I thought raising kids would be easier…

Video

As I think about starting to write again I’ve taken sometime to read through old posts. The thing I’ve really enjoyed about this blog is the tangible reminder of how I felt in the moment, in each season as we are/were walking through this life together. MaK and I have a vision for our family but honestly that vision gets lost most days in the struggle of taking care of four little girls. Building a family is freaking hard work.

Some days it feels like all we do as parents is say… No, don’t do that. Don’t pinch your sister. Don’t stick that peanut up your nose again. Please show her kindness. Please stop screaming. No, we don’t say we are going to ‘cut one another’ (I have no idea where this came from but it’s incredibly hard not to laugh when Larkyn says “I’m going to cut you Maebyn” like she’s straight outta the slammer). This drags into the night where we wake up several times meeting requests, putting paci’s in, feeding bottles and then try to get a couple hours of sleep before hitting the repeat button. MaK and I always say 3 am to 6 am is our “sweet spot” where we (usually) get to sleep uninterrupted until our four little alarm clocks wake up. Surviving sometimes feels like thriving and a successful day sometimes means we didn’t fly off the handle and scream at one of our kids in a moment of complete weakness. It’s hard to remember that every day we are laying a foundation for our family through these difficult days. The discipline is not futile, teaching is worthwhile even though their attention spans are little and our rhythms are not worthless even if they seem chaotic or make no sense to anyone else on the outside looking in.

We have to continuously remind one another that things worth having aren’t built in a day, week, month, or year. It takes the consistency of disciplined hard work to build something of value, not perfection. I was probably one of the weakest, most undisciplined person out there… until I had kids. I liked things I could have immediately and see the fruit of quickly.  I cannot classify myself as being all that much better now but my kids have changed me into a more focused, driven, and disciplined person, not to mention opening my eyes to that extremely undisciplined person I was/am. MaK and I are building a foundation for our family. Right now the work kind of sucks (just being honest). There’s not a lot of encouragement, it can get a little lonely, the tension gets pretty high over here, and there is just so much freaking whining going on (not just from those 3 and under, MaK and I contribute heavily in that department too). We have to be reminded though that we are building something of great value and even if others don’t understand, each brick that is laid is important and has tremendous value in the foundation that is being built in our family.

We love our little girls more each day and hope and pray that through raising our children  the Lord will continually sharpen us through the struggles of parenthood. It’s kind of cool that the Lord teaches us about himself through the blessing of raising children even if they/we are little poop faces (cue video). Gotta love potty talk – we have no shortage of it over here.

 

 

 

 

 

Living on the other side of a miracle

The Dykstra TwinsI haven’t written a blog post since the twins were born and that’s due mostly to the fact that I’ve been trying to sort out my thoughts, change in daily routine, and the many emotions that go along with living on the other side of a miracle. The night the twins were born MaKenzie and I were so happy, we were so thankful, and our hearts were overwhelmed with gratitude towards the Lord for the miracle that was the twins healthy birth. However, three days after being home the only emotion I was feeling was frustration. Lack of sleep, change in routine, and living in complete chaos has been overwhelming at times and I’ve felt my heart lean more towards frustration than towards gratitude. I’ve been ashamed of how quickly I’ve forgotten about the miracle that has happened and how quickly my circumstances effect my feelings. I desperately want to be grateful for what the Lord has done but I would be lying if I said on a day-to-day basis the frustration doesn’t win out most of the time.

Dad and The TwinsLast week I started reading through Exodus again and one thing began to stick out to me very plainly. As I began to read, I noticed that the Lord was directing the steps of the Israelites to the very last detail. It says in Exodus 14 that God led the Israelites to the Red Sea when He could have taken them around it instead. He did this so His glory could be shown through parting the Red Sea. After the Israelites walked through the parted Red Sea, they sang songs of praise to the Lord for His protection, guidance, His glory, and unmatched power. He delivered them with an unforeseen miracle and the only response was praise. However, three days later the Israelites come to a place without water. They instantly began to question Gods leading because they were thirsty. Really? God just parted the Red Sea and killed their enemies and they think He’s going to let them die of thirst?

