Meet Ashely - @hazelandmama

Today I am excited to share a mother with an incredible story of the journey they have been on with their beautiful daughter. Here is Ashely in her own words.

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“Well, I’m Ashley!  I’m 31 and was born and raised in the Pacific northwest where I still proudly call home with my husband, our daughter hazel and our two fur babies – Luke, our 7 year old lab collie cross and,  Lambo,  our 10 year old black kitty.

 I grew up in a blended family of 3 sisters, and 2 brothers after my parents split up when I was 12. Growing up, my dad was a firefighter so many of my childhood memories are from our days spent in the fire hall, moments like learning to ride my bike. My mom, well she is the reason why I love to cook. When I was growing up myself and each of my siblings were given a day of the week that was ours to make dinner for the family, and a week before it was our turn to cook we had to find a new recipe to try and give my mother the ingredient list. This forced us to be creative with cooking, to try new things, and obviously taught us how to cook.

 I met my husband when I was 14, and when I was 16 we started dating – Jeff is 2 years old than me so he had already graduated. He was the guy with the car, the one who took me out to coffee on our first date, and the one who patiently taught me how to drive a stick shift. He was patient, kind, and most of all he was and still is so encouraging.  That quality is one of the things I love most about him. When I met Jeff I was shy, and had troubling believing in myself, but he asked me one day why I walked with my head down. He told me to be proud, and strong, and to hold my head up high because the world was missing out on knowing me. I told ya – totally worthy of falling in love.

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 We dated for 6 years before Jeff asked me to be his wife on Halloween morning in the middle of the pumpkin patch. A year later we tied the knot on New Year’s eve with our family and friends and 4 years later we were ready to start a family… only that seemingly wasn’t going to come easy. After 2 years I was diagnosed with unexplained infertility and was crushed. Not long after the diagnosis I got pregnant , twice. Unfortunately both pregnancies ended in miscarriages, but miraculously after two back to back losses, I got pregnant with Hazel and went on to have a healthy pregnancy.

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 Everything was going smoothly until the morning of November 7, 2016. I was only 23 weeks pregnant, I went into the local ER thinking I was in early labour after experiencing severe abdominal pains. Thankfully I wasn’t in early labour, but that sigh of relief was quickly replaced with fear when we learned that I had a life threatening pregnancy complication- a rare syndrome referred to as HELLP. That abdominal pain wasn’t labour, it was my liver… I was in liver failure. The pain in my head wasn’t just a headache, it was a blood pressure of 205/158.. it was pre eclampsia. The green color of my urine wasn’t the lighting,  it was protein in the ranges of the 4000s. The sudden unexplainable bruising appearing all over my body , that was the work of my platelets dropping from 150 to 14- my blood wasn’t clotting.

 I was dying. My placenta was killing me, and fast.. and the only treatment? Deliver the baby and the placenta. So, I was rushed to a hospital an hour and a half away by the critical care transport team where we learned upon arrival that I had turned even more critical and we had no time left. An epidural was out of the question because the needle would have caused blood to pool on my spine because my blood wasn’t clotting meaning it would have left me paralyzed. So I was taken into the ER and my husband and our family were told I may not survive the c section – after all my blood pressure was through the roof and my blood couldn’t clot. It was a recipe for disaster. Against all odds the team managed to save us both. As I lay on the operating table under anesthesia, Hazel was placed under a warmer next to me for 2 minutes as they anxiously counted the seconds until her cord stopped pulsing to give her as much oxygenated,  brilliantly healthy cord blood that they could get and then she was whisked away to the NICU.

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 We chose not to find out our baby’s gender, but we knew in our hearts she would be a girl. So when I woke up, my husband was at my bedside with a photo of our 420 gram girl and smiled when he told me we had a daughter. We named her Hazel. Our tiny little hazelnut that weighed less than a pound at 13 ounces. Our 23 week gestation baby girl that was already the strongest little fighter we had ever come across.

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We spent 175 days in the NICU- it was 6 long months before we could bring our girl home. Those 6 months were a roller coaster…. We almost lost her many times but came unimaginably close on day 4. She was intubated for 58 days, and spent another 3 months on another form of respiratory support called CPAP.  She eventually graduated to low flow oxygen and came home on the same support. She underwent several eye procedures, and had a handful of medical issues still when she came home including heart surgery a week before her first birthday.

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 Today, Hazel is a bright and happy toddler. She turned 2 in November and though she was diagnosed with childhood apraxia of speech and is delayed in walking , her development has far surpassed anything we or her medical team could have imagined. Our days have been spent between medical appointments or therapy appointments like speech or physio but at home we have invested our time into helping hazel succeed. Our activities are ones that are aimed to help improve the skills she needs help with and further the skills she has and oh my goodness does she ever make it fun!

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Being the parent of a micro preemie obviously came with its challenges and wasn’t without trauma…but Hazel's journey has touched so many lives,  it was strengthened relationships, it has saved others. Our experience in the NICU opened the door to a whole world that has taught me how to advocate for Hazel  it taught me extreme patience, forgiveness, and an unwavering belief in my daughter. It forged relationships so special that I will forever be grateful for the people that were brought into our lives because of her.

 So yes, while was would have done anything to have taken all that pain away from Hazel, from us.…. It was an experience that shaped me into the mother I am now, and helped to strengthen my marriage in ways I never knew possible. Day 4, when we thought we had lost her, the neonatologist told us we needed a miracle… that they had done all they could and it was time to say goodbye. My first thought was “miracles are something from the movies… they don’t happen to normal people like us” but then it happened…. Against all the odds she was our miracle… our girl that allowed us to witness a true miracle and show us that miracles really do exist.”

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I hoped you all enjoyed reading Ashley and Hazel’s story as much as I did. In these past two years little Hazel and her family have been through so much, and their story is truly an inspiring and encouraging one. You can follow along on their daily life and watch Hazel grow on their Instagram page, instagram.com/hazelandmama .


If you would like to be featured in our “Meet the Mama” series please contact me and I will try get back to you as soon as possible.


Much Love,

Josie Hiivala