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

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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

The Aftermath

ross_maebynThe faith journey has started. With the events of Saturday still fresh in our minds the battle of Who is actually in control has already started. We are not the first to go through a multiples pregnancy and we won’t be the last but just like a lot of “new” things go, the unknown can be scary.
We’ve begun to read more about what goes into actually carrying 2 instead of 1 and the information, reality, and struggles have become more real with every passing minute.

 

When we first found out we were pregnant again, we thought the biggest trying of our faith would come from the increased responsibility, lack of time, and drained resources. Although these will still be ever-present, the immediate call to faith has been in MaK’s new found state of carrying not just one but two babies.

 

As any mother knows, going through your first pregnancy or any pregnancy for that matter… is all consuming. When MaK was first pregnant, it was such a new and wonderful experience. It seemed like we were learning something new everyday about what goes on inside the woman’s body that allows it to make a new life. MaK was always reading new things, gathering information, and trying to take care of her body in the best way possible. It was exciting but at the same time scary. There was another life inside of her and she was responsible for literally carrying for that child 24/7. Seriously, to all the mom’s out there – I applaud you. It is no easy task. This is not something I can even begin to understand but the constant concern for your child while its inside of you I’m sure can be so overwhelming at times. After Maebyn was born, and we decided to try and have another kid, pregnancy wasn’t nearly as daunting to MaK as the first go-around. She had been there and done that and although she would never take the responsibility lightly it was something that was more comfortable the second time around.

 

All that to say, carrying twins is completely different than carrying just one baby. It’s considered a high risk pregnancy so there will be more time spent in the doctors office, more attention to her health, and a greater responsibility placed on her. It’s like being pregnant again for the first time. All of the fear, uncertainty, and newness of pregnancy is back and the battle of trusting the Lord through this time has started.
I feel like with any and every pregnancy there is an element of faith involved. A successful birth, baby, and mom are not promised. Even through a healthy pregnancy, there are waiting periods – times of unknown – and many opportunities to simply rely on God. For some reason, probably because of a healthy last pregnancy, it never crossed my mind that these next 9 (or less) months would be one of the biggest leaps of faith throughout this journey. I thought this was the easy part. My eyes were solely on what was to come after the babies were born, however, God has elevated our desire for increased faith and is forcing us to trust Him through this unknown circumstance.

 

I desperately want to trust The Lord more and have a deep faith in Him but to be perfectly honest, over the past couple of days, I just want to have a little bit of the control back. I want to somehow shoulder the weight that rests on MaK’s shoulders, I’m scared for the health and safety of the babies, and I’m overwhelmed by all the changes that need to occur before these babies arrive. The only thing that brings me peace is the fact that I have very little control (or, none at all) over many of these things… which leads me to believe that the Lord is trying to deepen our families faith in Him. As we continue on through this journey I am ever aware of the fear that is trying to grip us both. Our hope lies not in the little control that we have but in our faith that we have a good Dad who is telling a very good story and we are overjoyed to be a part of it.

 

Ross

Two for the price of one

girlsControl? Ha. I guess when you talk about ultimate surrender to God, you should expect a curveball, right? Today was just that (and then some more).

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord.“As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
— Isaiah 55:8-9

This morning we went to have our first ultrasound for Baby Dykstra #2. We were so excited to find out if we were going to have a girl or a boy. My mind set going into this ultrasound was much different than the last one with Maebyn. When we found out we were having a girl last year I think I almost cried, and not from excitement. It’s embarrassing… but it’s the truth. I wanted a boy so bad and I was somewhat heartbroken that Maebyn was a girl when the technician let the cat out of the bag. I’m not proud of my response but like I said, that’s where I was and it took me a while to get over it. I don’t think I truly got over it until she was born. The day I met Maebyn I realized it didn’t matter if she was a boy or a girl, but that she was mine. I was in love and that love has only increased each and every day. Me and MaK say all the time that we can’t even imagine having a boy first – we’re thankful God knew what He was doing in our family and it was better than what we wanted to “plan” ourselves.

So this morning we went to the same ultra sound place, sat in the same room and looked at the same screen. I was determined to be excited no matter if it was a boy or a girl. Deep down inside though, I knew I still wanted a boy. But, in all honesty, I was OK with a girl because then Maebyn would have an almost twin sister. I put Maebyn on my lap as we eagerly awaited the big screen to light up and show us our new family member. The technician rubbed the warm jelly over Mak’s over inflated belly (I could tell Maeby was excited because she was bouncing up and down on my legs) – the tension was mounting! I was trying my best not to drop her because I was shaking so bad with all the nerves that were racing through my body.

As the ultrasound started, the technician paused, looked at us and said “Is this your first ultra sound?” We said yes and then she asked, “And how far along are you?”. MaK looked a bit nervous but calmly replied “17 weeks”. The technician moved the device to get a better look, then stuttered through the next phrase, “Well… there are two babies in here, guys…” Say what!? Can you count again, please? Trust the Lord, give Him control of how many children we will have, trust that He will provide. These are all things I posted in my blog when we announced we were pregnant and today these statements have started to be truly tested. The technician continued, “And, guess what… these two little ones are sharing a placenta and appear to be identical… yep, identical twin girls!

I don’t know how to accurately describe my emotions. I’m mostly excited, somewhat nervous, and just in awe of what is going on. Needless to say, I was so in shock from the news that the sex of the babies really seemed unimportant (still can’t believe I just typed “babies“). It hit me a couple minutes later that I would be the father of 3 baby girls. Not to mention, because MaK will probably deliver earlier with the twins – three baby girls under one years old. I’m proud of my reaction this time. I was disappointed we aren’t having a boy, but this time I am elated at the opportunity just to be blessed with another child, and then another one again.

We’ve always wanted twins but I’m not sure we would have picked to have three under one. If the goal for our family was to live comfortably and have kids but still have time for ourselves this would be a difficult situation to undertake. This season will be difficult, exhausting, scary, and filled with unknowns. However, if increasing our families faith is the ultimate goal, this situation will be one that will force our faith to grow as we watch where the Lord leads. There are many unknowns right now. We’ll need a new car to fit three car seats, we’ll need more strollers and whatever else you need for babies times three and most importantly… we’ll need renewed faith each day that God has us in this season for a purpose. God is on the move and we can feel it in a deep, deep way today. Our hope is that as the unknowns continue to grow so will our faith. We have no idea what we are about to enter into but there is an intense excitement that is welling up in MaKenzie and I both as we get the opportunity to trust in the Lord on a deeper level.

Praise the Lord for 2 for the price of 1.

The Dykstra Family