Lets go back to my diagnosis of PCOS in 2009. God was ALL over that situation. The day I got my diagnosis, I was on my way to the LYFE conference at Baptist Bible College in Clarks Summit PA with a group of my sisters in Christ. My doctor called me and gave me the news while I was in the car. As I broke down crying, the women I was riding with shared their stories, their journeys to motherhood. Some were easy-going, others were heartbreaking. I learned so many things about the women riding in the car with me.
It never ceases to amaze me to see God’s hand in things. Not one speaker in the conference was slated to talk about infertility or motherhood. Yet workshop after workshop, I heard over and over the faithfulness of our loving God. I heard from women who, by the very grace of God, overcame infertility. I heard from women who were still feeling that ache, the pain I was feeling. They were just trying to survive. And I heard from women who, after years of trying, never got the opportunity to be a mother and had to reconcile how a God who loves us SO much (and oh, how He loves us…) can deny a woman that joy. I got much more out of that conference than I ever expected.
Dealing with Infertility
I can't really begin to describe the pain of facing infertility. But I can see how God used this in my life to bring me closer to Him and also, closer to my sisters in Christ. I was able to connect with women at my church on a different level. I learned about some of their struggles and how they overcame them. I joined a support group shortly after my diagnosis. The ladies I've met through this group are now some of my dearest friends. And we were there to encourage one another. I got the opportunity to encourage and help other women in the same situation. I was able to share the Good News about God. I considered it almost a ministry for me. I shared how God had been faithful to me and how I knew He would be faithful again. I was also able to reach out to other Christian women going through similar circumstances and fill my own cup, so to speak.
When I found out in March of 2010 that I was going to be the mother of triplets, I was in shock. To say I was in shock is probably the understatement of the decade. I couldn't wrap my mind around it. Never in a million years did I think I would have triplets. Nor did I want triplets. It has taken a lot of prayer and forgiveness on my part to reconcile those feelings of guilt for not wanting triplets. But God knows better than me. He has blessed me over and OVER with these children. But we'll get to that later. Right now- I want to focus on my pregnancy.
As multiple pregnancies go, mine was considered "easy". I'd love to know who decides stuff like that- but I'm going with it. Many women wait until they are in their second trimester before sharing the news. I didn't really have that option. I was measuring 16w pregnant at 8w. By the time I knew I was pregnant, I was already needing to buy maternity clothes. I barely had time to come to grips with how my life was about to change before everyone knew about it. I had to use the wisdom and discernment God gave me to sift through the "advice" people felt the need to give me. I love how when you are pregnant people who have never even held a baby feel the need to tell you how to be a parent. It doesn't get any better once the baby is here either... haha...
My pregnancy progressed rather smoothly. It was as routine as a multiple pregnancy gets, I was told. My babies had great positions. They were each in their own sac with their own placenta. The placentas were high, which I was told was "really lucky" because it meant the chance of certain problems was now much lower. We know that luck had nothing to do with it. God determined how they would be positioned in my uterus. He "knit them together" in just the right place as Psalm 139 tells us.
I was blessed to have relatively few problems. I developed gestational diabetes and Bells Palsy, but I wasn't on mandatory bed rest until the last few days of my pregnancy. And even then, when I was in the hospital, I was allowed out of bed for short times.
Nobody expected me to go into labor when I did. I was by myself in the hospital room. Well, that's not entirely true. My nurse was there. I loved Debbie. She was wonderful. Up until that point, my nurses had all been about 12 years old. Okay- I exaggerate. But they were all very young, and only one of them had a child. Sufficient to say- they really didn't know what to say to me. Debbie was about the same age as my mother, and we got along splendidly. She was very maternal, which is exactly what I needed that night. The plan was for my mother to join Mark in the delivery room with me. Well, because it was an emergency, they wouldn't let her. I was furious- but the decree had been made. It was wonderful having a motherly figure in the delivery room with me. After the babies were born, she went to the NICU often to keep track of how well they were doing. So that is one way that God looked out for me that night.
