I found out I was expecting triplets the same day we found out my daddy’s cancer was terminal.
He was in remission when we decided to try for our third child, and it was the first time in nearly 10 years that I was not living under the cloud of severe depression. It seemed like the perfect time.
We have no multiples in either of our families, so it was honestly the furthest thing from my mind when we discovered that I was pregnant. When I phoned home to South Africa to tell my parents the wonderful news, my mum told me that my dad’s cancer had returned and that they were starting treatment again.
A month later we travelled to South Africa for my brother’s wedding, and I was shocked to see how ill my daddy really was. I suffered from severe morning sickness, and we took turns being sick and lying down, but we had the odd deep and incredibly sad conversation. And on the last day I hugged him goodbye, and I told myself that I would see him again.
The Monday after our holiday, I had my first scan and it was during that scan that the lady bluntly told me: I can confirm that there are three babies with three healthy heartbeats.
I felt as if I was living a dream. I was shocked to my core, and at the same time incredibly scared of what was to come.
They told me that if they had known I was expecting triplets, I would never have been allowed to travel to South Africa.
Naturally conceived triplets are rare, and we had a dangerous combination of two identical twins and a singleton, so there were multiple risks. In our first talk with the consultant, she listed these risks quite bluntly. A 25% chance that none of them would make it out alive. 8% chance of cerebral palsy due to complications. A very high chance of Twin-to-Twin Transfusion which could kill one or both of the ID pair. Severe prematurity. Miscarriage. And that is not including the risks to me personally.
Higher-order multiple pregnancies are so risky, that the consultants in the UK are bound by law to offer the chance of a ‘reduction’. Which is a nice way of saying that we were offered the chance to abort one, if not all of the babies. Are you shocked? I know I was.
Iain and I believed from the start that these babies were a gift from God just as our older two children are, and that it was up to Him whether they survived or not. I ended up having the healthiest pregnancy of all. When the morning sickness finally subsided around 16 weeks, we scrambled to get the house ready for the triplets. My mobility was limited after 24 weeks, and the final 4 were physically the hardest weeks of my life.
When I was 5.5 months pregnant, it became clear that my daddy was not going to be discharged from hospital anymore. I had spent so much time in prayer, and at that point I felt flummoxed. I had prayed for healing. I have broken curses in Jesus’ name. I have done everything I have ever known to do, and yet my daddy was still dying.
And so, I came face to face with a turning point in my faith. Did I believe in God for who He is? Or did I believe in Him for what He could do for me? And more pointedly, would I stop believing in Him if He chooses not to heal my daddy?
You see, when you are faced with actual death, you suddenly realise how flawed your faith is. Or at least, I did.
My daddy died a week later. And I felt held. More than ever before in my life.
The triplets were born at 33 weeks. About 4 days before their ‘planned delivery date’ due to TTTS (a fancy way of saying the one twin stopped growing, and the other was growing too much, and both were in danger).
I got to see them for a few seconds in the theatre, before they were whisked away to the High Dependency Ward in the Neonatal Unit. I was still undergoing major surgery, and spent the rest of the day in recovery.
That following morning, I pushed against the pain, got up, showered, and walked myself to the neonatal unit, where I proceeded to spend about 5 hours on my feet, walking from incubator to incubator, trying to make sense of what the nurses were saying to me, all the while with screeching monitors in the background.
I knew then just as I know now, that it was not in my own strength that I took those steps. I felt held and safe and so strong.
They were in the neonatal unit for 11 days. Which is remarkable, considering how tiny they were. I was in hospital for 7 days, and spent the last 4 splitting myself five ways between two children at home and three in hospital.
On the day of our discharge, one of the consultants sat me down and told me that Richard, our smallest boy, was diagnosed with Goldenhar Syndrome. It is an umbrella term for a whole host of conditions, including scoliosis and heart and kidney abnormalities to name but a few.
For the second time in less than a year, my world came to a complete standstill, but I had friends offering prayer support. Others asking what could be done. And the majority just had no understanding, and referred to him as ‘the little sickly one’.
Once again, I had to ask myself if I would still believe in God if He chose not to heal my boy?
We spent the first two years of their lives, rushing him to hospital. During one routine procedure, he had a partial lung collapse. During another, he had to be resuscitated. He had spinal surgery at the age of 2, and another reconstructive surgery at the age of 3.5. He has been hospitalised 9 times, 5 of which involved an anaesthetic. He is not even 4 years old yet.
A few weeks after the birth, I experienced a perfect storm of high blood pressure, high cholesterol and a medication anomaly, and I had a mini stroke in my eye which caused lifelong damage. During the investigation stage they suspected it was a tumour though, and I had a three month wait before it could be confirmed. Three months during which I lost all sense of purpose.
I had believed that God had chosen me to be the mum for my five, and that raising them was my purpose. But if I was to die, and He had a different way of raising them, then what on earth was I here for?!
It was in that moment that I realised my sole purpose on this earth, is to glorify God in all that I do. I glorify and praise Him THROUGH raising my children, and THROUGH being a wife to my husband, but neither of those are my purpose. My sole purpose is to glorify God. When I lost my daddy, my purpose was still to glorify God. When I had my babies, my purpose was to glorify God. When my baby nearly died, I realised that if God took him and not me, then my purpose was still to glorify Him. And when I thought I was dying myself, my purpose was to glorify God.
I have spent the past 4 years of my life, slowly building a new, deeper relationship with my Lord, based on these two, key truths:
It is the most incredible privilege to be mum to my five blessings, to be a wife to my husband, and to be a daughter of the Almighty King.
You can connect with Celeste on:
If you enjoyed this post you can read more here