When Life Doesn’t Go As Planned: Catherine & John

I met Catherine and John at the Ogden Temple. I work there and they came to volunteer and we were cleaning the bathroom so we had all night to chat. As I was getting to know them, one of the questions I asked was if they had kids. They told me they lost twins and a little girl, but what truly impressed me was that they said it with hope and faith in their voices. They then proceeded to tell me how they don’t look at it as a loss but as a beautiful future to look forward to raising their children. I was in awe and knew I had to ask to share their story.

John and Catherine got married in May of 2015 and currently live in Utah. John grew up in Utah, Idaho, and Oregon. He is 27 years old and graduated from Nyssa High School in 2009. John won many local tournaments in wrestling and he loved it all through out high school. After high school, he served a mission in the Bangkok Thailand Mission, and after his mission, he studied supply chain management at BYU Idaho and graduated with his Bachelor’s in 2016. He currently works in the IT department of his company. Catherine grew up in Layton, Utah and graduated from Layton High School in 2010. She enjoyed dancing from age 3 up until college. She was on a competition dance team all throughout junior high and high school, and also enjoyed coaching. She served a mission in the West Virginia Charleston Mission. After she returned home she studied at BYU Idaho and graduated with her Bachelor’s in University Studies with a minor in Marriage and Family. She is currently a homemaker.

The following is from their blog. Catherine’s perspective is first, and then John’s.
God Has A Plan: Our Story

I am writing our story now because it will be easier for me to remember all of the details that I don’t want to forget and hopefully it can help someone else. Everyone’s stories are different and we all have different struggles and trials that we will have to go through. I believe, though, that as we share our stories and our lives with others that it brings people closer together. I know that I have been blessed by blogs that women have shared about their struggles and stories so I hope that mine will be of some help to someone else.

It all started June of 2015 when John and I decided that we should get off of birth control and try to start our family. We both had received promptings from the spirit that this was something that we should do. In my mind, I thought then that having kids would be easy, right? Well, it wasn’t. Every month I would hope in my mind that the pregnancy test would come out positive so that we could start our family. It was a tough 14 months of always wondering when it would be my turn. We found out I had some health problems in April 2016 and I was going to go see an endocrinologist in September.

Well, everything changed when we found out I was pregnant on August 16, 2016. I had just come home from Bear Lake and was feeling super nauseous and it didn’t go away for a couple of days. I thought it was just heat exhaustion but I thought, “what the heck, just take test.” I was shocked as I saw the plus sign and found out that we were pregnant. I called my husband and we were so excited.

When we went to our first appointment after our trip to Thailand on September 12, we were excited and even more surprised to find out that we were having twins. I knew the chances were high coming in because my mom was a twin and her twin had twins. I just didn’t think that it was going to be my first. We were worried about my recent health problems but pregnancy does crazy things to your body and it actually leveled out my hormones that we were worried about in the past.

As the weeks of pregnancy went by I would try and mentally prepare myself for what my life would be like with two twin babies. I was preparing myself for the change of life. I knew it was going to be the hardest thing that I would ever do and that my whole life would change. I had all of the lovely signs of pregnancy such as nausea, constantly having to use the restroom, sore back, heartburn, having to find new clothes to wear with my growing belly, exhaustion, etc. I will admit that some days were hard but now looking back I wish I would have just lived in the moment and not taken those things for granted.

We were ecstatic when we found out at 18 weeks that we were going to be having twin boys. We started talking about names and putting up cribs and getting ourselves ready to be parents. I had so much joy when I would go to my appointments and watch our babies move and hear their strong heartbeats. One of my most prized memories is being able to feel them both in my tummy.

Everything changed on November 29, 2016. All day I had been feeling sharp pains and cramping in my tummy. It was different than the Braxton Hicks that I would feel from time to time where my belly would get really hard. I didn’t think much of it because it would only happen two times in an hour and last for 10 seconds. In my mind, I thought it could be round ligament pain or Braxton Hicks or dehydration so I just went about my day. Later in the evening, it started to get worse about once every 20 minutes. From around 10:30 pm until 2:30 in the morning it was happening every 10 minutes. I went to the bathroom and found a pinpoint of blood in my urine. I knew something wasn’t right. I woke John up and I called my midwife and she told me to go the hospital.

We ended up going to the hospital and the nurses took us into our first room where we got checked out. We got a urine sample and they tested my temperature and my blood pressure. They hooked me up to some monitors and watched the babies heartbeat. The nurses were surprised that they were able to get two strong heart beats with twins at 21weeks. We knew babies were healthy and that calmed my nerves a bit. They got the urine sample back and thought that I had a kidney infection so more tests were going to be done. I had some relief with that and thought everything was going to be okay.

