On April 27th we had the joy of welcoming two beautiful identical twin girls into our family! What made the birth of these two healthy babies especially precious was the recognition that the Lord’s hand of sustaining care is what brought these babies through to full term.
After the birth of Timothy in 2016, we went through two successive first-trimester miscarriages that both resulted in significant complications, hospitalizations and months of recovery. While this was a difficult journey, we are so thankful for God’s grace through this time, and the loving support of our family and people around us.
One of the outcomes of these miscarriages and subsequent testing was learning about a common genetic issue called MTHFR, which affects the body’s ability to utilize folic acid, a synthetic substitute for folate, an important nutrient you get from leafy green vegetables. Back in the 80’s, the FDA mandated folic acid to be added to fortified foods to address folate deficiencies. What was not understood at the time is that people with MTHFR are unable to process the folic acid, and it causes other problems in the body, including being considered the second most common cause in recurrent miscarriages.
After a significant amount of research on the topic, including a helpful book by Dr. Ben Lynch, we decided to make some dietary changes to eliminate folic acid, and utilize the natural forms of folate instead. Based on my own research in this area, I also felt that addressing the root issue of the folic acid would reduce the need for the blood thinners that are commonly prescribed in an MTHFR pregnancy scenario.
In September of 2018 we learned that we were expecting, but this happy discovery also came with a level of concern that these first several weeks were critical for baby’s survival. I also set up some tests to check the progesterone levels, knowing that this could also be a factor in our case. The first test came back okay, but a week later the levels had dropped to a dangerous point, and I knew that we were probably within a few days of losing the baby, based on the timing of our previous miscarriages.
I immediately called our doctor’s office to see if we could get a prescription for a supplement. To my dismay, I learned that they were booked solid for several weeks out. I felt the anxiety rising in my heart as I finished the call. If we didn’t do something in the next day or two, it would probably be too late. Valerie sweetly reminded me that we need to trust the Lord and ask Him to direct our steps. We took some time to pray together, little knowing that God already had an answer on the way.
The next morning we got a call from the doctor’s office. They had a cancellation that morning and we could come after all! With rejoicing hearts we quickly made some childcare arrangements and headed over to Longview. God distinctly blessed that visit, and the doctor happily gave us the needed prescription for us to pick up on the way home. As a special unexpected blessing, they did a quick ultrasound at the office, and we were all relieved to hear a strong little heartbeat in our 7-week old baby!
Two weeks later we scheduled a second ultrasound to check on the baby. By this time we had crossed the point in time where we lost the previous two babies, and would find out whether this little life was still with us. As we walked into the ultrasound room and the technician set up the equipment, my mind was replaying the time in this very office a year before when the technician scanned for the heartbeat, and turned to us with the pained words “I’m so sorry.” Now, in this very same place, I needed to support my wife no matter the outcome. I was bracing for either the emotion of another loss, or perhaps the flood of relief if our little one had pulled through these critical couple weeks.
The large screen flickered slightly as the probe engaged, and I held my breath to see what the next moments would reveal. In a flash the whole screen lit up and TWO!! little babies sat side by side, with strong heartbeats on both! The tension instantly was broken as smiles lit up across our faces. No wonder Valerie was feeling so sick this time! Wow! I hadn’t considered this option! How special that God would give us TWINS!!
While the folic acid concerns and progesterone levels were likely important aspects in our case, I believe the single greatest factor of all lies in the definite prayer that was offered on our behalf. Our little church in Kilgore might be small in numbers, but we have some veteran prayer warriors that were praying daily for us through this entire pregnancy, in addition to family and other dear friends that were specifically praying for the Lord to bring these two little babies through to full term.
As the babies continued to grow and develop, we had the opportunity to catch little glimpses of their progress through the monthly ultrasounds commonly prescribed for twins. At our request, the technicians were careful to keep the gender a surprise so we could enjoy that revelation at the time of the birth, like we had done for our first two children. Valerie and I worked through all the combinations of potential names…two boys, two girls, a girl and a boy.
In the third trimester there was some concern about the position of the babies. The monthly ultrasounds indicated that one or both were typically in the breech position instead of the preferred head-down orientation. I wasn’t too worried about this initially because the babies were turning so frequently on their own, but as we entered the final weeks, our midwife group ultimately had to sit down with us and discuss some options. With the presenting baby in breech position, we were obliged to transfer care to the hospital OB group, with the very likely possibility of needing a c-section if the baby did not turn.
