Be Strong and Courageous

- Erin Stetson -

I was 27 and decided it was time to have a kid. My husband, Chris, and I had been married for 3 years, and we were financially fine, so why not? After a few months of TTC, my friend suggested charting. After trying to chart, I soon realized I was not ovulating. This was confusing, since I had been to many doctors before that said my irregular cycle is not a big deal and blood work showed that there was nothing abnormal about me. I started getting regular acupuncture, taking herbs, homeopathy and freaking out. The first label I gave myself was “broken”. The feeling of brokenness was overwhelming. “What is wrong with me? Why am I not getting pregnant?” We decided to go to an RE. There were a list of suggested before-the-appointment tests, and we started paying out of pocket to do the craziest things to my body. What did all of those expensive tests show us? Nothing, absolutely nothing.

The day came to go to the RE, this was after about 1.25 years of TTC. After just looking over my history, he easily said he thought I had Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). “PCOS”, another label to add to my “broken”. After an ultrasound, he quickly found that I had a combined total of 60 cysts on my ovaries. He explained that it was a hormone imbalance. Basically, my hormones were out of sync, so instead of ovulating every month, my body would just hold onto that egg, and it would become a cyst. The only medical suggestion he had would be do IVF. He did suggest I try to naturally balance my hormones by lowering my carbs, working out (both lower insulin levels, which is a very powerful hormone), and take ANOTHER supplement. I remember having a whole shelf in the pantry dedicated to all the things I was taking.

That was in October, by February, I was ready to find out more answers, since I was still not pregnant. I ended up at a doctor who specializes in hormones. More tests, countless blood draws, and meeting a life coach/nutritionist. I started the Metagenics 28 Day Liver Detox. I also found out I had Hypothyroidism and Celiac Disease. The feelings of being broken, confusion and sadness continued to follow each day. During this time, I went to a women’s retreat; this was my first one. Against everything in me (I had never asked for anyone to pray for healing or anything really important before), I asked the ladies in my hotel room for prayer. One woman specifically told me she heard God tell her that I am not broken, that I am whole. While being on the retreat, I noticed my BBT was at a strong 98 degrees (I’m typically 96-97).

I had been on the Liver Detox for 3 weeks and it had been a week since the retreat and my BBT was still 98. I decided to take a pregnancy test (maybe the 100th test I had taken). It was Palm Sunday and my husband was still in bed, with icy cold hands, I woke him up screaming! I wanted him to confirm if that faint line was really there- it was! We were pregnant! The first time I ovulated, that I knew of, I conceived. Praise the Lord!

The baby’s heartbeat was strong, I was feeling good. We decided to give birth at a birth center. I was 22 weeks and 3 days and I felt exhausted, more so than usual. After working all day, then grocery shopping, I lay down on the couch. My husband got home and I got up to go to the bathroom. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I was bleeding, not spotting, bleeding. I called my midwife, “bless your heart”, she said. I asked if I should go to the ER, “yes”. We lived in the country. It took 45 never-ending minutes to arrive at the ER. Laying on my back, my pelvis was positioned at an angle, I was given shots, and IV of something that burned. Doctors and nurses scurried around me. I was told that I was 4 cm dilated, then 4.5 cm. The doctor talked to me about C-sections, NICUs, losing the baby. The day before, I woke up with “be strong and courageous” on my mind. I did some searching and found Joshua 1:9. That morning, August 2nd, my friend had posted that exact verse on her Facebook wall. I claimed it over my son.

"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go."

Truly, for the first time in my life, I felt a complete dependence on God. Around me was chaos, but in my mind, this verse kept playing. “Lord, this is your son. It is up to you if he goes to heaven now, or remains on earth. Please, protect my baby, save him. However, may your will be done, I give my son to you, he is yours.”

Then, after they decided I was stable, I took the slowest ambulance ride down to San Diego, over an hour from where we lived. I was so confused, but the Magnesium Sulfate I was on made everything a little slower, a little foggier. After meeting with the doctor, it was proclaimed that I have a Weak Cervix, or Incompetent Cervix. Our options were to wait and see what happens, use a progesterone suppository and hope that helps, or get a Cerclage (cervical stitch) to keep my son in place. More labels “High-Risk” and “Incompetent Cervix” danced over my head. The hand of the Lord was upon us. We made decisions with ease and with peace. While both our parents were there, we decided to have the surgery. I was wheeled into the OR, given an epidural and a hope. My very capable high-risk specialist pushed back the amniotic sac, sewed me closed and said “woohoo!” Everything went better than she had hoped.

For the next 6 weeks, I had my routine of watching TV, going outside in a wheelchair for 30 minutes a day, meds, ultrasounds, and lots of pity looks. I made friends with the nurses, gave up on my appearance, and looked forward to my 2x a day heartbeat listen. Through the grace of God, we made it through that gray time. My husband quit his full-time decent money job and went into full-time freelance work. Most nights he slept on the little weird couch/bench/bed, some nights he stayed at a relative’s house. I was mainly confined to bed. After I got out of the hospital, I was on bedrest at home until 36 weeks, when the Cerclage was removed. I went on to have 2 blissful weeks of non-bedrest. My son was named Chadwick through this time, and he was healthy and strong. I had a quick delivery at 38 weeks. He was born healthy. Chadwick is one of the strongest, funniest kids I’ve ever met. He is full of empathy, love, adventure and a little bit of silly.

Our story is a painful one, but one full of God’s grace and timing. I take herbs for my thyroid, limit my sugar and don’t eat wheat- other than that, I don’t do anything special. Our daughter was conceived, with ease, 2 weeks after I weaned Chadwick. Then, 2 years later, another miracle happened, I got pregnant with a third (and am pregnant right now). We are seeing a different doctor now since we moved. Through my first appointment with my new doctor, I told him my story. He looked at me and said “I don’t see PCOS, I don’t see a high-risk patient, I’m not even confident you have an incompetent cervix.” Through that 15 minute appointment, years of labels were washed off of me. I’m amazed at how gracious our Father is, regardless of our heart. His timing is perfect and he has a plan for our family.

With love,

Erin, Chris, Chadwick, Juniper, and Baby #3 Stetson