As Ashley Gardner reclined on the doctor’s examination table, butterflies undoubtedly swirled in her stomach. The Utahn and her husband, Tyson, had spent eight years trying to conceive to no avail. But on that July day, the couple hoped her ultrasound would reveal a healthy, beating heart.
Ashley suffered from endometriosis, a condition that causes cells normally found within the womb to grow in other places in the body. They still develop and then break down each month as they would in the womb, in turn causing fatigue, bladder problems and infertility, among other side effects.
There’s no clear reason why endometriosis and infertility seem to go hand in hand. Some medical professionals believe it has to do with the constant breakdown of cells, which leads to the creation of scar tissue, or adhesions. These prevent the egg from traveling through the Fallopian tube, thus stopping it from being fertilized.
Because of Ashley’s condition and so many failed attempts at conception, the couple only had this one final chance if they wanted to become parents. After almost a decade, they saved enough money to pay for in vitro fertilization (IVF) in June 2014, their last-ditch effort to have children of their own.
As well as being expensive, the process of harvesting eggs and developing embryos through IVF isn’t easy or foolproof. Ashley had to have daily fertility injections every morning for 25 days. She also underwent daily ultrasounds and blood draws so doctors could measure the growth of her follicles and monitor her estrogen levels.
On top of that, Ashley routinely took vitamins to keep herself as healthy as possible, and painkillers to combat the headaches that come with such an intensive treatment. Bruises covered her stomach and arms after the month-long ordeal.
But the couple maintained their high spirits, especially after they reached the end of the injection cycle. The doctors could finally harvest the eggs created during Ashley’s month-long treatment. And, while most women produce one egg each month, Ashley had 16 in her womb, thanks to the fertility regimen.
And yet, the journey to conception was far from over. After an egg retrieval, fertility experts then combine them with sperm with the aim to fertilize the eggs. A successful combination creates an embryo, the healthiest of which are implanted in the mother’s womb to fully mature into a bouncing baby boy or girl.
Because of Ashley’s ongoing struggle with endometriosis, doctors could only deliver two healthy embryos for implantation. In many other cases, families are able to freeze multiple “extra” embryos in case the first attempt to get pregnant is unsuccessful, but the Gardners would only have one shot with their pair.
All the couple could do was wait for a week and a half when a blood test would reveal whether or not their dreams had finally come true. They admitted in a YouTube video chronicling their journey that they already loved the two embryos, before they even knew if they would become their future children.
Because they’d waited so long, and put so much of their hope in the IVF procedure, the Gardners made quite the to-do of their pregnancy reveal, too. The couple’s doctor gave them a card with Ashley’s pregnancy test results inside, and they opened it in front of a photographer who chronicled all stages of their nerves, shock and joy: they were finally pregnant.
Still, they didn’t know if one or both of the embryos had implanted successfully inside of Ashley’s womb. They likely went in for their seven-week check-up on that July day wondering whether or not they had twins. The ultrasound monitor lit up, and everyone in the room likely held their breath as the doctor searched for the answer.
Instead, the doctor found something that would change the Gardners’ life forever: they weren’t having two babies. They weren’t having one, either. Ashley was pregnant with quadruplets because both of her embryos had split into twins. She later learned the chance of that happening was quite literally one in a million, according to post on the family’s blog, Gardner Quad Squad.
As any parent will know, becoming pregnant isn’t the end of the story. A healthy birth requires the mother to be in good health, too. Ashley took to her blog to ask readers for good vibes for herself and for Tyson: “We need all the love and support we can get,” she wrote. “Please know that I am extremely high risk and things can change at a moment’s notice for us.”
Around the time they found out they were expecting, the Gardners also posted a video online sharing their absolute shock at the fact they had become pregnant with four babies. The video struck a cord with viewers and soon went viral. TV shows and news outlets like Good Morning America, Huffington Post and CNN picked up the story.
The nation’s outpouring of love and support was all that Ashley asked for on her blog, and the family’s wish for four healthy babies came true on December 29, 2014. On that momentous day, they welcomed their quadruplet daughters Scarlett, Indie, Esme and Evangeline at Utah Valley Medical Center. In fact, Ashley gave birth to two sets of identical twins.
In 2015, the Gardners told People they brought their girls home with smiles on their faces, despite embarking on a very sleepless journey with four newborns. “We’re tired, sure, but we’re absolutely happy,” Ashley said. Tyson added, “As a first-time dad, it’s been a roller coaster of emotions from the beginning. It will certainly be a challenge, but we’re up to it and we’re confident.”
And the Gardners’ fans could watch their ups and downs as parents firsthand: the pair became one of four sets of new moms and dads featured on TLC’s Rattled. The show chronicles the first year of parenthood, although the Gardners have been tapped to return for the series’ second season, which premieres July 11, 2017.
The couple continues to maintain their blog, too. While they once shared stories of Ashley’s pregnancy struggles, now they talk about life with quadruplets. They recently shared the routine they follow with their now three-year-olds. Tyson’s best piece of advice for other parents of multiples? “For the sanity of yourself and those around you, consistency is key!” he wrote on Gardner Quad Squad.
Ashley and Tyson have a great sense of humor and deal with the trials of parenthood with a smile. Take, for example, Ashley’s viral video she shot from inside the pantry where she sometimes hides from the girls for a secret piece of candy. “Is that wrong?” she asks the camera. “They want everything you have.” Then, she peeks under the pantry door and says “Hi” to one of her daughters who, like the rest of the world, is watching her mom with wonder as she and her dad make parenting four young children look easy.