In November 2008, Dan and I learned we were expecting twins. Once we got past the shock (and I was very shocked!), we were really excited. All things considered, the pregnancy went quite smoothly. It’s truly amazing how a little life can grow inside you. But it’s an amazing amount of work too, and can really be a challenge for the body systems. In general, those pregnancy related side-effects tend to be even more common, and extreme, with multiples. However, other than fatigue and some discomfort and constant hunger (almost from day one) I felt pretty good throughout my pregnancy.
In May of 2009, our beautiful twin daughters were born unexpectedly at only 32 weeks – fully 8 weeks early. They weighed in at only 4 lbs each and spent 6 weeks in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) in Walnut Creek before they were able to come home.
Over the years, I have known a number of other families who have experienced an extended NICU stay following the premature birth of a child. Because of my own experiences, these stories touch me deeply. They never fail to remind me of the weeks we spent traveling to Walnut Creek each day, praying for our girls to get stronger. I rejoice with those families over each step of progress, share their disappointment over each set back, and grieve with the families who don’t get to bring their baby home.
These stories touch me partly because I understand more than most some of what those families are going through. But also because it recalls to me a lesson that I learned during my own experience – God is Sovereign!
Those first few weeks after the girls were born were hard! But I know now that in a lot of ways we had it easy. While our girls weren’t fully developed, for premies they were pretty big and healthy. So while the needed some extra round-the-clock attention and help from the NICU staff in those early weeks, barring some unexpected development there was never much question that they would come home, they would “catch-up,” and they would be healthy.
Those first six weeks we were traveling back and forth to the hospital to visit our daughters each day; I was pumping breastmilk for them day and night so I was only sleeping a few hours at a stretch; and I was wildly emotional thanks to pregnancy hormones, lack of sleep, and the added stress of having to go to the hospital each day to visit my amazing daughters. I tend to be pretty stable and even-keeled. I could tell that my emotions were a roller coaster, but I was powerless – and I do like being in control. Not sure how Dan felt about my wild emotions. Either it didn’t bother him, or he had the good sense to keep it to himself.
By the time the girls were a couple weeks old, I was emotionally drained and physically exhausted. And I felt guilty. You see, I thought it was somehow my fault that that the girls had been born early. By every logical standard, this was completely ridiculous. I had experienced a delightfully simple pregnancy almost devoid of the typical difficulties women experience during pregnancy. Everything was going smoothly. The babies were healthy and growing well. Other than some discomfort from pressure on my lowest rib, I felt pretty good. In fact, the day before they were born, I had a routine appointment with my OB followed by a routine “non-stress test”. At that time, there was absolutely no indication of any problem. But just 12 hours after leaving the doctor’s office I was in labor, and another 12 hours later I was in a recovery room – the mother of twin girls born at 32 weeks plus 1 day. One evening I burst into tears and confessed to Dan that it was “my fault”. He reminded me of God’s sovereignty; that God was not surprised by the early arrival of our girls. He reminded me that even if I had made bad choices – God would still be sovereign. And it clicked for me in a way that it never had before; in a way that I still remember. And I remember even more strongly when I walk that same path again with someone else.
God is Sovereign. He is in control. He is never surprised or caught off guard. Medically, there was no explanation for our premature delivery. But I do know I gained a deeper understanding of God. And I’ve shared my story, my testimony, with others.