Friday, January 21, 2011

That's What Faith Can Do...

We began the service with an introduction from Pastor Mark and then this slide show...

Our speech went a little like this...

Caleb: Good morning… ‘can You hear me’… I have good reason to believe He can and He did. He answered so many prayers throughout the last eight months. It is very encouraging for me to know our God is alive and answers prayers. Ashley and I planned to start a family. But it didn’t go quite as planned; we ended up with a few surprises like twins for one... then on to me it went...

Ashley: It was May 16th … an exciting day, or at least it was supposed to be. I was just over six months pregnant and anxiously anticipating the day of my baby shower. It was a Sunday so we started the day with church. I had been having some pains in my back and stomach from the day before, but chalked it up to being pregnant with twins. I was prepared from the beginning to be uncomfortable throughout my pregnancy, and figured this was all part of it. Caleb decided to time my “pains” during church and they ended up being five minutes apart. I still was not convinced there was anything wrong, and at this point I just figured that I was dealing with some indigestion. After church I decided to take a trip to the ER by myself to get checked out quick so that I could fleet off to my shower in peace. After arriving at the emergency room, I was quickly seen by a doctor and I was rushed to Duluth by ambulance. I was already 80% effaced and 2 cm dilated. I knew immediately how dangerous that was and I began to pray… “all things are possible through Christ, all things are possible through Christ…”

We found out we were having twins early in the pregnancy, which was nice to have time to adjust to the shock. My pregnancy was going along perfect, I was doing everything you should… walking, eating healthy, reading all the pregnancy books…

We arrived at SMDC and my labor was stopped, but only temporarily. I was scared, terrified, and confused of why this was all happening to me. Just days earlier I had a regular scheduled appointment with my doctor and she reassured me that beyond full term was in my future. At this point I was blaming myself for my situation, the babies’ situation…. They weren’t ready for this big world and what did I do to cause this?! My doctor reassured me over and over… 99% of preterm labor with twin pregnancies is unexplainable…

At 25 weeks exactly I was sentenced to bed rest at SMDC, indefinitely. I say sentenced because it really felt like a prison sentence. I just remember my nurses would come in to check on me and they would always say, "you just wait unitl you are home with those two babies, honey, and you will be wishin' you were back on bedrest." I now understand what they were saying! With the help of an amazing staff and lots of drugs they “kept me pregnant” for five more days.

On Friday, just two days shy of a week of bed rest the effort to stop labor was defeated. The boys were on their way, ready or not. Their survival rate was a grim 60% at this point and laboring twins in the midst of panic was more than I could bear. I was not able to face labor with joyful anticipation of the arrival of my boys, instead I was terrified that all of the pain I was experiencing was only to deliver two tiny babies, that would never live. Max decided that he was more interested in swimming in my belly than coming out and he went transverse minutes before pushing. Within 12 minutes from my sedation to operation the boys were out. I ended up having an emergency C-section and I was completely under anesthesia. In some ways it was a relief, because like I said before, I was so nervous to experience the moment of birth, just waiting to hear them cry…

I was laying in the recovery room and all I could hear was this lady next to me moaning and grunting horribly loud and I asked my nurse if she had a C-section too, he reassured me she didn’t! The next thing out of my mouth was… “my boys, the babies, are they alive?” He nervously told me he would go check. The longest minute of my life passed until he returned with a little slip of paper that read this… Twin A 1 lb 8.5 oz 13” long, Twin B 1 lb 15 oz 14” long. All I could think is WOW! They are so much bigger than I thought they would be. He then said that they were settled in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, ready to meet their momma. I was wheeled by family and saw my proud husband, who immediately said to me in a panic stricken voice… we have to decide on names!?

