The internet can be fun, helping us connect with new people and stay in touch with our loved ones. But, there is a dark side, and one couple came face to face with it, entering the battle of a lifetime.
Many of us are living relatively content lives. We go through our day-to-day, utterly unaware that something could transform and, sadly, wreck our whole life in one moment.
Loving parents April and Nathan Willis to twins Sophia and Vivienne were two such people. These once secure individuals were now plagued with paranoia every single day of their lives.
April and Nathan Willis on the Dr. Phil Show. | Source: youtube.com/Dr. Phil
JUST A FEW WON'T HURT
In 2012, April gave birth to her and her husband's two bundles of joy, Sophia and Vivienne. This mom is usually quite wary of what she shares on social media. But, she felt the urge to carefully post some pictures of her girls online. April said:
"I was proud of them."
She posted these snapshots on a group created for moms raising multiples. Everything seemed okay until her twins turned one year old.
April and Nathan Willis’ twin daughters Sophia and Vivienne. | Source: youtube.com/Dr. Phil
A MOMENT THAT CHANGED THEIR LIVES FOREVER
April received a message from a stranger on Facebook whose words completely changed this mother's life in seconds. It read:
"This may be a long shot; I am not for sure; I came across a blog on the internet…."
April went to the website, only to be blown away. All the pictures she had shared online of her twins were on that blog, with the person who had posted them renaming her daughters.
April Willis on a computer. | Source: youtube.com/Dr. Phil
On the Dr. Phil show, she expressed her intense emotional reaction to coming across this stranger's blog. April remembered:
"I started bawling. That's when I realized my daughters had been digitally kidnapped."
The father, Nathan, sent the stranger a message online. The mother managed to get the blog taken down and three other Facebook pages this other woman had owned. But, this online stalker was persistent.
A baby picture of April and Nathan Willis’ twin daughters Sophia and Vivienne. | Source: youtube.com/Dr. Phil
For the next four years, the family lived in complete fear while Ashley, as she is named, consistently stole and posted photos of their twins on another Facebook page of hers.
Ashley. | Source: youtube.com/Dr. Phil
This stranger had fabricated a detailed life around the lie that she was the girls' mom. She claimed that her mother-in-law currently had full custody of them after she had made mistakes. Looking back at the paranoia, April expressed:
"We're scared to death."
They began to tighten the security around their home, such as installing security cameras. They lived in fear that Ashley would physically kidnap the girls. Even more terrifying was that this digital kidnapper did not live far away from them.
Nathan Willis. | Source: youtube.com/Dr. Phil
A private investigator also discovered evidence; Ashley had physical pictures of the twins all around the house. The parents also had no legal protection. April said:
"Police told us there's nothing really they can do because there's no crime in stealing a photograph."
This was also not the first time Ashley had been involved in suspicious and downright illegal activity. She had been arrested for assault, burglary, and computer fraud.
April Willis. | Source: youtube.com/Dr. Phil
Eventually, April came across a post by Ashley, who said she hoped she could see her children and get custody soon; this was the last straw.
This child was not actually hers, although she had no idea until a few days after she fell pregnant.
Ashley. | Source: youtube.com/Dr. Phil
But, after being presented with a lot of evidence, she eventually admitted to what she did. She also apologized to April and Nathan for what she had done to them. She claimed never to have meant to hurt them.
Dr. Phil assured Ashley that he would get her the help she needed. The parents were distraught and yet gracious to the woman who had terrorized them for almost half a decade.
Now, whatever feelings they may have towards Ashley, this family can finally live their lives in peace -- something that should have never been stolen from them in the first place.
Children are the most precious gifts to their moms and dads. So, if we do not have kids, we can not even begin to comprehend what April and Nathan would have had to go through if their baby girls had been kidnapped.
A NEW LEVEL OF COMPASSION
One mother, Carolyn, did lose her baby. But, her case was strange in that this child was not indeed hers even though she was pregnant with it. She had no idea until a few days after the procedure.
It turned out that she had been injected with the wrong embryo, which belonged to another couple. The doctor had called and informed her of his unbelievable news.
Carolyn could have terminated the embryo but instead chose to carry it until term, giving another couple the gift of life.
These couples were able to access a type of compassion and grace that many of us struggle with. If you were in their positions, would you be able to practice the level of grace and selflessness that they embodied?
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