Ben and Brooke learned from their experience what others often wait to learn from theologians.
Medical student Ben and nurse Brooke met at work, married just a year later, and a couple years after that they were looking to start their family. By that time, Ben was working as a pediatric resident and Brooke worked in labor and delivery, so they knew what to expect—and what to fear. Their jobs taught them all the ins and outs of pregnancy, so they knew “all the things that could be wrong.”
What their jobs couldn’t prepare them for, and their family history wouldn’t have predicted, was the news they would have twins. They were as shocked and excited as any parents would be. At the 20-week ultrasound, when parents usually learn the children’s gender, Brooke and Ben learned more. The ultrasound revealed that the couple’s son, Harrison, would be born with a cleft lip and palate. The scan also showed “soft markers” for their daughter, Hazel, which can indicate Down syndrome or Edwards’ syndrome, but nothing was confirmed. Brooke describes that time as one with “a ton of fear…I didn’t really know anyone else who had a cleft lip or palate, so I didn’t know what to expect. With Hazel, there were some fears of us losing her—and that early on we would probably lose them both—so there was just so much fear.” Ben and Brooke would wait for weeks as each passing ultrasound came without answers.
Then at 26 weeks, Brooke’s water broke.
Ben’s experience in the neonatal intensive-care unit (NICU) confirmed what they were being told by doctors—delivery this early could mean the babies would be born with deafness, blindness, hemorrhages, or a host of other things. Their experience was again proving to be a curse, as ignorance wasn’t allowed to afford them its cheap comforts. But God had a greater comfort in store.
The following weeks brought a miracle as Brooke hadn’t lost any more fluid and her amniotic sac had resealed. Experience in delivery had taught them that, though rare by any pregnancy standards, this is a virtual impossibility with twins.
Harrison and Hazel would be born five and a half weeks later. Delivery went smoothly and they were expected to spend the next several weeks in the NICU, but the young family’s troubles weren’t over yet. Shortly after Brooke’s discharge from the hospital, the couple took a short trip to Sonic before heading back to the kids. It was about this time that they received a call telling them that Hazel was being rushed into emergency surgery after suffering a bowel rupture. The surgeon on call was Dr. Fitzwater, also a member at Redeemer, who the couple recalls praying for them before the procedure. The surgery would go well considering the circumstances, but they would have to remove five inches of Hazel’s intestines.
The news cycle was nearly over, but it wouldn’t end here.
Later on, Hazel’s newborn screening showed that she had cystic fibrosis, a lifelong disease that affects the lungs and digestive system. “That again was really hard news to hear because people who have cystic fibrosis typically have a much shorter life span and different things—we knew there would be lots of treatments, lots of medications, possibly transplants in her future, so that was really heavy on us, and we knew Harrison had surgeries in the future. I just remember pleading with the Lord, ‘Not one more thing, we can’t handle this.’”
They recall the first few weeks being really rough (“Talk about testing your marriage”). Brooke says that she remembers thinking, “There’s no way I can have the twins by myself when Ben’s at work, going to appointments all the time, getting out enzymes when she’s hungry and crying, there’s just no way.”
But the Holy Spirit was at work and in control. Armed with a testimony of God’s faithfulness, Brooke reflects on their pain:
“Ben and I have talked about us having a whole new compassion for patients. I don’t think it’s an accident that we’re trained the way we are, and now he’s able to relate with the parents and kids on a whole new level. Now I can totally see why we were going through it and what the Lord was doing, but then I hated it. I know there’s still going to be lots of challenges, but I get why he allows suffering for sure. It’s one of the best times of growth we’ve had because we couldn’t trust in ourselves, or rely on us having control of everything because it was just blatantly obvious that we had no control of any of it. If anybody would have a similar thing happen—fight against being resentful like I tended to be in the beginning. Let the Lord use it.”
Finally, with a strength that exposes itself immediately as from the Lord, they offer a dissent to the lies of fear that is paraphrased nicely by C.S. Lewis, writing during his own struggle:
“When the reality came, the name and the idea were in some degree disarmed… One never meets just Cancer, or War, or Unhappiness (or Happiness). One only meets each hour or moment that comes. All manner of ups and downs. Many bad spots in our best times, many good ones in our worst. One never gets the total impact of what we call ‘the thing itself.’ But we call it wrongly. The thing itself is simply all these ups and downs: the rest is a name or an idea.”