Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Christmas Surprise

On December 23, at sonogram #5, Rob and I found out the gender of the babies!!! Each one cooperated perfectly and so the technician said that she was 99.9% sure of the accuracy. We were so excited to be able to share the news in person with our families at Christmas. We are all super excited and feeling blessed beyond measure!!!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Second Trimester

Today officially marks the beginning of my second trimester. I am grateful for a fairly uneventful first 3 months. Aside from the 22 pound increase already, I have had little to no pregnancy symptoms at all. The Lord has been very good!

Today also brought yet another visit to my OB. After excitedly hearing three heart beats, I was again reminded of the high-risk nature of this pregnancy. There is still some concern regarding my elevated blood pressure. Since I have previously had almost 30 operations on my eyes (mostly for detached retinas), the doctors are concerned that there may be some internal organ that is functioning incorrectly. The cause of my eye problems was never clearly diagnosed, and so now they fear that whatever caused the eye problems could possibly be affecting my blood pressure and even cause other problems. In all honesty, I am not overly concerned about this, as my eyes have been fairly stable for 15 years, however the doctors have ordered the following tests immediately.

12/16 - 24 hour urine test to check my kidneys
12/17 - blood glucose test to check my blood sugar levels (usually done at 24-28 weeks)
12/18 - heart echocardiogram to give a baseline of my heart function
12/23 - sonogram #5

My regular appointments will likely continue every other week throughout this entire pregnancy, rotating each week between the OB and maternal-fetal medical specialist. I actually find these regular visits quite comforting, as each time I am able to see and hear these three precious babies. No complaints whatsoever!!!

Thank you so much to everyone who has been praying about my blood pressure issues. I would appreciate your continued prayers in this area. Another item you could add to your list would be our insurance coverage. We need to make some phone calls this week regarding certain uncovered charges which we are hoping can be reversed. Would you believe that each baby is charged separately for sonograms? Rob thinks we should at least get a group discount or something! :) While these issues can be somewhat stressful, we were reminded last night at church of Christ's words in Matthew 6.

"Do not be anxious about your life... look at the birds of the air... consider the lilies of the field... Are you not of more value than they? But seek first the kingdom of God."

He has never let us down before. He has always provided for our needs. He is a faithful and trustworthy God who is worthy of being sought after! We have nothing to worry about whatsoever.  

Monday, November 25, 2013

11 weeks & 4 days

One of the upsides of having a high risk pregnancy is all the ultrasounds! While I am only 11 weeks and 4 days along, I have already been to seven appointments. Today, we had our first visit with the maternal-fetal specialist. He is basically our high-risk monitoring doctor. During our two hour visit, we not only received much helpful information, but we also got to see each baby once again.  This was our fourth set of ultrasound pictures!!! We are praising God that each baby continues to look and measure perfectly.

Baby A
(This little bundle is sitting at the bottom and was determined to be the fraternal triplet.)
Size = 5.48 cm (2.16 in.)
Heart Rate = 160

Baby B
Size = 5.71 cm (2.25 in.)
Heart Rate = 154

Baby C
Size = 5.86 cm (2.3 in.)
Heart Rate = 163

All of them together!

The doctors are quite certain that B and C do not share a placenta. This is good news, since various other complications could arise if that were the case. The only concern so far has been my blood pressure. While I have never in my life had high blood pressure, it seemed to spike quite early on. I was given a prescription today and am supposed to monitor the levels every other day to check for improvement. If you would like to pray for something very specific, it would be that these numbers would drop back into the normal range soon. We know that God is in control, and we thank Him for the continued growth of these precious lives. 

Monday, November 18, 2013


With Thanksgiving quickly approaching, there is much talk about gratitude. And while I could often be accused of jumping on the bandwagon, I, too, have created a list of several things for which I am genuinely grateful. Oh, my list could go on for pages, however, today I choose to focus on three specific ways God has blessed me with SO MUCH MORE than I deserve.