SistersIt seems ridiculous but as I read through these stories I began to relate more and more to the Israelites condition. They just witnessed a great miracle three days ago but still their life circumstances were uncertain, scary, and led them to a place of wondering if God was really going to provide for them. I couldn’t help but feel like I’m living in somewhat of a similar state. I’ve seen the mighty hand of God at work, I believe that He is going to see us through, and I know that He is going to provide. However our life circumstances are real, they are overwhelming, and I wonder if they are going to overtake us sometimes. As I read through Exodus I was reminded that God never left His people. He was there before the Red Sea. He was there as He parted it for them. He was there when they were thirsty. He provided time and time again. He didn’t take away the tough circumstances but always provided in the midst of them. As MaK and I move forward our hope is that we don’t miss the provision in the midst of our circumstances.

“Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character, and character, hope. And those who hope in the Lord will not be put to shame.”

Romans 5: 4-5

I hate not sleeping. It’s hard not to have a routine, and it doesn’t seem like this phase of life has an end in sight, but as we walk through this season of life our hope is that the more uncertain life becomes the more room there is to hope in the Lord. We aren’t walking through this season perfectly… at all. In fact a couple weeks ago I think I told each girl, including Maebyn, to shut up at the peak of my frustration one night. Not exactly a high point but we keep moving forward hoping in the Lord. He is here. He parted our Red Sea and He’s here in our thirst as well. Hopefully tomorrow I don’t forget that again.

Ross

A Day in the Life.

Dykstra FamilyIt’s been four weeks since the twins were born. Some days it feels like time has flown by and other days it feels like it’s been a year in this “new normal”. We thought we knew what sleep deprivation looked like after experiencing the newborn stage with Maebyn but with two in the mix and a one year old, we’re learning a new side of tired that we never knew existed. 🙂 Thanks to some great advice from other twin parents, we’ve been trying our hardest to keep the girls on the same schedule but lately they seem to have a plan of their own, which includes eating at the same time everyday and rotating who is awake and asleep throughout the night time.

Twin LifeWe’ve been learning (read that as trying to learn) so much these past few weeks. The value of teamwork. The golden opportunity and moment of bliss: nap time. Taking on new roles as the “Need Meeters”, that’s what Ross and I call each other throughout the day, between the three girls and our pit bull, Beazy, we’ve adopted new identities of recognizing and meeting a need pretty much 24/7. Appreciating and loving dear friends and family who have helped out in so many ways from making and bringing us meals to helping us balance watching the girls and adjusting to our new life (THANK YOU!). Receiving unexpected gifts and support is so humbling and appreciated, another thank you to the generous, anonymous person who sent us a huge box of diapers two weeks ago and the countless loved ones who’ve mailed cards and sent supplies over the past month. We truly can’t say thank you adequately.

The_GirlsAnd overall, we’ve been recognizing how wild, crazy, fun and chaotic this new world is for us. We got brave this week and took the whole clan out to an outdoor mall just to walk around and spend some time enjoying the last few days of warm weather here in Cinci. Two baby Bjorns, one stroller, and one giant diaper bag later, we made it to the mall – with an eager, Frankenstein-walking one year old and two newborns. It wasn’t until this trip that we realized just how our situation must appear from the outside looking in. We were greeted by a comment or disbelieving stare from literally each and EVERY passerby and have had some fun conversations with complete strangers sharing stories about their “family of nine”, or their first few years of parenting twins. We definitely welcome these conversations, it’s nice to know we’re not the only crazies out their who long for a big family and welcome the challenging blessing.

Dykstra SistersWhat else are Ross and I trying to learn? That these moments, minutes, days and hours are so fleeting. That feeling overwhelmed might not be such a bad thing and conversations at 3 am shouldn’t be held against one another. That the house will not be clean, probably ever again and laundry, bottle washing, breastfeeding, burping and diaper-changing are all never-ending tasks that show these girls that we love them and are here to serve. That Mountain Dew is fuel. That toys, burp rags, blankies and pacifiers are the new scenery. That making games out of routines helps pass the time (who knew you could get a leg work-out in by balancing your one-year-old while simultaneously breastfeeding?). That dance parties and blaring music is a MUST at 2 pm when everyone is hitting an all-time energy low.

