“Is This Your First?”

It’s inevitable lately: when meeting new people who don’t know about Tori, they will ask if this pregnancy is my first.

Since I recently started a new job it’s happening fairly often. The first few times took me by surprise and I had to think quickly about how to answer: I could be truthful and tell them about Tori, or I could be mostly truthful since this is my first TWIN pregnancy and just say yes to avoid the uncomfortable truth.

So far, I’ve opted to just tell the truth, short and sweet, and allow the potential awkwardness (from their end) to exist.  I look at it as an opportunity to tell others about Krabbe, about Tori’s amazing life, and about the faith that has sustained us.

In each instance, I recognize that I have a choice: I can be truthful with joy or I can be truthful with pain. I can embrace the joy we have found or I can be miserable. 

I continue to embrace joy. 


The title of my upcoming book is “Even So, Joy” which I derived from two sources: the song “It Is Well With My Soul” –

And Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.

and Habakkuk 3:17-19  –

Even though the fig trees have no blossoms,
    and there are no grapes on the vines;
even though the olive crop fails,
    and the fields lie empty and barren;
even though the flocks die in the fields,
    and the cattle barns are empty,
 yet I will rejoice in the Lord!
    I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!
 The Sovereign Lord is my strength!
    He makes me as surefooted as a deer,
    able to tread upon the heights.

The Bible makes it abundantly clear that things are going to be imperfect here on earth. Once sin entered the world, it was inevitable that life would be terrible at times. Things are going to go wrong, our hearts are going to hurt, and sometimes it will seem unbearable.

But, the Bible also makes it clear that it can still be well with our hearts and our souls no matter what comes our way because all of this is temporary. Imperfect life on this earth should make us desire the perfection of what’s to come in Heaven. 

For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! – 2 Cor. 4:17

Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.  For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. – James 1:2-3

We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance.  And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love. – Romans 5:3-5

Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later. For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are.  Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay.  For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.  And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us. We were given this hope when we were saved. (If we already have something, we don’t need to hope for it. But if we look forward to something we don’t yet have, we must wait patiently and confidently.) – Romans 8:18-25 (emphasis mine)

Our God is a God who redeems. He is worthy of all our praise, even when circumstances don’t appear to be praiseworthy. He knows the full story while we only know this current chapter.


You have a choice to make daily just like me; though our circumstances may be different, I know your life isn’t going perfectly.

Joy is something to be chosen and embraced in the uncertain times, in the “even though” or “even if” moments. For it is then that our faith grows stronger and we are reminded of God’s love, and the least we can do is share it with those who need it the most.

Always be real and genuine, of course, but always be pointing others toward the hope and joy we have in Jesus. It has been said that light shines brightest in the darkness, and this has certainly been proven to be true in my life. Our decision to choose joy after losing a child stands in stark contrast to the way much of the world would react. And that’s kind of the point. We should be different as Christians in this world.

I will continue to be honest and share that the twins are actually child two and three for us, not our first. I will embrace the potential discomfort and awkwardness that the other person may feel and I will point them to the glory of the Lord and the hope and joy He brings.

Even so, it is well with my soul.

Our IVF Journey: The Results

As I type this, I am halfway through the first trimester already – so, our IVF was successful! However, it didn’t go as we had anticipated.

On September 1, we drove to Towson, MD for the transfer. The entire process lasted about ten minutes but the transfer itself was about one second! We were given a picture of our two precious embryos as they were hatching from their shells.

Right before the embryo transfer – #4 is the boy and #6 is the girl

We put in two embryos because we really wanted twins, but we also did it just in case only one made it. Financially it was necessary because this transfer was already paid for but subsequent ones will cost around $4,000 each. We needed this one to work.

The transfer was quick but the waiting was long.  Thankfully we were both distracted by the happenings in our lives and didn’t have much time to wonder if I was pregnant. The pregnancy test wasn’t until September 14, but while I was visiting family in California I took a test and it was positive. It was a super faint line, but there was a line!

On September 14, I had blood drawn and received the call that afternoon that I was indeed pregnant and that my HCG numbers were great – 971! They said it was too early to know if there were twins in there based on the number. More blood was drawn a few days later and my HCG was close to 6,000.

We had our first ultrasound on September 25 – also Brennan’s birthday. At first we were only seeing one baby and our hearts fell. The technician then said, “you’re having identical twins!”

Six Weeks

To say that news was shocking is an understatement, as it’s actually quite rare – even in IVF – for embryos to split. We’re talking less than 2% chance. We were both shocked and saddened at the same time because this means that we lost an embryo.

