Ryan & Julia Sadler
Renewed Hope and a Miracle – Times Three!
Renewed hope. Regardless of what a person may be going through, it’s a message that is universal. After facing the heartbreak of three miscarriages, Julia and Ryan Sadler needed just such a message. Exhausted physically and feeling the emotional and physical drain of what they refer to as spiritual warfare, they not only survived, but feel compelled to share their story with others who might be facing, or already are in the midst of, similar experiences. Risen sat down with the Sadlers to talk about their journey, the support from their church community and the faith that carried and blessed them throughout.
Interviewed exclusively for Risen Magazine
Risen Magazine: I want to go back a few years and get a perspective on what you, as a couple, have been through. I read that you were sweethearts since middle school. You were married seven years before becoming pregnant. Julia, you trained at the Meier Clinic, specializing in treating teenagers and women struggling with self-harm and things like that. You personally had some struggles yourself. Can you tell me a little bit about the work that you do?
Julia Sadler: Currently, I’m the girl’s minister at First Baptist Dallas which has a lot of counseling attached to it. I also do programs for schools [including] suicide prevention, anxiety awareness, depression awareness…bullying, eating disorders, that kind of stuff. So, more public speaking than private counseling.
RM: What levels of schools do you speak at?
JS: I do junior high and high school and I’ve also done college programs.
RM: Wow! That’s sounds like a busy speaking schedule.
JS: Yes, and I’m writing my first book that comes out next year, which incorporates my training.
RM: Ryan, you also work in ministering to youth at First Baptist, is that correct?
Ryan Sadler: Yes, I’m the student minister and oversee the seventh through twelfth grade students here at the church. It’s a lot of fun. We love what we do.
RM: How long have you been doing that?
RS: I’ve been at the church for a little over nine years.
RM: Anybody that can stay with youth that long has got some kind of special calling.
JS: Well, we started when we were nineteen. So, we just never had to grow up. [Laughter]
RM: That’s amazing. Going back a few years now, once you finally had received news, the very first time, that you were pregnant, your world changed. And for you, Julia, you actually ended up facing not one miscarriage but three that year. How did you get through that tough time?
JS: When we just had one miscarriage, I mean I was sad, but I had a lot of friends tell me it’s kind of normal. And so, while it was sad, we weren’t completely hopeless at that point. But after three, we started realizing something more was going on. And I think the best way to put it is when we realized we were fighting a spiritual battle it gave us the right weapons to fight with. We stopped looking at it as totally a biological problem, or whatever you want to call it, or medical problem, because every single miscarriage was coinciding with something major happening in our student ministry.
RM: Oh, tell me more about that.
JS: The first miscarriage happened when I had one hundred girls in my backyard and was teaching them that they had a purpose for their lives, and the last miscarriage happened while I was at a women’s conference speaking on why God allows suffering. Those things were just so strategically planned it seemed like once [we] started looking at it from a spiritual perspective, a spiritual warfare perspective, it kind of gave us renewed vigor to fight with.
RM: I had not known any of that part of your story. Knowing that a spiritual warfare was there, Ryan, from your perspective of your supporting your wife as much as you could, how were you dealing with that?
Once I finally got over that initial shock, Julia and I were high fiving because it was a prayer that we had been praying — we had been praying for three children.
RS: It was definitely a hard time for our family that was for sure unexpected. We had been married for seven years at that point and kind of naively thought we had everything figured out. We’re just kind of coasting along and thought this was the time to start a family. We had some educational career goals that we wanted to finish first and then we were going to start on this journey.
Then we had that very first miscarriage and like Julia was saying, it was pretty normal. After the second one, we started realizing there may be something going on here that may be a little bit more serious, and with the spiritual warfare added in there and everything, we realized this is a little bit more serious than we thought it was going to be. It was a little bit harder on Julia, obviously, because it was happening to her. For me, as the husband, I had to kind of realize I’ve got to come alongside my wife; I’ve got to help her and encourage her and support her.
