THE PARENTS: Abby Deardorff, 39, and Jason Deardorff, 40, of Royersford
THE CHILDREN: Marshall Joseph, 5; Everly Anne, 3; Remington Hope, born January 18, 2019
AN EARLY RELATIONSHIP CHALLENGE: The pug puppy Abby bought from a breeder shortly after they moved in together; the dog took six months to potty-train, including endless 3 a.m. wake-ups to let him outside.
The third pregnancy seemed too good to be true. For the first two, Abby likes to say, she “dabbled in fertility,” using Clomid to treat her polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). This time, though, they’d gotten pregnant the old-school way, while visiting Austin, Texas, for a friend’s birthday.
“That pregnancy, I felt everything,” Abby recalls. “I was so sick. I was exhausted. It was what I wanted, but I felt so crappy. We saw the baby moving on the ultrasound; we heard her heartbeat. The genetic testing came back fine.”
But at Abby’s 13-week appointment, the midwife couldn’t find a heartbeat.
“It wrecked me,” Abby says. After two healthy babies and no history of pregnancy loss in her family, she felt blindsided by the miscarriage. Jason seemed inexplicably resilient, able to wake up each morning not thinking about the daughter they didn’t have. Abby, meantime, rode waves of jealousy, anger, and grief.
“It was difficult for me to relate to what she was going through, which was frustrating for both of us,” Jason says. “I didn’t know how to comfort her.”
Abby sought support online and discovered a community of women who had suffered pregnancy losses; eventually, she started an annual remembrance service at Einstein Medical Center Montgomery, where she works as an OB nurse.
“I remember being in that room when the ultrasound tech said, ‘I’m sorry. It doesn’t look good.’ I knew I would be a better friend, and a better nurse, for having gone through this.”
The couple always figured they’d have children; they even joked about naming a daughter “Mary Grace,” after both of their mothers. They met by happenstance through a mutual friend when Jason was a student at West Chester University and Abby was living in Bryn Mawr.
There was a night, with Jason and a gaggle of friends at McFadden’s, when Abby found herself thinking, “I’m going to marry him.” And she did — a beach-side proposal in July 2005 and a wedding the following year, the two of them free-styling their first dance to Kenny Chesney’s “You Had Me From Hello.”
For the next six years, both focused on careers: Abby studied nursing full-time at West Chester while working part-time at a tanning salon; Jason also had two jobs, as a supply chain manager and at a trucking company. Abby wanted to pass her nursing boards before trying to get pregnant; given her diagnosis of PCOS, she knew that might take a while.
It was Dec. 31, 2012, on their way to a party, when the fertility clinic called. “We both started crying,” Jason remembers. “It was excitement, fear, a lot of emotions all at once.”
Abby recalls a smooth, healthy pregnancy — bike-riding at the Shore on weekends, a sense of confidence about the birth. In a class taught by her doula, she watched a video of a woman whose labor mantra was, “I can do it. I can do it.” And when it came time to push out Marshall, born at 41 weeks, that film clip became a touchstone.
“At one point, I was about to say, ‘I can’t do this,’ and then I remembered the video and thought, ‘I can.’ It was one of the best and hardest nights of my life, the most empowering thing I’ve ever done,” she says. “It made me almost addicted to having babies, the oxytocin high.”
Marshall was an easygoing infant, and they took him everywhere: to Florida, to Phillies games, to Fairmount Park. Abby was still breast-feeding when they began trying to conceive again.
This time, it took Clomid and an intrauterine insemination. This time, with a toddler at home and a new job at Einstein, pregnancy felt exponentially harder. Abby recalls a Monday night near her due date; she stood outside, gaping at the giant “blood moon” of October, and thinking, “Moon, take this baby.” She went into labor the next day.
“This was completely different. With Marshall, it was an out-of-body experience; with Everly, I was alert, very aware.” Abby’s mother, in the room along with Jason, the midwife, and a birth photographer, caught the baby, just as she had with Marshall.
The post-birth high happened again. “I am unique in that I love the immediate postpartum period,” Abby says. “Time seems to stand still. All that matters is your little family.”
And she fully expected a reprise of that experience when she became pregnant for the third time in January 2017. After that loss, Abby says, “there wasn’t just one thing that helped me. It was just time, and allowing myself to grieve.”
They still wanted a third. And when she saw the positive pregnancy test, on Memorial Day last year, she felt confident, not frightened. “I kept waiting for the shoe to drop, to feel really depressed or scared, but I felt like it was going to be OK.”
Because Abby developed gestational diabetes, doctors wanted to induce before her due date; it was a swift labor, with her water breaking at noon and the baby emerging at 4:30 p.m.
Abby calls Remington their “rainbow baby,” the promise that comes after the devastation. Jason says their parenthood journey has made him more compassionate and more keen to cherish small, everyday oases — all three kids piled on him while he watches TV, or the nights when Marshall and Everly insist that he crawl across the bedroom while they cling to his back.
After the miscarriage, Abby got a tattoo of a lime — the size their daughter would have been at that time. And each year on the anniversary of that loss, the whole family visits Adamstown; they release flowers into Little Muddy Creek and then they get ice cream.