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March 21, 2018 11:55 AM

 

For nearly 15 years, Jennie Hill has dealt with devastating fertility struggles, suffering five miscarriages, discovering a genetic disorder and even going through a divorce. But her heartache turned into joy when she learned she was pregnant with daughter, Harper Grace, in 2016.

“When I found out I truly was pregnant and the [in vitro fertilization] really worked, I remember just balling my eyes out, thinking, ‘This really worked?’ ” Hill, 40, tells PEOPLE. “All these years of just wanting something so much and just persevering even through the darkest of days, thinking, ‘Am I ever going to have that day that I become a mom?’ And it finally came to fruition.”

Harper Grace recently turned 1 year old, and Hill has only finally begun to speak publicly about her journey, first sharing her story with Love What Matters. She’s shared photos of her “rainbow baby” on social media, and burst into tears when telling PEOPLE about her long road to motherhood.

John (left) and Jennie Hill (right) with Harper Grace
Jennie Hill

“This was a 15-year storm for us. You get the joy of having your baby but you always remember those losses. We lost [our first] baby on Christmas Eve in 2003,” the Atlanta, Georgia, mother, who remarried in 2014, says. “We were going to surprise our family on Christmas Day with the pregnancy. Christmases for several years after that were very, very difficult.”

Thea DuBose/Naturally Posh Photography

 

After her first loss, Hill suffered a second miscarriage in 2004 and a third just one year later. The losses put a strain on the marriage, and her former husband filed for divorce in 2007.

“It was really hard for me with the losses and he had no idea how to support me,” she says, noting that the two wed in their early 20s. “The reality is that it all just made me stronger.”

 

Harper Grace
Thea DuBose/Naturally Posh Photography

She married her second husband, John, in 2014, telling PEOPLE that he has been the perfect support system. That year, Hill suffered her fourth miscarriage but, during the process, doctors discovered that Hill has Balanced Translocation, a genetic chromosome disorder that can cause recurrent miscarriages.

“I was relieved because now I had an answer for why I was miscarrying. Up until then I blamed myself,” she says. “I blamed myself that maybe I ate something wrong or maybe I exercised too much. I was constantly blaming myself for the losses. So there was some relief to say, ‘Okay, it wasn’t me. There was something else wrong.’ “

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In 2016,  Hill and John turned to IVF and after three rounds of treatment, Jennie became pregnant with Harper Grace. She says that although she was excited about the news, she was afraid that she wouldn’t be able to carry Harper to term.

Logan Kilgore

All of that changed on Jan. 25, 2017, when Jennie finally had her baby in her arms.

“All I could focus on was her. Just being so excited to finally have her. I had no pain whatsoever, even when I was in labor,” she says, noting that she underwent an emergency C-section. “Hearing her first cry was amazing. She’s here and she’s real. Knowing that she’s real and finally getting to touch her and know that we persevered for that moment.”

Now, Hill says she hopes her story can encourage other women in similar situations.

“If I can give one person hope because they think, ‘I just went through this loss and I’ll never be a mom,’ ” Hill tells PEOPLE through tears. “I want them to know, don’t give up on that dream if that’s in your heart because it can happen. One way or another it can happen.”

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