A few years ago, with the choice of steady resolve, breathing in the calm after the storm, they were three.
I’ll never forget her words to me then, “We are a different family than we would have been.”
But her story wasn’t over.
They’ve journeyed more dark valleys since the sunshine of the day we walked among the color of where their story began,
but now, in the morning of a new chapter, with arms around the warmth of brothers made through miracle,
acknowledging, honoring the heart-broken tears that have brought them to this place,
she shares the story of the fight of faith and the beckon of hope.
These are Kristen’s words of the story of her motherhood.
“In the last four and half years, our little family has learned incredible life lessons, God’s lessons, some storms bringing intense pain, other times of immense joy, and culminating at new-found thankfulness for life’s simple pleasures.
As I sit and write this, with our new precious 8 pound miracle swaddled at my side, I can barely believe we are here, our family of three, just expanded to four, by the grace of God after almost 5 years of an emotional and at times heart-wrenching roller coaster. I can’t erase the day, at age 32, when my husband and I are dumbfounded to find ourselves sitting in an office with a breast oncologist, discussing treatment options. Somewhere in the middle of the discussion, I find the ability to ask “what about my fertility?” You see, we had always dreamed of having a few children, ideally 3 or 4, fairly close together. But there was another plan, another path that felt so painful that day, that seemed so unfair, but in the end would bring so much strength and love to our family. Our oncologist wanted only to focus on the cancer, and who can blame her? It’s her job to save my life, and we are forever grateful that she did. She did not want to entertain discussions of future pregnancies. She would not delay any treatments or put me at any increased risks to harvest eggs or embryos. We would move ahead and fiercely treat the cancer and save my life for the 18 month old sweet angel of a little boy that we had already been gifted by God. We understood; we didn’t want to take any risks and we were passionate about using the most aggressive treatment plan we could; we wanted to win, to survive. But it still hurt. It hurt because of our plans, our plans as a family that we would have to let go. We ached because of the still so new loss of two sweet babies, just 3 months before, after weeks of emotional ups and downs and uncertainty on the future of these surprise blessings. We were still sorting out the loss of the pregnancy, struggling to grieve individually and as a couple. And here we were, in another cold, unwelcoming doctor’s office, being told that we were likely shutting the doors of future pregnancies for good.
Having all the dreams of what you imagined for your family taken, how you thought things would look in the future, suddenly a completely empty slate.
During the year plus of treatment, chemotherapy and multiple surgeries, we kept our head down and fought the fight, suppressing much of the sadness, fear and grief that you feel about the life you have left behind. You are in a fight and that is the focus. But when the motions of the battle slow down and life is supposed to return to normal, it somehow just doesn’t. You are in the thick of celebration and gratitude for more time here on earth. There is incredible perspective on where your heart wants to dedicate its time, embracing the small wonderful moments of life. I wanted to spend as much time together as a family, repairing our worn hearts, holding the sweet hand of our little boy, soaking in his pure joy in this life. When Grant was born, we never knew our hearts would love to that capacity. And after the fight of the breast cancer passed, I never knew i could feel such gratitude for the blessings God had placed in my life. A true soulmate, to weather the most horrific storms of life with. The most loving, committed and grace giving spouse I could imagine. And God had given us the gift of parenting Grant, the most loving, angel like child I could truly ever imagine. But as time passed and the battle of the cancer was farther and farther behind us, my heart still ached. It ached for the family that we once dreamed of, and had in our hands and lost. My heart still pained for the babies that could have been, that almost were. Our friends and family were going on with life all around us. Welcoming their second, third and fourth baby into the world. We celebrated each and every arrival, feeling incredible joy for those that we love so much, wanting their lives to be full of love and good news. But the deep achy and yearning I felt to have more children still lingered in my heart. I continued to do the only thing that you can do, pray and give it to God. I tried endlessly to remind myself that we are not in control of this journey and reminded myself that God ultimately knows the best for our family and I needed to trust in him and his plan for us, storms and all.
After three years, the discussion resurfaced. Was my treatment enough, am I far enough out, are there too many risks, is it safe to stop my medications, could we really try to have another baby? It was hard to for us to suppress the immense joy we felt for the potential of another child and balance it with the recommendations of the medical team and their guesses of our risks. As we moved forward, with everyone’s support, we were elated but felt the pressure of a limited amount of time allowed for achieving pregnancy, coupled by the effects of chemotherapy and time on my body and fertility. Despite the challenges, with the advances of medications and collaboration of our medical team, we learned we were pregnant. We celebrated so privately and secretly, as we understood the fragile nature of an early pregnancy. We understood it so well, that it felt like we were reliving a nightmare when we were at the celebratory first ultrasound and heard the concerns of the size of the baby, were the dates correct? Was that a heartbeat? Did it seem slow? We returned week after week, hoping that something would look reassuring but knowing in our hearts it wouldn’t. We sat numb, completely dumbfounded that we were in the same spot, the same room, the same horrific nightmare, another time. We weren’t sure our hearts could keep losing these precious gifts of life and somehow repair themselves. We made the conscious decision to choose an endpoint of trying for another baby and promised ourselves peace if we got there and there was not another successful pregnancy. We were exquisitely guarded when we found out we were pregnant again. There was little celebration, more like quiet, cautious, apprehensive waiting. We hoped and we prayed and we prayed some more, because that’s really all you can do in that time of waiting. You wish there was a way to protect your heart and guard it from the potential of another loss, but there is no way to stop that pain, the pain that no one really talks about, leaving you without validation of the devastation you feel, the pain for the empty little space in your heart.
By God’s grace we did indeed get to celebrate a healthy pregnancy and baby. An unbelievable gift, a blessing, that we are not deserving of. A tiny child, whose life has been entrusted into our hands- the biggest responsibility and honor of our lives. When Cole was placed on my chest, we wept. We cried big, huge tears for it was a moment we never ever thought was possible- it was truly a breathtaking moment. I continue to feel the intense gratitude for our gifts in this life, including those tiny gifts of life that we never held in our arms but will always hold in our hearts and have comfort knowing that they are with our Savior. Our family path certainly had moments of deep hurt and loss but has incredible moments of celebration, endless hope and a gained new outlook.
I pray, as I thankfully watch the gentle rise and fall of my children’s chests while they sleep, that we can honor God and his incredible gifts to us, committing ourselves to raising our boys in His image, with hearts of kindness and gratitude for this life on earth.
I pray that no woman has to feel the loss and the ache in her heart for the baby that once was. Knowing that someone will feel that pain, I pray that she knows she is not alone in her grief and that even in the darkest storms, God has his arms wrapped tightly around us, guiding us along our path.
I pray those families hold on, hold on to hope, and remember that the worst thing is never the last.”
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged,
for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.