Outpouring of Love from Others
Our news of triplets went out a mere 11 days ago, yet hundreds of people have expressed their love and support for our family. While I have not been able to personally respond to each and every message, I have read them all. And even beyond the multitude of encouraging notes, there have also been gifts. Whether a book, a "Babysitter Skipper" doll (complete with three babies that stick to her clothes), or monetary donations, our family has been overwhelmed by the kindness of others. We loudly echo the words of Paul in II Corinthians 9:12 -

"For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints,
but is also overflowing in MANY thanksgivings to God."

No More Meds!!!
Along with the embryo transfer procedure comes a detailed medical protocol. There have been over twelve weeks of medications, including approximately 300 pills and nearly 200 injections in the stomach and thighs. Once a certain stage in pregnancy is achieved, the process of weaning off the meds begins. Well, I have finally reached that point and it even arrived one week earlier than expected! My body is very grateful that we are past this stage of the process! I am reminded of the words in II Corinthians 4:17, where Paul highlights that the trials of this life are so small in comparison with the eternal glory that awaits!

"For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an 
eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison."

Maternity Clothes
Of all the things that I could find myself worrying about with the not-so-distant arrival of three babies into our home, I have found myself on several occasions panicking over maternity clothes. Even as I read the words I just typed, I realize how ridiculous it must sound. Yet, I find myself sweating over what in the world will actually fit and look decent, where I'm supposed to find the time and energy to go shopping for such clothes, and how I am supposed to pay for them with so many other looming expenses. In the very midst of one such anxiety attack, my attention was drawn to the words of Christ in Matthew 6.  

"Do not be anxious about your life...what you will put on. Is not life...more than clothing? 
If God so clothe the grass of the field...will he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? Therefore, do not be anxious, saying...What shall we wear?...
For your heavenly Father knows [what] you need."  

God continues to amaze me daily! He is faithful to remind me of His promises. He calms my fears and focuses my mind on truth. He works behind the scenes to provide for all my needs. (This includes several kind friends who brought over piles of old maternity clothes this week.) He is good all the time. And for that, I am grateful!!!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Ephesians 3:20-21

"Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to HIM be glory...."  (Ephesians 3:20-21)

The year was 2005. My husband, Rob, and I had been trying desperately to have a baby for over two years with no success. The doctors and specialists did numerous tests on the both of us, only to come back with a diagnosis of  "unexplained infertility." We were told to just hang in there and keep on trying. It would happen eventually. But, month by long agonizing month passed with nothing. On several occasions Rob suggested to me that we consider adoption as a means of expanding our family, but I was quite resistant. It was such an unknown for me. It was so expensive. It wasn't how I'd ever pictured my family, my life.

We were living in Berne, IN at the time. Rob served as the youth and music pastor of Grace Bible Church. While there were MANY blessings in this ministry, we also faced many challenges. We were young, inexperienced, fresh out of college, and living 9 hours away from any family members. While we entered this new life venture with tremendous zeal, we became quickly discouraged when things weren't what we imagined they would be. Our struggles with infertility only added to our despair. One fall weekend in 2005, we planned a youth bike ride on a beautiful Fort Wayne trail. We promoted this activity and all the teens seemed genuinely excited. However, on the day of the event, only one girl showed up. I wanted to cry the entire ride. Here we were trying our best to serve the Lord. We devoted so much time and energy into our ministries, and yet, time and time again, we just seemed to fall flat on our face. Humiliation and criticism seemed to be the only fruits of our labors.

Several weeks later, our pastor was out of town and a guest speaker was filling the pulpit. While I have been in church my entire life, this message, above all others, stands out in my memory. The preacher spoke on submission to God's plan and a willingness to give up our personal desires and ambitions. Every word out of his mouth seemed to directly apply to my life. I definitely had my ideas of what life and ministry should look like! I was desperately striving to accomplish these goals, but to no avail. That Sunday morning, I knelt in the front pew of our church and wept. I cried out to God and repented of my selfish, stubborn will. I submitted my dreams and desires to Him. I committed that if only one teenager came to every activity thereafter, I would wholeheartedly minister to that one individual. Lastly, I committed to look into adoption.

