For those that do not yet know us, we are The Belknap Family! We once were two, and now we are three. It is by God’s LOVE, Mercy, Grace and Faithfulness that we are able, proud and honored to say that!
My name is Natalie and my husband, Jason, and I would love to tell you of our story. It is a story about our journey. A journey full of pain, struggle, trials and challenges, but one full of Love, Faithfulness and Perserverance! This is how we met our Son, Braden….
Jason and I have been married for 11 years now! Our life together began on, September 24th, 2005 ❤️ Mark Brown was our officiant, and what a beautiful day it was! It was a day filled with so much LOVE and Thankfulness! We were so blessed to have found one another!
Jason was and is such a wonderful person and man. I knew he would make an incredible husband, and one day an awesome Daddy! I always knew I wanted to be a Mommy, from the time I was a little girl. I was very fond of my pretend baby dolls, and just spent hours, alone, playing “Mommy”. Jason comes from a family of seven children. He enjoyed growing up with siblings, and knew he one day wanted a family of his own… However, we didn’t want children right away. We wanted to enjoy married life, get to know one another as husband and wife, and build a Godly foundation for our family to stand on.
For five years, we were blessed with time! We got to enjoy traveling, date nights (not that those should stop after children 😉-just gets harder..), spontaneous adventures, and we built a LOVE so deep that no one could destroy it! We were committed, in love and made God our center… What better foundation do you need!? So, with that we felt ready to start a new chapter in our marriage!
In March of 2010, with much excitement, we announced to all our family and friends that we were expecting our first child!!! Oh how our hearts were full!! What better thing, in this world, then to be a parent with your best friend!! Jason and I immediately began making plans. With all the do’s and dont’s of pregnancy, wondering if it will be a boy or girl, baby names and the list goes on… We were just so excited!
—a moment of brief silence comes over me, when thinking of the time— Unfortunately, our plans are not God’s plans, and on Mother’s Day 2010, we lost our precious child…. No ONE word could ever describe the feelings and emotions that come over you when you experience such a loss. We were devastated, broken, lost, just to name a few… Just like that, time stood still, and in that moment we were reminded of what is important in life. It isn’t something that can be bought or borrowed. It IS the gift of LIFE, and only God can give that! It doesn’t come as a prize in a cereal box, and it can’t be ordered online… Life is God’s creation! We didn’t want to blame God, but it sure was difficult not to do so. We felt betrayed and unloved by Him..
As we mourned the loss of our child, we continued on with life.. We never forgot, but with time, together we healed. Looking back it was God who carried us every step of the way! His LOVE for us and our marriage, shined through all the darkness! For me, healing came a little later, then it did for Jason.. This isn’t to say that it was easier for him, but we are very different in that area. He was ready to try again about a year after our miscarriage, where with me it took almost three years…. Having a miscarriage traumatized me. Since I have a history with panic and anxiety, it was no wonder!
Fast forward to March of 2013! Yes, exactly 3 years to the month! I just knew I was pregnant.. A woman just knows. I didn’t really need a pregnancy test to confirm it. Honestly, I was very hesitant… Almost afraid to see those lines. There were lots of emotions going through me, but with Jason’s help, I finally took one… It was no surprise, but we were in fact pregnant with our second child!! Oh yes, it was hard to not get excited amidst everything we had gone through! Despite all my fears and anxiety, we were overjoyed!! However, this time we decided to be very select on who we told, just in case. So, we only told our immediate family and a few close friends……
—–Big pause here—
In May of 2013, a day after Mother’s Day this time, I miscarried again. All we could think was Same, same, same. Same emotions, same feelings of despair, same setting, same time……… Then came the question, Why God, Why? Why us? Why our child? Why, Why, Why…?
