The Better Plan (x 4)

I had my life figured out! I met the love of my life when I was 15 years old. Pete and I dated, got married young, and pursued higher education in the big cit of Winnipeg. I was going to be an Accountant, we were going to have two kids, two cars, and live in a nice home.

I had finished my Bachelor of Commerce Degree and was working on my Accounting designation. Everything was going as planned. Except that I had severe endometriosis which was very debilitating. I had been through many surgeries and the most recent one was a procedure to scrape and remove as many bad cells as possible. I met my doctor for a follow-up regarding the results. He told me if I didn’t get pregnant in the next few months, I likely never would. My fallopian tubes were quickly “cementing shut with bad cells,” as he put it. This couldn’t be! We weren’t ready! I cried and cried.

We prayed and cried out to God. Although this wasn’t our timing, we knew we wanted kids, so maybe we could adjust the timeline if God would grant us this miracle. Six weeks later, I was at the doctor’s office with a beating heart inside of me! On August 20, 2003, Chloe Madison was born. She was perfect!

About a year later, my pain returned, worse than before. The doctor wanted to do a hysterectomy - he knew I’d never be able to get pregnant again, but I wasn’t ready for that. Before we had time to look at alternatives, I found out I was pregnant! We were shocked!

This pregnancy was different. My belly was growing so fast, but my OB/GYN reassured me that it couldn’t be twins. At 20 weeks, we had a routine ultrasound. It took sooooo long. I was convinced something was wrong. Then they had to call in a specialist. My question was why would they need a specialist if nothing was wrong?

They finally called Pete into the room to go over the results. By this point, I was panicking. But they reassured us that everything was fine. We could see the heart beating, we saw the little hands and feet - everything looked perfect! I was just beginning to calm down when he said “and for baby #2…” and I completely lost it - I was carrying identical twin boys! This rocked our world. My plan for our life was now completely out the window. I was about to have twin babies and an almost 2-year-old at home. How could this be? Again, I cried and cried.

I spent the next day with Chloe, trying to keep her occupied as I wept. Everyone I told was so excited for us, and all I could do was cry! God was giving us miracles right before our eyes and I was blind to it. I was so scared! I had so many fears, doubts and questions. We needed to make some big changes in our life. I quit my job, we sold our house in Winnipeg, and moved to Steinbach. Pete worked in Steinbach so it made sense to have him close by. I had come to the realization that, at least for a few years, my career was not going to be a priority, so we had no reason to stay in Winnipeg. The support we had during this time was amazing. With me not being able to lift a finger, our friends and family moved us in and helped us get settled.

A few weeks later, at 26 weeks, I went into labour. The medical team was able to stop the labor, and after pumping me full of steroids (to boost the twins lung development), I was sent home. I was only home for 3 days. I woke up early on day 4 and panicked when I saw blood everywhere. I was brought to Winnipeg by ambulance where they discovered that, thankfully, my placenta had not ruptured, but instead, I was in active labour. My water broke and although they gave it a valiant effort, they could not stop the labour.

The specialists started coming in to the room, one after another. “Your babies will not be healthy.” “They are not ready to be born.” “They will have cerebral palsy due to the bleeding that is occurring in their brains.” “They will be blind as their eyes aren’t fully developed.” “They will probably be deaf.” “They will not be able to breathe on their own.” “Their skin will look very thin.” “You will not be able to hold them.” “They will not cry.” “They will be tube-fed.” And the list went on…..

The worst was when the doctor came in and looked me right in the eye and told me that most likely, one baby would not survive and there was a very high likelihood that neither would survive. I couldn’t take it. They began to prep me for a C-section which would give them the best chance of survival. It would give doctors complete control of the birth.

By the grace of God, at 10:53pm and 10:54pm on September 12, 2005, Griffin Connor and Parker Reid were born. Griffin was taken away before I could even see him. Parker was passed by me for a brief second. I was told both boys were alive but needed lots of help to stay alive. It would be several hours before we’d know more. What a gruelling time. We knew we had hundreds of people praying for us. We were so scared. It had been a long day, emotionally and physically.

The nurses knew that before I would let myself rest I had to see my babies. I couldn’t walk yet so they made room in the NICU and wheeled my entire bed through the unit so I could see my babies. In that moment time stood still. They were absolutely perfect! Their tiny little bodies wrapped in blankets, tiny little breathing masks, tubes coming out all over their body, and wires everywhere, but they were absolutely perfect! We couldn’t touch them but we did get a polaroid picture that I could keep with me.

