Many will say that women are the weaker sex. Many are wrong, some are right. We have our weak moments, ladies, but so often we rise above because we call out to the One through whom we are able to do all things. (Philippians 4:13) Women, we possess a tremendous inner strength that is unlike anything the world has ever seen before or ever will again. If you’re nodding your head right now, you know exactly what I mean. You’ve experienced soul crushing, heart wrenching pain, haven’t you?
I’ll bet you’re wondering about the title. How is it possible to be pregnant 12 times in eleven years? Oh, it is if you’ve had eight miscarriages, three cesareans and are pregnant with your thirteenth baby (the first pregnancy was twins and resulted in a miscarriage). If you’re wondering if “it” ever gets easier. No, the loss of a child is never easy. Time can scab over the wound, but it’s not fully healed for a long time. Every time I give birth to just one baby at a time, I mourn the loss of my first pregnancy – twins. This isn’t to say I’m not immensely grateful for the children I do hold in my arms. It’s just sad to never have met them or have that situation redeemed in the way I’d like to see it happen. (1 Corinthians 13:12)
There is a plan in everything that God does and I believe it is to strengthen us, to bring us closer to Himself and to break our will without breaking our Spirit. (Isaiah 55:8; Jeremiah 29:11) When my twins died, one at a time, they were six and eight weeks gestation, respectively. My husband shipped out for boot camp the day after we lost the second one. I nearly died from the infection that followed. There were a lot of tears, a lot of silent prayers and a whole lot of moments where all I could do was cry out to God. Was I brought closer to Him? Absolutely. He is Comforter, Friend, Counselor. (Matthew 5:1-12) He has been all those things to my husband, too.
Theresa was conceived three short months after the miscarriage. We all held our breath, wondering if this one would stick. She did! A healthy baby girl was born in the middle of a chaotic night in mid September ten years ago – the very night my husband returned home from his first overseas deployment. I’d went into labor spontaneously at the airport, but didn’t realize I’d been leaking amniotic fluid all day long and the baby was in distress. An emergency cesarean saved her life and brought her fully into mine.
Miscarriage number two happened before Chelsea was born. It was such a blip on our radar because we were preparing for deployment for number 2. We mourned a little together, Anthony and I…and then I watched his ship sail into the horizon and drove home sadly.
Chelsea was born during deployment number three, the following year. Fortunately, my husband was able to stay state-side for the birth (a repeat cesarean, even though I’d gone into spontaneous labor twelve hours earlier and was progressing normally). He was able to fly down to Panama to join his command after the birth. We were really blessed by that extra time together. The healing from the second cesarean took a little longer than we’d anticipated.
Miscarriages number three through five happened all in one year. We have no idea what caused any of these. My guess is a combination of stress and hormonal imbalances? I don’t know. I thought about looking into it, but with my husband deployed every year for six years straight, and raising two little girls on my own, I just didn’t have the heart or the time. My weight, my attitude, poor eating habits and lack of motivation to do much except “get through the days” were all reflective of the deep pain I was feeling inside. Internally, my thought process was “I’m a terrible Mother. God took my babies to punish me. He hates me and wants me to know with certainty that I’m undeserving of anything good.” As you can probably guess, my depression worsened and I wanted to die. (Job 3:11)
Miscarriages six through eight occurred sporadically over the next three years. All were early trimester losses and I never even made it to my first obgyn appointments to see their heartbeats. The bleeding began shortly after receiving positive test results for pregnancy. We mourned those quietly. Most never even knew we’d been pregnant.