Side Note: Both of our miscarriages were “Missed Miscarriages”. That is medical term used, when the baby has died, before a woman’s body expels the baby. So, with both pregnancies, my body held on to the baby, until what would have been roughly my 16th week…
It took me nearly another three years to grieve another loss, but this time around, I especially was dealing with feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, depression and great sadness. This is where my husband’s LOVE for and faith in God, got us through. This is where we especially stood as one, while God carried us together. This is where I stood on our foundation, that we built together, in the arms of my husband and God. This is where I became humbled!
See, medical intervention of any kind, just isn’t my thing. In fact, I have a fear of doctors. However, wanting a child, and it not happening in God’s way, brings you to a point of desperation. That is where we were. Desperate for a child of our own!! My husband, at this point in our marriage, had a greater understanding for God. He just knew God was going to bless us.. He didn’t know how or when. His faith in God was awe-inspiring! To be able to look at your husband’s relationship with God is something incredible!! However, it was hard to not share in those feelings, with Jason. I wanted to believe! It was like God took Jason’s hand and lead us.. God lead him, which in turn led me. God’s words to Jason, soon became Jason’s words of encouragement to me.
In March of 2015, after loosing our second child, Jason and I began seeking answers… We soon found ourselves talking to a fertility doctor, out of Loma Linda. Never, did I think, we would be facing such a challenge. The worst part was, I was so afraid that we were going to be told, I wouldn’t be able to carry a child full term. Our fertility doctor was God sent. He matched my personality so well, and put to rest a lot of fears I had… After doing some tests, and evaluating me as a person, he advised us that our best option was to start IVF treatments, because I had a really low egg count, for a women my age. Although, he couldn’t say for sure, he thought that was the leading cause of my miscarriages. The doctor was very delicate with me, because he knew how emotionally distressing my situation was. He did a very good job, especially as a doctor, finding the words to use when explaining certain medical terminology.
For the next year, Jason and I went back and forth… We began trying again, in hopes that by some miracle, it would happen naturally. However, after a year had passed, and we faced the reality that it just wasn’t going to happen, we made the difficult decision to start IVF treatments. This decision was especially hard for me. It almost felt like my womanhood was being taken away. I would be lying, if I said I wasn’t angry… After all, women all around me, were expecting! It shouldn’t be this difficult, I would always say. God must not think I am capable of being a Mom.. What is wrong with me that I need medical science to procreate for my husband and I?!? I am a woman, and I have all the parts necessary.. Again, I struggled with, “Why God, Why?” It made feel awful always questioning God like that. Made me feel very unchristian like. I felt like I was on a merry go round, just going around and around… I wanted off of this emotional roller coaster!
One day, while sitting at work, something came over me, and I just said to myself, “No more waiting or putting it off out of fear. You are going to be 32, it is time. Make that call, make the appointment. God and Jason will be by your side! It will all be ok!” So, I hurried and called Jason first. Of course, he was happy to hear and very proud that I was ready to take leap of faith! I then called to make the appointment, only to find out that the doctor I wanted to see was no longer taking patients. He was going to retire. Here I am sitting on the phone, trying to dicifer what I should do in that instant. Of course fear told me to just forget it, but that courage that came over me before, took over and made the appointment with the doctor they were referring all his patients to. There we were, our first appointment was all set for March 21, 2016.
For the next couple weeks, before our scheduled appointment, Jason and I went on with life as normal. We were trying to be positive about our upcoming appointment, and shut out all the anxiety and fear. I wasn’t too excited about what was in store, but I tried hard not to focus on that. I thought of what we were trying to achieve and put all my energy into that!
It was one week before our appointment, and I started to feel a little funny… That on top of missing my menstrual cycle, the wheels in my head started turning! I said to myself, “Could it be?” I soon answered, in my head, with a very loud, “No, it couldn’t be!” After all, we tried for over a year and weren’t successful! Now, when I have made the hardest decision, it is going to happen?!… That whole week, I raked my brain and Jason’s. I took a pregnancy test, and to our complete surprise, we were in fact pregnant, for the third time!!
