Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Courage to be Broken (Part 1)

Last week I had the honor of speaking to a couple hundred young moms at Scottsdale Bible Church's MOPS program. I felt at once blessed to a be a part of the group and heartbroken that my babies no longer qualify me for such a group. Perhaps I should start a MOCKS group next year -- you know, Mothers of College Kids! What do you think?

As my family let me practice my talk, they felt strongly I should share it here -- for the one or two of you who may not know our whole story. I have shared so much of this over the years, but in case you missed it, or in case you want more glorious details....I will, over the next few days, share our story from the beginning.

My dear friend and mentor, Tracy, had asked me to speak on the subject of having "The Courage to be Broken." I can assure you that I have not felt courageous in this journey. But oh dear ones, I have felt broken. Let me share our story:

Wade and I married immediately after college graduation. He was the smartest, most amazing man I knew and I was confident in the future I was planning for us – the future I was certain God intended for us to have.

When my aerospace engineer decided after four years at NASA that he wanted to go to Medical School,  I was not sure about being married to a doctor – I need more face time than that – but I was sure about believing in my man, and so to medical school we went.

We decided to start our family half-way through. We had after all, been married a few years. My plan was that – and oh, dear ones, hear the MY in that statement – MY plan was that we would have our first child in medical school, our second in residency and then I would work to convince Wade we needed one more as soon as his training was over (we were in a bit of a stand still about whether we would have two or three children!).

God’s plan was completely different for us however – and our disagreement over the number of children we would have was soon a moot point when our doctor held up three fingers and shockingly told us we were expecting triplets.

My husband didn’t speak for 24 hours. I mean he said a few things in response to direct questions but he didn’t really TALK for 24 hours. Then, over Thanksgiving dinner, he looked up from staring at his plate and muttered: “They won’t all fit in my car.” I died out laughing.

For me the next few weeks were filled with wondering if they would be boys or girls? Should I always dress them alike; should their names rhyme? And while I had fears – my fears looked like “how will I give them all the attention they deserve,” “what will I do if one is crying to eat while I am feeding one of the other two.”

Not so for my husband. He was far enough along in his medical training to know some really scary information about multiple births. He knew how hard the pregnancy would be on my body. He knew that the babies themselves were facing a myriad of problems. He knew way way too much.

But I was certain that God was in control. And can I confess to you that I was almost arrogant in my faith? I believed that God would take care of me and take care of my babies because I prayed it to be.

I received a packet of literature from a Triplet Connection group with frightening statistics, scary photos of babies born too early and an entire article on what pre-term labor felt like. (Unbeknownst to me, Wade had pored over the material before I came home from work that day, so that the information I was reading was not even the most scary. He had hidden one whole packet because he thought it was too much.)

I remember the confidence I felt that this would NOT happen to us. I was strong and courageous – there is the courage -- in light of this pregnancy because it is easy to be courageous when you believe beyond a doubt that bad things won’t happen to you. It is easy to be courageous when you are arrogant in what faith looks like.

I was sitting in a board meeting at 19 weeks when I felt my first contraction. My doctor had told me repeatedly that there would be no false contractions in this pregnancy, that I was to take every single one seriously. I simply stood up and walked out of my meeting. After calling my doctor, I drove from my office on the north side of Chicago home to our apartment in Hyde Park to get horizontal immediately as per his orders. I remember the fear like yesterday. It was the first time I began to doubt that this would go according to my plan.

I was admitted to the hospital later that evening. I was contracting constantly and as I waited for my doctor to come in, a young resident examined me. He didn’t even bother checking the babies’ heartbeats. “They are not viable yet” he snapped at me when I inquired why he wasn’t checking on them.

My courage began to slip.

After a week in the hospital, my doctor released me to home bed rest, only to readmit me six days later. I was 21 weeks pregnant, 100 percent effaced and 3 cm dilated. My courage was at an all-time low when the doctor would not allow me to sit up on his exam table, but rather wheeled a hospital bed into the exam room and transferred me to it. I would not stand again for 8 weeks.

The night we hit the 28 week mark, I felt what I believed to be a gush of water – I couldn’t see beyond my belly but I was certain my water had broken. I hit the nurse call button and dialed my husband (Who was at our apartment down the road because we were dorm parents to 80 undergrads and one of us had to sleep in the building every night.). By the time Wade arrived, the nurses, doctors and residents were gathered and scaring me to death with their pale faces. My water had not broken. I was hemorrhaging. Everyone expected the babies to be born as soon as possible.

But our attending physician felt differently. She wanted to try one more time to stop the labor. When the contractions slowed, the bleeding slowed. She wanted to wait and see how long we could buy. Four days. I made it four more days before I began to hemorrhage again. This time they prepped me for delivery.

I was 28 4/7 weeks pregnant. The operating room was filled with medical personnel. There were doctors, fellows and nurses for me; there was an attending physician, a resident, a fellow and a nurse for each baby (That was 12 people right there!) and there was my wonderful husband. I was scared to death. I was fearful for my babies. I was not talking – which scared my husband more than anything. And I did not feel courageous in the least.

Benjamin Wade, Mason Joshua and Claire Elisabeth were born just after noon on April 18, 1997. Roughly a minute apart. Benjamin likes to tell people that that first minute when he was an only child are some of his fondest memories.

Benjamin weighed 2 lb 15 oz and he was our big boy! Mason was a tiny 2 lb 4 oz and sweet Claire was right in the middle at 2 lb 9 oz. But my tiny crew each gave a little cry to let me know they were breathing before their respective medical teams whisked them away to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. It was 24 hours before I would get to see them with my own eyes.

The NICU days are at once some of my most vivid memories and a complete blur. I was weak, couldn’t stand on my own for weeks, and was completely terrified of all the wires, noises, and medicines my trio required.

Two months later, when we had all three babies at home, I was certain the hard part was over.  I was wrong.

I'll continue our story later this week.

Carol - The Blessings Counter