They wheeled me into the NICU where I met my boys for the very first time. To be honest, I didn’t really want to see them. I had no idea what a one pound, something ounce baby would look like. There they were… Luke Joas and Max David, with middle names after their grandfathers. It was amazing really and very hard to describe the feeling when I saw them. How many people get to witness life of what is supposed to be an unborn child, and to look at that life with such adoration, because it’s a part of ME, Caleb, a miracle from God. The most astonishing part of seeing the boys was examining their little, perfect bodies. They had all the features that a full term baby would have, minus the rolls. Finger nails, eye lashes, knuckles, every little intricacy that God intended… in such an amazingly small package. I wish there was a way for me to have you visually understand how tiny they were. They fit in our hands literally… length and width wise. After meeting our boys reality was far from my mind. It was recovery and then life in the NICU for me… and for Caleb, it was a whole different task at hand to balance our business, taking care of me, and being a father times two!

Then Caleb talked again... Yes, reality was now different for us, me. I found being a father at this point very frustrating, just sitting back to watch. My boys in an isolette where I couldn’t touch or comfort them, my wife dealing with a deadly infection, with a 80% chance of death. Seeing her deal with the heartache of not being able to see her boys. And then on top of everything, dealing with the stress of running our landscaping business in peak season. My plate was full! This was my life for really, almost three months. Then back to me again...

Ashley: Throughout our rollercoaster ride in the NICU we saw God’s faithfulness day after day; 87 days, but who was counting!? Looking back you would think that our time was horrific, but amazingly enough some of the highest, and lowest, times of my life came during our stay there, and sometimes within the same day. Things changed so quickly and situations became emergency like and then triumphant in seconds. It was a great lesson in praising God. There were times when it was so easy to praise Him… after a good report from a doctor, or a marked weight gain. But in the low times, when infection would peak its head or thoughts of surgery, or death of creep in… that’s when praising Him became difficult, but we kept on, knowing that God was always in control. Many of the difficult times came when we found ourselves feeling helpless. Seeing our boys struggle to breath, grow and develop. Having to ask a nurse if we could hold them, and dealing with the reality of sometimes just watching them suffer, because that is all we could do.

Caleb’s mom Candy also listened to me one afternoon as I feared the reality of the boys ‘making it.’ I felt at times like all the baby things in my home just haunted me… what if they don’t make it, what if they never make it home. She encouraged me to choose life. I remember her saying that… Ashley you need to choose to believe for life. Don’t let your mind go elsewhere. You need to believe in power of God and choose to look to the future, don’t fear it.

She was so right. Not only did I begin to believe in the power of God more and more, I began to see it… in my boys. Caleb and I may have felt as though we were robbed some of the joys first time parents get, but in so many ways our experience granted us many gifts a parent never receives. We got to wait and anticipate the day our boys would open their eyes and see us for the first time… and hearing them cry. We waited and anxiously anticipated the first time our boys were stable enough to be held. We joyously celebrated every quarter ounce of weight gain and I, more than Caleb, shrieked with the excitement the first day the boys could wear clothes. We got to make little things many people rightfully take for granted a big deal. The first time our boys were held by their grandparents, the graduation to a crib, the exposure to the outside world after months in a hospital… and best of all… coming home!

The days at the NICU were coming to an end and God stayed right by our side. One morning I remember waking up in the boarding room and I was about to head in with the boys and I just paused and asked God a quick favor… just give us a good nurse today. The staff there was amazing, but depending on the nurse would sometimes determine the amount of interaction I could have with my boys because it was a lot of work to get them out so I could hold them or feed them and if they were short staffed, it was just the way it was. I just prayed, please, let Sandy be our nurse. One of my favorites that we rarely got. I went to check the charge slip and there it was on the top… Nurse: Sandy. And in that moment, it wasn’t so much that he answered my prayer, but that I knew he was listening to me. Not only did I know he was listened to me, but I know that he was listening to all of you, to many people across the country and even across the seas. There were people in churches and cities all over the world praying for us. So amazing!

The first week of August, Dr. Muskovitz, the boys’ primary neonatologist said, well… I think they’re ready; ready for home. I immediately lost it. I was both excited and scared out of my mind. You have to remember that even though these boys were my flesh and blood, they were not yet my soul responsibility. Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week there was at least one neonatologist, lactation consultant, up to 17 level 5 nurses, all at my beck-n-call. So, the thought of taking care of these little ones without all the logistical help and computerized instruments to keep them alive… well sent me into a tizzy! Long story short, I asked the boys’ nurse for a thermometer because I felt like I was getting sick and after reading a 98.6 “fever” she reassured me that I was just having a mild panic attack and I needed to go get lunch. She so sweetly said, honey, you’ll be just fine and so will they. You’re their mother and you can give them care that even the highest level nurse can.