That this stage will pass soon and they really are only little once. That cuddles, baby coos and dreaming smiles are the rewards and should not be taken for granted.

– Ross, MaK, Maebyn, Truette & Larkyn Dykstra

They’re here.

twins bornAbout a year ago, MaKenzie told me that we needed to start a blog because she thought it could make us a little extra money. At the time I didn’t really understand blogs, why people followed them, or why people would get paid for writing their opinions. Nevertheless, about 4 months after MaK begged me to give it a try, I wrote my first blog post. The only thing I wanted this blog to be was something my kids could look back on and see how God has been faithful in our family’s story. I am so thankful MaK pressed me to do this blog, the events that have taken place over the last 9 months have cemented a testimony for our family and for our three baby girls that God is in the details and He can be trusted. Monday night was the beautiful ending to a long but satisfying 36 week and 3 day identical twin pregnancy.

We walked into the hospital at 6:30 am on August 12th (just one day after Maebyn’s first Leaving the NICUbirthday) to start MaKenzie’s labor. Our team of specialists decided that given risk and circumstances with the TTTS, it was time for the girls to come out and induced labor was the route we were taking at 36 weeks 3 days pregnant. Throughout this entire pregnancy there has been countless situations where MaK & I just plain did not know what to do or what decision to make but we’ve desperately tried to seek what God was telling us to do. Sometimes it was very clear and we felt Him very near to us, and other times it felt like taking a step in the dark, completely unsure of whether we were making the right choice or not. MaKenzie labored hard all day long and at about 6 pm the pain and contractions were becoming more and more intense and it looked like we still had a long ways to go, she hadn’t progressed from the 4 cm dilation that we walked into the hospital with and I could tell her spirit was weakening.

I remember thinking maybe we made the wrong decision to have an induction, maybe we should have waited for labor to come naturally, maybe we screwed this entire thing up and made the wrong choice… MaK desperately wanted to have a vaginal birth and the longer the day carried on the more it seemed like she may have to have a c-section. She got her epidural around 6 pm and at that point we both mentally prepared to “settle in” for the long hall which could possibly lead to a c section. Around 7 pm our doctor came in and broke baby A’s water. I’m not a pro at labor stories, so here’s the gist… within 40 minutes contractions were so intense MaK assumed the epidural had not taken and was having difficulty talking through them. She asked the nurse if it was possible for the epidural to “not have worked” because of the pain she was in, this question prompted the medical staff to check her progress again. Within that short hour she had reached completion (10 cm) and Baby A was literally getting ready to make her appearance. Our nurse threw scrubs at me and 3-4 nurses rushed into the room to hurry and wheel MaK into the OR before the first baby decided to come out on her own (all multiples pregnancies are delivered in the OR because of the risk potential). They were in such a hurry they nailed MaK’s hospital bed against the door on the way out, we laugh about it now but at the time … no one was laughing 🙂 Long story short, in about 2 and a half pushes the twins were here. The sound of the two cries was almost too overwhelming to handle. The girls were here. Alive. Safe. Healthy.

the twinsTruette’s skin was much paler than her sister Larkyn’s. Her umbilical cord was smaller and she weighed over a pound less than her “little” sister – True was born about 1 minute before Larkyn. The doctor reminded us that this was the effects of TTTS and not to be worried immediately, she would be checked out in the NICU as soon as possible. We were so thrilled when we found out, just three days later, Truette was ready to go home from the NICU and we could officially start our new “life” as a family of five.

When MaKenzie and I were trying to determine the names for the twins, we looked back on what this journey has meant to us and both decided we really wanted to give each girl a name that meant something and held significance, so that they both would remember and never forget what happened even before they were born. The name Larkyn means “to be crowned in victory” and the name Truette (our little “True”) we wanted to represent truth. Together, the girls names tell the story of what we believe it really means to be “crowned in true victory”… a display of God’s direct intervention and healing touch when all else around pointed to an inevitable loss. We wanted their testimony to be shared. Living in Cincinnati, I’m sure Larkyn is going to hear, “So, your parents are big Reds fans? Is that why they named you Larkyn?”  My prayer is that this is her response (MaK and I disagree slightly on the opening statement, but we won’t get into that here)…

“No. Every member of my family is a devout Detroit Tigers fan!! My name is Larkyn because before I was born, I was supposed to die. You see, I have an identical twin sister and we were diagnosed with twin-to-twin-transfusion syndrome and given very little chance of survival. But, my family and I serve a God who heals. He healed my sister and I, and together our names mean to be crowned in true victory.”