Jackson was born on a sunny morning in late May two years ago. When the obgyn was sewing up my cesarean wound, he remarked that he’d also removed a fair amount of scar tissue from my uterus. He stated that this would make the next pregnancy easier, more successful. At the time, it was little consolation to me. I wasn’t sure I would ever want to have another child again. Three cesareans was enough to break my spirit just a little more. Not only couldn’t I carry most of my babies past the first trimester, my body also couldn’t give birth. A mix of joy over the birth of our first boy and sorrow over the loss of ever being able to give birth vaginally crashed over me like tidal waves. As I healed physically from the surgery, I suffered moments of regret so intense I truly believed that I didn’t deserve any of my children. My best childhood friend had just given birth to her third baby vaginally, unmedicated not long before I had Jackson, and I couldn’t even birth one that way. What kind of Mother fails her baby in the most basic way? I wondered, “would I ever give birth ‘the right way’?”
Flash forward to about a month ago, and I finally had my answer to so many questions I’d been asking myself for years. While filling out a birth plan form for an obgyn, I had this funny feeling that I should not be checking the boxes for a repeat cesarean. It’s difficult to describe just what was going through my mind, because I truly don’t believe the thoughts came from within my own head – they were divinely inspired by the Holy Spirit. As I read off the option of “I would like a mirror placed at the end of the bed so that I can see my baby being born,” I thought “well, that would be nice!” I didn’t check it off. I knew it wasn’t a possibility for me. No one does a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean) after three. Or do they? (They do! Read ACOG Guidelines here!)
Something sparked inside of me, and I looked around on YouTube and Facebook for a support group or some sort of advice. Was it possible? Could I dare to dream? I found a local VBAC support group and read about a miracle VBAC doctor. He’d recently, successfully completed a VBA3C at a local hospital. My heart beat violently inside of my chest and my eyes turned toward the hills, as I prayed silently “Lord, could this be me? Could I be one of those women who boasts about the miracle You have done within them?” A little research and a whole lot of prayer later, I was on the phone with a hospital administrator who is not only VBAC friendly, but was encouraging me to go for a VBAC. I took her advice and ran with it. As soon as I got off the phone with her, I called the miracle doctor and made an appointment.
Flash forward to today, I am on my way to a VBA3C (Vaginal Birth After 3 Cesareans). The miracle doctor encouraged me to get a volunteer doula and to take childbirth classes. I’ve done both and I have to say, I’ve never been more encouraged or felt more supported while pregnant. I have the only male doula in my area, and while some would balk at that, I say “puh! You don’t know what you’re missing!” He’s a great source of support for both my husband and me. I’m also able to meet with the midwife at my doctor’s office for most of my prenatal visits (though it will be the miracle doctor who delivers Isaiah). Midwives are an amazing source of encouragement and support, too. How vastly different, how divinely blessed is this pregnancy! I cannot thank the LORD enough! I cannot praise Him enough! Every day, I’m waking up and thanking Him for this day. No matter what stress is going on in my life, it’s still a good day. I’m one day closer to my very first vaginal birth. One day closer to restoration. (Joel 2:25)
God is good. I know I can endure great suffering because God is right there in the midst of it with me, strengthening me. (Romans 5:3)
There are so many resources out there that now tote the dangers of repeat cesareans and give hope to the possibility of VBACs after multiple cesareans. You are not stuck in a repeat cesarean. You can switch providers! You can do this! (More ACOG support!) Call your local hospital, ask about their policies and ask to speak with the VBAC friendly nurse or doctor. Be firm, and remind the hospital that policy is not law. (Don’t be rude, though!) You have to advocate for yourself, decide in your mind that you can do this, and then run with it, no matter what anyone says. Keep looking for the VBAC friendly doctor – that miracle doctor out of hundreds that will say yes even after everyone else says no. (You’re going to find that most of these doctors are classically trained, so expect an older doctor. Not always, but often.)
There is great pain in child loss, in miscarriage, in infertility, in birth plans not going the way we’d hoped. There is also great healing to be found when we take our pain straight into the arms of Christ. He is knitting solutions into the problems we never knew we had.
Lord, I lift up to You the pain of others who also have suffered pregnancy loss. I lift up those who have lost infants and children young and old. You are good. You are capable of comforting, of healing and restoring. Thank You for never leaving any of us in our time of need. We love You, LORD. All Glory, Praise and Honor go to You. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.