When one nurse decided to check my cervix she knew something wasn’t right. They brought in another nurse for a second opinion. As she felt my cervix they both got concerned looks on their faces. I was dilated to a three or a four and they could feel the amniotic sac. My mucus plug had come out and babies were preparing for labor. The nurses talked with the doctors and were waiting for what should be done. They started hooking me up to I.V’s and put a catheter into my bladder (which was a terrible feeling). They put me with my head up in a diagonal position so they could take the weight off of my cervix. They told me I was going to be in the hospital until delivery and were going to try and keep the babies in until at least 24 weeks. They were hoping that the muscles of my cervix would relax and labor would be stopped.

About an hour later I received a call from a doctor who basically told me he didn’t think that I was going to be able to stop labor and that I would be delivering that day. They said they could try and stitch up my cervix but they didn’t recommend it because of the health risks since I was already dilating. Another doctor came in and double checked my cervix and agreed with the doctor on the phone. I had what they called an incompetent cervix which means that my muscles weren’t strong enough to hold the weight of pregnancy. They said there was nothing I could have done to prevent it and even if they had checked me a week ago they wouldn’t have been able to tell.

I immediately felt peace. That morning when I first had started having contractions I had felt like I needed to pray that I would be able to accept whatever would happen with my babies. After the news, I, of course, had waves of sadness all day but I felt comfort and knew that God was with me. John was a great support to me and my parents were able to be with us all day which brought a huge strength to me. The nurses that we had were a tender mercy. One of the nurses, named Laurel, was actually good friends with my mom and delivered my younger sister Teresa. She always came by my side and answered my call light when I needed something. Our last nurse, named Kellie, was actually one of the sisters that John home taught when he went to the single’s ward. The Lord blessed us with wonderful nurses who just wanted to help make our stay as comfortable as possible. I feel very blessed.

Once we knew that we would be going through labor and delivery they wheeled me to our delivery room for the day and prepared me for the epidural. I had been so nervous about it but it wasn’t as bad as I thought. That was around 8 or 9 am. They gave me medicine to start contractions and to dilate me to a five. For the next six or seven hours we laid in bed waiting for me to dilate. It took a long time and I just sat there numb waiting. Finally, around 4 PM I felt pressure and felt the need to push and I knew that the babies were coming. We called my midwife and she came with the nurses and got ready for delivery.

Liam James was delivered first at about 4:30 PM. He was 14 ounces and 10 and 1/2 inches long. He died during labor. Kelvin Reed was born about 10 minutes later and was 12 and 1/2 ounces and 10 and 1/2 inches long. He was a fighter for about an hour. We watched his cute little heartbeat and saw his cute little fingers wanting to grab a hold of ours. When we would think he had passed his little heart would continue. He died around 5:45 PM.

We truly felt their spirits with us and are grateful for the time that we had with them. I had always really liked the name Liam and we had felt impressed to name baby A Liam. Later as we remember that the name meant “Guardian” and “Protector” we truly felt that he went first to pave the way so that we could spend some time with his little brother Kelvin. We don’t know all the answers but we truly know these boys had a special bond in heaven and they will continue to be with each other and support each other until we meet them again.

After they were born we were able to hold them for as long as we wanted. We had a volunteer photographer come and take pictures of our little boys. They picked out little outfits for them to wear. They gave us many tangible things to remember our little boys. We had a support group come and give us resources to help with our grieving. We have received so much love and support from many of our friends and family and we are eternally grateful for the support system that we have.

Now that I am home and have been able to face that yesterday wasn’t a dream I can grieve and ponder over things of an eternal nature. I don’t know why certain things happen. I could sit here and be angry at God for wondering why I couldn’t have had a miracle or why my deepest desire to be a mother has been pushed farther forward. It’s always so tempting to ask why? Which I think is okay. It helps us to ponder greater things. What I keep remembering is how grateful I am to know that I am a daughter of God. I know that God loves me and has a plan for me and what I need. Since I know that I also have to accept that my two little boys also are Sons of God. They are His and He has a plan for them too and what they need. He gave me the opportunity to carry them in my belly and to give them a body for their own progression and growth. I am grateful that He is a merciful God and He allows families on earth to be forever. I will admit I am nervous to try and have children again. The doctors are very hopeful that I will be able to have children in the future. These babies taught me what my imperfect body is capable of and what I need to do to carry their future siblings.