This journey has been special to our family. It has not been easy but it has driven us closer to the heart of our Lord and that is more precious to us than anything. Thank you to everyone that has taken part in this story with us. We honestly cannot thank you enough for the prayers and encouragement you have given to us, you lifted our spirits and made us feel more love than we could ever have imagined. Even though this story is unique to our family, the Author of our story has plenty more stories just like this, full of His redemption and love for His children. We are thankful to be a part of the great cloud of witnesses that stand and proclaim how great is our God.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfector of faith.”

Hebrews 12:1-2

Thank you for loving our family, praying for our girls and for taking the time to read a portion of our story.

Ross, MaK, Maebyn, Truette & Larkyn Dykstra

Believe in love.

believe_ring33 full weeks in just 3 days.

Sometimes I have to give myself a couple of minutes to allow this reality to sink in. How was it just 2 and a half months ago we were sitting in a conference room with pediatric specialists, maternal fetal doctors and other medical personnel explaining to us the grave diagnosis of our girls and the long, uncertain road that was ahead of us. Surgery. Heart failure. Growth abnormalities… those words were all-consuming. And now, about 75 days out from that meeting and just a few weeks away from our actual due date, instead of being on my back or coping with an immeasurable loss, I feel two healthy sisters kicking each other (and my right rib cage) as I type.

God’s goodness is unfathomable. My heart aches when I think of people Ross and I love so dearly, friends and family, who have lost a child(ren). I think of these sweet babies so often and pray for God’s goodness to be poured onto their families who are left here on earth to mourn such a deep loss. We love you. And your strength inspires us daily.

The girls’ story has been called – by doctors, nurses and others – a modern-day miracle. One of our RN case workers at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital actually called me a couple weeks ago and her words have stuck with me, playing over and over in my mind. She told me she had personally been present for over 200+ TTTS surgeries and cases at the hospital and her hope was that Ross and I both understood fully that what transpired with our girls was truly… (that word again) a miracle. While I know this is true, I guess I’ve been in some denial thinking that I’m just not the sort of person a “miracle” would happen to. I mean, I read about these stories … share the ones I love… but to me? Our little family? No way. I actually looked up the word the other day to make sure I was conceptualizing its definition and meaning accurately. This is what I discovered:

Miracle: A surprising and welcome event that is not explicable by natural or scientific laws and is considered to be divine. Highly improbable, an extraordinary event.

Since being pregnant for nearly two years now – yowza, that sounds intense when I type it but true nonetheless – I’ve had to switch out my wedding ring for another, looser option to fit my often-swollen hands. My ring of choice? When I turned 16, I found a ring that I knew I had to have. It’s a simple, thick, silver band with hand-scripted words across the front that spoke to me; even as an overly dramatic, hormone-drive teenager who didn’t know the first thing about love. The scripted words across the band simply say “Believe in love.” I made a promise to myself the day I bought the ring that I would give this ring to the man I would marry, the first man that I fell in love with (did you just throw up a little?). Well, my little plan actually worked. At 18, through sloppy tears and an even sloppier kiss afterwards, I handed this ring to Ross Dykstra and the rest is history. He’s worn it on his pinky since that day and before Maebyn was born last year I found it amongst his jewelry and it seemed to be the perfect solution to my fat fingers and wedding-ring-less left hand.

Tonight, I’m looking at that tarnished, scratched ring and its message carries such a different meaning in my life. The last ten years it has represented my best friend and the best guy I know, my husband and how he allowed me to become the luckiest girl on this planet by picking me as his wife. Now, though, the ring seems to have encompassed much more as it has followed me the past year or so on our family’s journey.

Believe in love.

