good life – by toni chase
Part of cultivating a good life is to realize that we are much stronger than we think.
My husband Hugh and I married in 1992 when we were just 22 years old. Five months after we were married, we felt it was the perfect time to start our family. Young, I know. But that decision to start so early was a pretty smart one given what was to come.
Getting pregnant did not come easily for us. After a very frustrating year, it became apparent that something was wrong, and we decided that we needed to consult with a fertility specialist. It was determined that I had several issues that were making it next to impossible to conceive. Low this. High that. On and on and on. It was not going to be an easy road, but one thing that I’m known for is being tenacious. I do not give up until I reach my end goal. I was going to do what I had to do to make Hugh and myself a mom and a dad.
Fast forward to January 1996. Our first round of in-vitro did not work. But our second round did. I found out I was pregnant in May — right before Mother’s Day! Thrilled doesn’t even begin to describe it. Our infertility journey was seeming to come to an end as we were finally getting what we so desperately wanted – a family. The big surprise came when we found out we were having TWINS! Two baby boys! The excitement was palpable. Our hearts were full. The pregnancy was going along perfectly and I was enjoying every second of it.
When I was 23 weeks along, I started having some very inconsistent contractions that were not ending after many hours. Then I noticed I was bleeding a bit. Off to the hospital we went. I was examined and it was determined that I was fully dilated and in immediate danger of giving birth right then. They raced me down the hall and hooked me up to every monitor imaginable. IVs were started and drugs were administered. Then the wait started. Each minute I could keep these babies in me was a glimmer of hope that I would keep them safe where they belonged.
One day. Two days. Three days. Lots of visitors. Lots of prayers. After four days, my water broke. There was no stopping it now. These boys were going to make an appearance whether I liked it or not. After several hours of labor and a few hard pushes, Austin Scott made his way into our world. Just over a pound but too tiny to survive. He died in my arms a few hours later. The doctors tried their best to keep my other son from being delivered, but he came along the next day. Just like his brother before him, Spencer Clark, again just over a pound, was only with us for a few short hours before he died in our arms. I went home later that day without my babies. I remember seeing my deflated tummy in the mirror for the first time and I had never, ever felt so alone.
We buried our sons four days later.
Devastated doesn’t even describe how we felt. Wronged. Hurt. Abandoned. Alone. Failed. Hopeless. We were back at square one. I tried to wrap my brain around what had happened and desperately wanted answers that were not coming to me. Then, I had an epiphany one day. I knew that God was not going to appear in my living room and tell me why this had to happen to me. I had to have faith that there was a reason for it. I had to understand that I might never understand it. Once I realized and accepted that, I was able to move on.
We waited a few months before we decided to go back to our doctor. Another round of in-vitro and we were blessed with another twin pregnancy. We found out a few months later that it was going to be a boy and a girl! My now high-risk pregnancy was pretty uneventful, although I was on high alert for every twitch I felt. I ended up delivering early again…32 weeks. Courtney and Connor were just over three pounds and they were big enough to fight. And fight they did! After a two-month hospital stay, they came home to grow. They are now healthy, happy 16 year olds.
When the twins were 11 months old and crawling around on my living room floor, I shocked myself and Hugh when a spur of the moment pregnancy test came out positive. You could have knocked us over with a feather. No drugs. No doctors. Just the old-fashioned way. Caitlin was born at 37 weeks weighing almost seven pounds! We call her our bonus child and she is now a beautiful 15 year-old young woman.
The fertility journey is not something I could have ever predicted for myself. I could have not predicted three years of infertility treatments and all that goes with that: the birth and death of my sons, another preterm delivery of twins and one more birth after that. Five kids in less than three years. It was quite a chapter in my life. But not one that I would trade for anything. I grew as a woman, a wife, a Christian. What I learned from my experience is invaluable. It has led me to other women who are going through the same thing and my story has been able to help them. I have figured out that the lesson I learned from this was that I am so much stronger than I could have ever imagined. I love sharing this story — not for sympathy but to show that we can do hard things.
Note from Becky
I love this woman. I met Toni through a common friend, Wendy, several years ago. She’s strong and straight-forward and yet she has one of the kindest, most giving hearts of anyone I know. Her love of family, faith, serving others, and cultivating a good life in a million ways is inspiring to me – and anyone who knows Toni. A couple of months ago, the stars aligned just right and Toni joined our team. She helps in a hundred ways, with Customer Service being her main, day-to-day role. If you met her in real life, you’d want to be best friends with her. Seriously.
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