One year later…

One year ago today, I got the diagnosis of placenta accreta, and had to begin coming to terms with the reality that Annie would be my last baby. While the news both shocked and deeply saddened me, I have had peace all along that God was and is in control, and all of this is only a small part of his huge plans for our lives. I always knew that when we gave God the control of our fertility, it meant not only that He would have the say in how many children we had and how often, but also that He had the say in when we were done. I just never thought we would be done so soon! Though some may consider four children to be a large family, to us it seems quite average. I longed for a truly large family, with many little “arrows” in our quiver! I am happy to report that God is faithful, and although this was not in our plan for our lives, it was part of God’s plan all along. He has given me peace which transcends all understanding (Philippians 4:7), and I have been able to remain joyful, and we are truly enjoying our four precious daughters. We are also praying that God will open the doors for us to adopt another child in the future! Only God knows what’s in store for us, but I am very much looking forward to seeing His plans unfold!

Another Lesson in Trust

After making the decision to become Quiverfull in our beliefs, my husband and I decided it would be best to try for a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean), even though I had 3 previous c-sections (all of which, I feel, were medically unnecessary – but that’s a post for another day). Since we didn’t know how many more children God had in mind for us, we felt this was the best way to ensure that we could safely have more. I found a great midwife who was willing to let me try for a VBA3C (vaginal birth after three cesareans) here at home. I understood the risks involved, but I also understood that my risk of complications with c-sections goes up significantly with each one I have, so much so that I am at a higher risk of complications to have a fourth c-section than I am to try for a natural birth after three c-sections.

So far my pregnancy has been a breeze, but way in the back of my mind, an unnamed fear always whispered to me. My response has always been to pray. I constantly asked the Lord to reveal to me whether or not I was meant to do a homebirth. I never, ever want to jeopardize myself or the baby, so I asked God that He would make it unmistakably clear to me if I was safer in a hospital with a c-section.

Now fast forward to this past week. I had just turned 31 weeks pregnant and had not had any pregnancy complications. In fact, this has been my easiest pregnancy of them all! I became very ill with what I believed was strep throat. I went to the urgent care and after various tests were performed, I was told it was viral. They advised me if I had trouble swallowing to head to the ER. Sure enough, the next morning I was unable to swallow Jello or even take Tylenol due to the severity of the swelling in my throat. I went to the ER and was given medication to help. As part of their routine protocol when seeing pregnant women, they sent me up to L&D (labor and delivery) for monitoring. Everything looked great with the baby, but the nurse started asking a lot of questions and seemed concerned about my risks for something called “accreta.”For the most part I blew her off, but she kept pushing me to have an ultrasound. I wasn’t even in the hospital for pregnancy-related complaints. I couldn’t understand what she was so concerned about; I had never had any issues with that pregnancy! However, since I hadn’t had a “real” ultrasound (only one to determine the baby’s gender) because my midwife doesn’t do them, I figured it couldn’t hurt to take a peek at the baby, so I finally agreed. After a very long ultrasound and lots of looking at my sweet girl on the monitors, the ultrasound that confirmed I do in fact have placenta accreta. A high risk OB was immediately called in to speak to me. She explained to me that my placenta is growing across the previous c-section incision, and is now actually growing through the incision and into the uterus itself. This rare complication means that the placenta cannot detach at the time of birth; the only solution is to perform a hysterectomy after safely delivering the baby. There’s roughly a 10% chance of misdiagnosis, but that means there’s about a 90% chance that this baby will be my last. At first I didn’t believe the doctor and brushed her off. She finally got right in my face and told me that if I attempted a home birth, that I would end up bleeding out before I could even make it to the hospital. Finally, it sunk it. Understandable, I was initially devastated at the sudden loss of my fertility; however, the truly scary part is that if this had been missed (which was very likely, had I not been to the hospital for that illness), I would have bled to death in childbirth here at home. (The doctor informed me that it takes only 30 minutes to bleed out through the uterus, which is nowhere near enough time to get to the hospital and into surgery.) I must admit that in hindsight, I’m actually incredibly thankful that I became as sick as I did, as this virus may very well have saved my life.