Ok… So, you must be thinking, I was over the moon with excitement? Anyone, besides myself, would probably think that. However, the truth was, when I saw those lines, that fear that I thought I had overcome, just poured all over me! You may be asking yourself, why? Well, for some odd reason, I was afraid of miscarrying again. The emotional wreckage left behind, from my other two, left a scar so big! I had already decided to do IVF, and had resorted myself to that was how I was going to carry a baby full term… It was obvious to me, that it was never going to happen naturally again, and if it ever did, my pregnancy would only end with a miscarriage. Yet again, God had total control and made other plans… We quickly adjusted our thoughts. We decided to just go ahead with our appointment to start IVF, so that I could be closely monitored. However, a few days before, we began to pray about what we should do… Keep the appointment, go in and have this pregnancy monitored. Or, lean on God, because he is in control, and put our trust and faith in him, to watch over this precious miracle he had given us. With much prayer, we decided on letting go of our own understanding. Instead of trying to take control, we were going to give it to God, and see what He was going to do… Wow, this was HUGE for me, for us!!
We didn’t want to have to go through this alone, so we formed a prayer group. We joined together a few of our very close family and friends, and asked them to go on this journey with us as we ventured forward. We would send monthly updates, about doctor visits, prayer requests and such. God was setting the stage so beautifully! What an Awesome and Mighty God we have! Those words became so powerful to me! Here I was leaning on my own understanding, however, God was at work the whole time! We knew this pregnancy was going to be very special, and that God was going to do great things with it. So, with that, our little embryo became our “Charm”. (Puts truth to the saying, “Thirds Times The Charm).
Our first prenatal appointment was set for April 22, 2016. In the weeks before, I began having morning sickness pretty bad. I don’t know why they call it morning sickness. For me, it was all day sickness! Nonetheless, we were very thankful for it! Awkward saying that, but we looked at it as a very good and healthy sign. On the morning of our appointment, I was feeling very poorly, and didn’t think I had the energy to go to the doctor. So, we prayed and decided to postpone it. It was a blessing in disguise, because I wouldn’t have been far enough along to hear the heartbeat.
On the afternoon, of May 2, 2016, Jason and I were anxiously getting ready to go to our first prenatal appointment. We drove down to Loma Linda, sat in the car and prayed.. We walked in, and before long our name was called, and once again we were in an all to familiar place. When I went to lay down, so the doctor could do the ultrasound, I remember taking Jason’s hand, taking a deep breathe and praying to God that we would see and hear our precious Little Charm.. As the doctor put the Doppler on my belly, she immediately said, “There is a baby and a heartbeat!” I looked up at Jason, through my tear filled eyes, and saw his amazement and joy!!! God is so great!! We left the doctors office, in complete oblivion to the world around us. It was as if the world, in that moment, just stood still and we were the only ones to exist… We got in our car, looked at eachother with such joy and prayed to God, thanking him for this incredible miracle and blessing!!
I wanted to mark this time in a very special way. When we got home, with the ultrasound photos, I immediately began brainstorming everything! We were going to be parents! After all these years, it was finally going to happen! This moment in our lives, in our marriage, in our journey, brought to life those words spoken in 1 Samuel: 27-28, For This Child I prayed… We now have a picture of our son, in a frame, with that verse and his first ultrasound photo, sitting on our end table. It is something we look at everyday, with amazement and thankfulness.