Believing in a God who loves me more than I’m even capable of comprehending. A God that wants to perform miracles not only in big ways in my life but even in every-day circumstances. A God that operates outside of what I think is best for me and often reveals Himself through the hurt and pain this life can bring, using it to draw me closer to His heart.

Believing in a love that is surprising… A welcome event that is not explicable by natural or scientific laws and is considered to be divine.

I hope He gives me the grace to increase that belief in His love throughout each circumstance our family faces. Tonight, and this 33rd week, I’m believing in love very deeply when I look at my almost one-year old little girl, think of her dad who selflessly takes care of her each day and feel her two little sisters growing and getting bigger by the minute in my belly.

– MaK

30 Weeks

MaK Twins PregnancyWeek 30 starts tomorrow. The girls are near 3 pounds a piece and by the looks of MaK’s belly, growing pretty tall & strong like their older sister Maebyn. Wow… MaK and I can’t stop smiling today, especially when we look back on the past 2 months and think of the journey we’ve been a part of.

When we found out we were expecting twins, we immediately thought (read that as immediately worried about) a few really important “events” that we had coming up in the next couple months. Given the prognosis and the severity of the situation, we didn’t know if we would be able to make them all and MaK and I were having a tough time deciding what to do and what not to do. The first decision we had to make was whether or not we were still going to go to Mexico on our missions trip with MaK’s company, Housh Inc. it wasn’t an easy decision for us. We had a very good reason to back out but we felt like The Lord wanted us to go. Looking back I’m not exactly sure what the reason for us going was, or if we might have been crazy in doing so but I am so thankful that we went. It’s something we will never forget and a huge part of this story for our family.

After the diagnosis of TTTS, we weren’t sure if we would be able to go to my little brother’s wedding at the beginning of June. About a week before the wedding, we received the news that the twins fluid levels had evened out completely (to us, that meant complete healing and an answer to prayer!) and we got the OK to travel up to Michigan. Well, sortof, we kind of didn’t mention it to the doctor. Either way, this was a major blessing. MaK and I would have been devastated to have had to missed Ryan and Taylor’s wedding but the Lord made a way.

The last thing we had on our to-do list was go to Indianapolis for a Hillsong United concert. MaK and I love Hillsong and thankfully we were able to go this Wednesday night. The beauty of this last event was it was the perfect way to come before the Lord, worship and celebrate everything that He has done in our lives over the past couple months. It wasn’t a mountain-top worship experience and neither one of us had an over abundance of energy (MaK worked all day and we headed straight there afterwards) but it was a beautiful night. We were together on a date night and worshiping The Lord. What more could you ask for.

Although our journey is far from over, to start the 30th week (woo hoo!) without having any medical procedures is such a blessing. Since the beginning of this pregnancy, Hillsong United’s newest album Zion has been playing in our house pretty much on repeat. Our favorite song right now and for the last couple months has been “Oceans”. This song has been our family song/prayer. The story of the song is about Peter stepping out in faith onto the water to follow Jesus. It’s a beautiful song with a beautiful story. If you happen to be in one of those situations in life where you really feel like the only option is to trust blindly or run and hide, this is a great song to listen to…

Hillsong United “Oceans”

Hope that song encourages you today as much as it has us over the last several months.

Happy Friday!

Ross

Recap

When MaKenzie and I started this blog, our main goal was to journal our family story so we could show our kids one day how God is in the details and that He can be trusted. A couple days ago I went through most of the entries over the last several months and I am just blown away by the story of it all and how intricately He works through each event. The story speaks for itself, and one thing’s for certain… it doesn’t point to MaKenzie and I whatsoever. We have been praying for increased faith and a story that points our family towards God, I am amazed as I look back only 6 months at how much God has answered those requests. We are so excited to see what else God has in store for our family but as for today we stand amazed at the story He is already writing through our families lives. I know this story may not mean as much to you as it does to us, but my hope is that you can see clearly the hand of God. He moves in every life, whether we recognize it or not and when we start paying attention, it’s a humbling process. As I was reading through my older posts these 5 stuck out to me and really highlighted what these last 6 months have been about for us. We’re thankful today for 3 healthy, growing girls and a God who is in control in the midst of what often looks like chaos to us.

my first entry

it’s gotta be compelling

our family is growing

two for the price of one

an unexpected journey

medically impossible

– Ross

An inadequate thank you.

Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

While we were in Mexico we worked in a squatters village during our last day there. This part of town in Monterrey was a place of extreme poverty. While we were serving with the church in the squatters community the pastor said something to us that I don’t think I’ll ever forget. It wasn’t anything super profound or insightful and at the time I thought it was simply just a nice way to say thank you. However, what he said stuck with MaKenzie and I and we have experienced the reality of what he spoke of on a deeper level over the last several weeks.

The pastor said this, through the broken English of a translator, “Thank you for coming to help us today. I feel like Moses when the Israelites were battling the Amalekites. As long as Moses kept his hands raised to the Lord, the Israelites were winning the battle. Moses’ arms grew tired and he could not keep his arms raised, so Aaron and Hur stood with Moses and helped him keep his arms lifted to The Lord. You guys coming to help is like Arron and Hur helping us keep our arms lifted to The Lord.” I thought I understood what he was saying but to be honest it sounded like a really spiritual way of saying “thank you” and I was impressed (and slightly confused). Over the last month or so I think The Lord has revealed to me what it was this pastor was speaking of and it has been a deeply humbling experience.

Ever since we received the news that our girls have TTTS we have seen an outpouring of love from family, friends, acquaintances, blog followers, and most surprisingly, people we don’t even know or have any connection to. From receiving emails, Facebook messages, phone calls, dinners and letters, one thing has been so clear to us… we weren’t the only ones on our knees for our girls. It was deeply humbling to have people thinking of us and praying for us on a daily basis. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced such an outpouring of support in my life. MaK and I would often talk in awe about how shocked we were that so many people felt called to pray for us, geesh. It seemed like every single day we were being encouraged by one person or another. I don’t know why but this deeply confused me. How could people care so much for our little girls and for us, even some who were complete strangers? I don’t have a great answer for this question but I do know that God used everyone of your cards, emails, gestures and calls to speak encouragement into our lives in a time where we desperately needed it.

I guess the real point of this blog post is that MaKenzie and I want to say thank you. Thank you so much, we truly do not have words to explain how much your kindness and prayers have meant. You were our Arron and Hur during this battle in our lives. You helped us keep our arms lifted to the Lord and we hope you also celebrate with us in the Lord’s victory. There were many times where our arms were tired but your encouragement and prayer helped us keep them up. We can not say thank you enough for the support. I know I’ve said it before but it was so humbling to hear over and over again how many of you took us to the Lord in prayer. Those prayers were priceless to us and appreciate them more than you will ever know. Thank you for joining in on this story God is writing in our lives. This was a great reminder to MaK and I of what the church is suppose to look like, many parts of the body, working together to encourage one another and glorify the Father.

All glory be to God.

Ross and MaK

Medically impossible?

Fight TTTSIt has been a good week… a very good week to say the least. Our Monday ultrasound got moved to Tuesday due to the holiday weekend and we were anxious to find out what was going on with the girls. We had received good reports the week prior and MaK and I were curious to find out if the pessimistic doctors’ negativity was actually the reality of the TTTS diagnosis. I guess in order to accurately describe what happened today I’ll have to start at the beginning of our diagnosis and go from there.

On May 6, we spent about ten hours at Cincinnati Children’s hospital having an MRI, high level ultrasound, and echocardiogram performed on MaK and the girls. After the MRI and ultrasound, we got a call from our nurse informing MaK that she should not eat anything until our final consultation. Based on the results from the testing thus far – they expected us to be in the operating room by end of day. At the time, the nurse didn’t explain anything further and just reiterated that we would have a consultation with the specialist(s)/surgeons after our last test. We had no idea what was going on. We had no idea why we might need surgery at the end of the day. And we had no idea what the results of the tests were. Going into this day, MaKenzie and I prayed that we would not hope or despair in anything the doctors told us. We would not worry and we would walk through this hoping in the Lord and resting in the fact that He is in control.