Even in times like these when I am having to come to terms with not being able to have anymore children, I can’t help but see the Lord’s power and protection. I had prayed without ceasing that God would make it abundantly clear to me if I was meant to have a home birth or not, and there was my answer plain as day. My prayer was always that He would make is so very obvious that I would not question it, and boy, did He ever! You can’t really get anymore obvious than being told to have a c-section or face certain death, you know? God is so good, He really is.

Another lesson learned from all this is that He exercises sovereignty when we allow Him to. When we decided to leave our fertility in His hands, we were also leaving it up to Him to decide when we had reached the perfect number. Truth be told, I pictured myself with at least one or two more beyond this baby I am carrying now, but clearly God knows that four is the perfect number for us. While I am deeply saddened that this will be the last time I get to experience pregnancy and having a new baby, I trust the Lord’s plan for our lives. I also realize that now this opens up a possibility for adoption, which has always been something my husband and I planned. I do not know what the future holds for our family, but I know the Lord has wonderful plans and will do great things with our lives. Of this I am certain:

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

Click here to read my Placenta Accreta birth story. To learn more about Placenta Accreta and find support, please see the Hope for Accreta website.

When you are not privy to the plan

A very wise friend told me something today that struck me as rather profound. When I made the very sad announcement that I was miscarrying the baby we recently found out we were expecting, in part of her reply my friend said, “Sometimes going along with a plan you aren’t privy to isn’t easy.”

This is one of those well known truths that randomly hit home for me and suddenly take an all new, very personal meaning. I have no clue what God’s plan is for me. Even when it seems like I have an inkling as to what’s happening, something comes out of the blue, or we take a sudden turn, and once again I am left wondering what is next.

I am very thankful for the comfort the Lord gives me, and the assurance I have in His plan (albeit unknown) for me and my family. We were just getting used to the idea of having our very first baby due in a month other than December (my three older girls were all December babies, but this baby was due in February). We had begun talking about names for him or her, and wondering if perhaps this would be the boy everyone was waiting for.

Despite all of those thoughts and the sadness that we have experienced since the bleeding began, we have peace and comfort. I do not understand why this happened, but I know there is someone out there who does, and in time He will His plan. I am reminded of Proverbs 3:5-6 which says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight.” I may not understand everything now, but if I continue to trust in Him and follow Him, He will make sure I am headed in the right direction, and He will bless us more than I ever could have imagined. That I know for sure.

Changes

When I stop and think about it, I am so amazed by the direction the Lord has taken my life. I hardly recognize myself when I look in the mirror! Gone is the arrogant, self-centered, self-serving, provocative young girl I used to be. Instead, I see a woman who is trying very hard to bring glory to the Lord, to please her husband, and to raise happy, well-rounded, God-fearing children. I thought that perhaps I might miss the way that things used to be, but truth be told, I have never felt happier and more complete than when I stopped trying to fill the void with meaningless “stuff.” Once I decided to hand over the reigns of my life to the Lord and stop the endless power struggle for control, suddenly I found a peace and contentment I had never known before.

My life is not perfect, and I’m not always bubbling with happiness. In fact, there are days when I am downright sick with anxiety or stress, but those are the days when I get that gentle nudge from God to let things go and let Him be in control. Even on the worst days, I still have contentment and joy. One of my favorite verses of all time to remind myself of when I begin to fret is Philippians 4:6-7:

” Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (NIV)

So, even though this time of growing and stretching in my faith can be more than a little scary and overwhelming at times, I know that when I pray and give it to God, He is faithful and will always guide my way, and will give me peace that “surpasses all understanding.” What a seriously awesome God we serve!

New Life, New Blog

This blog has been a long time coming.