For me, this was probably the most difficult couple weeks of the entire pregnancy. We had enjoyed beautiful natural birth experiences with our first two children, and now the thought of surgery in the OR with a crowd of doctors, having to be separated from Valerie during parts of the operation, restrictive hospital policies, extended recovery, long-term physical implications, heightened risks to Valerie and the babies, strong medications and side effects, and knowing that every future pregnancy would be affected by this operation triggered a flood of emotions as I grappled with this reality.
Somehow couldn’t we just encourage “Baby A” to turn head down? Did we lose our chance because we didn’t do something sooner? These thoughts frequently swirled through my head as I lay in bed night after night trying to sleep. So many unknowns, and so little that we could really do about it. What if we didn’t get the right doctor, or what if they overlooked her sensitivity to medication, or things went really wrong in the surgery?
Valerie would sweetly remind me that we need to trust the Lord. It was like the Lord had already given her a peace about the potential of a c-section, and we just needed to trust the Lord to direct our steps, even if that looked different from our plans. This prayer for clear direction had been our prayer through the pregnancy, and now this trust was being put to the test. As I look back, I am so grateful for how the Lord graciously gave me a couple of weeks to emotionally adjust to this new reality before the time came for us to walk through the experience together.
With this turn of events taking place around Easter this year, I found myself pondering Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane. If this cup pass not from me, except I drink it… Thy will be done. While a c-section is nothing to compare to what Jesus did on the cross, I realized that I was facing the same question. Was I willing to drink the cup that God was giving me? Was I willing to trust His grace, no matter the outcome? Could I take my focus off doctors and circumstances, and accept that a c-section was where He Himself was leading us?
Slowly the peace of God began to replace the anxious concerns as God gently brought me around to the place of trust and rest. Sure, we still continued to do what we could to encourage the babies to turn, but the sense of desperation was gone. We could trust that our all-knowing Heavenly Father knows what is best for us, even if we don’t fully understand it.
It was then that the Lord used a couple passages of Scripture from II Corinthians to greatly encourage me through those days. He was doing a faith-stretching work in my heart, and those spiritual matters of the heart are of far more eternal significance than our passing circumstances.
I was also blessed in reading the account of Joseph in Luke 2. If there was ever a man that surely would have made appropriate plans and arrangements for the birth of Mary’s baby, it was him. But he was unexpectedly called to leave those well laid plans and head to an unfamiliar city where the child would ultimately be born in a barn. Talk about having to adjust a birth plan! But God, in His sovereign purposes was accomplishing far more through this than Mary and Joseph could have ever realized at the time.
Was there some special reason that God wanted us to have a c-section for the twins? Perhaps something that none of us knew at the time? I still don’t know, but I just have to believe that the Lord had a very definite purpose in it, even if we never fully understand it on this side of eternity.
The c-section was scheduled for May 5th, but the twins evidently decided to choose their own birthday as Valerie went into labor early on the morning of April 27th. We gathered our bags and headed to the hospital, and from that point on, we saw God answer prayer after prayer. The doctor that we really hoped could perform the surgery happened to be at the hospital at the time, and we were blessed to have the anesthesiologist that was everyone’s favorite. The entire medical team was as if it was hand-picked just for us! They graciously accommodated every request they could and the entire process went just about as well as it possibly could.
As we had done after Timothy’s birth, we let Abigail and Timothy be the first ones to meet their little sisters and learn their names. It was so sweet to watch Abigail’s excitement as she discovered that they were girls. (She had been praying for a baby sister for some time before we even knew that we were expecting.) Timothy was quite delighted as well, and was the first to spot the pink hats and make the connection that they were girls.
Truly the Lord had gone before us, and His hand was with us through the entire process. The twins passed all of their tests and screenings with no problems, and Valerie did so well that we were able to head home after just two days at the hospital. We are now adjusting to life as a family of six, and happy to report that Valerie is recovering well and Joanna and Ruth are growing and doing great. We are still trying to figure out how to get enough sleep, but that is just part of having twins. 🙂
I want to again say a huge thank you to the family and friends that have prayed for us over these months! God has truly done a special miracle in preserving these two little lives, and carrying us through a birth experience that was very different from what we had planned, but one in which we still see His hand clearly evident.