Around 4 in the afternoon we finally got to meet with our team of specialists. All our tests were completed and we had just been sitting around for about an hour or so waiting for our consultation. Our hearts were heavy and we were pretty sure that MaK would have surgery that night. We met with a maternal fetal specialist, another doctor (I don’t remember his fancy title), our nurse and a liaison for the hospital. It was a pretty intimidating meeting. They had all of our tests pulled up on a projection screen and through a series of detailed reports and images, they began to give us the prognosis. In Twin-to-Twin (TTTS), there is a “donor” and “recipient” – the donor baby is the smaller of the two who is essentially sharing too much with the “recipient” baby, who is larger and receiving much more blood and nutrients. They told us that the donor baby had less than 2 cm of amniotic fluid and the recipient had around 17 cm (average is around 5-6 per baby with identicals, but can range some). With that knowledge, it was obvious that one twin was working extra, extra hard to process the extreme excess fluid in her sac and her heart was showing signs of being overworked. In turn, the smaller twin wasn’t getting what she needed in the process. The specialists’ diagnosis was that our girls had Twin-to-Twin Transfusion, a very serious (and extremely rare) condition that happens only with identical twins. Without any treatment, the mortality rate of TTTS is 80-100%. At the end of our consultation I asked the doctors if they ever saw this condition right itself, or if the fluid levels could ever even out “on their own”. His response was, if they diagnose it as true Twin-to-Twin (which they had), the fluid levels never equal out and medical intervention is necessary for the best chance of survival for the babies. He said they found enough evidence that suggested that our girls were currently in Stage 1, with a forecast of progression on the horizon. The TTTS can progress quickly or remain at a plateau at any moments notice. The good news from that day was MaK did not need to have any immediate procedures and we could go home and continue to pray for God to heal.

The following Monday we had another ultrasound to see if the symptoms were still progressing. The tests showed that the twins still had fluid levels of 17 and 2. Our doctor came in after the ultrasound and basically explained to us that we should do an amniotic reduction because it is the first step in battling this disease and that we were on a time crunch for a number of different reasons. We asked for a couple minutes to talk over what we wanted to do. It wasn’t that we didn’t want to do medical procedure, it was the fact that if we did a medical procedure it felt like our hope would transfer from God to the procedure and we were desperately trying to hope in the Lords healing. MaK and I said a quick prayer and asked God to not let us step outside of His will for this situation and that He would be clear on what we should do. After a couple minutes the doctor came back in and we told him we would do the amniotic reduction. He looked at us like we were crazy and said “why?” We were flabbergasted he reacted this way. Just 5 minutes ago he was telling us we needed to have the procedure done. His response surprised us, “Even though I’d get paid for this procedure and it’s no sweat off my back, I know you both are uncomfortable with doing this right now, so why don’t we just wait a few days?”. WOW… answered prayer!!! Later that week we found out that even though the fluid levels had not changed it looked like we were progressing into stage three of Twin-to-Twin but still no procedures were necessary.

All of this leads me to yesterday. We had our ultrasound Tuesday morning and the girls fluid levels were at 5.5 and 5.6… an almost identical measurement, something all the specialists had ruled out as impossible to happen naturally. Ever since we received the diagnosis just one week ago that it looked like we were entering into Stage three, our girls’ have been slowly but surely sharing with one another (that’s what MaK and I keep saying). Literally, one is decreasing so that the other might increase – so that both can grow. This trend has been so obvious that every time we go in for our bi-weekly test the medical teams that perform our ultrasound keep asking if we’ve had any procedures and when we tell them no… they can’t believe it. Our medical team can’t explain what is going on, in fact at the last appointment one of the doctors kept shaking his head and saying “I don’t know, I just.. I don’t know… this is not medically possible”.

There’s no “out of the woods” with Twin-to-Twin Transfusion Syndrome. It is a battle that carries a lingering unknown with each new day. Progression can occur at any moment in the pregnancy. Today, though, and this week, we are recognizing that our Healer is on the move and we are thankful for the three, healthy growing Dykstra girls that God has entrusted to MaK and I. Maebyn and her sisters have a story to tell and we pray that we are able to lead them and love them the way our God is so deeply loving us through this journey. It’s His story after all, not ours.

