Now, here’s a moment Amanda and Tim Van Horssen could not imagine just a few years ago.
Tim cradles their newborn twin daughters―the couple’s third set of twins!―while their four older kids play in the hospital room, jostling for a glimpse of the babies, a cuddle with mom.
Looking over the busy scene, Amanda says, “We didn’t know if we would even have kids―and then to have this many in such a short time!”
The Van Horssen family welcomed its newest members, Ella Marie and Emma Grace, on Monday morning, June 5, at Spectrum Health Zeeland Community Hospital.
Dark-haired and pink-cheeked, wearing matching purple headbands, the babies stretched and slept, oblivious to the excitement around them.
“Our family journey has been nothing but full of surprises,” says Amanda, an intensive care nurse at Zeeland Community Hospital. “It’s a roller coaster.”
The wild ride began under a shadow, as the couple dealt with the uncertainties of infertility.
Tim and Amanda got married in 2004, when Amanda had a year left in nursing school. They waited until after she graduated before trying to start a family.
“My mom always got pregnant so easily, I didn’t anticipate I would have any problems,” she says.
But a year passed. And then two. And then three.
The Van Horssens began infertility treatments. Amanda underwent surgery for endometriosis.
“By then, some of my friends were pregnant with their second child,” she says. “I was getting even more frustrated. Every month was really kind of just torture.”
In 2010, they decided to try in vitro fertilization. They implanted three fertilized eggs and soon received good news: they were expecting twins.
But at 34 weeks gestation, one of the twins no longer had a heartbeat. The parents later learned he had a birth defect that affected his umbilical cord.
At Spectrum Health Butterworth Hospital, the doctor induced labor, and Amanda delivered the babies.
“Addison Joy was born at just 3 pounds and went right to the neonatal intensive care unit at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital,” Amanda says.
Their firstborn son, Landon John, was born at 4 pounds “into the arms of Jesus.”
Addison spent her first weeks in the NICU, gaining strength and weight.
“It was hard coming home from the hospital with nobody,” Amanda says.
They had to plan a funeral for Landon, return the double stroller, sort through the duplicates of all their baby equipment.
Addison graduated from the NICU 24 days after birth and came home, feisty and growing strong.
A year later, the Van Horssens decided to use some of the frozen embryos from their IVF procedure. They wanted their children to be close in age.
Again, they found out they were expecting twins. In May 2013, Amanda gave birth to Alexis Faith and Aiden John.
Two years later, they decided to use the last two frozen embryos. Before that final round, however, Amanda had to take a pregnancy test. Amanda recalls how stunned she and Tim were to see the test come back positive.
“They gave us less than a 10 percent chance to ever conceive on our own,” she says.
In June 2014, she gave birth to Emmett James.
“He is as much a miracle baby as the other ones,” she says.
One more set of twins
After Emmett joined their family, the Van Horssens debated about what to do with the two remaining frozen embryos. They could donate them to another couple. They could donate them to science.
“Or they give them to you to destroy them,” Amanda says.
They decided on one more IVF procedure.
“Ultimately, it’s still in the Lord’s hands,” Amanda says. “If we put them in and it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be.”
Once more they heard the news: Twins were on the way. The Van Horssens began to get ready.
“I can’t say we’ve got it down to a science, but we aren’t newbies,” Amanda says.
They bought a quad stroller―they now have seven strollers in all. They bought new car seats. They went car shopping. Tim brought a tape measure to make sure the new ride could handle six car seats. They ended up with a eight-passenger Suburban.
Co-workers held a baby shower. Because this is their first set of same-gender twins, Amanda received matching dresses, outfits and headbands for the girls on the way.
As the due date drew near, Amanda learned the babies were in the breech position―with their feet pointed down. Her Spectrum Health obstetrician-gynecologist, Todd Van Heest, MD, scheduled a Cesarean section.
As he delivered the babies, Dr. Van Heest found the girls intertwined in the womb.
“They were wrapped up in each other,” he said.
Ella Marie arrived first at 8:37 a.m., weighing 6 pounds, 6 ounces. Emma Grace debuted at 8:39 a.m., at 6 pounds, 3 ounces. Both had plenty of lung power.
“They cried a lot. It was so loud in the OR,” Amanda says.
She liked having the babies in the hospital where she works.
“Everyone knows you,” she says. “Friends take good care of you like you’re family.”
Three days later, the family clustered together on Amanda’s hospital bed for a photo. Addison, 5, Alexis and Aiden, 4, and Emmett, 2, smiled next to their tiny siblings, Emma and Ella. Addison held a photo of her twin brother, Landon.
“They didn’t think we would have kids,” Amanda says.
“We showed them,” says Tim.
He calls his wife “Wonder Woman.”
“It’s not easy growing two babies at once, let alone three times,” he says.
They expect the coming year will be challenging. From experience, they know the value of getting the twins on the same feeding schedule. They work as a team, with Amanda feeding the babies and Tim burping them and changing diapers.
“You actually just start changing diapers in your sleep,” Tim says.
They plan to fit in fun summer activities for the older kids, while they care for the new babies.
“My four older kids are so good and they play so nice together,” she says. “I like that they are close together (in age). They really get along very well.”
Aiden, Addison and Alexis took turns holding Emma, propped up by pillows on the couch. Emmett walked around the room with mom’s phone, taking pictures.
“Five years ago, if I was told I would have seven children in less than six years, I would have laughed hysterically,” Amanda says. “But now we do.”
She and Tim don’t plan for any more babies in the future. But they give thanks for the children they have.
“Through all the joys, tears and sadness, the Lord has truly blessed our family,” Amanda says. “Our hearts and hands are truly full, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.”