Welcome to Coco’s Caravan Community. I started this community in hopes of helping others. After sharing my story and hearing back from so many others who were dealing with similar trials, I realized we are not alone. We are here to uplift and help each other make it through each day. I wanted to create a space here on my blog where they can share their stories and help others who might be going through a similar experience. Continue reading below to learn about Stephanie’s story.
Stephanie’s Story: Fighting for her miracle baby
I always knew I wanted to be a mom, but one of my biggest fears in life was that I wouldn’t be able to get pregnant. That fear became a reality when my husband and I started trying to get pregnant. Several months into our journey with infertility, I started sharing on social media, and my connections there quickly became the supportive community I relied on. Because I felt like I wasn’t getting the answers I needed from my doctors, I took my health into my own hands. Through the social media community I cultivated, I not only found a doctor who specializes in auto-immune issues in women trying to get pregnant, but I also found the answers I needed to treat the conditions I had, including endometriosis, silent endometriosis, MTHFR mutation, and more. After extensive testing and finding the right doctors, I was finally put on the proper protocol.
On October 24, 2018, we did our first embryo transfer. Just four days later, I had a feeling I was pregnant. Not only that, but I sensed the embryo had split. Our doctor confirmed it: we were pregnant with twins. This was the first sign that I just knew in my heart what was happening in my body at every step of the way, even before we had confirmation that our embryo had split. The first trimester was filled with immense stress as I had lots of bleeding in many scares. By 14 weeks I had stopped bleeding and felt a sense of relief. Sadly it was short lived.
My doctor wasn’t planning on coming to our sixteen and a half weeks ultrasound, so I knew something was wrong when he walked into the room after my scan. He sat down to repeat the scan and said that things did not look good. I remember the feeling like yesterday and the tears streaming down my face as he performed another ultrasound.
From the ultrasound, we learned I had a twin-to-twin transfusion and one of our baby’s amniotic cords was attached in the wrong place. My babies were in two separate amniotic sacs sharing the same placenta, and their blood supply was being improperly shared. All of the blood and nutrients were going to one baby.
My doctor, my husband, and I sat down to discuss our options. I could have laser ablation surgery, which would be an attempt to save both babies. Or we could choose to terminate one baby in hopes of saving the other one. My doctor was ready to perform the procedure that day, but making such a significant decision quickly seemed overwhelming and impossible to me. Termination was not an option for us. I just couldn’t even believe what we were hearing from our doctor. After everything we had already been through I did not understand how this was happening to us.
Once again, I turned to my social media community and Facebook groups. I shared my story and what we were going through and the decisions we were being faced with, and so many women who had been through the same thing reached out to me. Based on the research I did and the support from these groups and women I connected with, we decided to have the laser ablation surgery the following Monday. I was terrified. All I wanted was to be able to save both of our girls, Mollie and Emmy.
I was in so much pain after the surgery, and it was extremely traumatic procedure, but I was relieved that at the end of the procedure both girls still had a heartbeat.
The next morning we went back upstairs in the hospital for an ultrasound to check on the girls and sadly there was only one heartbeat. We had lost our baby Emmy.
The day after surgery I started leaking amniotic fluid, which turned out to be PPROM, a preterm premature rupture of my membranes. Doctors shard this would be the end of our pregnancy. If I did not go into labor on my own, there is no way that Mollie would survive without amniotic fluid. I turned to my community and joined a PPROM Facebook group. My online community shared a PPROM health regimen with me and my daily mantra became “every day pregnant is a good day.” I found out that PPROM is more common than anyone would think, and the only reason we know so much about it now is because of communities of women like mine who connected and shared their stories. In the past, when you ruptured, some doctors would opt for an immediate induction. But with support, women have been able to educate their doctors.
At the beginning of our fertility process, I felt paralyzed. I was afraid to speak up to my doctors, and I was scared to be my “Type-A Stephanie self” and share what I had learned from other moms on Facebook. I thought if I acted like I knew more than they did, they weren’t going to like me and they weren’t going to want to treat me.