On June 28th, 2016, Jason and I went in for the anatomy ultrasound. Again, God was all around! Everything was perfect, baby was healthy, and was developing right on target! It was that day we found out that our little charm, was a boy! We had gone over many girl names, but could never decide on a boy name… It was in that ultrasound room, that Jason looked at me and said, “What about Braden?” I looked at the ultrasound photo, and immediately said, “Yes!” He just looked like a Braden! The name was so fitting for our son! It means brave, and to us he was so brave already, enduring this journey with us…
Unfortunately, the pregnancy itself was a difficult one. For the first 26 weeks, things went as smooth as could be. I was actually amazed by how smooth, provided the difficulty we had before. It was at 26 weeks that, on a routine visit, the doctor became concerned with my blood pressure.. She immediately sent us over to Labor and Delivery, for further monitoring.. After a four hour visit, which should have only been an hour, by the grace of God, things came back normal! We again found ourselves on our knees thanking God for his promises and faithfulness to us! However, after that visit, began endless doctors visits that became very stressful! It was after the doctor’s second attempt to send us to Labor and Delivery, for my blood pressure, that Jason and I sought the help of a midwife to help us find a new doctor. The midwife was God sent! We just kept noticing that throughout this journey… Like I said earlier, God was setting the stage, and he knew exactly who he was going to use and not use. People were placed in our lives, along the way, for good reason and for that we were incredibly thankful and grateful! Our midwife, took over all my prenatal care alongside many, many other doctors. At one point, I looked at Jason, and said, “Are we really any better off?”
In the course of finding a new doctor, at week 29, I found out I had Gestational Diabetes.. This was a huge blow to me. I immediately was put on a diet, had to check my blood 4 times a day, and give myself insulin shots every night. Since, at this point, I still didn’t have a doctor, the midwife had to work alongside a perinatal doctor, in Pomona, to monitor my diabetes. She didn’t have any connections to any nearby doctors. The only one she knew of was having some personal issues and wasn’t taking on any new patients.
I was beginning to feel like going on this route was worse, in the long run. I was still chasing my tail, and worse we now didn’t have a doctor at all. So, worse case scenario, since I was already 32 weeks at this point, was to just deliver at a hospital when I went into labor. This left us feeling very apprehensive, but we continued to pray! Our prayer team was awesome and kept praying for us as well. We certainly were feeling it, even in the midst of what felt like a complete disaster and mess! When I came into my 35th week, by the grace of God, again, are you noticing a trend? Our awesome midwife, pulled some strings and got us in with an incredible doctor, who was also God sent!!! From that moment on, we got the upmost of care! The doctor, aside from her own personal struggles, dealt with us with such grace! From week 35 to 39, the days were just a blur! Once a week, we had to do 2 NST’s, one fluid ultrasound check, and go to my diabetes program, in Pomona, all while trying to prepare our home for a baby! All of this became anything short of overwhelming, but guess what, God was there! Everyday, every minute, every step! He was there, holding on to us, guiding us, and telling us everything was going to be ok, and we just knew at the end of all of this, we would be holding our sweet, precious baby boy! God promised us that, and we knew he meant it! It was at week 37, that the doctor told us, because of the gestational diabetes, she didn’t want me to go past 38 weeks, 39 if everything proved to be good with the baby. That meant all my NST’s and fluid checks needed to be on target.
It was our final visit with the doctor, before delivery, that God revealed himself completely! All along, it was like peeling an orange! Little by little, we could see the flesh, but it wasn’t fully exposed, until my 38-week visit. As we sat in the doctor’s office, the doctor could see I was becoming emotionally exhausted from it all. She looked at me and asked, “How are you doing?” To me this wasn’t like a doctor asking, this was like a friend asking. I could tell she really cared. I told her I was beginning to become very overwhelmed. She then said, “Well, then why don’t we just have a baby?!?” I looked at Jason, he looked at me, we looked at the doctor and said, “Ok…” She began going over somethings, again not as a doctor, but as a person, as a friend. Then… She began to talk to us about God! We were in awe! Wow, a doctor is taking her own personal experiences, and telling about how awesome God is, and how when we feel like He isn’t there, bam there He is!!! Always! Of course, and I don’t fully blame the hormones, I began crying and breathing a sigh of relief! God knew exactly what we wanted and needed in a doctor, and he placed this woman so perfectly! On that day, we made an induction date of November 2nd, which was exactly one week away! The thought of being induced just added to my stress level. However, because we were still a week out, we prayed that things would just happen naturally… And they did!!
