Written by: Heather Collicut
Babies are everywhere. Growing up, my life consisted mostly of school, sports, church, church activities and babysitting. I was a regular babysitter for several pastors and people in our church. I was always healthy and dreamed of one day getting married and having a family of my own. It never crossed my mind that it may not be as easy as it sounded.
In 1990, upon completing Bible School, I married my best friend, Duane Collicott. We entered marriage and ministry with much anticipation about what our future would hold. In the summer of 1991, I was pregnant with our first child. Everything went along as ‘normal’…even though I was unsure of what ‘normal’ was. On the Friday before Thanksgiving, I knew something wasn’t right. After phoning a friend for advice, we drove the 45 minutes to the hospital where the line in emergency was out the door. When I explained my condition, I was whisked away to an examination room where I was told that my cervix was incompetent and if the membranes did not retreat, I would have a miscarriage. I was admitted to bed rest in hopes the membranes would retreat and a stitch could be put around my cervix until I was full term with my pregnancy.
I grew up in a conservative home where things of a personal nature were not discussed. I didn’t really understand what exactly a miscarriage entailed nor was I accepting of my circumstances. I chose to believe for a miracle. Many friends and family agreed together with us in prayer that our baby would not come early. No one really talked about what would happen if I were to miscarry. I was asked at one point if I wanted to be moved to the Labour and Delivery unit. All I could think was, why would I need to do that? I had no idea what lay ahead.
But on Thanksgiving Day, at 20 weeks, I gave birth to a baby girl who we later named Abigail Dawn. Because I had not moved to Labour and Delivery, the unit was not very informed or sympathetic to what took place. The physical pain, although great, could not compare with the hole left in our hearts. Duane had gotten a quick glimpse of our baby before she was promptly taken away, but nothing more was really said about our baby girl and what had happened. I was released the next day with a doctor’s appointment for 6 weeks later. Not wanting anyone feeling sorry for me, I was determined to be strong and to be an example of how to walk through tragedy and somehow prove to God and others that my faith would not be shaken. Job 2:20 says; “Should we accept only good things from the hand of God and never anything bad?” and Matthew 5:45 says; “For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike.” I was trying to convince myself and others that I was okay. I did not want to be a fair-weather Christian who loved God only in the good and easy times.
Over the next 2-3 years we struggled to conceive and the doctor prescribed clomid, a fertility drug. During this time I conceived twice, however, both pregnancies ended with a miscarriage around 13 weeks. We prayed a lot about our situation as we had no health coverage and we weren’t able to pay our rent and utilities let alone the $50 per month for the clomid. We were both volunteering at our church doing youth, music, and young adults, Duane was preaching weekly and we were both working jobs in order to get by and to get a start in ministry. I could not understand why God would not give us a baby while our friends were all starting their families with no problem and teenagers around us were having babies as well.
I felt pressured by church people into hosting baby showers, even though my arms remained empty. In some ways I felt that if I did this, it would prove to God and others that I was strong. It’s not that I wasn’t happy for others who were being blessed with children, but it seemed to highlight my longing to have children of my own. Not knowing whether we could conceive again, the loss of 3 babies, and the lack of understanding amongst others was hard to deal with.
With excitement and hesitation, in the fall of 1994, we announced that we were expecting again. In November we went for an ultrasound where we were told we would be having twins. I was now confident that we were being rewarded for our faithfulness and trust in God’s providence in our lives. At around 16 weeks, I had surgery to put a stitch around my cervix. Feeling ‘safe’ in my pregnancy, I resumed my babysitting job with the doctor’s caution not to overdo it.
The months passed and on the Monday before Easter I went to the hospital because I wasn’t feeling well. I was treated for a urinary tract infection and requested to see a gynaecologist to check the stitch but was refused. All week I had a nagging feeling that there was something wrong but I brushed the feeling off.
Then on the Saturday of Easter weekend, we spent the afternoon at the church practicing music for Easter service. Later we went to an Easter presentation at one of the other churches in our city. It was exciting to be out in maternity clothes with my twin belly bump. When we got into bed that night, the babies seemed to be excited as well and were kicking around providing entertainment for us. I had really not given any thought to anything going wrong with this pregnancy. After all we had been through I was confident that the twins were a blessing from God and would be a testimony of God’s faithfulness.
Around midnight I woke up to use the washroom, and while on my way, my water broke. I was overtaken with emotion. How could this be? What would happen? What about Easter Sunday services? I was almost 23 weeks pregnant. When we got to the hospital, the doctor told us that the stitch had broken and to prepare for empty arms again. We were told that the first baby had already died and while the second baby may cry after being born, the hospital was not equipped to deal with such a premature baby. So over the course of the day, we said hello and goodbye to Marley Dawn and Destiny Dawn. Different than our experience in 1991, we were able to hold our babies and spend some time saying goodbye.
Questions flooded my mind: How would I ever face anyone again? What was God doing to us? Where was God? But there was more hurt to come because in the following weeks, well- meaning Christians would tell me that I didn’t have enough faith or that there was some hidden sin in my life. For months I searched my heart for the gross sin that kept me from having a baby. I now realize that a doctrine like that is cruel and lacking in love. Again I was determined to be strong for everyone else. Long nights of weeping and deep wondering lingered. Everything felt hollow. I felt like people just wanted me to ‘get over it’ so I didn’t talk about what had happened very often.
