The conversation began playfully, as the response to how things were going now with three children was decidedly mathematical.
"My husband and I are officially outnumbered," said Melodie.
But then, a quick caveat.
"I will try not to get emotional about my doctor and the relief she brought to a . . . well, just a very stressful experience."
Melodie took a deep breath, paused, and told her story.
"I started at Women's Care when I was pregnant with my son Camden, who's four and a half now, and I actually was seeing an OB that left the practice, right around the time that I delivered. It wasn't very long after that I was already looking for another provider at Women's Care for my second delivery. And so I found Dr. Gass, who delivered my daughter Hannah, my two year old."
That was March of 2020, the beginning of the pandemic. Hannah's delivery was fast and the experience positive.
The following year, Melodie was pregnant again. At her ten-week appointment, she had no indication that there wouldn't be a heartbeat.
"I had two previous pregnancies where I never had an issue. I've never had a miscarriage. I wasn't expecting that being pregnant the third time," said Melodie. "But in that moment of finding out, Dr. Gass was just so wonderful. She validated in that moment that my family had a loss. And there was going to be this part of me, this future that I saw, that was gone. And that it was okay if I didn't feel okay."
Melodie said Gass provided options following the loss and let her know that the decision didn't have to be made right away, that Melodie could think about what she wanted to do.
"She was just so supportive, and she saw me as a person with a whole life, not just an appointment in a time window where she needed to do a task," said Melodie. "She validated the heartbreak I felt. I wasn't dismissed with a 'this is common and you'll be fine.' That meant a lot to me."
That loss, in December 2021, weighed heavily on Melodie, who wasn't sure when or if she would be ready to try again. But she and her husband felt their family wasn't quite complete. Soon after, and perhaps even a bit sooner than she had prepared herself for, Melodie got pregnant.
Emotionally, this was a difficult time for Melodie, who said Gass offered something she offers all her patients who have just experienced a loss, to simply come in more frequently in the first trimester for peace of mind.
By week 14, Melodie had taken advantage of enough extra appointments to envision the happy ending, their rainbow baby. A week later Melodie awoke in the middle of the night and assumed she had wet the bed. She was covered in blood.
And her first thought was the realization that this might not be a happy ending at all.
By the time they got to the ER, Melodie was still bleeding. After treatment and testing, she was wheeled back to a room where she and her husband agonizingly waited for the ultrasound tech. Fearing the worst, they received the news: though there was no determination about the bleeding, there was a heartbeat. The baby looked perfect.
Melodie went home, they got the kids to daycare, and then the phone rang.
"It was Dr. Gass' office, calling me before I could even call them," Melodie said. "She had been contacted when I was in the ER, she made the recommendation for the medication I received there, and she wanted me in her clinic ASAP."
Melodie saw her that very morning and made subsequent visits until she could start feeling fetal movement.
"Dr. Gass made room for me on her schedule every single day so that I could come in and see that the baby's heartbeat was still there," said Melodie. "I trusted her completely, that she was going to do whatever it took. When she delivered our daughter Hannah, it was a positive experience, without problems. The true test of how good your provider is . . . is when it feels like everything's going wrong."
As the pregnancy continued the bleeding tapered, but there was a significant blood clot at the front of her uterus. And entirely separate from this, there was an anomaly of the baby's abdomen.
"Every time we cleared a hurdle, something else seemed to snap us back to reality," said Melodie.
Adding to this was the fact that Melodie was high risk in multiple categories, which brought additional concerns about delivering early and the health of the baby. Little by little, the anxiety grew.
"But each day and week that ticked by was like a little celebration every time I saw Dr. Gass," said Melodie.
On December 6, 2022, Dr. Gass delivered Sophie to the world and placed her on her mother's chest. Mom, in response, said just three words.
"We did it."
Specialists in Milwaukee have confirmed that Sophie has a rare congenital malformation of the digestive tract known as an enteric duplication cyst; she'll need surgery, most likely around her first birthday.
Following her recent six-week appointment, Melodie said she was still processing it all.
"Dr. Gass always says, 'Whatever makes your heart happy.' And she really means it. I don't know if going in to see her every day was really medically necessary, but doing that was going to make my heart happy, every day knowing that Sophie's heart was still beating and that we're one day closer . . . one day closer."
Melodie closes her story with a profound statement that is both uniquely personal and unconditionally universal.
"I just look at Sophie and can't even believe she's here. She's ours. She's perfect."