The funniest part of all of this is that we now have no idea what we’re having! We knew when we put in the boy and the girl…but now we don’t know which embryo split! God has such a sense of humor! We will be happy no matter what we’re having, but we’re hoping these are boys simply because it’s our only shot at boys – our remaining frozen embryo is a girl.

Seven Weeks

Both babies have strong heartbeats (141 at the seven week ultrasound) and are growing right on schedule. I feel fine and have no pregnancy symptoms aside from being a little more tired. My pregnancy with Tori was easy with no morning sickness so I’m praying for the same with the twins!

I have 1-2 more weeks of being seen at Shady Grove Fertility before I transfer to my doctor in Hershey. I cannot recommend Shady Grove highly enough – they are the best at what they do and have been so good to us!

It has been quite the adventure. It hasn’t always been easy and I’m growing weary of the nightly progesterone shots (and the side effects that brings). But, it’s beyond worth it to know that I’m carrying precious Krabbe-free twins (they aren’t even carriers!)!

Thank you all for continuing to pray for us and support us. Please keep praying for the twins – specifically that they are in their own sacs – and for an uneventful and full-term pregnancy. My goal is to carry them until at least 36 weeks, and preferably beyond that. ❤

God is so good and we are so thankful that He has made this possible.

Introducing Victoria

DSC_5506Nine days ago our lives truly changed forever. Little Miss Brackbill made her appearance after 20 hours of labor and finally a c-section. Nothing went as we had planned or hoped, but ultimately what matters is that she is healthy and happy and here with us.

I was induced at 12pm on July 29th with “the gel” and began having contractions at home by 1pm. My water broke around 3:30pm so we headed to the hospital where they confirmed that I was indeed in labor and was at 3cm. We were taken to our labor and delivery room around 6:30pm and the “fun” really began there.

I had planned to have a completely natural birth – no medicine or interventions – and I successfully labored for ten hours that way. However, around 11pm I decided to ask for pain medication as I was exhausted, hungry, and in so much pain (obviously). I had another dose around 1am and then finally caved and asked for an epidural around 3am. I was only at 6cm and the contractions were getting to be too much for me. I cried when I made that decision because it was definitely not what I had ever wanted, but I am so glad that I opted to have one – I went from 6cm to 9.5cm in an hour after the epidural was in place! Had my labor been shorter, I think I could have made it naturally…but it was just too much.

They allowed me to rest until 6:30am, which was wonderful except for the few moments of fear when I woke up surrounded by nurses who were flipping me over on my side and wouldn’t explain what was going on. My blood pressure had dropped and so had Tori’s heart rate, apparently, but they were able to resolve that quickly.

We began pushing at 6:30am. For two hours, I attempted to push with no success. Finally, at 8:30am, my doctor said that a c-section was necessary because the baby wasn’t going to fit through the birth canal. They had suspected early on that my birth canal might be “narrow” but this confirmed the suspicion.

At this point, I was so exhausted that I welcomed the decision, though I was again disappointed because I hadn’t been able to deliver her naturally. However, Brennan was (as always) a wonderful support and he reminded me that it doesn’t matter how she comes out, just that she does.

012b63d38c09c6be0095e0f2a8dd64e83b1077b798Tori was born at 9:25am and I was in recovery by 11am, I think. I didn’t get to hold her until about an hour after her birth because my arms were numb from the anesthesia. But, Brennan was able to be with her the whole time after birth, following her around as she was weighed and measured, and then doing “skin-to-skin” time with her since I was unable to do so. I am so thankful for those first couple of days where he was able to be her main caretaker – what a great bonding experience for them!

We chose to keep her name a secret for many reasons, and it was such fun to finally reveal her name to our family and friends. We chose Victoria because it means “victorious” and we know that with Jesus she will be victorious. We chose Ruth to honor one of her great-grandmothers – my mom’s mom – someone who has been such an incredible part of my life and such a great example of what it means to be a godly woman. We chose to give her a “nickname” from birth because we love the name Tori, and now she’ll really know when she’s in trouble 😉

 

I was discharged at my request after 48 hours as I was feeling great but also knew that I would rest far better at home. I only took pain medications (1/4 of the recommended dosage, even) for two days at home and haven’t been on anything since. I praise the Lord for a mostly painless recovery, even though I know I still have to take it easy and I still have 4.5 weeks to go before being fully released. I didn’t know beforehand that I wouldn’t be allowed to walk up or down stairs, so I’m confined to one floor of our house at this point (unless I walk around the house to get into the basement). This does mean that I can’t do laundry, however 😉 Not so bad.

My parents have been here since her birthday and will be here for another eight days. They have been a tremendous support to Brennan, Tori, and me, and it has been so nice to have them here to spend time with their first grandchild.

