Hi everyone, this is a letter to our rainbow baby Conrad Joel Slegers.
This letter is for you, my sweet Conrad.
This is a letter about how the Lord sent you to us. As I write this, you are 7 weeks old, and full of smiles, serious looks, and a huge appetite! To fully understand just how much of a miracle you are, I will need to explain some of the events that took place before you were even conceived. You are our fifth baby, and fourth living child that we have been blessed to with. As I look back and reflect on all that God has allowed to happen to me over the last several years, I finally can see God’s hand directing my every step.
Before you were born, I had experienced birth a few different ways. I had a vaginal birth with an epidural, an unplanned emergency C-section, and a scheduled C-section. Three babies with three very different birth experiences. First of all, just so you know, I am very grateful to have experienced birth so many different ways. Your dad and I were so young when we had Isaac that we never educated ourselves on how natural birth really is. Because I did have him vaginally with medication, I assumed that’s how Noah was to be born as well. Without educating ourselves for the second time, I found myself faced with a decision I never planned on. The doctor told me that Noah was not properly positioned and most likely he was too big for my pelvis. I was for the first time presented with the option of a C-section. I was by no means forced into consenting to this procedure, however, I also was not 100% supported in trying to get him out vaginally either. I was young, exhausted, and uneducated. I decided to allow the section, and within 20 minutes, our Noah joined our family. I knew at that moment that I never wanted another C-section again. I wanted to have any other children God gave us to be born naturally. A year later, we were pregnant with Cambree. I felt very strongly about having a vaginal birth, but due to my previous C-section, it was more difficult to find a doctor who would allow me that opportunity. Your dad was not thrilled. I knew in my heart that if your dad was not fully confident in me, my body, and what it was capable of, there was no way I could have a successful VBAC. I made peace with it and continued on anxiously awaiting our first daughter’s birth. (This is where God began preparing your father and I for your arrival.) To make things more clear for you, son, your dad and I had 3 babies in 3 ½ years. We were low on energy, low on faith in the Lord, and low on faith in each other. Things were hard….even dark at some points. Not only was I subject to another major surgery, I had 2 other little babies at home to attend to, and a husband that fit into this scene somewhere. In my heart, I just didn’t feel as if the Lord would be able to provide for us. (oh ye of little faith?? yes, God wrote that verse with me in mind) I decided that three babies were plenty for us, and i told (i didn’t ask)....i told your dad that I was getting my tubes tied. Even as I write this to you, I still have so many emotions about the day Cambree was born. I’m thankful she was born healthy and safe. I’m thankful I was healthy and safe. But the day she was born was the same day I lost my God given ability to have babies. There is no one who prepared me for the consequences of making such a drastic decision. There is a time and a place for women to take away their own fertility, but this wasn’t my time and it wasn’t my place to make that decision. Yet I took on the responsibility, and we (I say “we” because your dad suffered with me over the next 3 years) barely made it through the next 3 ½ years of our marriage. My body did not respond well to my tubes being tied and I spent very many years in a hormonal uproar. We started praying (pleading) with the Lord to give us the opportunity to reverse what we had done. God had used all of my experiences with my tubal ligation to get your dad and I to a place where we surrendered to Him and His control over our life. Every decision we make in life has consequences...good and bad. Not only had I messed up my body physically, I had also taken my fertility into my own hands. God gave me the GIFT of having children when so very many women struggle or cannot have children. Again, there is a time and a place for women to stop having children, but i knew in my heart that God had not called or directed me to take my fertility away when I did. In October 2012, the Lord did allow me to go to North Carolina and have a reversal surgery. There were no 100% guarantees that I would be able to conceive again, but the chances of my body and hormones to return to normal was very high. I praise the Lord every day because within 4 weeks of my surgery your dad looked at me, very seriously, and said, “It is so good to have you back, Monica.” (I still cry when I remember that sweet moment...I love your dad so very much!) The road to you was still not over yet. Seven months after my surgery, I found myself staring at a positive pregnancy test! It was early in the morning, maybe 4:00 or 5:00 a.m. and I just couldn’t believe what I was seeing! I didn’t wake your dad right away, though. I spent some time thanking the Lord and some time just….in awe of His mercy. As I’m sitting here remembering, my heart is pounding and my eyes are burning with tears that still seem to come when I think about this precious soul that did NOT get to join our family physically. Conrad, you are our 5th baby, but 4th living child because I lost this baby. As much as God is faithful and true, we are never guaranteed an easy life here on earth. When I found out that our baby didn’t make it….I wept….I had never wept like that before. I was sitting at the same desk that I am sitting at right now as I’m writing to you. My head hit the desk and I mourned for that baby….for the promise of life that was not fullfilled...and for the unknown of what was to come when your body sheds the baby that didn’t grow. It took 4 days for my body to release what was that tiny soul. June 6, 2013 at 3:46 p.m….I know that might seem weird to remember the exact time and date that I physically said goodbye to that sweet child, but knowing this actually helped me heal.