Another way came in a very strange circumstance. On the way to the O.R., the wheel on my bed broke. This made getting me into the O.R. almost comical. You may be asking how this could possibly be a good thing. Well, after they transferred me to the gurney on which I was to be operated, that bed couldn't be brought back to my room. It had to be repaired. So they had to wheel the second bed in my room down to get me. They didn't have another bed to put in that room, so my double occupancy room became a single occupancy room. They couldn't put a roommate in there with me. You might be thinking, "Having a single room is nice, but how bad would it be to have a roommate?" Well- recovering from a c-section is hard enough, but add to it a woman who has her baby rooming in with her while mine were whisked off to the NICU would be devastating.
God looked out for me in another big way that night too. If I had gone into labor the day before or the day after, my doctor would not have been there to do the surgery.
Our NICU experience was one of the hardest things I have ever experienced. Up until that time, it was without a doubt the hardest thing I had ever experienced. No matter how they might try, nobody can prepare you for the NICU world. Even if you've had a tour, when it is your baby (or in my case babies) in there, it is as if time stands still.
God completely took me out of my comfort zone starting the moment they were born. I have worked with babies my entire adult life, and throughout my teenage-hood. I knew enough about babies to know having my own would be the most difficult thing I'd ever do. I had no idea how right that was.
Most people have never seen a baby as small as my biggest one was. And I thank God for that. Seeing a 4 lb baby is terrifying. Seeing a 2 lb baby is even scarier. Having those tiny little babies belong to you is indescribable.
Nobody can prepare you for holding a 3 lb 5 oz baby or to see your 4 lb son hooked up to tubes because his little lungs don't work right yet. Nobody can prepare you to see your 2 lb 4 oz miracle daughter, with skin so pink it was almost translucent.
And nobody can prepare you for the emotions you will feel. The NICU is a roller coaster ride on a good day. Any victory your child has is bittersweet because right next to him or her is another little miracle struggling for life. The guilt I had when I had 3 relatively healthy babies and the baby in the isolette next to one of them was dangerously close to death is a strange thing, but it is something I've found is common among NICU parents.
God also taught me a lot during those days. I learned about patience. Preemies do things in their own time, when they are ready. Not a moment before. I learned about compassion. What do you say to the parents of the other babies? I learned just how precious life really is. And I learned to fully rely on God. I couldn't do it in my own strength. It's not possible.
As amazing as God's support was during their NICU stay, the most amazing thing happened to me afterwards. I am able to help other women who have children in the NICU. I am able to help other mothers, whether they have one baby or multiples. I am an advocate for them when they need it, I am a friend to listen, I am a survivor to help them through the darkest days. Through God, I am able to tell them our story. I can give them hope.
Ashley came home after 24 days. Brent came home after 42 days. Carolyn came home after 58 days. Writing it out like that makes it seem so short, and yet so long at the same time. Coming home was exciting and terrifying. Ashley and Carolyn were both only 4 lbs when they came home.
Nobody I knew had every held a baby that small. We had to learn how to use the Apnea monitors and what to do if they sounded alarm. I had to recognize my own limitations and learn to ask for help because I was physically unable to do many things at that point.
God has used my children to change my heart in ways I didn't even know it needed to be changed. I never realized how passive I was before I had my children. I never realized how much I let people simply walk all over me because I didn't want to rock the boat or hurt their feelings by telling them how I really felt. I have learned how to set boundaries, and more importantly, that setting boundaries isn't selfish. I had to be their advocate because they were too little and frail to do it for themselves. I had to develop a thick skin when people called me crazy for the rules about visiting, like hand washing, sanitizing, wearing a makeshift gown and mask if you even thought you might be thinking about getting sick.
I've learned I need to make time for myself, for my relationship with God and for my relationship with my husband. I need to spend time with other Christian women. I need to be in the word of God. I need to take care of myself. I've learned that I have needs, and that having needs isn't selfish.
I've learned little things about myself like I really don't like roller coasters. I'm happy to go to a theme park, hang out in line and chit chat and visit, and simply step through to the other side of the platform and wait for a few minutes while you ride the ride. I don't like scary movies and I'm not afraid to say "No, I don't want to watch that. Can we watch something else?" For people who are assertive, they may not seem like big things- but they are victories to recovering doormats like yours truly!
God is continually working on me. I am learning what James means when he tells us to "consider it pure joy, brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds because we know that the testing of our faith produces perseverance." (James 1). I look forward to finding out what else God has in store for me and my family because we all know that God works in some very mysterious ways.