Most of all I am grateful for my Savior Jesus Christ. This time of year we remember his birth and the purpose of why He came. Why a man who never did any wrong had to go through every type of pain for us? Why He gave up His life so we could have ours again? I am grateful for the resurrection and the Plan of Salvation. I am grateful for the scriptures, especially the Book of Mormon, that teaches us these certain truths. I am grateful for the temple and that I can go and feel of my Heavenly Father’s love and have a place that I can feel close to home.

A Father’s Struggle

There’s a lot of things that I don’t know. I’m not sure why Liam and Kelvin had to die. Everyone likes to say that their spirits were just too precious to endure the trials of this world, that idea just hasn’t ever worked with me. I’m planning on having other kids and they aren’t going to be any less precious than Liam and Kelvin. I’m not sure if Heavenly Father just wanted them on the other side to do His work there, because I think that plenty of kids die due to the poor choices of other people and not necessarily due to God’s will. I’ve never really been one to believe that every bad thing that happens, happens because God made it happen. I know that He respects agency and allows things to happen… but I think that a lot of the time trials are produced as people walk contrary to the will of God. I’ve heard the analogy that strong winds make strong trees and how opposition makes us stronger, but I think I see things just a little bit different.

I actually don’t think opposition itself makes us stronger, the Atonement makes us stronger. Trees get stronger when they face strong winds because they have the opportunity to do so and that’s what they use their God-given abilities to do so. But if I grab a piece of paper and tear it in half, the paper will never be whole again. In that way, I don’t think that opposition is what shapes us, the use of our agency shapes us. Opposition provides the heat that softens the clay, and we can choose to respond according to Heavenly Father or the Adversary.

Whenever I face a situation in life where there is something that I don’t understand I try and focus on the common road or the things that I need to do no matter what. For example, whether God moved our children to the next world because he had a work for them to do there, or it was just a natural result of the fall, the route does not change for me. My job is to be the best example I can so that my boys can learn from my life, my job is to love my wife and care for her, to serve God and not waiver in the faith. That is the common road, so what I don’t know becomes less important to me. That’s always worked for me until I finally had a little bit of alone time the night after my boys died. Everyone was gone and I finally had a moment to myself, Catherine was tucked in and I didn’t need to be as strong anymore. I went into the living room and was totally overcome with grief. I had a couple questions, and I needed answers and I knew that God could provide them.

Having a knowledge of the Plan of Salvation, I knew exactly where my boys were and I knew where they were going to end up. I have an idea of the caliber of people they are going to become, but I wanted to know how they were doing right then. When most people think of children arriving in Spirit Paradise I think we imagine their minds being unlocked and all of their memories restored. I believe that all men will eventually have their memories of the pre-existence restored, but it’s hard to say when it occurs exactly. Perhaps it comes line upon line as we grow towards perfection just like everything else, but I’m not sure. I also know that people have the opportunity to learn and grow and accept the Gospel in the next life, and part of that Gospel is exercising faith which means there must not be a complete knowledge of things or else there would be no room for faith. I also know that my wife and I would have the opportunity to raise our deceased children during the millennium.

But with all of those things that I knew, there was one big hole of things that I didn’t know. If my children can’t remember the pre-mortal life, and they will be returned to me as an infant… then does that mean they are going to remain as an infant intellectually in Spirit Paradise until they are returned to me? The thought of my helpless premature sons not having their parents there to hold them, and not having the intellectual capacity to understand why is what sent me into my grief. Personally, I don’t have anyone on the other side of the veil that I know and trust. I have grandparents there, but none that I ever associated with more than once or twice. I wanted to know who was going to be there caring for my boys and holding their tiny bodies while they waited for me to be there with them. And the thought of them feeling at all confused or abandoned just wasn’t doing great things for my emotions. I am wired to provide and protect, but right now I couldn’t do either for my boys.

I did pretty good throughout our stay at the hospital, felt at peace and was ready to be there to strengthen everyone else that seemed to be taking it a lot harder than me. My thoughts were constantly turned to my wife and the sweet sisters in my life: Sarah, Teresa, Jacqueline, Tara, and Lani… and how they were going to deal with the loss. I felt the need to make sure everyone was okay, and not because I was trying to run or hide or because I felt obligated to, but because I just care so much about them and the way that they process all of this. But when it was time to say goodbye to my boys, when I was holding them in my hands and preparing to set them in a cart and say goodbye, I couldn’t help but think about all of the plans I had.