I’ll skip the details of the weeks after our miscarriage. This is, after all, about YOUR birth! But all of these events are a part of your birth story, sweet boy. Ten weeks after we lost your brother (your dad and I believe strongly that we had conceived another son...his name would have been Joel….it means, “The Lord is willing.”) I again found myself looking at a positive pregnancy test...but this time was different. I just couldn’t jump up and down for joy again. For the first time, I finally think I realized just what “trusting in the Lord” would cost me. It would cost me 100% surrender to the Him. After all of these years, professing to trust the Lord and trying to teach your siblings how to trust Jesus, I realized just how hypocritical I was! I didn’t trust the Lord. I was still trying to heal from our loss...the life that I thought God was going to protect. I just didn’t believe He was going to allow you to stay with us. I learned quickly that sometimes, a positive pregnancy test doesn’t mean that there will be a baby in 9 months. Your dad was and is just an amazing man! When I told him I was pregnant again, he looked at me and smiled….his mouth smiled, but his eyes instantly were….anxious. I realized in that moment, standing in our bedroom, just how much he really wanted to meet you in person….how much he really wanted to be able to hold you and kiss you and have you here with us. I also realized just how much he had been grieving our loss as well. We decided to take your pregnancy 1 day at a time. (that’s all i could handle to be honest) God was ever faithful. Each day I decided to lean on Him. We chose to not find out if you were a boy/girl. We (finally your dad was on board with me) decided to have a natural vaginal birth. About ½ way through your pregnancy, my friend Danae (who also agreed to be my doula) gave me the number to a midwife who believes in women and their ability to give birth vaginally...even after 2 c-sections. I set up an appointment with Cindy Trainer Williams. I was nervous because I had never switched doctors in the middle of pregnancy before. As soon as Cindy walked in, my fears about switching doctors left. She looked over my records and we chatted about my previous births. At the end of the appointment, she looked at me and said, “There should be no reason why you can’t have a vaginal birth!” I believe God spoke through her and I had my answer…..you and I were going to birth together and give it our best shot! The weeks passed rather quickly, actually, and before long I was 37 weeks! I went to my chiropractor as usual, but this time he checked one of my muscles in my lower pelvic area and it was out of place. He adjusted the muscle and proceeded to tell me that in his experience after an adjustment to that muscle, some of his pregnant patients found themselves in labor not long after! (needless to say, I was excited! i mean, I was really ready to have you here with us) About 3 days later, your dad was to leave on a business trip for 4 days! (Monday to Thursday) We woke up Monday morning after having a horrible night’s sleep. I was having contraction like pains off and on. They were starting to hurt so I wasn’t sure what to think. We all piled into the van to take daddy to the airport. He was nervous that I would have you while he was out of town. I assured him that this was nothing and that I would keep in touch with him throughout the day. A quick call to Danae (after dad was on the plane) and she told me it sounded like I was experiencing Prodromal Labor. Basically, it could be early labor pains but only time would tell if it were the real thing. I laid down and drank a ton of water and the pains calmed down the next day. BLAH! I was not interested in “false early labor pains” at all!! Another quick trip to my chiro on Wednesday and by Saturday morning (dad was home and we were in our normal routine again), I was ready to walk you right out! I remember telling your dad that I HAD to walk because I just wanted to see if gravity would help move you on down and hopefully out! All five (technically six, including you, sweet love) started walking our normal route around the neighborhood. I didn’t get but 5 minutes into our walk before I had to stop because the pains were coming back. It was only in my lower left side so I didn’t let that stop me. It took quite a long time for me to make it back home. I made lunch for all of us and I sat…..I sat the whole entire rest of the day! I was feeling so off and so emotional. Dad put the other kids to bed and we weren’t too far