She was right, we were just fine. After finding our groove at home and surviving the transition home with apnea monitors and journals to track their every move… we’ve made it successfully, so far. The boys still have a long road ahead. They might look like “normal” babies, but obviously they have some catching up to do. They are far from where most seven and a half months old are and we still need to be very cautious about them getting sick. They have RSV shots monthly to combat this threat, and we have a physical therapist come weekly also to aid in the boys’ development. NICU left us with a lasting threat about the boys getting sick and said our goal is to keep them from getting sick in the first year. After our follow up visit we had just last month they are pleased with how well the boys are doing and astonished at the hoops they’ve jumped through and hurdles they’ve dodged. We’ve had no intrusive operations thus far, besides the threat of Luke needing surgery for his head. His frontal sutures have fused together prematurely. We have appointments in the upcoming months to asses this situation. But we pray God will guide us through that decision and ask for your prayers as well.

One last thing I want to share with all of you today was one of the most memorable lessons learned. It was in the midst of the boys’ stay in the NICU. Luke was threatened by infection and the doctors were nervous of the severity it could pose. Caleb and I came home late after being at the NICU all week and he dragged me to church in the morning. I was so upset and we had received a call that morning saying Luke was not doing well. The last thing I wanted to do was go to church and have to feel what I was trying to suppress. That morning Mark called anyone to the front that was in need of prayer and God gave me that heart pounding sensation, and I knew I was supposed to go up. I did, and I sobbed, and sobbed… just broken and feeling so defeated. I kept thinking, “why God, why!?” After all we’ve already been through, you’re doing this now! I was so comforted by the love that surrounded us but as we drove home I still was so heavy hearted. We just sat in the car in our driveway once we got home and I cried and said to Caleb… I just don’t get why He’s using them, these innocent babies that never even asked to be brought into this world. Why can’t he just use us! Why!!! Then Caleb, very calmly said, “as hard as it is for us to understand all of this, I don’t think we are supposed to. God is so much bigger than all of this and I know if may be hard to hear, but the whole point of ALL of this might be just to bring glory to God, in spite of the boys.” I couldn’t believe he could think that, let alone say it. But the more I thought about it, it made more sense. Bring glory to God, yes, that is what this is all about. Live or die, rise or fall, if we are not focused on bringing glory to God in all we say, do and think, we are losing sight of our journey here on earth.

Our boys’ lives are a testament of God’s faithfulness as you can see. We were very blessed to have the outcome that we did and thank you again for staying by our side while the boys were in the hospital and still today. We have a quick slideshow we want to close with, showing you just that… answered prayers and the God’s gift of life.

Then the boys were dedicated! Dedication in our church is similar in some ways to a baby baptism in other denominations. It is our commitment (Caleb and I) to raise our boys under the Lord's leading and in all ways guiding them towards a life with Christ. Then, as they get old enough to understand the concept of a relationship with Christ they choose to be baptised.

The verses we picked for Luke and Max...

Max being dedicated...

Luke being dedicated...

Thank you everyone for sharing in this special time with us!!

P.S. The boys are 8 months old today!!! :)


  1. aaaahhhhh makes me cry. love you ash and caleb. so glad God had you both in mind for those boys!! true miracles from above!!

  2. makes me cry too! Love you guys so much! So looking forward to our boys growing up together!!

  3. Absolutely beautiful story, and you have brought glory to God with your story and lives, Ashley and Caleb :-) Love - Gail

  4. To God be the glory! Thank you for sharing this beautiful story that that will continue to unfold......for God's glory.


  5. What an amazing story. I cant imagine what you have been through. Seeing the video of one of the boys squealiing/smiling at the end was one of the neatest things I have seen. May the rest of your lives be filled with those amazing moments! Kerry Jacobson