God used Natalie’s three very different births and weaved them together for His Glory. There are times in life when we are thrown a curveball, and we don’t know how we will survive it. As we have seen from studying our Verse of the Week, even during great trial and darkness, we can have hope. “But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope. The steadfast love of the Lord is never ceasing, His mercies never come to an end.” Lamentations 3:21-22
We were thrilled and a bit nervous when we found out we were pregnant with our first child! We hadn’t exactly planned to have a baby so soon after getting married, but we welcomed this wonderful surprise along with our families. Although everything was new to us, my pregnancy was just as expected and the baby boy growing inside of me was perfect and healthy in every way when he was born.
Of course the first months after having our first son were a fog, as they usually are, but soon the pleasure of being parents outweighed the difficult times and we felt happy in our new normal. We were so grateful for the joy God had brought to our new little family through our first son, Graham.
The days turned to weeks and the weeks into months, and in looking back it wasn’t long before we began to talk about having another child. Why would we not want to experience the joy of bringing another child into the world?
We looked forward to who God would bring to our family a second time. It didn’t take long to get pregnant, and since we had been through this once before, we knew the joys to come. We were ready; we were excited!
With our first child, we didn’t have an ultrasound until about 18 weeks when they can usually determine the sex, so when we were given the option to have an earlier ultrasound I jumped at the opportunity to see our baby early on! Early detection for genetic disorders and birth defects, blah, blah, blah … we get to see our baby!
About a week after the ultrasound and blood test, I received a call with the results. I wasn’t expecting a call. I wasn’t waiting for a call. It wasn’t even on my radar. We were given the news that our baby boy had a 1 in 10 chance of having Down Syndrome and that he also had a heart defect (among other markers for DS). Wait, what?! 1 out of 10? I didn’t know where to put this information, how to process it. I was, as they say, blindsided.
After beginning to process this, my husband and I decided we would look at it as a 9 in 10 chance that our baby would not have Down Syndrome, and that was where we camped for the remainder of the pregnancy.
We ultimately knew that whoever God was growing inside of me was going to be whoever God would create him to be. But we still prayed and pleaded and looked at everything in a positive light. We had hope that God could heal our baby of the heart defect and that He could allow our baby to be born without Down Syndrome.
We knew He could do these things, but we also knew that He might allow us to walk this hard road without changing anything. We trusted Him. We were scared, but we trusted Him.
The rest of my pregnancy was filled with appointments, friends and family surrounding us with prayer and support, and thoughts of the unknown. How were we going to do this? I had no file to go to; I wasn’t really around children or adults with special needs while I was growing up. I had no idea how to prepare, how to think, what to do. One thing I did know: we were being blessed with a special gift for a second time, and I was going to fight for this blessing no matter where it would take us.
We never considered abortion. He was our son.
Our second son, Rowan, came into the world 5 weeks early and by C-section. Talk about giving up control for the sake of my son’s health! I wanted the joy of going through labor and delivering him into the world, but the doctors felt he was better out than in at that point due to his health. Being induced wasn’t an option, as it would have been too hard on his weak heart. This was it; we were going to meet this little boy for the first time and would know for sure if what we had wondered throughout this pregnancy was true or a false alarm.
The minute I saw him I knew….his eyes were closed and he was crying his “little bird” cry, as I would call it. Our son had Down Syndrome. This would be confirmed days later after a blood test. And this would begin a very dark time for me as I began to process where God was taking me in this life.
The grieving began for me in the hospital. Rowan was taken pretty much immediately to the NICU, and because I had a C-section and couldn’t get around, I wasn’t able to visit him until later the next day. The only word I can use to describe the next days, weeks, and months is DARKNESS.
I was grieving a dream I didn’t even know I had. My dream of having my life the way I wanted it. How was I going to do this? Would Rowan live through the heart surgery that he would have in the coming months? What will he be like when he’s older? Would our families love him the same as our first child?
The coming months were consumed with Rowan. At one point I was skimming the fat off my breast milk (which I had to pump because he couldn’t breast feed) and feeding only that to Rowan to get him to gain weight for his surgery.