Ross & MaKenzie

An unexpected journey

the_girlsMay 6, 9:30 am: It’s Monday morning, we arrive to the hospital to have another ultrasound and see how the twins are progressing. We had just gotten back home from Mexico the day before and MaK, Maebs and I were so excited to see the girls again. We’d been in just a week and a half prior (around 20 weeks) for our anatomy scan and everything looked great, we were so thankful. Things started pretty normal and two hours later the nurse excused herself from the room to “call the doctor”. Something’s wrong. MaK and I tried not to over analyze and sat still with Maebyn in the room until the nurse walked back in. “MaKenzie, can you come back in today? This afternoon maybe? The maternal fetal specialist is reviewing your ultrasound and would like to speak with you.” Two hours and one consultation later, MaK and I sat on the couch in our living room repeating the doctor’s words over and over in our minds and aloud. Twin-to-Twin Transfusion Syndrome, high mortality rate, triple fluid levels for one twin, heart complications, MRI, high risk, Stage 1

God is in control.

I know I’ve mentioned this multiple times, but after MaKenzie gave birth to Maebyn we decided that we would let the Lord decide how many children we would have. That meant no more contraceptives to prevent pregnancy. This seemed like a huge leap of faith to us but it was something we felt the Lord leading us to do. Needless to say, if you’ve read my previous blogs, God has taken our act of faith and flipped it on its head. Pregnant three months later? Twins? We were shocked by the news of both. Ever since we decided that we would let the Lord decide how many children we would have our faith has seemed to be tested in almost every area of our lives. Now we faced an even bigger test with an even more uncertain outcome and we could feel fear and doubt creeping in strong.

As the weeks have progressed, the feelings of just being straight overwhelmed have only increased exponentially. We’ve started getting bills from our ultrasounds for the girls and they are nearly four times more than what they were with Maebyn. We knew we’d have to have faith in our finances but we didn’t think it would start even before the twins were born. We’ve spent our fair share of time at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and the Maternal Fetal Specialists office and MaK has been undergoing testing nearly every 2-3 days to monitor the girls’ progress.

Since the moment we found out about the girls having Twin-to-Twin Transfusion Syndrome we haven’t been sure of how exactly to walk through this but one thing we do know is our hope is in the Lord. A couple of weeks ago I was reading through Exodus where the Israelites are led to the Red Sea by God. Ironically enough, MaK and I were talking about this just a week or so before we got “the news”. The Isaraelites had just been set free from their enslavement through miraculous events and were headed to the Promised Land. They were literally walking away from their life as slaves, following the exact path God was leading them to and suddenly they are faced with the Red Sea. With the Egyptians coming in close behind them to reclaim them, they start to say “if only we could go back to being slaves”. They could not imagine how they could be freed from their situation. Here they were…. trusting God, following His leading, only to be faced with an obstacle that in their minds was too huge to cross over. I bet no one in that entire camp even entertained the idea that God was going to part the water, allow them to cross through and then collapse the water in on the Egyptians who were trying to reclaim them as slaves.

It’s here that MaK and I find ourselves. The situation we are in feels so overwhelming in just about every area of our lives. If we both sat down and tried to think of a way out, I don’t think either of us could even imagine what that would look like. We have been made ever aware that we have no control in this situation and that this story belongs to the Lord. We don’t know what is going to happen, and MaK and I have spent the majority of the last few weeks just crying because the unknown can be so scary, but I promise you this… we serve a real living God and when this situation is over His name will be glorified, no matter the outcome. That may mean that we have two healthy little girls and that may also mean the opposite but with everything inside of us we are trying to trust the Lord. This is His story and all we can do is trust that He is in control.

We’ve had a roller coaster of a month – one week hearing that we were considered Stage 1, the next that there may be complications with blood flow in one twin that could mean progression to Stage 3, to recent news this week that both girls are now in stable condition and seem to be growing well. We are humbled to report that this week our team of specialists at Cincinnati Children’s have determined that “prayers seem to be working” and the fluid levels of both girls are slowly reaching stable amounts. The days, weeks and hopefully months ahead are completely unknown but the certain fact is this, our hope is in the Lord, not in what the doctors tell us from day to day.

Ross