Tori is adjusting to life on earth fairly well, though we’ve had a few rough and sleepless nights. However, she’s learning and so are we, and we just keep reminding ourselves that this will get better, and that these days are precious and numbered.  Someday we’ll look back and think that this was the easy time in life 🙂

Thank you all for your prayers and support!

First Pregnancy: 37 Weeks!

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It seems so surreal that we are already nearing the end of this pregnancy. After today, she can come at ANY time.

The nursery is ready, the car seat is installed, and the hospital bag is packed. We have taken our childbirth and breastfeeding classes and have one more “newborn care” class tomorrow.

This begins my last week of work, and that is definitely a bittersweet feeling. I have so enjoyed my position (and co-workers) at the Dearden House over the past ten months, but I am really looking forward to beginning the most important job that I will ever have: wife and mother.

I jokingly say that I’m about to become “Director of Operations at the Brackbill Homestead” because that makes it sound more official and “important” in the world’s terms, but titles don’t matter. I’m simply excited to be able to have the opportunity to stay at home and raise our daughter (and future children), even though I know it will be incredibly challenging at times and I’m not sure how well I will do. I am going to take it one day at a time, relying on the Lord’s wisdom to guide me through this journey of parenthood, alongside my husband.

As far as the pregnancy itself is going, everything is fine, despite my designation as “high risk” at this point. They had me start a small injection of insulin last week, at dinner, to try to lower my fasting numbers, and it has lowered them somewhat (still not “within the criteria” though). After my first day of using the insulin I dropped the bottle (which cost $100 out of our HSA) and it shattered. I was so upset. Thankfully we got another one the next morning (for another $100), and I only missed one day. I have to watch for low blood sugar now because the nutritionist said it is a high possibility for me since my blood sugar numbers aren’t high to begin with…so that’s been yet another thing to monitor.

They think the baby is already 7lbs 7oz (as of 07/02/14), and I still have “too much” amniotic fluid, but my fluid numbers aren’t that high (they want you to be at 25 at delivery and I am at 29), and I’ve heard that they tend to overestimate the size of the baby. The next growth ultrasound is on July 21.

I am increasingly frustrated with going to the doctor twice a week, with having to eat on a schedule/take insulin, and with the twice-a-week “non-stress tests” (which are stressful for me because our baby likes to sleep during them). I am averaging two ultrasounds (technically called “biophysical profiles”) a week because she won’t wake up for the NSTs. The doc says that babies have 20 minute sleep cycles, but ours definitely sleeps for an hour and then is active for an hour. She’s already unique 🙂

But, all of this frustration is also making me more and more ready for her to vacate and join our family, so there are positives to this. 🙂 I also am able to see her face twice a week, which most parents don’t get to do, so I try to focus on that and not be frustrated by the extra time those seemingly useless ultrasounds take (often making me late for work).

photo 1While I am a little sad that the days of it just being Brennan and me are numbered, I also know that she is going to bring such joy and richness to our lives, and that our love for her and for each other is only going to grow. I can’t wait to see how parenthood changes us and how God will use this in our lives to help us grow.

Please pray with us that she will come on her own in the next two weeks so that they won’t induce me (which is what they say will be necessary). Please also pray that she remains head-down so that they will not have to do a c-section on July 29th, as currently scheduled.

First Pregnancy: 35 Weeks and Counting…

Amazingly enough, we’re already at the end of this pregnancy! It has flown by so quickly and I can’t believe that she’ll be here in 2-4 weeks.

Here are some pictures from the past few weeks since the last post:

Everything is going well with the pregnancy, despite the fact that I am considered to be “high-risk” at this point. I have that “title” simply because I have gestational diabetes (which is pretty well under control) and because my amniotic fluid level is high (though it fluctuates every week and right now it’s normal).

Because of this, I have to go to the doctor twice a week for a “non-stress test” or NST (where they check the baby’s movement compared to her heart rate, a test for which she must be awake and moving – which has proved to be a challenge), and a once a week “amniotic fluid index” or AFI, (where they check to see how much amniotic fluid I currently have via ultrasound). There is no concern at this point because everything is under control, thankfully. It’s all just precaution (but still frustrating because of all of the appointments). The only plus to all of this is that I get to see her face every week – something most mothers don’t get to do. I posted some of those pictures above – baby girl doesn’t like to be bothered during her sleeping 😉

I have another “growth ultrasound” tomorrow to estimate how big they think she is, which will help determine the new due date. At this point, if she doesn’t come on her own by July 27th (39 weeks), they will induce me.