My family’s journey toward becoming quiver-minded began when my husband and I first married, three years ago. We knew from the get-go that we wanted children as soon as possible. Or, I should say, more children. I already had a daughter from a previous marriage, who was 2 and a half at the time. From the moment we married, we did not use birth control. It took the better part of a year of trying to conceive our first child together. There were moments when we did not know if we would become pregnant at all. After seeking infertility treatment we discovered that I was not ovulating (for which I began taking monthly doses of Clomid), and my husband had less than 1% normal sperm (for which I started him on an extensive vitamin and supplement regimen, after hours of painstaking research). Still, we did not become pregnant. We were told that our only hope was to pursue IUI (intrauterine insemination). This suggestion from the doctor seemed far too invasive and drastic for us. After all, if God intended us to be pregnant, would we really need to go to such lengths? Does the Lord not open and close the womb as He sees fit? So after much thought and prayer, we decided then that if we did not conceive naturally that month, we would stop trying.

Lo and behold, we became pregnant! We believed then that God had sovereignty over our fertility. Simply put, we had not conceived prior to that because we were not yet meant to. It could only happen in God’s time, and not a moment sooner. And how overjoyed we were when our time finally came!

As I neared the end of my pregnancy, my obstetrician began pressuring me to make a decision about birth control. I researched different forms, but none of them “felt” right. I knew immediately that I could not take ANY form of birth control that would cause a fertilized egg not to implant; to us, this was abortion, which we find morally reprehensible. I happened upon a concept called Natural Family Planning, or the art of observing fertility signs to avoid pregnancy. For a woman who is exclusively breastfeeding, the Lactational Ammenorrhea Method (LAM) should prevent conception, as the hormone released by breastfeeding is known to suppress ovulation. We decided that this was the route for us. I followed the rules of LAM closely; however, God had other plans. Just 3 months after giving birth, we became pregnant again, despite the fact that were not “supposed” to. I was devastated. I just knew that I could not possibly be ready for another pregnancy and baby. I already had a very young baby to care for! I cried for weeks, and had to endure careless, hurtful comments from friends and family. Couldn’t they see how I was hurting? I spent the majority of the pregnancy dreading the arrival of our third baby girl. This should have been a joyous time for us, yet we felt cheated out of what we believed would most certainly be our last pregnancy.

Once again, I found myself nearing the end of my pregnancy and being pressured into choosing a birth control. This time, I considered my options more carefully. For a short time I did consider sterilization; either a vasectomy for my husband, or a tubal ligation for me (the latter being the more likely option, as I have cesarean sections and they would already be “in there”). We did not consider that option long, however, because as the pregnancy progressed we slowly began to realize that we were not yet done having children. We knew must choose some birth control method, though, because we could not handle yet another pregnancy so soon. I didn’t even know how I was going to handle the (soon-to-be) three children I already had! I finally decided on a copper IUD. It was non-hormonal, and my OB assured me that it would not inhibit implantation if conception did occur.

I gave birth and, to my amazement, that sweet little bundle fit perfectly into our lives from the moment she arrived. It was a thousand times easier than I had imagined it would be! God must have known that I could handle it!  (Shocking, right?) I began to have doubts about the IUD, but I was still scared of having another baby right away so I went ahead with it, despite my concerns. I regretted it almost immediately. I bled for about 8 weeks, and spent every single day cramping as though I was about to begin my period. I found later that being intimate with my husband was unbearably painful. What an effective birth control this was! After all, you can’t become pregnant if you practice nothing but abstinence! After 4 months I had the IUD removed. I could no longer handle the constant pain, nor the distance it was putting in my relationship with my husband as a result.

We found ourselves back at square one, once again having to choose a birth control method. It was at this time that I realized that I had been struggling with coming to terms with birth control all along. The very idea of it did not sit well with either of us. Why? Why did we feel so much guilt, as though we were doing something wrong? Finally, it dawned on us. It was because birth control is not Biblically supported. The very first command is to be fruitful and multiply (Gen 1:28), and nowhere is this command revoked or revised. Children are clearly viewed as a gift from the Lord, and only He should have control over when and how often I become pregnant. Had he not already proven to us that He has the ultimate say in our fertility? Twice I became pregnant when I was trying to avoid it, and the other time I did not become pregnant for quite some time, despite our every effort to the contrary. I realized that trying to control our fertility myself is yet another power struggle between myself and God; yet another area where I am not allowing Him to call the shots. From that moment, we decided to allow God to have control, and to trust His will for our family, even if the idea of relinquishing control is quite scary! However, God is at the wheel, and the knowledge of that is enough for me.