and dummies.
‘They’ve sort of stuck to them as they’ve grown older – Ryker is red, Tallon is yellow, Bowen is blue and Berklee is pink.’
Now April hopes that her words will give hope to other couples facing fertility issues.
She said: ‘Life now is absolutely crazy. The house is like a circus – but I wouldn’t change it for the world.’