On the morning, of November 1st, Jason had decided to stay home from work. I needed the emotional support, and because who knows, right?! As the thoughts of meeting our son, were just one day away, emotions were high. We decided to spend the day together, just relaxing. We had a wonderful breakfast! We came home to shower, and maybe to lay down and rest together before lunch. After our showers, I sat on the bed, got up, felt a funny feeling, and said to Jason, “I think my water just broke!” Unsure of what I was feeling, we immediately grabbed our bags, called my mom and headed to the hospital. After a few hours, in triage, the nurses determined that my water had in fact broke! However, I wasn’t contracting, so they admitted me, and hooked me up to Pitocin… When our doctor checked me around 4ish, she didn’t expect so see a baby until the morning hours. I was dilated to 4 and 60% effaced. So, with that she gave me permission to eat something and bid us a Good Night… They kept checking my blood sugar, and by the grace of God, they never had to administer an Insulin drip!!! Wow, all this time I was made to feel like my gestational diabetes was out of control, and when I go to give birth, my blood sugars never spiked! Wow… Just wow! At around 7, the nurses began increasing my Pitocin, and it was then that my contractions went into high gear! My Mom had left, for a short period of time, to run an errand, and when she came back, as she said, “It was like night and day!” My contractions were coming on very strong and very close together. I remember telling Jason that if things kept going on like they were, without any progress, I was going to need an epidural so I could rest. Well, at about 11:30, the nurse came in to check me, and to our surprise I was already dilated to 8!!! No epidural for me… Just in the nick of time, our doctor showed up. We believe the nurse was beginning to sweat it because I went from an 8 to 10, in close to 30 minutes! Things were progressing, but not as they had anticipated! I pushed for about 30 minutes, and on November 2nd, the day of our induction, at 12:35 am, our little precious charm, our miracle, our blessing, our son, Braden Richard Josef Belknap, was born into this world and immediately put in to my arms! Seeing his face for the first time, I can imagine will be close to how we will feel when we see Jesus! It is unexplainable! The joy and unconditional love we already had for this child was remarkable… Again, because of my gestational diabetes, in the first 24 hours of Braden’s life, he was pricked every 4 hours to make sure his blood levels were normal. A few short hours, after birth, we were transferred to my postpartum room, where we spent the next 2 days bonding with our son, Braden. I laid there in complete amazement, not only of our beautiful son, but of myself… I gave birth to this child in away I never thought possible! I not only had him naturally, but I never once screamed, cursed or yelled… It was done beautifully and gracefully. I was so proud, Jason was so proud, my mom was so proud, and we couldn’t have been happier! Braden was perfect in every way! Of course, there was no real rest in recovery, but after everything was completed, and we got the clearance from our doctor, we went home for the first time as a family of three! However, just before our departure, our amazing doctor came in to say goodbye. She basically, in a nut shell, said I did amazingly well and rocked the birth. She spoke briefly about breastfeeding, and encouraged me to not get frustrated with it.
Coming home for the first time, was a bit nerve racking… It is true when they say, children don’t come with manuals! We felt so vulnerable, but in the days, weeks and months to come, we had a tremendous amount of love and support! There was never a day that went by that we didn’t have help… We were and are blessed!
Not to get too detailed, but my recovery took almost 2 months… I battled a cyst on my tailbone, stitches that hurt and several breast infections! It was really debilitating, but God got us through!
In closing, we would like to say Thank You!
Thank You God, for everything… You worked in ways Jason and I could never imagine. You made the impossible, possible, and gave us a hope we never felt before! Thank you for your Patience, for your Love, for your Mercy, for your Grace, for our midwife, for our doctor, for our wonderful parents, for our family, for our friends, for our prayer team, for our other two children, and mostly, God, Thank You for our son, Braden, who we got to meet on November 2nd, 2016 @ 12:35 am!!! We love you and are forever grateful to you!