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

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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

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

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