I loved being a missionary, I still do whenever I can, I was so excited to sit them down and role play missionary lessons. I wanted to teach them to love and serve and work. Most people that describe me would describe me as a hard worker, and that is something that I wanted to share with them. I was excited for twin boys because I could teach them so much more than how to teach the gospel and how to extend commitments. I could teach them how to work with a companion and to bounce off of each other as they work together to bring someone closer to Christ. I was gonna teach them to wrestle and never quit, to love their mom and respect women, to control their emotions and use the priesthood with power… all of the things that I have learned since I committed myself to Christ. And here I was staring at them, and knowing that they were going to go to the spirit world instead. It wasn’t that I was losing those opportunities, it was not being sure if they would understand that this isn’t what we wanted. As I stared at Liam I couldn’t help but feel so proud of the man that he was, he looked so strong and able to do hard things. I felt like he could carry mountains on his back if he wanted to. I’m not sure what would have happened if Kelvin would have come first, but I don’t think the process would have been quite as easy (just since his body was less mature). It may seem silly but it just really felt like Liam coming first was an act of courage that maybe they requested in Heaven so that everything could work better for everyone else. It was hard having his spirit pass before I could hold him, but I was proud of his courage none the less. Kelvin had the heart that just wouldn’t quit. Nurses said he was gone twice and both times we still found his heartbeat. I was proud of the love that I felt he possessed as he fought to stay in the presence of his mortal family.

I have been writing talks and planning the things that I wanted to teach my boys for years. But I only had a few brief moments alone with Catherine and the boys while they were still in her belly to teach them everything that I knew. Just a few moments before things changed and they left her belly to enter this world, I put my hand on Catherine’s stomach and tried to summon every ounce of priesthood power in my body. I counseled them to have faith and serve God with all their hearts. To love their mother and watch over her as they learned from her. I told them to watch her and use her as a guide for the type of person that they would marry one day as well… and I believe that they heard me. Later when they were born, Reed (Catherine’s Dad) and I took them in our hands and gave them names and blessings. It was a sacred moment for everyone I think.

But at the end of the day, I still needed to know how they were doing and what they were able to comprehend. I found my answers in chapter 15 of the Teaching of the Prophet Joseph F Smith. A lot of the things I learned he said directly, and other things I had to draw connections and listen to my spirit. I’ll let you read the chapter for yourself if you’d like to see which is which.

I know that their spiritual bodies reached a full level of maturity before they were born.

I know that in the spirit world their spirits continue to exist in that capacity.

I’m not sure if they remember the pre-mortal existence or not but I personally don’t think that they do (at least not right away).

I believe that they have the ability to communicate even though they never learned a language on this earth.

I believe that someone is there to teach the plan of Salvation to them and that they will accept it quickly.

I believe that someone will teach them about us and who we are, and how much we love them, and I believe that they will feel that love and love us as well.

I know that they will be resurrected in those tiny bodies that we laid them down to rest in, and then they will grow towards perfection (and I think that it might be that way with all of us).

I know that the blessings given to them will be fulfilled, and I know that they will be alright.

I felt very blessed to find my answers so quickly. I believe that bad things happen in life, and when those bad things happen we will need the guidance of the Holy Ghost to teach us and tell us how to act. That is why it is so important to go to church and partake of the sacrament and to read the scriptures (especially the Book of Mormon) and pray every day. That is why we do those things so that His spirit will always be with us just like it says in the Sacrament prayer. Hard things happen in life, and when they do you’re going to want His guidance. I am grateful for a father that helped me get started in the Book of Mormon as a 14-year-old boy, and for a prophet that challenged us to read it. The testimony I gained from that first completion of the Book of Mormon has completely carried me through every trial I have ever faced since.

I am thankful for a wife that I don’t hesitate to invite my sons to learn from and look up to. I believe that all good things come into our lives by way of the Atonement, but they all come for the purpose of our eternal marriage… and I am grateful to be married to a woman like Catherine that makes me feel like I have already been given everything that my Heavenly Father has. I can’t think of a greater blessing than to be with her and my children for eternity, and we’re already there. It isn’t some distant promise for me, it is already here. And I am grateful for a wife that has made that possible.

Everyone keeps asking what they can do, and it means a lot that they do, but I am happy to say that Christ already did it. The Plan of Salvation is set and the Atonement has been performed. Catherine’s health is doing good so far, so we’re doing okay. The only thing I would ask people to do is to love their families a little more. Read the Book of Mormon, say your prayers, do everything you can to walk uprightly before the Lord so he can be with you through the trials… because trials come. I would ask you to look out for others in need and share your testimony, do the things that you need to do and exercise faith in God.

I know that this Gospel is true. Jesus Christ lives, and because He lives so will my boys. Families can be together forever. The Book of Mormon is true, Joseph Smith is a prophet of God and he restored these truths to the earth. God is real. I hope that these things can find their way to another father, or anyone for that matter, that finds themselves in a place similar to where I found myself. And I pray that you can find strength and fortitude in Christ.

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