after them. Everything seemed normal except that you kept “balling” ( i don’t know how else to describe it) up inside and really making me uncomfortable. Sleep came rather easy, thank goodness! It was around 11 the first time I had to go to the bathroom. I remember waking up to you “balling up”, and making me have to pee...again...as if I didn’t already live in the bathroom enough! By 1 a.m, I was so defeated and frustrated because I just wanted to sleep and NOT have to go to the bathroom every 30 minutes! I woke up again at 1 with pain and started heading to the bathroom. That’s when I knew things were different. I lost my mucous plug but it was stained red and that was when I began to pay attention! I began to pace back and forth from the bathroom to the pink stool in the front room. (little did I know that pink stool became my most sacred space over the next 3 hours….) The pains started and I began timing them. I did not wake your father because I just KNEW “I wasn’t in real labor”....I mean….I was only 38 weeks along! The contractions were a little inconsistent, one at 7 minutes and another 10 minutes after, and then the next one 5 minutes later. The only consistent thing I could feel was pain. They were all painful, not unbearable, but they did hurt. I told myself that I would time them till 2a.m and then wake your dad up to see what he thought. By the time 2 o’clock rolled around, I still wasn’t “convinced” this was really happening, but in my heart, I knew we would be meeting you soon! I did NOT want to speak it out loud yet, however, the contractions were getting more intense and by this time, my birth affirmation cards were strewn all around the bathroom, I just HAD to get to my pink stool before a contraction would start coming, and I was done being by myself. In between the pains, I felt completely normal. So during a break, I sat down (it was 2:15) and whispered, “Jason”....”Jason”....He jerked awake and grunted, “HUH”? I then asked him if he wanted to have a baby. Ha! The look on his face was complete confusion. He said, “What? I said, “I do you want to have a baby today??” There was silence….and still confusion so I told him that I thought I was in labor. Oh your dad….you see...your dad LOVES his sleep...like, really loves it. So, his response was, “Ok, i’ll lay here and just tell me when a contraction starts and I’ll time them!” Not really the response I imagined but a contraction started and I had to run to my stool. After that, he finally woke up! I began groaning through my contractions and they were about 5 minutes apart. I felt very confident at this moment….even though I was in a terrible amount of pain, I really was handling every contraction very well. I was breathing, vocalizing through my contractions….and getting to my pink stool before my contraction hit! (seriously, that pink stool was my focal point!) Emotionally, I was anxious, excited, and I still wasn’t believing this was it! Your dad pointed out that my contractions were very consistently 5 minutes apart and some were 4 minutes apart. He asked if we should let Nana know. I told him yes, but to make sure she didn’t start heading this way yet. I felt I would stall the labor if we told too many people what was happening. He suggested we call Danae to let her know and I said that we should just text her a picture of my timed contractions (we were using a contractions app on his phone). I’m not sure what all happened because I could feel my contractions getting closer….and I just needed that pink stool to lean on! Your dad was taking care of calling and informing people. I just let him do his thing because I now was not able to really concentrate...I was going inside myself to handle the pain now. It was 3 a.m by now and Danae (our doula) was trying to get ready to head to our house and Nana and Papa were up and getting ready to come over to the house as well. Dad and I were still handling things very well….and I was in so much pain….but still praying, breathing, saying verses out loud…..and holding onto that pink stool for dear life! My little confidence bubble was about to burst…I was standing in the bathroom (my home away from home for the last 9 months) and i could feel a contraction coming...i knew it was about to hit. I lost focus...I wasn’t at my pink stool!!! (I seriously loved/needed/yearned for that stool with everything in me during a contraction) I bolted! ha! Son, I’m serious...I bolted towards the door! I tried to make it to my stool….but the contraction came and I fell onto the bathroom counter. Thank goodness