One of the hardest things was that the room I was staying in was shared with another mom who had her perfectly healthy baby girl with her. Every time I’d hear her cry, I would just start sobbing. Why couldn’t my babies cry? I would hear her rocking her baby, consoling her, feeding her, and I would stare at my polaroid’s and weep. It was all I had to hang on to. I was such a mess!

Our boys had many challenges ahead. Thank the Lord, they had no brain bleeds after all. The doctors performed multiple tests because they couldn’t understand how that could be. But we knew. Our amazing God took care of that! Even the Neurologist said “I guess that’s what you call a miracle!” Science said our boys should not have survived - let alone no brain bleeds! Our boys also had perfect little eyes, and perfect little ears. Their only set back was their lack of lung development, some brain delay, and the fact that they were so tiny. At their lowest point, they were 1lb, 13oz.

Because they couldn’t breathe, suck, and swallow at the same time (without their heart rate plummeting or their oxygen dropping), they were tube-fed. Initially, this was a hard thing for me to process, but it wasn’t long before the nurses had me doing all their care. I was able to change their tiny little diapers, change all their probes and monitors, feed them and bathe them. Since they could only be touched briefly each day, I wanted to make sure that touch came from myself or Pete.

After one week I was released. It’s like a punch in the gut when you leave the maternity ward with no baby and everyone else walks out with newborn babies! That was heart-wrenching! I struggled with the fact that I couldn’t nurse them and I knew they needed my milk. So I pumped. And pumped. At one point we had a whole freezer full of over 300 containers of milk. (I was nicknamed the “Dairy Queen” and lost all dignity. Who else has “let-down” from a vacuum cleaner or any humming noise instead of a baby’s cry?) I would pump about 20 oz in a 15 min period. At the beginning they each only took in 1 or 2 ml per feed. After 6 weeks I was finally able to nurse them briefly! It was the most amazing experience! It was the one thing I could do for them that no one else could!

After many, many set-backs and hurdles, we finally took them home before Christmas. To have our whole family together was the best gift we could have received! But our struggles were far from over. I got quite comfortable in an ambulance as we had many trips to Winnipeg in the months following. Our boys were very sick little guys and this was not going away. They caught everything. And everything that other healthy kids got, our boys would catch it and then require hospitalization! Then they both needed surgery. When would it end? It was frustrating and terrifying. They had so many episodes of pneumonia, bronchiolitis, and RSV. Then the boys and I even got H1N1, which Parker and I almost didn’t survive.

At this point I had so much guilt it was consuming me. What had I done to cause this? Was God punishing me? (Someone voiced that to me while they were still in the NICU, and I wondered if there was truth to that). It was all just so hard! I felt so bad about the fact that I had not wanted twins. Is that why they were so sick? Had I been too ungrateful? And now I had the added guilt of Chloe being neglected by me. I just had no time or energy to deal with a 2-year-old. Would this traumatize her for life? Could I ever redeem myself to her?

Through all of this, my amazing husband was my rock! He diffused all negative thinking, he was so encouraging, and boy did he ever change a lot of diapers! I was successfully tandem-feeding the boys so that was incredibly rewarding to me. But through it all I was struggling. I couldn’t help asking “why me?” Why did this all happen to me?

At about 18 months, just when the twins started sleeping through the night, I found out that God has a sense of humor as I was pregnant with number four! I would have four kids under the age of four! I didn’t know why God thought I could handle this, I just didn’t have it in me! And what if it was twins again? There were people around me struggling to have babies and mine wouldn’t stop coming - even with birth control and the fact that we were told we might never have any kids at all. I realized later that God wanted me to rely on Him for strength instead of relying on myself.

Brooklyn Kennedy arrived Nov 22, 2007, perfect and healthy. At that moment, I felt like God was wrapping his arms around me and telling me that this is how He wanted me to remember my last birth. If Brooklyn hadn’t been brought into this world, my last memory and experience of birth would have been traumatic. This was what I needed. And after the on-going hardships with our boys, she was the baby who never stopped smiling - she was the perfect addition to our family. It was then that I realized that if I had stuck with my plan instead of God’s, our life would be empty.

God is good! Life is so full of miracles, we just need to open our eyes. Thank-you Jesus that my eyes have been opened.

About the Author:

Brenda is one of the most joyful, energetic, and generous people you will ever meet! Whether it is organizing Teacher Appreciation Week at her kids' school or taking care of her friend's kids while they go on a missions trip, Brenda is someone you want to know. She is also an amazing salesperson, having convinced most of southeast Manitoba to use Norwex.

If you would like to send Brenda a message, email and put “Brenda” in the subject line.