This week, we asked 4word: San Diego leader Kaitlin Arduino to share her personal journey with both grief and gratitude. We hope her story encourages you!
Gratitude is an emotion that comes more naturally these days than it ever has in my life as I stare at my 3-month-old daughter. I have always believed that “an attitude of gratitude” is a way to focus on the positive in our lives — a glass half full kind of perspective. Since God has given me so much, how can I NOT be thankful, right? A pastor once advised that we should focus on the many “haves” in our lives, not the “have nots.” That has stuck with me. But expressing gratitude is not always easy to do, especially when we face trials. Or that specific “have not” is something so big and deep that it feels all consuming.
Getting pregnant was not the easy road we anticipated. My two older sisters produced four children without any complications or major waiting. I figured the same would happen for me... until it didn’t. My immediately older sister and I wanted to have kids the same age so we both started trying in late summer 2016, almost a year after I got married. She got pregnant in the first month, just like she had with her two boys before that. I did not. “Okay, it will happen in the next couple of months,” I told myself. Yet month after month, I still had no positive results. It was getting to the point where I really struggled being around other friends and their children. I remember being at the Halloween carnival last year, after having tried for a year, and feeling so sad, so alone, and in a completely different season of life than everyone around me. Little did I know that I was actually pregnant at the time! I would find out a week later…
I felt like it was a miracle of God that I was even pregnant – 13 months of trying, no IVF, 36 years old. Thank you Jesus! SO grateful! And thank you to the body of mostly women who were praying for me, all the time. Women like Virginia Prodan who had come to visit our 4word: San Diego group as a guest speaker, and shared my prayer request with her own Bible study group. Women on the 4word board who, unbeknownst to me, had my prayer request on their weekly prayer chain. Women at my local 4word: San Diego group who listened over and over as I asked for prayer to get pregnant. And women at my church and on the prayer team who prayed over me, declaring that I was “Kaitlin the creator,” a mantra I prayed countless times.
We found out I was pregnant four weeks into the pregnancy, and on week seven, I went in for my first ultrasound. “Oh, there’s another one in there,” the nurse said. Excuse me, what?! “You have identical twins.” She was so nonchalant about it. My jaw literally dropped! My husband and I looked at each other, incredulous. Strangely, or humorously depending on which way you look at it, I thought – there goes my career! I am going to have my hands full with twins! But as time went on, we got more and more excited. Twins, what a blessing – a double blessing! We waited until Christmas to tell my whole family, and as we shared the news, many tears of joy were shed. They had witnessed our journey and were so thrilled for us as we would now get to experience parenthood for ourselves. It was one of the most joyful Christmases I have ever had.
Because I was over 35, I was getting ultrasounds quite frequently. At 16 weeks, I went in for the latest heartbeat check at my OB’s office. The twins were looking great, heartbeats on track. It was a surreal experience to be looking at that little screen and seeing life inside me, life that had felt so out of reach only a few months before. My heart overflowed. Two days later we had our first appointment at the perinatal specialist – since I was having twins this was recommended. My husband and I walked in, excited to get a more thorough ultrasound and maybe even find out the sex. About two minutes into the ultrasound, everything changed…
“I can’t find the heartbeat on Twin A so I’m going to move to Twin B.”
“What do you mean, I just saw it two days ago. It was perfectly healthy.” She must be doing something wrong, I thought. “Please check again.” I sighed a deep sigh and remained calm. “Holy Spirit come. Holy Spirit come. Everything is going to be okay” were the thoughts that went through my head.
She finished the ultrasound and left to get the doctor. He came in and confirmed that we had suffered a “demise” of our Twin A. They didn’t know the cause, nor did they think they could ever know. I kept it together enough to ask about the health of Twin B – would she suffer a demise as well? I couldn’t bear to hear the doctor’s answer; I had heard that if one identical twin passes, because they share the same placenta, it was possible for the other twin to pass as well. The doctor told us that because it happened so early, the likelihood of its survival was pretty strong. I don’t remember the rest of the conversation, I was so stunned. As soon as he left the room, the tears I had been holding back burst forth and reality set in. I had suffered a miscarriage at 16 weeks, something I thought wouldn’t happen after the first trimester.
The weeks that followed were the hardest I have ever experienced in my life. I’ve never cried so much. I’ve never prayed so much. I’ve never had to grip the fingers of God so tightly. And I have never ever felt more loved by my community than I did in those weeks. We received an incredible, almost unexpected, outpouring of love from family and friends who would drop off a meal without even being asked, send a card with condolences, or leave a heart-shaped succulent on our doorstep. I was touched when a 4word friend took me to lunch and cried with me, sharing how “it is well with my soul” spoke to her on my behalf. Somehow, it was well with my soul. In the midst of the sorrow and loss, I had to hold on to hope. I had to believe that God wanted me to still have a child. I believed that God is good – and yes, He gives and takes away, but He is for me. I held on to that.
Well, Twin B did survive! Miss Everly Hope is the greatest blessing God has ever given me. I can’t look at her and not think of the journey I went through to get her. A healthy, beautiful baby girl. It was not an easy road, and I would not wish it upon anyone, but at the same time, I don’t think I would feel as grateful if it had come easily. I truly could not have done it without the love of my husband, and my community of faith.