Rob was totally excited about the possibility of adoption, and so in no time at all we had a stack of information and phone numbers. We called Baptist Children's Home in Valparaiso, IN and inquired about the whole process. They informed us that we would first need to complete a home study. This would take several months of meetings, paperwork, and background checks. After that, we would likely wait about 2 years for a placement of any kind. And so, we scheduled our first home study meeting. The licensed agent came our to our house in mid-November. We filled out a bunch of paperwork and gave him an album of family pictures for our portfolio. He would need to come for two more visits. With the holidays approaching, it would likely be January before he could return to complete our study. Imagine our surprise, when the agent called us only weeks later to say that we had been matched with a baby! In only a matter of weeks and without even a completed home study, God had miraculously thrown the doors wide open!

Our precious, firstborn son was born in February '06. We were privileged to be in the delivery room to see him enter this world. Upon his arrival, he was placed in my arms and Rob was able to cut the umbilical cord. This perfectly healthy baby boy had been protected by God and divinely led to our home. We couldn't even have dreamed of such a gift just three months prior. God had made abundantly clear to me that His plans for me are good. All He wanted was my submission to them!

Any fears I previously had about adoption quickly disappeared as this priceless little bundle began to steal my heart. Shortly after Griffen was born, we began to talk about adopting a sibling for him. Within a year, we started the process all over again.

In 2007, God directed our family to move to Kansas where Rob accepted a position as Music Pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Derby. While every transition has it's difficulties, this one was unique. We had a beautiful home back in IN that just wouldn't sell. (It ended up taking over 5 years!) I have had eye problems my entire life and was once again dealing with issues that had rendered me legally blind. On top of all this, the move complicated our adoption status. While we were able to get another home study completed, the finances were pretty tight with the double mortgage payments. Once again, discouragement set in. Here we were in a new place trying to serve God, but physical and financial strains seemed to be the only rewards of our labor. I was at a pretty low place in my life, wondering if God really cared about me. And then, one day, it was as if God Himself knocked on the door of our little apartment and gave us Rhys.

We were sitting at home one quiet Saturday afternoon getting ready to watch a basketball game on t.v. when my cell phone rang. The lady on the other end said, "Hi, you don't know who I am, but there was a baby boy born this morning in Memphis, TN who is up for adoption. I heard you might be interested." To this day we do not even know how she got our phone number, aside from God Himself putting it there. She quickly informed us that all we had to do was bring a copy of our completed home study and a check for $29,000 and he was ours. WHAT????? WAIT A MINUTE!!!!! This all happened so fast, and we definitely didn't have that kind of money. I was about to hang up the phone, when Rob asked if we could just have a minute to pray about it. We were granted some time and we began to pray. Pray. Pray. Pray. Then we called the three most godly men we have in our lives and sought their wisdom - my dad, Rob's dad, and our pastor. I actually fully expected them to say that the risks were too great. Or that this was an unwise act of stewardship. But, all three unanimously agreed that this was from God. So, Rhys was born just after midnight one August morning of 2008. We received the phone call at 4:00 PM and by 7:00 PM we were on our way to TN. Two days later, the papers were signed, and he was officially ours!

Once again, God had showered His goodness upon us! God had grown our family and provided for every dime of the adoption expenses. His ways were good! All we had to do was show up!

With two young boys in our home and a thriving ministry in our church, we figured our family was complete at last. Life went along and was GOOD! My eye problems were replaced with the best eyesight of my lifetime. Our house in IN finally sold and we purchased a new one in KS. Year by year passed only to yield deeper relationships and greater ministry opportunities. Then, as if God just wasn't done blessing us, we were amazed one day in April 2011, to learn that we would be receiving a check from the government for $20,000. President Obama had passed a temporary law granting significant tax benefits to adoptive families and our expenses could be back-dated five years. Our check arrived in June!

The wheels began to spin. We had never received a check that large before. We could start college funds, a retirement account, take a vacation, buy some much needed furniture, or upgrade our car. The list was certainly endless. Several weeks of such excitement persisted, until one day I was struck with the novel thought - "what does God want us to do with this money?" After all, He had already provided for our adoption expenses. This was extra! Maybe, just maybe, it was for a specific purpose. Rob and I talked about it and decided that we would each individually devote this matter to prayer for one week. Before the week was even up, we came together one day and unanimously agreed - God wanted us to adopt again!

