After years of trying, Jennifer Anker was finally able to conceive and give birth to her daughter but couldn't share her joy with her husband.
Editor's note: This article was originally published in 2021. It has since been updated.
Jennifer Anken and Dave Anken started dating back in 2017 and they knew from the beginning that they wanted to have children. After years of disappointment, the day did come when their daughter was in Jennifer's arms but it wasn't quite what she had expected, in fact, it was empty because her husband was no more in the world to share her joy.
She brought her daughter, Davya Rose, into the world months after her husband was diagnosed and passed away from brain cancer. Though she was incredibly happy being a mother, she wasn't over the devastating loss of Dave only five months ago.
"There's always the question, 'Why would God do this to somebody?' But then again, I see this miracle I have in my hands," Jennifer, 39, tells PEOPLE. "I think my husband's story was written a long time ago and it was just a matter of getting all the pages in line with me, for us to have this little person."
Jennifer had tried to bring her "little person" to the world for 15 years, she once succeeded with her first husband but later had a miscarriage. After her divorce, she started dating Dave and tried again but to no avail again. "We did some testing... and found out I was fine. Everything was working well with me but he, unfortunately, was not producing anything that was helping us out," she explains.
They kept trying and got engaged in April 2019. Then one fateful day all their prayers were heard and doctors told her that she was pregnant which left Dave in joyous disbelief. "It was quite amazing," she recalls of the miraculous news, which came right before Dave's birthday. "We see the sonogram, but it was still surreal and exciting... Until the day he died, I really don't think he really thought I was pregnant. He was like, 'I won't believe it 'till I see her.'"
But the celebration turned to worry when Dave's coworkers told her about the changes they have been witnessing in Dave. "He was late to work, which was not something he did. He dozed off, he was very irritable, he'd get lost, it was a mess," she recalls. "In our house, it was pure hell, if you ask me. We were fighting all the time... it was almost like, looking back on it now, dealing with a 15-year-old personality-wise."
After multiple consultations, the doctors confirmed the grimmest news Dave had terminal brain cancer. "I don’t think it actually hit me for a couple of days," says Jennifer. She tried to keep calm during his treatment and following surgery. "When we had our time alone, I would ask him, 'Do you know what's going on?' and he would say, 'Yeah, I have a tumor,'" she recalls. "He knew what was going on. I think he knew his body and knew the outcome, but he wouldn’t tell me."
Since Jennifer and Dave were not married at the time she wasn't allowed to take any legal decisions for him. So the nearby center where he was transferred to, arranged for their wedding. As Dave was suffering through cancer, Jennifer crossed all extents of love and married him in a conference room on November 5.
"For them to go above and beyond and have a spot for us to do a wedding was very, very nice," she says. "They got him out of the bed and got him sitting up and that was more than anybody could ever do for us that day."
Although, the worst was yet to come and it came rather quickly and devastated Jennifer's whole world. Just five days after they officially became husband and wife, Dave passed away.
"He was laying back [before a physical therapy session] and all of a sudden he started going into a seizure," Jennifer recalls. "The whole time, all I could do was tell him it was okay and that I loved him. I was the last person he saw."
She wanted to grieve but she was forced to stay strong and stable for their unborn child. However, things became more stressful for her when the pandemic began to get worse in the U.S. just one month before her daughter arrived.
"My family was right there with me and kept me calm so that I didn't go crazy thinking about how I am going to do this on my own," she says. "I'm already going to have to raise this baby by myself, but now you're telling me I have to push her out on my own?"
"I was angry, like 'You've got to be kidding me,'" adds Jennifer. "Everything else is on my plate and now you're gonna throw this on there? I'm like, 'This a test of something!'"
On April 24, little Davya — named after her father — made her first appearance in the world with Dave's cremated ashes on a nearby table. The whole time, Jennifer says she felt Dave's presence with her.
"He was there," she explains of the birth. "I had him there with little things I brought with me, and knowing that he was watching over us kept me calm."
While Jennifer was happy she had one heartbreaking question that disturbed her, "What am I going to tell Davya when she's 10 and asks about dad?"
"They told me, 'Don’t worry about that. We're all her uncles and will make sure she knows who her father is,'" says Jennifer, who adds she'll always remember her "loving, caring, silly and outgoing" husband's "open and big heart."
Davya is only one month old and Jennifer says she already reminds her of Dave from the way she looks to her funny sleeping positions. "I'm sure she'll have a personality like him too," says Jennifer. "I just have a feeling."
Representational Cover Image Source: Getty Images | Photo by Jill Lehmann Photography