After eight years of trying to conceive, Ashley and Tyson Gardner would have been happy leaving the hospital with one infant son or daughter. Now, the American Fork, Utah, couple is celebrating their first few nights at home with not one but four newborn girls, conceived last summer with the help of IVF treatments.
Doctors placed the odds of a successful pregnancy with one baby at less than 40 percent for Ashley, who had been diagnosed with endometriosis. Last July 23, Ashley learned that she was pregnant with two sets of identical twins – a one-in-a-million chance according to her fertility specialist. The Gardners have chronicled their story for friends, family and the public on social media.
Later this year, TLC plans to document the family’s experiences as part of an upcoming show on first-time parents.
Now Ashley and Tyson are spending sleepless nights at home with Indie, Esme, Scarlett and Evangeline for the first time since the babies were born at 29 weeks on Dec. 28, 2014. The couple spoke exclusively with PEOPLE about the day they’d dreamed about for almost a decade.
“It’s so wonderful to start our lives together and have all of us under the same roof,” says Ashley. The couple went back and forth to Utah Valley Medical Center’s newborn intensive care unit until the babies were released over the last several weeks – they went home one at a time as they gained weight. “I feel like everything has been on hold for so long,” Ashley says. “Finally, we feel like a real family.”
Tired But Happy
With Ashley, 27, taking the day shift for feedings and diaper changes and Tyson, 33, handling things at night, “things are going great so far,” she says. “We’re tired, sure, but we’re absolutely happy. Once we get the babies on the same feeding schedule, we’ll be able to catch up on our sleep.”
Tyson’s mother, Jodi Flores, who went from being a grandmother of two to six overnight, adds: “The babies are beautiful beyond measure, and when I hold them, I feel nothing but happiness. I’m so proud of the people Tyson and Ashley have become because of them. Already, they are wonderful parents.”
Tyson, who is taking at least three or four weeks off from his sales rep job, admits he was a little nervous about bringing the quadruplets home. “As a first-time dad, it’s been a roller coaster of emotions from the beginning,” he says. “It will certainly be a challenge, but we’re up to it and we’re confident.”
Before the babies were delivered by C-section, he and Ashley moved from their two-bedroom apartment into a four-bedroom, rented townhouse. They outfitted two nurseries for each set of twins: Indie and Esme’s room is decorated in a baby elephant theme while Scarlett and Evangeline’s room has an owl and songbird motif.
“We used a lot of creams and grays, with pops of turquoise, baby pink and yellow,” says Tyson. “And of course we have four of everything: four cribs, four dressers and lots of diapers. We’ll have to get used to buying everything in multiple from now on.”
Married in 2005, Tyson and Ashley always knew they wanted a large family. Tyson grew up in Pleasant Grove, Utah, the oldest of 10 siblings, while Ashley, who moved to the same neighborhood as a teenager, was the youngest of five.
“Her family moved near us after I graduated from high school,” says Tyson. “I remember coming home one day and seeing Ashley and thinking, ‘Wow, she’s all grown up.’ ” After a one-year courtship, he and Ashley married and tried for several years to conceive, finally learning that Ashley had endometriosis, a condition where tissue from the lining of the uterus grows outside it.
“It was devastating – there were times when I was very distraught, wondering if we’d ever have a family,” admits Ashley. “But I coped and kept faith, thanks to Tyson. We are a team. You can either let something like this tear your marriage apart or you can become closer. We chose the latter and grew even closer as we dealt with each challenge.”
After several unsuccessful tries at artificial insemination, the couple decided to drain their savings account; family and friends donated money and Ashley even sold hundreds of hand-crafted headbands to help raise funds. “It took nine months – everyone in the community chipped in what they could,” says Tyson. In May 2014, Ashley went for her first treatment and was thrilled six weeks later to learn that she was pregnant.
But the best news was yet to come.
“To find out that I was not only pregnant, but going to have quadruplets was a miracle – there’s no other word to describe it,” says Ashley, who had severe morning sickness for the first 13 weeks of her pregnancy and was considered a high-risk case until the babies were delivered prematurely, weighing about 2 lbs. each.
The Gardners’ fertility specialist, Dr. Russell Foulk, pegs the odds of having two sets of identical twins at roughly one in a million. “It’s incredibly rare,” he says. “I’ve never seen it before. Every birth is a miracle, but the birth of these babies is a miracle four times over.”
Now that all of the babies are home, the Gardners are enjoying watching their tiny daughters’ emerging personalities.
“Indie is the smallest and she’s the oldest – very feisty and sweet,” says Ashley. “Esme is mellow and very quiet and Scarlett is so funny. She’ll be our drama queen. Then there’s Evangeline: she’s kind of emotional and wants constant attention. She has the saddest cry you’ve ever heard.”
At some point, adds Tyson, the couple’s families will pitch in to help, “but right now, we’re just enjoying this time together. After waiting for so long to have a family, we want to be as hands-on as we can.”