Adoption Journey #3
Our $20,000 arrived in June and by August we had our home study completed. God had led us so clearly and we were anxious to see where this path would lead. Little did we know what lay ahead.

Within 3 months, we had already been matched with a baby. The birth mother was early on in her pregnancy, but had chosen us to adopt her unborn baby. We got the call the day before Thanksgiving 2011 and we were ecstatic! As a couple days passed, however, she began negotiating expenses beyond our ability to pay and another family was chosen.

In early December, we got a call about a baby boy born in Florida. He was born quite early and would need to be in the NICU for a while. We expressed our interest, however, we told them we could not leave right away due to our church's Christmas cantata. After our responsibilities were fulfilled, we called the agency back, however he had been placed with another family.

Right before Christmas, we got another call. Twins were being born right here in Wichita. The couple was overwhelmed and was seeking a Christian family to raise these babies. Our profile was taken to them in the hospital. We prayed fervently for several days, but in the end, on the day of their birth the couple decided to parent the babies themselves.

Several months passed before we received another call about a baby girl who had been born extremely premature in Texas. Weighing only a couple pounds, and having many medical uncertainties, most families were walking away from the situation. We were asked to consider. After praying about it, we decided that since God brought this situation along, we would walk through the open door, trusting Him with the outcome. After much back and forth, only us and one other family remained. The other family was chosen.By this point, I was starting to feel discouraged. Not being chosen from a line up of two for a baby with serious medical concerns really does something to one's pride. What was God doing here anyway?

Throughout the summer months, several other adoption opportunities came and went. Then, in August 2012, I was shocked to learn I was pregnant. I definitely didn't see that one coming! While confused about God's leading, I was very excited. Then, only 7 short weeks into the pregnancy, I miscarried. Many godly people came to offer support, love, and prayers. Many who had been through similar trials offered sincere empathy. And while I greatly appreciated such kindness, this miscarriage really highlighted one thing for me. No one knew what it was like to lose an adopted child. As difficult as the miscarriage was, it was no less difficult to suffer an adoption failure. With every call, our hearts immediately bonded and loved each new life. Yet one by one, they were taken away. I felt very alone.

In October, we received a call about twin girls being born in Nebraska. After being in contact for several days, the birth mother unexpectedly experienced preeclampsia and the girls were born weighing only about 1.5 pounds each. Once again, we had to decide if we were willing to risk the serious medical concerns that could arise. We again decided to trust that God would only give us what we could handle, and eagerly said 'yes'. As we were receiving regular updates, our hearts began to bond immeasurably. That's why it felt as though they were being ripped out when we got the news that the girls died at only 5 and 7 days old.

Mere weeks after their deaths, we got another call about a baby girl already born in Texas. While still grieving so many losses and feeling quite weary about the whole adoption process altogether, we began to proceed with yet another possibility. This little girl was already several weeks old. The birth mom had four other children and no home or job. Feeling overwhelmed, she turned to an adoption agency, saw our profile, and chose us for her little girl. After several phone conversations and more paperwork than you can imagine, the plan was put in place. The birth mom's only request was that the placement not take place until January 2. Assuming she needed the extra 2012 tax deduction, we agreed to go along with her request. And so, all our Christmas plans to be with family were cancelled, and we headed to Houston, TX. We spent a quiet holiday all alone in a hotel with a car full of baby gear and a completed nursery awaiting her arrival in our home. We had studied her baby pictures, named her, and eagerly awaited the signed documents. Then, as we had come to almost expect, a nightmare unfolded. The birth mom began negotiating for more money, threatening not to sign anything until we agreed. With very heavy hearts, we returned to KS with empty arms. Through this endeavor, we lost over $11,000 from our adoption account. As we drove home, our car passed a multitude of bars and adult video stores. I began to seriously question God's dealing with His children. Children who had dedicated their lives in full-time service to Him. Children who had prayed and sought for His leading. Children who had willingly given it all back to Him only to watch Him play games with their emotions. Is this really how He treats the ones He calls His own?

