In the spring of 2012, my husband, Stephen, and I were expecting our second child. He was named Conner Wayne Combs and his older sister, Cadence, was excited to have a sibling. In March 2012, my water suddenly broke at 17 weeks, 5 days gestation. The condition is called PPROM (Pre-term Premature Rupture of Membranes) and occurs in 1-2% of pregnancies. The doctors confirmed this and encouraged us to terminate the pregnancy. However, I had not gone into labor and Conner's heartbeat was strong and we knew we had to fight for him.
We decided I would go on complete bed rest and do everything we could to save this baby. The hours turned into days and the days turned into weeks. My water had broken but I was still pregnant. What a miracle! We knew the Lord had a special plan for Conner but did not know exactly what that plan was. We placed our hope in the Lord during a season of extreme uncertainty and fear. I blogged my journey and instantly had thousands of people following us and praying for Conner. I drank lots of Ensure, watched lots of movies, and spent a lot of time online connecting with others who had also experienced PPROM.
When I hit the 24 weeks gestation milestone, I entered Duke University Hospital to continue my bed rest. It was tough being away from home but it was the right thing to do. At 26 weeks gestation, labor started and could not be stopped. Conner was born via emergency c-section on May 3, 2012. It was a Thursday and had been been 8 weeks and 2 days since my water broke.
Conner was immediately hooked up to breathing tubes and rushed to the NICU. I did not see him after he was born; only from a picture taken on Stephen's cell phone. I was in extreme pain from the surgery but our families were in town and visited with both us and Conner over those next hours.
Around 11:00 p.m. that night my hospital room phone rang. I immediately knew it was bad news. They were losing Conner. I instantly forgot about my surgery pain and hopped in a wheelchair. Stephen wheeled me down there. I remember feeling we could not move fast enough. The NICU was dark and quiet, but in one corner there was a group of doctors huddled around a very small baby. I saw my son for the first time in that moment. He was so small but so perfect. Our worst fear had come true and we were losing our son. How do you say hello and good-bye at the same time?
We held him, spoke to him, prayed with him and thanked the Lord for him. There was much weeping. He passed away in my arms.
They cleaned Conner off, took off his tubes, dressed him up and we came back a little while later to see him one last time. We took pictures, wept, and prayed. Even though Conner was already gone, Stephen baptized him, symbolically, as we will see him in heaven again one sweet day.
In the weeks and months after Conner left this world, the community of Wilson, NC really came together to help us. Our medical and funeral bills were paid for and we were in a position to start a foundation (Conner Wayne Combs Foundation For PPROM) so we could give grants back to other families experiencing PPROM. I was given many gifts, including several pieces of personalized jewelry with Conner's name. My love language is gifts so I was very excited to receive them!
In the Spring of 2013, I decided I wanted to try making metal-stamped necklaces so I could give back to other PPROM moms who experienced loss as I did, while sharing our story. I had never made jewelry or even been very crafty so this was a stretch! I did online research and frequented the nearby Hobby Lobby for supplies. I started making and mailing memory name necklaces to other PPROM moms of loss I had connected with online. I realized the ministry potential making such gifts could make. I was talking to a co-worker one day about what I was doing with the jewelry and our message of hope. She is the one who gave me the idea for the name, "Pieces of Hope".
In January 2014, I made the decision to take this ministry even further. I began to create a Facebook page and website. I started selling necklaces to the general public so that those funds could help cover the expenses I had personally made out of pocket to make and mail necklaces to other PPROM moms.
After almost 3 years of trying to conceive our second earthly child, Ryder Wayne Combs joined us on October 3, 2016. This was after years of trying to understand secondary infertility, enduring fertility treatments, and most importantly, prayer. We conceived him naturally one month after ending fertility treatment. We are so blessed by him!
My prayer for "Pieces of Hope" is that the Lord will use my gift to show love to others and share our message of hope. If we place our hope in whatever our circumstance is, we will be failed every time. However, it is only when we put our hope in the Lord that we can get through such difficult circumstances. We continue to share Conner's story. Cadence knows Conner is in heaven right now and that Jesus is taking care of him.