your dad was always near (never in my way...but always near….He knows me so well!) He caught me and I just let my body go 100% limp. That contraction was so hard and the next thing we hear...is a loud, POP! Wait….what?? My water broke! The next 15 seconds are probably one of my favorite memories of your birth. Your whole birth was amazing, but there are a few moments that stick out to me and this was one of them. After the popping sound, your dad and I looked at each other in the mirror...we didn’t speak...we looked at the ground...back to the mirror at each other, and then we awkwardly, chuckled...and your dad said, “Soooo, I guess we are having a baby for real?” Haha! In spite of the pain and shock of all of this, I guess we both still were not convinced it was actually happening! The awkward moment ( I mean who just enjoys their water breaking all over the place in front of someone) passed, and I shuffled to the toilet to clean up. Ha! Clean up?? This was the first time my water broke spontaneously during labor so I didn’t realize that you can’t clean up after your water breaks! It keeps coming out! Dad dialed Cindy and I tell her what is going on but I can’t finish the conversation because another contraction hits. And now I understand how painful labor becomes AFTER your water breaks! This is where my confidence just flew out the window and I would have traded my soul to the first person that would have brought me some pain medication! Cindy told dad that we needed to leave immediately to the hospital but we were still waiting on Nana and Papa! Papa was going to stay with your siblings while Nana would come with us to the hospital. However, Nana left without Papa so she ended up having to stay with the other kids and waiting on Papa to come relieve her so she could get to the hospital. (none of us knew just how quickly things were progressing). I crawled to the shower and turned on the hot water and let it just pour over my back. (i.e...next time I want a water birth!) That water was amazing! Your dad kept telling me we had to go….we had to hurry!! I just stayed on my hands and knees in the shower shaking my head, “NO!” I could not move...the water felt so good. He did get me out and dressed. I made my way back to my pink stool, but by this time, even it couldn’t help me anymore! Dad got the car ready, nana was pulling in...I was on the floor telling Jesus that I was literally going to DIE!! I just knew I wasn’t going to make it! I dreaded getting into the car. How was I going to SIT in a car and get through my contractions?? Your dad was just amazing! He drove like a maniac, but the whole time he kept telling me to think about YOU. We were finally going to know if you were a boy or a girl! He spoke calmly, lovingly...and I needed that. We left our house a little after 4, pulled up at the hospital about 12 minutes later….(it normally takes almost 20 minutes to get there…..) Our friends, Nicole and Adrian, were outside the hospital waiting. Adrian got me a wheelchair, Jason hopped out, and Adrian offered to park the car for him. (Little did we realize again, how God was watching out for us through Adrian’s offer...He would have missed you being born had he parked the car instead of Adrian) Nicole and Jason wheeled me to the 3rd floor. As soon as the elevator door opened, I stood up because I just couldn’t sit anymore. A contraction hit, I was going to my knees and your dad leaned down with me...and my body started pushing! I remember whispering to your dad, “Jason, I’m pushing”...you would have thought the fire alarm just went off! haha! He said, “you can’t push!” This is funny because I couldn’t control my body...nature had officially taken over! You were ready to come out! I didn’t want to sit but I got back into the wheelchair...knowing that you were close to just plopping out on the hallway floor! Dad and Nicole started running down the hall...and it was a long hallway! Dad had to stay and fill out paperwork! (don’t even understand that!) Two nurses took me to the Triage room, and Nicole went with me. My body continued to push...I didn’t know what to do because I had never experienced that before...the pain...oh the pain I cannot describe….and then...Cindy walks in! I felt a little bit of calmness come over me and I PROMPTLY asked for an epidural! Seriously, Son, Cindy was EXACTLY who I needed to help me birth you. God orchestrated this all from the beginning and looking back on it now, just leaves me speechless! Cindy knew I wanted to birth without medication. She was calm and reassuring. She told me that I could get an epidural but that you were actually coming out and you would be born soon. I was in triage for just a few minutes and they wheeled me into delivery where I had to move from 1 bed to another….