But now I had the courage to advocate for myself. Every week, my doctor told me, “This doesn’t look good. You have no fluid. There’s just not a good chance she’s going to survive.” I would respond, “Well, I’m in this Facebook group, with tons of other women telling me that they had no fluid either and their babies survived.” He asked me to show him, and I shared story after story. My community in the PPROM group kept telling me, “If there is a heartbeat, there is hope.”
At twenty-three and a half weeks, I was admitted to the antepartum unit at Columbia NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital , where I learned that if I could stay pregnant until at least 28 weeks, Mollie would have a great chance. So, I set my mind on that date and would repeat my mantra, every day pregnant is a good day each day. I spent 11 weeks as a patient in the hospital and I was induced at 33 weeks and 5 days on the night of May 29, and delivered Mollie Hope Cartin on May 30, 2019, at 5:44pm.
Many doctors kept telling me she was never going to survive, but she did. Mollie Hope had virtually no amniotic fluid for seventeen weeks, but she developed beautifully, and her lungs are in perfect shape. She is our little miracle baby.
Looking back, I knew I would not have gotten pregnant — or stayed pregnant — if it were not for the community I built and the support they gave me. I learned that you have to be your own best advocate, and you have to speak up. I have realized that my life’s purpose is making sure other women have the same care, support, and education that I did, and to help those women realize they are not alone.
Through it all, I did everything we could to fight for our babies. Because when everyone else said no, I said yes.
What was the hardest thing you went through during this time?
Navigating my entire journey was very challenging. At every setback, that particular moment felt like the hardest thing I had ever been through. First it was my fertility challenges and at every bump in the road I just couldn’t imagine how it could get worse. Only it did. But somehow, I held onto hope. I believed that somehow we’d get through it and we’d have our miracle baby.
When I ruptured after losing Emmy and the doctors told me my pregnancy was likely over. That was the most devastating moment for me because I couldn’t believe how that could even be possible after everything we had been through. Somehow even in that moment I went into problem solving mode to find stories of hope instead of believing what the doctors were sharing with me. Many of the doctors had been wrong all along so I just had a feeling there had to be a chance that Mollie would survive.
What advice do you have for people going through a hard time?
Surround yourself with community whether in person or virtual, search for answers, and hold onto hope. I would not have gotten pregnant or stayed pregnant if I had not shared my journey through Instagram and Facebook and connected with women like Jennifer (Coco’s Caravan) who gave me hope. Being able to read stories of hope and successful outcomes at every stage of our fertility and complicated pregnancy journey got me through. I connected with these women by phone, text and email to learn as much as possible and Mollie is here because of them.
What helped you the most during this time?
What helped me the most was the generosity of strangers on Facebook and Instagram helping me by talking to me on the phone and sharing how they navigated their fertility or complicated pregnancy. Some of these women like Kaitlin and Alexis are some of my closest friends to this day. I would not have been able to get through what we went through without this community
What Quote or motto got you through this difficult time?
The mantra that got me through this time was “where there’s a heartbeat, there’s hope”
Share an update on your life now
In June of 2020 we relocated to Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. I am so happy to be living in the sunshine state and enjoying summer year round with our now 2.5 year old daughter, Mollie Hope. I am focused on growing 2 businesses including Markid, a platform for parents to buy and sell new and gently used baby and kids items as well as Entreprenista, a media company and membership community for women founders and leaders.
You can typically find me working from my home office during the week and dancing, singing and visiting petting zoos all weekend with Mollie and my husband. I share lots of behind the scenes of our life on my instagram @stephjillcartin. If you are going through a complicated fertility or pregnancy journey, never hesitate to reach out to me. I am always here for you.
I’m also working with Baby Quest (non-profit charity) awarding financial help for fertility treatments such as in vitro fertilization and gestational surrogacy. Donate to the cause HERE.
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