Volume 5 Number 3
Whither Thou Goest: A Twin Blessing
by Ross Wagner
Our family’s life has been dominated this past year by the arrival of identical twin girls, an experience I can only describe (borrowing my colleague George Hunsinger’s words) as one of “disruptive grace.” Actually, “disruptive” is too mild a word. “World-shattering” better describes the effects of my wife’s high-risk pregnancy and our babies’ premature birth and chronic health problems.
During a routine ultrasound in her twenty-fifth week of pregnancy, Ronda was diagnosed with Twin-to-Twin Transfusion Syndrome (TTTS), a randomly occurring disorder of the placenta that normally leads to the death of one or both babies. Halfway around the world on a Seminary trip to Israel, I learned the news and immediately rushed home to begin six weeks of trips together to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, where Ronda’s pregnancy was carefully monitored by a team of specialists.
Through the skill of the doctors and the grace of God, the pregnancy was prolonged until thirty-one weeks’ gestation. Palm Sunday, April 16, 2000, I witnessed the birth of Naomi (3 pounds 15 ounces), followed soon by Claire (a tiny 2 pounds 10 ounces). Seriously ill from the TTTS, they required immediate blood transfusions. Altogether, they spent six weeks in the NICU at Mercer Medical Center before coming home to us hooked up to apnea monitors, fragile five- and four-pounders who quickly won our hearts.
In July, at just about the time that we returned their apnea monitors to the hospital, Claire began refusing to drink her bottles, screaming from what we eventually learned was severe gastroesophageal reflux. Because eating caused painful stomach acid to travel up her esophagus, she defended herself the only way she knew how, by refusing to take the milk. Less than a month later, Naomi began to exhibit the same unmistakable symptoms. We were crushed. The pregnancy and NICU were difficult, but we had never experienced anything so stressful as trying to feed premature babies who were clearly hungry, yet would not eat.
Eight months—and many doctor visits and hospital tests—later, we are still dealing with the reflux, experimenting with medicines and inventing tricks to get the twins to eat. Thankfully, the girls are doing well in spite of it all. They now weigh in at seventeen and fifteen pounds, they sleep well, and eventually they stand to outgrow this illness. We are exhausted but intact as a family. And this leads me to the “grace” part of my opening sentence.
As I have watched my carefully constructed world of safety, security, and self-reliance crumble into dust around me, I have experienced the grace of God, manifested in the community of faith, as never before. During the crises of the past year, I have found my faith stretched to—and beyond—the breaking point time and again. Doubt, fear, and outright anger at God have been all-too-frequent companions. What has kept me going through it all is the faith, and faithfulness, of the body of Christ.
Like the paralytic in Mark 2:1-12, my family and I have been carried along by friends whose belief and trust have sustained us when we were powerless to act on our own. Countless brothers and sisters in Christ from around the world have interceded for us at times when we ourselves could hardly find the words or the will to pray. Our relatives have helped shoulder the burden of keeping our family life going. When the twins developed acid reflux, Ronda’s mom put her own life on hold and came to live with us for a period of six months, providing tremendous support for us and care for our children. Colleagues and students at the Seminary, members of our church, and friends from the community have provided dozens and dozens of hot meals, often two or three times a week, over the past twelve months. Time would fail me to tell of all those who have cared for our older children, helped to feed the babies, dropped by unannounced to lend a hand with household chores, sent a card or gift to encourage us, or offered a warm embrace and a listening ear.
God has used the disruption caused by our twins’ difficult birth and ongoing illness to open us to experiencing the grace that comes through being part of the body of Christ. We are thankful beyond words for the community at PTS that has suffered with us and rejoiced with us this past year and that has so warmly welcomed our children in Christ’s name.
Ross Wagner is an assistant professor of New Testament at PTS, and he and his wife, Ronda, are the proud parents of sons Nathaniel and Caleb and twin daughters Naomi and Claire.
© Copyright 2001 Princeton Theological Seminary