I had definitely spiraled into an all time low. The tears flowed constantly. The doubts and fears abounded. The despair almost overwhelmed. We hadn't been home even one week, when we got yet another call about 2 month old boy/girl twins available in Wichita. I laid on the floor in our empty nursery and prayed for hours one night as my family all slept. Maybe THIS was what God was saving for us.... I begged Him for just a token for good. Just one open door. A display of His power. A reminder of His compassion for me. But, in the morning, we were once again rejected.

In all my lifetime, I had never felt such despair. I knew God had heard my prayers, and yet one by one He had answered each request only to take it away again. My life felt like nothing more than a joke to Him. Did He get some sort of pleasure from dangling delights before my eyes just to scream "NO" in my face afterwards? Was I to forever be the public spectacle of "He taketh away?" We had only ever walked through doors that HE had opened for us. I questioned whether I even had the ability to discern God's will for my life. Maybe we had missed it altogether. I will never forget one day in particular that I lay sobbing on my bathroom floor. When Rob appeared to try and offer consolation, I yelled out to him, "I would wish that I were dead, except that I know where I would go and I don't want to see HIM right now." Never before had I experienced such intense emotions. Emotions that paralyzed and confused.

"Then Job answered and said, 
'Today also my complaint is bitter, 
my hand is heavy on account of my groaning. 
Oh, that I knew where I might find him,
that I might come even to His seat.
I would lay my case before Him
and fill my mouth with arguments.
I would know what He would answer me
and understand what He would say to me.
Would He contend with me in the greatness of His power?
No, He would pay attention to me'." (Job 23:1-6)

By February, we were beginning to accept the fact that this whole third adoption journey just wasn't meant to be. Our $20,000 had now dwindled to under $9000. We seriously questioned our stewardship. Even a $20,000 domestic adoption was a bit of a stretch, however $9000 was virtually impossible. We told God we were willing to leave the doors open until our home study expired, but this would definitely take a miracle. By this point, I wasn't even praying for a baby anymore. Rather, I was pleading with God for direction and for reminders of His power, love, and compassion in whatever way He would so choose.

In mid-February, Rob attended the Biblical Counseling Conference in Lafayette, IN. He has gone for several years now, and so there are some familiar faces each time he returns. Being very passionate about biblical counseling and also very involved in this ministry at our church, he is quick to seek out wisdom from the teachers and other pastors at the conference. There was one such individual that Rob has sought out the past several years. He is both an OB doctor, as well as a godly, N.A.N.C. certified counselor who specializes in counseling those dealing with infertility and miscarriage. As Rob was able to talk to him, he was able to bring our difficult journey into the conversation. After some time, this respected Christian brother looked at Rob and asked, "Have you and your wife ever considered embryo adoption?" With almost a chuckle, Rob expressed that he had never even heard of such a thing before. As the conversation continued, this man began to explain how thousands of living embryos are created each year by families seeking to achieve pregnancy using in vitro fertilization. During this process, many are created, however only a portion are actually used. The rest, he explained, are either frozen or destroyed. While some are thawed at a later date, many are simply left frozen and eventually destroyed, as well. Because of this, several small non-profit organizations have emerged on the scene to attempt to save these precious lives.

During this same time, I was teaching piano lessons back at our home in KS. After a lesson to one young girl from the community, I was able to start a conversation with her mother who had come to pick her daughter up. We didn't know each other very well, but somehow in the conversation she brought up the topic of embryo adoption. I, too, had never even heard of such a thing and almost laughed at the complete absurdity of it all. But as she continued, I definitely became more intrigued. When Rob came home from the conference, we both agreed that we should at least do some reading on the topic.

Our research led us to contact an organization in Knoxville, TN called the National Embryo Donation Center. We learned that there are currently 600,000 frozen embryos in the U.S. alone and that 60,000 are available for adoption. The NEDC partners with families who don't know what to do with their remaining embryos and agrees to cover their freezer expenses if they will agree to donate them to other families in attempt to give them a chance at life, as opposed to destroying them. This small, non-profit organization believes in the sanctity of life and that it should never be destroyed by man, even if only several days old in a petri dish. As we studied, we were especially drawn to Psalm 139:16-17.

"Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them.
How precious to me are your thoughts, O God,
How vast is the sum of them!"

What an amazing thought!!! Creator God has thoughts about even the unformed embryo!!! And not just thoughts - He has plans for them. These verses were so compelling. Also compelling was the fact that we could go through 2 attempts at embryo adoption for $9000!!! It was exactly what we had left in our account. This was no coincidence!

We sent in our application on March 1, 2013 and were told the process could take up to a year. There was a series of meetings and medical tests that were required, plus our home study needed to be reviewed. While it was supposed to take several months before even our first meeting, only 6 weeks later we got a call about an opening. So, April 15 we met in person with the doctor and staff in at the NEDC for a complete overview of the process and a full medical exam. During the medical portion we learned that I had about a golf ball sized fibroid growing just outside my uterus. In 11 years of marriage and numerous infertility exams, this had never been discovered. On April 30, I underwent surgery to have it removed. The recovery went quickly and smoothly and by July, I was cleared for embryo transfer. With much excitement, Rob and I traveled once again to TN where two precious embryos were implanted inside of me. We waited eagerly for 10 days to find out if the procedure was successful. The devastating news came once again - neither of them had survived.

While there were definitely strong emotions that left me wanting to just cut and run, we just couldn't get out of our heads that we hadn't yet given God ALL the money. The first attempt had only cost $4500, which left about $4500 remaining. By this point, I had determined that this whole journey was just a test of my submission to God. Would I really give it all back to Him? Would I keep going despite the pain? Would I quit? In my personal prayer journal, I once again committed to God that I was indeed willing to keep going. This last attempt would take all the money we had in our account, but would leave my conscience clear forever. It was His to begin with and do with as He pleased.

Within a matter of weeks, I was once again taking pills and injections to prepare my body for transfer #2. Then, on September 24, two more precious embryos were implanted inside of me.

I can honestly say that the 10 day wait period following the transfer was not that stressful. By this time, I had really accepted that God would do whatever He wanted to do and that His ways were best! My mind was at peace that we had done the right thing and that this whole journey was coming to an end. So, when the nurse called with my blood pregnancy test results, I was shocked when she excitedly asked, "Can your house fit 2 more?" They were looking for a beta number of about 100 and mine was 452. This strongly indicated that both babies had survived! This news was all but confirmed four days later when test number two came back at 2864. They were hoping for 1500. We were overjoyed, yet cautious. We would need to wait until the six week mark to actually see and hear signs of life. During that time period, we prayed fervently that God had indeed spared BOTH of their lives. When the day finally came for our six week ultrasound, I once again sat on the exam table and prayed. 

"For by Him all things were created.....
And in Him all things hold together....
That in everything He might be preeminent."
(Colossians 1:16-18)

I again committed that I wanted God to do whatever would make Him most preeminent. As the doctor came in, Rob and I held our breaths. We then watched and listened, as the doctor shockingly revealed THREE perfectly beating hearts. As we sat in complete and utter amazement, the doctor explained that not only did both of the embryos survive, but that one of them had actually split, forming two identical and one fraternal triplets. According to the NEDC, our odds of both surviving were only 25%. The odds of triplets was less than 3%. The hand of God was overwhelmingly evident! 

As exciting as this news was, we were fully aware of the risks. Having had so many situations turn in an unexpected direction, we decided to wait until our 9 week ultrasound to make our announcement public.Well, having finally reached that milestone, we are very excited to present to you......

Baby A
Size = 2.44 cm
Heart rate = 176 

Baby B
Size = 2.28 cm
Heart rate = 167

Baby C
Size = 2.52 cm
Heart rate = 167

While I know that this post is quite long, I trust that it has served to make God shine more brightly in your eyes! We stand in awe at His goodness and clear direction in our lives. We would also deeply appreciate your faithful prayers on our behalf, as this pregnancy is definitely considered high risk. Our personal goal is to be able to carry these babies through April. While there will likely be many challenges and adjustments, we have a renewed confidence in a God who provides, leads, and loves!

Most Sincerely,
Rob, Heidi, Griffen, Rhys, A, B, and C