Thanks to my wonderful friends Ashleigh and Cheyenne, the nursery is completely finished and we are ready for her arrival! We spent Saturday morning going through clothing, doing all the laundry, organizing, and decorating. It feels SO great to have her room done weeks ahead of time.

Overall, I still feel fantastic. In fact, I have felt SO good during pregnancy that I’m almost sad that it’s about to be over. I haven’t had any headaches during pregnancy, which is SO unusual for me. I praise the Lord for allowing me to have an easy pregnancy (despite all of the doctor’s appointments that drive me crazy)! I have only gained 27-29 lbs, and that fluctuates from week to week. Not going to complain 🙂

I still can’t believe we’re having a baby THIS month. Not months from now. Soon. We’re definitely ready to meet her and see her little personality! ❤

First Pregnancy: 32 Weeks and Counting…

10320414_10100203948552830_3245351653827089556_nAs of tomorrow, I will be eight months pregnant. EIGHT MONTHS. Out of ten. That means that in less than two months, we will be parents. We will have a baby girl to care for and keep alive 😉 Our lives are about to completely change whether we are ready or not!

I am so thankful that this has been an incredibly easy pregnancy. I do not take this for granted, as I know that so many women are miserable the entire time. I have had maybe a handful of days that were uncomfortable or miserable, and that has mostly been slight hip pain (and mostly at night). God has been so gracious to me throughout the past eight months!

I have learned to manage my gestational diabetes fairly well. I am on medication to try to bring down my fasting blood sugar numbers and thankfully haven’t yet experienced many side effects from the medicine. I’ve found that I can get away with far more than I had imagined and I’m learning what spikes my blood sugar and what doesn’t. Sonic’s sugar-free slushies have helped with my sweet tooth cravings 🙂

I have only gained 25 lbs thus far and hopefully won’t gain more than 5 more thanks to the gestational diabetes rules. 🙂

Our baby is currently 4lbs, 13oz from their best guess and she is a healthy weight. Depending on how much she grows, it is likely that they won’t let me go past 39 weeks (July 27). She is very active and sometimes I wonder if she’s dancing in there! She is still “breech” but has plenty of time to turn over, thankfully. This mama is hoping for a completely natural birth, so she needs to cooperate 🙂 Haha.

10256843_10100203665564940_7227908944016164964_oLast week, Brennan and I went on our “baby-moon” to San Antonio and had a wonderful time. We made sure to balance the need for rest/relaxation with exploring the area and I think we did pretty well. We spent a day in Austin, as well, and we saw the State Capitol and the Lyndon Johnson Library/Museum, both of which were worthwhile visits. The heat was a little much for me, which I know must be due to pregnancy (and the fact that PA hasn’t had any heat yet this year) because it doesn’t usually bother me very much.

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It was so wonderful to spend some much-needed time together before our baby comes. We’ve both been working as much as possible, leaving very little free time to just hang out together; to have six days together was a true blessing! I’m so thankful that we are truly best-friends and that we never get tired of each other. Brennan is an incredible blessing and has taken extra good care of me during pregnancy. So blessed ❤

 

 

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When we got home, we realized that we spent less than we had budgeted on our trip (and on car repairs), so we were able to purchase our stroller/car seat off of our baby registry! This was the most important thing left on our registry, as we need to be able to bring her home from the hospital 🙂 The rest of the items we can get as we need them, but this one had to be purchased. The only other thing we need to get in the next two months is the glider that we registered for so that I have a comfy place to feed our baby. Other than that, I think we’re ready for her to arrive!

I still can’t believe that we’re about to be the parents of a baby girl. I can’t wait to see what she looks like, to observe her little personality, and to be in awe of the miracle that God is giving us through her.

Preparing a Place for Our Baby…Part Two

In my last post, I showed pictures of the progress we’d made on the baby’s room.

We had a lot of work to do between refinishing the floors and painting every inch of the room, but it’s DONE! My mom flew out from California for a week to help us with the painting and other preparations, and we are so thankful for her time and effort. The end result is a drastic difference from what we started with – though that wasn’t hard to achieve 😉 We still have things to do, such as hanging decorations on the walls, but the majority of it is done and we have about three months to organize and prepare for her arrival.

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We were SO blessed at our baby shower and were especially thankful to receive her crib! What a relief it is to have it in our home, assembled and ready for her! It is beautiful and we are so excited to have it already. There are still things that we need to purchase, like the stroller/car seat, but having the crib now relieves a great burden.

I’m 28.5 weeks pregnant, so she can come as soon as 9 weeks from now, which is crazy. This pregnancy has flown by and I can’t believe we’re 9-12 weeks away from meeting her!