Along with the loss of our babies, I had lost my babysitting jobs leaving us in worse financial shape. More questions: Could anything else go wrong? What was wrong with me? What was wrong with us? Could any good ever come out of all of this? Mother’s Day was a month away, how would I ever cope this year?
My story doesn’t end there. Citing that my body and emotions had had enough, the doctor refused to prescribe anymore clomid. Still desperate for a baby and a 2 month supply of clomid left, we tried again. I knew my chances of conceiving were slim but I had to try. I wasn’t even sure Duane was eager to try again. Once again, I found myself pregnant. Now I was really afraid. I knew this could be my last chance, and at first I was even afraid to tell Duane. Back to the doctor I went. He said he would do everything he could to get us our baby. A suture was put around my cervix (with a different material than the previous stitch) and I was discharged to bed rest.
In February, at 20 weeks, I was admitted to the hospital in hopes that 15-20 weeks of bed rest would result in a healthy baby. I wasn’t really sick but had to stay on my back…..not an easy task for someone with my personality. Feeling God’s leading, in March Duane accepted a position as Assistant Pastor at a church 5 hours away. (This is where I met Mandy Lawrence-Hill) He commuted to see me every couple of weeks. This was another difficult season of life for us. It was a lonely time for me as long distance plans were not cheap like nowadays and my immediate family all lived away. I learned a lot of lessons while lying in that hospital bed. I have an appreciation for shut-ins as I was one for 130 days. I also know what it’s like to feel forgotten by others. I know what it’s like to be completely dependent on others, even strangers, for simple things like getting my laundry done.
I entered the hospital on a cold wintery day in February wondering if my dream of being a mom would ever come true. On June 20th, 1996, our prayers were answered when Haley Dawn was born. After 5 days in the hospital, Haley and I made our journey to our new home and church. I was both nervous and excited to meet our new church family. One family had been sending me letters of encouragement and gifts whenever Duane would come to visit. Unless you’ve been confined, it’s hard to explain reintroducing yourself to the public, particularly when you’re not looking your best. Haley and I arrived at church that first Sunday and were warmly greeted. I had always struggled with weight issues. Several pregnancies and a 5 month stay on my back did not do me any favours. I was very self-conscious about my appearance. Duane began introducing me to everyone and was totally oblivious to how overwhelmed I was feeling. When he introduced me to one couple he excitedly said, “Isn’t she as beautiful as I told you?” I cringed as I could tell by the look on their faces that they weren’t in agreement. It may sound trivial, but it hurt deeply. I learned not to judge others on their appearance.
When Haley was 2, we prayed about trying to have another child. We had moved to a different province and were unsure of how our doctor would respond to our wanting to have another baby. I promised Duane; 1 year, 1 miscarriage, or 1 baby; whatever came first, I would be done. Unexpectedly, the doctor was very positive and I began another round of clomid. Right away I was pregnant. Everything progressed as in my previous pregnancy, only instead of the hospital, I stayed at home, in bed…with a 2 ½ year old. As ridiculous as it sounds, Haley helped look after me, bringing us drinks and snacks, and by not getting into mischief.
Duane had always wanted to name a baby boy Nahum. When we were told we were having a boy, I knew immediately that this would be the name he would choose. I can’t say that I loved, or even liked the name and had secretly been hoping for a girl. If we were having a boy, then Matthew, meaning a gift from God, seemed like a good name choice to me. Friends and family began to chime in with strong feelings of liking or disliking the name. I assured people that I would hold strong to the name Matthew. Closer to my due date I asked Duane what the name Nahum meant. It means ‘God is my comfort’. I knew the baby’s name would have to be Nahum, for God knew our journey from the beginning to the end, and on April 29th, 1999, Nahum Matthew was born. He even looks like a Nahum.
Now we find ourselves on the other end of tragedy. Haley is now an 18 year old university student with a passion for missions and Nahum is a 15 year old who loves hockey, football and gaming. Turning tragedy in thanksgiving is a decision we make in whatever situation we find ourselves. God doesn’t have to explain His ways, for they are higher than our ways. Our job is to trust the sovereignty and providence of God in our lives. I don’t have all the answers as to why we had to travel the journey we did, but I know He was with us each step. Did I ever doubt Him? Yes. Did I ever ask why? Yes. I have learned that I don’t need to know every answer but I need Him. He is enough. Job 1:21 says; “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord”.
I’ve never written my story, and even all these years later, tears have flowed freely while writing. I am thankful for my husband, Duane, who has loved me and never judged me as I have struggled through infertility, loss, weight gain, and many emotional roller coasters. I am deeply grateful for our children Haley and Nahum and for our 5 little ones we will see again someday. This is our promise from scripture.
Heather lives in Fredericton, NB with her husband, Duane Collicott, and 2 teenage children, Haley (18) and Nahum (15). She works as an Educational Assistant in an elementary school and as the Pastoral Care Coordinator at Pine Grove Nursing Home.