"For anyone who has a micro-preemie, they can get through it. For anyone struggling with child loss, you can get through it. Having a micro-preemie taught me so much," the young mother shared.
Tori Keller was only 19 when she found out she was pregnant with quadruplets. The news was quite a shock to Keller and her then 20-year-old fiancé Tyler Hallman as she hadn't been taking any fertility medication. However, finding out that they have four babies on the way was just the beginning of much shocking news they'd hear during the pregnancy. The couple from Athens was put through an incredibly stressful emotional and physical journey in the months following as Keller lost three of the fetuses one after another. However, Keller had to carry all four babies to term for the sake of her one surviving daughter.
According to Daily Mail, Keller—a bartender by profession—and Hallman were quite taken aback when they found out they had four babies on the way. "Finding out I was pregnant with quads was shocking, to say the least. I thought the doctor was joking when he told me. I honestly didn't truly believe it until I was able to see the actual ultrasound," Keller revealed. Once they got over their initial shock, the young couple, who first met on Tinder, began looking forward to becoming a family of six with their little ones.
However, when Keller suffered terrible morning sickness during her first trimester, her pregnancy was deemed high risk and she had to see her doctors weekly for checks. The couple stayed strong through it all and had been looking forward to Keller's 15-week scan that would determine the sex of their children when they received more bad news. "As we got settled in the ultrasound room, I lifted my shirt over my already round baby bump to get ready to see them all again. The ultrasound tech first started with baby D, but the baby wasn’t moving much, so she moved on to baby C, then baby B, then baby A [who was in its own sac]," the now 23-year-old recounted.
"As she went back to baby D, I started to get nervous. The baby was smaller, and not moving around anywhere near as much as the others. The tech said she was going to be right back. As she walked back into the ultrasound room, my OB followed her in. He sat down and sighed, 'Ms. Keller, I am so sorry, but we were unable to find a heartbeat in baby D.' I had to carry on. I knew that I couldn't give up for my other babies. I didn't know how to feel about carrying her with no heartbeat, but I didn't have a choice. It's a feeling with multiple feelings. It was hard," she continued.
The heartbroken couple was informed that Keller would have to carry all four of her babies—all girls—to term to give the surviving fetuses a fighting chance. But soon after her 18-week appointment, the young mother-to-be knew there was something wrong. "I had some pains in my side, but I was told that it was round ligament pains because my uterus was growing at such a fast rate. I was worried and scared. I'm honestly not super religious, but I prayed. I prayed every day until my next appointment," Keller recounted. Her 19-week scan confirmed their worst fears as Keller and Hallman were given the heart-breaking news that babies B and C no longer had heartbeats.
Keller was again told that she would have to carry all four fetuses in her womb till her surviving baby reached full-growth. "I was monitored very closely after losing baby B and C: cervix checks, very intricate ultrasounds, fluid samples, blood samples. And then, of course, I was admitted into the hospital at twenty-one weeks for closer monitoring and strict bed rest. It was nerve-racking and honestly kind of humiliating. I hated not being able to move around. I really hated not being able to use an actual bathroom. That's something I will never take for granted. I hated being monitored all the time. I like my privacy," she recalled.
At 23-weeks of pregnancy, Keller went into labor had an emergency C-section. "The labor was barely noticeable at first, some minor back pain but as it got more intense, and coming and going. I was terrified. Especially when the nurse confirmed I was having contractions. Then when my water broke, I knew there was no going back. I was so scared that I was going to lose my baby," the young mother revealed. On January 2, 2017, Keller gave birth to her daughter Athena who weighed just 1 lb. 5 oz. and was 12 inches long at the time. "Seeing Athena for the first time was unreal. Of course, I never wanted to see her like that, but it truly is an amazing thing to see a baby that small," said Keller.
"Surely, I was scared and sad that she had to be hooked up to tubes and wires, rather than in my belly, but I was filled with so much love for her. Love is the main thing I felt," she added. The new parents had to wait two and a half weeks before they got to hold their delicate daughter. "Holding her for the first time, it was the best feeling ever. I waited two and a half weeks to hold her. It felt so natural and perfect. We connected. There's no other way to describe it but perfect," the doting mother reminisced. Today, Athena is an adorable three-year-old and big sister to one-year-old Zachariah.
"She is amazing, now. She walks, talks, runs, jumps, screams, and just everything a normal toddler does, even the tantrums. She is behind on her speech, but we are working on it. A year ago, she could say maybe three to five words. Now she does nothing but talk, even if you can't understand her," Keller gushed about her miracle baby. Sharing a few words of wisdom for others going through similar pregnancies, Keller said, "For anyone who has a micro-preemie, they can get through it. For anyone struggling with child loss, you can get through it. Having a micro-preemie taught me so much. It taught me to appreciate every small detail and to be patient. Athena taught me how to be strong. She taught me how to get through the dark times. She saved me. She’s my hero, and she doesn’t even know it."