(I’ll spare you the details of that! however, I’m sure it was comical to watch!) My body was pushing and I was losing control and your dad was still filling out paperwork!! Thank goodness for Nicole! She stood by me and kept telling me that the pain was all leading up to you! All I remember at this point was your dad running into the room….Nana was still nowhere to be seen….there were a TON of nurses in the room….and Cindy telling me that screaming was fine, but I needed to focus and push with my body. (that should be natural, right?? well...maybe for some, but I was so not thinking clearly and had forgotten that I needed to push when my body was pushing) Your dad was holding my head and I pushed….pushed hard….still not thinking clearly...all I could feel was pain. I definitely knew when you were crowning. I kept hearing someone say, “push Monica!” and “oh my goodness, here comes the baby!” It was such a whirlwind! Then when your head had been birthed….I felt such relief. Immediate relief. Your shoulders were birthed and then Cindy told me to reach down and grab you! Wait...what? I am sure by now I have told you that I wasn’t thinking clearly….and when she told me to reach down and grab you….I literally didn’t comprehend what she wanted me to do. Your dad said, “Monica, grab him! Pull him out!” **I have to pause here because this is another one of my favorite memories of your birth** I’m sitting here at the computer and I’m wearing you in your sling and your siblings are doing school work. You are sleeping peacefully and I’m brought to tears when I think about this part of your birth. What a powerful experience that I hope and pray you and your wife will get to experience one day! **Now back to the hospital room** I reach down and put my hands under your arms and pull you out the rest of the way...myself...me...I delivered you myself and I can’t describe...no words can begin to explain the feelings I had at that moment. Never before did I dare ask God to allow me that opportunity, yet He saw fit...in His sovereign love, to bless me with the privilege of bringing you into this world through my own hands!! We did it! You, I, and your dad...with the help of the Lord and Cindy! I was in the room at 4:38 a.m and you were born at 4:46 a.m on Palm Sunday! One week before Easter which I had asked God to let you come 1 week before Easter! Every detail of your birth was never lost on the Lord.
When I call you my miracle baby, I’m not taking anything away from the births of my other children. I am however, completely surrendering to the fact that God had us all in His hands the whole time….from the day I tied my tubes to the day that you were born. Your dad and I have learned so many things during the years it took us to get to you. But God wasn’t done teaching us just yet. Your dad and I prayed so terribly hard for you. Your siblings prayed even harder than we did I think. You, my sweet Conrad, are so wanted and loved. God has amazing plans for your life. Your purpose on this earth has to be huge because you, in your few short weeks of life, have already brought so much healing, joy, and strength to our family.
This is a letter is really about how God used you (before you were even born) to show His love and power to me. Your name means “brave, or rad counsel”. Such a mighty name for such a small person, yet you have already fulfilled your name 1,000 times over….even before you took your first breath! I’m so excited to see what all God has in store for you my son. I pray for you daily. I cry out to the Lord that you will seek Him and that you will find Him. I really don’t know when I will give you this letter. I’m sure you will hear your dad and I tell of your birth often over the years. But this letter is just for you. A tangible declaration of the impact you have had on our whole family….if you ever feel unloved or lost….broken or lonely...confused or defeated….I hope that you will read this letter and know that your life has meaning….purpose. That you were and are an important member of our family. This world can be cruel and harsh but you can always know that you were no accident. God gave you to us with a purpose. We love you sweet boy. My brave miracle baby. We weathered so many obstacles to find you. I pray “the Lord will make His face to shine upon you daily...and give you peace”.