Motherhood: When Your Dreams Don't Match Reality

motherhood blog

“Congratulations you’re having twins!... but I have some concerns”. When my OB defined my pregnancy as high-risk my husband and I began the difficult task of processing this fact. First, after suffering a miscarriage six months prior, my husband and I had heightened anxiety going in for the ultrasound. Second, did she really just say TWINS?! TWO babies?! Finally, what did she mean “concerns…?” She quickly attempted to reassure us by saying our twins “were not conjoined” and referred us to a specialist to diagnose the pregnancy. Weeks later my twin pregnancy was defined as Monochorionic Monoamniotic (MoMo). The survival rate for this type of pregnancy is 50%. My thought was, Lord, How do I get through this? This is not how I pictured motherhood.   We were informed that in order to give our babies the best chance at life, I should move into the hospital at 25 weeks pregnant, have the babies on continuous heart rate monitoring until I reach 34 weeks, and then have an elective cesarean. In December 2013, I packed my hospital bag and moved into an antepartum room at the hospital where I spent the remainder of my pregnancy.

My prior experience as a public school teacher, nanny, and aunt did not prepare me for my high-risk pregnancy. I had witnessed friends and family all around me enjoy their last trimester of pregnancy decorating a nursery, taking parenting classes, and attending baby showers.  My last trimester was spent in a sterile fluorescent white 12x12-foot hospital room. Once admitted, I endured testing and procedures for countless hours each day from the early morning and into the night. Lord, how do I get through this? This is not how I pictured motherhood. To keep my spirits up, along with some sense of sanity, friends and family came to my hospital room and we played board games, had “picnic” lunches, scrapbooked, my in-laws catered a Christmas feast, toasted the New Year, and I tried hopelessly to learn to knit (to no avail). I did my best to add color and life to the room by taping up cards and drawings from friends, constructing a paper chain to count down the days to the birth, and my dear friends brought in a Christmas tree with lights and all the trimmings. Most of my time was spent in prayer and medication. I clung to scripture and Jesus to keep my HOPE alive.  Specifically the words of Psalm 112:

“Their children will be mighty in the land; the generation of the upright will be blessed.” Psalm 112:2

On February 8, 2013, after ten weeks inpatient, our daughters Torin and Violet, were born, PRAISE GOD!  The babies were sent home from the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) just eight days later. My husband and I, along with everyone we knew, were ecstatic and overwhelmed at all that we had endured to get them home.  Little did we know the worst was still ahead of us.

“She’s not breathing!”

“I’m calling 911!”

Two weeks after the twins came home, we began fighting for their lives all over again. My daughters caught the lethal Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV). In the emergency room the doctor told my husband “It doesn’t look good (for Torin).” And that he should “prepare to lose her”.  Lord, after everything we just went through are You taking them from us? Please don’t take her from me!  Both girls were readmitted to a children’s hospital and were back in Intensive Care. Torin was in a coma and suffered the worst out of the two. Violet was awake and fighting for oxygen. Throughout the next six weeks, my husband and I lived on a chair beside our daughters’ hospital “beds” a cold, metal, sterile, crib--far from the soft ruffle crib sheets in their nursery at home. We cycled through several additional diagnoses: collapsed lung, necrotizing enterocolitis, intussusception, spinal meningitis and cerebral palsy to name a few.

We made our best attempts to bond with our babies. To my sorrow, breast-feeding was not possible. That particular fact sent me into complete despair. Ok Lord, you’ve shattered every imaginable daydream, hope, desire I had about motherhood. My husband buried himself in Torin’s hospital room and shut out most of the outside world. Throughout the desolation he lost 25 lbs and immersed himself in medical research and terminology, to better advocate for our daughters. He held Torin in his arms the best he could through the mess of wires and machines day and night. He was wrestling with the Lord all the while (it reminded me of Genesis 32 when Jacob was wrestling with the Lord). Everyone whom I loved most, my new little family, was clinging to life. Lord, how we will get through this? Motherhood is supposed to be joyful and tender, warm, and nurturing.  How can I bond with my babies covered with tubes, tape, machines, beeping noises, sterile clothes, medicinal smells, and medical jargon?  We are exhausted, we are empty, there is nothing left…nothing but a glimmer of faith.

Miraculously, through the prayers of hundreds, and with the talent of our health providers our twins made a full recovery, PRAISE GOD.  With a year of therapy and appointments with medical specialists we got stronger day by day. My husband and I have gone through healing of our own after suffering posttraumatic stress (PTSD) from our first year of parenthood.  A kick-start to my healing was the birth of my son, Sullivan, in June of 2014.  A healthy normal pregnancy and a healthy normal breast-fed baby boy!  Wow, did I appreciate and enjoy ALL of my newborn moments with him. Thank you GOD!

Only God sustained us during that time.  The journey to become a mother and beyond is different for everyone but the struggles that I have endured to become a parent are the very things that remind me to be forever grateful for the opportunity to raise my children.

Maybe parenting has not been exactly what you expected.  Here are a few things I have come to believe that I hope encourage you wherever you are:

- Self created fiction breeds disappointment. I was devastated at the loss of the story I had dreamed for myself and had to embrace the story the Lord was writing for my family. I had to give up control.

- Everyone's story is different, don't compare yourself. Parenthood will offer never-ending opportunities for comparison. And that comparison can be crippling. Starting my journey of motherhood in a way that forced me to accept a new story is something I pray will protect me from the letdown of comparison in the future.

- Fight entitlement. Every struggle endured makes me all the more grateful for the gift of parenthood. I am so humbled that the start to my parenting journey had given me such an acute sense of blessing. I am so aware that the very life of my kids is to be celebrated. Even in the most mundane moments of parenting toddlers these days, I celebrate.

- Battle-tested faith creates strong warrior mommas. Through the devastation of the health scares, I realized a strength that I did not know was in me. I know my job is to protect and to advocate these young lives. I have a confidence in myself that I might not have otherwise realized.

- In our darkest moments God is with us. He has promised us "Faith through the work, love through the labor, hope as we endure" 1 Thessalonians 1:3 Evil attempts to harm us but God uses it for good in order to bring Himself glory. Genesis 50:20

Educator and mom of three, Kate Sutton serves alongside her Husband, Pastor Terrence, at NCC Echostage.  She is passionate about singing worship, hosting small group and discipling women.