We [realized] we’ve got to be able to run towards God rather than away from Him, because God is obviously doing something here. We had to remember that God’s timing is perfect, and even though it was extremely hard at the time, just knowing right now, that we’re called to minister. I realize that even in the midst of suffering, we can still have a thriving relationship with God.
For Julia, being the woman of God that she is, was able to battle through, because again, she was at speaking engagements, she was writing blogs, doing all kinds of stuff during this and using this experience to encourage other people, which obviously wasn’t the easiest thing but she did it. God had a purpose for it.
RM: Did you two then develop some sort of a prayer plan? Knowing and feeling that you were in a [spiritual] battle, but because of your backgrounds in faith, you also knew and understood that there was something that could come of this? What was your expectancy or your prayer like at that point?
JS: Actually, it was two years earlier that we sat down and wrote twenty prayer requests that we were going to pray every day and three children was on the list, [even] multiples were on the list. Whenever the miscarriages kept happening, we just kept thinking, “Wow! We really need to stay committed to these prayers.” And we started praying even more and fervently for three children, for multiples, and then for Ephesians 3:20 “For God to do immeasurably more than anything we can hope or imagine.”
We would just be watching TV and I would look at Ryan and say, “We need to pray. We need to pray these things right now.” It’s just obviously so amazing because of what happened. We take very, very seriously James 4:2, “You have not because you ask not.” And obviously, there’s more theology that goes into that than solely that prayer. We pray really taking the Bible more literally than trying things on our own, and it definitely worked out.
RM: How early in that last pregnancy did you find out you were having triplets?
JS: Well, we had a suspicion when I couldn’t get out of bed. We were at our student ministry camp and I was just exhausted. Ryan really thought it was twins because the pregnancy test came back a week early and was positive, which usually means you have extremely high pregnancy hormone levels.
There is a lot of learning, and it took two-and-a-half hours to feed them, and they ate every three hours. So, it was pretty crazy.
RS: Yeah, we went [to the doctor] on Monday and Julia was seven weeks pregnant at that point. The doctor was performing a sonogram and she immediately pulls away and says, “I don’t want to scare you…” And at that point I’m thinking, “Why would you start a sentence like that?” If you don’t want to scare us?
JS: But I got excited and said, “Oh, I know it. I know it. I know it’s twins.”
RS: And the doctor says, “I don’t want to scare you, but there are three babies in there.” And immediately Julia just throws her arms up and she’s like, “I knew it!” She was so excited, and I’m still kind of shocked and once I finally got over that initial shock, Julia and I were high fiving because it was a prayer that we had been praying — we had been praying for three children. We just knew right then that [it was] God working.
JS: People always say to us, “Oh you must have just been shocked.” But I really wasn’t. I remember just thinking, “Of course. This is what happens because we have trusted God for who He is.”
RM: Julia, because you were a high-risk pregnancy you spent quite a few days in the hospital. How was that?
JS: It was forty-nine days in bed looking out a window. But even in that, I mean, God just continued to really, really encourage us. There was a very high chance of losing all of them and I just kept asking God about what purpose He had for me even in the hospital, and I actually had incredible opportunities to witness to the non-Christian nurses. It actually became a huge ministry field. I probably had my closest, honest, best talks with God in that hospital room.
RS: Julia was admitted at about 23 1/2 weeks for preterm labor, and it was extremely scary. We went in and they said, “We’re going to keep you over the weekend.” The neonatologist come in and start talking to us about all of the things that could happen to the babies if they were born right at that moment. He started going kind of on a whole list of they could be… they could be blind, they could be deaf, they could have brain bleeds. They could have holes in their hearts — just all kinds of stuff. It got to a point where it was just so scary.
Julia said [to the doctor], “You and Ryan are just going to have to go outside in the hallway to finish this conversation because I just can’t hear anymore.” But it was interesting because during that time, I mean, Julia and I talked about it later, we both just had this peace [that none of that was going to happen.] That wasn’t going to be our story. These babies were going to live. Julia kept praying this prayer in Psalm 30 that talks about, “If I die, if I go down in the dust, who will praise you?”