Of course this was also affecting my oldest son. Not only was he not the only child anymore, but he had been plunged into the world of being big brother to a child with special needs. He had to grow up a little more than I think he was ready for. And there was mommy guilt of course because of this … so much mommy guilt. How could I be a good mom to both of these boys? How was God going to use this? Again … darkness.
Rowan began several therapies a week within the first few months of his life, which meant that my life was now consumed with caring for him. Doctor’s appointments, therapies, trying to be a good mom to my oldest son.
I didn’t ask for any of this, and yet it was on my plate so I chose to dive in. I now became Rowan’s agent (as I like to refer to myself), and I would see in later years how God would use all of this to prepare us for another journey: fostering. But that is another story.
At 5 months old, Rowan had open heart surgery. We were told to expect 1-2 weeks in the hospital if all went well. He was out in 6 days. Wow. God was pulling me slowly out of the darkness I had been walking in as I saw His goodness.
We also began to see progress, although slow, from Rowan’s therapies. Again, God was giving us a hope for Rowan’s future. The darkness was slowly fading. We could see how God was caring for Rowan and not only allowing him to live, but to thrive. In the coming years the grieving would come and go depending on the season, but God would use it all to grow me and change me. Although the process was and is sometimes painful, I never want to go back to the person I was before. “My ears had heard of you, but now my eyes have seen you.” Job 42:5
All of this brings me to the birth of our last child, our daughter Hazel.
I had always wanted another child, even right after having Rowan, but my husband was not at all on the same page. He could better articulate it, but basically he wasn’t necessarily ready or willing to go through what we had gone through with Rowan. Of course, we knew there would be no guarantee that our next child would be healthy, but I still felt the desire for another child.
People would ask me if I wanted a girl since we had two boys, but the truth was, I just wanted another child. God had given me a desire, but at the time I didn’t know if it would ever be fulfilled because of where my husband stood. I began to pray and ask God to either change my desire or change my husband’s heart toward another child. I didn’t want to try to manipulate or become angry toward my husband, and I knew the only way to have peace was to let it go. I reminded myself of Psalm 37:4: “Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”
I knew this did NOT mean that if I just desired hard enough to have another child, it would happen. But I did know that if this was from God, He would make it happen. Not necessarily in the way I might imagine it, but in His way and His timing. I needed to delight in God and focus on His goodness to me first.
My husband had heard of a meeting at our church about foster care and adoption. He really wanted us to go, so I reluctantly agreed. After the meeting, I walked out thinking there was no way I could ever become a foster parent in the hopes of adopting. What if the child had to leave? My desire was for another child. How could I get attached to a little one, only to have them go back to their family? I didn’t think I could handle the emotional roller coaster of having who-knows-how-many children in our home before one of them could be ours forever. I just didn’t feel called to it; it didn’t feel right. I felt even more discouraged after this, because I thought this might be how God would grow our family, and I was finding no joy in it at all. I expressed all of this to my husband, and I kept praying for a change of heart in one of us. Eventually God answered my prayer by changing my husband’s heart, and he agreed to try again for another child.
A few months later we were pregnant, overjoyed, and anxious. When we found out she would be a girl, along with the news that she was growing healthy and strong, we were truly delighted at the blessing of this little one.
I will never forget the day she was born. I had a C-section with Rowan, so I knew having a VBAC could be risky. We asked God to allow this, but we knew He was in control and prayed for His hand over the labor and delivery. My water broke as I was walking into a grocery store, so I went back to my car to head home and called my husband on the way. We were both giddy with excitement. He quickly headed home to pick me up, and by the time we got to the hospital, I was definitely in labor. We got there at 12:15 and she was born at 4:30.
My VBAC was successful, and obviously things went quickly. It was amazing to look into my daughter’s face for the first time. It was as if her birth had healed past wounds in ways I didn’t ask for or expect. God’s blessings on us during this time were overflowing. He was delighting in us as we delighted in our new daughter, and He used this pregnancy and birth to bring our family such joy after the difficult times we had been through. “My ears had heard of you, but now my eyes have seen you.”