We started praying to God, “If these babies die, this will be something that we can praise you, and if they live, if you sustain them and carry them through this whole thing, this will be something that will bring so much honor and glory to your name.” It was just so interesting, that during that we just had this peace, and again, Julia was in the hospital for forty-nine days.
JS: It actually was so interesting because, it was really weird. I was really peaceful, but so distraught at the same time and I had all these hours to myself. I knew I should be reading my Bible, but I just couldn’t muster anything except Psalms. God really spoke to me through Psalms. So much so, that a doctor who was not my doctor came in one day and said, “Oh it’s actually okay for you to get off the bed and you can go walk around today.” And I said, “That’s so great. That’s all I wanted to hear.” And then I thought, “I haven’t read my Psalm today.” And I’m not even kidding the Psalm that day said, “Stay in your bed and do not move.” And I was like, “Okay. Well, I’m probably not going to get out of bed.” And then my doctor came in the next day and couldn’t believe someone had given me that advice. Though all of this was super stressful and scary, we also have never seen God speak so clearly to us.
RM: Finally, the triplets were born at thirty weeks?
JS: Yes. I didn’t get to hold them; they were taken immediately to the NICU.
RS: It was quite an experience being there with Julia and watching the whole procedure. There were about twenty people in the operating room. Three NICU teams of four. Twelve people who were dedicated just to the babies after they were born plus doctors, anesthesiologist, and other team people. It was quite a kind of a mad house going in to that operating room. It was fun.
It does not really matter how strong your faith is, all of us get to the point where we need other people speaking God’s truth to us. I’m convinced the triplets are here because of thousands of people that were committed to pray for them.
RM: Wow! The joy is that you have a daughter, Blair, and two sons, Barrett and Blake. How long before all were at home with you?
JS: About nine weeks. They were all home the night before our nine-year anniversary. It was a very neat present from God. We’re like, “Thank you for our anniversary present.”
RM: There you were, coming home with three babies and Julia, I read that you had no prior experience with children – no babysitting, no diaper changing. The term overwhelming doesn’t even seem adequate to describe your situation. How did you manage?
JS: Well people talk about the advantages of the NICU. That actually it’s very nice to be trained by nurses on how to care for babies, especially premature babies. I was a lot more equipped than I would have been if it had been a normal pregnancy because I spent nine weeks basically being trained by their nurses.
But, yeah. When they got home it was really hectic. I remember we took them for a stroller ride one day and then they cried for two hours afterwards. And we’re like, “We’re never doing that again until they’re like five.” I think multiples is just a different ball game. There’s a lot of learning, and it took two-and-a-half hours to feed them, and they ate every three hours. So, it was pretty crazy.
RM: You’re a family of five! Loading the car could take an hour. [Laughter] I mean, you just look at all those pieces with it. Do you have help on a daily basis with childcare? Do you have family around?
RS: We do. We have Julia’s parents here. And so her mom and dad actually help us quite a bit which is extremely helpful. And then Julia’s sister is here as well. When we first found out we were having triplets at that sonogram appointment, the doctor kept looking at me and saying, “Are you okay?” And I would say, “Am I not supposed to be?” And then her last question to me was, because she was just so concerned, “Do you have family? Tell them immediately. They need to know because they’re going to need to help.” We do have help here, and sometimes my mom comes in to help out as well. We [also] have a big church so that helps out as well which is really nice.
JS: Ryan, something you and I never told in an interview is that they [medical professionals] asked us if we wanted to reduce. Which is actually abortion, and we just immediately said no. That message got to every doctor after that to not bring it up with us. And we’re like, “We’ll figure it out.”
RS: Yes. That wasn’t a consideration. Ever.
JS: So much so that we always forget to include it [in other interviews].
RM: You mentioned your church family and the impact of being in a church community. I just want to mention that because a lot of people don’t have that. What does it mean to you to have that church community? How important is that?
JS: Well for me, one thing that happened was I became immediately concerned with other people on bed rest at the hospital. The nurses, (without breaking any kind of HIPAA laws) would tell me that I was so lucky to have people reaching out to me because so many women were there [hospital] without anybody, and I think that Jesus wants us with a support system. He [Jesus] didn’t just say, “You got it. You’ll figure it out.” He left us with a church for a reason. It was just invaluable to have that kind of support and to have that kind of people speaking truth over you. It doesn’t really matter how strong your faith is, all of us get to the point where we need other people speaking God’s truth to us. I’m convinced the triplets are here because of thousands of people that were committed to pray for them. And you don’t have that if you’re not in a church.
RM: Can you tell me how you became involved with the TLC show Rattled?
RS: Early on in our pregnancy, Julia came in [to my office] one day and said, “You know, I think we should start praying.” The context of that was that we had both decided that we wanted to be able to share our story with a bigger audience.
JS: Finding out we were having triplets, l almost immediately said, “I hope we can get on a TV show.” And it was so weird because it was like why, where did that come from? And it was almost overnight we were a part of the infertility community and this whole other world we didn’t know about — 6.1 million women struggle with infertility. So, the day we found out I said, “I hope we can get on a TV show.” The story of losing three babies in a year and then being blessed with a triplet pregnancy is one that people need to hear. People need to hear that hope.
RS: We started praying every single day to be able to share this story of what God’s done in our family with a bigger audience. Wouldn’t it be so cool? Again, we had no idea what this “so called” TV show would be. We had no leads or anything. About four months into pregnancy, I walk into Julia’s office and I said, “Julia, are you still praying for that TV show?” And she looked at me and she said, “No. I mean, not really.” I think her comment was, “I’m just trying not to squish our babies.”
JS: It was a little nerve wracking.
RS: I said, “I think you should start praying for that again.” We prayed for it right there in her office and it was literally the next day TLC reached out to us about our story and about our family.
We started praying every single day to be able to share this story of what God’s done in our family with a bigger audience.
RM: That’s amazing! You actually became a part of the show Rattled that focuses on several couples and their journey of new parenthood, whether with one baby or multiples. Are you on it this current season?
JS: Yes, I think the first episode aired in June. We were actually in all of them except the premiere. They [producers] let us know the week before if we’re on that current week’s episode.
RM: Are you still doing episodes?
JS: We’re done filming. We finished a few weeks ago.
RM: That’s exciting. It’s like the hard work is done and now you’re getting to watch and have people respond. What is your hope with viewers? Are getting some response from people after the first few episodes?
JS: The main response I’ve gotten is from other NICU moms and it’s been really overwhelming just how many people, I mean in a good way, but how many people have reached out. The most common comment that we received is that we’ve helped put words to their struggles. They [other moms] haven’t really been able to think about their NICU time or their infertility struggles, and we just keep hearing that people are getting a renewed sense of hope which is the whole point of us doing this show. It’s to point people to Christ.
RM: Julia, you are in the process of writing a book. Is it specifically about this experience of the birth or what does it entail?
JS: It includes this experience. I’m actually just about to turn in my first manuscript. The [publisher] hasn’t said if we’re allowed to share or not share. I know it’s coming out fall of 2019, but the most recent news is going to be on my blog.
Because Rattled will be over for now in a few weeks, if people want to keep up with the story, want more encouragement, we’re sending them to my website.
RM: What closing thoughts would you like to share about your experiences?
RS: This whole experience has been something that we could have never dreamed. I think a lot of people are seeing the result of what God has done. He was preparing us and waiting and getting us ready for this. And during all the miscarriages and times of testing, I understood and I realized we can have a thriving relationship with God even in the midst of suffering and hard times. That was the biggest thing. We decided, both of us, that we’re going to run to God instead of away from Him.
And a second thing, for Julia and me, even now after the babies are born, we’re trying very intentionally to spend time with the babies, but also with each other because we know that our family is only going to be as strong as our marriage. We intentionally set out at least one night a week, it’s usually a Thursday night, to go out on a date. We get a babysitter and we go see a movie or have dinner or something like that.
JS: Yes, and we’ve had people reaching out and sharing that they have a renewed hope, to not give up on their dreams. That they feel like God has given them a passion for it. I just encourage people to ask God to help them hold on to dreams because life is too short to spend distracted and heart broken. That’s our story.
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